Lessons from my first year as a content marketer (2014)

What I’ve learnt

  • 1: Quantity breeds quality. 
    • When I first started out, I spent a lot of time agonizing over what to write. I tried to think about what people would want to read. I would spend weeks on blogposts, and they wouldn’t really fly. I realize, on hindsight, that it’s better to just write as much as you can and ship as quickly as you can (as long as they meet your minimum standards, “Oh, this isn’t entirely horrible. There’s something in there.”) It’s hard to predict what will take off. You can’t improve your batting average, so you’re better off taking more swings. It’s likelier that you’ll hit something out of the park. And that’s all that counts, really.
  • 2: Don’t try to say too much at once. 
    • This was part of why I was agonizing so much. I felt like I had to qualify every statement I made, and provide broader context for everything. This is a problem I have in my personal life and conversations, too. The idea of leaving stuff out is painful to me, because then the reader doesn’t get the full picture… but trying to include everything inevitably dilutes the point that you’re trying to put across. You have to light fires, not fill buckets. If the point you’re making is a complex one, break it down into parts, and write separate posts for the separate parts. Then you can weave them together in a summary later. That way, if people feel a need to get more context, they can click on the hyperlinks. Also, this process makes you a better writer.
  • 3: Edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite.
    •  I had a horror-story of a blogpost that grew into this massive, mythical beast that was just all over the place. I spent nearly 3 weeks on it, and when I looked at it, it was clunky and messy. I was emotionally attached to all the work I had put into it. So attached that I kind of just lost the heart to do anything about it. On multiple occasions since, I’ve found it helpful to write a huge, clunky post, then share it with someone else (cringe). They’ll then typically ask, “Uh, what exactly are you trying to say? What’s the one-sentence summary?” And then I’d summarize… and discard the entire blogpost. I’ll then expand on the one-sentence summary. The result is always far more readable.
  • 4: Be concise, write for scanning. 
    • Ain’t nobody got time to read walls of text. Most people will scroll quickly through a blogpost to get a vague sense of whether it’s worth their time. You have to write for those people.

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