(Note: This is based on one of the prompts from Robert S. Kaplan’s book What You’re Really Meant to Do.)
There are issues with the content marketing industry, many of which I’ve discussed openly here or elsewhere previously and so won’t reiterate or otherwise list. You work in any field for any significant length of time and you’re going to have some strong opinions about certain aspects of it and certain people who are a part of it. This is still a fun and interesting area and I don’t want to bad-mouth it or anything. Constructive criticism is useful and welcome though, right?
There is one thing that continues to concern me that doesn’t seem to be going away and it’s this: There are no time limits.
Over the last 10 years I’ve spent countless nights up and working on editorial calendars and blog posts and everything else well past when I should have turned in. But because social media and blog posts can be published 24 hours a day, people think you’re going to be available to answer their questions 24 hours a day. Or that you’ll be available to make changes.
If there’s one advantage to freelancing it’s that at least the billing is more accurate now. In agency life, because we billed most clients on a retainer and not for actual hours burned, a lot of those late-night hours went unbilled. While I still got paid (which was great) it looked bad when I was only billing 80 hours a month but reporting that I actually spent 130 on work for a client. Now if I work it, I’m billing it.
Plus, I’m more able to draw some boundaries around my availability now. I’m not beholden to a reporting hierarchy and can set some expectations with clients about when I am or am not on-call. That may not be hard and fast but it’s better than the “we’re paying you, you better respond within 20 minutes even if it’s 11 pm.” attitude that’s all-too pervasive in the agency environment.
Platforms like Instagram and Snapchat that don’t allow for scheduled posting have only made this problem worse. I can queue up Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and blog posts, but those other two are still very immediate. And everyone knows this. The agency world is so cutthroat, with everyone competing on service and price, that saying “No” or daring to sleep can cause a client to question their current situation. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of those phone calls, you know how unpleasant they can be.
There’s no easy solution here. It will take a systemic pushback against unreasonable expectations to affect any real change to this this issue. And for every one person that does there will be three ready to pounce and promise 24-hour coverage, no problem. It is a problem, though, one that needs to be addressed.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.