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.
For more info on content marketing salaries, check out our salary report.
I worked in general digital marketing jobs for about 4-5 years before I landed my first full-time content role, which was working as a Digital Content Manager for a lead generation-focused marketing agency. It paid $52,640. My job was to identify, plan, and build out content experiences across a family of online brands. In retrospect, I was a bit in over my head in terms of understanding broader-scale content strategy and lead generation when I started the job, but I picked it up fast and used it as a stepping stone for a series of higher-paid content roles.
I just accepted a role as Director of Content for a popular content marketing agency. I'll be responsible for growing and mentoring a large team of writers and strategists, as well as implementing solutions for scaling content production and maintaining standards of excellence across the business. The base salary is $170,000, with an option to join a profit sharing program after two years.
In terms of overall pay percentage increase, moving from a digital marketing catch-all role (with a very poor salary of $40,000) into my first content manager gig yielded me a whopping 31.6% increase in salary. Because my salary was so low prior to the change, taking the new role enabled me to stop living paycheck to paycheck and build a little financial security.
In terms of sheer dollar increases, my 2021 transition from Senior Director of Content Marketing at a fintech to Managing Editor of a B2B media and education company increased my annual salary by $35,000 (I went from $105,000 to $140,000.) Oddly enough, this change included much less responsibility, fewer direct reports, and shorter working hours but paid substantially higher. This is a perfect example of how inconsistent content pay is across roles and industries.
If we're talking about marketability, I'd say that my knack for being able to tie organic content to company metrics and goals often sets me apart from other candidates. A lot of companies simply don't understand or appreciate organic as much as paid channels—and because of that, they often don't track it to the same extent. The inability to prove ROI prevents many content marketers from being able to prove their value, gain more budget or resources, and move up through the ranks. I realized this early on in my career so I devote a lot of energy to making sure everything is consistently tracked, tested, and optimized. I believe that being able to tie my work back to QLs and revenue has advanced my career more than any other singular skill. Remember that executives typically prioritize profitability more than anything else—so if you can prove the ROI of your content, then you've got their attention. In other words, money talks.
Overall, I prefer books that teach me to think better because I feel like they help me level up in multiple areas of my life rather than just one. Some favorites include:
"Essentialism" by Greg McKeown: A must-read for anyone who has a hard time saying "no." This is a goldmine of insights about ruthlessly prioritizing, setting firm boundaries while still preserving relationships, and gaining better understanding of personal values. I apply these lessons to both work and personal relationships, and I've felt a remarkable improvement in my peace of mind and work-life balance.
"I Know How She Does It" by Laura Vanderkam: This book changed my perspective on time and how I leverage it to be more successful and peaceful. I don't think in terms of minutes or hours but rather in terms of what I need from any given block of time. For example, I try to be thoughtful about whether I'm using any given chunk of time to ideate, create, build a relationship, or something else—getting clear on the goal helps me produce faster, clearer results... More takeaways: I can't accomplish everything in one day but, if I zoom out a bit, I can craft a balanced week. I can protect my most creative and strategic times of day rather than letting them get sucked away by meetings. I can adjust my calendar so that natural energy slumps are channeled into something constructive rather than wasted...
"What Got You Here Won't Get You There" by Marshall Goldsmith: A guide specifically for high-performance people who are transitioning from individual contributor roles to leadership roles. The author is an executive coach and he walks through common pitfalls that happen when we fail to adjust our mindsets, communication styles, and relationship habits to accommodate for being in a leadership role. The book is particularly awesome because it's not just high-level philosophical talk like so many business books are; it's chock-full of actionable advice and even scripts to use. I found that nearly all my relationships improved once I started implementing it.
"Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott: Although this was written for the literature crowd rather than content marketers, it's a refreshing choice amongst the sea of generic copywriting books out there. The advice focuses on refining the craft of writing rather than just spewing copy that converts—it walks through the dynamics of storytelling, building drama, doing right by the characters, and so on...
My mentors have been invaluable—it's no coincidence that I fast-tracked my career growth once I found a few mentors. Having access to someone who is thinking at an executive level gave me a much stronger understanding of the business and how I fit into it. So many people assume that C suites are just guys with fancier titles and bigger budgets, but that's not the case if you've got a talented executive team. The excellent C suites are literally thinking differently than the rest of us—in terms of prioritizing, scaling the business over time, proving ROI, maintaining relationships, and even managing their time. If you're humble and willing to learn, find a mentor who is a few steps ahead of you and start asking questions.
Also, if your role offers you some access to your leaders, you can learn a lot just by watching them go about their day-to-day meetings. Take note of how they push back, address tense topics, make budget choices, and set objectives. Their behaviors will often give you a lot of insight into how they think, communicate, and strategize—which in turn gives you a roadmap for areas where you can level up your performance and advance your own career.
Dependability: I've developed a sterling reputation for being thoughtful, thorough, and ultimately just getting the work done. This is driven by my Type-A personality and it's not something I really went out of my way to cultivate, but it's no doubt helped me succeed. I've been given a lot of trust and autonomy, even more so than my peers in similar roles.
Time batching: This became key to success while I was working in high-volume content roles. There's a ton of science around the idea that context switching is tough on our brains and limits our ability to get into a flow state (read James Clear for more about this), and I don't feel like I get nearly as much done if I'm bouncing around all day. So I set up specific blocks of time for types of tasks. For example, I won't write, edit, and then publish something on WordPress. Instead, I'll batch-write three articles, then batch-edit, and so on. This keeps my brain in a specific "mode" so I can feel like I'm in a flow state. It helps me produce better work and just generally get through more work than I would otherwise.
Cross-functional understanding: Although I've built my career as a content marketer, I've spent a lot of time gaining understanding of skills that are complementary or adjacent to the work I do (UX, reader comprehension science, SEO, product marketing, front-end development, etc.). Learning these things has helped me improve my performance but, perhaps more importantly, it's enabled me to have more fruitful, collaborative relationships with my peers in those cross-functional roles. If you're not already familiar with it, look up the concept of the T-shaped marketer...
More than anything, know that it's possible to earn a generous income, and know that it's probably easier than you think it is. I grew up poor, didn't go to a great college, didn't have any network when I started, and had done very minimal content work when I landed my first content marketing job. But it took me less than six years to go from $40,000 to $105,000—and I've kept scaling my pay since then. And there are a lot of content marketers out there making these strides even faster than I did. So do great work, keep finding ways to grow and learn, and have faith that you'll get there. Your mindset is your best asset.
White female currently living in Eugene, Oregon. Prior to that, I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Orange, California. The market for content jobs in the Salt Lake City area is one of the best I've seen: Utah's thriving tech startup economy means there are ample roles and advancement opportunities available.