How to Get the Content Marketing Job You’ve Always Wanted

It was impossible for me to dream of being in content marketing when I grew up because content marketing didn’t exist. Blogs didn’t exist. High speed Internet didn’t exist. (Yay, modems!)

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All this came into being after I had already grown up and after I had walked down a career path (journalism!) or two (veterinarian!).

I came into content marketing thanks to the generosity, patience, and grace of others.

Looking back on it now, I feel incredibly fortunate to be in this position—and completely open to sharing every little detail of how I got there.

Are you interested in getting into content marketing? I hope you’ll find some helpful tips here.

(First, a bit of context. I am incredibly fortunate to do content for Buffer, one of the best SaaS tools out there. My background is in print journalism: I spent several years on the sidelines of football games, charting stats and working on deadline. Now I have the amazing privilege to work from home, write all day, and help out with all types of new and exciting marketing opportunities for Buffer.)

Overview: Content Marketing Jobs (and Where to Find Them)

Content marketing covers a really wide range of topics and ideas. It’s not only writing blog posts (though that’s often the first thing that comes to mind for me).  Jay Acunzo has this great definition:

Content marketing is solving the same problem or conveying the same emotion as your product, using media you create and distribute.

And yes, this often includes writing blog posts.

It can also include content strategy, editorial, promotion, outreach, social media, video, podcasting, and on and on. If there’s a piece of content to be created, it likely falls to a content marketer to figure out a way.

Still, with the myriad of tasks that could be involved in a content marketer’s day, the true north for content is writing. 

If you love to write, you’ll love a job in content marketing.

How much can you make as a content marketer?

The folks at Payscale.com have a really neat system to show the pay range for a variety of content jobs. Looking at content marketing managers specifically, this is what Payscale shows:

  • U.S. average -$47,000 per year

This salary is the 50th percentile, nationwide, for folks with three to five years experience. There’s a lot of fluctuation in play, for sure—things like industry (tech/startups tend to pay higher), location (big cities tend to pay higher), experience (the more time, the more you earn).

payscale average for content marketer

Happy to share what I earn, too: I started at $66,000 and have since grown to $96,000.

Where can you find content marketing jobs?

Here’s a quick list of some of my favorite places to look, a lot of which cover remote jobs for writer, too.

Freelancers:  SkillBridge | Upwork | Guru

Sound interesting?

I’d love to share how my personal journey unfolded into a content marketing job and to help with any tips I can to help you find the dream job, too. (Happy to answer questions on Twitter, too!)

1. Try, fail, Grow, Try Again

The incredible lessons you’ll learn about yourself when at first you don’t succeed

The first time I applied for a content job at Buffer, I was a fresh-faced marketer with no portfolio, little experience, and no proven track record of anything having to do with the place I wanted to work. I didn’t get the job.

thought I might get the job. Are you familiar with the idea that I didn’t know all the many things I didn’t know? That was me to a tee.

At the time, I thought I could totally hack it in a content role, and that whatever I didn’t know (lots!) I could quickly pick up. And yeah, maybe I could have, eventually, but how was the Buffer team supposed to know what I thought in my heart of hearts that I was capable of?

I didn’t get the job, but I did get the nicest rejection letter ever.

And the letter is what encouraged me to continue. It wasn’t a “no, not now, not ever,” it was a “let’s stay in touch in case anything changes down the road.”

I decided then and there that the thing that could change was me.

Trying and failing, especially in a job hunt, had the potential to send me spiraling into a pit of self-pity. But pushing beyond that, it also helped me be keenly aware of the places that I possibly didn’t measure up. And I didn’t even need to ask. I could figure it out on my own.

I needed to …

  • Improve my writing
  • Publish more stuff online
  • Learn more about content marketing
  • Network with people in the industry
  • Grow my personal brand
  • Study and research the company and the people I wanted to work with

I was short on all these areas, and getting rejected made me realize where I could focus my energy to improve.

2. Always Be Learning

The importance of having a playground

During this time, I was the owner-operator of a silly, snarky sports blog. And on that blog, I was able to learn and test every possible little thing about content marketing: headlines, SEO, content design, intros, conclusions, images, content types.

The blog was my side project, and it was my playground.

Similarly, at my day job, I had the loose title of marketing associate, which gave me the leeway to pursue new marketing areas when my day-to-day tasks were finished. So I built a WordPress site and learned about the insides of blogs. I added some skills in email marketing. I downloaded Gimp and taught myself how to create images from scratch. I followed the trail for every little thing that intrigued me that was possibly related to what I loved: Content, communication, messaging.

This was playground #2.

And then I started a brand new blog, one on email marketing. I started it from absolute scratch and was able to put to use every single one of the lessons I had learned and the bookmarks I had saved. And in starting this blog, I started using Buffer all the time (one of Buffer’s asks for potential new teammates).

This was playground #3.

Why all the playgrounds?

I didn’t realize it at the time and it definitely wasn’t intentional, but I had stumbled into this psychologically powerful system of building the very skills I would need to pursue the content marketing job I knew I wanted.

In a post on Medium, Hiut Denim Co talks about their three rules of side projects:

1. They don’t have to provide you with a living. You can still eat if they fail.

2. They don’t have a deadline. And as there is no time pressure, you don’t revert to your usual formula. You try new things. You experiment. You take risks.

3. This is a Labor of Love. You provide the ‘Labor’. And you provide the ‘Love’. So when you spend time on it, it is because you really want to. That keeps you coming back and pushing it on.

Low pressure, low risk, and lots of love. This is exactly what these playgrounds were for me, and they allowed me to build my skills and flourish in a safe environment before taking things into the wild.

3. Write, write, write

Write every day—it’s true! it works!

All these playgrounds were fantastic and fun, yet I still had the main goal sitting in front of me: I wanted a content marketing job, and the key part of the job was going to be writing content.

So I wrote.

I wrote every day and in every way. I wrote articles at work, I wrote blog posts for my sports blog, I wrote guest posts for just about anyone (more on this below), I wrote emails and subject lines.

I wrote 2,000 words per day, minimum. Often much more.

I didn’t keep all of them. Many were tossed into the slush pile, never to be used.

But what I learned in writing so much was that I could write fast, organize my thoughts, and feel good about publishing often.

In product development, there’s a concept of shipping often, which is basically a mantra to get your new features and improvements out there for people to use and to get feedback on.

Seth Godin has some great advice on shipping. Facebook has shipping (moving fast, no fear) built into the culture.

facebook mantra ship fast

The same is true for writing.

Get your stuff out there so that you can get feedback on it and improve.

Get used to publishing often and publishing in whatever way you can.

I set myself up on a once-per-week guest post schedule, which was key for helping me keep consistent with my writing and to keep improving. The main reason I landed on this frequency was that I wanted to be able to answer the question: “What have I done today to get closer to where I want to be tomorrow (Buffer!)? ” Shipping often was the best answer I could give.

4. Guest post

The quick-and-simple guide to guest blogging

  1. Identify a blog where you’d like to write.
  2. Research the types of articles they publish, the topics, the length, the depth
  3. Choose something to write
  4. Write the entire post
  5. Reach out to the blog and share what you’ve written
  6. If they don’t want it (or don’t reply), pitch your story elsewhere

(Alternately, read Greg Ciotti’s excellent post on guest posting strategies.)

I really feel that #4—“Write the entire post”—was so key for me. I think it’s probably the one piece of advice that might be most counterintuitive here, too.

Tbh, few people will recommend this as a route.

Many have found guest blogging success by pitching ideas for stories before they’re written, and I imagine that could have worked for me as well.

But I found that pitching a fully written story had a number of great benefits:

  1. It showed I can write! The editor got to see a full picture of what they could expect with an article from me because, well, I gave them the full article!
  2. It provided content the site could use right away! When I manage guest post contributions now, it can sometimes take a month or two to get all the way to a finished story. With this method, I’m pitching something that is good to publish today!
  3. It showed I really want to write for you! This method showed that I was willing to put in many hours of work with no guarantee of being published. It’s perhaps a bit of a psychological tug on the mind of the editor, though that’s not quite intentional on my part!
  4. It kept me in the mode of writing content, instead of the mode of pitching ideas. Writing the full articles ahead of time allowed me to stay in that sweet spot of creating things, practicing my writing, honing my craft.

I think the big question that people might have with this are:

  1. What happens if you didn’t choose the right topic?
  2. What happens if they don’t want the story?

In both cases, my answer was that I’d still have a really great story to pitch elsewhere. Guest posting is all about trying, failing, succeeding, sometimes in a haphazard order. The work I did to write those articles was never wasted. In fact, it’s quite easy to pitch something to someone when the story is already all done!

[Tweet “Guest posting is all about trying, failing, succeeding, sometimes in a haphazard order”]

5. Network

Meet people who know people

My networking journey went a little like this:

–> Apply for a job at Buffer and not make it

–> Stay in touch with Leo who sent the ‘no’ reply

–> Guest post for Leo

–> Leo recommends me to Walter at idonethis

–> Social proof of guesting at Buffer and idonethis helps with outreach to other bloggers

–> Apply again at Buffer

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 1.22.35 PM

I had a rather small networking circle (I wasn’t fully on social media at the time either), yet it was enough.

Perhaps more importantly, it was the right circle.

My ultimate goal was to have a job at Buffer, a company I’ve adored and admired. And I figured that staying in close touch with Buffer and with similar companies in their space could be a really great thing.

If you have somewhere in mind that you might like to work some day, are they open to guest posting now?

If not, are there places similar to them that invite guest posts?

> If not, are there some really big sites you can write for to build your portfolio?

>> If not, can you write pretty much anywhere but do so in a style and voice that would fit with your dream site someday?

(And if none of these work, for sure start your own blog where you can write amazing content and link and reference all these amazing places you might like to end up someday.)

Summary

  • Try, fail – Use rejection as an opportunity to grow
  • Have a playground – Always be learning in a low-risk, low-pressure environment
  • Write, write, write – 2,000 words per day or more!
  • Guest post – Choose strategically, pitch comprehensively
  • Network – Get to know the people you’d love to work with some day

This is the path I’ve taken to my content marketing job at Buffer. I’m sure there’re hundreds/thousands of different paths as well! I hope some of the lessons I’ve learned here can be valuable for you, however you choose to move ahead with your path.

And when you find that dream content marketing job, I’d love to say congrats!

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I lead the marketing team at Buffer, a SaaS tool with a blog of over 1.2M monthly visits. Let me show you how we got there and how we plan to grow.

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