How Kiran Shahid Creates Content for Hubspot, Sprout, and Semrush
Uncover what it takes to write exceptional content from a seasoned content writer
At ease, Captain!
Welcome to a free edition of the Content Captains Newsletter where I answer your questions about creating content, generating traction, and becoming a full-stack content marketer.
Kiran Shahid is a freelance content writer for B2B SaaS companies based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
For over 10 years, Kiran has been a freelance content writer for heavy hitters in the B2B SaaS space. When asked about her content writing process, she said:
My #1 tip is to learn to research smart and fast. You have to be able to find info, understand it, and then present it in a way that's engaging and informative. It's essential because content writers have to become experts on a variety of topics quickly. Good research skills allow you to do that.
In today’s interview, we cover how to she got started as a content writer, how she lands and keeps clients, and her content writing process, tips, and best practices.
1. How long have you been a freelance content writer?
I’ve been a freelance writer for about 10 years now. I took a gap year before my undergrad and started freelance writing on Upwork because, at the time, there were limited professional opportunities for students in Pakistan.
Over these 10 years, I’ve worked with all kinds of companies and experimented with different kinds of writing including recipe books, fashion blogs, and even articles on CBD. I settled on B2B SaaS as a niche because I’ve always been a tech-savvy person and just found using all these different SaaS products so fascinating.
I love playing around with new tools and figuring out how they work, so it made sense for me to combine my love for writing with my interest in technology. I just enjoyed writing for these companies and found it to be the most challenging and rewarding.
2. Who was your first client? And who was your first “big” client?
My first freelance project was two 500-word blogs on street fashion in Milan and Paris. I landed these gigs on Elance (now Upwork) and it felt surreal.
I remember I got $5 for each which is peanuts now that I think of it, but back then it was a big feeling. I was a student plus the conversion rate of rupee to dollar was much higher. So I thought, "wow, I'm gonna get rich!" It felt like a big accomplishment getting that first client. Plus, the 5-star rating and positive feedback I received gave me a huge confidence boost to continue freelancing.
HubSpot was my first "big" client.
I used to go through their blogs during my research for my other clients and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would end up working with them.
But an amazing freelance writer whom I had interacted with on LinkedIn recommended me to their team and forwarded my portfolio. Even when they got in touch with me, I was sure something would fall through and it was only when I received zero feedback from them that I realized that this was it. I was going to be working with HubSpot.
It felt surreal and incredibly exciting. As a freelancer, landing a big name like HubSpot as my client gave me immense confidence and legitimacy.
3. How do you find new clients? And how do you keep them happy?
I mainly find clients through referrals and inbound leads from LinkedIn. I started building my personal brand a bit over a year ago and that's led to a lot of opportunities and connections. I like this approach because it's a warm introduction and there's already a level of trust established through the referral or engagement with my content on LinkedIn. It also allows me to focus on building relationships rather than constantly pitching my services.
As for my business model, I mainly work on a project basis. I used to work on time-based contracts, but I found that it didn't align with my level of expertise and the value I bring to clients. I write fast due to my years of experience, so it didn't make sense for me to charge by the hour. Plus, with project-based work, I can focus on delivering high-quality results rather than worrying about tracking my time.
When I land a new client, my top priority is to really understand their unique needs and requirements.
While every client is different, there are some non-negotiables:
Access to the product or at least demo videos/screenshots so I can include it organically into the content.
Writing style guide to match their tone and style.
Relevant articles either from their own library or their competitors. I ask them to point out what they liked/disliked about these pieces.
Access to the company's SMEs to understand the audience better.
For the first three articles I write, I ask for extensive feedback. This way, I learn the nitty gritties of how they want their content and I can then fine-tune my writing to exactly what they're looking for. And honestly, this part makes me super happy. I was at a point where I rarely got any feedback on my writing and I was stuck at the same level.
It's a collaborative process that allows me to grow and improve as a writer. When you communicate and understand your client's needs, you can deliver the best possible content that meets their expectations.
4. Talk to me about your content writing. What’s your process? Do you have any tips?
Honestly, the research phase is always tougher than the writing phase. I want to create content that's steps above what's already on the SERPs so the first thing I do is create a research dump document. I highlight all the H2s and H3s in the document and then start researching those specific sections.
In this document, I drop in all links, stats, and references that I think will be useful. For SME insights, I prefer reaching out to my network directly or getting insights from podcasts and webinar transcripts since I want to get a more personal and unique point of view. HARO and Help a B2B Writer rarely give me the kind of insights I'm looking for.
Taplio and Tweethunter are also great tools for finding experts from LinkedIn and Twitter respectively. I've also created a data vault on Notion with links to all reports, whitepapers, and studies that I've collected in the past few years. This way, I have all the resources at my fingertips and can easily refer to them while writing.
Once I have my research document, writing is a piece of cake. My writing time increases as my relationship with the client matures. I know their style and expectations, so I can write better from the get-go.
Definitely learned copywriting on the job.
While I started with some courses on Udemy, nothing improves your writing more than editorial feedback. I've found that real-world practice, combined with constructive criticism, is the best teacher.
Apart from that, though, I’d definitely recommend 'The Cutting Room' by Tommy Walker. Tommy invites guests to edit articles live. It's a fascinating process to watch. Seeing how someone else edits and understanding their thought process is extremely helpful.
My #1 tip is to learn to research smart and fast.
You have to be able to find info, understand it, and then present it in a way that's engaging and informative. It's essential because content writers have to become experts on a variety of topics quickly. Good research skills allow you to do that.
Also, develop your critical thinking skills by reading. You need to look at information critically, ask the right questions, and make connections between two random topics. It’s the one thing AI can’t do yet.
As for the top 3 skills every content writer should know:
Networking: You need to build relationship with other writers, editors, and of course, clients. Networking helps you find new opportunities and expand your reach.
Editing: Use AI sure, but know how to identify crap output. Improving your editing skills helps you do just that.
Project management: Know your capacity and how to manage your time. Freelancing is a juggling act of multiple projects, deadlines, and clients.
Networking and personal branding are extremely powerful. Seriously, stop freelancing in isolation. I used to think that freelancing was a solo journey and other freelancers are my competition, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Other freelancers get your struggles because they've been there. And people are generally really nice and willing to help.
Build your personal brand. Share your journey, your wins, your challenges. Engage with others in your field. LinkedIn is great for this. Sharing your knowledge and experiences helps you build your brand and learn from others.
5. What’s your superpower?
My superpower as a content writer is definitely my ability to write and research incredibly fast. This skill goes back to my early days when I would do these intense writing sprints. I'm talking about churning out 10,000-word eBooks in just two days. Sounds crazy, but those sprints were like bootcamps for my writing skills.
This experience has given me a unique edge. I can produce high-quality content quickly without sacrificing detail or depth. My clients love this about my work. They know that when they come to me with a project, they're not just getting a writer who meets their deadlines, but someone who exceeds their expectations in the process.
The ability to research and write quickly means I turn around projects faster and allow them to move forward with their strategies and campaigns without delay. Throughout these writing sprints, I've honed my ability to grasp complex topics quickly and articulate them clearly.
Thank you, Kiran, for jumping aboard and sharing your story with us.
If you're looking for more insights and tips on content writing, check out my LinkedIn profile. I regularly post about my experiences, share writing tips, and discuss content marketing. Give me a follow and let's continue this conversation.
Thanks for reading,
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