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Stories From The Croud – Gus

Each month we have a catch up with one of our many amazing Croudies on the Croud network to see what they are up to and check in on life as a Croudie. This month we caught up with long-time Croudie, Gus  – Ed

I’ve been working as a content writer on the Croudie Network for over 18 months now and really enjoy the work. I am mostly responsible for creating blogs and occasionally landing page content for a diverse range of Croud’s clients covering sectors such as financial services, travel, retail and IT. I’ve found content writing for SEO to be the perfect role for me because it is an area where my existing skills and previous experience neatly overlap. As well as writing for Croud, I also work as a freelance journalist, focusing mainly on health and social welfare and have had my by-line in a number of national newspapers.

Prior to getting into journalism I worked within the broader marketing industry, initially within direct marketing after graduating from university 17 years ago and yes, it does make me feel very old writing that! My big break in digital marketing came four years later when I landed a job at Google. The job was mostly a client facing sales role focusing on Google AdWords and even back then, it was glaringly obvious that digital marketing was taking over the world. E-Commerce was the new frontier and Google was synonymous with the web.

Unfortunately for me, after only 6 months in the job my life was to change forever when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the spring of 2004. For anyone who doesn’t know, MS is a neurological condition which primarily affects young adults. I was 26 when I was diagnosed. MS is thought to occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the nerves of the brain and spinal cord. The damage caused to the nerves can result in a variety of neurological impairments from difficulty with walking and balance issues to vision problems and debilitating fatigue. Suddenly in my mid-twenties I was faced with a life-altering event. After university I had really enjoyed the work hard, play hard London lifestyle but MS had changed everything.

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I knew that even something as simple and straightforward as getting the tube to work was now going to be extremely challenging. Just standing on my feet for half an hour was likely to be enough to tire me out and hardly the ideal start to a busy working day. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it took me quite a few years of soul searching to get used to my condition and work out what I should do moving forwards.

After some time I realised that though MS had had a massive impact on my life, it hadn’t really eroded my core skill set, which I felt was centred around communication. Pre-diagnosis I had very much opted for client facing roles, where I used verbal communication to sell products. However as a history graduate, I knew I also loved writing. During my history degree I really enjoyed drawing together a variety of sources and accounts to shape arguments and reach conclusions. I realised that this was very similar to what journalists do. I knew that due to my condition, I would find it difficult to be a roving reporter at the heart of the action but with a web browser and a telephone at home I could try my hand at feature writing. I even used my unique experience as someone with MS to tell my story and get myself published in The Times and then used this as a springboard to produce further articles for other newspapers and magazines.

There was however still something missing. I loved writing but the articles took a huge amount of preparation. It was not just the writing but the interviewing, not to mention the pitching and selling into editors. I wasn’t and am still not scared of hard work but I wanted something that might give me more of a regular income. Something where I could just concentrate on the writing itself without having to always generate and sell new ideas.

This is where Croud came in and I think it is the perfect match. I was introduced to Croud through a member of my extended family and it quickly became clear that Croud have a number of clients who wish to provide their users with innovative content.

One of the things I love most about content writing for Croud is the diversity of the work. I have written blog posts on subjects as wide ranging as extreme cycling and fostering children and when a new brief pops into my inbox via Croud Control it’s like being sent off on an adventure to explore and research a new world. I must admit it has been daunting at times. I have opened some briefs and thought to myself, “How on earth am I supposed to write something authoritative about this?”

I have to have faith in my research skills and the effectiveness of the web as a research tool. In addition, Croud’s Content Team obviously don’t just pluck topics out of thin air. There are discussions with the client and a focus on hot topics trending within a given sector. There is therefore almost always good research material at hand and so it’s just a question of knowing how to use it efficiently without getting too bogged down.

I think there is just so much out there because increasingly “content is king”. Consumers don’t want the hard sell. More and more they want to research purchasing options on the web and make decisions in their own time. I feel they are likely to reward brands which provide them with engaging and well written information and shun those whose sole interest appears to be in making a fast buck.

Moreover, all of us in digital know how Google feels about websites with fresh, original content in respect to higher rankings and of course; content is also going to continue to be a great tool for spreading the word on social media platforms.

The other great thing about working for Croud is the team itself. They are all very knowledgeable, laid back and approachable people. They really make me feel like a valued part of the team, rather than just another supplier who they have to deal with in order to service clients.

Often with writing work, the devil really is in the detail and it helps that the Croud team are always open to my feedback and suggestions as to how a piece might work best. Taking the time to collaborate with Croudies and being willing to listen to outside input makes Croud a great organisation to co-operate with.

There are of course many positives when it comes to being a freelancer, from being able to work in your dressing gown and slippers to avoiding the morning commute to work. However it can get a bit lonely and not going to an office every day can make you feel a little isolated and detached. Nevertheless Croud take an open and honest approach to their freelancers. I’m never nervous about querying briefs or calling in for an update if things have been a little quiet.

I believe that Croud value and recognise good work, which is why when I first joined, I let a number of months pass where I simply took a reactive approach, responding to briefs as they came in and showing the team that I could deliver good quality copy on time. It takes time to build a relationship with a company as a freelancer and it has to cut both ways.

As far as the future is concerned, I very much hope that content writing for Croud will continue to be a big part of it. I hope that in some ways the wheel can turn full circle and I can go back to doing those big journalistic features, while knowing I have regular work coming in that is challenging and rewarding, as well as being at the sharp end of the marketing mix.