Finding a writer with the skills to navigate a complex topic for a sophisticated audience can feel like searching for water in the desert.
The limited supply of reliable writers is content marketing’s greatest pain point. Despite breathless excitement for content written by overseas contractors or artificial intelligence, most content meant to be read by other human beings needs to be crafted by human beings.
Why are excellent writers in such short supply? Here are my theories:
They’re gainfully employed.
Talented writers know their value and easily sustain a full calendar of work. Whether they are in-house content specialists or freelancers, they don’t have extensive bandwidth to offer unless they or one of their recurring clients undergoes a transition.
This is also the reason that good writers can demand (and expect) a high hourly rate.
Writing skills are hard to develop.
Stephen King’s excellent book On Writing articulates a simple piece of advice: To learn how to write well, you must write a lot.
For about a year I freelanced for an agency that specializes in law firm blog content. Every month I wrote around 50 articles. To make the agency’s piece rate translate into a decent hourly wage, I had to work fast. At first, I’d take around 90 minutes to write one piece. After a year, I could write an article in under 30 minutes.
I learned how to write well while writing quickly only thanks to that job. The pay was bad and the work was a grind, but it gave me valuable skills that many writers never have a chance to develop.
Editors aren’t easy to find.
In a writer’s career, nothing is more valuable than an editor who ruthlessly attacks the weaknesses in a draft. A good editor makes the writer aware of hidden bad habits and obscure but important rules. Like a good coach, the editor will know how to be firm without being cruel.
In today’s creative marketplace, many writers work without the benefit of that feedback loop. Editing is a distinct skill that few people possess at a professional level. Those who do, may not have the bandwidth to devote to coaching, because they’re too busy overseeing quality control. The result is an undertrained writer pool.
Skills must be specific to the audience and the medium.
Writers are communicators. The bedrock rules of writing—clarity, concision, accuracy—underpin all effective communication. But these are just the start. A writer also needs to know the distinctive cultural signifiers used by the target audience.
For a writer, learning about a new industry involves learning a new language. The style that worked with an audience of lawyers might fall flat with an audience of dentists.
This challenge isn’t only about technical accuracy. It’s about understanding how the audience thinks.
Writers who can effortlessly shift across a spectrum of audiences are the purple squirrels of content marketing. Most writers specialize, which only limits the supply for a particular industry even further.
Content fatigue leads to burnout.
Professional writing is an endurance sport. A sustainable pace requires a healthy dose of downtime. Unfortunately, most talented writers aren’t given much chance to rest.
Content fatigue builds up inside the writer’s creative soul like lactic acid builds up in muscles. Left unrelieved, it can damage the writer’s enthusiasm for the work. An unhappy writer will struggle to do good work, which only makes things worse. Left unchecked, the resulting spiral can drive writers to quit.
How to solve the writing crunch
“We need writers!” is the cry we hear from corporate marketing teams, university communications departments, and business owners.
Red Mallard is a home for writers. We provide clients with a great team of creative people who know how to navigate tough topics as though they’re just as much of an expert as the client. It’s a hard thing to find in the world of creative agencies.
You’ve found it.
What can we do for you today? Send us a quack and let’s get started.