No matter what your profession, if you’re interested in content strategy, you probably want to be involved in projects that allow you to practice the basics of the discipline. Here are 5 ways to demonstrate to your clients that you are the right person for the job.

Note: This is not just an article for freelancers. If you’re inside an agency or the content manager for a company, there are tips here that can help you persuade your bosses to give this content strategy thing a run.

Tips and Tools for the Content Strategist

1. Demonstrate collaboration. 

A huge part of content strategy is about change management. While we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the business analysis portion of it, it is usually a critical part of implementing a content strategy. You should ask questions like the following:

  • Is the right talent in the right roles?
  • Are the right professionals guiding and managing the workflow?
  • Who makes the decisions, and do they have the right background to do so? (Think IT guy who runs a website -- should he really be calling the shots on major content issues?)

Show your boss, or future client, that you want to work with what they have. You should absolutely make it clear that you may make recommendations that change things, but that they are only recommendations -- at the end of the day, clients want to feel comfortable that you’re not going to ram things down their throat.

2. Discuss return on investment, understanding that you may not prove it directly.

I recently won a great content strategy product by answering this question honestly, “What will be our ROI?” I simply said, “I don’t know that you’ll be able to quantify it, necessarily. What I do know is that I will take the guesswork out of execution so your editorial staff will have more time to be creative, hopefully influencing the quality of your content, and therefore your page views (this was an ad revenue model).” I was hired on the spot because they appreciated my honesty, and I was crystal clear about exactly what I was trying to do.

3. Be open to several discovery conversations.

Just like you wouldn’t agree to move in with someone after one date, it’s probably a good idea to have several meetings or phone calls before signing on the dotted line for a large content strategy project.

Different conversations will reveal the nuances of the project, and will give you the time you need to think through how you might handle each challenge. Clients (and bosses) like this approach as well, because it gives them the opportunity to see how your thinking evolves over time.

4. Be willing to break it down.

Sometimes, a client will only want to hire you for a content audit, and not the entire strategy plan. That’s okay. Not all content strategists can plan the entire content strategy lifecycle. It may also be their way of testing the water. So if they call you to write, or inventory or create a style guide or governance plan, take it. If you execute well, there will be more work down the road.

Learning Opportunities

5. Talk about past successes -- and things you might have done differently.

Clients like to know that you’ve handled similar challenges in the past. They also like to know what’s worked and what hasn’t. Do not be afraid to talk about different content strategy challenges you managed. The sign of a strong, confident professional is the ability to reevaluate and analyze how you might have proceeded differently. This type of thinking demonstrates your ability to think through challenges, analyze the outcomes and apply what-if scenarios.

Don’t second guess yourself. Recognize some you hit out of the park, and some you didn’t. As long as you strive to improve, your clients will feel comfortable about your commitment to the project.

Any tips for a freelance content strategist or internal content strategist looking to convince influential stakeholders? They’ll appreciate the comments…and so will I.

Editor's Note: Check out these additional articles on Content Strategy