Top 5 Marketing Mistakes I Made as a Creative Entrepreneur

Ask my parents and they’ll tell you I’ve always been a DIY type of person. Fiercely so. I can respect the advice of experts, but often haven’t always had the resources to hire them as my husband and I have both ventured out into the world as creative freelancers.

So, I read. I listen. I experiment. I learn.

After over a decade marketing creative ventures, such as my own businesses, as well as helping countless creatives find new ways of reaching their audiences, I’ve compiled a toolkit that I’ve come to lean on. It isn’t perfect, but the best thing about it is that it is all things I’ve learned to do myself.

The road to this refined toolkit, which I provide in Marketing Tools for Creatives, hasn’t been smooth. I’ve fallen flat on my face many times. I’ve also fallen into the trap of doing something the wrong way, only to realize it years later. That means I need to do the additional work of undoing some things and implementing others.

Here are the top 5 mistakes I’ve made over the years, laid out here for you so that you can hopefully avoid them!

1. Not using my header tags. These are the h1, h2, h3, etc. tags you’ll see offered on your website formatting. I should have taken the time to customize them to look the way I wanted and then actually used them. Instead I would bold and enlarge the font to indicate a header or subheader. Instead, when I changed website themes or templates, often my headers got messed up. Had I used the tags, it would have formatted them accordingly. And I was missing out on the most important thing of all: SEO. By using those header tags you are telling search engines, “this content is important!” It’s all part of the SEO game.

2. Pitching too long. Editors are busy. I know because I am an editor, and have emails that land in my inbox that I often can’t attend to for weeks. Your best chances of getting published are to keep your queries well-written and thorough, but concise. Aim for a page and if they want more information, I think they’ll come knocking. (I cover query letter and press release writing in the course.)

3. Blogging aimlessly. Our interests will shift as we grow in our lives and in our work. But be careful if you blog to make sure your blog continues to be representative of who you are today. Go through your content every half year or so and make sure it wouldn’t be embarrassing if people accessed content from 10 years ago. Update blogs that need a facelift. You don’t want a bunch of dead links flying around the Internet, so if you choose to retire blogs, make sure you have a proper 301 redirect in place or a good 404 (page not found).

4. Abandoning my email list. In general I’m the kind of person who will follow through once I’ve started something. I started up an email list for my freelance writing and then life got busy (two kids…) and I didn’t send emails for the longest time. Like two years. I should have kept focusing on growing my list and sending out low-maintenance emails, even every two to four months. It would have been better than nothing. (When I finally did send an email, I actually got a response back from someone saying, “Who the heck are you!? Stop emailing me.”)

5. Going a little too DIY. This one applies to Facebook Ads, something I’ve found more success with recently. But it wasn’t until I got set up with a Business Manager Account on Facebook and started to play with Custom Audiences and Saved Audiences. I finally did a short Facebook Marketing course to learn more about targeting and copy writing. Before that, I think I wasted my money on ads, which weren’t being targeted effectively towards people who would even click in the first place.

So, what did I do instead of all these silly things? This is the meat of the course I created called Marketing Tools for Creatives, which presents creatives with the “what” and “why” of my personal marketing toolkit. I don’t think my husband and I would be pursuing creative careers today if it weren’t for the solid marketing skills we’ve finally landed on. So, if you’re curious, take a look at the course! It’s great for writers, photographers and visual artists, too.

If you’d like a little sneak peek download these 5 Small Changes That Make a Big Difference, and I promise you’ll already be ahead of where you are today.

Travel Memoir to be Released Fall 2022

Six years ago, I made a commitment to myself to one day write a book that would chronicle my adventures and transition to parenthood. Fast-forward and life got busy, I had another kid, started a few businesses, put together four photo travel books with Paul and, voilà, the project was perpetually put on hold. But the dream never faded and in the fall of 2018, I connected with my publisher and finally got the wheels in motion.

Hiking on Rapa Nui. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

With that, I’m excited to announce that I signed a book contract for a travel memoir to be published by Rocky Mountain Books in Fall 2022!

“Travel memoir” is the best I can do to distill the book down to its essence, but it spans the past 15 years, and tracks my journey West and then off the beaten track. It spans oceans and continents, from peaks to valleys, as I learn to navigate an adventure-filled life, unlike anything I was raised with, and guide my young kids down the same bumpy path. It’s not a book about parenting, so much as about adventure amplified with children added to the mix, and what it means to choose adventure as a way of life in all its many facets.

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: New Zealand, Lake O’Hara, Auyuittuq National Park, Bermuda, Rapa Nui/Easter Island. All photos by Paul Zizka Photography.

As of today, I’m 33,792 words in and I can tell I have plenty of work ahead. But I’m in love with the process and the opportunity to relive my memories as I shape them into this book.

You can keep up-to-date with developments on this by signing up for my email newsletter.

New Publication: Unearthing a Story at Head-Smashed-In

Every writer savours the moment when a new development emerges on a story they are already working on. Last year I was working on a feature for the Canadian Rockies Annual about Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump when an archaeological site discovered 26 years prior was finally excavated.

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What was so significant about it? The site was an oven, deep in the earth, with a 1600-year-old meal still contained inside it. What could it tell us about the Blackfoot people who used to reside there? What does it add to the story about Head-Smashed-In?

Of course, you’ll need to read the piece to find out why (!), but here is an excerpt:

Standing amidst the tall grasses that carpet the base of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, I close my eyes and try to imagine the buffalo stampede approaching. An inescapable dust cloud forms as their hooves pound the earth, sending a shockwave of thunder through the landscape. The herd’s panic is palpable as it is rushed to the cliff edge, driven by their hunters. Then it happens: hundreds of beasts hurtle over the cliff, cascading to their deaths in a massive heap. Soon the pungent smell of smoke, blood and flesh permeates the air as the Blackfoot work swiftly to preserve the meat for the long winter ahead.

I open my eyes. Centuries of erosion have worn away the base of the cliff, shortening the drop and burying layer upon layer of bones – 11 metres worth – beneath a jumble of soil, grass and rubble. To the untrained eye, the cliff looks… unimpressive. But time has changed the landscape. And what now appears to be a non-threatening tumble used to be an 18-metre-high fatal drop.

There is more than meets the eye at Head-Smashed-In, not only with the buffalo jump, but also with the award-winning interpretive centre constructed into the adjacent cliffside. From the exterior, the structure disguises itself well, blending inconspicuously with the exposed sandstone that extends from the grass-covered escarpment. Enter the seven-tiered building, however, and a world of discovery is revealed.

The cliffs and plains that make up this buffalo jump have an intriguing story to tell – one that continues to unfold today.

→ Read the rest in Volume 2 of the
Canadian Rockies Annual

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My 5 New Finds This Summer

Time is precious, and in a world where we have a million options to choose from (in every possible realm of life!), I find it helpful when other people help me narrow those down. When you come across something great, why not share it? That’s what this post is all about – my latest finds for making life easier, more productive and interesting.

1. This I Know, by Terry O’Reilly

downloadI put a call out through Facebook earlier this summer, asking for summer reading recommendations and I was inundated with some amazing responses.

One, in particular, caught my eye: This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence. I have enjoyed Terry O’Reilly’s radio show for years, and this book perfectly summarizes the lessons I needed to hear running various small business. I highly recommend it to business owners and marketers.

 

2. Great Big Story

Like many of you, I can’t resist a compelling video. Unfortunately, most of what I see featured on Facebook looks great until you watch it and realize you’ve wasted five minutes of your life. But not with Great Big Story. This is a global media company that does storytelling right, and they are always on a quest to, according to their website, “discover the untold, the overlooked and the flat-out amazing.” I highly recommend you follow them on Facebook for a weekly dose of content you’ll actually enjoy.

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3. Fjallraven Kånken No. 2 Laptop 15″ Bag

My husband will tell you I have heaps of bags at home. Laptop bags, hiking packs, backpacks that second as laptop bags. Despite the choices, I have my favourites, so I’m constantly switching my stuff around, emptying out my snacks and gear from a hike to load the bag up for a desk day. I also find that bags can be too big, leaving me with lots of bulk when all I need is to transport my laptop to the office, with just a few other items. Enter: the Fjallraven Kånken No. 2 Laptop 15″ Bag. I love the bag’s durability, size, and detailing. Plus I trust this long-standing Swedish bag-maker to make something that feels comfortable to wear.

 

4. LastPass

If you struggle to remember passwords across your devices and accounts, I highly recommend you take a look at LastPass. Between my personal and business accounts online, I have dozens of passwords and logins to remember. With LastPass you can say goodbye to notes scribbled on paper or the need to reset your passwords when you forget. It takes a bit of effort up front to get all your passwords into the system, but after that, you’ll be so glad you did.

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5. Happy Scribe

Writers and researchers know just how long it can take to transcribe an entire interview. I remember hours spent pausing tracks and pounding as fast as I could at the keyboard. Often, I’d only use a small portion of the interview, but I still felt it was important to have the whole thing recorded in a document. Happy Scribe is a service that allows you to upload your recordings and pay a nominal fee to have it transcribed at lighting speed. You’ll likely need to do a pass of it to make any corrections, but the bulk of it will be there. Major time saver!

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Notes: None of these companies paid to be listed in this post. These choices, and my opinions of them, are entirely my own. This post contains affiliate links – if you click on them and make a purchase, it sends me a small ‘thank you.’ Finally, thanks to Fjallraven for sending me the Kånken No. 2 Laptop 15″ Bag. You know what a writer needs! I have many bags for laptops, but this one now takes the cake. I didn’t need to include it in this post, but I chose to because it’s truly one of my new favs.