Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While it might look like smooth sailing, there’s no doubt been a heck of a lot of hard work involved in getting there.
So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?
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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to people who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.
This week we speak to Carmen Azzopardi, a woman of many (colourful) professional hats. When she’s not Dyspnea’s PR Fairy or Raq Apparel’s Marketing and Social Media Manager, Carmen is a Sydney-based freelance writer and content creator.
Her sparkle-laden wardrobe, refreshing candour and eye for curation earned her a following of over 90,000 across TikTok and Instagram – but before she landed ‘the dream role’, Carmen’s career journey took her to some unexpected places.
While Carmen switches between her professional life with a 24/7 content creator role, it’s the wisdom she’s learnt – from her experiences and those of friends around her – that made her the incredible industry balancing act she is today. Here’s what she learnt along the way.
What do you do and what’s your official job title?
I’m a freelance writer, content creator and offer marketing and social media services through my consultancy, Zigs Mom. I’m currently positioned as the PR Fairy (think exec but with more sparkles) at Dyspnea and the Marketing and Social Media Manager at Raq Apparel.
Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.
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I always knew I wanted to write, work in fashion and social media, but I never dreamed I’d be able to combine all three things into my dream role. When I graduated high school, I went on to complete a Bachelor of Media Studies at university.
While I was studying I completed several unpaid internships for marketing companies and fashion brands. I also assisted shoots whenever I could (unpaid) and tried my hand at a few writing internships as well. I also worked at several bars (because a gals gotta eat and pay rent, right?).
During that time, I remember working until four in the morning, getting a couple hours of sleep, heading to uni for classes at eight, interning until five or six in the evening and then starting my bar job again… and the cycle would repeat. Looking back on those days, I genuinely have no idea how I did it – coffee, I guess.
Two years into my course, I began working part-time as a social media coordinator for two different brands. When I graduated in 2017, I actually did a complete pivot and left the fashion industry to try my hand in finance (seriously, this is true!). After I spent a year realising I did in fact want to be back in the fashion and media world, I worked as a marketing manager for a fast fashion brand (yuck) and began creating content for Dyspnea on the side.
In late 2019, Dyspnea advertised a social media coordinator role on their socials. Although it was based in Perth, I DM’d Jameen (one of the co-founders I’d struck up an Instagram friendship with) and asked if I could still apply. The rest is history, I guess!
They made the role remote for me and I continued to work in-house as a marketing manager, creating content for Dyspnea on the side – until the pandemic started in 2020. Off the back of this and my recent type one diabetes diagnosis, I decided to leave my marketing job in June 2020. I continued to work with Dyspnea, trying my luck in the freelance world.
What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular?
The hardest challenge I’ve faced so far is making that initial decision to leave my full-time job – during a global pandemic – in order to try freelance work. During that time people were having their hours cut and some lost their jobs altogether.
The decision felt completely risky and a bit irrational, but it also felt like the right one. Deep down I knew that I wasn’t satisfied working in the roles I had had up until that point and in order to change this, a big shift was necessary from me. It was scary and daunting and honestly the best and most freeing decision I’ve ever made.
What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?
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Working for yourself, especially when you engage in paid social media collaborations, is more than a full-time job. It’s honestly 24/7 around the clock and while I seriously love everything I do, sometimes it feels like I never really log off.
I think content creators and influencers can cop a lot of heat for making what seems like an inordinate amount of money through sponsored content and brand deals. In reality, all the creators and influencers I know aren’t clocking in at nine and clocking off at six – we’re working all day, every day with little to no boundaries between our work and personal lives. At times it’s pretty gruelling.
What’s the best part about your role?
That I get to do what I love every day and call it work? I still have moments throughout the day – when I’m shooting in Dyspnea, writing a press release or working on sponsored content – where I stop to pinch myself and think ‘wow, I’m so lucky I get to do this every day’.
Also, the flexibility of my work. As someone with a chronic illness, it’s important to me that the work I do is completely flexible and I can make my own hours as such. If I need to sleep in, take a day off, or head to an appointment, I can make those calls and it’s crucial that I’m able to do so.
What would surprise people about your role?
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Probably the hours I clock weekly. If I’m not working on Dyspnea or RAQ, I’m working on my own content and brand collaborations. I manage myself and run my business and the admin that comes with that alone is constant and demanding.
What skills have served you well in your industry?
Confidence! Honestly, I know it seems cliche but ‘fake it until you make it’ absolutely rings true here. It can seem daunting pitching yourself to potential clients (and just putting yourself out there on the internet daily), but it helps to keep in mind that no one really knows what they’re doing. We’re all just out here winging it, so a little confidence in yourself and what you bring to the table goes a long way.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?
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Just start! I think the most daunting part of beginning to create content online was posting the content itself. Years ago I used to get really hung up worrying if what I was posting or writing was ‘good’ or relatable. At the start of 2021, I told myself just to start to see what would happen.
I created my TikTok and posted every second day without thinking too much about it. Now my platform has over 60,000 followers, lots of my videos have gone viral and I generate an income through my TikTok alone.
Putting yourself and your work out there can seem scary but I always ask myself: ‘what’s worse – putting your content out there and maybe it’s not received as well as you’d hoped, or never putting your content out there and always wondering what you could’ve achieved?’.
What about a practical tip?
Talk to people in the industry you want to work in and make friends! If I hadn’t essentially stalked Dyspnea online (lol, sorry girls!), I wouldn’t have made friends with Jameen, I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to apply for their role advertised as in another state, etc.
Since starting in this industry, I’ve made so many friends with other creators, writers and women running their own businesses. The advice I’ve gleaned from these relationships is honestly invaluable. Also, know your point of difference and what makes what you have to say unique… and work with that!
Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.
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This article How I Got Here: Freelance content creator and social media manager Carmen Azzopardi on taking that career leap appeared first on Fashion Journal.