Freelance writers

7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Joining a SaaS Content Agency

I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Throughout school and into my degree, I had only ever engaged with fiction. I gave non-fiction a disdainful thought in class, and never considered professional writing. That is, until, the shift from viewing writing as a hobby alongside childhood and education turned to earning a living, becoming an adult, and selecting a degree that allowed me to explore and hone my craft.

In my first year of university, I chose to apply to dslx: a SaaS content agency, for an internship. I wanted to test my skills and explore professional writing as a potential career. Here’s how it went.

The start of something new

The start of something new. With no experience in professional writing whatsoever, jumping straight into writing for the web was a significant shift no amount of research could have prepared me for. I knew I would likely be expected to meet specific guidelines and styles that I wasn’t used to writing; and that I would be producing content I wasn’t used to. But, that was the point—to put me out of my comfort zone.

I was in talks with my university (Falmouth) about recognising my ADHD as a learning disability. I knew change was difficult and meeting deadlines was an issue that became increasingly worse during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, delving into something new undoubtedly tested my ability and encouraged the building of habits required to help me through my degree. Here are some of my biggest challenges. 

1. The importance of proofreading

Writing for the web means the client might be American and, therefore, uses US English. This shift was challenging as an English writer whose higher education was dominated by studying the English language development and grammar. 

Even with the help of apps like Grammarly and changing the language settings, there were still words that were missed, spelt differently, and weren’t picked up without the intervention of my support team. 

These slip-ups, like forgetting to omit the ‘u’ from the likes of ‘colour’ and ‘flavour,’ constantly reminded me of the importance of proofreading my work.

In the past, I have been guilty of skipping this step and depending on spellcheckers to tell me where I have slipped up. Sure, it was a lazy approach, but I’d never been called out on not proofreading, so it became a habit. 

Although proofreading is not yet a habit, simply seeing its importance in action instead of reading about such functions was a significant revelation and something I consider every time I look at the first drafts haunting my computer from the far and near past.

Learn from your mistakes

Hindsight, the blessing it is, has taught me a few approaches I can take toward proofreading. With work that requires a grammatical shift, such as a switch from British English to American English, keep a list of the most common words you slip up on. 

If the company has a few of their own rules that require a step away from what you’re used to, make a note of it. For me, it was being unable to open sentences with conjunctions. 

And keep a reminder of the small things. Perhaps contractions are favoured, or em-dashes instead of brackets; note whatever you’re not used to the first time it’s flagged. Please don’t make the same mistake I did and forget these rules existed until my editors provided feedback that picked up on this specifically.

SaaS Content Writers
SaaS Content Writers

2. A lesson in research

Writing for the web comes with briefs about things you don’t necessarily know. Before starting my internship, I never thought about things to do in cities in the United States of America, but I was soon writing a five-page guide about it!

Google is your best friend in this circumstance. You need to sound like the expert in your writing; in my case, it was best to turn to the real experts across social media. I relied on chat forums like Quora and reviews on Trip Advisor and vlogs on YouTube. 

I was virtually travelling to these cities to figure out what to write about, how popular they were and how to promote them—despite never visiting the place!

Once you get into the swing of things, it’s easy to feel like the expert; especially with a browser filled to the brim with tabs.

The research and content were much easier to produce compared to what I was used to at university. While my University assessments required formulated, critical, and referenced analysis of literature and historical movements, writing for the web looks like a breeze in comparison. University research looks like scouring libraries and Google Scholar, and writing for the web looks like keywords on chat forums.

3. Understand your audience

Writing for the web with a SaaS content agency also broadens your target audience, which is something to keep in mind as you write. If you’re used to academic writing like me, you might find it difficult to use more colloquial language, be witty, and use puns in headings.

I felt like a completely different person in my writing; by the final draft, I could only tell the writing was mine because I knew I wrote it. At times, it felt like I had to leave a part of myself with my books and homework to complete the articles, but that’s a sacrifice you must be willing to make when starting a new venture.

4. Make time manageable

I found the deadlines to be vaguer and less strict than those at university. I knew there was an overarching external deadline between dslx and their clients, one that had been split down into smaller deadlines for each article required and again for each draft and stage of development.

These smaller deadlines with no sight of the larger one on my part made the project much easier and less stressful. It allowed flexibility on my end and made plenty of space for discussion and potential interruptions by life. And life loves to interrupt deadlines. 

During my internship, my smaller deadlines with dslx were interrupted by various life events—university deadlines looming, poor mental/physical health, moving accommodation, and bereavement. 

Each of these was unpreventable because of pre-existing mental health issues or the motions of life. But, the smaller internal deadlines meant we could be flexible as a team.

Top tip: The Pomodoro Timer method is a great way for managing productivity sprints.

Understand how to maximise your productivity

When it came to producing the content for dslx, I found myself creating my deadlines within the overarching one to pace myself and prevent waiting until the last moment to write what was necessary. SaaS content agency life can be fast-paced, or slow, it comes and goes in waves, and you need to be prepared for both.

5. Pace yourself

For the one dslx client I specialized with, each project included activities and information about the city of interest. My first step was to begin gathering research. With nine activities in the core article alongside travel and weather information, there was usually an average of fifteen tabs open by the night’s end. Once this was complete, I found myself piling these tabs into a folder on chrome and leaving it for a week or so.

The worst plan is no plan

My suggestion would be to begin the plan during your research process and to knock out two tasks at once, but I realised this later.

The next step was to plan. Sometimes, this would be prompted by my SaaS content agency team checking in. Or, in the rare moments, I found myself with nothing my ADHD brain needed to do immediately. 

I have never been much of a planner, despite always needing one. They usually end up as an unintelligible dump of thoughts or a list of quotes with sources. 

During this task, however, I discovered that my GCSE method of bullet-pointing core information and scribbling the non-fiction equivalent of ‘plot beats’ for each section underneath was the most efficient way of approaching a plan. If in doubt, it is always best to follow the six ‘W’s: who, what, where, when, why and how. 

Some of these may not be relevant, but they were the best approach to figuring out the necessary information to write about.

Know what you are capable of

In an ideal world, where my project had ten sections like the articles I was producing during my internship, I could complete the project comfortably by splitting it evenly across a few days. Where the deadline is two weeks away, I can do a day of research, a section a day, and have time to proofread and destress if necessary. In an ideal world. Know your writing skillsets and play to your strengths.

6. Asking for help

One of the most comforting things about writing for dslx was that there was a team I could turn to. Sometimes, it feels lonely to be writing in your room, responsible for your time management, the only company being the music through the speakers and the abundant collection of stuffed animals on your bed. Or, maybe that’s just me. 

But, the dslx team was available to talk to alongside providing and proofreading the articles, and this was far more comforting than I expected.

Surrounded by artists who knew little about writing, never mind SaaS writing, my Uni accommodation meant no one could grasp the full extent of what I was trying to do. They listened, as friends do, sympathised, and tried to help, but none of them could have helped as much as the team behind me at dslx.

When unsure about the format, they provided an outline to follow. When I slipped up on my grammar or obviously submitted something written at 4 am without proofreading it, they were encouraging. They provided feedback relevant to the piece and every article to follow. In assigning this article to me, alongside another title I was unsure about, they decided for me and offered suggestions and prompts to get me going.

7. Overcoming pride

My ability to work independently has always been something I prided myself on, but I’ve had to learn that there’s a difference between working independently and working alone. I didn’t turn to my team for help nearly as much as I should have, and if you are struggling with your work, don’t hesitate to reach out. Every time I did, it became infinitely easier to get the job done, whether prompted or not.

I’ve never been the greatest at managing my time. The last time I sat an exam was three years ago. Covid-19 threw a-Level assessments into a maddening cycle of writing essays and rewriting them if the exam board allowed it; university work was flexible enough to bend the small deadlines into nearly nothing. Somehow, it has always been easier to manage time poorly than it should be to manage it effectively.

At the tail-end of year one of university and an internship that required rigorous time management, I can say that I have learned a thing or two about it.

It isn’t easy. Especially if you’re starting something new, it isn’t easy to find what suits you best and maintain it. 

For some, a strict routine and timers might help with getting the work done; for others like myself, the broadest guidelines for managing time are the most effective. Small goals to reach the small goals.

Work in a space that works for you

Have a dedicated space and time to work. If people distract you from work, move into a different area from them and set a time limit or word goal until you can re-emerge into the light. Alternatively, find someone else with work to do and work alongside each other.

You know yourself better than anyone else and how you best work. A dedicated space might not be possible, but you might have available public spaces like libraries and coffee shops that help, or even a specific chair. 

Some days I found chairs overstimulating and the bed unstable, so I worked sitting on the floor. Sometimes the knowledge that people are awake is distracting enough, so you work at night.

It is never wise to minimise one crucial thing to prioritise another. Life inevitably gets in the way, sometimes at inconvenient times, so don’t leave your work until the last minute.

Listen to your body, sleep, eat, and attend to your commitments and chores. The best time management method is ensuring you know what needs to be done immediately and what can wait. You must look after your body and mind daily, but perhaps the laundry can wait until the next thousand words are complete.

My parting thoughts on joining a SaaS content agency

In the real world, my ADHD often leaves me with procrastination, 3 am bursts of energy, insomnia, and enough energy to miraculously produce work efficiently when the deadline is hours away and nothing has been written.

I always aim for the ideal world scenario of these two situations, and it is my suggestion to you when approaching a SaaS content agency project.

SaaS Content Writers
SaaS Content Writers

SaaS Writing for dslx FAQ

Can I write for dslx as a freelancer?

Of course, you can! dslx is always on the lookout for great freelancers that want to nail the SaaS writing jobs we have to fulfill the content marketing campaign-dreams of our clients.

How can dslx help me grow as a writer?

We care that our writers progress alongside us. Through thorough edits and feedback, you'll slowly become a better writer with us. We'll make sure to provide you with tasks that are not monotonous and boring but ones that keep you engaged and challenged.

How do I become a dslx writer?

Wherever you are in the world if you like what we stand for and think you have what it takes to write compelling content: apply today! We'll have a chat with you to see how you and our internal team members can work together to keep our ongoing content writing needs fulfilled and our clients as happy as they can be!

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