Hands up who can go one whole day without checking their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts? Yeah, that’s what we thought. Social media dominates a large proportion of many of our lives, but have you ever considered making it a career?
Well that’s what 30-year-old freelance Social Media Strategist Kimberley Howson has done.
With seven years industry experience, Howson has worked with leading London agencies and some of the biggest companies in the world spanning multiple sectors including FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), automotive, healthcare, beauty and entertainment.
Her most recent clients include Rimmel London and indie movie theatre chain Picturehouse Cinemas.
We caught up with her to find out how you too could make a living out of Facebook.
1. How did you know you wanted to work in social media?
To be honest, it was pure luck that I got a foot in the door in this industry – I started my professional career at a time when social media was just starting out and nobody knew how important it would become to businesses and modern life in general.
I was always active on social media before I ever worked in the industry. Back then it was all about MySpace and Bebo, and I even remember signing up to a network called FaceParty (although I’m not sure anyone remembers that one now).
2. How did you get started?
I moved down to London in 2008 and got a job in SEO and marketing. At that time, Facebook had just started introducing brand pages and Twitter was also fairly new.
The company I worked for wanted to set up profiles for both so I volunteered and slowly became the go-to social media person in the company.
From that moment on my main career focus has been social media, although the role of social media strategist is still a very new one (it didn’t exist 7 years ago).
3. What’s been the most important moment in your career so far?
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I’d have to say starting my own business. It’s something I had always wanted to do but didn’t know much about; I didn’t ever study business or marketing at school or university, but once I took the plunge I realised that didn’t matter – a willingness to learn and work hard is all you need.
4. Talk us through your day…
The great thing about my job is that I don’t have a typical day – if I’m working on a project, I like to go into their offices and be part of the team (it makes it easier for collaborating with other team members).
Once briefed I’ll work closely with account managers, designers and planners to get a good sense of what is required and ensure we are all aligned.
When I’m not working on a project I will either be at my home office networking online (LinkedIn is great for this), updating my website with my latest projects, or doing admin work such as filing expenses or accounts.
5. What are the best things about doing what you do?
The best thing about my job is the flexibility. I’ve been able to have time off when I want and enjoy my other hobbies (film and travelling).
I also really love the variety that my job brings. I can pick and choose which companies I want to work with and what projects I want to get involved with, which is really important for me as I can control which areas I develop my skills and experience in. One day I could be working with a global communications agency on a huge FMCG brand and the next I could be helping a small, local business establish their presence on social media channels.
As with any creative role, I think it’s important for social media strategists to constantly learn and change up the projects they work on, as each (along with different clients and agencies) will bring along their own challenges.
6. What are the worst?
The unreliability of being self-employed in any industry is obviously a big drawback, and will put most people off doing it, but not me. I did my research and saved up for six months before setting up my limited company and I’m glad I did. Freelancing isn’t for everyone but if you’re okay with having some downtime and equally happy working 18 hour days in your busy periods, then it’s worth considering.
7. What do you think people don’t realise about your job?
I’m sure a lot of people think I just sit on Twitter and Facebook and post nonsense all day, which is obviously really frustrating (and not true).
Although people are slowly starting to realise how important Social Media is to our everyday lives (communication, news, advice, job resource, advertising, entertainment), we have to appreciate that a lot of people still don’t get it – it’s up to me to be patient and try to explain the benefits of social media and how it works.
Also running my own business, I’m certain a lot of people think I don’t do much work – the truth is I work harder as a freelancer than I ever did while in a permanent position. I’m constantly networking and making new contacts, looking for potential new work, and managing my own finances and office costs.
8. What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the industry?
I would say that now is both a good time and a tough time to break in – there are more opportunities than when I started out (as it was so new), but there are also far more people vying for the same positions.
My advice would be: to follow people already established in the industry on LinkedIn to see how they started; be active on social media personally (you need to show that you are passionate about the industry); find some free local social media events to attend – you never know, you might just meet a potential future employer; and finally to be enthusiastic, especially if you don’t have experience on your side – showing you’re keen to learn and passionate about the industry could help you get your foot in the door.
9. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I’ve been given is to say ‘yes’ more – this goes for personal and professional life. Whether it’s being offered a project that we think is beyond our skill set, or going for a drink with a friend you’ve not seen in years – sometimes saying ‘yes’ can open doors to some great opportunities.
10. What would you say to your 15-year-old self?
I’d tell her not to fret so much. I’ve always been very ambitious and although having a drive to succeed is great, I think that my anxiety about always wanting to do better has probably shaved a few years off my life expectancy.
11. What are your career goals?
I’m really happy with my work and set up right now, but sometime in the future I’d be keen to expand and perhaps start my own agency, specialising in FMCG and Entertainment clients.
12. What’s the best way to increase your followers on Twitter and Instagram?
I would always say it’s best to focus on engagement rather than new followers when it comes to social media (both for brands and personal accounts). The key is to create regular, timely, relevant and engaging content. If you can do this then the follows will come.
Go to Kimberley’s website for more information on her current projects and to enquire about working with her.