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Col Skinner, Consultant and Founder of Profoundry

4 min, 48 sec read
13:00 PM | 27 October 2014
by Jim Compton-hall
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Col Skinner has worked across a spectrum of digital disciplines in agency and in-house roles over seven years. Then in early 2014 he decided to offer this experience to his own clients and formed Profoundry, a proactive digital consultancy based in Manchester city centre.

What made you want to go into marketing?

Kind of a long story but the short version is that I kind of fell into marketing.

The medium version goes a something like this:

I originally had no intention of going to university but my school made it compulsory to go through the application process. I randomly picked Automotive Design due to my love of cars at the time. Then about 3 months before receiving my exam results I had a long discussion with my Mum and came out of it inspired to go to university. Now I had the chance to choose a course I actually wanted to do. After flicking through the prospectus' of the 3 choice universities I found Huddersfield University did a Marketing degree that included a placement year. Amongst the past placement providers was BMW and Jaguar. I was sold. I started in September 2005, did a placement year in 2008 (not with a car company) and graduated in 2009 where my career properly began.

How did you land your first job in the creative industries?

My first break into the industry came from my placement year. Everyone in my year was solely applying to large corporations national internship programs. These were difficult to get into and often involved moving to a different part of the UK. I decided to keep my search fairly local searching in Manchester for marketing roles. I came across a PPC Assistant internship role at MediaVest (now called Carat) that looked good. I applied, had two interviews and got the job. This placement set me up with crucial experience which lead to my first job after graduating.

You’ve worked at an array of different companies over the last seven years, but you’ve always stayed in Manchester. Why? 5 Manchester companies and 4 separate living locations later, and I'm still here! I have formed a real affinity for all Manchester has to offer a resident or worker. I think we are a great city for promoting supportive communities and creativity. Two things that mean the digital / tech sector is thriving here. It is a city you can amble all the way across in under an hour and almost always bump into a friendly face.

Would you recommend young people look to Manchester for work within the creative industries?

Most definitely! Manchester has an established creative community that is only going to get bigger and better in the coming years, fuelled by the large digital and media sectors. Soon Manchester will be a hub that easily competes against the likes of Brighton, London and Edinburgh for creative and digital media roles.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career to date?

The biggest challenge so far has been quitting my full time agency job and going it alone. It is a challenge that demands self sacrifice, self confidence and self reliance. Three things that scare many people away from making the leap. But being nine months into my self employed journey I can highly recommend it for those that are prepared.

How have you found freelancing? Have you got any tips for anyone thinking of doing the same?

Freelancing has been a very interesting contrast of lucrative employment and a sometimes lonely existence. You work for companies but aren't an employee. You work in offices but aren't a permanent resident. It's a nomadic lifestyle where you need to be adaptable and outgoing. You are the marketing, sales and finance department for your business. You have to juggle all those elements while holding up part/full time employment. It is not for the faint of heart or the lazy.

In terms of tips I would say:

Don’t listen to others. I know that sounds like a dramatic tip, but remember that family, friends & colleagues aren’t you and will always offload their personal fears and thoughts. You are the one who is ultimately in charge of your career and life. It’s you who will be working late, stressing over money and begging for client leads, all to hopefully be rewarded with your working life.

Cash flow is the nail in the coffin for 70% of new businesses. Payment for freelancers can be sporadic at the best of times. Be prepared to go from receiving pay package popped conveniently into your bank account each month, to desperately sending outstanding payment reminders to clients.

Would you recommend young people seek out experience both agency-side and client-side as you have?

Yes, from my experience I a mix of experience prepares you for all that a creative/ digital career will throw your way. It is difficult to empathise with either side if you haven't been there yourself. An employer will admire any CV that shows you have experience operating for a client as well as for an agency. A lot of people stay within their comfort zones never venturing onto the other side (be it agency or client side). Grab any work experience you can to gain an advantage and remember that, whichever side you sit on, communication skills are imperative.

Are there any projects you want to explore in the future?

Being my own boss puts me firmly in control of my careers direction. That is an empowering position and one that I want to utilise for my future. I want to achieve that ideal state where I am working on projects that hold my interest / passion whilst paying the bills. I have no idea what those projects might be but I certainly aim to find them.

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