…is leaving your email marketing job. Or even leaving email entirely.
This past year, I’ve read emails and blog posts from a few well-known email marketers who have decided to leave their awesome jobs and take a break from email for a while. I’m currently in the middle of the Email Insiders Summit, and there’s definitely talk of lots of people switching companies or leaving their email jobs.
It’s not totally shocking news. As much as we all love email marketing, it does cause a lot of anxiety. It’s easy to get really burnt out, really quickly.
And that’s why I’m joining the ranks of people taking a break.
While I’ve loved email for my entire career (and still do very much), it’s time for me to take a step away for a few weeks. At the end of the next week, I’m leaving my job at Food52 to do…something else. TBD.
Lots of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with my current job. I never expected to fall into email marketing as a career. I went to college to be a stage manager for theatre. But I graduated in a very difficult job market, and took the first marketing coordinator job I could get. I learned that email marketing 1) existed and 2) was something I really wanted to do. So I did it. The first few years were in B2B, which certainly has its own challenges for email. But I fell madly in love with this new career option that combined copywriting, coding, creativity, psychology, and analytics. Then, after I moved to NYC a little over 4 years ago, I discovered the joy of B2C email marketing. Suddenly I could attach a real dollar amount of value that my work brought to my company, and that was really exciting – at first.
But that came with a cost. I was responsible for making sure that my emails made money. Online retail brands really depend on email for revenue, and I’ve had to send a lot more emails than I’ve ever wanted to send. As a consumer, I actually barely read promotional emails (but as an email marketer, I read ALL OF THEM). I’d rather get fewer emails that were really, really good, than daily emails that weren’t. As an email marketer, that’s what I want to send. I think that’s what most email marketers want to send. The trouble is, email marketers work with other digital marketers. And product managers. And CMOs and CEOs who don’t understand email and think the “send” button is a magic bullet that prints money, and it can be pressed constantly.
For my last two jobs, I was hired to be the one person running email. While my background and interviews indicated that I was hired to do strategy and day-to-day email operations, in both cases, my role ended up being a very busy hybrid of producing emails, managing ESP transitions, educating co-workers about email, arguing with designers about whether emails should be built as images or hard coded, and figuring out that whole responsive design thing. There was no time for strategy or advancing myself as an email marketer. I couldn’t often leave for conferences (or vacation days…), because someone had to be there to send the emails, and I was the only person who knew how. Working at startups can be exciting, but in both jobs, I found myself in a position where I was both overwhelmed by the sheer volume of my work, and completely bored with it at the same time. Since there was no one who knew more about email than me to challenge me to do more, I wasn’t really growing as much as I wanted to – I was just trying to get everyone to a level where we could work on emails together.
In both jobs, however, I was able to build up email teams. I have taught several junior level people a ton about email, and they’re now self-sufficient email marketers who are capable of running email for high-volume brands, (gasp!) without my help. I’ve educated a lot of designers about why we can’t just make an email one large image, and I’ve taught front-end developers how coding email is different than coding for the web. And I discovered I really like teaching people about email. In fact, I’m developing an Intro to Email class for General Assembly in NYC, and in January, I’m going to teach more people about email. Anyone who has met me at an email event or conference, or has worked with me in the last few years, or follows me on Twitter, knows that I get really excited when I talk about email.
When I left Warby Parker, the social media team put this up on their daily white board. My geeky ExactTarget fangirl behavior was a running joke in the office, and for good reason.
Like I mentioned above, there were other factors in my decision. I’ve lived in NYC about four and a half years, and – it’s exhausting. I had wanted to live here my entire life, and I really did love it – at first. But startups have long hours. I have a long commute. Pair that with smart phones becoming a lot more common in the last few years, and I feel like I’m ALWAYS working (or at least on call).I never have time to actually enjoy living in the city. Many of my co-workers in recent years are exhilarated by this kind of life, and thrive on it. They love having a fast-paced, open office setting. To that, I’m going to have to quote Amy Poehler, “Good for you, not for me.” In the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what kinds of work environments I thrive in, and it turns out, “fast-spaced scrappy start-up” isn’t one of them.
So what’s next?
The solution I came up with was to press “pause” for a little bit, and regroup. I’ve taken VERY little time off over the last few years, and my plan is to spend the next few weeks recharging and planning my next steps. I’m going to enjoy spending the holidays with my family and actually be fully present, without having to worry about whether an email is converting enough, or if the customers received their e-Gift cards. And then I’ll look for something else to do. I don’t want to jump into another startup that leaves me just as burnt out as the others, and find myself frustrated, exhausted, and wanting to leave after a few years or even a few months. I want to work with other people who are as passionate about email as I am, and who are better at email than I am. I want to help other people become as passionate about email as I am, and I don’t want to resent my workload so much that I feel less passionate about email. For now, I’m going to focus on finding something that balances my passion for email with my need for work/life balance. I’m going to keep my options open. And I can’t wait.