What a day to be a writer! Trying to write about challenges freelance content writers face with the whirling of drilling machines outside my window, creeping me out. Writing is your brain articulating your heart’s message in a conversational tone. Now, as I go on and ramble on about the demons in my head, you have to lay stress on your head and figure out what you can do to alleviate the issue. Because as far as writers are concerned, it’s never a one-stop journey.
You might say, The biggest writing challenge was to write a music album review of Kendrick Lamar’s latest album. And now that I’ve written it, I’m an ace. But the catch is, it’s never done. One bad critic is all you’d need to get back to the drawing board and analyze your whole work process. Now it’s understood why we, as content writers, face challenges and problems while freelance writing – lousy mood, lousy daylight, infamous writer’s block, or the cranky research work. But the key indicator to whether we’re struggling with writing or not is validation. If we feel validated enough (either through instincts or peers), it means we’d be stoked to pick up the pen tomorrow. Anything less than validation negates our will to write, which is a big challenge faced by content writers.
The challenges which I’m going to discuss are common to all the writers out there. So, tell me if you can relate well to them or not. Also, I should make it clear that while you read through the list one by one, try to toggle back to a common viewpoint – how can you feel validated again? That’s it. That’s where the solution lies. Now let’s jump onto the challenges:
Biggest Challenges Faced By Content Writers Frequently
1. The Dreaded Writer’s Block – Biggest Challenge Writers Face
Seth Godin has a simple cure for writer’s block.
Isn’t that the most significant validation writers can get?
While we all dread writer’s block as complex, it is just one of people’s psychological distress with bad writing. He quite correctly counters the whole analogy by saying there’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s just the fear of experimental writing- the writing that condones all forms of critiques with a wide smile.
And yes, there’s only one thing you can do with writer’s block. Fall in love with the trash you think you write and take feedback. Remember, if you really write badly, a lot of people will tell you. And then it’s upon you to take it sportingly, spot your errors and work on them with a positive outlook.
“Like all skills, we improve with practice & feedback.”Seth Godin
2. Drought Of Ideas For blogs And Other Types Of Content
Running out of ideas is one of the biggest challenges writers face. However, there’s a flip side. I wish you had no ideas until you scraped out a treasure box full of history, science, philosophy, and poetry. Yes, that’s what we keep waiting for, right. We don’t feel validated enough to keep thinking. It’s more of a fear of putting your ideas out into the stratosphere.
Let me know what you think of this ideation process-
- If struggling, find anything with words like newspaper, books, or smartphones (yes, they can become a treasure box too)
- Now, read a paragraph and interpret the signals your brain is exuding.
If you read some news about Squid Game, think about what you feel about the topic. Do you relate to the subject? If yes, keep thinking. If not, then switch to something else. The key is to find something relatable and craft your brain’s signals into words.
Nonetheless, I know it’s easier said than done. But my point is nobody was born an Aristotle. It’s all about cultivating the habit. Trust me, it’s a lengthy process. So, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t think of something for a week. Take rest, relax your mind, talk to people and nature. Observe.
3. Lack Of Confidence
Isn’t confidence the key to writing well? What I feel is I’d stake my word processor for some more confidence in my writing. What sort of confidence, though? Let me tell you more about it:
- The confidence to try out new metaphors. Metaphors involve everything from giant squids to pepperoni pizza. If you have the guts to make sense out of these, you’re upwind.
- The confidence to ask for what you’re worth. Well, haven’t we all been through this? We don’t like confronting the idea of cold pitching to a bigger company just because we think we don’t have what it takes. But the truth is it’s not the skills you’re lacking. It’s confidence. Yes, read that again, and you’ll see the validation part here.
- The confidence to distribute your skills into multiple sources of income.
Now, this reiterates my previous point of cognitive denial we face before taking a leap. You’re waiting for the big break to happen when all you can do is write a personalized invite to one of the HRs of your dream company.
Believe me. Sometimes all it takes is that small irk within you to take that giant leap and get to the next step. The challenges you’ll encounter further will only motivate you to go up. Lack of confidence is one of the most difficult challenges faced by content writers. It’s always the first step that’s the hardest.
4. Not Getting Good Clients
You’re not alone. If you think you’ll fall short if you apply for the big break, you’re not alone. Now, what’s a good client? One who pays well, one who treats you well, or the one who doesn’t pepper you with critiques? Whatever your definition of a good client is, the basic stumbling block is your unwillingness to reach out to them. Now I understand it’s not that easy. Perhaps you reached out to a dozen of them last week, and nobody responded. All I have to say is take a deep breath. You’re on the right track. You just need to play it smart here. This is how you can give your 120% while pitching to GOOD clients:
- Offer them results, not the efforts – This is to say, don’t try to mention how many articles you wrote in your previous venture or how many hours you put in for a mega presentation project. Make solid promises about how you can help them achieve the desired results. Now to make such a promise, you need to be aware of the company’s standings and job descriptions. Study everything properly, do the research and optimize your response smartly—talk results, not efforts.
- Look for negotiable clients who can pay you a better deal – Most often, we end up settling down for Ali’s pebbles in desperation for work. That’s just wrong and an unhealthy way to get experience. In fact, it won’t be long when you start draining out. The work ethics will take a toll on you. But the past is the past. If you made a mistake, don’t worry. You got the experience. Now it’s time to gear up your charges almost shamelessly. You know the client’s going to negotiate, but despite that, you’ll end up raking a good deal.
- Skew down on the target companies – Make a list of desirable companies you want to go for and straight out apply. Once you have gotten the experience, you’d need an impressive portfolio and a resume. Remember, not everyone is going to want you. So, make an extensive list. The chances are always slim (1 response out of 50 applications). But as you feel confident about your work profile and make an optimized portfolio, you’ll get to see a lot of desirable companies in need.
- Don’t follow the crowd – This means looking for services only a few people can offer. Now, don’t mistake this as something explicit. No skill that can be monetized is hidden in this capitalist economy. What I mean is to target companies that are most in need of your services. Particularly startups where you’d get the flexibility as well as good worth. Honestly, it will take some time and effort to build up that recognition in the circle. The best way to find startups with good strategic backing is only after establishing a solid foothold in the industry.
Just remember, it takes time to build that foundation. In this huge crowd of good content writers, you’re not alone. These challenges faced by content writers are ubiquitous.
5. Fear Of Intellectual Curse
What happens after you hit the word “publish”? You leave your blog as it is, right. You don’t share it with your friends & even ask them to read and review your article. The point is everyone is busy and doesn’t care until you show them your work. It’s that simple. If you think people will judge your writing, make a Tomatina carnival out of your roast episode, you’re mistaken. The more you show your work, the better your online presence will flourish. As a result, you’ll build an audience, and then accountability will take over your workflow, and you’ll never fear selling your work again.
6. Seeing Low Or No Engagement
Well, isn’t this one a corollary to the previous point? It all depends on selling your work. As Gary Vaynerchuck puts it, it Isn’t until you’ve put out the work that you can complain about reach, engagement, following, and all those numbers. First, Get in the game, my friends.
Here are some questions I need you to answer:
- Did you post 30 blog ideas a month for six months?
- Did you interact with your followers?
- How many industry leaders did you come in contact with?
- Are you a part of any fostering community specific to your industry type?
Why did you start off in the first place? To get deluded by this idea of numbers and traction?
No. You started because you had faith in your skills. You thought people were going to notice. And thus, you started. But then you went off as people weren’t responding. Perhaps you needed a little tweak in your presentation. In place of a simple post, you could have repurposed it into an infographic or an illustration. There are 111 ways to leverage your content online. You just need the awareness to try out a different approach to presentation. But never stop!
7. Staggering Competition
Online writing is all the rage these days. For the same services you’re offering, someone earns $10000 per month while you’re stuck at $150-500. Competition is a relative concept, and therefore this income disparity reminds us of our limitations in a threatening manner. When you see it from the outside, more competition means high demand for your skills.
Now, if you need to find good gigs, you have to be a little creative here. Lots of companies lookout for individuals with multiple skill sets. Like someone who can design and write content for them. Someone with bonafide editing skills and can narrate stories for them. There’s no secret sauce to stand out in the competition but to leverage time in learning other skills on the side. You know where I’m getting at. Yes, Jack of all trades, master of some, is the ones stacking high numbers today. Why not aim to become one of them?
8. Cranky Clients
You don’t want them. Nobody does. But unfortunately, one has to climb up this ladder. You have to taste the bitterness. Dealing with cranky clients is all about the timing – when you realize you’re doing more work than you’re paid for, it’s your turn to double down the rates. They are surely going to negotiate. If you think they don’t drain you out now and acknowledge your presence, then keep them, else start finding new ones. As I said, it all depends on the timing. For a writer, skill-building and productivity are the priority. If there’s a glitch because of overbearing clients, you better let them go.
9. Disregard For Health
Often you’d feel uninspired to write. No matter how hard you try, words won’t pour out. And not for a day or two. It can prolong for a week, maybe a month, if you ignore the signals. You’ll be on a path to self-destruction.
The catch is to lay down and doze off. Only when you track your lifestyle and let some steam off after work, that you’ll realize you indeed need a break. It’s simple- Just wander around for a while after work, take a brisk walk, eat healthily, and on time. Focus on building a habit that surrounds your schedule and stick to it. Productivity will shoot up to the stars once you start being honest with your schedule and your health.
10. Mental Drainage
Mental exhaustion is an innate condition. It could be family problems, office problems, or anything that drains your energy enough to squander your focus on writing. And it’s pretty understandable. I know you’ll get back to writing. You’re just having a tough time right now. The first step is to acknowledge that you’re not controlling your emotions and hence losing focus. And trust me, it won’t spring back immediately, so you need to take it slow.
When you acknowledge that you need some mental reframing, you suddenly feel the old urge to write again. This shows that you didn’t forget how to write. You just had a mental drain. The key is acceptance.
Remember, it’s like a rough patch in sports. You’ll be back to typing 2500 words a day in no time, but as of now, you have to give something back to mind- positivity. Try books, exercises, talking to loved ones, working on building self-confidence, and try not to take everything phase by phase. If you know this afternoon is not going to be good, start your morning with light work. Ease your burden. Small steps are the key.
11. Isolated Workspace
David Perell talks about collaborative workspaces where you write from abundance. I think it’s one of the most important factors to maintain a healthy writing lifestyle. Gone are the days when people went deep into the woods and romanticized an isolated lifestyle. People thought this was the only way writers could thrive in this mundane world. Fly to uninhabited jungles and beaches and attain serendipity.
Well, those days are gone indeed. Nowadays, you don’t have to prick your soul into writing a long-form blog post every day. You can just discuss your blog idea with your friends, talk to some people and arrange those conversations later into your notebook. You’ll realize the stories, the juxtapositions that you were craving a while back, are all jotted down into your notebook in the form of stories.
Don’t ditch your loved ones for a Pulitzer. Watch some movies. If you have a hobby, you’re golden. The key is to have fun while writing. Writing is talking with words. And that’s why human interactions, preferably a collaborative workspace, are essential for writers. Exchange of knowledge and information, quality discussions, and light banter provides the mental stimulation required to kick off your writing.
This is what writing from abundance is. Gather ideas from your surroundings, take them down as notes and type them out.
Chief Editor’s Note – This method does not work for me. I’m someone who can’t work in chaos and needs peace to achieve goals. Your mileage may vary! I personally recommend trying both techniques before committing to one.
12. Struggle to Articulate Words Into Expressions
A lot of us, especially non-native speakers, struggle with expressing our thoughts. Whether written or spoken, if your words don’t stand coherent with the underlying emotions, you’d sound disjointed. And as a result, you might lose confidence as a writer.
But there’s a way up.
Make mistakes sooner so that people who’re better than you can help you. Now you need to be extra vigilant about people here. You must be around those purely passionate about ‘Writing’ and not the correlated business & money aspects. Spend some time with them, learn their word usage and verbiage, and how they use comprehensible language to convey their message.
If you’re short on company, you can start with blogs first. Read blogs that talk about writing and its insecurities.
I’d recommend you to go for Seth Godin or Dave Perell’s blogs. They’re perpetually trying to cultivate a writing culture. These guys have a beautiful collection of essays, short-form copies from which you can learn how to write better. A free subscription to their newsletters might just be the antidote to your writing woes. They also produce podcasts and Youtube videos from which you can take cues time and again.
13. Fear to Negotiate
Most writers struggle with negotiations. We feel it’s unfair to demand more. But think about this: Why would a client pay you more for the same service you’ve been doing for eons?
The trick is to initiate a conversation. Ask your client to increase your pay. It might not be a steep rise, but enough to establish yourself as an authority.
Whenever trying to negotiate, focus on their questions. Try to listen to them intently. If they try to negotiate, fine. But set a boundary. You can say, “I can go down to a $100/month increase if you insist but not below that. I’ve got obligations.” You can also keep track of analytics, what impact you had on a company’s marketing funnel. If you tell them some numbers and insights, they’ll trust you more, and you might settle a final amount, a bigger one this time!
14. Money Management
Well, I struggle with maintaining a budget. True story.
But the thing is, we have severe obligations, and I can understand every inch of doubt in your mind about money and expenses. A lot of things need your immediate attention like the food, medical expenses, phone & internet recharge. The point is to save as much as you can until you get a high-paying client. But even then, you’d have to stand up to your obligations, and if you don’t have a proper budget system, things might falter.
Just plan ahead towards the month-end before you get the salary. Budgeting will help you allocate your expenses properly, and you won’t run out of cash in need. The trick is to figure out your total expense for a month and then keep optimizing your budget.
15. Not Getting Enough Sleep
What do you think our sleep cycle should be like? Six hours a day sounds acceptable to me, which means 18 hours of up time for you. Out of those 18, take five out for refreshments, exercises, lunch, and dinner. You’re left with 13 hours of work. Not just work. 13 hours of ‘focussed’ work. Imagine if you used them to the fullest.
It’s a tight one, to be honest. We all know we could be on the moon if we utilize those 13 hours effectively, but things go haywire involuntarily. This is where we start to feel drained in an attempt to get things done on time. The only reason you can’t pull things off is that you lack focus. And thus, you need a little more sleep time.
Consider 8 hours of sleep. Studies have shown that lack of sleep results in distractions leading to instant drainage. A teensy bit increase in sleep hours might just help you focus more. And tell me, what’s better? 13 hours of distracted work or 9 hours of focussed-productive work. Good sleep helps you do all of that.
16. “It’s Not Perfect.”
“You can’t be generative when you’re too critical of nascent ideas.”Dave Perell
Dave Perell talks about two methods of writing: The Printer Method and the Pixel Method.
The process of writing, rewriting, and editing on the go until it’s perfect is called the Printer Method. The Pixel Method means putting all the ideas on paper before redefining them one by one.
When people are worried about perfection, they struggle to articulate their emotions onto paper. It’s like suffocating your own brilliance. And this is the reason why most people have writer’s block. The idea of perfectionism makes them too superficial, which is no fun if you’re a writer. Readers can easily catch the underpinned detachment in your writing.
This is why you must embrace the Pixel Method and write blurry and then clean it until you’re happy with it.
And, of course, you remember what Hemmingway said. That also runs well with the Pixel Method.
17. Inability to Meet Deadlines
Are you struggling to keep up with the clock? Here’s a tip: Trust the clock. So, how to make a clock your best friend?
Prioritize breaks, habits like exercises, reading books, and leisure time. Find a fixed timetable to do all these activities along with work. Once you enrich yourself with a routine, you’ll start to love your clock a little more. You’ll want to finish things off quickly to make way for book time or exercises.
If you want, you can also use some productivity tools like Tomato Timer, Todoist, Trello, StayFocussed to keep up with the schedule. With these tools, you can track your time and manage your workflow in an organized manner.
Meeting deadlines is equivalent to befriending the clock. Realizing that you need to build some habits is the key. The impacts are always going to be fruitful once you take action.
18. Restrained Creative Freedom
Content writers are expected to work along the lines of the brand message. They need to adjust their creative juices to the specific industry. As a result, you may often encounter comments like ‘unsatisfactory,’ ‘too formal,’ or ‘way too casual.’ The solution is to make sure you take things lightly and create an adjacent journal of ideas. This is where you’ll note down the obscurest of ideas and later capitalize on them in the later blogs.
This note-taking system will seem very neurotic at first, but you’ll start to blend things smoothly in your articles after a point. The question is, where to get those obscure ideas from?
Well, anything from songs, movies, books, newspapers, daily conversations and random strolls in the park can inspire an idea in your head. The only thing you have to do is to register them into your journal for future use.
This observational skill will make you attached to your work. You’ll start to take your job as part of your creative process. After all, the blend of both creative & content writing makes you a better writer.
19. Relentless Editing Practices
There’s a difference between editing & redrafting. You might do several rounds of editing for a well-crafted first draft while a pure redrafting for an unfocussed first draft. No matter what the process, editing is time-taking. You not only have to match up to the client’s expectations but also make sure that it’s easily comprehensible to the general audience.
However, with some experience under your sleeve, you’ll develop a sporadic editing process and start to write properly without any imperfections. It’s all about developing a professional mindset and acknowledging feedback nicely.
20. Bad Pay: A Turnoff
Obviously, we’re all writing for different reasons but isn’t money the underlying motivation somewhere? I did mention it above as well about confidence and getting good clients. I think bad pay is more about you being desperate for work and never upscaling your charges rather than substandard clients.
Because if you believe you’re worth more, you’ll start to reach out to better-paying clients. But don’t feel low if you started off on a bad note. Soak in some work experience, and then the sky’s the limit. Once you feel you’re credible enough, look for high-paying clients. But don’t ever do underpaid work if you’re a quality writer. Trust your instincts and keep looking for upscaling your credibility.
21. Age-old Boredom
We all have written boring articles along the journey. It’s part of the process, and you don’t have to beat yourself up on that. I understand those themes cause monotony, and you may lose taste in writing. This is why there’s a strong repulsion about writing across the public. Just because it involves research and monotony doesn’t mean you can’t turn it around into a fun chore.
Take short breaks, or here’s another way to turn it around: Think of it as a money-making chore. Like you write 1000 boring words, and you give yourself a treat after that. Don’t want to beat your wallet? Watch a movie, then. I’m sure these little rejoices will bring back the jovial self in you. Also, boredom is not permanent. It’s always about time when you’ll get a good topic to write on. Or, if you still haven’t got it, try looking for clients who have a demand for content you like writing. The possibilities are plentiful; you just need to look for them—another great way to kill boredom.
So, that’s it. We came down to 21 challenges for content writers. That’s a lot, but you can beat all of them. And which career doesn’t have challenges? Fishing. Well, then you haven’t spent a night gawking at your rod with no carp in sight. Trust me. You got this. Challenges while content writing are worthwhile, and if you are still reading this, I’m sure you want this badly. You have understood the signs, and now you’re willing to take your pen upwind. So, why wait? Let’s take these on.
What kind of challenges faced by content writers have you conquered so far in your writing journey? Also, if you feel you have something to add on, feel free to reach out in the comments section or discuss the biggest challenges content writers face on our Facebook Page and Instagram page.