“I definitely did not know what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up.’ I used to want to be an author, then a teacher, then I thought I’d work in a charity. Running a social media agency was not up there on my list of career aspirations, primarily because it didn’t exist as a role when I was at school.
I was working at a university, managing their social media strategy for student recruitment, and I was introduced by one of my colleagues to a start-up who needed help with their social media management. It was my first freelance project and led to two other pieces of client work outside of my university role. It gave me proof of concept – that businesses would pay me to manage their social media for them – and so in October 2016, I decided to take the plunge and go full-time working for myself. The beginning of Untapped Digital (www.untappeddigital.co ) was born!
My advice to women looking to do a similar thing in their career is, whether you’re looking to start your own social media agency or you want a social media marketing role within an established company, it’s so important to be up to date on trends and best practice, as social media is changing all the time and your knowledge can very easily become outdated.
Read lots, listen to top marketers sharing their ideas, and most of all use social media frequently so you can understand audience psychology. Knowing what makes people tick and why they share what they share is huge to be able to create successful social campaigns. Also whatever industry you’re breaking into, believe in yourself and don’t take the first ‘no’ you hear as the final answer. There’s always a ‘yes’ waiting around the corner.
I love the freedom that having your own business allows you – it’s empowering that me and the team can have an idea and be able to implement it straight away, there’s not the same lengthy stakeholder sign-off process that you have in larger companies.
I found at the start that people think having your own business automatically means you’re rich. One month into working for myself I’d be out at dinner and have jokes that the meal was on me when I for sure was earning the least of everyone around the table, having just launched a start-up!
Every day presents new challenges with running a business. My biggest challenge has been learning to thrive and adapt to all of the challenges that come at you while keeping a positive attitude throughout. It’s still a work in process; being a founder means that you’re learning constantly about how to fail better and you have to check your own ego a lot or you wouldn’t make it through.”
Being Connected 24/7
“I am constantly digitally connected – whether on my laptop or phone – and digital burnout is real, so I have to make a real effort to unplug and disconnect. As part of that attempt, one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 was to read one book each fortnight (after really abysmal reading habits in 2019, despite having studied English Literature at university!). I’ve already read 17 books and we’re only in April, so I’m way ahead of schedule, and I think that’s because I’ve enjoyed being away from screens so much while I’m reading. It’s a brilliant way to unplug and escape to a new world, plus I read a lot of non-fiction so it gives me lots of creative and business development ideas. Anything immersive works well for me for self-care (you can’t be checking emails with a book in your hand).
I do agree that there is a lack of women role models and mentors in the industry and there’s huge room for this to be improved. In 2018, only 10.1% of UK start-ups were female-founded.
Female founded companies are also far less likely to receive funding – EY research shows that 52% of women-led companies have no external funding while 70% of male-led companies had access to external investment.
When I think of the role models for social media agency founders in the UK, the top ones I look to are all men. It’s disappointing there aren’t more women (and especially women of colour) represented in top positions, but you just have to use it as added motivation to play at bigger levels.
To improve female representation, I think it needs to be examined at every level – from early childhood to education – so we change the way society teaches women what they’re capable of achieving. There’s the old adage of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, so the more successful female founders that come through and pave the way (like Spanx’s Sara Blakely or Glossier’s Emily Weiss) I hope the more women are encouraged to follow in their footsteps.
And crucially, the more VCs and investors will see that the blueprint for a successful founder isn’t just white men in suits.”
Talking About Mental Health
“I had a conversation about this today actually on behalf of one of our clients (they’re a diversity recruitment company and we’re creating a content piece for them around mental health in the workplace, so were interviewing a mental health nurse). 1 in 6 people in the workplace suffers with mental health. Plus anxiety, depression, and stress are the top causes in the UK for absenteeism and lack of productivity.
But it’s absolutely spoken about differently than if someone is off sick with tonsillitis, for example! I think conversation and being open with one another is the first place to start addressing this in the workplace. That begins with leadership – if your boss instigates openness (obviously only ever share as much as you feel comfortable with!) then that creates a culture of support all around.
Social media offers the world so much connection and powerful opportunity, but it can be overwhelming. Constant scrolling and comparison culture can contribute negatively to mental health, so it’s important to keep your social media consumption in check and be aware of how it’s affecting your mindset. The brilliant Marie Forleo says to “create before you consume” which is a nice reminder to focus on yourself and your imagination before you look at what everyone else is doing and inevitably compare your reality to the highlights reel you see on the newsfeed.”
“Fortunately, I’ve never had a serious experience of abuse, discrimination or being held back at work on account of gender – it’s more the odd comment here and there, which I think the #MeToo movement demonstrated has affected almost every woman in the world.
Multiple times I’ve had people exchange business cards with me at a networking event, and then send inappropriate messages later on. There was one meeting I had with a potential client at a private club I’m a member of, and when they arrived at reception they asked me whether they should sign in under my husband’s name (I’m not married or engaged, so no ring, and it’s a membership 100% paid for by me). Those situations can be so tricky I find, as it’s quite clearly sexist but then you’re also trying to close business with them.
I think it’s a judgment call you need to make of whether you could work with that person and if you should cut ties completely or whether something can be done to improve the situation. I one time asked for a different point of contact with a client where the messages were becoming inappropriate, so we ended up dealing with a female marketing manager instead of the male founder. Never work with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable where it’s encroaching on your happiness and peace of mind.
I do feel as though I have to prove myself more to some people, yes definitely. Most people will treat you completely equally but then others make assumptions or try to take advantage in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. But then it’s hard to say exactly where you would be by now as a man in business and what the differences might look like, as I can’t go back and A/B test the experience all over again (and wouldn’t want to anyway)!”
“I’m interested to see how everything happening with COVID-19 right now will impact how consumers use digital technologies for the rest of 2020 and beyond. The amount of time spent on the Internet has doubled since the UK went into lockdown and the way brands create content has had to change.
I think it will encourage a lot of businesses to create more timely and relevant content – you’ll have to ditch lengthy sign-off processes, as content gets old faster than ever in this new climate. Businesses are having to put their audience first more than ever, considering what consumers what to see and how their company can be of service to them above everything else. It’s an exciting time to be working in digital, as everything moves online more so than ever, and it’s always an exciting time to be a woman in my opinion.”