My Content Marketing Story: Why I Had to Turn Down a Million Dollar Offer

How would you feel if you got a freelance project worth several million dollars without lifting a finger, but had to turn it down? Well, that’s what happened to me. Here’s my story.

I used to blog about computer networking and had a website which pulled in around 5000 unique visitors a month. I did not actively manage it since I started it off as a hobby site and never pursued it further. But it sat there, drawing in visitors and earning me money via Adsense.

 Here are the offers I received while I managed that blog

  1. Paid reviews of networking routers, switches, servers and so on (I did not accept them by the way since I was no real expert to post a review of such scale. Besides, selling links will probably get me in trouble with Google. As a SEO consultant, that was the last thing I wanted)
  2. Interview requests to appear in trade magazines (Turned them down as well. The perception that I was an expert was just not enough in my opinion. Besides I was no expert in the topic)
  3. All-expense paid trip to an industry conference that was to be held where the sponsor was going to launch a new high end networking product (I believe it was a PR firm hired by Cisco who contacted me)

But the one that blew my mind was a project worth several million dollars…

A company sent me their VoIP network design requirements and asked me if I could implement it on their company premises. I was literally shocked. I couldn’t even make out what their several page PDF document meant. I forwarded it to my then team lead who also could not take up the project since it was very big and needed lots of resources.

Sadly, I had to turn it down.

Now, why am I telling you all this? To make you understand the power of content marketing (even though I just had content and barely did any marketing for that blog).

The blog had 47 indexed pages, was just over 1.5 years old and I spent no more than 100$ for its hosting and domain name. Yet it landed me some of the most lucrative offers if I were to concentrate on the networking industry.

That, my dear friend, is the power of content marketing.

I’m not saying that if you go and start a blog you’ll get all sorts of deals and business. The reason I received such offers might be due to various reasons

  • I was lucky (Even though unknowingly content marketing played a role, I believe I was extremely lucky than most of my peers)
  • I was good (compared to my peers I must say) at SEO and not many blogs on networking were implementing good SEO strategies (I’m not talking about A List Bloggers here, but rather the majority of those who blogged in my niche at that time)
  • The content in most networking sites were either too technical or wasn’t something the readers were searching for (Example of poor keyword research)
  • My content was extremely well researched, written with the newbies in mind and offered practical advice. In other words, none of the articles was aimed at selling anything. I just wanted to put out information I learned (If I had known about what was about to come, I would have heavily monetized it earlier or at least struck a deal with someone else)

It may or may not happen to you. If you use content marketing the right way, you could land you opportunities you would otherwise have never imagined.

Why Content Marketing Rocks: Another Personal Story Related to Freelance Job Sites

I was planning on a new project which requires a lot of content. So I went over to Odesk to hire some writers.

It’s been a long time since I hired anyone to write for me, so I decided to do a little bit of research about the current rates for content writers.

I saw a lot of posts which were quiet similar (Almost everyone offering a uniform rate of 0.0075-0.01$ a word). But one job posting caught my attention. The job poster wanted 5 unique articles each of 500 words each. He had also specified his maximum budget for the job. Do you know how much the budget was?

5 Dollars. Yes, F.I.V.E Dollars and Zero cents. (And no, it’s not FIVERR).

I thought it must be a joke and went over to the detailed job description page. He wanted

  • Perfect English
  • 100% unique content and copy scape passed
  • Work delivered in 3 days

Now, the next thing I did was look at the number of applications. I didn’t expect to find any. But I was surprised. Did you know how many applicants there were for this job within 5 hours of posting it?

23 applications!!! (Some of them even have a good work history over at Odesk).

The situation is almost similar for SEO jobs with people asking for 50 PR5 links for 25$, want complete SEO done for their site and rank #1 for 100$, 4 pages analyzed for on page SEO for 8$ and so on. What’s interesting is that there are numerous people who are ready to do this as well. I really have no idea about the results, but it’s not something I want to waste my time with.

What Does Low Freelance Rate Have to do With Content Marketing?

Let’s rewind back to 2008 when I did freelance content writing. I did a few cheap writing projects in the beginning (Less than 1 cent a word which would have got me around 2 or 3 dollars for a 300 word article). It was a lot of work for a lot less pay considering the fact that I had to attend engineering college and do freelancing on the side.

So I decided to change my approach a bit. I stopped using the sales section on the forum I used to get business from, where I had to compete with dozens of other article writers always eager to outbid me even for a few dollars.

I decided to cut back and put my offer in my forum signature. Then what I did was just help out people in the forum (it had mostly to do about SEO and very little to do with content writing).

Soon, I started to receive writing offers from people who read my posts on the forum. The pay was almost 10X the rate I would get from the sales section in the forum. (Not 10X always, but in the range 5X-10X the rates I used to get)

I simply surveyed the people who sent me writing offers through Private Messages and I found out that almost all of them never go to the sales section for hiring writers. Another noteworthy point they made was that when they see people engaging in pricing wars, they assumed that the quality will go down.

That was a real “Ah-ha” moment for me!

How foolish was I to assume that my target audience always followed the traditional method to hire people for work.

If there is one thing that I learned from this, it’s that the golden opportunities are always not found where most people look for.

The best jobs are taken well before they are advertised. – Ramth Sethi, author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”, a New York Times Bestseller

I can vouch for this approach because I have landed some of my best SEO clients by using content marketing strategies. Many people found me through my blogs and wanted me to help them with their marketing efforts.

The most beneficial part was that the people who contacted me was highly targeted, had a specific problem which they thought I could solve (really helps with the sales process), and are really generous with their pay-outs.

I agree that it’s not always about the money. I am not talking about ripping off your clients by charging huge amounts of money either. (I came to Know form another forum about a case where a SEO firm was charging a client 6000$ a year for adding them to Google Places which is free!!!)

But the thing is that, when you make a living from it, and you have worked your ass off to master your skill and stay updated with the latest trends, you deserve some credit for it. That usually doesn’t come with jobs that pay you peanuts.

Uncovering the Hidden Opportunities Using Content Marketing

Content marketing is not just about writing articles or answering on forums.

It’s a whole new (or refined) way of marketing that you can use to uncover hidden opportunities in your niche. Whether you are in the SEO industry or you are a programmer, content marketing can certainly help you achieve your goals.

Which Industries Benefit from Content Marketing?

Content marketing works in almost all the industries. It’s just that you need to tweak your approach based on each industry and your audience.

Are you a programmer looking to land nice programming gigs? Why not build some open source application and release it. If it gets popular you are bound to get a few offers. (This has helped lot of people land a job in top companies). Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s a valuable asset to put in your resume.

What’s Holding Back Content Marketing Even With All the Perks?

The #1 reason most people fail to adopt content marketing or simply give up is because, content marketing takes time to produce results.

Now, we all know that human nature craves for quick fixes.

We all want free money, instant six pack abs, and a good relationship. But, how many of us are ready to bust our ass trying to make it work? Not many. That’s what makes successful people different than most of us.

Coming back to my previous example of freelance job site, why do you think people post such crazy offers?

Since people are willing to work for crazy terms and conditions.

Why are people willing to work for such low rates?

Since they’d rather make a bit of money now than work several hours a day for months to reap the benefits a year or two later. The uglier part is people with little to no experience in marketing, take on low paying projects to learn at the expense of their clients.

Now, I really can’t complain about people willing to work for low rates. Job market is not looking good and you really can’t afford to wait a year or more if you need to provide for yourself and your family.

So, How Can You Approach Content Marketing?

The easiest way out is to hire an expert. If you’d rather do-it-yourself, then you can learn by reading content marketing blogs like conversionchamp.com and implementing the strategies. The important thing is, think about what makes business sense- doing it yourself or bringing in an outside consultant?

The goal is not to focus on content marketing from the start. Do what you need to do and embrace content marketing with a long term approach. In the long run, it will be worth every minute you spent on building your brand or giving away awesome content.

So, what is your content marketing story?

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Comments

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Definitely. Anything is possible. You never know when you’ll get amazing opportunities. That’s the power of blogging.

  1. Sam Dickson says

    Adarsh,

    I am really impressed. Not because you told that you got an offer, but honestly stating that you had no clue whatsoever about how to go about with the project and that you believed that you were also lucky (Most people I know would have tried to take credit for getting this one).

    Coming back to your point of content marketing being able to surprise you with an array of opportunities, I also had the same experience (in a smaller way though).

    My company did not have a website (to this date, it does not have a website). We are in the window glass industry business. One time I helped out my friend with a problem he had with choosing the best window glass (not from my company). He told about my help to one of his friends and it so happened that due to my help, my company landed several thousand window glass orders from his friend when he had one such project.

    So I guess, anything is possible if you really want to help others (On the internet, you call it content marketing I suppose)

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Hey Sam,

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story.

      I do agree that providing value to others will definitely help us get more customers in the long run.

      In the internet, the best way to do what you did is through content. Give how-to guides to your readers and help them solve their problems. This way you’ll end with with great customers who absolutely rave about you and your business.

      And you should seriously consider getting a website for your business. It’s very simply. I think I’ll write a in-depth guide for small business owners like you.

      Cheers.

  2. says

    It was indeed a great post Adarsh, enjoyed reading every bit of it,may be because it was your personal story that you shared through this article. Content marketing is extremely powerful as you said, if you are able to write unique , high quality stuff that people are eagerly searching for. I think Keyword and Market Research plays a big role in accomplishing our goals through Content Marketing.

  3. says

    Very insightful post Adarsh. I had to turn down quite a few offers myself from people who noticed me online.
    Some because I did not have time and some because I did not agree with the business model or product.
    I am pretty selective about what I take up – ethics vs money I guess.

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Ethics always wins hands down for most honest business people on the internet. Great that you chose the right path. Keep doing what you believe in :)

      • Adarsh Thampy says

        Gowardhan,

        Thank you for your comment. Many people have found success with blogs. Even more people have found out another medium that is a time waster. So blogging, for each person, has been a different experience. I believe people have definitely made use of blogging and since it’s a constantly evolving field, let’s see what will happen in 5 or 10 years time.

  4. says

    Great points. It’s really not about the low fee, but about your ability to convince (and provide) the client of your ability to create great content that will make business sense.
    BTW, I found your site via google, while searching ROI on content marketing.

    • Adarsh Thampy says

      Convincing is one of the most important skills you need to have. I am planning on writing a post about it soon.

      Thanks for sharing your views and also the keyword you used to get here Igor .

  5. Emily says

    Just wondering how you can tell which content is most worth your time to write about? Also: I am considering starting a blog for our company but my expertise and field experience is limited compared to our Directors so I will likely be getting their input alot plus doing my own research; but should I be using my own name/face or theirs as our audience may then expect me to be a consultant and Im more admin/marketing/projects role. If you can direct me to any helpful resources that would be awesome

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