What they don't tell you about being a content creator
5 lessons I've learned as a content creator in the past 2,5 years.
Well hi - that was a long time since I sent out an email, even for a ‘slow’ newsletter. What can I say? I enjoyed the summer and spent the past months focusing on my career.
Now that winter is in full force in here in Berlin, I’m back on the Instagram gri(n)d and it makes me reflect on the past 2,5 years of creating content around UX design and careers.
Creating content and sharing it on social media is a bit of a weird hobby for me. It has brought me genuine friendships, career opportunities and growth as a person - but it can also cause stress and frustration.
Today I want to share a few lessons I’ve learned as a content creator. It’s a bit of a long read - but I guess I owe you that after 3 months of radio silence.
1: Social media can really be a boost for your social life.
One thing I never expected when I started sharing content online was that social media platforms can bring genuine connections. Friendships even. Nowadays, I can count some of the people I met online through my Instagram page as some of my closest friends.
Apart from new online and offline friendships, I also grew more confident in participating in the local design scene. In the beginning of my career, I would avoid networking events. They felt forced and awkward. What I didn’t know then, is that networking isn’t about selling yourself but rather is about sharing experiences and knowledge.
Thanks to my online presence, I started to get involved with the design scene in Berlin. I let go of the idea that I need to meet people that could help my career and instead focused on how my experience could help others. Nowadays I go to networking events (heck, I even organise them!) feeling excited to meet new people. Networking is about giving, not receiving.
2: Building on online platform can greatly serve your career.
It was not my expectation that sharing on content would serve my career, but it has been a surprising side-effect which I’m really grateful for.
Being visible online lead me to brand partnerships, public speaking opportunities and exciting personal projects. Should you become a content creator to grow your career? Not necessarily. Should you invest in your online presence to grow your career? Definitely.
3: But it will ruin your mental health if you’re not cautious.
As much fun as it is to connect with others and feel part of a supportive community, being online and present on social media as much as I’ve been in the past 2,5 took a toll on my mental health.
Checking my phone before bed and right after waking up, working my way through the endless stream of DMs and comments, the pressure to grow more and post more, the constant dilemma of creating content that I actually think brings value vs. creating content that brings engagement - all of it ultimately made me anxious and stressed out.
The only remedy was to become less active on social media and as a consequence: stop caring about statistics. That leads me to the next lesson…
4: Focus on the small stories instead of the big stats
For a long time, I did not have any goals or strategy with my Instagram-page. I just wanted to share my experience working in the UX field and hoped it would help others break into this exciting field.
Even though I always made it a priority to stay close to my own values and post content I believe in, my initial goal of helping and connecting with others became overshadowed by Goals Directed By The Algorithm. My focus shifted from community to keeping up follower growth, focusing on engagement rates, keeping track of trends, creating content you think will ‘perform’ and other metrics that really don’t matter.
Returning to that initial goal of community has helped my anxiety and took away pressure. I care less about follower counts and more about the occasional DM of people that feel seen and supported through my content.
5: Creating (and consuming) content will not make you a great designer.
Creating content on social media did make me better in some aspects of design. I’ve spent more time on Figma than ever before and now can not live without auto-layout anymore. I’ve become better at storytelling. I feel comfortable in front of a camera (never thought that would happen) and learned how to think like a marketeer.
However, the biggest steps I made as a designer happened away from social media. The past 6 months have been a steep learning curve in my career. I got promoted to a senior position, worked intensely on a vision project, took up more strategic tasks and hosted my first workshop on a conference. It oftentimes feels like I’m climbing the highest mountain in my career so far and that leaves me with very little time to invest in content creation.
The biggest steps I made as a designer happened away from social media
The same applies to consuming content on social media. I already made a post about that a while ago (link) and the same sentiment was shared in The State of UX 2023 (link) by UX Collective. If you only learn UX through bitesized carousels and 30-second Reels, it will become difficult to develop solid design skills.
All of this led me to believe that if you want to really grow as a designer, your priority should not be social media (shocker, I know.)
To wrap it all up, I’ve learned a lot from creating content on social media. It contributed to huge personal and professional growth, though it also does come at a high price. Staying true to yourself and your values can be difficult when what you’re doing is constantly being measured by algorithms you don’t have full understanding of.
Thanks so much to all of you who have been following my journey and special shout out to these amazing people that I met: Miguel, Trina, Calum, Clemence, Rob, Clive and the peeps over at Figma (👋 Mareike and Julia)
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Thank you for writing this up. So helpful to me. I appreciate your critical videos online as initial resources to creatives interested in UX.
I always enjoy reading your articles and watching your Youtube videos about UX Design. I learn a lot in each one and they help me to stay motivated and realistic about reaching my UX Designer dream. I always come away with a positive mindset! Thank you, Maureen!