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Karen P'ng - Freelance Social Media & Digital Marketing Consultant

Karen-Social-Media-Marketing

Karen is a freelancer in social media, digital marketing and content; helping brands and start-ups with limited resources grow in these areas through strategy and structure. She's worked for THE ICONIC, theright.fit, BRICKX, Trefiel, and Fotobox (just to name a few).

"As a sole trader, it's difficult to give me specific job title, I've had 'Social Media Strategist’, ‘Digital Marketing Consultant’, ‘Social Media Teacher’ but I like to keep it straightforward and simply say what I do: Social Media, Digital Marketing & Content."

Karen's been working for herself for one year now and isn't planning on changing anytime soon... "I believe that if you’re working at least 5 days a week, you better make it worthwhile because life is too short!" 

How long have you been in digital marketing?

Approximately 5.5 years, including the time I joined my previous employer.

What did you study to and what are the steps you took to become a digital marketer?

I studied a Bachelor of Business at QUT in Public Relations and Marketing, because PR was “so in demand” back then. I’ve never actually worked in PR but kicked off my digital marketing career much later at 25 when I joined THE ICONIC during its start-up phase. I already had the theory from my studies, but nothing beats learning on the job and learning through collaborations with other departments.
The first two years of my time at THE ICONIC saw me self-learning and reading countless industry reports, white papers and any articles I could find to do with best practices in e-commerce, copywriting, branding and marketing.
You could say that to be a strong digital marketer, you’ll need to adopt a holistic approach from the customer’s perspective because successful digital marketing relies on everything else to deliver the best possible experience for a customer – this can include user experience, customer journey, web development, buying, customer service and so on. It’s not possible to know everything about these areas but understanding how they all support each other will give you an advantage. 

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I may have studied business but I wanted to be a singer! During my first few years in Sydney I would earn about $6 in royalties every six months. That’s more of a side hobby now and I’m glad I’m in Digital Marketing as a freelancer as it gives me a flexible yet unpredictable lifestyle and I love it.

What was your first job?

My first job was at a juice bar on Queen Street Mall in Brisbane. So I’ve got a few good smoothie recipes up my sleeve. My first work experience job was at Hudson as a Recruitment Assistant where I would spend hours conducting reference checks. I’ve worked in quite a few industries and that’s just proof that you should always be up for trying new things and you can still get your dream job regardless of your past experience – it’s how you work towards it! 

When did you first know you wanted to work in digital marketing and what inspired you?

My personal character has always played a large part in driving my future – I’m a huge believer in doing good for others, so I’ve always been a fighter for the customer. When I joined THE ICONIC, it was an exciting start-up that no one had heard of, filled with passionate individuals that shared the same vision of creating an amazing online shopping destination for Australia. My very first project was to map out the entire customer journey of the website, and I remember wondering to myself “Why on earth am I drawing a map of the website?” But this project became the blueprint that guided me for my next few years with the company, where I directly helped to transform areas like customer experience, branding, copywriting, marketing and of course, social media.

Explain a typical day at work

Every day feels so different as a freelancer, but there are some recurring activities. A typical day would be:

Morning:
Checking emails for urgent tasks and follow-up
Posting and moderating for clients
Any onsite photo shoots are done early morning

Mid-morning to early afternoon:
Yoga (this is a MUST!)
Work (i.e. strategy, reporting, copywriting, content etc.)
Scheduled meetings are always from 1 pm onwards, the morning is always for work

Late afternoon:
Final check of emails for urgent tasks and follow-up
Allocate and shift any time/tasks for the next day

Evening:
Quick moderation for any clients where required

What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in your career?

I think more has happened in the past 12 months compared to my whole life! One of the most interesting things that happened to me in my career is more on a personal level. As a freelancer, I’ve chosen to live a relaxed lifestyle detached from time and location restrictions and I love that I can work from a café wearing jeans and sneaker. Because I choose to live and look perhaps a little “low key” compared to how others perceive success, I frequently have some people treating me a little different. A number of times I’ve heard someone say “Wow, I didn’t realise you worked for yourself. You don’t look like the kind of person.” The biggest lesson I would share with anyone is to never judge something at face value because you never know what you might discover or learn.

Name the best and worst parts of your job

I only work with businesses and brands that I believe in, so I can truly dedicate my efforts to things that are worthwhile. I also believe in a positive work-life balance so I’m very grateful for the flexibility I have. The downside is that I work for myself (even though I wouldn’t have it any other way). Many will say “Don’t work for the man” but they forget that this means YOU are accountable for every single thing. You must spend unpaid hours working to put yourself out there and find clients, you have to keep track of your deadlines, juggle multiple projects, make the call yourself whether a lead is worth following or not, and not to mention all of the admin that is involved. This is all down to you. It’s fulfilling for those who truly want it, but it’s not for everyone.

What’s the most important career tip someone has given you?

One of my good friends and mentor once told me to never just settle on a job for security (unless that’s what you want). No matter what, you have the right to give your wildest dreams a try – all the other things like a full-time job with a company will always be there for you. 

Where do people have to start to get into this field and what is a standard salary for this role?

Understanding business and marketing is an advantage. Undoubtedly having a degree in the field helps as well. But the rest is in your actions. Depending on the industry, location and company, an entry level role can be around 40k. That’s if you’re looking for a full-time role, and I would still recommend that when you’re starting out because it’s easier to learn the ropes that way versus becoming a freelancer without much experience and credibility.

Name a career highlight

One of my biggest highlights so far is hosting a Social Media Masterclass event for General Assembly in Sydney. It was fantastic to share my knowledge with such a large group of awesome, like-minded people.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a great portfolio of clients that I work with in social media and digital marketing, I’m going to continue teaching workshops as well. But my favourite part of my career is that I ALWAYS try new things and look out for new opportunities – that’s how I started teaching in the first place. 

What's life like when you're not in work mode?

When I’m not talking about work, you can find me doing yoga, disconnecting and staying outdoors (because every social media person needs this), travelling to work remotely and discovering new cafes because I’m obsessed with brunch. 

Inspired by Karen's story? Make social media your business by enquiring about a course in Social Media Marketing or Digital Marketing today! 

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