The Absolute Beginner’s Content Lexicon: Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask

You want to get in on the “content craze.” You scroll them, flip through, click through & swipe through content online each day. What exactly is involved within the content lexicon and how can you get involved? How can you discover the “method behind the madness” and have the world of content explained to you?

Well, the first thing you can do is study this guide thoroughly, because it will provide you with a crash course on everything you ever wanted to know but never asked. From key terminology and concepts to payment details and self-improvement, this guide covers it all. Take each question one at a time. You can also dig deeper from there to find more gems, but there are more than enough valuable treasures within this “map” that will get you started on your journey.

What is a Ghostwriter?

The term “ghostwriter” may have a lot of negative connotations. However, the truth is that the ghostwriting industry is a multimillion (if not billion) dollar industry that continues to grow with each passing year. How so?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “ghostwrite” means “to write for and in the name of another.” You may have heard the term used in the pop culture world of filmmakers and musicians as the people who write the lines and lyrics spoken and sung by others.

On a smaller scale, though, each time you create an article, blog, or even a social media message under someone else’s name is an example of ghostwritten content explained and examined, edited and exercised. When you look at it from that perspective, you will quickly see that the land of professional ghostwriters is not such a bad place to make a living after all.

Ghostwritten content explained simply as content published by you but under someone else’s name just makes more sense, right?

Why Should I Create a Resume and Portfolio of Past Work?

Content explained as a paid profession instead of a personal hobby leads to other factors commonly associated with typical professions. In addition to the creator-client/business-customer relationship of customer service, such elements as job offers, proposals and quotes, interviews and pay negotiations are also frequently included in this equation.

When trying to boost yourself and your work to draw more attention from prospective clients, you should approach it with the same resources used in any job search – resumes and proof. Your prospective clients want to know that you have the knowledge, experience and skillset needed to meet their expectations and create quality work. You can accomplish this by providing them with an updated resume and portfolio filled with samples of your work. Keep in mind that you should never use work in your portfolio that you sold to other clients without their documented consent. Doing so could lead to legal consequences and repercussions that neither you nor your brand can afford.

Why Must You Enjoy Your Work to Do It Successfully?

There are many jobs in the traditional workforce that you can perform successfully without any interest, dedication, engagement or excitement for it. Content creation and marketing are not included on that list. Your content explained during any type of communication should be filled with excitement and joy – allowing your prospective and existing clients to know that you enjoy your work and are good at doing it. This will go a long way in securing contracts and winning bids.

What is Value of an Active Reading Schedule?

You may have heard it frequently over the years that maintaining an active reading schedule is vital – especially if you want to make a good living as a writer. If you look at most inspirational quotes and interviews from famous authors and award-winning screenwriters, this tip is a common thread found in most of them.

Studies have shown that an active reading schedule will help to exercise your critical thinking skills and enhance your overall creativity. These qualities are immeasurably valuable when it comes to the quality of your writing – more than enough evidence to prove why they should be at the top of your priority list.

How Do I Get Paid for My Own Published Work?

As referenced above, you can make a living off ghostwritten content. Even years after you have had the art of content explained to you, ghostwriting may still generate a major stream of your annual income. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! However, there is a way for you to create an income stream for your own published work as well.

For instance, there are several online websites (such as news websites, business journals, and pop culture blogs, etc.) that allow you to publish your work under your own name. With a solid amount of generated traffic and views, your published content could also lead to a payday for you. If you focus on creating quality content and effectively promoting it, the sky is the limit as to how much money you could make off your own work.

What is the Best Way to Keep Track of Your Deadlines?

Deadlines are crucial in any business – especially professional content development and marketing. You simply cannot have paid content explained accurately without addressing the significance of meeting deadlines.

You first need to make sure that all your deadlines are documented. This may require you to dig within the terms and conditions of the job offer to find the date/timeline that the client must follow. If you are working on several different projects, make sure that you maintain a consistent log/running list that match your project details with its respective deadline.

According to Inc magazine, you should also add a “buffer” as a cushion to your scheduling process. Mark the submission due date a few days prior to the actual due date. Doing so will make it easier for you to deal with any last-minute hiccups or emergencies without risking the chance of missing your client’s required deadline.

Should I Embrace or Escape Writing for ‘Content Mills?’

Once you have the world of content explained to you, it is only a matter of time before you will be introduced to the infamous content mills. These are websites and even online forums looking for writers willing to write content at abysmally-low prices – such as $1.00 or even $0.50 per 100 words.

Without having paid content explained to you, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking $1 per 100 words is a great deal. The truth is that quality writers should make at least twice or tripled that amount. You may assume that “$1 per 100 words” is a good “starting amount” for inexperienced writers, but that is where the content mill becomes a trap for most writers. By spending countless hours working hard to create quality content for a fraction of its worth, you are making your client a lot of money while running your own business into the ground.

What is the Typical Payment Frequency for Paid Content?

You can write for free, but chances are that you eventually want to get paid. How often should you expect to get paid? The truth of this part of content explained is that there is not a set standard for payment frequencies in this industry. It just depends on the client and how they generate their income.

For instance, larger clients that generate income either weekly or biweekly may feel comfortable with using the same frequency to pay you. However, if they are only paid monthly, then chances are you will only get paid once a month. The key is to focus on the quantity of assignments available compared to the payment frequency to determine if it is worth your time and effort.

Should I Charge Per Word or Per Project?

Whether you charge per word or per project depends on the details of the project and your workload from the client. For instance, if you do not get a regular flow of work from the client, then you may consider a per-word rate. On the other hand, if you have generated a substantial amount of work from the client, then you should consider offering a per-project/flat rate.

Doing so may cause you to lose a little money upfront – especially if you started off with a per-word rate. The negotiation process for paid content explained clearly indicates that cutting a few dollars away from your quoted price is much better than losing the entire project to a competitor.

What are the Most Commonly Used Payment Options?

This is another question that is commonly answered by the client. You may run into a client who insists on using traditional payment methods – such as cash, personal/professional checks, or even credit card transactions. Nevertheless, more of today’s clients and companies are embracing such online payment methods as Square, Venmo, Zelle and PayPal.

If you want to maximize customer/client satisfaction and grow your list of available payment options, you should at least consider mixing the traditional with some of the online “non-traditional” methods to cast a “bigger net” when trying to catch new clients and projects.

What Does the Required Word Count Include?

When a client requires that you reach a specific word count, what exactly does that number include? For instance, what does it mean if the required word count is 1,000 words? This means that the body of your content (not including the directives, titles, byline or applicable footnotes/references) should contain a minimum of 1,000 words.

The typical page consists of 300-350 words, which means that you should expect a 1,000-word article or post to take up 2-3 pages.

How Long of an Article is Too Long?

You should never compromise quality for quantity. If you must write 1,000 words, then you should ensure that every single one of them contributes true value to the content overall. Perhaps therefore the editing and proofreading stages of content creation are even more important than the drafting stage.

Have you ever heard the phrase “eat the meat and get rid of the bones?” The ideal length of content explained is simply to meet the required word count in meat.

Which Style Guides Should You Learn to Use?

There is an extensive list of popular style guides that you should consider when creating and/or editing content. It is important to not only identify the style guides used, but also to determine when each style guide should be used.

Below is a basic list of style guides and details to get you started:

  1. AP (Associated Press): News and magazine articles

  1. MLA (Modern Language Association): Academic papers and articles

  1. CMS (Chicago Manual of Style): Nonfiction and fiction book publishing

  1. APA (American Psychological Association): Social science-related content (sociology, politics, psychology, etc.)

This list extends much further than you might think. However, you will likely encounter the first few guides mentioned than any other.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Why Should I Care?

If you want to make a living in professional content creation, development or marketing, then you must learn as much as you can about search engine optimization (SEO). Most clients and companies look for SEO experts since this type of optimization is what maximizes traffic and its resulting revenue.

How does it work?

Open your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, etc.) and search for any keyword or phrase. Within just a few seconds, you will see tens or even hundreds of pages filled with search engine results populated on your screen. If you needed to click one, which would you click? More than likely, it would be one of the links on the first page, right? That is the power of search engine optimization.

Developing quality content and using embedded tools and resources (such as call-to-actions, authoritative links, etc.) to boost your organic exposure and bump your online presence up higher on the rankings list.

Where Do You Find Keywords within Content?

One of the most common requirements of a content project (such as a blog post or SEO article) is to efficiently use at least one core/primary keyword. How exactly do you determine what the keyword is and where it is found within a standard article or post?

  1. Focus on the words (or phrases) that appear the most

  2. Think about the words/phrases you would use to find the posted content via search engines

  3. Pay close attention to the wording used in the title and subheadings

Keep in mind that your clients will more than likely assign primary and secondary keywords to use in the content. That means you will have one less thing to worry about creating on your own before you dive into your assignment. However, you still need to focus on the efficient usage of the selected keywords within your content for the best results and most satisfying work.

What is Keyword Density?

Now that you understand keywords and how to find them within content, it is imperative to get you familiar with its related terms. For instance, your client may want you to achieve a certain keyword density rate with your work. This percentage calculates the number of times that the selected keyword (or phrase) appears within your content.

To do the math, you just need to divide the number of times a specific keyword/phrase by the total word count. You would then multiply that number by 100 to get your percentage.

According to Forbes, more and more clients are drifting away from keyword density requirements when assigning work and creating content. However, if you want to have the wonderful world of content explained, then you must at least know how it works and how it is calculated.

What is Keyword Stuffing?

Another important term to learn when having SEO content explained is “keyword stuffing.” As mentioned earlier, your goal is to have Google recognize your content and organically bump it higher and higher in the rankings. If you are eager to have Google penalize and remove your content from the search engine results entirely, the quickest way to achieve this “goal” is to be found guilty of keyword stuffing.

A rookie mistake is to assume that the higher the number of times you can fit your keyword into your content, the better. The exact opposite is the case! The Google algorithm for search engines is designed to tag any websites, webpages and online blogs guilty of keyword stuffing. It is highly recommended to use keywords strategically – not excessively. A healthy keyword density rate is between 3-5% depending on the type and nature of the content. Make sure that you never go above that unless specifically instructed to do so by your client.

How Do You Come Up with the Perfect Core Keywords?

There is no such thing as a “perfect” core keyword that everyone is going to use. Keyword searches are like ink blotch tests – you must always rely on self-interpretation to determine your next move. You may not be able to identify a single “perfect” keyword. However, it is possible to create a list of commonly used keywords and phrases that will help you to achieve the same goal. Do not hesitate to study trend reports and analytics to determine exactly which direction you should take when coming up with keywords.

Your client may even ask for you to select the core keywords used within your content. Do not take this advantage for granted! You must show your client that you deserve their trust in this regard. Otherwise, they will simply find one of your competitors who will prove that they deserve it instead.

Are Secondary Keywords Required or Optional?

Once again, this question is better suited for your actual client. You will encounter clients who simply want one primary keyword used within the content and nothing else. On the other hand, you may work for clients who want you to use a primary keyword (or two) along with a list of secondary keywords to generate even more organic exposure.

Remember that “the customer is always right”, so make sure that you accurately identify your customer’s expectations when it comes to keyword usage. More importantly, you should also remember that you are the expert. If you are asked to go a little overboard with their handling of the keyword(s), make sure that you express yourself and your concerns with honesty and respect. Doing so may save your job and gain even more trust from your client when they see just how right you were from the very beginning.

Which Content Management System is the Best to Use?

What do you use to manage your posted and published content? You need to pay close attention to the content management systems (CMS) used in your work and/or by your clients. In most cases, your clients will instruct you on which system to use for their assignments. For instance, you may need to post and publish your work directly through WordPress. In comparison to more complicated scenarios (such as those used by technical experts fluent in CSS and HTML) WordPress is one of the easiest systems to use.

When examining the details of different job offers and project listings, you should pay close attention to this requirement. If you are not able to efficiently use the content management systems required and/or requested by your prospective clients, it is highly recommended to ask for alternative options or avoid the opportunity until you have learned how to use it. The last thing you want to do is to wreck your company’s reputation during the early stages of your content creation career due to an inaccurate (or falsified) resume.