Content Crafters is an interview series where we de-construct the tools, tips, and tactics that top bloggers use to get so much work done. you’ll walk away in mere minutes with actionable takeaways you can try out right away. Let’s dive in!
Laura Newcomer is the publication manager at Foundr Magazine as well as the founder of Human Kind Copy, which is a content production and strategy company that also offers empowerment coaching for purpose-driven brands and heartfelt entrepreneurs.
In the past, she’s worked as an advancement writer at Franklin & Marshall College and as a senior editor at Greatist, among other roles in content and research.
She has a formal education in English literature, and currently, she specializes in both health and wellness writing as well as startups and entrepreneurship.
We’ll cover her background in this interview, as well as how she built her consultancy and advice for up-and-coming freelancers.
How did you get into content marketing? What’s your origin story?
I have been writing for almost as long as I could walk.
Of course, I wasn’t doing content marketing when I was eight years old; I was writing fantastical narratives about witches and pigs (my favorite animal as a kid).
I kept writing all through my childhood and undergraduate education, during which English was one of my two majors.
After college, I took a role at National Geographic, where I was fortunate to get to write for international editions of the magazine and for National Geographic Society blogs. I’ve pretty much been working as a professional writer and editor ever since (minus a brief career dog-leg when I moved to the coast of Maine to teach environmental education for a year).
I spent a couple years at a New York City-based health and fitness content startup, wrote advancement communications for a liberal arts college for a year, and then started my own business, which I’ve been running for the past five years or so.
That business, Human Kind Copy, delivers content writing + content strategy consulting to a range of purpose-driven brands.
As the name suggests, I’m committed to making the world a better, kinder place through writing. That means I work for entrepreneurs and brands who are good people and who are trying to do good in the world (and I do not work for, say, Fox News).
You write for clients in the health & wellness space as well as in the startup/entrepreneurship space – do you find there’s any crossover in how you approach your work in one space versus the other? In what ways are those worlds different from a content perspective?
I think there are probably more similarities than there are differences.
In both cases, it’s all about providing value in the form of high-quality, research-backed, actionable content. You’re writing for an audience with a demonstrated interest in a particular area (whether health/wellness or startups/entrepreneurship), and you owe it to them to provide more than surface-level content.
So I am always focused on creating well-written pieces that can improve readers’ lives in some way, no matter the space I’m writing in on a given day.
What have you found to be the most effective way to find, acquire, and retain great freelance writing clients?
I get asked this question a lot, and my answer (at least when it comes to finding clients) often proves unsatisfying.
My ability to attract clients comes down to the fact that I built a great professional network prior to becoming self-employed. I am enormously grateful that I’ve been working with many of my clients for nearly a decade, because I worked with them in a different capacity before starting my business. Members of my professional network have also been my greatest source of marketing.
I’ve pretty much built my entire business on word-of-mouth.
That’s a real privilege, and it doesn’t really provide people with the actionable advice they’re seeking when they ask me how to get clients. But I suppose, if I were to turn this into advice, the takeaway is that you never know who will support you as your career evolves.
So try to build authentic relationships and don’t be an a**hole.
When it comes to retaining clients, it’s all about service. I care about my clients as people and as businesspeople, and I hope that each one of them feels that from my words and my actions. I turn in clean work on time, I endeavor to make working with me as easy as possible, and I remain invested in my clients’ success.
Basically, it’s the classic advice: Over-deliver for your clients, and they’ll be more likely to want to keep working with you.
So much of that comes down to being a kind, attentive human being — which, again, is a core tenet of my business.
What’s a mistake you made while building your freelance business that caught you by surprise? What have you learned from it?
In the beginning, I was so focused on earning enough money — first enough money to prove to myself that I could quit my day job, and then enough money to contribute to my household once I transitioned to full-time self-employment. This meant that I was often exclusively focused on the here and now: “Am I making enough money to pay for rent and groceries this month? Then I’m good.”
As a result, I don’t think I spent enough time thinking about the body of work that I’d want to look back on when I was more established.
I took on projects that I might not necessarily have attached my name to (because they didn’t align with me personally, not because they were inherently problematic) or that didn’t excite me or contribute to the brand that I’d want to build over time.
It was the classic mistake (which is totally understandable when you’re just starting out!) of trying to be everything to everyone, instead of thinking about what I wanted my business to be.
Again, I think this is to some extent reasonable and unavoidable, especially if you’re relying on your new business to sustain you.
But in retrospect, I wish that I’d spent more time thinking about what I’d want my business to look like in five or 10 years so that I could work toward that from the beginning.
Do you have any strong beliefs about content strategy that run counter the typical industry narrative? In other words, what’s a strong opinion you have about content that not many others share?
I see a lot of people in this space who seem to care about content to the exclusion of caring about being a decent human being or making the world a better place. Maybe that’s fine; we all have our own priorities.
But from my perspective, I don’t believe that the work we do as content marketers happens in a vacuum. Every single thing we do and write affects our society in some way, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind at all times.
So, for instance, it’s incredibly important to me that I’m always using inclusive language, that I’m never capitalizing on harmful stereotypes to sell something or write catchy copy (that’s unkind and intellectually lazy), and that my writing advances the work of social justice in some way, even if it’s something as seemingly subtle as writing “all genders” instead of “both genders.”
On the surface, content marketing might seem unrelated to saving the world.
But I think the small choices we make in our writing can have a massive impact when it comes to reinforcing the ideas that are (and are not) normalized in our culture. And that is significant.
Gimme three tips to improve my writing? Or rather, three tips anyone can use to write better.
1. Read your work out loud.
Our ears have a natural capacity for picking up the rhythms of language, which we may not “hear” if we’re just reading in our heads. Reading your work out loud is a great way to identify places that don’t flow or just sound “off”. And then you get to fix them before other people read your work!
2. Get to know your audience.
I don’t write for insurance salespeople, because I know absolutely nothing about insurance sales. But I do know a whole lot about what it’s like to be a person who’s into health and wellness, because I’ve been one of them since I was 12. And I know a lot about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, because I’ve been one for over half a decade (longer than that if you count my childhood dog-walking business). It’s been said by tons of people, but developing even a basic understanding of your audience’s concerns, challenges, hopes, and so on is crucial for producing copy that resonates.
3. Never stop playing.
If you’ve been in the content marketing space for a while, some of the work becomes second nature, and it’s easy to write projects on autopilot. But it’s so important to make sure you’re bringing energy and creativity to everything you write so the copy feels alive to whomever ends up reading it. That’s only possible when you take the time to play and to practice getting outside of your head and thinking about things in different ways.