Oh, how time flies – before you know it, another year has passed. The Efficiently Effective podcast is now one year old! A year and 1.5 months to be exact, but let’s not be too fussy on the details. Let’s celebrate with a (different kind of) party: our party of one-episode!
In larger organisations, there’s often more than one person of a certain profession. For instance, there’s a team of developers and several designers. However, a lot of content strategists are working in situations where they are the only content strategist, both in small and larger corporations.
Being the only one of your professional kind in a team brings a lot of opportunities, but also quite some challenges. How do you make sure everyone on the team knows what you do, how you can help? Where do you start and what should you be aware of? And how do you build a team?
And then there are quite a few of us working on a freelance basis, which brings a whole other set of benefits and challenges. Convincing clients to work with you is one challenge, making sure the content strategy is fostered after you leave is another. However, the variety of contexts and assignments and the flexible working options are tremendous benefits.
Our guests Andy Welfle and Cameron Siewert, two amazing content strategists who know all about those struggles and benefits, will share their experiences and advice with you in this episode.
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This is Efficiently Effective a podcast about content strategy and user experience. I’m your host Saskia Videler.
In every episode, we talk with experts in the field, who share their knowledge and experience in content and UX.
The first Efficiently Effective podcast came out in March 2017 which means we are now one year old. Happy belated birthday to us. Hey, would you like to celebrate with us? You’re also welcome to join the party. We’d love to hear from you through Twitter Apple podcasts, or our website EfficientlyEffective.fm. You know every episode takes at least 15 hours to make. So, if you can spare a minute to let us know how we are doing that, really, really means a lot and it will also help other people find us.
This episode is very befittingly all about parties, although maybe not the celebratory kind, we’re gonna talk about parties of one – or one-person teams
We’ll discuss the challenges, but also the opportunities in working solo as a freelancer, and as an employee within a larger corporation, where you might be the only content strategist. You’ll meet content strategist Andy Welfle and Cameron Siewert, two amazing people I’ve met at Confab the content strategy conference that takes place in Minneapolis each year. They both have the experience of being a lone ranger in their department. Andy as an employee, Cameron as a freelancer. I will also try and share a few of my experiences as I am also a solo content strategist.
While we approach the party of one-theme from a content strategist’s perspective. I’m positive most things that we talk about also hold true for other professions. And if you’re working with content strategists, hearing their stories will help you understand them better.
Without further ado, time to introduce our guests. Cameron, would you go first?
Cameron: “Sure. My name is Cameron Siewert, I am a content strategist, copywriter, kind of all things content-person, I like to say. I own a solo online business called Contenterie and work with a variety of different businesses. Really mostly in the US, but I have some Canadian clients, so you know, I kind of work with people all over the place. And I also do some subcontracting as a content strategist for a variety of agencies. I’m based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”
Saskia: Before starting her business, Cameron worked as an employee in a team as a content strategist. Since 2013, she’s flying solo winner freelance business Contenterie. What were your first five years as a freelancer like, Cameron?
Cameron: “They have been really great. I tend to really enjoy kind of having the time to ideate solo and kind of having a lot of solo time to focus. So that was kind of my initial motivation for going freelance. I don’t know that I anticipated the challenges of doing content strategy solo quite in the way that I think. I’ve learned a lot about that. Since then, so I don’t think I knew quite how challenging that would be at first. But it’s been a really great learning experience. It sounds a little trite, but I think one of the biggest things that I’ve learned about working solo as a content strategist is just, really learning to trust your gut and kind of jump in and add what you have is input. What you’re seeing or the insights that you have, without kind of overthinking and feeling like you need to bounce them off other people.
That took me a little bit of time to get better at and a little bit of time to build the confidence to do, but it’s been extremely rewarding. I think in some ways, working solo really gives you a lot of leverage to be creative and, you know, to kind of think about how you want to approach content strategy for different clients in different ways. You don’t necessarily have to follow a formula ever but it’s much easier to kind of veer away from a formula when you’re working solo and you’re kind of approaching each new engagement with fresh eyes and you see: well this person kind of seems like they need a little bit more help with, you know, communicating with their team, or this person seems like they need a little bit more help with thinking through the structure of their content.
I work with small businesses other solo businesses who are kind of professionals who have worked in team environments. Maybe you’re starting their own business and you know are really wanting to be smart about how they’re communicating with their clients from day one. So that’s a very different approach to content strategy that’s a lot more about defining voice and how you want to be communicating with people and helping them sort of frame-up you know what are the ways that you can be helpful to the people you’re serving and get super specific about who you’re targeting and what types of content are going to serve those needs.
And I also have the opportunity to work with larger clients, so anyone from startup businesses who are growing and they’re kind of reaching out a high level of success, but they have never really been thoughtful about their messaging and their content and they kind of want to take a step back and do it right now that things are really going well for them – to larger businesses that just have a huge, huge mess of content. Oftentimes, they don’t know what to do with it and it’s kind of causing more headaches. And it is returning value and figuring out how to kind of sift through that and turn it around. That’s definitely something that I find really gratifying, jumping from engagement to engagement and being able to kind of tackle different types of challenges and really use my content strategy chops, or just my content strategy thinking in different ways.”
Saskia: Now let’s hear from Andy.
Andy: “I’m Andy Welfle, I am the lead UX content strategy at Adobe here in San Francisco. I started off at a little web agency in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I did a lot of like structuring of content, content management systems and modelling content for kind of small to medium-sized clients. After that, I joined the content strategy team at Facebook and moved out to California. It is a huge team and you had the sharpest tools and it was amazing and I love my team there. But I got an opportunity, a little over a year ago, to come and start a content strategy practice that Adobe design. So as a content strategist who is working alongside experienced designers to create content in the product. So that was an opportunity that was a little too good to pass up. So here I am, and I’ve been here ever since.
For about nine months I was the only one here, and it was really as mostly just trying to like, you know, establish a practice and get people to see the value of content strategy and to kind of understand why it was needed. Even if it was just one person among a huge, huge landscape of products.”
Saskia: “That sounds amazing but also possibly quite overwhelming. Tell me what was your first week like?”
Andy: “Haha, good question. So when I started my boss, Sean Harris – he’s the design Director in Charge of like central design Adobe design, so his team works on the icons and the brand as it is in the products. And he also manages the spectrum team which is the design system that Adobe uses. So it fit really well in there among all that, the content strategy practice. The first thing he told me was that my job was ‘to figure out what my job is’ and that’s fun, but also just kind of terrifying. You know, there’s a lot of ambiguity there and it took me a while to just really grasp that and jump in, but I feel like my first week was mostly just telling people who I was and what it is that I do and then just sort of like trying to make sure that they’re that they’re on board at least to try it out. I think that it Adobe everybody sort of understood that somebody who was thinking about the words and the product across everything was needed.
For a long time, Adobe products have been kind of built-in silos, like Photoshop and Illustrator, even though they’ve been together for decades in the same product suite, they feel like distinct products. Recently there’s been a push at Adobe to make sure that as we build out more centralized services like cloud storage and asset sharing, things like that, they want to make sure it feels like it’s coming from the same company. So this very big, very old software company is just trying to realign to feel a little bit more holistic and connect [the products] to each other. And I think when I started, talking about how I started, pointing out terms that are different between products and ways we can use language to just show consistency and to build understanding, I think that people were on board with the value of content strategy.
But it probably wasn’t until I started working – like I spent about six months on a product team just to try to figure out how the practice worked already, and how I can kind of fit into that practice. So there were a few pain points.
There are a few ways that you know designers and engineers work together where there has never been somebody thinking strategically about words from the beginning, so it’s a little bit of friction, but I everybody got on board with it. Everybody liked what I was they’re there to do and like that, you know, that was one less thing that they had to think about, right. I think things fell into place and I really felt kind of comfortable after just a few months doing this, even though there was still a whole lot of ambiguity and a lot of work to be done.”
Saskia: “Currently I am in a similar situation as Andy was in his first months. Trying to embed myself in an organization, getting people to understand what I do and trying to get things done. At the same time, proving the value of content strategy and myself. Having to explain and express the value of content strategy is not always easy. You often have to convince clients, how content strategy will help them. And even when you are ‘in’ you sometimes still need to convince them to go in a certain direction or invest in work that doesn’t have an instant return on investment.
Let’s start with convincing clients to work with you. Cameron. What is your tactic?
Cameron: “You know, I think the number one thing that holds true across all different types of clients is, I always we start by listening really asking them a lot of questions about what issues they’re dealing with, what they visualize as success, where they want to be and why they’re coming to me and asking me for help. And the reason I say that is because it’s really helpful to kind of hear the words that they use and how they talk about what they’re struggling with.
And then it’s really a matter of thinking about, not: how can I sort of sell them on specific services, but how can I bring my thinking to be helpful to them where they are and kind of reflects that back to them in their own words. So it’s funny: I think selling content strategy to people can often be very similar to practicing content strategy, it’s really kind of understanding the person that you’re that you’re talking to as best you can in a few initial conversations and understanding their needs and kind of how they’re thinking about their challenges and then framing what I offer and the value that I offer, in terms that you know reflects back how they talk about their challenges. I think as content strategists we can sometimes get a little bit preoccupied with trying to get people to understand what content strategy is and you know trying to kind of over explain and to get them to really grasp like what the discipline is all about, where it’s more powerful to get people on board. Whether that’s a new client or an internal stakeholder or just a team that you’re trying to get to include you, in really communicating your value in the terms that they’re grappling with.”
Saskia: “Using content strategy tactics to sell content strategy. Boom. Simple as that. And of course: using your content strategy powers to do good work and build your reputation.
It can be easy to get distracted, though. like Andy said before: he took a lot of time communicating his role in the company. Which not always feels as a productive thing to do -but it’s super important. Because it’s easy for people who are less familiar with content strategy to confuse you for an editor or a copywriter. And while a lot of content strategists, like the three of us, have a background in writing and or editing, we have an opinion on the Oxford comma and we don’t mind answering the occasional question on grammar or syntax, we do want to make clear we’re here for something else, something, maybe a bit more holistic.”
Andy: “What I usually told people – and I’m sure you’ve had discussions here before and I’ve certainly had these discussions – that my job at a product company embedded with a design team is very much, I would say it’s still 80% UX writing. So, we are primarily UX writers, but we do a lot of the strategy behind it as well. I feel pretty comfortable using the term content strategy, even though I think it’s such a broad term. Now, I think we’re ready to diversify a little bit, but at the same time, I think it’s easier to like you know give people resources and to recruit people if you say that you’re hiring a content strategist. I can get designers on board by just saying, we were not copywriters, we design with words. We use design thinking and design methodologies to write. And I think that makes something click with a lot of people. At least a lot of people here. I have a little narrative in my slide deck about the old days. Often at an average agency, there would be sort of this creative work and this writing work that would sort of happened in silos for an ad print. Like, you know, the iconic VW ad about ‘thinking small’ and you know they had a lot of art direction that was just very iconic and very important to it and they had a lot of words that you know happened at the bottom that fit with it. But those things happened in silos and didn’t really come together until the end, you know, the art director went to the copywriters and said, “Hey, fill the space with words.” And that’s how that happens. So, I think, you know, sometimes with design teams, even on digital products, that’s still the case. And when I tell people that a copywriter is to a graphic designer as a content strategist or UX writer is to a system designer. Usually, people get that a little bit more. We think in systems, we think about word systems. We don’t write a static block of content. People seem to be on board with that. I think it goes deeper than a lot of them realize. There’s still a lot of talk about Oxford commas and saying please and using voice and tone in a certain way. But when we start talking about taxonomy and information architecture and terms, things like that, and they can really see the value of like people who are thinking about language.”
Saskia: Oh man, I love those analogies: ‘we design with words’ and ‘a copywriter is to a graphic designer as a content strategist is to a systems designer’. Well, excuse me, I’m off printing a bunch of stickers with those quotes.
Andy had a strategy to communicate about his role from day one.
Andy: “Part of it is just doing it and showing people what you’ve come away with. And part of it is just, you know, getting them on board to see things from your perspective or, I should say, from my perspective. The very first things I did was, I guess, I went into campaign mode and just found as many meetings of managers and as many, many meetings of teams as I could. I already had a bunch of presentation resources put together from when I worked at Facebook. I was part of a team that talked to new hires, to designers and to content strategist and to user researchers, people in UX when they enrolled. When they started I gave a short presentation about what the Content Strategy Team is and what we’re here for and what we do. So, I already had a lot of good resources and rhetoric to use just explain to designers what it is that I’m here for. I adapted them for Adobe and I just went to this meeting and as many meetings of those people as I could and just gave that presentation.
I also tried to just make myself as open and available as possible for questions. Even before I got on a product team to try it out and to see how it worked. I established some office hours – I took inspiration for from Alaine Mackenzie from Shopify. I think she was the first content strategist at Shopify before they had the sizable team, they have now. And one of the things she told me is that she started office hours and we just have like, you know, open sessions every week. Some dedicated time so anybody could come to her with like a small problem and she made sure to let them know [she] can’t solve big problems here. I can’t solve problems that require me to go off and like work for a lot of time on this, but I can at least lead you through our thinking and maybe try to help solve some small problems here today. That was very successful I had and still have probably a couple people a week. Nowadays it’s tapered off a little bit since we have more coverage. But I honestly think that more so than helping people solve content problems, what really helped: it helped me establish relationships with people across the products. So I met people who work on Creative Cloud products, on Experience Cloud products (which are like our marketing analytics software on document cloud, which is PDF stuff) and in remote offices, too. So it helped me kind of like meet and build a rapport with a large number of people that I might not otherwise get to meet.”
Saskia: “Office hours… That’s something I’m going to try and my company as well. Right now I feel like I’m kind of in ‘push mode’ trying to advertise myself as a content strategist. Well, this sounds more like a pull method, having people come to you more organically.
I remember a talk by Nicole Fenton who worked at Facebook at the time about finding your allies in your organization and empowering them Nicole went as far as calling them FoCses: Friends of Content Strategy. Andy was at Facebook at the time and he has seen Nicole’s talk as well. “
Andy: “Yes, yes. We had a bunch of T-shirts with Foxes on them. Actually, it was kind of extra interesting because there are foxes who live at the Facebook campus in Menlo Park. You know, it’s a big sprawling campus and everybody kind of considered, if they ran into one of the foxes – if they were there in the morning or if they got caught a glimpse, it was kind of a lucky thing. So, I think it was just extra appropriate and symbolic to, you know, to give one of these t-shirts to a designer or PM or researcher – somebody who was an extra good friend to a content strategist. And it was always something that’s kind of like nice to do and just kind of like cemented your ally ship with them. So that’s a fantastic idea. I wonder if that’s something I can you know employ here.”
Saskia: “Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if there were more FoCses in it.
Now let’s talk a little bit more about the challenges and benefits of being a solo content strategy practitioner.”
Andy: “Yeah. The challenges being that you know some of it was I really just wanted to say yes all the time. I wanted to help out where I could and be part of stuff. I guess it’s a good problem to have. But one of my problems was that I just couldn’t affect as much as I wanted to and do as much as I wanted to. I also didn’t have the advantage of having sort of a collective brain trust of people that I could run stuff by if I was unsure. I mean, obviously I do I work with very smart people who have opinions and can help me out. But, you know, for example, at Facebook, when I was there, there were, between 50 and 100 of them. And now there’s 200, maybe. It’s a huge, huge team. Yeah, they’re really invested in this. But I always had somebody who had done something like this before and had some advice or we had a very mature, good set of standards and precedents that I could take away from.
I didn’t have any of that at Adobe. So, I feel like there was a lot of ambiguity in my role and kind of that is going back to my boss telling me “your first job is to figure out what your job is”. So much ambiguity. And at first it was intimidating, and it gave me a lot of questions, you know, who am I to decide what’s right here. I would find myself faced with a lot of decisions about how to proceed, that I wanted to do some research and talk to some other people and, form a mature opinion. But I was in a moment where it’s like, well, I have to decide: this is how we’re going to do it. Okay. And then just document that moves forward. But I think after I (sort of) became comfortable with ambiguity, or just understood it to mean that, oh hey, I have a lot of freedom to stretch my legs and to try stuff out and to experiment, it really became more of an interesting opportunity than a challenge. I had the freedom to try stuff out and to give advice to many different areas of the of the product and it was a lot of fun and I’m certainly not at any point where I’m like seriously affecting large scale directions of product content in product content language. But I I’ve certainly have been able to try my hand at a lot of different things and that can only come from something like that at a big established company like this.”
Saskia: As a content strategist -or any expert in an offbeat field for that matter- you need a specific mindset to keep you going. When your expertise, added value, or general usefulness are not too obvious to the entire team, you need stamina to keep fighting the good fight And perhaps be a bit adventurous, daring to dive in, join the conversations and explore the unknown.
In the end, you do want to make an impact. Leave the content situation in a better state than when you found it. You know, I feel it really helps to write down a mission statement for yourself to guide you in that thinking process when you have to make those choices or set those priorities.
Besides having a holistic ideal as a guidance, Cameron never underestimates the power of small actions.
Cameron: “I know this is very specific to working as a freelancer or consultant, but, rather than thinking about it as coming in and wowing everyone with your work and dropping the mic and leaving, I think coming in and still sort of figuring out how you can really just sort of give them that extra boost and kind of get some momentum going for the organization to then take and run with. And thinking about your value as sort of something that you know you want to have a long life with your client or with that business.
Some of the challenges can just be, you know, sometimes it can feel like you’re working in a vacuum. And you really kind of need somebody to bounce ideas off of.
I think as a content strategist often we’re bringing a mode of thinking that seems really obvious to us. But, to people and other disciplines, may be a little bit foreign and something that they’re not quite used to. Content strategy, well, I think it’s gained a lot of traction in the past decade. I think that it’s still not as widely understood as a lot of other disciplines, especially in the digital space (is usually where I’m working).
I think, a huge, huge part of working solo, and this goes to the point we were just talking about, is, finding those people that you can commiserate with and bounce ideas off of. But also, just really trusting that you know what you’re doing. You know as a content strategist, you’re thinking about things in a unique way. And in a valuable way that you know maybe nobody else on the team or on the project is thinking about in the same way, or at least not dedicating as much thought to. And so just really trusting that you know you have value to offer, speaking up and joining the conversation and really exploring how you can add value without feeling like you need to be super polished about it or it needs to be a really specific deliverable that you’re pitching or that the idea needs to be really vetted super thoroughly.
I think a lot of times for solo content strategists it’s important just to jump in and, you know, join the conversation and start demonstrating you know how you’re thinking about things and finding your way into that more concrete contribution by joining the conversation – even when you feel like maybe you’re not ready.”
Saskia: “It’s also a challenge to make sure that your work as an external consultant carried on after you leave so that it doesn’t fall flat.”
Cameron: “It’s imperative that companies have a content strategy representative in house. Oftentimes I’m coming in as a consultant and I’m supporting and I’m helping them get their content strategy efforts kicked off or helping them deal with a very specific challenge that they need reinforcement for. And sometimes I’m working with people who are wearing a lot of hats, which is often the case for content people. I would say most content people wear a lot of hats, and content strategy is just one of their job requirements and they really don’t have a full-time bandwidth to dedicate to it. So, I’m coming in to provide that additional muscle. So yeah, I think, as, as long as I have someone internally, who I can collaborate with and who can then carry that vision forward when I leave. I thought to work remotely as less of a challenge but I’ve learned, and kind of learned the hard way, in some cases that as a freelance consultant, someone who you know is coming in and helping with content strategy on a short term finite basis, I can hand off work, but if there’s nobody to kind of shepherd it from there and, carry it forward it’s not going to really make a lasting impact.”
Saskia: So, have people inside the company to shepherd your strategy to its full fruition.
When you’re working as an external consultant, but also as an employee having those allies or FoCses will only benefit your work as a content strategist. You might feel lonely and misunderstood at times but fear not, you’re not alone. There are online groups and offline meetups that you can join to ask questions and share knowledge, or occasionally vent about your struggles.
Cameron: “That’s a really good point about working as a solo content strategist, too. It can be really gratifying. But I think it’s really important to find those opportunities to connect with other people who do what you do, or do something similar, and something like Confab is ideal, obviously, but there are obviously to professional groups in individual cities and organizations that you can join. And I think that can really go a long way to re-energizing you and helping you find new inspiration. You know, sometimes working alone can really feel isolating and, for me, most of the time it’s great but I definitely go through phases when I need that collaboration with other people. And I need to be able to bounce ideas, and just be around other people who get what I do. I think it’s it’s really important to incorporate that and in whatever amount or whatever style works for you.
I totally believe in the power of commiseration. Sometimes you just need somebody who gets why what you do is challenging and you just need to be able to talk about that and get it out of your system and have somebody be like “I totally hear you”. So yeah, it’s important.”
Andy: “I use the content strategy community at large a lot. Like I know I’ve seen you active in the content strategist Facebook group and there’s that UX product content Slack (Content+UX Slack, red.)that my friend Michael Metts has established, that’s huge. So, honestly like it was that’s been super helpful. I can’t talk about everything that I’m working on with a larger group, but I can definitely reach out for more general advice and opinions and tips on proceeding. Anybody listening, if you have access, if you’ve tapped into that community: totally use it. It’s an amazingly smart group of people.”
Saskia: Andy, what advice would you give any solo content strategists out there?
Andy: “If you’re the lonely content strategist at a company of any size -if you have a very small startup where there’s four of you, this may not be particularly relevant, but you know, Adobe is a very large company and even the design team that I’m embedded in is very large, there’s going to be people who for one reason or another are thinking about the words and are good at writing and using language to communicate.
We have several designers who I immediately kind of allied myself to and made friendships with because they are very word-oriented and they just get it right. Like sometimes they don’t even know that they get it but they do. And I think that as when you are working with designers, you will find those people pretty quickly. They’ll understand exactly where you’re coming from, you’ll understand their point of view and they’ll immediately you know see your value. And I think that the stronger you can build those relationships, the more of an ally they will be for you in the future.
One of those designers, helped me identify an area in the company that really could use some content strategy help. I started talking to them and we had kind of an ongoing engagement. So yeah, there are those people out there. It’s hard to find them.
Adobe is an interesting company. We have a lot of designers who are from elsewhere in the world and speak English as a second language. A lot of them are terrified to write because they’re just like, oh, I’m just not a good, strong English writer. I can’t do this, I need your help. And you know after spending some time with them, I realized, actually, sometimes you as somebody who speaks English as a second language are a more careful writer than somebody like me, who is a native English speaker [who] has been writing English all my life, in America. Sometimes you just have to act as a therapist and counsel them and let them know “they know you’re actually really good at this. You’re thinking a lot about it and I can I can help you arrive at the right tone and voice for what you’re trying to do, but your messaging structure is amazing.
So, I did a whole workshop with designers where I taught them some fundamentals of writing some basics of writing for the interfaces, but honestly like the biggest thing was – is: I just I let’s let them know: you got this. You’re really good at this. Just empower them a little bit. Saskia, I know that you take inspiration from Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec and I feel like I do, too. Part of it’s just like being encouraging and dangling a carrot instead of a stick”
Saskia: Haha you know me well, my friend. As one of my favourite sayings goes “be the Leslie Knope at whatever you do”. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, check out the comedy series Parks and Recreation.
Cameron gave a three-hour workshop at Confab Intensive last September, about how to make the most of your solo content strategy practice. If any conference organizers are listening: I would recommend booking Cameron for a session. It was super helpful!
As for Andy: he’s no longer lonely at Adobe. He helped build the content strategy team.
Andy: “Yeah. Well, part of it was, there was a new initiative spinning up, a new team getting started. That is, I’m hoping they’re going to release something by this summer, but I really can’t go into detail about what they’re doing. But essentially, I was working with the team a little bit and I talked to the design manager and to the program manager and I said you know this is very content first. The words that you’re using here matter a lot and my trouble is, I don’t have the bandwidth, the time to really just sit down and help you with all this, but I can help you identify what you need to work on, and I can help you identify that you need somebody more to help you do this.
I got them at just the right time when they were starting to plan resources for building up this team they got the go-ahead from executives in the company. And all of a sudden, they were like “okay we have opened headcount help us find somebody that’s like, Okay, let’s do this”.
So, one of the design managers here at Adobe, Samantha Warren, she had a friend that she worked with at Twitter named Marissa Williams. I’ve met Marissa – she was the perfect fit for this initiative. She came on board and she spun up, and all of a sudden, I had to start thinking about other things like onboarding and sharing detail processes and points of view. I knew that there was a lot that I was going to need her to help me create but there was a lot of stuff that I had already kind of talked about and put together. So yeah, I feel like things are still pretty ambiguous, but in a good way, in a lesser way now, because I had more people thinking about it. So, about a month after that happened. One of the other people we interviewed for that position, we’re like oh man she’s amazing too. We have these other initiatives. So, I think I think you may know her, Saskia – do you know Sarah Smart?” “Yeah, I do!” “Yeah, she’s now a coworker of mine she’s super talented. Whenever she gives a presentation, she calls herself a ‘word witch’ so that’s how I like to refer to her. Yeah, she’s fantastic and we sit together. We have a very tight team. Every week we meet, and we have a content strategy crit where we just go over something we’ve been working on and give each other advice if we need it.
And then we also have we’re trying to also grow the team for those who may not have the headcount to dedicate to content strategy. Often, it’s easier for companies to get contractor money and so there’s a big product launch that they needed some temporary help with and a friend of mine who I worked with at Facebook for a little while, she was a contractor there, Kathryn Ankrum, she came on board. So, she’s working with that team and I’m campaigning hard – if she’s interested, if everybody interested – to convert her to full-time, eventually. So I guess that’s a good growth tactic if you just want to try to grow a team and don’t have headcount: start with a contractor and if they can show value and show that you know their continued engagement will provide more value than their limited engagement, then that’s a tactic. I think a lot of people know, but probably also a lot of people don’t know, so, pro tip”.
Saskia: Yeah, that’s a great suggestion Andy having a contractor come on board often feels like a safe option to company owners and managers. They will find out how a content strategist really helps your business on so many levels. It’s a win-win for both the company and for the freelancer.
– Join the conversation! Listen to what your clients or coworkers need, what language they use and reflect it back to them.
– Don’t get to hung up on the ideal definition of content strategy. Show and tell what you can do, make sure people know what content strategy is to them and how it can help them. You could for instance establish office hours, do in house presentations or be present on communication channels, like your in house slack workspace.
– Believe in yourself and the power of cs. No two projects are the same, whether you work in house or remotely. There is no template, and in a sense – that also enables you to try out new stuff.
– Find your people. We’re online, in Slack groups, on Facebook and we come to offline meetups. Come and talk shop, share experiences and just hang out with people who understand what you do. I’ll put some links in the blog post!
And that’s a wrap of our party of one episode. Thanks Cameron Siewert and Andy Welfle for sharing your experiences with us!
If you want to meet Andy, come to Confab in Minneapolis this May, or at Content UX Academy in Sacramento in October. He’s running a workshop at both events, not on solo content strategy’ing, though, but on voice and tone for interfaces. Pretty cool stuff. Follow him on Twitter and check out his writing at andy.coffee.
Fun fact: Andy is very much into pencils. So much that he co-hosts a podcast about pencils, called the Erasable Podcast.
Cameron is pondering on repurposing her workshop wisdom, perhaps via her website Keep an eye out for that on contenterie.com. Of course, you’ll find links to all these sites on efficientlyeffective.fm.
Again, we would appreciate it so much if you’d let us know what you think, how this one or the other episodes helped you, or even if you didn’t agree with something we were saying. Sharing your thoughts online will help us reach a bigger audience, which is, well, nice, right?
Remember that we’re not bothering you with advertisements and that a lot of work goes into making this podcast. It’s our little gift to you. If you can spare a mere minute to give back some feedback or spread the word, that makes our hard work totally worthwhile. Find us on twitter @effectivepod, Apple podcast and efficientlyeffective.fm.
Sander Spolspoel, thanks for your technical and editing help, and thanks Kevin McLeod at Incompetech.com for letting me use your music.
Time for our tiny party of two to pop a bottle and toast to our first year. We thank you for listening and we hope to hear from you soon. Bye!