My First 30 Days in a Content Role at Ramp: Hurdles and how to overcome them

Chelsea Africa

April 20, 2023

Ever skipped over an instruction manual with the confidence that you’re able to put together a piece of furniture without reading it? I’ve done that - and there’s almost always been a screw that was unaccounted for. Even worse, I’ve had to take the piece of furniture apart after realising I missed a step. 

It’s the same when it comes to starting a new content role at a startup.

I've been in my role at Ramp for about three months now, and let me tell you, no matter how skilled you are at the basics of content creation, every gig is different.

So, let me spill the tea on the hurdles I've faced during my first month as a content maven at a startup like Ramp. And while my methods for handling them may evolve as I gain more insight, for now, these are my tried-and-true tips to help you tackle the same obstacles sans a handy instruction manual in your first 30 days.

Hurdle 1: Imposter Syndrome

It wouldn’t be a “first 30 days” post if I didn’t address this - but doubting your skills when starting a new role is so f**king real. I have nearly a decade of experience in content production, yet I’ve questioned my abilities every day since joining the Ramp team.

Disclaimer: It’s self-imposed.

The voices in my head can be so loud that every time I “don’t get it right” on my first attempt, I automatically assume our Head of Marketing is taking notes on what a terrible hire I am. The self-doubt can be debilitating and stifles my creative process - and if you’re not able to be creative in a content role then what are you doing, right?

How to overcome hurdle 1:

Don’t be afraid to say something. Okay, this is really hard for anyone who suffers from anxiety (which is me) but it really helps to voice your struggles. In fact, it’s probably more comforting to your manager if you communicate how you’re feeling so that they understand how it’s affecting you, as opposed to trying to work through it on your own. 

As much as you think you may be able to hide it - your lack of confidence at the start of a new role is likely showing in your work anyway so there’s really no point in faking it till you make it. Communication is key, but even more so important at the start of your new role. You can iron out issues before they become bigger.

Hurdle 2: Things sound like gibberish 

I’ve spent most of my career in a non-tech environment, albeit I have worked at SaaS businesses before, and I’ll be the first to admit that it takes me a little longer to grasp how the software works than I would like it to. 

So, true to form, I really battled to grasp exactly what we do here at Ramp and more so how we do what we do. The most difficult part was (and still is) understanding the data science aspect in particular - which is at the core of our business. It genuinely sounded like gibberish to me when our data team explained what they do and how it feeds into our service offering. 

Fortunately, we have a really patient team. 

How to overcome hurdle 2: 

It goes without saying but before you can start creating content, you have to know your company's products and services like the back of your hand. Don't just rely on the website or past content, go straight to the source and learn from the Product team (and in Ramp’s case, the Data Science team too). Especially if you're in a product-led business like SaaS, taking the time to play around with the platform yourself and see demos is crucial for positioning your content effectively and anticipating any questions your target audience may have.

My advice is to always assume you know absolutely nothing. Even if you have a shallow understanding of the concepts, processes and software, approach it as if it’s the first time you’re hearing of it and ask all the “silly” or “basic” questions that come to mind. 

It’s a humbling experience, but it’s totally worth taking the knock to your ego to learn this way - specifically for a content role.

Something particularly helpful is that Ramp uses Gong, which records important calls. Using Gong recordings, I’ve been able to “sit-in” on product demos, client updates and more which has been my life raft when creating content. 

Hurdle 3: New industry, who dis?

My previous SaaS experience was in load balancing, threat intelligence and smart security software - so nothing remotely related to cohort-based forecasting and insight automation. 

I made the mistake of thinking that even though I was coming into a new industry, I would be able to apply the same thought processes I had in my previous SaaS roles to my content creation here at Ramp. To be fair, I was kind of able to do that…but also not.

Copy-pasting my go-to techniques just didn’t cut it. And although the cool thing about content marketing at Ramp is that there’s nothing quite like what we have to offer - at the same time, that’s exactly what makes it hard. A lot of content marketing is experimental as a result. 

How to overcome hurdle 3:

For the most part, I've had to go through a period of unlearning first (still in it). However, assuming that you have the product down, you need to look at the bigger picture.

Seek out answers to things like “Where does our business  fit into the industry?”; “Who are our competitors?”; and “What gap does our product or service fulfil?” 

By doing your research and identifying gaps in the existing narrative, you can position the company as an industry thought leader.

Similarly, make sure you really understand your target audience. Who are they, and what problems are you trying to solve for them? Confirm your personas with management, and make sure the interests and preferences of those personas are always top of mind.

And don’t forget to suss out the well-established publications and influencers in your industry too. This gives you an idea what people are already consuming content-wise and where you can add value or differentiate.

Hurdle 4: Balancing quantity and quality

If you’ve been hired in a content role, it’s quite obvious that there’s a need for…well, content. And if you’re anything like me, you may feel the need to pump out content as quickly as possible in order to make yourself seem worth the hire. The problem with this is that you could easily produce sub-par work just to check things off a list. 

How to overcome hurdle 4:

Slow your role! Nope, that’s not a typo. I mean it, slow your actual job role and first establish the metrics you need to track to succeed at your company. Do your research and align your content with your goals. 

More importantly, align them with your company’s OKRs. If your deliverables are contributing to the business getting closer to their north star, then you’re probably on the right track.

A well-researched piece of content is more valuable than a hastily written one.

Hurdle 5: Getting feedback, input or approval

Under hurdle 2, I mentioned that consulting other teams and people can be helpful in your pursuit to understand the more technical aspects of the business. I have to do this quite a bit and have come to learn something that is glaringly obvious anyway: people are busy.

And while you may be able to construct content without them by conducting research, it’s always a good idea to get feedback, input and approval from someone who is an expert in the area that your content references.

Here’s an example scenario:

I often need to write pieces of content that relate to the mobile gaming industry for Ramp - but I am not a mobile gaming expert. So, I craft pieces of content, using pre-existing information from our actual mobile gaming experts, but always send or consult them for feedback.

I’m trying to position Ramp as a thought-leader, so I can’t be releasing content with massive information gaps or which contains incorrect information. 

So I send requests for input and review to make sure everything's been checked.

And then? Crickets…

People are busy and it can be hard to get feedback from them, which then delays my intended publish date. 

How to overcome hurdle 5:

Create in bulk, send for review in bulk, and always have multiple pieces on the go. This helps in two ways:

  1. Creating, and sending pieces for review, in bulk means whoever you are consulting can review a bunch of things in one-go, and less frequently. This is a lot easier than checking one piece at a time, and having to do it every couple of days.
  2. You will start creating a bank of content and the approval deadline (although still important for you to manage) no longer holds you hostage. You have content that you can publish, alleviating the pressure of always needing something to post. 

Disclaimer: This method does require you to be strict with time-management and organisation. 

Hurdle 6: Finding a voice that’s not yours

This is probably the biggest challenge I’ve experienced so far. As part of content marketing responsibilities at a startup, you’re often required to generate exposure for Founders, CEOs and other top-level executives by “ghost-writing” under their names. And said Founders, CEOs and other top-level executives have very strong opinions and bold approaches that may or may not resonate with your own voice.

So what do you do? You try to get in their heads by reading previous articles they may have written, listening to their presentations etc. But still, you're off the mark when you submit your draft for them to review. Yep, I’m there right now (present tense until further notice). 

How to overcome hurdle 6:

Firstly, accept that content creation is a process.

Process: (noun) a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end

Read that again: “a series” or “steps taken”. This means you’re not going to get it right on the first attempt, but this doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for this (coming back to the imposter syndrome I mentioned at the start of this post).

Heck, it might even take 10 attempts before your piece is approved but that’s part of the process. The aim is to get closer to that voice each time. 

Secondly, know that it is personal. Not in the sense that your writing sucks and they hate you - rather, it’s personal to them because it’s their voice. Be patient with them and know that their reputation hangs on that byline. 

As a whole, content marketing takes time and effort, but it's a necessary component of any startup's growth strategy. By understanding your products, industry, and target audience, collaborating with other departments, and prioritising the quality of your content, you'll be well on your way to creating content that drives growth and engagement. 

Have you had a similar experience? Maybe you have something to add? Connect with me on LinkedIn - let’s learn from each other.