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.
For more info on content marketing salaries, check out our salary report.
If you'd like to see more info on salary by job title, check out these resources: Content Marketing Manager Salary, Content Strategist Salary, Head of Content Salary, and Content Director Salary.
I graduated with a degree in marketing but didn't begin working in marketing (or content marketing for that matter) for about 5 years. In fact, I started off working in accounting! After several years, I decided to make the jump into content marketing and began freelancing. At the time, I had two blogs that I had been working on on the side, and they were making a small bit of money.
The skills I learned blogging were perfect to transfer into freelance writing and I was able to use my blogs to showcase my SEO skills and content marketing skills. At first, I wrote for anybody no matter which niche they were in. I was ghostwriting for bloggers in travel, food, wellness, and DIY, and I'm fairly certain I was charging $50 per 1,000.
That first year I earned $48,000 but knew charging $50 for an article wasn't sustainable income. Not to mention, most of my clients only wanted a few articles at the time and I was constantly filling my pipeline with new clients. It was exhausting.
It was then I decided to niche down and work with higher paying clients.
Defining what I do in a single job title is quite challenging. I offer writing (both content and copy) as well as strategy services. I guess I'd call myself a writer and strategist, but I also have a couple of blogs on the side I continue working on, and one day, I hope to publish a fiction novel. I earned $210,000 last year and I worked less than full-time hours each week. I don't track my hours, but if I had to guess, I'd say I worked 4 hours a day.
The biggest jump in my salary was from $48,000 to $135,000. During this year, I lasered my focus on which clients I wanted to work with and really carved out a niche for myself.
My biggest client was one I got through cold-pitching. Typically, I find a lot of freelancers hate the idea of cold pitching but I love it. It doesn't need to be a painful experience and can be as simple as reaching out to a company you love with a very short email asking if they need help, and letting them know how you can help them.
I'd say there are two. The first is being reliable. It sounds so intuitive, but I've spoken to lots of people who hire freelancers and their biggest complaint is that freelancers are flaky. If you're reliable, you'll continue getting more and more work and won't need to worry about finding new clients each month. Clients don't want to let go of reliable freelancers!
My second is taking on any job (within scope) that my clients need help with. My clients know they don't need to go looking for other freelancers to help with odd jobs because I'm always willing to take them on. These tasks are always within content, but they might not be something that I do on a regular basis. For example, updating meta titles and descriptions for 50 blog posts.
When I notice my workload getting a bit light, I send my clients a message and ask if there's anything they need help with, and they almost always have something they're happy to pass onto me. It works perfectly because it's easier for them to pass off tasks to someone they trust, and I end up earning a bit more income without spending time pitching new clients. I also suggest tasks to my client if I notice any bottlenecks in our processes, and I offer to take on some additional work to streamline things a bit more. Again, it's an easy way for my to increase my monthly income + workload without needing to go out and find new clients.
Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. It's very textbook-y, but it was by far the most valuable book I've read. I re-read it every year and recently purchased a workbook that goes along with it so I can actively re-read it this year.
For any writers who want to focus on conversion-focused copy, I highly recommend Breakthrough Advertising. It's the most expensive book I've ever purchased, but worth every penny.
I've never had a mentor or coach.
The biggest skills that help me thrive at work is setting boundaries, both personally and professionally. I take time off and make sure to separate work from life. I communicate my hours with clients so they know when they can get ahold of me (and when I'll respond back) so I don't feel like I'm being overwhelmed by requests from clients who live in different time zones.
I also never take on too much work. I know that I'm a terrible writer when I'm stressed, so I don't overwork myself.
Ask yourself what your skilled at and go from there. For example, I'm not that great at managing other people. It's just not something I enjoy doing, and when I was strategizing about ways to scale my businesses, I knew that turning into an agency was absolutely off the table for me.
Instead, I decided to improve my skills, raise my rates, and work with higher paying clients on longer term projects.
But if you're skilled at management, you may find that you're better suited for scaling up to six-figures via an agency.
I'm a white woman living in Calgary, Canada.