Burned Out and Covered in Pigeon Crap: My Best, Worst Month Ever

TL;DR: It ain’t worth it if they find me in a padded cell with “content marketing” carved into all of the walls. Don`t write 20 pieces about the same thing if you don`t love that thing or want to be known as a “blogger`(shudder).

This has been a weird month.

I published some of my most popular pieces this month – including “8 Lies About Content Marketing You Probably Believe“, which went on to net me over 2,000 unique page views in 24 hours and exactly two links (including that one up there – boy, this link building with content stuff sure is grand!) and  ”Free Beer at the Daycare! (Traffic is Not a Goal)“, which.. well I won’t mention traffic, and now I feel a bit silly.

It’s also been one of the most mentally taxing months since I went out on my own, and it’s all my fault.

Yup. I’m to blame.

In February alone, I’ve written…

- 2 pieces for Business Casual Copywriting (the aforementioned)

- 2  pieces for iAcquire: “Getting Your Mojo Back: What to Do When You’ve Lost Your Audience“, “Don’t Get Bucked by Branded Content

- 2 pieces for WebMeUp: “Google Authorship: The Free Ride is Over” (and one more that will drop next month)

- 2 pieces for Positionly: “Content Marketing for Grown Ups“ (one has yet to drop)

- 1 piece for Isoosi (dropping tomorrow)

- 1 piece for PluralSight (Essential Off-Page Elements for Web Developers)

- 3 ghostwritten pieces for  a consultant (Not provided)

- 7 ghostwritten pieces for an agency (Thankfully, these are pretty straight-forward)

This on top of editing some 6 – 10 pieces written by members of my esteemed little writing team (way to go, gang!) and putting out the web copy content for my biggest client ever (*excited schoolgirl shrieking*).

Every single one of those TWENTY (holy crap balls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) pieces was on the same general subject matter: online/inbound/content marketing. And while some people like the infallible Kristi Hines seem to have an endless bank of energy for that niche (how, Kristi, HOW?!) I will fully admit to staring blankly into a monitor, praying to the copywriting gods for sweet release and spending almost an entire day in the bathtub trying desperately to wash “content marketing” out from behind my eyelids.

The golden question, of course…

Why on earth would I do this?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

1. It pays well - Last month, I raised my rates for this kind of work and even posted my rates on my website, hoping it would help me cut down on the sheer volume I do. It didn’t. I know, first world problems, right? But I ramped up my output because I know I’ve got some trips coming up and some unexpected expenses to cover off (like refinishing my room mate’s nice oak table I totally ruined by setting my searingly hot laptop down on it for awhile).

2. I’m still learning to say “No” – I love building relationships with people, and have had a hard time turning down an offer to write (so long as they can afford my rate). This is great for relationship building, terrible for my sanity, and as I’ll get to in a minute, probably bad for my bottom line. It would make a lot more sense to limit my presence to those sites where I’ll get the most exposure – and devote more time to writing for my own site (hey, AJ Kohn, I’m listening.)

3. It’s relatively easy – I know these topics inside and out. The research time is lower (but still there). The writing time is less. I just take what I know, and wrap it up in a new, exciting package.

4. It leads to a lot more business – Outside of the ghostwriting, the work I do for iAcquire and the like is pretty visible. Writing for others has been my number one source of leads (and not just blogging leads) which is why I haven’t eliminated it from my repertoire.

But those are all actually pretty miserable excuses.

Why I need to stop:

1. The Value of My Name

Sounds counter-intuitive, right? This month was amazing for name recognition. Shouldn’t I publish EVEN MORE? Nope.

From day one, I’ve wanted my author byline to read like the bottom right of a Monet; I want a reputation for greatness. If I keep trying to push out this volume, not only will I not be able to maintain the quality of my work, but people will get so used to seeing my name on EVERYTHING that it becomes less special to have me write for you

I want to be a pinch-hitter, the guy you call in when you need something exceptional – not just “something”. That ultimately means revisiting this month and looking for places to cut down my output. Maybe that sounds arrogant – maybe it is – but I didn’t go in to writing for a living to be mediocre.

2. The Dreaded Pigeon Coop

I desperately want the world to know: I am not just an online marketing blogger. In fact, that is at the very bottom of the list of things I want to be referred to as – and the NUMBER ONE THING I get asked to do.

While I love writing the odd blog post, I also adore writing web copy, creative copy, video scripts, advertisements – I’m a writer, diggidy-dang it! I’m versatile! And I’m not only a writer, I’m a marketing head, I can analyze your data, I can whip you up a strategy that will earn you an extra zero on your bottom line.But nobody knows that because I’m so busy blogging.

Because you are what you write, and if I spend most of my time writing blog posts, I’m just a blogger. Yuck. Ew. Get it away. I need to keep my hours open for more compelling projects. 

If I keep this up, I’ll stay so far in the pigeon hole I’m bleached white (ewwww).

3. It’s Not the Only Thing I Love.

I’m currently missing out on some of the most important work I want to do: web copy, content marketing strategy – and funny stuff. I’ve started to lay plans for clients and websites I can open discussions with to bring my flavour of sarcastic, dry Canadian humour (the kind you read on Cracked) to market, and I’m excited to be working with the boys at Examine.com on some long-form sales copy (trying to get in the heads of a half-million monthly visitors).

I got in to writing because I wanted to be creative and work on projects I believed in. I wanted to work with awesome companies who “get it” and DO content marketing, not just write about it. I’m doing some of that now, but I’ll be happier when I’m doing more.

 4. My Sanity

I don’t care how much you love this stuff – there just ain’t 20 posts a month worth writing (or reading). I can’t keep this up, and I need the variety – and the time away from my desk. I want to be able to devote more creative energy to fewer posts and try to make sure they’re grand-slams as often as possible.

And I want to stop waking up in the middle of the night, running to my desk and scribbling out lines on B2B content marketing as though I’ve found the cure for cancer.

So… changes on the horizon.

By the way, thanks for reading this weirdly transparent semi-confessional. That’s awful nice of you, especially since I’ve sort of worn the “narcissistic millennial” attitude on my sleeve by even writing this and assuming people will care to read it (sorry).

Well, that was me having my moment.

Klettke out.

7 Responses to “Burned Out and Covered in Pigeon Crap: My Best, Worst Month Ever”

  1. anthony pensabene says:

    man…buddy’s table.. i recently burned a hole in my friend’s carpet and the following week drilled holes through his new bar. i’m not allowed back yet, but will keep people updated.

    dude, you know you’re the better businesman, so take me with a grain of salt and some hires rootbeer or something. i’d love to see you one day write how you want for a living because i think you’re that talented and deserve it. but, never lose your love for writing due to others’ writing needs. it’s a blessing and a curse to get to write for a living for someone who really loves their craft.

    • Joel says:

      Anthony – I think that’s honestly the point I’m at. I love writing some of the stuff I’m writing; it’s been fun. But there are other parts of me (the stuff that isn’t didactic)worth exploring, and that’s where I’m going to be turning my attention to. I think a lot of this stuff has been a necessary evil so far; it’s helped me get to the point I’m at. But I’m really hoping that when I’m able to showcase some of my more recent work, I’ll transition away from this stuff gracefully.

      Thanks for reading, as always, my friend.

  2. Alessio says:

    I guess the most disturbing thing of this post is the image of you in the bathtub.

    Joel, do the thing you love and you feel it’s best for you. Screw the rest. There is really no time for the rest.

    Keep up the good work mate.

  3. Eugen Oprea says:

    I hear you Joel. I also tend to overbook me and in the end I am the one who loses, for the reasons you mentioned above.

    I think that your article should be a reminder for me that I need to be more carful with this.

    As for your business, keep up the high value in your articles and continue to increase your prices. If customers still say “yes” it means that you are not charging enough.

  4. [...] off, credits to Joel Klettke for this post’s title. Having googled ‘most depressing month ever’, I stumbled [...]

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