#6: getting feedback on your work sucks… at first

Getting Feedback

Welcome to contentfolks—a fortnightly newsletter with short lessons & ideas about content that makes a difference, sparks action, and truly serves its audience. Thank you for being here!

Hey there, content folks 👋

Raise your (virtual) hand if you’ve felt this at least once: you’ve submitted your work, you’re feeling very good about it, and then you get a ton of feedback… and now all you want to do is go and hide under a rock.

Yep. Getting feedback on your work sucks 😱

…at first.

Feedback about YOU versus
feedback about what you DID

When you’re a writer / creator / maker of things, getting feedback on your work is tough. Particularly if you’re new to a team or working with a new client and you want to impress. Especially when you felt really confident in what you delivered, and your work gets ripped apart instead.

Oh, how it sucks! The first time, the second time, and the tenth one as well. Doubt creeps in. Annoyance shows up. Defensiveness, too.

But the feedback is almost never about YOU.*** It’s about a thing you DID, and how that thing can be improved. There is a canyon between these two perspectives—and if you can look at it from the ‘it’s not who I am, it’s a thing I did’ angle, you’re going to grow and improve at a much faster rate.

***obviously, if the people giving you feedback are assh*les, incompetent, and/or driven by an egomaniacal desire to crush you, you have a different problem. Wherever possible, cut them out of the process & find somebody who is genuinely there to help instead.

💡 A practical example 💡

A few months back, I started a writing collaboration with Ahrefs. If you don’t know them, they’re a big deal in the world of SEO and they have been one of my top 3 sources of inspiration over the past few years—so I was definitely in “want to impress” mode when I submitted my first piece.

And then, this happened 😅

Getting Feedback Content Folks

Ouch. 25 comments that ranged from “this section feels like it needs to come much earlier” to “I like this, but we’ll need to explain the whole thing with an example” to “Not quite sure what you mean here. Could you explain?” It was one of the most thorough reviews I’ve ever gone through as a content marketer (and major hat tip to Joshua Hardwick, Head of Content at Ahrefs, who reads this newsletter and worked through the draft with me).

A younger version of me would have wanted to run away. A naive version of me would have taken it personally. The current version of me took a deep breath and went back to work.

I cut where I needed to, expanded where I hadn’t been clear enough, reshuffled entire sections. And as a result, the final piece is about 3x better than it would have been without all of Joshua’s feedback 🔥🔥🔥

Having people help you see what you cannot and highlight things you should reconsider will make your piece/product/website stronger. But it will also make you a better practitioner in the long run.

It took me a few years to learn this lesson—I wish I had learned it much earlier than I did!—and that’s exactly why I am passing it on now, in case you needed to hear it today 🙂