Welcome to another post in the $100k Club series. You can see the full series here. This is "My Morning Routine" for content marketing folks making six figures. The goal is to shed light on the skills and habits that enable people to achieve lucrative jobs and help get more people in this club.
These will be anonymous and updated regularly. If you make more than $100k/year and want to contribute, fill out the form here.
I was the Content and Communications Manager at a small startup earning $80K a year plus equity.
BOUTIQUE PR AGENCY (5 people)
SMALL STARTUP (20 people, seed)
LARGER STARTUP (250+ people, Series C)
—Inflation adjustment after 7 months to $98K—
I'm currently a Content Lead making $132,000 a year.
My recent promotion at my current company took me from $98K to $132K for a 35% bump, and it came with a 33% equity refresh. I've been poached or recruited for every job I've moved to and this internal promotion was still my biggest jump in salary.
I went from an L3 individual contributor at my company (Content Marketing Manger) to an M2 manager level role (Content Lead), as part of this promotion. I've been managing one person for 6 months as a trial run and now I'm currently building what will be a team of four content folks under me.
Everyone I manage is better than me at their individual function, which is my bar for hiring. But I think my most valuable skills are seeing how all those pieces fit together for effective strategy and managing my team toward those shared goals. I can get into the weeds with my team to provide content feedback and unblock projects, but it's not where I'm strongest.
I think this makes me a better manager than individual contributor, and I felt out of place in my roles up until I started managing because I wasn't playing to my strengths.
That being said, I used to get frequent feedback early in my career to master my current job before trying to do the next one. It used to really frustrate me, but now that I'm leading a team, I can see how annoying I must've been to my manager at the time. I think that's helpful context for anyone who's overly anxious to start managing: Take it one step at a time and show your value through the responsibilities you already have.
For content, I'm not going to say anything revolutionary: Content Chemistry by Andy Crestodina is the first (and maybe last?) book on content that I found really valuable. I learn more about content from talking to other marketers and reading articles.
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley is probably my favorite book on writing for content marketers. If you're just starting out I recommend you also read all the classic journalism/writing standards that get rightfully mentioned every time this question gets asked (On Writing, On Writing Well, Elements of Style, etc.)
The book that inspired me the most to become a better writer is They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib. He's a cultural critic and essayist, but also a poet. That book of essays contains a masterclass on structure and cadence, besides showcasing some really compelling thinking and storytelling.
The books I've taken the most cues from in a work setting are actually old-school, direct response copywriting books and management books in general. My favorite management books are Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo (make it the first one you read as a new manager) and High Output Management by Andy Grove.
I am blessed with many mentors, peers and friends in the content marketing industry. But I had to be very proactive to get to this point.
My very first connections in content were through a group call I was invited to by a hiring manager after getting rejected from their open job. I am lucky to call them all friends now.
Everyone else, I either met through them or cold DM'd on LinkedIn or Superpath. I am constantly sliding into the DMs and I've never gotten a flat out "no" from anyone — only been left on read a few times as well. People are really open to chatting if you approach it well, including big-time content marketers that seem out of reach. People in our industry are really nice and generally want to help if they have time. I do 5-10 calls a week, most of them recurring.
When I talk to people ahead of me in their careers—mentor relationships—I'll often use the time to understand how they think about the next level, ask for advice on projects I have in more uncharted territory, or get advice on management. When I talk to peers, it's usually a mix of venting, sharing new solutions we're finding on a tactical level, and working together to troubleshoot the problems we're struggling with. Between these two groups, I'm not afraid to take on projects I've never done—I have a built in advisory board that I can stress-test ideas with.
If you're concerned about getting rejected, start a group call of 4-6 content folks in your niche. Then the others in the call can provide some additional value. For example, I started a group call with other ecommerce SaaS content marketers and made sure there was no direct competitors. But generally, you're going to make more shots than you miss, with the right approach to cold outreach (don't ask to pick their brain).
I'm an active contributor and sell my team's impact. I speak up in meetings, with ideas and challenges, and encourage my team to do the same. And I'm active in our Slack, sharing wins and stories from the work my team is doing. It's important that everyone understands what we're doing and the impact it can have.
I really care about my team and the work we're doing. Unfortunately, I think this puts me ahead of a lot of managers who only care about the work, which is a bar we need to keep raising. Everyone on my team has clear expectations, defined growth paths to their next level, and enough one-on-one attention to understand that I care about them as people, beyond what they can produce for the company.
I ask for what I need. Seems basic, but this is where I see a lot of people losing steam in their careers. When I need resources for my team, I make the case. When I want a promotion, I actively work with my boss to partner on a pathway to get there. Unfortunately, closed mouths don't often get fed.
I'm adaptable and unafraid to take on projects I've never done before. Part of this is my love of a good challenge, but I also have a lot more confidence here due to the network I mentioned above. I also have a brilliant team who can run with the unexpected, independently, so I do my best to empower that and give them the space to come up with their own solutions.
I also think I'm easy to work with and find a good balance of helping other teams while still staying focused on our strategic priorities. With content, everyone sees you as "the writers" and you can help level up most projects at the company. It's important to help and build relationships without getting derailed.
What gets you from point A to point B won't always get you to point C. I think a lot of content marketers love writing and the craft of content, and that will help you get the results needed for the next level. But you have to marry the results with management potential at some point in your climb, which is a different skill set. And once you're in your first management role, I think the importance of management over content skills grows even further.
A good first step is really understanding the strategy of your content team, marketing team, and business overall. The more you can tie what you're doing to relevant business outcomes, the better off you'll be.
As part of this, you need to be willing to "give up your legos," a phrase that I learned from a well-known First Round Review article. Basically, the work you enjoy the most might not be what helps level the business up. You need to be able to build a function, hire and pass it on to keep growing your team. And then you're on to the next function, to extend your impact even further.
Finally, I mentioned this above but if you want to get a promotion, you need to talk to your manager about it well before you think you should get it. My general rule is to push for monthly career conversations to get feedback and understand your progress. Then six months out from when you want the promotion, bring it up and literally ask what your manager would need to see for you to get there in that time frame. If you don't partner with your manager on your career growth, you're flying blind on feedback and hoping they read your mind on your goals. That's a recipe for a stagnant career.
I'm a white man living in Brooklyn, NY.