Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s twice-monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists. Email us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m Tired of Being Entry Level, But How Can I Move Up?
Dear Content Therapist: I’ve been in content marketing for a couple of years since graduating from college. I like the work and the people, and this feels like a good industry to be in. The problem is that I’m still in an entry-level role. I’m meeting my goals and learning a lot. I have taken on projects and tougher assignments, too. But I feel stuck in my title and role. Because we’re a small marketing team, I feel like someone would have to leave for me to get promoted. But even if I wanted to change jobs, I’m worried I’ll just get another low-level offer. How can I identify the next step in my career and convince someone to hire me? — STUCK ON THE GROUND FLOOR
Paul Chaney: I appreciate your eagerness to advance in your career. There is no reason to think you should not be given that opportunity, especially considering the fact that you have tackled tougher assignments. However, you’re probably correct: Because you are with a small marketing team, someone will have to leave for you to advance.
That presents you with two options: Either stay where you are, gain more experience and wait for an advancement opportunity, or seek a job with a larger company where more opportunities exist. With two years under your belt, I don’t see you necessarily confined to a low-level role (a junior role, perhaps, but not entry-level).
I suggest applying for management-level jobs. Even if you don’t qualify, you would better understand your position in the marketplace.
Other steps to optimize your chances of advancement include expanding your skill set. A couple of ways to do that are by taking courses and getting certifications, many of which are free. Also, put effort into building your professional network and leverage those relationships to find openings that meet your expectations.
However, the best thing you can do is maintain a positive attitude and play the long game. Keep your career advancement goals fixed in your mind and continue moving in that direction, even if that means staying in your current role until you gain more experience.
A wise person once told me that the only tense is “future.” He said you can either sit back and let it come to you and do with you what it will (which isn’t much) — or you can move in the direction you want your career to go.
I call it the law of attraction: Focus on your long-term goals to make specific changes in your current circumstances. It’s not merely positive thinking that brings change — it’s thinking positively about your situation coupled with concrete action. If you do that, doors will open in time.
Help! Can I Manage Content Vendors Without Breaking the Bank
Dear Content Therapist: I’m part of a content marketing team inside a major brand. It’s rewarding work, but it’s also very demanding. As a result, we’re often looking outside our team for contractors and vendors for specialized needs, like event coverage, video production or handling extra writing. Vetting and hiring vendors isn’t my background, and I’ve never dealt with contracts to this extent before. I have a good sense of whether a vendor can do quality content marketing work, but figuring out their rates and terms is much more difficult. I know budgets are tight — the last thing I want to do is overpay a vendor and get called out for it. How can I evaluate content marketing vendors so we get what we need for a fair price? — CURIOUS ABOUT CONTENT CONTRACTS
Paul Chaney: I commend you for recognizing the importance of carefully choosing vendors and understanding their rates and terms. Evaluating content marketing vendors can be complex, especially when ensuring you get the best value for your money. However, the process is relatively straightforward. Follow these steps to secure the best candidates.
Define Your Requirements
Before diving into vendor selection, be crystal clear about your needs. Clarity will streamline your search for whatever vendor you’re looking for — videographer, writer, editor or another skill set. Outline your requirements, timelines and expectations to prevent any ambiguities.
Research and Shortlist Vendors
Identify vendors with experience in your industry or those who’ve collaborated with similar brands. Explore their portfolios, client testimonials and case studies. Also, get recommendations from peers.
Request Detailed Proposals
From your shortlisted vendors, request comprehensive proposals that include:
- A breakdown of their services.
- Estimated timelines.
- Cost structures.
- Any additional terms and conditions.
Ensure vendors provide transparent cost breakdowns, whether hourly rates or material costs. Don’t hesitate to negotiate rates, especially for long-term or bulk projects. But remember, cost isn’t the sole factor. If your budget allows it, prioritize vendors known for consistent quality and reliability.
Evaluate Vendor Qualifications
Dig into the vendor’s history and reputation. How long have they been in the industry? What do past clients say about them? Request samples and references from similar projects to gauge their reliability, timeliness and communication skills.
Review Contract Terms
Contracts should clearly outline deliverables, timelines and milestones. Understand payment schedules and potential penalties, and protect your company’s confidential information. Know the terms for contract termination and any associated repercussions.
Beyond these five steps, you can also:
Consider a Trial Project
If feasible, engage the vendor in a smaller project to assess their capabilities, quality, timeliness and communication.
Maintain Open Communication
After hiring a vendor, establish regular check-ins to monitor progress. Assess the vendor’s performance against set metrics, and maintain channels to address concerns. If they bristle at being held accountable, they aren’t someone with whom you want to establish a long-term relationship.
Review and Provide Feedback
After each project, evaluate the vendor’s performance. Share feedback, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement. This aids both parties in refining the processes for future collaboration.
The content marketing landscape is dynamic. Regularly reassess your vendor relationships. Stay abreast of market rates and trends to ensure optimal value.
The vetting process takes time but pays off in the long run.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.