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.

6 Highlights of 2016

Each year I do a round-up of some kind, whether it’s things that I’m grateful for or how my previous year’s goals panned out. For this year, my knee-jerk reaction was I don’t have time to write one, and I don’t, but that’s exactly the problem. These are the things I need to make time for so that life doesn’t feel so frantic. These are the things that keep me grounded. So, this year I’m keeping it simple and highlighting six things from 2016 – the good, the not so good, and the awesome.

1. CANADIAN ROCKIES ANNUAL HITS THE SHELVES

Back in 2014, my business partner and I sat down and dreamt up a new kind of mountain culture publication for the Canadian Rockies In May 2016, those dreams became a reality when Volume 1 of the Canadian Rockies Annual hit the shelves!  Thanks to everyone who purchased and subscribed – we are down to our last few copies. Volume 1 is still available for ordering (and pre-orders for Volume 2 are now open!) Thanks to Doug Urquhart at UpThink Lab for this awesome promo video.

2. ADVENTURES ON HAWAI’I, The BIG ISLAND

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

This year’s family trip back in March took us to The Big Island, where we enjoyed beach time, cool volcanic features, amazing coffee (a must) and time with Grammy. As I do with all our family adventures, I wrote an article over on AdventurousParents.com: Family Travel – A Short Guide to Hawai’i, The Big Island. Up next? Bermuda.

3. BERG LAKE + MT. ROBSON PROVINCIAL PARK

Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

What would a summer be without some awesome outdoor adventures? This one was definitely a highlight for many reasons: a great crew, new terrain, awesome weather and some good old time alone in the backcountry. I highly recommend a trip into Berg Lake for any intermediate/advanced hikers!

4. Saying Goodbye

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This year I said goodbye to the last of my grandparents, my father’s mother, Maxine (here she is with grandpa Bill, who left us about 15 years ago). I was in the midst of finishing the magazine when she passed away, and the whole experience, including the memorial in Winnipeg in June seems to have whizzed by. But, these days I’m remembering her and missing her. She was an incredible person.

5. LAUNCHING OFFBEAT

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I feel so incredibly blessed to work with a team of creatives who strive to help others on their own creative journeys. This year my husband Paul Zizka and our friend/colleague Dave Brosha teamed up to launch OFFBEAT, a new online photo community and international photography workshops company. Through the process, I also got to meet our project manager, Camila – a woman pretty much cut from the same cloth. Be sure to tell the photographers in your life to check out OFFBEAT!

6. YOU WOn’t remember this

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Taken on the Redearth Creek trail on the way home from Shadow Lake Lodge, 2015. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Last month I got a few hard copies of a new anthology I wrote for called You Won’t Remember ThisIt is my first official book authorship! With four tourist books in the works this year, and plenty of ideas down the pipeline, I feel like I’m finally embarking on my ultimate goal which is to work more in the book world. Thanks to Sandy for the opportunity to be part of her book!

Happy New Year, everybody!

All good things,

-Meghan

Take a Moment for “Wanderment” by Doug Urquhart

From the maker of Mountains in Motion and Eye of the Beholder, Doug Urquhart’s latest masterpiece is Wanderment (chosen today as a Vimeo Staff Pick!). Having worked with Doug before I know first-hand just how much of a genius he is with his craft, and how humble he is about it. Wanderment demonstrates his artistry and eye for detail, his passion for the wilderness, and desire to bring that beauty to others.

Take five minutes and watch the video below.

Synopsis

Best Viewed in Full Screen (with scaling turned off)

From meandering streams and forest-dwelling organisms to the grandeur of high mountains above tree-line, this short film wanders through the contrasting wilderness of Alaska, North Carolina, Georgia and California.

WANDERMENT is the result of a 12-month collection of 4K time-lapse sequences captured while backpacking. Countless miles of hiking in the Appalachian Mountains and adventurous backpacking in California and Alaska provided no shortage of opportunity to capture the planet’s poetry in motion. Further juxtaposing these contrasting landscapes is the use of both color and black and white techniques throughout the film. Each time-lapse sequence, comprised of hundreds of still images, represents a chance to share these reflective moments far away from urban epicenters. It offers a simple reminder to step outside with your friends and family to experience and respect nature first-hand.

WANDERMENT from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

On the Hunt for Aurora Borealis with Paul Zizka

Feature photo from Travel Alberta Winter Magazine 2014-2015. Photo by Paul Zizka.

It is not every day that you get assigned a story you’ve been dying to write, and even less likely to be asked to write about a person very close to you. So, I was ecstatic when Travel Alberta approached me about writing a story about my husband, Paul Zizka, and his quest to chase the Northern Lights here in the Canadian Rockies. Having the insider’s perspective on this crazy chase, especially during the solar maximum in 2013, I could have written a lot more about life at home, and how it intermingles with aurora forecasts, solar flares and Paul’s incredible ambition to capture the dancing lights. But I left myself out of the story, and talked purely about Paul’s efforts to photograph the aurora borealis, and the resources he uses to track the likelihood of their appearance.

It was a cool night on May 31, 2013, when professional photographer Paul Zizka left his home in Banff to drive to Herbert Lake, a small body of water along the world-famous Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. Eagerly, he glanced upwards through the windshield, checking the skies at regular intervals. All forecasts predicted the aurora borealis, aka the northern lights, would put on a show – perhaps the best one of the year. “I knew I was on the verge of what could be one of the greatest photo ops I had ever encountered,” Paul explained.  → Read the rest of the article, starting on Page 30 here.