Content writing is serious business. All the tiny bits and crumbs that seemingly have no impact on your written word add up, and the final result ends up being desultory to the original idea. It’s hard and excruciating to come out and admit to the minor misdemeanors you’ve been making for months and some of them, for years, as that could seriously dampen your reputation among the writing community! To add insult to injury, most of us are so bound to our usual routines of doing things, that we never take a step back and take a nice, critical and objective outlook on our entire writing process. I hope that this write-up will serve as a solemn warning to the content writers out there who harbor the belief that their customers don’t notice the tiniest titbits of change in the content that they’ve been delivering. Speaking from a point of vast experience, they do, and oftentimes, you’ll not get a second shot. They will simply jump to the next writer in the vast sea of unexplored potential. For that reason, if you are a content writer that aspires to improve himself over the course of time, I beg of you take these tips as a friendly pat on the back, as my goal is to steer both you and me towards the right path. 1. Taking Too Much Business At Once If you have been writing content for an extended period of time, there’s one thing that you’ll undoubtedly experience and I call this phenomenon, ‘The Sudden Flood’. You’ll have days, sometimes even weeks without any sort of writing opportunities and then suddenly, a known customer will barge on your email, inquiring about your availability. ”Sir!” You’ll reply with rapt enthusiasm ”I was born available!” At last, the dry spell has ended, and you can finally do the one thing that you’re not so bad at. The celebrational ceremonies don’t last very long as there is an old saying that commands ‘When it rains, it pours’ And pour it will, five, ten or even more customers will take large orders in an abrupt time period, as if frenzied by a spell. You’ll be chuffed to bits with all the money rolling in but the real tragedy only seems to dawn on the poor content writer when he takes notice of the fact that he’ll have to churn out 10,000 words a day, for the next few weeks. No matter how much of a resilient or arduous being you are, it will yank you down into a bottomless hole. Sleepless nights, the dreaded writer’s blocks, stress over not hitting the deadlines, failing to encompass what the customer actually wanted, faltering concentration… But that’s not the worst of it, no, the single biggest killer out there is when you are so dragged down by the symptoms described above, that a customer expresses his dissatisfaction with the content delivered and demands a rewrite. Now listen very closely to what I’m about to tell you; That is the straw that will break the camel’s back in 90% of all the demanding situations in your writing career. This is the final psychological blow that you’ll take before just surrendering to your miserable fate. Imagine getting over the fifth and last order for the day, the biggest one- make no mistake, and sullied by all the grinding, you decide to wash the filth off with a nice and steamy shower. You get off the sauna with newfound enthusiasm, ‘Hey, maybe I really CAN do this!’ and as you take out your phone to drown yourself to sleep with meaningless YouTube videos, the wretched email arrives. You are telling me that I’ll have to rewrite 5,000 words of content, alongside the other 10,000 that I must have by tomorrow? Oh sure, here, let me just quickly pull the trigger and end it all! The Solution To Taking Too Much Work As A Content Writer As shiny as the coins may be, you’re better of rejecting some of the orders coming your way, as this is the only way you’ll be able to protect the quality of the content you pen, as well as your sanity. While it might seem foolish to reject the influx of new customers, you’re far better off settling on a steady yet sturdy route rather than burning out after a measly few weeks. Never reply with a definite no to an inquiry, but explain the situation and rationally lay out the possibilities. Even if you won’t be available for another two or three weeks, ensure that your customer knows of your deadlines so that he can either rearrange his deals or move on to another soul. 2. Rushing Orders A sort of continuation from the first point I’ve raised, once the vultures start banging on your door, you’ll have to let them into your attire, the bed you’ve slept in for years! You would be lucky to even have a room in your own house anymore. When that happen, when the world starts shutting down on your cranial nerves, will you really learn to hate this craft. At that juncture, the last thing you would want to do is content writing. Ten thousand, twenty thousand or even more words a day just to scrape by, tens of customers at once all demanding different things, it’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It is something that you can’t even begin to imagine if you haven’t experienced it on your own skin, felt it. It doesn’t really matter that your customer has given you a gracious week to complete the order when there’s another twenty lined up for the exact same date, so what are you supposed to do? Can you really come up to your client and claim not to have been able to complete a project that is at most 2000 words of fluff content in a freaking week?! You would have to be kidding me! As the days pass, so do the bags under your eyes grow, and so does the quality drop. You don’t sleep, you hibernate for a few hours or minutes, just to muster up enough strength to continue on. Word for word, sentence for sentence, time becomes an illusion- It’s just letters at this point, one after another… You’re put in a position where you have to churn out a thousand words in a thirty-minute span, whether you like it or not. And if you refuse, if you start bailing out, making up petty excuses, they simply toss you in the can, one after another, it’s a domino effect if I’ve ever seen one. The Solution To Rushing Orders As A Content Writer Your time is invaluable and you’re the only one that should determine how many hours a week you’re ready to offer up to the craft. Ensure that your website, order form or whatever sort of tally you use to keep track of time has a timetable on it, both viewable to you and your potential shoppers. Personally speaking, I never work more than 20 hours a week when it comes to content writing. Not because I’m a lazy slug but for the simple fact that this number presents my personal psychological barrier. Any more and I’m disintegrating, my words suffer, and my concentration dwindles into the abyss. Screw the money and your reputation, it will all amount to nothing in a month or so, as your psyche suffers its final blow, as you’re finally chock-full of it and the inevitable bubble you’ve been trying to uphold, bursts. Set your own hours, ponder on the decision wisely and make sure that they count! 3. Handing Out Short Turn-Around Times As the back-room boys of any website, the actual work of content writers is oftentimes left unappreciated and unrecognized. Words that we have spent hours crafting are mere strings of semantic units where various ‘value’ is going to be assigned by the webmaster. Hence, this means that the actual content is irrelevant at best (from the point of view of the average webmaster) since it is only there to fulfill the needs of Google to have relevant information present on their website. This puts an inordinate amount of pressure on content writers, as money is time and if you can’t handle it, you’ll be left in the gutter. On one hand, this sort of fervid, unhealthy fixation promotes the uprising of various content mills that are nothing but tools of oppression, offering meager wages for copious amounts of work. Case in point, the average content writer employed by one of those mills earns around ten dollars per hour of work. Take taxes, revisions and the ever-increasingly rise of ‘scope creeps’ and what are you really left with? An overworked, stressed-out and dissatisfied artist that burns out after a month or two, a crestfallen soul that fell victim to the corporate overlords. But that doesn’t matter to them as the market is always ripe to take another sucker in and so the cycle continues… On the other hand, the reason why this practice seems to have no stop in its course is because it simply works; There are plenty of people that are barely scraping by and many would do anything just to put food on the table. The Solution To Handing Out Short Turn-Around Times As A Content Writer That is why you, as a professional, as a human being, as a bastion of decency and common courtesy have to put your foot down and solemnly swear to no longer be a part of the vicious cycle. At that point, when you learn to respect yourself and your vocation, will your customers learn to revere the fact that it takes you two weeks to complete a project and that’s how it should be! Do you really believe a human to be capable to grasp a concept he has never tackled before in less than 48 hours? Of course not, and this way of handling things leaves everyone in the field dissatisfied; From the hollow-cheeked content writer to the hollow-eyed webmaster. You have to realize that you’re the one who’s ultimately in control of how things are going to play out, as you’re the only one in this toxic triangle that works his butt off! 4. Not Asking Any Questions Before Starting The Writing Process Most of the times, the client has a clear-cut way of delivering their message to me and I’m able to, without much intervention, to complete their order without any hassle. The latter sentence represents the common thought of many content writers and webmasters alike. The simple fact is that there isn’t a kernel of truth in the aforementioned sentence. You see, a customers’ vision of their project and the way it should go is only present in their mind and as we, content writers, aren’t some clairvoyant, all-knowing, beings that can telepathically decipher the hidden meaning behind their words, we have to guess. As you can already imagine, mistakes are frequent and even if done in an offhanded fashion, they are seen as deliberate ignorance in our management of the project. After a lot of revising and rewriting, you are presented with the inevitable ‘a-ha’ moment and you think to yourself; ”So, that’s what he wanted me to do. I could have done that from the beginning!” But it’s too late at this point, as now you’re left with a disgruntled customer. From this point onwards, it’s a slippery slope; Either the webmaster decides to drop you in search for another crystal glazer or he decides to go through the same ordeal once more, perpetuating the entire cycle. Either way, you’re the only one that is at loss as you grow increasingly frustrated and doubtful of your own skills. This can also lead the customer to turn spiteful or even hostile, demanding more work for less pay, after all, he has to spend his valuable time in teaching you how to do your own damn job! The Solution To Communication Problems Before The Writing Process Your checkout form has to contain as many details as possible. You have to ensure that your purchaser opens up to you and you’re not going to be able to that with a simple line or two. No, a proper form or contract as I like to call it has to go through each and every triviality down the line; From the tone of the article, to the words best avoided, you have to be cognizant of the exact needs the work requires, and you can only do that by outlining all the little parts of the project that could pose a question mark. The best way to approach such an endeavor would be to have a candid conversation with your interlocuter. Take the time necessary to ‘feel’ the project and ask as many questions as you can muster up! Don’t be shy or fearful of the possible ramifications of such a move, as many might think that such an approach is importunate. On the contrary, companies and businesses serious about their venture will see your enthusiasm as a huge plus and will most likely come back to you for more work! 5. Failing To Communicate With The Buyer During The Writing Process I have already talked about the limited powers of a content writer and even if you do follow the last-mentioned advice, there will still be open gaps that will lead you into obscurity. You will ask yourself; ”Should I really pester my client with yet another email?” And the most likely answer your mind will bestow you with is ‘Nah, I can handle it!’ By acting in such an unprofessional manner, you’re creating a toss-up situation out of your writing. The anxiety you’re feeling right now will never really go away, even when you hit the send button with the article(s) attached, there will still be doubt; ‘Is he going to like it? Did I do right?’ And let’s not sugarcoat things, it sucks. It fricking sucks and nobody wants to feel that way and that is why, in such situations as well as in life, it is best to tackle the issue head-on! You can’t imagine how many times I’ve found myself rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic with just a few words or a crucial sentence that just didn’t stick with me. So, what would I end up doing? I would close my eyes and just go with the flow, hoping that I’ve made the right decision. Surprisingly, most of the times the clients wouldn’t even notice but there is still that 5-10% that murks your entire operation and is the cause of the overwhelming sense of anxiety you’re experiencing. As we all know, anxiety isn’t rational and even if there’s a 0.1% chance that something might happen, it can still feel like the end of the world. The Solution To Communication Problems During The Writing Process Write the entire article, compile all the questions in one big email and present the excerpt as a ‘draft’ with all the questions attached beneath it. If the customer is satisfied, simply thank him for his time and your work here is done. If not, you can work on the equivocal parts of the article that need tinkering. Simple and hassle-free! 6. Pestering My Clients With Emails I’ve talked about the flood, but I’ve never delved into the droughts. How alluring the sand in a desert must be after days or months without water. You get desperate for just one gulp, one order. You start questioning your internet connection, did I provide my customers with the correct contact email, is my website down? ‘What the hell is going on?’ ‘Where is everyone?!’ ‘It’s shopping season for crying out loud, people should be willing to spend money!’ And many more. As your frustration grows so does the temptation to send one mass email to all of your past buyers, just to remind them of your existence. ”I’m right here guys! Penning content, as always. Right at this post, where I’m always residing, ha-ha. PLEASE SOMEONE ORDER SOMETHING I NEED TO QUENCH THIS CONFLAGRATING THIRST THIS INSTANT!” But the law of attraction begs to differ and the more you pull, the wider the bridge between you and your goals become. The Solution To Keeping Yourself In Line Simply accept the fact that everything has its ups and downs. You can’t control it and the more you press, the more you push your customers away from you. They know who and what you are, don’t be mistaken. Nobody forgets a content writer, things like that don’t happen. If you have been of any value to the hiree, you’ll be contacted again, I can solemnly attest to that. Instead, your best course of action is to accept your fate and do everything in your power to become an even better writer. Read a book, learn a new word, idiom, phrase, saying, whatever it may be, just let it connect with content writing in some way. It might seem like a fruitless endeavor but trust me, any titbit of information I’ve imbued over the years came into play at one point or another. EVERY! 7. Letting My Writing Become Stale It happens to all of us at one point or another. Months of continuous writing, same words, same phrases, same sentences… It’s not feasible to the buyer but to you, it becomes a freaking nightmare. Did I just use the word ‘different’ again, holy molly, I really do suck at this. Oh, the company values ‘creativity’ and is ‘versatile’ in its operations, oh my God, not again. I will vomit if I see these words one more freaking time… It wears you down slowly and it can be quite dampening to your confidence as you feel trapped in the same spot that you’ve been for the last decade. You’ll start to question your own sanity. As I have already noted, it’s not that your customers will have any complaints but that your own satisfaction of the content that you’re peddling will rapidly diminish. You get to a point where you feel as if you’re nothing but a copycat, a damn computer program could do the job just as well in a fraction of the time you’re spending. You’re nothing but a robot at this point, copy-pasting information that has been readily available in your brain for the past ten years! Are you even conscious at this point? Are you a writer? What has become of you? No wonder many content writers feel that an AI program will take over their place in the foreseeable future. The Solution To Keeping Your Content Writing Fresh Read, learn, experience. The last word in the previous list is the essence of what makes us human, what makes us unique. The way we experience the food we imbue or the color on a website, that’s what makes us special. Many content writers think that they’ll be able to avoid the real world by cooping themselves up in a dimly-lit room for days on end. I’m not saying that it won’t work, but for how long? A month, a year, maybe a few years? What then? You are still the same old boring slug and there seems to be no change on the horizon. Forever trapped in a confinement of your own undoing, destined to become nothing but a menial robot with no emotions, attachments or sentiment. A dead man. I could have read countless books about Munich, Germany- Its history, culture, environment, properties, you name it! But I could never even begin to imagine the real deal, until I’ve experienced it for myself. Travel. That will keep your mind fresh and the looming shadow of an AI scooping up your vocation will not seem as gloomy as it sounds. After all, will an AI ever be able to touch, feel, grasp or experience the city on a visceral level, the same way a human does? Never, not in our lifetime, that’s for sure. Actions like these turn ‘different’ into ‘divergent’, it turns ‘flagrant personality’ into ‘hubris’ and I’m damn sure that it turns a ‘Hello’ into ‘Servus!’ Conclusion These seven mistakes represent the seven sins of every content writer I’ve met so far. We are humans and therefore are not exempt from error. It should be that way and I wouldn’t prefer it in any other way, shape or form. Being sentient of them will not prevent you from engaging in such behaviors but it at least provides a safety net, a buffer that you can revisit and then proudly exclaim: ”So, that’s where things went south!” And then you’ll be provided with the opportunity to resuscitate from the ashes and fly away into the wind, like a reborn Phoenix!