As I was saying before, I always loved to write. But in the beginning of my career I didn’t see how this skill can make money.
Become a writer, you might say. I thought about that. But after winning a scholarship for young writers, and spending time with some of them, I understood that in Ukraine writers make very little money and more often than not become alcoholics.
That wasn’t for me so I kept on thinking.
After a specialized school and after studying in States I had decent English. In 2014 it was more than enough to qualify for work in Ukrainian IT. So that’s what I did. A guy I knew(a professor in my uni) invited me for an internship in one of the big companies in my hometown.
The first real job I got was a position of an outreach manager. So technically it had something to do with marketing. But I didn’t like it there and left after the internship ended. And here’s why.
What does an outreach manager do?
In that company they didn’t really build relations with bloggers and influencers. They just needed to build links. Nothing black hat. Just finding websites that write on topics relevant to your company’s business, get in touch with admins and try to pitch them a guest post or a discount in exchange for a do-follow link to us.
That’s not a hard job. Nether is it interesting or challenging. But that wasn’t my main concern.
The problem was that I didn’t know shit about web design, marketing and IT in general. I have just finished my second year majoring in German linguistics and was as far from this sphere as I could be.
The employer was fine with me not being able to tell HTML from CSS and WordPress from Joomla. But I felt wrong and hypocritical trying to sell the product I didn’t understand and use.
I had a good talk with the management about it. And they hooked me up with another internship. This time in tech support.
I know that in some companies, support dept employees can watch movies and drink coffees whole shifts long. That wasn’t the way support worked in this company.
The manager was fanatical about KPIs, performance and optimizations. Till now, it’s the hardest I ever worked. But the great thing was that during the internship and after I got the job, I got a ton of incredibly useful skills. In addition, I stopped being scared of code, websites, hostings and all the other web stuff.
Because when you have 5 clients yelling at you in the chat at the same time, you don’t have a chance to think about fixing the problem the right way or about being careful not to mess up anything in the client’s website. You go into survival mode an just fix whatever is wrong with the shitty template they bought from us.
I’m grateful for that time and for what it taught me, but still I remember it with horror.
Even though it was tough, it was really worth it. After getting through that bootcamp, I knew that I can teach people something and that I’m able to work under pressure.
And I really cared about what I did. I went out of my way to make sure I was useful and to be better than most at supporting those clients. That’s why after a while they put me in charge of all the weekend shifts: morning, day and night. Overall I had to manage more than 20 people then. Some of them were twice my age. I was 19.
Now I see that it really wasn’t a big deal. But then I saw it as an immense responsibility.
After a year in tech support, I felt that I wasn’t learning anything anymore. I figured that I can either become a coder, a pm, or go and try to do something connected to marketing. But not the soulless oureach they wanted me to do in the beginning.
And as it happens, when you need them, oppotunities start to arise.
Someone told me about an internal opening. One of SEOs convinced the c-suites to create a brand-new project based around teaching small business owners and startupers to create and manage their websites.
I talked to the girl who was in charge of the project and got the test. They needed me to write a text… I don’t recall the topic, but something about starting a website with startupers as the target audience.
So i started writing. As i didn’t have any English copywriting training at that time, no matter how hard I tried, my efforts resulted in an incredibly boring piece that would get me an A in my English class, but wasn’t good enough for the web.
I felt that something was wrong with it, but didn’t know yet how to structure and format this information. So they told me “sorry, to academic”.
To me that was a weird feeling. For a long-long time all of my friends, and teachers, and readers liked the way I write(in Ukrainian). And I just couldn’t make the same easy to read, emotional copy in English.
I can’t stress enough how boring that text was.
So I took my time and did some more research.
I noticed many times since then that if you don’t see how to make a text better right now, just let it rest for a couple of days. When you come back to it, usually it becomes clear what was wrong with it.
but I didn’t know it then. So i just rewrote it. But instead of dwelling over each word, I conciously forced myself to write with the easiest words I could, the first things that came to mind. Basically, I expressed the same toughts but not trying to impress anyone with the fancy words I learned in my elitist specialised school.
And that worked.
If I had to say what lesson I learned from that, I’d say that failing the first time doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it another try.
But that I already knew from being a professional high jumper in the past. Based on this, I think that three tries is even better than two.
Anyhow, they liked the second text much better and offered me a job. It would be a newly formed team. We’d need to build a successful web project from scratch on a very tight budget and without any support from corporate.
I talked about it with some of my experienced friends. And they all told me that it’s better to stay where I am. Cause managing 20 something people is better for a CV than going in a new career direction where I needed to start over.
For some reason I didn’t listen. Probably I hated everything about support too much at that point. But it turned out to be a great decision. This project really jumpstarted my growth. There were three of us there and each of us needed to do everything. We all did research, we all wrote copy, we all reached out and did smm.
In half a year we got that project to something like 2000 daily visitors. It was a really saturated niche and we didn’t do any paid promotion. In addition, only one of us(our manager) had previous marketing experience.
To this day I’m surprised and happy that in those circumstances we achieved even those numbers.
Looking back I see a ton of things we did wrong. There were dozens of missed opportunities and fuckups.
But that’s life. That’s experience. And that’s okay to make mistakes. As long as we know that we did our best. Especially when there’s no one around who could do your job better than you.
These mistakes and this project were my online marketing initiation.
Since then I’ve worked with paid advertising, content marketing, SEO, marketing consulting, copywriting, etc.
In comparison to other IT jobs, online marketing can be fun for a creative like me. You get to think, make decisions and enjoy relative freedom.
And I can’t say that I absolutely love it. It’s just work. And like with any other work, the more you do it, the better you get.
And that feels really good.