What Helped Conquer My Content Career Limbo

Hint: It’s now the largest annual business event in Cleveland

We all get into funky career limbos. And as a freelance writer and content consultant for over 20 years, limbo is often my middle name.

But about seven years ago, I was completely tapped out of inspiration for my content career. I enjoyed my clients, but wasn’t sure what was next—I just knew I could contribute so much more, to so many, out there somewhere.

One night, a search on LinkedIn showed a new chapter of the Business Marketing Association was starting here in Cleveland and a kick-off happy hour was planned. I wasn’t familiar with anyone involved, but I did see the chapter’s chairman worked for a previous client—a great conversation starter. Admittedly, I wasn’t thrilled to attend a networking event on a Monday, but that night literally opened my doors to the world of content marketing.

At the BMA event I introduced myself to some of the best marketing pros in Cleveland. Within a few months of shaking hands with the event’s organizer Craig Coffey (an enthusiastic and brilliant marketer) and many others (shout out to the infamous Jacquie Chakirelis!), I was easily convinced to serve as the BMA’s communications chair.

In addition to gaining new clients for my business, I began strategizing with the BMA committee on growing its membership. Now, I was at the table with people and ideas that lit an inspirational flame. This included one person I had never heard of, but would soon get to know for the revolutionary work he was doing; Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and the leading evangelist for content marketing.

At that time, CMI was still in its infancy, but its annual event Content Marketing World (CMW) was gaining steam. When Joe and his team reserved a room to fit 150 people for the first CMW in 2011, 660 showed up and took over the hotel.

Now in its ninth year, CMW attracted thousands to gather in Cleveland to celebrate all things content. If you don’t know about Content Marketing Institute and the now much-anticipated annual Content Marketing World, you should. It’s a playground for leading brand marketers and experts from around the world covering strategy, storytelling, ROI, demand generation, AI and more than you can imagine.

Jump back to seven years earlier: I was unsure if CMW would be worth it for me. I didn’t work for a large corporation who sent me on their dime, so a ticket was an investment. I remember telling Joe at one of the first BMA events that I’m “just me” — that I didn’t think I’d ever get to attend CMW.

Joe’s reply? “Beth, you can be as big as you want to be.”

Wow. That’s all I can say even now. Wow. (Big hug, Joe Pulizzi!)

Now, years later I’ve just attended my third CMW event and continue to be amazed at what I learn; invaluable is the best way to describe what it means to me. With four days, 180+ sessions, workshops and forums and two main conference days with 14 concurrent tracks, there’s really too much for me to mention in this post.

Yet…there’s so much more to this story. Beyond the industry insider knowledge and getting to meet and learn from some of the best in content marketing (love you, Ann Handley!), I’ve made loyal friends who encourage me to get out of any career limbo that may surface. Content Marketing Institute’s web developer Dave Anthony, vice president of marketing Cathy McPhillips and social media strategist Monina Wagner, along with long-time BMA friends, are my unconditional team of guidance and inspiration—and lucky for me, they’re in Cleveland.

While I didn’t get to give Joe a big hug at this year’s CMW (happy wave from afar!), his recent newsletter asked what were the events that led to the creation of Content Marketing World—the most successful thing he’s launched in his entrepreneurial career. The answer? Attending marketing and other industry events. It’s that simple, he said.

So true, Joe. So true.

The moral of my content limbo story? Getting out and trying something new gets you out of limbo. Like Joe says, you can be as big as you want to be.