What does it take to make it in one of the UK’s most sought after and competitive job markets? Do you really need to go to university to give your CV a kickstart or can you succeed in digital marketing without a degree?
Billy is an SEO and design executive at Seed Publicity.
He’s here to tell you about his journey into the digital marketing industry, from getting his first laptop at 13, teaching IT classes at school and setting up an eCommerce site during his down time.
We hope this piece inspires you during National Careers Week and beyond.
What was your thought process after A-levels? Did you feel pressured to go to University?
Yes, but none of my family had been to uni so not terribly.
My tech interests started way before A-levels. All my family are developers: my brother works on back end security, my uncle runs a huge digital agency in Manchester – the biggest one outside of London – and my mum was an early web developer before women really began to break into the industry.
I have been pushed into techy stuff for many years. For example, if my mum told us off, my brother and I would make an instant messaging service between both of our bedrooms.
What age did you start to take techy things seriously?
Probably when I got my first laptop at the age of 13. That’s when I started making Tumblr themes, which is how I learnt html.
Did you get much support at school?
Not at all. In fact, I taught the IT classes at school then adult SEO and graphic design classes at college. I was freelance from year 10 all the way up to my current role at Seed.
I started out by making little websites for local companies, and making videos for my uncles- just starting up loads of side projects. A friend and I started a clothing company because we were bored and we wanted to know how to make an eCommerce site.
Essentially I learnt things by breaking things first. I think that was the best way to do it!
Did you find investing in the tools you needed a challenge?
I don’t think I needed that many tools at first. Everything is free these days. You can learn pretty much anything on YouTube if you have some time to spare.
If I found something a challenge, I’d look on Stack Overflow for half an hour: best forum in the world!
Do you regret not going to university?
Absolutely not! I know people who are at uni so I get to do the uni thing and the work thing at the same time, i.e. I get to go to the events and the fun stuff!
How did you start picking up work?
I began to target the places where I would usually buy things from and say to them, “Hey, you don’t have a website!” and took it from there. My attitude was bold verging on cocky as I had nothing to lose.
Later, I found work through existing and found connections. I did some running jobs for TV adverts, so I was in a position to say “OK, I know those people now. Actually, they need something doing on their site. I’ll go and fix that.”
Sometimes I picked up work by simply sending an email along the lines of “I’ve noticed this is wrong on your site. Here is the code to fix it, which I can put in for you.”
Were you selling development and design at the same time?
Yes, basically whatever people needed. Just not saying no! If I had seen something somewhere else then I would say that I could do it, then vastly overservice so that I could learn in the process.
Do you have a closing tip?
Keep doing it. If anyone comes to you with a challenge, try to fix it. Even if you don’t know how to at first, just say yes then work it out.
When I started at Seed, people would constantly ask me to fix things. My answer would always be “Yes!” If you keep saying yes, people tend to like you a bit more in this industry, plus it eventually gives you general all-round experience.