Who is your favorite voice in the financial services sector? Which brand, in your opinion, has nailed the content marketing thing? Picture the smartest corporate personality that comes to mind. Why do people (you) admire that company’s unique tone? Is it a little chancy? Does the enterprise risk telling it like it is?
As a consumer, do you enjoy browsing the brand’s newsletter, social feed, and blog?
Now, as a competitor, do you secretly wonder if there’s a freelance writer lurking behind that successful connection?
If you crave that sort of crafty bond with your brand’s followers, you’re not alone. And if there was an ideation robot, all the financial industry players would buy it. Because creative ideas are priceless, but creative people tend to be . . . well, hit or miss.
Roger Wohlner, a financial advisor and part of the Skyword writing community, started blogging to promote his business in 2009. “I’ve always enjoyed writing and this seemed like a good way to promote my financial advisory practice,” he says. And what began as a simple self-promotion outlet landed him his first writing client. “My first serious paid freelance gig was with Investopedia, which started in 2014 and continues today,” he says. “In mid-2015 I realized that I really enjoy writing and helping readers understand various financial topics.”
In fact, Wohlner’s work has been featured on US News, Investor Junkie, Morningstar Magazine, and more.
The trend may not surprise you. In 2014, nearly half of all US workers said they’d be interested or very interested in nontraditional work, according to Statista. And with one in three workers now opting for the freelance lifestyle, it’s no wonder the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls this shift the “Industrial Revolution of our time.”
When asked about the common fallacy that the typical freelance writer is a bit more inexperienced, capricious, or unpredictable, Wohlner smiles. “I graduated high school in the 1970s and still listen to groups like the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead on a regular basis,” he says. However, when it comes to being lumped in with transients, Wohlner says he’s anything but. “Most who know me well on a personal basis think I am way beyond ‘flaky.'”
When pressed, he adds,“I’ve never been perceived as anything but a buttoned-down financial type. Perhaps this comes with the credibility I have established over the years via my blog and social media.” What most brands want when they hire a brand message consultant is exactly that—credibility through the digital avenues where the masses now spend their days.
Blending the communications, tone, and style of an independent writer with financial services industry lingo can be tricky, so Wohlner recommends writers stay current on the sector’s latest headlines. “I read a lot. I have certain Twitter feeds set up on topics I want to follow. Likewise, with Google alerts,” he says. “Sources like Morningstar and other financial sites are helpful as well. I also read The Wall Street Journal on a regular basis.”
You could also stay inspired by watching the smartest financial sector brands and their viral campaigns. Become a student of what makes a commercial interesting, or how to subtly and safely surprise your audience.
As for rubbing shoulders with industry thought leaders in trade associations and annual meetings, Wohlner recommends that approach, too. “In 2016 I attended four conferences,” he says. “Two were sponsored by Morningstar locally here in Chicago. I attended another ETF conference in California as well.”
Not only did the experience encourage Wohlner, it was the ingredient needed to convince a few marketing managers to take a measured risk and hire him as a freelance writer. “In all three cases I made some new writing contacts and landed a couple of good clients,” he says. “I also renewed a number of professional contacts in the financial arena including a number of journalists.” In short, the year was a win-win for the financial services industry and its readers.
Wohlner’s journey isn’t without its surprises, however. The occasional curveball threw the writer out of his comfort zone more than once, and he learned to appreciate the opportunity as an opening for growth. “This has happened a lot in 2016, especially on the topic of Medicare. Given that I do have a finance background, some of this was easy to grasp. But the rest of it has taken a lot of reading,” he says.
Drawing upon those pain points, Wohlner encourages other freelancers to stay flexible and relish the zany occasions to improve their own professional flexibility. “I highly recommend that any writer step out of their comfort zone to expand their own knowledge and make themselves available for additional writing opportunities,” he says. That is, as long as your client understands the importance of clear, timely communications and appreciates the benefits you bring to the table. “I would say to a company that they can probably hire a better writer as a freelancer than they can on a full-time, in-house basis,” he says. “You will get the quality you want and not have the obligations of a full-time employee such as benefits. Like anything else, though, you need to set editorial guidelines and parameters for your freelancers and there should be someone in charge of the editorial process.”
If you’ve feared your own mental image of a barefooted, free-spirited, less-than-committed content creator, it’s time to remember what you tell your own risk-averse clients: after weighing the risks against the benefits and seeing the advantages for yourself, it may be time to step out and test drive a freelance creative for your own brand. What’s the worst that could come out of it? A good story?
“Readers love a good story,” quips Wohlner. “Who doesn’t?”