By Amy Kilvington, Contemporary Literature & Culture MA, The University of Manchester 2013
What do you do now Amy?
After completing my English degree at the University of Hull, I headed to Manchester to study my MA. I graduated with Merit in 2013, and now run my own business as a freelance copywriter and digital content specialist. My business, Naturally Content, launched just over 12 months ago. I offer a range of services to help brands communicate including copywriting, content strategy, social media and digital PR. I also provide consultancy and training packages to assist with clients’ in-house marketing teams.
What are you working on at the moment?
I currently work with a range of clients, including home furnishing brands, property developers, fashion websites and a mobile phone network. A big project at the moment is with a mobile phone network, which concentrates on student mobile phone trends. The team surveyed 2000 students to find out about their mobile phone habits, and then brought me in to help transform the survey into a really cool, interesting piece of content.
My tasks included fact checking, copywriting and copyediting, as well as advising on design. Once the content was ready to go live, I executed the PR strategy – contacting relevant news outlets and websites in order to gain coverage. I’m currently monitoring the campaign and identifying links, citations and social coverage, and reporting this back to the client.
So how did you get to this point in your career?
I always knew I wanted to be self-employed; through my final years at school and then university, when someone asked the big question, my answer was simple – I want to work for myself. Of course, this wouldn’t happen over night.
My digital marketing career began before I graduated from Manchester University. In between my spent time attending seminars, writing essays and planning my dissertation, I completed a few internships at publishers and digital agencies. I must have sent around 50 emails to businesses in the area, and I was lucky to get a handful of replies! One of the companies is Cognitive Publishing, who welcome work placements with open arms. I also wrote for the Manchester Review, an opportunity that arose from one of my tutors – he told our seminar group about the guest journalist position in our very first class, and I jumped at the chance!
I also set up a personal blog about beauty and nail art. What initially began as a creative outlet soon turned into a serious hobby, and I was lucky enough to be featured by industry giants, including Cosmopolitan UK, Models Own and elf Cosmetics. Though it never became a big money-maker, my blog helped me to succeed in different ways: I was invited to events, did plenty of networking, and was eventually offered my first full-time job as a Content Creator. My boss later told me that one of the reasons he employed me was because of my blog!
Marketing agency life is certainly exciting. One of the biggest benefits is the range of clients you get to work with. Unlike those that work client-side (on the marketing team for one company, for example), an agency marketer is involved with a vast range of clients that come to them for help. This means you can be working on ten different projects at any one time. For instance, a morning could be spent planning a social media calendar and responding to tweets, before writing a blog post for a client that sells artificial grass (true story!). A creative brainstorming session could then follow in the afternoon, before the last couple of hours are dedicated to designing an infographic for a motorsport news website (again, another true story!)
Despite the hard work and long hours, agency life is also very fun and sociable. If you get involved with the right sort agency, you can expect events on a weekly basis, whether that’s attending a dinner with a client, heading to an awards ceremony, or simply going for drinks with your colleagues. I really enjoyed my time working in this role, but after working my way up to Head of Content, I decided it was time to go solo. I started out with two small projects, which I had managed to gain through referrals from friends. A year later, I’m proud to have a portfolio of sixteen clients, and a business that has gone from strength to strength.
What are the highs & lows?
Of course, self-employment comes with its fair share of disadvantages. Chasing invoices and self-assessment are my two biggest bug bears – fortunately, one of those only occurs once a year (the other happens on a much more frequent basis!)
It took me a while to adjust to the inconsistency of freelance life, too, both in terms of workload and income. As each month goes by, however, I feel I’m gaining stability… though my schedule is still pretty unforgiving!
What training or experience are essential to get in?
A freelance copywriter and digital content specialist doesn’t necessarily need a degree, but I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without mine. My time at university honed my writing skills, forced me to self-motivate, and also boosted my confidence. All of these are skills I require on a day to day basis.
I believe that my balance of academic study, work placements and personal creativity was the perfect launch pad for my career, and I recommend all students looking to get into digital marketing (specifically content and social media) should seriously consider relevant internships and blogging. You’d be surprised at how many marketing agencies are delighted to have a student in for a week of work experience, or even just to help out with events and campaigns from time to time.
What about attitude, personality or interests?
As with any career, you should have a genuine interest in the industry. Internet usage growth and new technologies mean the digital landscape is constantly changing, so you’ve got to be willing learn and adapt on a regular basis. A digital marketer should also be creative – even if you’re looking for a more technical role, you’ll still require the imagination and resourcefulness to stand out from the crowd. That’s what the industry is all about, after all!
How have you found opportunities in this field?
Before I graduated from Manchester, I made enquiries about full-time positions. At that point in time, the job market was still pretty tough following the recession, so I had to make myself as available as possible. I contacted companies across the North, from Liverpool to Hull, introducing myself and enquiring about job opportunities. I also visited job sites on a daily basis! I attended two interviews before I’d even graduated, and while I was unsuccessful in both, I gained a few interview skills that would come in handy later.
The interview I eventually aced was all down to networking – both in terms of traditional networking, and social networking. I spoke to an old school friend that worked in recruitment, and she introduced me to a colleague that specialised in digital and media positions. We then met up and had a chat about the types of roles I was keen on. She passed my CV on to a company in the office below her, and two months later, a message dropped into my LinkedIn inbox from the Director. He invited me for an interview, and the rest is history.
What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?
My advice for someone looking for a career in digital marketing is pretty standard: work hard, get yourself out there, and try to offer something that sets you apart from the rest. This could be an additional MA on top of your Bachelor’s degree, a handful of work experience placements, or even a personal website or blog that shows demonstrable talent and a genuine interest in the industry.
If you’re dead set on the career path you want to follow (in my case, I always knew I wanted to create content), then that’s great; however, if your idea is more vague, then not to worry! Most entry level graduate positions in digital marketing involve a range of disciplines, including paid search, SEO and social media. Once you’ve tested the waters out for a while, you’ll have a better idea of which direction you want to go in, whether that’s a more specialist technical role, or client-facing position, like account management.
Students in Manchester with an interest in digital have an amazing opportunity nowadays. The city is now one of the UK’s biggest media hubs, thanks to the rise of Media City, which has helped the industry boom across the rest of the region. There’s no better time (or place) to get involved with digital marketing!