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When I took a content strategy position three months ago, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. Come in, look at my to-do list, and write for eight hours, right? Wrong.

Content marketing may be a booming trend, and the number of content marketers and strategists is increasing weekly, but there aren’t too many resources out there for anyone new to the job. Even with a solid understanding of the purpose of content marketing, and a strong affinity for writing, I was still caught off guard by how different – and sometimes difficult – my position turned out to be.

I’ve compiled five important tips for new content marketers, or anyone who’s thinking about entering the industry, that I hope will help clear some of that initial shock and better prepare you for your new job.

You Do a Lot More than Write

I’ve run out of fingers and toes on which to count the number of times I’ve relayed my title or brief job description to someone, only to hear, “So you just write all day? Gosh, I couldn’t do that!” It then inevitably becomes a ten minute struggle to explain that I do so much more than “just write.”

Here are some handy pie charts that might help explain.

what people think content marketers generally do

what content marketers actually do

There are some days where I do maybe only an hour or two of writing, depending on my schedule. This isn’t abnormal by any means. Content marketers essentially have to run the show from start to finish, which means doing the research, drafting, writing, editing, and even going beyond that to outreach and social media promotion.

… But You Still Need to Love Writing

On the other hand, there are days when I do come in, look at my to-do list, and pump out page content or blog posts for seven or eight hours. If writing tires you out, you hate editing, or you’re in it just for the money, content marketing may not be the right field for you.

Loving the art of writing means you have to love it every step of the way. It’s one thing to write ten new pages for your website, but it’s another to mercilessly chop out paragraphs or full sections that aren’t up to par, or even throw pieces away that aren’t approved.

On the bright side, content marketing can very quickly hone and refine your skills. In the last three months, my WPM has risen and I can now very easily write about 1500 words in an hour or so – and produce a quality piece, at that. So if you’re really into writing, and aren’t afraid of editing or rejection, this is a great field to be in.

You Need to Be Independent

Depending on what kind of position you hold, as a new content marketer, you may have someone providing direction on each and every piece you write. Or you may be told on your first day, “Okay, you’re here. Start producing content!”

Regardless of the type of situation you’re in, content marketers need to be extremely independent workers. Chances are very high that you’ll be assigned topics you know next to nothing about, or you may be left completely alone with the assumption that you’ll know what to write and how it will make the company money. You’ll need to spend time researching, identifying content gaps, composing outlines, and possibly even doing A/B testing.

A content marketer needs to be an independent worker, capable of making decisions with little to no advice or instruction. You’ll have to manage your own time and to-do list effectively to ensure that everything you produce is not only high quality, but also filling gaps and meeting deadlines.

You Need a Full Skill Set

Before I was a content strategist, I spent more than four years in a position as a digital marketing manager. My role involved managing a website and its social media accounts, copywriting, producing content, handling PR and outreach, and a variety of other tasks. Without that experience, I would probably be a horrible content marketer. Why? Because I still do all that now!

As I already mentioned, content marketers do more than write. Great content marketers need to be agile, forward-thinking leaders who are capable of doing everything from brainstorming to outreach. Someone entering the field of content marketing should have these skills at the very minimum:

  • Solid writing, editing, and grammar (a given)
  • HTML/CSS knowledge
  • Social media experience
  • Outreach/link building pro – even if you have a dedicated PR or marketing team!
  • Willingness to learn, read, and grow

Content Marketing is Awesome

I know a lot of this post has revolved around skills and traits you have to know or have, but the final thing I want to say is this: content marketing is awesome. It really, truly is!

As a content marketer or strategist, you’re lucky to be part of a new, unique field that is constantly evolving and changing. There’s always something new to learn and try in your work. Content marketing is also emerging as a marketing method of choice, beating out many traditional or outbound marketing methods, and will only continue to grow.

If you’re new to content marketing, or are considering a career as a content strategist, you need to have solid skills that go beyond writing. What you actually do as a content marketer may surprise you, just as it did me! But with the right preparation and knowledge of what to expect, you can hit the ground running and get your company’s content marketing program off to a fantastic start.

Do you have any tips for new content marketers, or anyone considering entering our field of work? Please leave them in the comments so we can make this a great resource for them!

About the author: Nicole Kohler (@nicoleckohler) is a writer, marketing geek, and lover of all things yellow. She is a Content Strategist for WebpageFX, and confesses to being just the tiniest bit addicted to Twitter.

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