Dan Rawley is a marketing manager at Sheffield digital agency Evoluted.
Crowned as best midsize agency at Prolific North’s Marketing awards earlier this year, the agency has additional offices across Manchester, Birmingham and London.
Before joining Evoluted, he has built up a wealth of experience across SEO with previous roles at The SEO Works and Twinkl, where he led Twinkl’s international SEO strategy.
As a finalist for Prolific North’s Marketer of the Year, Dan shares his career journey, tips and advice.
How did you first get into your industry?
I graduated from a journalism degree in 2017 and realised that firstly, I wanted to stay in Sheffield, where I’d studied, and secondly, that I didn’t want to go into journalism as I wasn’t prepared to move to London or whichever grim outpost had jobs on local newspapers (plus the hours are grim). There seemed to be a lot of jobs popping up in Sheffield doing something called “SEO”, so after some further research I landed a job at a local agency.
I found there were a lot of transferable skills from journalism and I enjoyed the strategic side of it, so I ended up working in SEO for five years, including helping build a new in-house SEO team at Twinkl which won a global award. I went on to found an SEO agency for start-ups/small businesses and through serving as the de facto salesperson, got a taste for lead generation and growing an agency as a business. In May I moved to Evoluted as Marketing Manager to build out my all-round marketing skills and experience working at a really well-established agency and hopefully help them reach the next level.
What do you love about your job?
I love the variety – in this role I’m working across so many different marketing channels so I’m always learning. It’s great to be promoting an agency that I genuinely believe in – we have a fantastic team here doing industry-leading work, and the job would be a hell of a lot harder (and more morally dubious) if that wasn’t the case! This agency is carefully set-up to deliver high-quality work for clients, which I don’t think is actually very common in the industry.
Who – or what – has inspired you in your career?
I’m inspired by seeing so many marketers carve out great careers for themselves being entirely self-taught in some cases – it does feel like an industry which has lots of opportunities for newcomers and less gatekeeping than other professions.
I suppose the flip-side of that is that you sometimes get people immediately claiming to be experts without having put in the hard yards, which can give the industry a bad name. I also have to give a shout-out to Declan Reilly, who I met in my first role and who’s now a colleague again at Evoluted and has given me sage career advice a few times over the years!
What are the biggest challenges about your job?
Time management and prioritising – there are so many opportunities to explore when managing so many channels, so the tough part of my role is working out which ideas to focus on right now and which can wait. Also trying to keep abreast of new technologies and tactics, as marketing moves so fast! I do think being agency-side – especially an agency with experts across multiple disciplines – is the best place for that.
What skills have been the most crucial to you succeeding in your career so far?
Although I didn’t go into journalism, the skill of writing tight, professional copy which my degree instilled in me has helped in every part of marketing in my career so far – from writing clear SEO strategies for clients and concise press releases to drafting organic social posts and ad copy that conveys the right message within tight character limits.
I’d also say curiosity – a lot of my learning has come from basically being nosy and trying to figure out how another marketer has done something, or snooping on successful websites in SEMRush, or viewing websites’ source code to see what’s going on behind the scenes.
What was your first salary and what could someone getting into the industry expect to earn nowadays?
£17k, which sounded like a fortune when I entered the world of work with £20 to my name! I think expectations are a bit higher now, especially as the cost of living has risen, and SEOs can command really good salaries after a couple of years’ experience as more businesses have realised its value.
What education or training would be most useful for someone looking to follow your career path?
Funnily enough I was debating this recently with uni friends who’ve also ended up in marketing. If I had my time again I’d be tempted to do a marketing degree to pick up some of the marketing theory I imagine is covered there. That said, I wouldn’t want to be without the copywriting background I mentioned before.
Training-wise, as much exposure to different marketing channels as possible – and there’s no substitution for trying things yourself, like making your own website and trying to build traffic to it. I’m now part of the team organising Sheffield DM, a free bi-monthly marketing meet-up, and I think most major cities have similar events which I’d strongly recommend people starting out go along to, both for developing knowledge and meeting others in the same industry.
What advice would you have for someone looking to follow your path?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask to shadow people – I initially fell into the trap of thinking it was better to pretend you know everything and trying to figure it out yourself, but most people are more than happy to show you how to do something if you ask nicely.
My other advice to someone starting out in marketing would be to get a bit of experience in everything early on to help you decide where your passions and talents lie. That also protects you if one marketing discipline suddenly becomes redundant or opportunities dry up.