How to become a social media entrepreneur

Polly O'Connell from Bambi Social discusses how she became a major player in the social media world.

In partnership with University of Salford

As part of our #Lifehacks campaign for young creatives, NME and University of Salford are asking people who’ve pursued new and exciting careers to share their journeys. Here, social media entrepreneur Polly O’Connell – co-founder of Bambi Social – explains how she became a key collaborator for brands as varied as Pret A Manger and Sink the Pink.

How would you describe your job? What do you actually do on a day to day basis?
“Every day is different which is probably why it suits me. I’ve never been one for 9-5 in one place everyday, so I’ve created a way I can work with different people each day, on different projects and if I want to, anywhere in the world. One day I might be in one of my client’s offices, going through what they have on, and planning their social channels for the week ahead. Another day I might be running from cafe to office to pitching to potential new clients. Or I might be working from home with my dog on my lap. I’m constantly on the hunt for new work, new freelancers to work with and new people to bring into Bambi Social. I also still post every day on my own Instagram!”

How did you get into it?
“I had a fashion label about six years ago with my then-boyfriend called Bambi and Manson. I fell into the online marketing role, and kind of became obsessive about it. When you’re working for brands, there are often a lot of guidelines, but working for myself on my own brand gave me the freedom to experiment with socials. It was also at a time where there wasn’t such a thing as an influencer agent, so it was all about hustling yourself and getting attention of those influencers. We managed to get the attention of the Jenners, among others, which as you can imagine gained us a lot of followers. From our own label we got asked to do the socials of our PR agency, then a few brands, then someone else, and so on. It then just became word of mouth and I’ve worked for brands big and small, from Pret A Manger to NME, to MTV to Sink the Pink to GymClass London, the list goes on.”

What skills are important in your field? What are the main lessons you’ve learned along the way?
“Organisation is literally the only way you can do well – and it’s not my forté. Learn to organise, and set alarms all the time for posting for clients. Be mindful of timezones, and say yes to offers in social that scare you. Learning on the job is real in social media as each brand has different objectives. I remember sh**ting myself as I was asked to go into a team of people and consult for half a day. But when I got in there, I realised it was fine and I wasn’t some big fraud. I’m also really shy, so doing things like that and saying yes is important to build confidence.”

What advice would you give to young people who’d like to do something similar?
“Learn as much as you can, work with as many people as you can, do things for free, make contacts, network, go to house parties and persuade people to have a meeting with you the next week… hustle. Once you’ve found which brands you’re passionate about, start going for your dream clients. Keep in mind that when people are independent, every penny is carefully spent, so never just think you can shove out any old content. Enjoy watching the start-ups and the crazy amounts of passion they have, then try and find a way to creatively put that passion into their social media. Don’t be tight with contacts or skills.”

What skills or attributes do you look for in young people who’d like to work with you?
“I have the most amazing assistant. She’s so on it and organised – I can trust her to do exactly what I need her to do as I’m often busy with pitches or other things which will benefit the agency. I’m always looking for freelancers who are passionate and creative. We work with such a mix of clients, so one day we might need a hair stylist, and the next we might need someone to create gifs for us.”

What does the future hold in store for your area of work? What’s the next step?
“Getting our website finished – does anyone out there want to do it for me?! And I think really just pushing forward, bringing in the brands that make me excited. It’s all about trying to create richer social media content with amazing creatives, giving the brands we work with more and more. We’re always looking for new clients who are after social media management and new freelancers who want to get creative with making new exciting content, so give us a follow and get in touch if that’s you! @bambi_paradise on Instagram will give you an insight into what we do for clients – and there’s also a lot of posts of my pug Queenie. She’s a babe, you’re welcome.”

As part of our #LifeHacks initiative, NME and University of Salford are also creating a year-long programme of events. The aim is to help inspire young creatives on how to get ahead in the world of work.

Get tickets to our first #LifeHacks event (including an exclusive NME evening gig) with University of Salford here.