10 years ago, no one told our Director, Megan, about Content Marketing…
“Ever since I was little, I used to love thinking up ideas for adverts – TV, radio, film; it seemed so fun, so glamourous – but when it came to navigating entry to that industry, I had no idea and school teachers don’t have all the answers to every niche job journey. I loved watching films and TV shows, and stumbled across a Film & Media course at Stirling University which sounded right up my street.
I was really jaded with school; fifth year and Highers totally drained me. I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer, so why did I feel the pressure to work myself to the bone for five ‘A’s that I wouldn’t need? Instead, I applied early for University and got a deferred place at the end of my fifth year. I happily waved goodbye to Meldrum Academy and headed into my ‘gap year’, which was a year of full-time employment.
Having worked part-time since I was 13, I hoped my good work ethic would land me an Office Junior role for the next 12 months, to allow me to get experience and save for Uni. I applied for a few jobs online and got a response from Thorpe Molloy Recruitment about a junior admin role. I went in for a meeting, and was asked if I’d like to come back and be interviewed for an in-house role in recruitment administration. Their funky bright orange walls completely sucked me in, and I thought that it seemed like a pretty cool place to work. I’d work there for the full year before University and learned so much – in fact I almost didn’t go to University at all because I loved it so much, but Directors Karen and Jude said I would regret it if I didn’t go, so off I went…
The next four years were some of the best of my life. I made friends for life, spent far too much money, lived in awful accommodation and learned about the media industry. I had 100% made the right decision to study in Stirling. I graduated with a 2:1 and was then terrified about the prospect of finding a full-time job in the field. There were about 30 students on the course – all competing for the same roles. I was lucky enough to be able to turn my part-time University job at Laura Ashley into a full-time Supervisor role and during that time, I landed some great work experience placements at Raise the Roof Productions and Tanami. Then, six months after graduating I got a phone call from Austria…
I applied for A LOT of jobs in those six months, and to this day, do not remember applying for a job at Red Bull TV, but someone in HR at Red Bull called me in November 2016 and invited me to a Skype interview. I was offered the job as a Junior Producer Intern and five weeks after my interview, I was on a plane to Salzburg to work at one of the world’s best brands.
In all honesty, I struggled with the language barrier and for someone who loves being away from home, I was surprisingly homesick. At the end of my contract, I decided that living abroad wasn’t for me, so I flew back to Scotland. Once home, I had big dreams of heading south to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester or even London, but (spoiler alert) that never happened. I went to work in-house at Eat on the Green, a small, luxury restaurant in Aberdeenshire as their Marketing Exec and quickly realised that social media was my thing. I loved it. I loved the instant response you got from followers, if something was working, if it wasn’t. I also loved being able to create high-quality content from a small budget and see amazing results.
My background in production meant I could create content that most Junior Marketing roles wouldn’t allow for. One year after returning home from Austria, I took the plunge into freelance life. I’d been approached by a few family friends about helping their businesses with social media support, and with no mortgage to pay or children to look after, I thought there was no better time. I had previously registered Xana Creative as a business in September 2017 (shortly after coming back from Austria) as a ‘what if?’ dream, but it became a reality in July 2018 when I sent out my first invoice. And the rest (as they say) is history…
To sum up, here are my top lessons learned in my ten years since leaving school:
Be nice to everyone, and connect with them on LinkedIn (if you can)
I still have connections from my time at Thorpe Molloy and I’ve won work from those connections a decade later.
Work out your minimum effective dose
At the risk of sounding like Tim Ferris, don’t work your butt off unless you have to! I’m not a straight-A student, because I didn’t need to be. I found out what the next step of my career ladder required, and did what I had to to get there. No more, no less. I didn’t spend every waking hour studying while I was at University, I enjoyed other activities such as being the President of the Drama Society, which taught me a bunch of other lessons.
Just because you find it easy, doesn’t mean it is
Imposter syndrome alert! I think making videos and managing social media channels is easy(ish), but not everyone does – that’s why I have a job. Remember that everyone isn’t good at everything, and you’ll be better at some things than other people.
Going it alone is tough…
I realise I was incredibly fortunate to be able to take the risk and go freelance – not everyone is. I had no financial responsibilities and lived with my parents rent-free while I was starting up. I made virtually no money in my first year and barely took a salary. It’s also incredibly risky – you are responsible for making every single penny that you earn and that is pretty draining.
…but incredibly rewarding
I work for myself, which means I put in place my own workplace rules. I start and finish when I like and get to choose what projects I work on. Now that I have a team, I’m able to create a working environment that is fun and relaxed – somewhere I would like to be employed.
Whatever results you get in education, don’t let them define you. Hard work and foresight will get you where you want to be, not just grades on a piece of paper.”