February 27, 2023 Content Chat Recap: A Real Look At Building Your Early Public Relations and Content Career Outside the 9-to-5

A Content Chat header image that says today’s topic is Live LinkedIn Profile Reviews and Recommendations for Content Marketers with guest Erika Heald, who is @SFerika on Twitter.

It’s natural for many communicators—marketers, content creators, public relations pros—to start and spend most of their careers in a traditional 9-to-5 role. Others of us, however, have found the advantages of freelance work to be too good to pass up and a natural evolution of our career—after we learned how to overcome the many challenges of freelancing, that is.

In this #ContentChat recap, Erika and I provide a real look at building your early public relations and content career outside the 9-to-5. We reflect on how and why we changed career paths, share lessons learned in building our freelance networks, and detail the strategies that have helped us thrive as consultants. See my brief answers below — we discussed each of these questions in-depth on a LinkedIn Live audio conversation—listen to the recording here.

Q1: What did you want to be when you grew up?

A1: As a kid, I dreamed of being an actor when I grew up. I never pursued that, however, because a.) I’m not part of an acting family and b.) I lacked the resources to make that dream a reality. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A1: I wanted to be a chef, and I did get to live that dream for a while. Now, I’m starting to create food content and write about food!#ContentChat https://t.co/ns2aCYqDei

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 27, 2023

Q2: What did you go to school with the intention of doing?

A2a: I entered college intent on majoring in public relations, because that’s what a friend from high school recommended I do (I was impressionable). I started as a communications major but switched to journalism so I could have my “option” in PR. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A2b: I loved my college experience, and attending Chico State connected me with a vast network of alumni that have helped me at literally every step of my career. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A2: I intended to be a ballet dancer. I almost turned professional. But I got a lot out of not making it as a professional too.#ContentChat https://t.co/1Mklc6xKSB

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 27, 2023

Q3: What caused you to leave the traditional 9-to-5 employee career path?

A3a: My transition to freelance work was abrupt. I was burnt out and struggling w/ mental health issues, and I knew I needed to leave SF.

So, I met w/ HR one morning in 2018 and said that I will either work remotely now, or I was submitting my two-week notice. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A3b: Luckily, my company was willing to accommodate my change and I immediately switched to a contractor position. Due to my immaturity, though, I did not realize they gave me a rate that was likely the lowest they paid any of their freelancers. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A3: The COVID-19 pandemic made me want to be an entrepreneur. I graduated with two BAs, but I knew I was not going to find work.#ContentChat https://t.co/BAGquIJTtW

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 27, 2023

Q4: What surprised you most about your career journey?

A4: I never expected to get into content marketing. I thought I was an OK or good writer, but my PR bosses would heavily rewrite most things I wrote—without any explanation or coaching—so I started to believe I was a bad writer. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A4: That I absolutely LOVE to write! I knew I had a knack for it in school. I got all As on my papers. I know writing online is different, but I find the writing skills I learned are easily transferable.#ContentChat https://t.co/7IJg3wAk4a

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 27, 2023

Q5: How have you built your freelance or consultant work?

A5: My network has fueled my consultant work. After my main client (previous employer) ended all consultant relationships, I reconnected with several past colleagues (like Erika!) and started taking on new accounts. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A5: I’m still working on finding clients, but I’m networking, cold emailing, and applying for gigs on places like @LinkedIn and @indeed. I built my portfolio through the Freelance Accelerator course from SmartBlogger.#ContentChat https://t.co/Jsr2kzgQtX

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 27, 2023

Q6: What challenges have you overcome to build a stable career as a contractor?

A6: I’m genuinely surprised I’ve sustained my work for this long, especially since I never had a plan for it—it just happened. There have been many challenges, all of which reinforce the need to keep growing your network and have a plan A, B, and C. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A6: I’m genuinely surprised I’ve sustained my work for this long, especially since I never had a plan for it—it just happened. There have been many challenges, all of which reinforce the need to keep growing your network and have a plan A, B, and C. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A6: I’m still developing a stable career, but it looks like things are starting to look up!#ContentChat https://t.co/j5AGbSuc3L

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 27, 2023

Q7: How would you respond to a manager or a client who objects to you having a freelance gig or a side hustle?

A7: If a manager or client objects to me having a freelance gig or side hustle, I’d likely need to end that relationship (unless they are willing to pay for my full-time services). #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A7A: Agree 💯. Always look out for new opportunities. Happy Monday guys 💕👋#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) February 27, 2023

A7: I’m clear with clients from the get-go that I’m a freelancer. However, if there are any concerns, I am happy to have a conversation about them#ContentChat https://t.co/F2NSplP0Ii

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 27, 2023

Q8: What advice would you share with someone considering becoming a content marketing or public relations freelancer?

A8: If you’re considering becoming a #contentmarketing or #publicrelations freelancer, I recommend:
– Raise your rates each year
– Trust your gut; don’t work with clients that feel iffy
– Build a network of complementary service providers#ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A8b:
– Ask your network about opportunities, and build a deep relationship with 2-3 different agencies or consultancies
– Save a sample of every type of work you’ve created
– Regularly catch up with other freelance friends to vent and trade ideas#ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 27, 2023

A8: There’s no such thing as an overnight success. You need to keep hustling and keep working. Find a way to work smart though because it can be easy to burn out. #ContentChat https://t.co/yybaMw3Rww

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 27, 2023

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