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, email me.
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I originally got into content by chance. I saw a job board ad about IBM looking for freelance writers. I applied to the agency, and they brought me on board. They were paying $40 for 400-500 word pieces which isn't the best paying gig, but it played an essential role in getting my foot in the door at future roles.
I'm currently a content strategist for a large eCommerce marketplace and I earn $124,000 as a full-time contractor. My role at this company is owning product messaging for their new payment model, for five (soon to be seven) regions across the globe.
As a member of the global go-to-market team, I handle the production of FAQs, UX copy, emails, landing pages, and other product-related communications. I also work with local teams in each region to ensure that our content aligns with their needs, but also is consistent with the brand.
When I freelanced full-time in New York in the suburbs, I was only making $30,000 a year. When I started at a major vacation rental marketplace I jumped to a $70,000 contract. After that, I became a content marketing manager at a marketing automation company and was paid $90,000 salary plus benefits (which brought the total compensation to around $110,000).
Whenever I meet with clients or employers, I tend to highlight my adaptability. As a content marketer/strategist, my role generally is not to be a domain expert in one area. My role is to know how to uncover the right insights from stakeholders, rapidly process and understand information, and then package it in a way that matters to the audience.
Similarly, and this is a separate skill, but I want to emphasize the importance of attention to detail. Working in the payments world right now, my work is scrutinized by executives, regulators, investors, customers, etc. Even using one detail incorrectly (e.g. funds available vs. funds initiated) can cause significant issues.
Even if you don't work in a high-stakes role such as finance, as content professional, your work is highly visible. Creating work that has typos is like running a business in an office with a broken window.
I'm a huge fan of Tim Ferriss. Tribe of Mentors and Tools of Titans are amazing.
Other books that come to mind include The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Reality Check and Enchantment.
The Steve Jobs biography also is a great read. I haven't gotten through it all, but I still recommend it. Similarly, I would check out his Stanford commencement speech. When I think of my career path, I always think of this quote from it:
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
I cannot stress enough how much that quote has helped me progress through tough times, because getting to where I am today took a lot of trial and error.
I have not had a mentor/coach. That said, I attribute my success to my professional network. Meetups, mutual friends, Slack communities, Eventbrite, etc. is how I've met most of the professionals that have helped to shape my career. Lunchclub.ai also is a great service and I highly recommend Brunchwork.
In terms of specific learnings, it's hard for me to attribute specific skills to specific people. In my networking I've learned about running a business, professional development, lessons on adjacent fields, etc.
I'd really say that when it comes to professional development, just be open to hearing from other professionals and just absorb information. Quite often you might learn something today, and not think to ask it. Then later on, you'll be glad you learned that piece of information.
Continuous learning. As a content professional, you have to enjoy learning new things. Organization and thorough note-taking too. Working with international teams, I'll be in five different meetings, but to create effective messaging, I need to combine insights from all five meetings and then communicate updated messaging back to those regions.
Also, the confidence to ask questions. As a content professional, you need to make sure you fully understand projects and that you have complete context. In my role, I work with legal, engineering, product, marketing, etc.—and everyone has their own way of communicating/working. As such, I'm always asking questions to clarify things that aren't clear to me, but that might be clear to a subject matter expert.
Finally, attention to detail. I know I stated that earlier, but I want to emphasize that again.
If you are looking to move up the career ladder, don't position yourself as a writer. Position yourself as a strategist. Writing is commoditized and there's no shortage of people to write articles. In order to stand out and set yourself apart, showcase your ability to proactively develop campaigns. Persona development, competitive analysis, keyword research, analyze performance data to evaluate effectiveness, etc.—make it clear to others that you can do more than take an outline and write something.
Also, when you're interviewing for content roles, don't be afraid to apply for jobs outside of your main vertical. For example, if you have worked in real estate, don't be afraid to apply to roles in finance.
Some companies will look for subject matter experts, however in my experience, I've had tons of success relating previous projects/results to employer/client objectives.
For example, what got me into my current role in payments actually was email campaigns I produced for a volunteer organization that had nothing to do with finance. I referenced how we sold a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of tickets (each person had to pay around $200 USD each) in only six months.
My current role required someone that could create content that drove results. Although my previous campaigns were not in finance, the skills/concepts still carried over.
I'm a white male.