I’ve always been a writer. When social media exploded in the mid-oughts, it seemed a natural next step. Blogger, MySpace, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus… It’s been an evolution for sure, and while I was writing and posting blogs, it didn’t occur to me that I was teaching myself content marketing.
When I got myself hired as a content writer for a Web site in 2009, my blogging experience was important, but not enough. The learning curve from blogger to professional content marketer was steep, but not impossible.
In 2011 that job ended. The site I was working for had taken some bad advice and decided that original content wasn’t going to be a focus for them. My opinion at the time was that that wasn’t a smart move, but I wasn’t the decision-maker and so I found myself at the Department of Labor.
You’ve probably heard, and it’s certainly all over the Internet, that it’s easier to get a job if you have a job already. In the summer of 2011, Monster.com had noticed that some employers were filtering out people whose employment status was currently unemployed. I figured I couldn’t let that happen to me.
So my skills included blogging, content marketing, social media community building, and some WordPress Web design. I’m not a programmer, but I can fiddle and fuss my way through by trial and error if I need to.
Within a couple of weeks of losing my job, I had spent a chunk of my last pay check on registering an LLC, and had bought a year’s worth of Web hosting and a domain name, and some image credits at iStockPhoto.com. I figured that if I was going to be looking for jobs and would probably have some time on my hands, so I may as well build a Website for my pretend company (which didn’t have an clients or employees) give myself the job title I wanted so that when potential employers saw it I’d have a shot at getting hired. The About Us section was populated with the bios of friends who could, if I needed them to, vouch for my skills. The only things that were real on the site were me, my writing, and the statement of services I’d offer as a freelancer.
By the time I had been on the unemployment rolls for six weeks, I had more than a dozen blog posts on the site, an active Twitter profile, and was working on an e-book about content marketing, which I made available for anyone to download. Through some good SEO practices, I was showing up in the first couple of pages of Google search for “Atlanta marketing company.”
That’s when the phone rang the first time. A friend of a friend had seen my Web site, liked it, and wondered if I could do some marketing for their business. I interviewed them and tried to exude that “I don’t need you as much as you need me” confidence. They asked how much it would cost and I told them a number that even I thought was high, expecting that they’d haggle. They didn’t. I was stunned.
That gig lasted a month, and I made sure I kept up with my blogging on my pretend company site. When that job ended I was offered jobs writing content for newsletters, and even ghost-wrote a cover letter for a guy who was applying to be venue manager for a major sports venue. It was good to get my name out there, but it was still a lot of work for not much reward.
The writing kept me going for a while, and I added some work creating WordPress sites, or starting and seeding Facebook and Twitter accounts for local businesses. Old contacts asked me to advise them on social media matters in exchange for a bio on their site that named me as a social media expert. Then, after almost a year of getting just enough small contracts to get by, I was hired by a TV show, which I still do social media marketing and content writing for. Around the same time, the company that had let me go a year earlier called me and re-engaged with me to help with their content problems (it was hard not to say “I told you so”), and in the last month three other companies have decided I’m the guy to work with.
Suddenly the business I created to make it look like I was employed…was paying my bills.
So what’s the point of all this? I guess the point is that if there’s something you want to do, whether it’s portait painting, or stand-up comedy, or even content marketing, find the parts of that job that you do well, identify the parts you need to practice, and work on it. All of it. At some point, someone who’s in a position to help you with your dream will find you and lift you up.
Just be sure that when you’re climbing the ladder to reach back and pull someone else up with you.