In case you missed it, last week was the fourteenth annual National Apprenticeship Week and there was lots going on (online of course) to celebrate apprentices and their achievements.  Quite a few companies asked their apprentices to write about their typical day, to share useful insights into the wide range of activities apprentices can be involved with.  It got me thinking that perhaps a day in the life of a freelance marketing practitioner (me!) might be entertaining reading too, so here goes.

No such thing as typical…

The first thing to say is that there probably isn’t a typical day for me but – actually – that is one of the things I value the most about working for myself (or rather, working for lots of people).  The first thing I do each morning is look at what jobs need doing, which clients have deadlines pending, what meetings are coming up, and then plan my day around those priorities. I love that sense of being able to decide for myself what to do that day. Of course, it also means that I can be fairly flexible so, if something urgent comes up, I can usually ‘jiggle’ things to accommodate.

After that, my day could consist of a whole range of things so I’ve illustrated the tasks that I do most often (“All the right activities, just not necessarily in the right order” to misquote the genius that was Eric Morecambe!).

The key is good plannng

A good chunk of marketing is planning so you won’t be surprised to hear that I spend significant amounts of time planning on behalf of clients (or sometimes myself!).  This could be anything from pulling together a calendar of ideas for social media posts for the coming month (collating news, events, awareness days and anything that a client’s customers might find of interest) to bigger projects, like planning a rebrand, product launch or new website build. Fortunately, I enjoy the planning side, whatever the scale of the task; the satisfaction of finding out that 19th March is World Sleep Day (and then working out how and where to use that fact!) does compare to the satisfaction of methodically working through all the collateral that will need to be updated for a rebrand, it turns out.

Research, research, research 

Another significant part of marketing is research, so I do quite a lot of that too.  This could be researching something entirely new to me (for example, if I have a new client, I will spend quite a lot of time looking at their business and the market they operate in) or it could be a more ‘data-crunching’ exercise to see how previous marketing activities have performed, in order to plan for future ones.  I do love a good spreadsheet so being able to compare why one LinkedIn post performed much better than another, and perhaps comparing the timing of that post to Google Analytics data to confirm increased website visits, does satisfy my inner ‘data-geek’.  (As I say to my apprentices, your own data is like your parachute; you wouldn’t launch yourself into a new marketing activity without it.)

Doing the do… 

OK, so all of the above sounds like the preparation stages but you’ll be reassured that I do spend much of my time getting ‘stuck in’ to marketing activities as well. This is partly why I describe myself as a marketing practitioner (rather than a marketing consultant) as I don’t just want to come up with theories on what should be done, I do enjoy helping clients with the delivery too.  And, again, this could include a whole range of activities; writing articles, finding and tweaking appropriate images for social media posts, updating webpage content etc. I find it amusing but perhaps not surprising that English and creative subjects were some of my favourites at school and – without any idea then of what I wanted to do ‘when I grew up’ – I’ve found myself in a role which uses these skills daily.

Sharing my knowledge

If you have read other pieces I’ve written, you’ll probably know that I train apprentices in marketing on a very part-time basis too.  I chose to keep doing this when I became self-employed because I enjoy it; revisiting theory helps to keep my professional practice in good shape, there is always an excuse to learn about some new digital marketing ‘tool’ that they’re talking about, and (frankly) because an apprentice will always ask a question that makes me say “Oo, good question!” So, there aren’t many days when I don’t have some sort of contact with my small but lovely group of apprentices; marking some work, having a review meeting or planning for our next workshop session.  I must admit the paperwork involved sometimes does have me gnashing my teeth but the contact time with them makes it worthwhile.

A typical day?

So, that’s it; an edited version of what a typical looks like for me. On reflection, it is interesting how little my typical day has really changed during the lockdowns and restrictions of the last year; I do consider myself very fortunate in that.  The reality is that so much of what I do can be done remotely – in fact, was being done remotely already – which I think reflects quite how much marketing relies on digital technologies today (and how much planning can be done via email and Zoom!). 

This might sound like a lot of activities to juggle but I like it that way.  I have often described myself as someone with a “low boredom threshold” so having lots of different things to do keeps my brain engaged. Fortunately, I think it helps that I’m also an organised person with a good memory. I long ago learnt that writing lists helps to free-up brain space from trying to remember everything (not that I won’t think about what’s on the list anyway, but at least I won’t worry that I’m going to forget something!).