Do you want to become a location independent content strategist?
Sandra Muller is a content strategist and SEO copywriter from Melbourne, Australia. Sandra started her career in digital media in the mid-1990s and has specialised in creating and managing online content since 2004. After the birth of her son in 2013, she decided to leave the corporate workforce and took on freelance online content projects. After her husband prompted her to do a 3-month trial stint of digital nomadding in Vietnam in 2016, she realised she was truly a location-independent freelancer, so they sold their house and moved to South Korea where she has lived since 2017.
From university student to international traveller
A bachelor of arts degree is not what I would describe as career-oriented. While I think the degree has served me well through my professional life, it’s not like I emerged equipped with job-ready skills.
After graduating with a bachelors degree in professional writing and literature, I took a gap year and worked and saved and travelled around the US and Canada. I loved it! That trip was the start of my thirst for international adventures.
When I returned, I wasn’t quite ready for the workforce, but I had to earn a living and I worked full-time in a temporary admin role. I needed to do more study, something that would make me feel more job-ready.
Why did you choose a career in digital media?
It was 1996 and I could see the potential of the internet. I thought digital media would be an interesting medium in which to carve out a creative career. And I wasn’t wrong. I was accepted into in a new screenwriting course that had a digital media stream. It wasn’t a university course – it was a 2-year Advanced Diploma that was taught by industry professionals and gave us practical, hands-on experience.
What was the first job that helped you to get to where you are today?
I got my first job that same year through industry connections to the course. I worked as a digital media assistant for a digital media producer. And l LOVED it. We were working on designing and writing for CD ROMs and websites.
The following year, I landed my first job with a digital media agency. I started as a digital assistant and within six months started designing websites. I worked there for three years, rising to become a senior interactive designer before I succumbed to my thirst for travel and moved to South Korea for about 2.5 years to teach English. I left not long before the dot com bubble burst and many of my friends in the industry were forced into redundancy, so my timing was great.
When I returned to Melbourne in 2004, I started freelancing as an online content writer and editor and did this for a few years in between travel stints before feeling the urge to settle a bit more and get a *gasp* mortgage. To get a mortgage, I needed to have a wage history so I returned to the permanent workforce for a few years and got the house and mortgage.
When I had my son, I knew that I was done with the corporate life – at least until I feel the urge (or need!) to return again. I started freelancing part-time again. And the work kept coming. I made more connections and worked on bigger online content projects, mostly for federal or state government departments. These days I focus on content strategy development and managing a team of writers who create or edit the content.
Things are changing very fast in digital media; how do you keep yourself updated?
I subscribe to the Create If Writing newsletter and listen to the podcast of the same title. It’s fantastic for keeping up-to-date with social media changes and online content in general. I also subscribe to the Electric Speed newsletter by Jane Friedman for similar reasons.
For SEO content, I listen to Kate Toon’s ‘The Recipe for SEO’ podcast and her copywriting one with Belinda Weaver called ‘’Hot Copy’. I am also a member of her Facebook group, The Clever Copywriting School which has led me to forge great working relationships with other online content strategists.
What can you recommend on CV?
Your CV is not about you. It’s about the person hiring you. How can you help them? How can you make your resume about them?
Don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach with your resume. You need to customise it for each job and highlight how your skills and experience can help this particular organisation.
What’s your advice for someone looking for freelance online content work?
Work begets work. Sometimes it’s that first, hard-fought job that leads to more work. That could be through a direct referral or indirectly via a testimonial the client gives you.
Most of my work comes from referrals and through my personal contacts. Let everyone know what kind of work you’re looking for and ask them for leads. During a quiet period when a large project fell through, I posted on my personal Facebook page and landed a fresh gig almost straight away.
Get out and network – both online and in-person. Local business groups are a great place to mix with business people who might need copywriting work.
Why do you think you were selected among other candidates?
For all of my full-time, office-based roles (and I believe for all roles), if you make it to the interview stage, they think you’ve got the right skills to do the job well. While the interview is often about confirming those skills, it’s also about figuring out who is the best cultural fit with the company – who do they want to work with? Who would they most like to bump into in the kitchen and chat over a coffee?
You spend so many hours a day together, people want to work with people they like. In my experience, it comes down to personality. There have been plenty of jobs I haven’t gotten, but that’s probably because someone was more experienced than me or a better cultural fit for the company.
These days I don’t work for one single company – I work for myself. But I still usually work in a team and work with the same people on big projects for different organisations. We have similar outlooks and working styles that complement each other. This is not something you can force. It either works or it doesn’t. It takes time to find the right people to work with, so patience is a must.