Rai Cornell’s love for the written word knows no boundaries. It’s been within her since the very beginning, begging to be put to use.
That passion evolved into a prolific freelancing career that led to the birth of Cornell Content Marketing, a company made up of independent contractors who strive to create high-quality content to help businesses — including ones within the subscription industry — flourish.
Read on to learn how Cornell married her passion for writing with her desire to help subscription businesses.
Writing for Subscriptions
Cornell grew up in a strict Californian household with parents working in law enforcement. Their work fascinated her. She wanted to understand how someone could end up behind bars, and how she could help prevent that from happening.
Over the span of 10 years, the California native earned three degrees — ranging from psychology to criminology — while also putting her writing skills to good use.
“I was doing my freelance writing on the side to pay my way through all of this,” Cornell told SUBTA. “That was my income.”
Cornell also worked in mental health facilities during that time. Her passion for helping people came to a brutal halt in 2014 after dealing with a meth addict who was back in her care for the third time. When she was told to follow the protocol – which had evidently done nothing for the man – Cornell decided to leave the mental health world and pursue her other passion.
“I decided to throw myself full time into my freelance-writing business,” she said, “and over the years, I’ve grown it into a content marketing agency where we do everything from blog content, lead magnets, SEO, website content, sales copywriting, marketing emails, social media, video, website design and development — basically all the things.”
Like most business owners, there was a learning curve. In 2018, the client-acquisition process made her really unhappy. Cornell would have a hard time working with businesses because she struggled finding the content that they wanted to put out interesting. The sales process became a drag instead of being exciting.
“I was speaking to my business mentor about this,” Cornell said, “and she said, ‘Well, which businesses do you really love writing for?’ And I paused for a minute, and I thought about my very first subscription, which was PrettyLitter.”
Cornell explained that she built the subscription box company’s blog section to help it become the authority on cat health.
With her help, PrettyLitter built up its reputation and is now generating more than $4 million in revenue.
After working with a few more subscription companies, Cornell noticed that the people within the direct-to-consumer industry were passionate about everything revolving around their company — their offering, their curation process, their development, the list goes on.
The choice became evident.
“I decided: Those are my people, that is my industry, that is what I want to do,” she said. “And ever since then, it’s been just a constant progression of getting more involved within the industry, learning more about it so I can better serve my clients, and really trying to put myself in a place where I get to help them. It’s rewarding to me, and I hope that my work is rewarding to my clients.”
Cornell Content Marketing helps subscription startups with their SEO strategy, website copy, and email-nurture sequences. The team also assists established brands with content creation (blogs), lead magnets, and marketing emails.
Rai Cornell’s tips to optimize your content strategy
Writing for a Living
The days of writing 30 automotive blogs per month to afford rent are now long gone. It served as a learning experience, one that consumed all of Cornell’s time, energy, mental capacity, and yet still taught her a valuable lesson: Very few individuals are capable of producing a carefully crafted piece of content.
Cornell found the people she knew could get it done and began building her team with the mentality that success lies within the details. One content marketing agency and 17 contractors later, she brought her vision to life.
“When I’m hiring for my team, I don’t hire so much for skill,” she said. “Skill, I can train. What I’m hiring for are the people who have that same appreciation and put the same amount of value on quality, and they want to get better. “
The company’s contractors are split across three service verticals:
- Lead magnets
- Website Content
- SEO Strategy
- Email marketing
- Sales landing pages
- Product descriptions
- Ad copy
- Social media management
- Website development
Everyone on Cornell Content Marketing’s team is trained to produce content that meets Cornell’s expectations, and this empowers these contractors to achieve other career accomplishments.
Cornell wants to see her creatives succeed beyond their roles within her company. In fact, she encourages them to realize their potential by acquiring their own clients. Her ultimate goal is to see members of the writing community be treated fairly and accordingly.
“We would never ask an electrician to come to our house and put in a new outlet for free to prove that they can do the job,” she said. “That’s silly and insulting. So why would a company ask a freelance writer or designer to do something for free to prove that they can do their job?”
Surviving Covid-19 Together
When businesses started to struggle due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cornell made the decision to keep her team intact and not alter anyone’s salary or job status.
Instead, she cut her own pay to make sure the business would survive despite losing one of its biggest clients — which was responsible for a third of the company’s revenue. “My team knew that I had their back and that I was going to do my best for them,” she explains. “So that really brought us together. It was kind of a trial; it was a challenge. We came through it supporting each other and bonding together.”
Having multiple revenues streams helped the company get through a difficult 2020. The different services offered — digital marketing, content strategy and copy & content — enabled the team to stay afloat by adjusting to its customers’ demands. Cornell says that everything is turning into a one-off project following the pandemic’s devastating impact. Customers don’t want to be stuck in long-term commitments — at least for the time being.
Now, the company is rolling out new offers — which Cornell says aren’t related to the pandemic’s impact — that will help reach more businesses in need.
“It’s an annual subscription box for your entire year’s worth of content.” – Rai Cornell
- Monthly publishing – $4,500
- Twice-monthly publishing – $8,900
- Weekly publishing – $18,500
The Subscription Startup Package – $3,200
- Custom SEO strategy
- Homepage copy for its website
- Opt-in email sequence
- Six social media templates
- Editorial calendar
- Three consulting calls
Bad Copy is a Crime
Cornell didn’t study to be a writer, nor to be a mentor. She didn’t study to be a perfectionist either, nor a hard worker. She had it in her the whole time.
“I was an AP student, I graduated high school when I was 16, I finished my bachelor’s degree in three years, I was just always striving for the very top mark,” she explained. Perfection was, is, and will always be the only acceptable result.
“I physically cannot allow myself to put out anything that is less than the best quality I’m capable of,” Cornell said. “It’s a tension that I have to fix the issue before I can let it go out in the world.”
“Bad Copy is a Crime” became the freelance writer and Cornell Content Marketing’s slogan when she was rebranding in 2018. It came from a workbook she bought from Lacy Boggs — someone Cornell looks up to within the industry. After reading the first page, the California native realized she needed something to separate herself from the rest, something that could tell a lot about her work and passion without saying too much.
“I wanted something fun and memorable with a distinct brand voice — a theme I could lean on and be recognized for — but that matched my more reserved, introspective, psychology-driven style,” Cornell explained.
Armed with a new motto and a team of dedicated freelance creatives, Cornell became determined to put an end to poor grammar, botched punctuation and rushed copy. Several years later, the fight continues.
Sometimes, plans change. Cornell left the mental health world for a passion that lived within her since the age of 6. Through her education and abilities, she still found a way to help people — this time with content marketing. Today, business owners — including ones within the subscription space — can turn their dreams into reality thanks to Cornell Content Marketing.