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Mark Schaefer of www.businessesgrow.com gets JobShadowed.  Check out his bestselling books on marketing as well, The Tao of Twitter  and Return on Influence.  

What do you do for a living?

That’s a complicated question! I guess I am a new media something-or-other! I consult about marketing, blog, speak, write books and teach about social media and marketing.  At a party I describe myself as a teacher and author since I can’t get away with “super model” or “NFL quarterback.”

How would you describe what you do?

I am a marketing consultant and teacher who creates relevant, interesting, entertaining content that people want to talk about and share. Hopefully, this will lead to them liking me enough to buy one of my books or hire me as a consultant or speaker. So far, it has worked.

Too many people want to be an independent consultant or author right out of school. Now, why would I hire a 22-year-old person – who has never had a marketing job – to help me with a critical aspect of my company like marketing products to customers? Be patient. Go get a variety of jobs. Work in B2B. Work for a brand. Work for an agency. Learn and make mistakes on somebody else’s dime, in an environment that pushes you to learn in new ways.

What’s a typical work week like?

I spend most of my time writing, editing and reviewing content that will be used several ways … in classes I teach, books I write, educational videos I produce, or speeches I am preparing for.  I also spend a lot of time blogging because I enjoy it and it basically my marketing plan. Nearly all of my most important business connections have come off the blog.

About 25 percent of my time is spent teaching graduate-level marketing classes at Rutgers University, 25% is spent consulting with big companies who are trying to figure out social media marketing, 25% is spent working on new content, 25% is working on book projects and 25% is spent on networking and business development.  I just realized that adds up to 125%. That explains why I am so tired!

How did you get started?

I started as a journalist and then moved into PR for awhile. I got my MBA and worked as a sales director for many years before I moved into marketing, which is my real passion. Along the way I also picked up a masters degree in organizational development, which has helped me a lot as a consultant. I had the opportunity to work directly with many big brands like Coke, Nestle and Anheuser-Busch.  My last job in the corporate world was global director of eBusiness for a Fortune 100 company. I started my own company in 2008 and began to consult, write and teach. I wrote my first book, “The Tao of Twitter” in 2011 and my new book, “Return On Influence” came out in 2012. Today, I have nine different revenue streams, all connected to producing content and teaching in some fashion.

What do you like about what you do?

I love everything about what I do. I love being in a position to share what I know (and what I THINK I know!) to young people and business leaders.  I love creating new value every day through content. I love the flexibility of being my own boss. Most of all, I love it when people tell me “Your book changed the way I work,” or “Your class opened my eyes to new possibilities.” Isn’t that a great place to be?

What do you dislike?

You know, I really miss having an IT department. At this stage in my life, I do not want to have the responsibility for employees, health care plans, etc.  That gives me a lot of freedom to work on what I want to work on and with the freelancers who can help my clients the most. But I do miss being able to pick up the phone and say, “come fix my computer!”  There is freedom that comes along with being an entrepreneur, but also new pressures, too.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated as a marketing consultant?

As I said, I have nine different revenue streams. Three are firmly developed: Consulting, teaching, and developing content for others. Three are moving ahead rapidly: royalties from my books, corporate workshops, and fees for speaking engagements. Three are just starting out: Online video sales, online consulting, and direct revenue related to my blog.  So what I do is a mix between providing focus and execution to the developed revenue streams, and dreaming up more ways that people can pay me for what they need me to do for them.

How much money do Marketing Consultants make?

I used to live in Texas. One of the sayings they have down there is, “You never ask a man how big his ranch is.”  I guess I’m old-fashioned in that I don’t think it’s polite to discuss money, but let’s just say I make a comfortable living that allows me to live the life I want to live.

Salaries for entry-level marketing jobs vary wildly, primarily by region and city.  It’s a highly competitive field. I recommend that you get experience while you are still in college, even if it is a volunteer internship. Load up your resume with actual experience. Also, immerse yourself in social media experience. Almost any entry level job you obtain these days in sales, PR, marketing or HR is going to have some social element to it.  Personally, I recommend getting job experience before considering grad school. It will mean a lot more to you if you have some experience for context.  There is literally no upper limit to salary potential. Every company success is somehow tied to great marketing and great marketers.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to become a marketing consultant?

At my heart, I am a marketing consultant. Everything flows from that. I teach about it, write about it, and speak about it.  To be a social media marketing consultant, you have to know more about marketing than social media. The technology will change.  Human behavior will not and marketing fundamentals will not. So I highly recommend that you learn everything you can about marketing and the rest will follow. Of course, many people can make a decent living off of creating content, but I think it would be hard actually monetizing that unless you are an expert in SOMETHING.

What is most challenging about what you do?

As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly trying new things and yes, I make mistakes. You just can’t make a BIG mistake that drives you into the ground. So making the right decisions about which projects to follow is very, very important. There is not much room for error for a small company.

What is most rewarding?

I am the luckiest person in the world because I am having a positive impact on people and their careers. I know this because they tell me every day. When I get a note saying “Your book changed my life …” Well, how can it get better than that?

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

You have to be prepared to pay your dues. Too many people want to be an independent consultant or author right out of school. Now, why would I hire a 22-year-old person – who has never had a marketing job – to help me with a critical aspect of my company like marketing products to customers?  Be patient. Go get a variety of jobs. Work in B2B. Work for a brand. Work for an agency. Learn and make mistakes on somebody else’s dime, in an environment that pushes you to learn in new ways. And if you start out on your own, you better have the financial resources to support yourself for two years of business-building. You need to have the resources to build your business wisely. Desperation kills a lot of careers.

How much time off do you get/take?

I really work a lot. But I also have the flexibility to take off in the middle of the day to enjoy a beautiful afternoon and play tennis with my wife or go out on the boat for a few hours.   I reward myself with a mini-vacation every 2-3 months and an epic two-week trip once a year. But if you want to do what I do, forget about the 9-5 work day.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

They think I play around on Facebook or Twitter all day!  You know, I probably spend less than 30 minutes a day on social media platforms – I just manage my time very wisely. I just know how to have a big presence for a little amount of time!

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

This might seem lame, but I really have very few plans.  I mean, in this business environment, how can you plan?  You simply have to react to the world as it comes at you. This is the new truth about business and marketing. The opportunities are real-time.  You don’t plan and wait for things to happen. You immerse yourself and make things happen in real-time. Today, a business plan is a sketch, at best. A framework. My business twists and turns every day. And that’s what makes it successful, too.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

When I was 20, I thought I knew everything. I didn’t know shit.  When I was 30, I was on the fast-track and thought I was hot stuff. I wasn’t.  Being humble enough to be always be a student is the best way to succeed in any line of work.


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