How Volunteering for ASJA Led to Bankable Skills 

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett
Laptop and notebook with pen.
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

What began as a volunteer opportunity developed into a crash course in social media management, leading to a $1,500 monthly assignment. 

In September 2020, I volunteered to help post social media messages for ASJA.  Although I had Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr accounts, I had no experience posting social media content for an organization. 

A bit of a geekette, I took computer math in high school in the early 1980s. I started banking online in 1992 and have had the same email address since 1995. I’ve always enjoyed tinkering with technology. 

I’m an old-school journalist with new media savvy. My attitude toward learning new tech is that you can’t break software. Oops, and “my bad,” your way through mistakes. It’s all trial and error, and eventually, you get better. 

In 2020, ASJA had no formal protocol for posting content to social media. Tami Kamin Meyer, chair of the marketing and communications committee, divided duties based on platform. I volunteered to do Twitter and Facebook because I was at least active on those platforms. 

Laura Laing, ASJA President at the time, crafted a social media coordinator job description, which included how and when to post content. 

“We’ll be doing a bit of building the plane while we fly it — trying out some strategies while keeping our social media feeds fed,” Laing said. 

So off we flew. 

I started posting tweets from various board members and committee chairs. We experimented with spreadsheets and a calendar. We used Hootsuite, a social media management software, which allowed me to schedule multiple posts on different platforms. Early on, the incoming requests were overwhelming in the lead-up to a conference. But I figured it out. 

Morphing into Social Media Manager

A year later, ASJA switched to Sprout Social, a more robust social media management tool. Sprout Social resources included blogs, webinars, and live customer support. The software had a more user-friendly interface and incorporated Canva, a cloud-based graphic design app. I’d taken college courses in Adobe Creative Suite. Once familiar with Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, Canva is child’s play. 

My coordinator position soon morphed into Social Media Committee chair. I searched blogs, YouTube videos, and any resource I could find to help enhance my social media management skills, specifically best practices for nonprofit organizations. 

Last year, ASJA board member Stacey Freed referred a real estate developer to me who needed a website refresh and other content. 

After revamping the website, the client was so pleased she asked if I could maintain her social media accounts. I was hesitant. But then I thought, I’ve been doing that for ASJA for two years. Why not?  

Although posting via Sprout Social takes less than 15 minutes per message, I had to determine the value of my news judgment, marketing, and content development skills. After all, social media constituted a large part of building the client’s brand. 

I researched what people charged for social media management, factored in other ongoing work from the client, and proposed $ 1,500 a month for daily posts. She agreed. I recommended she get an account with Sprout Social and add me as a user. This way, she maintained ownership of her platforms, and I didn’t incur any charges I’d have to invoice. 

Still learning, I built the plane as I flew. I put aside assumptions and paid attention to the analytics. My LinkedIn page was more of a placeholder, an online resume. I’ve become more attentive to LinkedIn after analytics for ASJA and my client, which caters to professionals, revealed higher engagement than on Twitter, where I’d been most active.  

It’s been over a year since I signed that contract, and the client remains happy. She says colleagues compliment her social media presence. At Christmas, she sent me a bottle of pink champagne with spa accessories and thanked me for making her look like a Fortune 500 company. 

I have yet to seek additional social media management clients. However, I’m learning more as I gear up to add social media management as a service I provide.

It’s a revenue source I hadn’t considered and would not have felt comfortable doing without maintaining social media for ASJA. 

Volunteering is more than an opportunity to help this organization. It’s like an unpaid internship that can enhance your skills and lead to unexpected pay-offs.

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett is an award-winning journalist and author of the book Serena Williams: Tennis Champion, Sports Legend and Cultural Heroine. 

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ASJA, Blogging & Social Media, Freelance Life, Productivity, Running Your Business, Writing Skills


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