In these times of the pandemic when most are in a lockdown mode, where clients have vanished and when an hour feels like 24, it is but natural to be in a blue funk. That’s one way of going through this phase of life. The other is to use the time to upskill.
Before COVID-19 put the brakes on life, it was always a race against time for content creators. Ironically, now there’s plenty of time but little else. So use this break to update your skills.
Readers are already aware that merely being a good writer does not cut the mustard anymore. If you want to make a career in content, or want the stamina to stay in this long-distance race, there’s a long list of additional skills you need to learn or align with.
Based on some spot research, some trend-spotting, and some talk with a few content clients, I’ve come up with a list of the top 3 skills you can pick up as a content developer during the pandemic. When you emerge on the other side, you will be a well-rounded content professional.
1) Learn content marketing: Content marketing is on the same plane as programming. Most content creators think “it’s not my job”, yet, learning even the basics will only help.
Only when you beat the drums does the message spread in the jungle. For the moment, firms and enterprises have individual content providers and content marketers, and they work in tandem. But the situation’s changing fast. What better than for the original content creator to “sell” the output, too? The day’s not far off when clients will hire one person for both the tasks. So now is the time for you, the content creator, to pick up some marketing skills.
2) Learn new content forms and formats: Text and still images no longer remain the only forms to convey your thoughts, ideas or message. Depending on the content form and format you currently specialize in, try to add at least one more. If you are a blogger or a long-form content writer, try learning about video or podcasting. If you are already doing podcasts, move on to making social videos. If short videos is already your thing challenge yourself by learning how to ‘livecast’ over your smartphone. Similarly, bloggers can look at creating e-books. Or infographics.
3) Get rid of your tech illiteracy: I can already visualize the frowns on the faces of some of my subscribers over this. In the past, I’ve had content creators ask me this — is it necessary for me to learn tech? My answer then, as now, is: yes. This is inevitably followed up with: but what and how much?
The “what” is easily answered. The following technologies may be emerging today, but will become mainstream soon (in no particular order):
1) Virtual, augmented and mixed reality (for immersive web)
2) Artificial intelligence
4) Data analytics
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. I’ve only listed technologies that are either already in the content ecosystem or about to, with the forecast that they are here to stay.
Internet companies like Mozilla, Google and Facebook are already working to make the www “immersive”. Almost all have launched the first iterations of their efforts. The aim obviously is to move away from the flat, 2D perspective that web browsers offer today to one where the content consumer is either fully immersed in a situation or where the situation comes to the user.
The word “immersive web” covers an entire spectrum of “experiences” starting from VR, AR, MR and 360° videos. All of it sitting right in your web browser, with the “connect” being VR enabled headsets.
Obviously, immersive web will require immersive content. Its impact on marketing, advertising and sales is going to be “game-changing”.
So far as programming is concerned, learn to rid your fears of digital technology, at least where content is concerned. You need to know the “basic” stuff; HTML5, PHP, CSS, and so on. If you still don’t know what a 404 error code is, and what it stands for, you better get your act together.
So to what level should you go to pick up or hone your tech skills?
I would say the sky is the limit. Determine your present level of understanding of each of the above. Then, either learn new things at your level or go for the next. The mantra is — you must know the basics, whether it is coding, AI or data analytics.
In fact, use this free time, pick any one or all of the 3 skills that I’ve listed above, and go for it. For each, there’s a boot camp tailored for content creators that you can find online, for free or for a fee. Enroll in one of those and get going.
Elementary “students” can start with the basics. Let go of prehistoric notions that you are ONLY a content creator, and that you don’t need any of this. Content creation is one of the top career choices for 2020 and beyond. While that may be good news, the downside is there’s too much competition now. But, if you are a 360°content developer, chances of you landing more clients go up substantially.