In Conversation with Mukti Masih…
For all the newbie writers out there or those who are still carving their direction, this content piece will serve as a bible. We reached out to Mukti Masih, one of the Top 10 Freelance Writers of India, for an interview to reflect on her journey and experiences in the content writing field so far. Here is what she had to say:
1. What does a content manager do?
A content manager is responsible for conceiving the content scheme for a certain brand or client. She works out possible themes, topics that are suitable for the product or service, lists down various platforms where the content would be relevant, sits with the client to create a content calendar for the month, allots topics to suitable or niche writers, edits these articles before posting them on the pre-planned platforms.
A content manager is also on the look-out for various blogs where guest posting is allowed, free of cost and paid PR platforms for the brand along with using her network of writers to reach out to influencers, if need be. For instance, if it’s a B2C product, a content manager would choose Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook to post content along with the company’s blog page.
The idea is to draw traffic on the website through the blog and social media posts and compel visitors to buy. Themes may be related to local events, festivals, and occasions. Long weekend, for example, is the best theme to get people’s attention for any B2C product related to travel and tourism.
2. How long have you been involved in this field?
For as long as I can remember because I began writing from school. I was in charge of school events so I used to think of relevant themes to put up posters to announce school events, allot tasks to my team, train the anchor of the event, write compelling slogans to get a donation for the event and so on.
Professionally, I began my career as a journalist with The Free Press Journal, moving on to the Times of India before delving into freelance writing. Almost 14 years into writing, editing, and content management have taught me to keep my eyes open to learning and adapting.
Even today, an Indian client thinks I am not very good at American English. This despite my 4.5 on 5 score on American article writing/vocabulary test from Upwork and my extensive experience with American clients. So, I have taken it upon myself to brush up that part. Experience adds maturity and context but learning makes you grow.
3. Why and how did you zero down on joining/pursuing this field?
I created a sentence from a Hindi word that our teacher gave us to write in school. My teacher Late Vijaya Bakshi loved that sentence and just announced: I see the ingredients of a writer in you !!
Imagine, that one sentence, that one compliment got me to the path of writing.
But I had to take a crucial decision in Class X when it came to choosing the stream. Since I wanted to be a writer and journalist, Arts stream was a natural choice. Unfortunately, my school didn’t have that stream and I did not want to part with my childhood friends. So, I took Commerce for higher classes.
I topped my XII board exam so my school principal advised me to pursue Chartered Accountancy or Company Secretary courses. I felt a strong pressure from family, friends and my teachers. But I think God gave me the strength to say NO and I decided to study Journalism and Mass Communication.
My father Rev Vishwas Masih encouraged me to pursue this field because he was so impressed by my adamant attitude towards sticking to my calling. Writing came so naturally to me that the thought of mulling my head over statistics or accounts just gave me nightmares. I don’t think I chose this field, I feel God chose me for this vocation. He created me for this one purpose — to use words in order to influence people positively(Don’t get me wrong, I have no ambition to become an influencer).
I feel like I am able to talk to total strangers through my skill and I am able to empathize with people better. Writing is also my way of getting my feelings out of my system. I don’t know any other way to do this. Writing gave me so much freedom to travel — another passion that came as a bonus.
4. Which degree or course is essential to become a content expert?
Above all your qualifications, degrees or courses, is a deep understanding of the language. Whether you choose to write in English or any other language, you need to understand it culturally and contextually. Grammar is just the basic foundation, there are so many nuances to the language that no one degree can teach you.
Reading books has taught me more than my degree in Mass Communication or my PG in Sociology. Having said that, I would say a few skills should be acquired along the way in order to update yourself. While I am not a trained digital marketing expert, I do recommend young writers to have a basic understanding of SEO and social media writing.
I find it easier to write a 600-word blog post than writing just a two-line but very quirky social media post. Such are the new challenges of today’s content writing world and a good online or offline course in social media and digital marketing would really benefit writers.
I am currently taking the online Master Class of Aaron Sorkin in Screenplay writing because it’s more relevant to my work in video content. Each writer will have to choose his/her relevant course according to his/her niche.
5. What are the biggest challenges of this job?
For starters, lack of fixed income. You may enjoy a few clients for a good one year but soon their markets may turn and they may reduce their content budget. Even if you create a whole nice cycle, put a team in place, you are constantly on your toes about getting new clients. And if you are anything like me, you constantly refuse work due to lack of interest in that niche or field.
Another challenge is self-discipline. This is my everyday challenge. On days I am able to tick off all of my to-do list. Other days, I keep awake at 3 am to finish off and yet have a few left in the plate. One of my challenges has been to ‘get in the mood of writing’ every single day of the work week.
Writing is so unlike other professions because even if you choose your clients as per interest, you may not get the right ideas on the day of the deadline. How much of a process you make for yourself, you cannot avoid writer’s block and lack of mood on most days.
Now imagine, all this to live for your entire life. Adventurous enough? For me, it most definitely is very adventurous and fun. I have learnt to not worry about monthly bills or take up projects because of bills. I have learnt to do budget travels when I have no extra work just to give my mind a break. I have realized that challenges in the field of writing make you grow and love it all the more.
6. What is your typical work day like?
My typical workday can begin anywhere from 11 am to 2 pm. That’s because, if I have a meeting/Skype call in the first half, writing begins in the 2nd half. My most productive time of writing is typically between 3 and 6 pm and 10 pm to 1 am.
To be brutally honest, I am at my productive best when there are just two hours left for the deadline. In between, there are several tea breaks, lunch, evening runs and exercise time, swimming during summer months, coffees with clients and friends, late night drives and Instagram sneak-peeks. Don’t ask me what time I wake up, you will get depressed.
7. Which is the best way to boost audience engagement?
Subjective question. There’s no one great way, there are various ways that work for some, others for some.
However, there are a few principles that always work.
First, empathy towards the audience. Unless you understand the pain or need of your audience, you cannot and should not be allowed to write for them.
Second, clarity about what you are selling. For instance, your client is selling bedsheets — well technically. As a writer, you will ask your client what those bedsheets do to the customers. He may say — sound sleep, soft feel, etc.
Now you are not selling bedsheets anymore, you are selling sound sleep. Now write the content as per this understanding — the actual USP behind a product or service.
Third, the ability to play with words. I love how the fashion brands use occasions such as Fall, Halloween or Diwali to play with words and engage their audience. If you cannot play with words as per context, go back to school and study engineering or science instead and don’t come back here.
8. Is it essential to create a website to drive traffic? Can it be done through simple social networking?
Abso-freakin-lutely. You do not exist if you don’t have a website. It’s a digital economy folks. I know successful businessmen who are NOT on any social media but they all have a website.
If you choose a simple Facebook page over a website, it’s equivalent to distributing pamphlets of your saree brand without having a physical shop. You are still a door-to-door saree seller, not a store.
You need to ‘set up a shop’ even if you are a content writer.
I do it through my own personal blog and our video production company called AVM Pictures founded by my brother Abhishek Masih. Also, social networks are notorious for changing algorithms, while you can decide your own if you have a website.
9. How to create content that converts?
A content that evokes the most desperate emotion in a buyer will make him buy or will convert him. The trick is to trigger that emotion at the right time.
10. Do you recommend any websites or influencers that budding writers/entrepreneurs should follow?
Read Thrive Global, Entrepreneur and YourStory regularly. Sign up on Medium and follow communities that you are interested in. Subscribe to newsletters of Neil Patel and Social Media Examiner along with Hub Spot.
Read Narratively, The New Yorker and Thought Catalog. I love The Writing Co-operative on Medium. I am absolutely smitten by the writing style of Arre.in. These folks are writing contemporary and have a playful zing to their articles. Watch Black Mirror, Lie to me. Mad Men and the Mentalist on video streaming sites.
About Mukti Masih
Mukti Masih is a chai-totaller, Central Perker, Christ-follower, and an avid traveler. When she is not watching a FRIENDS episode, she likes to delve into poetry and short-story writing.
She is a deep admirer of the works of Hollywood screenplay writer Aaron Sorkin and directors Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorcese. She grew up reading Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and discovered the world of Harry Potter at the age of 28.
Apart from writing for brands such as The Akshaya Patra, LetsShave, InstaCar, Sayaji Group of Hotels and several others, she regularly contributes to YourStory, Thrive Global, Entrepreneur India, The Writing Co-operative, PS: I love you, The First Print and The Indian Express.