Writing content isn’t a walk in the park.
Many people have misconceptions about those who craft website copy, blogs, case studies and more for corporate and nonprofit organizations.
Here are 10 brutally honest truths about what it’s like to have content on the brain:
1. Content writing is not romantic.
People might think you spend your days like this:
In reality, the way you look when you write is more like this:
I wear a lot of yoga pants and sweats, and there are days I’ve barely run a brush through my hair. Sometimes, those are my best writing days.
2. Outsiders think they can do your job.
You’re faced with people who look down their nose at writers. They think that “putting a few words together” can’t be that difficult.
What they don’t realize is that it takes years of expertise—and hours upon hours of writing—to become a good content writer.
You can’t become a proficient content writer by spending hours on general writing that you do regularly, including emails, social media posts and texts.
Instead, you must embrace strategic writing and writing with purpose. It’s a new game when you write for a specific audience and with a specific goal in mind, and it will change for each client, specific industry and type of publication.
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Though others might have learned the mechanics of how to write in school, that doesn’t mean everyone can do a content writer’s job—at least, not well.
3. “Good” writing is subjective.
Not everyone understands what makes outstanding content. Language is not cut and dry. It’s not like math, where there are right and wrong answers.
Readers bring along their biases. Therefore, some might love the way something is written, while others hate it. “The Da Vinci Code” or “Fifty Shades of Grey” are two examples.
You might think that a piece of writing is good because it is technically and grammatically correct, but what about tone consistency, idea flow and overall clarity? What about whether it’s actually written for the audience?
“Good” content is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately, organizations can spend thousands of dollars on sloppy writers who produce horrendous content.
4. Think your writing is terrible? You could be wrong.
A lot of my clients say things such as, “My writing is awful. I am so embarrassed to have you read my stuff.”
Often, these people are decent writers who don’t write or phrase things strategically.
5. Smart people can be dreadful writers.
Harvard linguist Steven Pinkerton said that the more you know about something, the less clearly you write about it.
Intelligent people can have impressive ideas and out-of-the-box thoughts on a number of topics, but they often get stuck in their heads. They can incorrectly assume that everyone understands, and forget to explain important terms or erroneously leave out pertinent information.
When they read it back, it makes sense—to them.
Unfortunately, when they don’t consider their audiences, which means their ideas and messages often go over readers’ heads. Don’t forget your readers, and take care to not let your writing make other people feel dumb.
6. Many business professionals hate writing content.
It can take a lot of time to put together a good piece of content, especially when strategic writing is something you don’t do every day.
That means many business owners and brand managers would rather leave that task to an expert.
Why should a marketing director write a subpar piece of content when he or she can invest in a writer? That way, the content produced is better received, and the marketer can redirect those hours toward something he or she excels in, which further benefits the organization.
7. Writing can be emotionally and physically draining.
Writing can be exhausting.
It requires a lot of thinking and keyword and subject-matter research. Excellent content writers must stay on top of industry trends and discover what marketing efforts have worked for their clients and their competitors.
With each new client or project, you must quickly become a topic expert. When you’re not writing, you think about writing—including how to phrae a tagline or whether your new headline is strong enough.
As a result, you might have a hard time falling asleep at night. A writer’s brain never shuts down.
8. Writers can hurt their clients’ feelings.
You’ve probably interacted with clients who get defensive after you edit their content. Writing can be a very personal thing.
The professors and teaching assistants in journalism school could be brutal. Their comments and red-pen deletions made me question everything, and I spent many nights crying in the bathroom.
I grew a pretty thick skin, but that’s not the case with your clients. Many of them have been told their writing is good (and in some cases, it is). So, when an outsider provides constructive criticism, it can hurt—no matter how kindly you communicate it.
If you hire a strategic writer, be prepared to hear things you don’t want to. Know that a writer’s intentions are pure, however: We want you to produce the best content.
9. Stellar writers often don’t charge enough.
A professional writer can save you a ton of time and headaches. Through the power of carefully-chosen words and strategic phrasing, writers can:
· Transform the way potential customers perceive organizations’ products, services and/or brand.
· Increase people’s understanding of what you offer.
· Create excitement around your brand and inspire consumers to act.
· Improve conversions and sales.
Strategic writing is valuable not only for the expertise it contains, but also because the content is reusable. Website content can be revamped into a brochure, news release, sales piece and more.
Even though writers offer a lot, they often undersell themselves. If you’re seeking a discount, remember that a professional writer is probably charging far less for their services than what you ultimately end up getting.
10. Despite the challenges, you love writing.
When professional writers sit down to work, it just feels right. You know it’s what you were meant to do as a career.
Despite these brutal truths, you still love the job.
Lindsey McCaffrey is an award-winning writer, editor and content strategist for businesses and nonprofit organizations. Learn more about her here. A version of this article originally appeared on her blog.