We talked to Karl L. Hughes of Draft.dev about technical content marketing and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Karl L. Hughes: Living through a global pandemic is scary, but we’re extremely fortunate to have stayed healthy and financially afloat so far. There have even been some silver linings. I’m working from home full-time now, so I get to spend a lot of time with my one-year-old son. My biggest concern is how the pandemic will affect those living on the edge around the world. I don’t think we’ve seen the complete economic impacts of the crisis yet.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Draft.dev.
Karl L. Hughes: I spent about 8 years as a software engineer, manager, and finally CTO at early-stage technology startups. On the side, I wrote about my experiences and learnings, and eventually, people started to pay me to write for their publications. In 2020, soon after the pandemic started, I decided to start working on Draft.dev full-time. I quickly got more business than I could handle, so I started hiring other writers and building processes to manage work for more clients.
Now, I handle most of the sales, marketing, and editing for Draft.dev while my team of technical writers creates content and imagery for our clients.
How does Draft.dev innovate?
Karl L. Hughes: We take a very challenging, technically complex, and difficult to replicate task (writing technical marketing content) and make it completely hands-off for our clients.
Before working with Draft.dev, most of our clients were either struggling to get their engineering team to write technical content for their blog or working with flaky freelancers of variable quality. Our productized offering means that they get high-quality, reliable content on a monthly basis for a predictable fee. The business model and standardization of our processes are the big innovations that have allowed Draft.dev to grow very quickly.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Karl L. Hughes: Unlike a lot of industries, the technology industry hasn’t been seriously injured by Covid-19. That’s good news for us because we exclusively write content for technology companies looking to reach software engineers. For many of our clients, the crisis has actually allowed them to divert money from their live events budgets towards content, so it’s been good for our business.
That said, the uncertainty has taken a toll on some of our clients. Several of my main contact points have left their companies, and priorities at the organization have changed. While it’s been net positive for our business, it hasn’t been all roses.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Karl L. Hughes: Not really. One of our businesses – CFP Land – was more dramatically affected by the initial burst of Covid-19 fears. CFP Land is a weekly email for tech conference speakers, so when events started canceling, many of our subscribers and sponsors pulled out. Fortunately, I don’t rely on the project for a significant portion of the business’s revenue, so I’ve just cut some of its expenses to keep the newsletter going.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Draft.dev in the future?
Karl L. Hughes: I have always been a very low-stress person in general, but I’ll admit that this year has really tested that.
There were a few weeks right after I started working on Draft.dev full-time, and COVID-19 was starting where I lost a lot of sleep. It took a while, but I eventually pulled out of the stress cycle. I’m now working out more to help manage it.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Karl L. Hughes: I don’t really pay much attention to our competitors, but the biggest “competitor” we have is clients who decide to manage content creation themselves. We often see clients come back to us after doing it themselves for a while because they realize how much work it is, though.
This might be naive, but I don’t look at the business as a zero-sum game. While there are competitors out there, most of them serve different market segments or offer slightly different services. It’s a big world out there, and there’s so much demand for technical content marketing that it’s not productive to worry about competitors.
Your final thoughts?
Karl L. Hughes: Starting a business during a pandemic seems like a scary prospect, but starting a business is always hard. If you can make it work during the worst of times, it’s only getting better when this is all behind us.