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 us.
I started working as a Content Writer with a $45,000 salary.
That was my first job after dropping out of a PhD in the humanities, and the pay was a lot more than my grad school stipend. It was maybe equivalent to a modest postdoc in the field I was leaving—even an assistant professorship in a low cost-of-living area.
I now make $114,000 as a full-time Head of Content. That's about four times my PhD stipend, which wasn't even bad by the standards of my discipline!
My current company does things is a little idiosyncratically: our department heads are leveled internally. So I actually got one of those internal promotions around my one-year mark—going from something like a "Content Manager" to an "Associate Director of Content," according to our internal schema. That came with a pay bump. My pay increased again six months after that promotion, thanks to a COLA adjustment.
Jumping from $45,000 to $70,000 was the biggest pay bump I've had. This took going from a content writing role at a European startup to an SEO role at a bigger American company.
Skills-wise, it was a pretty smooth transition—I'd already been doing a fair amount of SEO and strategic work while nominally employed as a content writer. By the end of my time at that role, I was reporting on SEO performance and presented those findings to the C-suite; identifying underperforming content and making recommendations for improving it; and conducting keyword research. I also wrote (and ranked) my own pieces without being provided a content brief, meaning I could easily create briefs for other people.
I should say that I've always had a tendency to scope-creep myself—to a degree that's actively irrational given my compensation. I really do think it stems from all my time as a student, when I was super alienated from the conception of my productive effort as "labor."
Even when I work for very understanding and humane bosses, as I do currently, I put an unreasonable amount pressure on myself to produce. I wouldn't recommend doing things this way, and I'm trying to be better. But I can't deny that being an irrational, self-exploiting workaholic has helped me learn and level up quickly.
I'm a quick study. That means I'm good at sounding relatively native in other people's professional idioms—whether I'm talking to an engineer whom I need to build something for me, or a subject-matter expert I'm consulting for an article.
It's also allowed me to go from teaching college sophomores about The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 to analyzing Google algorithm updates in a few years.
This might sound weird, but it probably has to be Lauren Groff's The Matrix. It's this historical fiction novel about Marie de France, the pseudonymous author of these wild twelfth-century narrative poems that feature adultery, werewolves, and other fun stuff.
The way Groff depicts her turns the whole book into a great primer on people management and leadership in general. I almost exclusively read fiction and memoirs, so every other recommendation I could make would probably also be in this vein!
I've never had a formal mentor, but I've benefited a lot from peer networks! I'm still in touch with colleagues from former jobs. We trade insights on content strategy and share high-level happenings on algorithm updates. I've even commissioned some of them for freelance writing, editing, and strategy work.
I document everything that I would otherwise have to say twice. I'm also a big believer in messy working docs (that you then clean up if they coalesce into a repeatable process or strategy).
You know how a lot of people claim most meetings could be emails? I don't believe that. I think most meetings could—and should—be editable docs.
To foster collaboration without wasting people's time, you need some kind of mechanism for efficient back and forth. Docs are perfect for that. You can work on them live, but you don't have to. In fact, you often should front-load some of the thinking in doc form before pulling people into a call. That way, your "in-person" time is as productive as possible.
When you're job-hunting, don't worry so much about the titles you've held in the past. Think about the actual work you've done, and how you can reframe it. This is especially helpful for people who are in the position I was in a few years ago: trying to transition out of the academy, when their doctoral training was in something that doesn't scream "industry job."
Also, you should work hard but always be willing to walk away—from a current job, a potential job, or an entire industry. Sometimes, this will be a lie you have to tell yourself, but try to believe it.
Psychologically, being willing to leave makes you very powerful—even if materially, you're not always in a position of strength.
I'm an Asian woman living in Minneapolis, MN.