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.

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.

 

 

5 Reasons Why Writers Should Be on Twitter

Oh, Twitter. The land of abbreviations, mentions, RTs, bit.ly and #FF. Don’t have a clue what those are? Perhaps you should and here’s why:

1. Exposure

I joined Twitter on April 26, 2009, and started the account as a way to continue branding myself as a writer, choosing @yaheweha (mountain woman in the Stoney language) as my Twitter name. It was part of an overall branding program, which involved a website overhaul and new business cards, that would better communicate my focus as a writer. It worked. One of the main reasons it did the trick for me is that it gave me an easy way to connect with people after meeting them at conferences and events. People were also able to find out more about my interests based on what I was tweeting about. If you’re looking to get your name out there more, Twitter is an easy way to do it.

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2. Research

This is one area that people often overlook. On Twitter you can use search terms and #hashtags to follow certain topics of conversation. You can also throw a question out to your Twitter community if you’re researching a particular subject for an article. This might not give you the “official source” you need, but it may point you in the right direction. By the way, many of your “official sources” – professionals, celebrities, business representatives, brands – are on Twitter, too. I once wrote a blog post on how to stay warm on outdoor winter adventures. I put a question out on Twitter asking for tips and in just 45 minutes I received over 20 responses. I used these responses to build the post.

3. Connectivity

Twitter lets you stay connected to industry partners like never before. Nothing can replace the face-to-face contact that conferences and meetings provide, but as more and more people use Twitter to spread their news, tips and tricks, latest blogs post and publications, you can keep tabs on a regular basis. As a writer, I am able to keep certain magazines on my radar and stay up-to-date with their latest articles and issues so that I know what kind of content they may or may not be looking for. I can also comment on their posts and mention them when I post a link to an article I’ve written for them. It’s a win-win situation, all around.

4. Socializing

Like me, many writers spend the day working at home at their desk, sometimes not even realizing they haven’t opened the blinds until about 4pm. Solitude is necessary for focus and writing, but makes for a rather boring social life during the day. Twitter lets you be a part of real and meaningful conversations (that’s right, real and meaningful) and helps break up the monotony of the day. I’ve made actual friends on Twitter prior to meeting them in person at local Tweet-Ups (a get together with other local Twitter users). I’ve also gotten to know new connections much better than I otherwise would have.

5. Marketing

As I mentioned in Tip #1, your Twitter account can be part of your overall marketing campaign (website, Facebook, etc). Using aggregators like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Sprout Social, you can import all of your accounts into one program and manage them all from there. Here’s where you’ll be so thankful you started a Twitter account. Imagine you are just about to publish a new book. Publishers these days love writers that can assist with marketing their books. Now imagine that you have over 1,000 followers on Twitter that you can lean on to help you spread the word. If I’ve learned anything in the past few years being on Twitter, it’s that people actually care about you and want to see you succeed.

By starting (and using!) a Twitter account, you are tapping into opportunities to maintain relationships, create new connections and set yourself up for success in the future.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.