$100K Club

Senior Content Strategist earning $120,000/year

Jimmy Daly
March 11, 2019

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.

What was your first full-time job in content? What was the salary?

In 2007, I was the managing editor of a corporate publication for $40,000 at 24 years old.

I was brought on board as a junior copyeditor and copywriter at a fintech company. I got my start in magazine publishing and worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper before that, my writing and editing chops were becoming more well-known the longer I stayed.

One day - I'm not joking - a C-suite executive said, "Hey, I went to another <similar company's> headquarters, and they had a corporate magazine on the coffee table. Do you think you could make one of those?"

And thus, I started a thought leadership digital and print publication, which ultimately ended up being a huge part of the company's account-based marketing strategy. But in 2007, I was flying blind and being paid more in opportunity than in money.

List out your income by year for as long as you've been working in content marketing.

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How much do you earn today? What's your job title?

$120,000: Senior content strategist in the fintech industry working in sales enablement content creation and strategy.

What's the single biggest salary jump you've made? (either from job-hopping or a promotion/raise)

Promotion from $60,000 to $90,000. My publication was gaining a lot of momentum at the time and I think the company finally realized the value of what I was doing, after basically a decade. I also wasn't measuring anything up until that point, so it was hard to quantify the value.

What is your most valuable skill?

  • Collaboration. If any qualified expert in our industry showed interest in writing, I was very enthusiastic about working with them. I would help clarify their idea and assist them in creating a stellar piece that contributed a unique point of view with actionable information a reader could put to use right away. The way I see it is that any ally in creation is an ally in promotion. Every person who got a byline in our publication was then a champion of our efforts internally and externally. And don't underestimate having champions internally.
  • Consistency. Not every weekly article was a banger. But we showed up week after week week and the collective effort added up to much more than any one individual post. Don't agonize over it, or you'll never get it out. Ship it, and let the market tell you how to tweak it next time.
  • Humanity. This is a bit controversial, but I find if you rely too heavily on data, it will result in a poor outcome. To put it another way, if you try to validate your thinking with metrics before you've even experimented, or if you are so obsessed with attribution that you lose sight of good storytelling, your content sucks.

When we considered a blog post, I basically approached it through two factors.

  1. Was I personally interested in it? Did it reach or move me as a human being?
  2. Did it map back to a business priority? Was it something our sales team or account reps could use to showcase expertise in our industry and then potentially meander their way over to a discussion about a specific product?

It needed to satisfy those two requirements, but once those boxes were checked, it was liftoff.

What's the best book you've ever read on writing, marketing, sales, business or productivity? (Feel free to suggest more than one!)

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink. I once read a quote from Roderick Jefferson that basically says sales is the sun, and the farther away you get from the sun, the colder it gets. Sometimes as a marketer it's easy to lose sight of what your job should enable, so I loved this book for how thoughtfully it explored the "sales mindset" but also basic human psychology.

Obviously Awesome by April Dunford. Remember in the 90s when you found out a child actor could sing? Or you'd see a singer from the radio randomly star in a movie? They called it a "double threat," and it was unthinkable at the time, but now it's just how things are for performers.

That's basically what it's like today to find somebody who can nail product positioning and content marketing -- an unstoppable combo. This book will make you better at product positioning through a time-tested, repeatable formula.

Have you had a career mentor/coach? If so, how did you find them and what have you learned from them?

I've had a number of wonderful mentors over the years, typically my manager, but only recently did I start working with a career coach. She gave me some stellar advice about making sure my needs are met in a role.

When you have a plant, and it needs a certain amount of water or sunlight, you don't judge it. It just "is." One plant just needs an hour or two of sunlight a week. Another plant needs almost constant sunlight. Some plants drown immediately if you overwater them. Others can accommodate and moisture and soak it up.

Self-awareness means identifying what kind of plant you are. Maybe you thrive on a team-driven, consensus-building approach. Maybe you need autonomy and a culture of radical trust. Maybe you need to block off your calendar for four hours a day to write. Maybe you need to have your manager on a Zoom to work alongside you in silence so you can feel like you're in an office. (I hope not, but hey, you do you.)

Once you know what type of plant you are and you've identified your needs, don't judge yourself. Be brave enough to seek out a company that's going to let you thrive. If you need radical autonomy, you're going to shrivel in an environment where you need to get three layers of approvals. If you are used to being friends with everyone at your job, you're going to not thrive where everybody is all business and then just shuts their laptops for the night.

Just figure out what kind of plant you are and create an environment that best suits you. Your growth is inevitable!

What skills or habits help you thrive at work?

Figuring out to harness relationships to get work done.

I've gone back and forth and back and forth about how close to get to people at work.

In a previous role, some of my very best friends were on my same team. I was extremely close with my manager. And I think it hindered my professional growth in a way, because when we would have our 1 on 1s I would just want to ask what she was doing that weekend, or how her pets were doing. Or unprofessionally vent about who was making my life hard that week. The boundary was non-existent. And I stayed a job way too long after I outgrew it because I loved the people.

Then in my next role, the people I worked with were strictly business. They wanted to join the calls, not really say hi, immediately jump into the task at hand, create 10 new ones just to gain visibility, and then hop off the call without any pleasantries. That made me feel psychologically unsafe to the point that my creativity and motivation was diminished. And one could argue I jumped ship from that job too quickly, where greater professional benefits would have been realized later on if I were a little savvier. But I couldn't stay, because I didn't find the relationships satisfying.

The sweet spot for me lies somewhere in the middle. Earlier in my career, I wouldn't realize that I was skewing too far over to one end of the spectrum, and now I am very aware of the fact that I should be a relationship centrist. For me, relationships are incredibly motivating...or not. My day-to-day team is my tailwind or headwind. It's up to me to realize how to harness that for the best possible results -- both for my company and for the people around me.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to join the $100k club?

Honestly, I would say get into a niche industry. I've loved being a big fish in a small pond, and I've gotten so many opportunities I otherwise would not have if I were part of a more mainstream landscape.

I also think B2B content marketing is an incredibly exciting space right now. The market is basically begging for content marketers who are willing to think differently, speak differently (aka like a human) and use unconventional channels and methods to reach regular people who happen to be at work and turn them into educated, high-intent buyers. It's super exciting.

Where do you live? What is your gender and ethnicity?

I'm a white female living in Chicago, Illinois.

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