If your Content Isn’t Awful At First, You’re Doing It Wrong
Did you electrocute a 9-year-old kid and then get them to write your first 6 articles for you?
Alright. If you say so.
If you’re like me, you thought that producing content about stuff you already know for the internet would be smooth sailing.
Very quickly, reality hits you like a tonne of bricks. Your content is trash. This was not the plan.
Should you give up?
Rethink your idea?
Try another platform?
This article will tell you why you are exactly where you need to be.
This sh*t is not easy
If you’ve started something already, I don’t have to tell you this.
It probably took you 2 seconds to realize that there’s a lot more to making content than doing your makeup in front of a camera.
Even makeup videos like that are seriously hard.
This whole internet thing is hard.
At the end of the day, this is real work that we’re talking about. It’s a big business, and we’re all out here for our piece. If you got into blogging/making videos/Instagram/TikTok because it was easy money, you are absolutely f*cked.
You are going to have to figure out what the best medium is for your message and personality.
You are going to have to find product/market fit between what you love talking about, and what other people want to hear about.
You need to figure out how to get in front of people’s eyes, with 0 followers and 0 content.
And then there’s all of the other stuff, which makes up the majority of stuff you need to know, where you are unaware that it even needs to be learned at first.
It’s no wonder why almost everybody gives up pretty quickly.
Everything looks so straightforward and intuitive
The better the edit, the more simple content actually appears.
Minimalist design is in, and the internet can seem like a slick ass place.
As an example of just what goes into what looks like basic content, let’s look at Doctor/YouTuber Ali Abdaal.
He makes simple but engaging vlog content mostly and has built his audience by talking about productivity. Here is one of his random videos, just to give you an idea about how straightforward his work is.
Ali, is in his room, with a cup of chamomile tea. How hard could that be to make?
You would think the hardest part about that is drinking that weird tea.
What you don’t see
Here’s Ali in another video, explaining the equipment he uses to film his vlogs. Nothing about the editing or scripting or topic research etc, just the things he uses to record himself.
That’s a lot of sh*t isn’t it?
If you look at a really well-made YouTube channel, and go and look at their oldest videos, you will find 1 of 3 things inevitably.
- In Ali’s case, his old videos are still there and they are absolute trash (sorry mate). You can scroll down through his content, and literally see him figure out how to make good videos.
- They’ve deleted all their old content out of embarrassment. A channel that’s 6 years old, won’t have any content from before a few years ago. It doesn’t take a genius, does it?
- The videos are all spot on, but this is not their first crack at the whip. They’ve already built those hard-earned skills from other channels or video projects.
YouTube is just an example, but anyone who creates content is on a similar path.
It’s very hard to see it working until it starts to work.
You have an idea for a post or something, and it feels so spot-on.
Now you get how this content thing works. You finally see it all taking shape.
You grind away for hours to make a brilliantly original article.
You start to think about what to do with all this internet money you’re gonna make. should you buy 1 big house, or 3 small houses for that diversification?
Then you press publish and read it back to yourself.
This business plays with your emotions. Just when you think you’re getting somewhere, reality brings you crashing back down to earth.
Although it’s kind of a brutal ride, you definitely shouldn’t give up. If you are willing to put in those grinding hours of figuring it out and bearing the uncertainty, then your content can 100% get to that level that it needs to be at for your online business to succeed.
Why you definitely can improve your content over time
When we talk about creating content, we are grouping a whole bunch of different skills into one vague idea.
This is helpful for thinking about the big picture, but in order to make measurable changes to our business, we have to understand which skills we are deficient in.
Content, ultimately, is not a skill.
Writing is a skill.
Editing video is a skill.
Website design. Email marketing. Thumbnails. Understanding how to use Instagram hashtags. Photoshop. Internal linking. Learning how to find underserved topics on YouTube. Learning how to harness trends on TikTok.
These are skills. And if you are starting out building any kind of content business from 0, getting to that next level of growth is mostly about figuring out the skill that you need to improve next.
The good news is that once you are aware of what you need to learn, actually learning it is usually as simple as googling and YouTubing and learning by doing. There’s no skill that you need to know that isn’t taught online by someone who’s been there and done that.
You gotta hear this. Trash content is not a mistake. It’s step 1 of creating an eventually brilliant thing. Your only mistake, if anything, was assuming that there would be some way around spending those thousand hours p*ssing around on something that nobody cares for.
Who doesn’t love a rocky montage
I know you got that song playing in your head right now.
Thank god the rocky films aren’t about starting an online business though.
Da da daaaaa
Your only job is to decide the next skill that you lack, and start running that b*tch down with consistent effort and small adjustments.
It’s really really hard at first, especially if you don’t personally know anyone with any real success online. It all feels like a joke. Your friends and family will ask what you’re doing, and then they’ll ask how much money you’re making, and then they’ll quietly assume you’re out of your mind.
Keep your head down, mate. These first months are the hardest, and getting yourself through them will build a real resilience in you that most people lack.
You will come out the other side of it all full of confidence in your own skillset, and you’ll look back and be proud of yourself for hustling so consistently.
My own struggle with creating content
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this article is written for people like me.
I think I can make this blog really pretty cool over time, and there’s a lot on my list of necessary skills that I need to learn before the site really starts to take shape.
From the start, I knew I had to learn how to write engaging helpful content. This is really where I have invested all my time, and I’ve gotta say I can see genuine improvement month over month.
I’m on article number 58 right now I believe. The first 20 I wrote, were like school homework. Short little articles, but huge paragraphs. I also didn’t know anything about finding out what people were actually searching for, so none of them got any kind of traffic. I could also only write around 800 words a day on a good day, and the content itself was pretty lame.
After that, I tried some book reviews. These are cool because people actually want to see stuff like that. They are also great for mediocre writers because you’re simply summarizing the brilliantly written content of a bestselling book, then just adding your 2 cents. It’s like writing content with training wheels.
Next, I tried buying some articles from a writing agency. This did not pan out. All of the articles were almost unreadable. My editing took almost as long as they would have spent writing the bloody things, I bet. All of the bought articles have since been completely rewritten from scratch, and I definitely learned my lesson.
(I also saw the opportunity. The “done thing” amongst most small blogs is to buy articles and focus on volume, but I also know from experience that bought content is average at best. If you can just commit to writing all of your content yourself from an authentic place, focusing on quality, you stand out from all of the spammy Adsense blogs immediately).
Once I’ve thrown myself at 75 articles, aiming to improve with each one I post, I am going to learn photoshop so that I can use something other than stupid stock photos. After that, I’ll remake the logo and home page. Then I wanna do audio content for all the best articles. Maybe video. Maybe email. After all of that, I bet you I figure out some other glaring hole in my skillset.
I’ve obviously got a long way to go, but I like my chances because I’ve given up hoping for some fast result. I’ve learned that it’s a huge game of building skills and patient execution.
A few things that have worked wonders for me
Here are 3 learnings that I have found to be seriously powerful in my own journey.
Daily focus compounds
For most of this blog’s life, I was working in a professional kitchen for 70 hours per week. I would carve out time on the weekends to write.
This didn’t not work, but I saw a monumental improvement in productivity when I took time out from my job recently. Writing an article is now the main purpose of my day every day. So far I can report:
My volume has obviously gone up. I’m going from 1 article per week to 7. And I think the qualities actually better.
Because of the mission of an article a day, I have completely built my schedule with that in mind. I wake up at 5.30 and I am in bed by 10.30. Like clockwork. I used to really struggle waking up on my alarm on the weekends when my sleep was all over the place.
Now that blogging is always on my mind, I find myself having random creative ideas when I’m not even writing. I’ll be eating lunch, and I’ll suddenly think of something I could improve on my website.
This is what happens with new recipes when all you do is cook as a chef. When you obsess about 1 thing intensely, cool sh*t just comes to you in strange ways.
Learn by doing
Companies pivot all the time. Even brilliant entrepreneurs swing and miss sometimes, but they use what they learn. They don’t lose as such, then just try and fail and learn constantly until they find something that works.
When Play-Doh was developed, it was called Kutol. It was designed to clean carbon deposits from walls.
When the decline of coal use rendered this product uncompelling, The founders worked the problem and in their market research, they found a schoolteacher who had been using Kutol in her arts and crafts classes. They shifted the whole vision of their business, and Play-Doh is a part of every kid’s life to this day.
Learning and doing are both important, but learning is the easier of the two. You probably won’t need to be convinced to read about creating content. It’s creating the content, when you feel so clueless, that’s the far harder component.
Nail one thing at a time, and let everything else suck
Rather than try to move every part of your content forward at once, Try to really be intentional about what it is you are learning. If you’re trying to make your editing better, just nail that.
Let that become the whole mission.
If you give yourself the permission to let the other aspects of your content be a little sketchy, and don’t question everything when you get little to no views, then you can make a small but certain step forwards. It is strategic.