Freelance Writing
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Freelance Writing

Certification options for freelance writers

Options to continue your professional development as a freelance writer

Passing a digital marketing certification can help reassure potential clients that you’re the real deal. Photo by Lukas from Pexels

If you’re looking to gain a leg up on the competition in the stiffly competitive freelance writing market, you may have considered adding a certification — or a few — to your resume.

You can use a certification to:

  • Make yourself more marketable
  • Demonstrate subject matter expertise in a niche(s)
  • Ensure that you understand the context within which content marketing fits

Some of the popular options include:

Hubspot Academy Certifications (Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing)

Many freelance writers these days are employed wholly or substantially in freelance content marketing writing rather than freelance journalism.

While great writing and editing skills are a prerequisite for a career as a freelance content marketing writer, it’s also useful — if not essential — to understand the bigger picture at work, particularly if you don’t come from a marketing background.

When it comes to inbound and content marketing, Hubspot sort of wrote the playbook — at least in its modern incarnation.

In fact its CEO, Brian Halligan, is commonly credited with coining the term ‘inbound marketing’ and the company has become a recognized thought leader on the subject, maintaining a network of hugely influential blogs.

Hubspot offers free certification tracks in a variety of areas relevant to content marketers. Screenshot: Hubspot

By taking a Hubspot certification you can gain a deeper understanding of:

  • Why clients are engaging in content marketing in the first place
  • How different types of content assets you might be writing — like blogs and e-books — fit in the marketing and sales funnel
  • Core principles underlying inbound marketing

A Hubspot certification is also useful if you just want a good overview of how the various moving parts of the inbound picture — content, SEO, branding — work together to drive lead generation and, ultimately, sales.

Besides being free the Hubspot certification programs deliver lots of value.

The inbound marketing certification option, for instance, features 34 videos and 8 quizzes. The whole curriculum also only takes 8 hours to complete — so you can comfortably fit one or multiple certifications into your workweek.

SEO Certifications (E.g. SEMRush)

Most freelance content marketers have at least a basic familiarity with core SEO concepts.

Some also take their knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) to the next level and choose to pursue a certification track in one of these subjects.

Note: SEO practitioners tend to differ widely in their viewpoints about how worthwhile SEO certifications are, although that’s a trend that seems to transcend subject matter.

Some will say they’re not worth the paper they’re written on and — when it comes to SEO — practical knowledge is really what matters. Those that take this view would likely advocate that you up your SEO smarts by working on improving your own freelance writing website.

Others see them as useful introductions and great for reassuring clients and potential clients that you know what you’re talking about. For freelance writers particularly, the latter concerns is worth considering.

Undertaking and passing an SEO certification can be a smart career-boosting move if you’re looking to begin offering SEO add-ons to your core writing services. Examples of this kind of activity include keyword research, content strategy planning, and SEO auditing.

SEMRush is one of the SEO giants and has this library of courses.

Subject matter certifications

Another approach to certification for freelance writers is to take a certification to demonstrate that you know a lot about the niche that you’re writing about.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping anybody from pursuing both content marketing (or journalism)-specific certifications as well as those that are geared towards helping professionals master a subject.

For instance, if you’re frequently writing about Amazon Web Services (AWS) and cloud computing, you might consider taking AWS’s entry-level certification, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner.

A cybersecurity specialist writer may choose to pass the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam.

Note: depending upon the subject matter and certification you’re interested in, these might involve substantially more work than a content marketing certification.

If you specialize in a few niches, it’s worth taking a moment to consider whether you have enough work in this specialty to justify the time involved in passing an exam that only might provide you with a competitive advantage versus a writer that isn’t certified.

Professional stagnation is a risk inherent in the trajectory of a full-time freelance writer.

But if you can couple professional growth with scaling an income, you can both achieve financial security and advance your career and marketability.

This can be particularly useful if you’re thinking about potentially going in-house — whether again or for your first time. Certifications are one of the ways to prove that you know what you’re talking about.



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