If you’ve read the New York Times bestselling novel The Outliers you’ve probably heard of the 10,000-hour rule. In the nonfiction novel, Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly claims to become in any field, you need to practice that job or skill for 10,000 hours. This rule stands true for sports stars, musicians, and business leaders. The same concept can be applied to the world of Content Marketing. Content mavericks like Ann Handley and Joe Pulizzi have put in the hours necessary to perfect their corner of the Content industry.


Just like most professional careers, you cannot walk off the street and become a content expert. It takes years of training, mentorships, and on-the job experience to master the craft. Some people tend to believe content marketing is just writing on the web, but it isn’t the simple. Although writing skills are necessary to successfully create content, content marketers also need other vital skills, including search engine optimization, brand awareness, and defining audiences.

Ann Handley

Ann Handley is a digital marketing pioneer. Her company MarketingProfs offers marketing training and education. She has created such a well respected empire, over 600,000 people subscribe to her education service. She is also a major influencer, with over 420,000 twitter followers. She didn’t just wake up one day a content maverick. Ann is the co-founder of Clickz.com, which was one of the first sources of interactive marketing news. She used her years of knowledge in the industry to create a content community online. She is still recognized today as one of the top women bloggers.

Joe Pulizzi

Like Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi helped create a content empire. The entrepreneur, speaker and author has founded multiple startups, including the incredibly successful Content Marketing Institute. Similar to MarketingProfs, CMI offers educational resources for content writers. Not only is Joe a LinkedIn Influencer, he also hosts two podcasts and has won the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award.

Both of these content trailblazers have a very important trait in common: they are using their 10,000 hours to help up-and-coming marketers and businesses. If you follow their lead, you learn their tricks of the trade.


You may be thinking, why should I care about these content bigwigs. They aren’t part of your company, so what do they have to offer? These pioneers, and other giants like them, aren’t keeping their expertise to themselves. Instead, they offer online classes, blogs, and information that can help your business thrive. Whether you are a new company starting out, or an established content marketer looking to learn some new tricks, you can learn essential tools from these industry leaders. For example, Handley’s company, MarketingProfs, offers both trainings and events. They have several training classes, including one for individuals, small teams of up to 20 people, and larger classes. MarketingProfs also offer free and paid events on specific marketing topics.

Pulizzi’s Company, CMI, offers daily articles by trusted staffers that feature unique advice on content strategies. These articles are free to read, so you can learn something new every day. CMI also offers webinars and in-person events. These events happen every few months, so you can get to know a little bit more about the company and the topics they cover before attending an event.


If you are interested in growing your content marketing skills by following these mavericks, there are some important skills you should seek out. Arguably the most important skill is storytelling. Whether you’re writing a blog on your new product, or just cultivating product descriptions, everything you write should compelle your audience. Marketers deal with a lot of number. Making all that gobbledygook make sense in a fun and inviting way can be a challenge. That’s where storytelling comes in. Master Marketers like Joe Pulizzi are proficient in storytelling. He can turn a boring report on the third quarter sales into a compelling story about the company’s growth in a tumultuous economy.  

It is also important to learn how to research. Often, content marketers don’t completely understand the topic or product they are writing about. They need to research these foreign concepts thoroughly, so they can master the topic quickly. If you understand what you are writing about, you will be able to deliver clear copy to your customers. Combine high-quality researching skills with the ability to tell stories, and you will provide exceptional content that keep your customers returning for more.

If you’re just starting your journey to 10,000 hours, don’t be distraught if your copy isn’t gaining the audience numbers you would like. It takes years of practice to master the skills of content writing, but thankfully, you don’t have to go through your journey alone. Content mavericks use their skills to mentor up and coming content marketers. If you follow their path, read their work, and attend training sessions, you may one day reach maverick status.

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