Content Operations

Top 10 Pains of the Content Marketing Freelancer

You already know that working as a freelance content writer can be tough. But what are the top pains exactly? You’re in for a treat because I’ve interviewed 20+ content writers lately and put together a list. Some are well-known, I’m sure. Some are controversial. Others are content nerd material.

Updated on March 13, 20247 minutes

They’re all here—the top 10 pains experienced by content marketing freelancers as we enter into 2024.

Why pain points?

My motivation for digging into the challenges that content freelancers face is far from an academic exercise. As a founder in the early stages of understanding the needs of an ICP Relato would like to serve, in-depth interviews are the best way to start.

1. Inconsistent Briefs

One of the most common frustrations for content marketing freelancers in B2B SaaS is dealing with inconsistent or vague briefs from clients. In many cases, writers aren’t given a brief at all.

This can work where there is an ongoing relationship and the writer knows the client’s business well, but in general, ambiguity often leads to increased communication overhead, misaligned expectations and a negative impact on quality.

Freelancers find themselves in a loop of emails and calls to clarify requirements, which can significantly delay the project's start and spill over into other assignments.

Creating a comprehensive content brief is essential but time-consuming and often overlooked by clients.
Jennifer Phillips AprilB2B Tech Copywriter, Content Strategist

Without a clear brief, the risk of misinterpreting client expectations increases, often requiring extensive revisions later.

The lack of clear directions can stifle creativity, leading to a final product that falls short of both the freelancer's and the client's standards.

There is no doubt that the clients that get the most value from their freelancers, take the work of creating a brief seriously. The best clients provide comprehensive and clear assignments outlining their business goals, target audience, tone of voice, and any other specific requirements.

2. Finding SMEs

Your writing becomes far more appealing and authentic with contributions from Subject Matter Experts (SME). However, finding an SME you can reach out to and interview has become increasingly difficult. Help A Reporter Out (HARO) will be shutting down officially by the end of 2023, and going by what content writers tell me, Help a B2B Writer is swamped with AI-generated responses to the point that it is more hassle than help.

Content writers find it increasingly hard to secure interviews with industry experts, impacting content depth and authority.

3. AI Authenticity

This pain is, in part, a continuation of the pain described above in “Finding SMEs”. Many writers jumped at the opportunity of finding new and valuable sources to interview and cite when Help a B2B Writer was launched. And a ton of new users found value in the tool as Superpath acquired the service and spread the word in the Superpath Community.

With the launch of ChatGPT and its explosive growth, responses on both HARO and Help a B2B Writer are increasingly contaminated by AI-generated content. As LLMs improve and users get better at prompting, the responses improve, but not to the point of actual expertise or authority.

Herein lies the problem. Readers aren’t looking for catchy quotes, no matter how well-formulated and thoughtful they sound. As a reader, the Who is more important than the What. The authority of your piece hinges on the expertise of your interviewees. An ambitious blogger with a DR8 site doesn’t cut it, no matter how well-versed in prompt engineering they are.

Misuse of Generative AI has resulted in a barrage of requests you’re not interested in and a bunch of responses that you can’t use. The struggle to identify and weed out AI-generated responses in quote requests is a logistical pain that takes so much time that many writers stop using the service altogether.

4. Feedback Frustrations

Content writing is a challenging job, but it is also fulfilling to finish a piece, submit it and see it published. The editor is the gatekeeper of that fulfillment.

Many editors are empathetic, experienced writers and managers who work hard to help writers deliver more value. The best editors view editing as a value-adding activity. But this certainly doesn’t go for all clients.

Some employ editors to edit, while others include editing as part of the content manager's roster of tasks. Many clients haven’t even defined the role, and feedback is more of a free-for-all-all, loud conversation.

When feedback is vague or, at best, not constructive, writers struggle to improve their work. Combine this with a poor Brief, and you have one of the top pain points for content writers across the board.

You receive vague feedback like 'make it pop' from clients, leaving you guessing what they really want.
Rachael PilcherFreelance writer for B2B SaaS

5. Tool Overload

Having to juggle a myriad of software and tools for various aspects of your work is recognizable for any knowledge worker today. This problem gets even more chaotic for a freelancer, as you are forced to switch between tool sets for different clients. Especially for those new to the field, managing this complexity is a major pain. The primary issues include:

  • The need to use multiple platforms for different tasks can be overwhelming, making it hard to maintain focus and efficiency
  • Lack of integration between these tools can lead to disjointed workflows and data silos, hindering a seamless work process.

Since the client calls the shots on software and tools for the most part, freelancers can’t tackle these challenges by selecting a suite of tools that offer integrations with each other.

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6. Access Anarchy

The distributed nature of the teams that deliver the content in B2B SaaS marketing results in a unique set of challenges. Teams consist of in-house managers and specialists, agencies with planners, specialists and management, and freelancers. Freelancer relationships can be directly with the business or with an agency, and often a mix of both.

Content workflows are loosely based on sending revisions of Google Docs between parties, linking, commenting and revising. Sharing works really well between a couple of collaborators. But when a product manager shares a document with an agency editor, who forwards a link to a freelancer, who is signed in to their Google Workspace with another account, the system breaks down.

Hitting the “Request access” button can be a bit too exciting, as the recipient may or may not know who you are, and more often than not, you find out–too late–that you were logged in with the wrong account, meaning that you will have to repeat the painful process.

Constantly juggling access issues with client or agency resources makes your workflow more about permissions than productivity.

7. Switching Strains

Context switching is when you hop between different tasks, apps, tabs and projects. It’s the norm—we’re all doing it. Switching strains for content marketing freelancers consist mainly of the added complexity of juggling multiple clients and projects simultaneously.

When you add collaborating with content managers and editors across various platforms and tools set per client on assignments at varying stages of development, the cognitive load can be paralyzing.

If left unchecked, context switching overloads your brain, stresses you out and destroys your productivity. According to computer scientist and psychologist Gerald Weinberg, context switching can destroy up to 80 percent of your productivity.

I can be working with up to a dozen clients at a time and everyone is using different tools.
Anna SonnenbergB2B SaaS content marketer

8. Balance SEO with Authenticity

The struggle to keep your content unique and engaging in a sea of similar articles is now news for content writers. You aim to produce high-quality, original content, but the necessity of SEO optimization sometimes overshadows the substance and authenticity of your writing

Striking the right balance between SEO optimization and engaging, informative content is a balancing act. Overemphasis on SEO can lead to content that feels forced or unnatural

More advanced SEO tools can offer fresh perspectives on search intent and user context, but they come with a hefty price tag, making them inaccessible to most freelancers

Especially when it comes to inexperienced writers, content managers and editors give detailed guidance on structure, keywords and content, leaving little room for the writer to shape the piece.

9. Time Management and Scheduling

Most days, freelancers find themselves juggling multiple projects. Busy means that your work is in demand, which is a good thing. You aspire to scale your freelance writing business, but the path to growth isn’t clear, so taking on more work feels right to begin with, but can quickly become too heavy a load, especially when it involves onboarding more clients.

When you are buried in time-consuming research and expert interviews, determining which tasks to tackle first and managing a fluctuating workload is hard for many.

If I’ve been assigned an article today, which is due in seven days, I have to manage my schedule tightly.
Garima KhatriB2B SaaS Writer

For a majority, the allure of freelancing is the freedom to work from wherever you like and manage office hours without the constraints of the traditional workplace. This freedom can become a double-edged sword because there are no colleagues to unload too much work to and no manager with the oversight to see your strain and ease the pain.

Maintaining a balance between professional responsibilities and personal life is often a struggle for freelancers.

10. Publication Blackout

Picture this: The editor is happy, you’ve checked for grammar and spelling mistakes, all the internal links are added, and you have submitted your piece for publishing. And then, nothing. Complete radio silence.

Publication blackout happens when you've crafted great content, but you're left in the dark about when or if your work gets published. Let alone how it performs.

You would think that content managers understand that emailing the writer, quoted SMEs, and content designers when an article goes live would help with distribution and promotion. You would be wrong. There are certainly exceptions, but the most frequent experience is that the writer never gets notified when their work goes live.

The larger the client organization, the less likely it is that you will know.

I'm a very data and results-driven person. I like to understand what worked and why.
Stephanie TrovatoFreelance Writer for B2B SaaS, eCom & MarTech

The new normal

As the current economic downturn has spread uncertainty in B2B SaaS, above-the-line cost-cutting means many in-house writers and content marketing folks have been laid off. Despite data that shows an uptick in 2023, the way companies approach growth has fundamentally changed.

The new normal is for B2B content operations to consist of a lean in-house team of managers and specialists, a trusted agency partner and a number of freelance writers, editors and designers to scale production. Some supplement the in-house team with a fractional head of content or marketing, too.

For many writers, the first option to replace a stable income from a permanent position is freelancing. For some, this transition becomes the new normal, while others take on writing gigs while applying for new in-house roles.

Whatever the context, content marketing freelancers play a pivotal role in filling inbound strategies with stories and shaping a brand's voice and online presence. Freelancers stand for the majority of content production in seed and growth stage SaaS, and the trend is clear as the number of freelance writers serving lean marketing teams is on the rise.

As the cheapest buyers replace people with Generative AI and the least experienced copywriters are displaced by Large Language Models (LLMs), brands that still value quality and conversions and actually measure business outcomes opt to work with freelancers and fractional hires as a way to manage scaling in uncertain times.

About the author

David Baum is the CEO & Co-founder at Relato. Connect with David on LinkedIn for frequent updates and news, and join to the discussion.

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