My name is Shannon, and I’m a writer, content marketer, and community builder. Here’s my story.
I grew up in Cincinnati, OH and moved to New York at 25. I was seeking out a writer’s life, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen for me in Ohio. However, after almost four years of working a 9-5 on Wall Street and writing fiction on mornings, nights, and weekends, I knew I needed to make an even bigger change. So, at 28 I moved to San Francisco … and took an internship.
You might be thinking 28 is a bit old to take on an internship, and I won’t deny that I felt the same way. However, it was for an early-stage startup that helped people pay off debt, and I’d been freelance writing for them for a few months and fell in love with the mission and the people I met so far. When an internship opened up only a month after I arrived in San Francisco, it felt like fate.
That doesn’t mean it was easy, of course. It took me eight months to go from intern to full-time employee. In that time, however, I was able to write for the blog, run the product’s customer service, build a community around the product, and begin running marketing campaigns. What’s more, my connection to and understanding of the users enabled me to take part in many stages of product development. In short, I had my hands in everything, and I was happier than I’d ever been.
Cut to a few years later, I got married and moved back to New York to settle down closer to family. The startup let me stay on remotely, but a few months later, it was acquired. I lost my dream job and was forced to find a new path.
The years I spent in the startup to that point helped change my risk-averse nature. I became bold, confident, and learned that I could do a lot more with a blank page than I ever suspected from myself. But leaving that environment and coming back to New York led me to fall back into my risk-averse ways. Suddenly I was becoming more concerned with job titles and salaries than on building something … suddenly I was focused on external validation.
As you can probably already guess, everything went downhill from there.
I stopped the freelance career I built for a year and a half after the startup was sold because I was given what I believed to be an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was to head up content for another FinTech company, and the money was more than I’d ever been paid. Unfortunately, where I cut my teeth on content marketing and product, this company only cared about SEO hacks and page views. What’s more, my boss harassed me at every turn and did whatever he could to undermine my work. It was the worst year of my life.
I left that job and found another one, this time focusing on writing full-time and creating a healthier work-life balance. Instead, I was thrust into a competitive, political environment and working 10-12 hours a day on top of it. This time, formula mattered more than reader engagement, and everything came down to how much we could produce. Within a few months, I was crying over my keyboard at least once a week.
Finally — and I do mean finally — I realized that chasing money and a title was doing me more harm than good. I also accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be able to recreate the work environment I had in San Francisco as long as I was living in New York. The two cities have entirely different DNAs, and the companies within them have entirely different focuses. So, with the support of my husband, I went back to freelancing and worked to pick up the pieces of myself that I lost over the last few years.
The world of content can be beautiful or brutal, and it all depends on the environment you work in. At its best, this job can be dream-like. At its worst, it can be utterly soul-crushing. I’ve been on both sides of that coin, and I hope never to find myself on the wrong side of it again.
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably always dreamed of the day when someone would pay you to write. Goodness knows I did. That’s why it was that much more confusing when I suddenly wanted to do anything else. I hated being forced to compete with my coworkers, I hated being expected to write in a formula, and I hated that we weren’t expected to care about our readers. I write about personal finance, and the things I write can change people’s lives. That’s not something I take lightly, and it made me sick to think that this thought didn’t cross everyone’s minds.
I became the writer I am today because of the people I worked with at that startup in San Francisco. We didn’t compete with each other — we strove to make each other better. We pushed each other, challenged each other, celebrated each other.
That’s what I aim to recreate here. I want to help support other writers who are finding their way in this intense field. I want to help people who’ve been crushed find their way back to their voices, and I want to help people still searching for their voices discover that within themselves. And I believe you can help me, too.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my creative career so far, it’s that we need each other to succeed. A rising tide lifts all boats, and there’s no reason to go it alone.