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The Marketing Mentor Podcast

In the Marketing Mentor podcast, Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing-Mentor.com, offers short but meaty conversational interviews with creative professionals who are doing what it takes to stop feast or famine, get better clients and command the fees they deserve – and sharing what they’ve learned.
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Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing-Mentor.com and author of 7 books, including The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money, interviews her clients and other successful creative professionals about what’s working when it comes to the latest marketing tools and pricing strategies. Ilise’s conversational style is friendly and engaging as she presses her interviewees to reveal the details that you don’t hear anywhere else about what exactly they are doing and how it is working. Each episode is a no-fluff chat about the nuts and bolts of how designers, copywriters, photographers and other creatives are doing to grow their business to get better clients with bigger budgets. Topics covered include taking control over your business, ending the feast or famine syndrome, finding your niche, identifying the ideal clients who value your services and can pay what you’re worth, developing your own marketing style and cultivating relationships that will last.

For more, sign up for her Quick Tips at marketing-mentortips.com

Jan 13, 2012

Recently I interviewed Scott Hull (www.scotthull.com), an agent for illustrators who, when you ask what he does, says he, “links creativity to the corporate world.”

We talked a lot about how illustration has changed and who the new “art buyers” are. He shared some interesting information for creatives and illustrators—especially when it comes to selling themselves to art buyers and agencies.

Scott believes that we’ve fallen short in marketing creative services and that what the new art buyers care about is: What value are you going to bring to me? How are you going to make my life easier?

So how can a creative sell themselves?

Scott says:

An illustrator can talk about the value they bring and the potential return on investment over stock illustration or photography.

He also suggests emphasizing turnaround time.”The illustrator has the training and sense to convert concepts into a visual translation in 3-4 weeks. This is probably one of the biggest sales tools I have found.”

In this interview, Scott also shares his thoughts on:

Students coming out of art school, what should they do?

Can an illustrator directly approach an art buyer?

Can an illustrator learn enough about ROI to persuade corporate decision-makers?

Listen to this 14-minute interview on the Marketing Mentor podcast.

Dec 13, 2011

Sometimes, all you need is a kickstart.

That’s all it took for Julia Nable, co-founder (with her partner) of SandorMax, to decide how to position their small Connecticut-based firm after 6+ years in business. 

I met with Julia and Zoltan for a 2 hour consultation in June 2011 (almost exactly 6 months ago). Then, in early December, Julia wrote to tell me they’d made great strides with their positioning and their target market, healthcare and bioscience companies – and that they were accepted as speakers at a prestigious industry conference later this year.  

I was like a proud parent! Here’s how it happened. 

First, like everyone else, they were generalists, until they came to the realization that this approach just wasn’t working. She said, “We were so broad that we were taking any work that came our way. We were too many things to too many people.”

They knew things had to change. That’s when they called me and we spent 2 hours hashing out potential positioning statements and possible markets to focus on. “At the beginning, our big fear was: How do we turn away business? I think that’s what everyone wonders at the beginning. What if someone calls and they have nothing to do with healthcare, do we turn them away?”

Julia likens their new approach to having a tiny herb garden instead of a huge farm. “Before, we had a gigantic farm. The manpower required to go after business was impossible. Now, with the small garden we’re nurturing, we can become experts in this area and create a prospect list we can actually go after. It’s contained enough that we can get a name in this area, and get high-level referrals through the community we’ve created with our clients. It’s something we can perfect.”

I asked Julia to share their positioning process so others who are struggling can see the small steps it takes. In this interview, Julia defined the process and the benefits so clearly. She also talked about:

  • How, exactly, they chose their new market.
  • The extensive research and competitive analysis they did 
  • How they retooled their website, and how they handled the projects that no longer fit their positioning 
  • How she found the industry-focused speaking engagement on LinkedIn. 

Listen to this (14-minute long) interview and you will learn. And if you need a plan to follow, check out the just-released 2012 Marketing Plan Bundle.

Nov 30, 2011

We’ve been talking about crowdsourcing a lot on the Creative Freelancer Blog, and designer, Laurel Black, is central to every discussion.

So, I decided to do an interview with Laurel on some basics of crowdsourcing (from her perspective) for those who haven't been following all the comments. We started with a few basic questions:

What is crowdsourcing?

Who is upset about it and why?

How has it affected (is affecting) your business?

How are you dealing with it?

What advice do you have for others concerned about it?

Listen to Laurel’s take on crowdsourcing here.

Nov 16, 2011

Should you be putting samples inside your proposals?

Should higher fees equal longer proposals?

What are the 5 basic elements every proposal should have?

Find out answers to these questions, and many more, in my recent interview for the International Freelancers Academy with Ed Gandia. In this hour-long interview, we cover the real information you need to craft winning proposals. Topics also discussed include: 

  • The most common types of proposals - 4 types
  • Hybrid all-in-one proposals
  • Optional elements (marketing, testimonials, usage rights, client responsibility, results )
  • Do you need an attorney involved for legal language?
  • Should you place an expiration date on your price?
  • How to submit your proposal
  • How and when to follow up
  • Should you ask for the business?
  • How to discuss next steps…
  • Handling price objections

If you want to increase your chances of winning projects – The Proposal Bundle (we have versions for Designers and Copywriters) will give you 25 resources, plus 11 actual sample proposals to use as models.

Nov 10, 2011

Bob Bly, who has been a freelance copywriter since 1982 (and made millions doing it) generously shared his one-page agreement in the new Proposal Bundle for Copywriters (Today only: Get $10 off with promo code: BUNDLE10).

I interviewed Bob on the Marketing Mentor Podcast to find out more about his agreement. Here’s an excerpt… 

Is it safe to skip the agreements—and get right to work for existing clients? Bob says: 

You always need to have, for every job, even if it’s an old familiar client, a written agreement which the client approves. My philosophy is to keep it as short and simple as possible while covering all the salient points. We email it to the client. All they have to do is email back that they approve. New clients pay half the fee up-front.

When it comes to rush jobs, Bob says: 

Since we have a standard agreement, it takes less than three minutes to put in the particulars of the job. Time is no excuse. Just because it’s a rush job doesn’t mean I can’t send out the agreement. 

What about the excuse, they “won’t be able to cut the check in time”? 

Bob makes it easy by accepting Paypal, credit card and wire transfers. 

Find out more about the specifics inside Bob’s agreement. Listen to the full 15-minute interview here.

Nov 2, 2011

Do you know how to respond to a Request for Proposal? Recently, I joined Jim Blasingame to discuss:

  • How to prepare for a request for proposal (RFP)
  • How to know when to not respond 
  • How your proposal can have a long shelf-life

 Listen to this interview on the Marketing Mentor Podcast.

If you're working on a proposal now, and you'd like 11 actual proposals to use as models (+more) check out The Proposal Bundle: 25 Resources for Project-Winning Proposals.

Oct 26, 2011

If you know you need a target market—but don’t know where to start, this interview will help. Often, your market is right there in front of you, where you can see a need. Usually, it comes from your past experience. This is where I found my target market (creative professionals) in 1988.

Last week, I shared the story of how I got started with Anderson Smith, who interviewed me on his radio show, 1 Hour Photo, on ArmadaFM. Listen in if you want to hear:

  • Questions to ask yourself to find your market without starting from scratch
  • How I found my market under a pile of paper
  • How the changing economy affected the “need” for marketing
  • How I help clients break old habits and build new ones
  • The steps I take clients through in the 6-month marketing group (http://www.marketing-mentor.com/html/beginnermarketinggroup.html) process 

Listen to this 11-minute interview on the Marketing Mentor Podcast.

Oct 19, 2011

Daniel Pelavin is entering his 5th decade as a typographic designer and illustrator. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Graphic Artists Guild’s Reboot (http://newyork.gag.org/RRR_Conference/schedule.html) conference. He was pointed out as being “the king of self-promotion,” and of course, I had to find out more. 

Daniel agreed to an interview so I asked him to elaborate on his reference to Copernicus and self-promotion, which I’d never heard in the same sentence before.

Daniel said that through self promotion, you discover that you are not the center of the universe. And when you begin to look at things in terms of your clients and their needs, you gain a lot of power over how you can affect your experience with them.

He also talks about:

The importance of being memorable—and how he does this himself

Why illustrators need clients who are “willing to take a chance.”

Why new illustrators should consider selling carpets, first.

Listen to this 13-minute interview on the Marketing Mentor Podcast.

 

Oct 12, 2011

Recently, I talked with Jim Blasingame, of Small Business Advocate, about proposals. Though we have a slightly different approach (he says don’t miss an opportunity, I say deliver only when you have a real chance of getting the job) we can both agree on this:

Whenever possible, present the proposal personally.

This is, hands down, the best way to ensure that you have a chance to negotiate and continue the conversation, rather than never hearing from your prospect again. 

In this interview, Jim and I discuss the effectiveness of presenting proposals face-to-face or with web conferencing tools vs. sending them via email.

How have you presented proposals—and which method has been most effective?

P.S. If you want to enhance your proposals, and your chances of winning the work, we will be focusing on this in the Advanced Marketing Group. A new group starts October 17th, and there is one spot left! Sign up here

Want 11 actual proposals to use as samples (plus a lot more!)? Check out The Proposal Bundle: 25 Resources for Project-Winning Proposals.

Oct 6, 2011

Just 5 months into her new career as a freelance food writer, Bryn Mooth is already getting a lot of publicity and great projects. (Follow her journey here.)

But as a lot of new freelancers do—Bryn is finding pricing to be a challenge. Why?

She’s calculated an hourly rate, refined an estimating sheet, and learned to price by the project—but the problem is—she’s really fast.

With 20 years of experience, she finds that using hours to calculate project costs is leaving her with a price that doesn’t equal the project’s value. Her clients often share a budget, but when she calculates her project cost—it’s way too low.

With her current approach, there’s an apparent disconnect between what the project costs—and what it’s worth.

Listen to this interview to find out where the discrepancy is—and how she can solve it.

Should she double her hourly rate? Make room for higher profit? Find out here.

Bryn also shares how she’s:
• Dealing with pricing
• Determining her minimum project rate
• Using an estimating worksheet to figure out hours for each project
• Starting to track her hours/rates over time

She also shares why pricing should be “uncomfortable.”

Listen here. Have any advice for Bryn? Please share.

Sep 28, 2011

If you’re hesitant to focus on a target market, listen to this interview with Jennifer Neal, Owner of K9 Design Co. – I bet it will change your mind.

In a nutshell: in 2008, K9 was a busy family-owned design business that was almost completely referral-based. They need more control over the flow of work, so they decided to commit to and invest in their marketing—and before long, they started to grow, so much so that 2010 – a recession year for many – was K9 Design Co’s best year ever, with a 30% increase over 2009.

The first step was to embrace the idea of a target market and the fact they had a “portfolio full of publication work.” Jennifer says, “As scary as it was at the time for me to decide to market to publishers and the publishing industry, it was at that point that everything shifted. It was the toughest decision we ever made, but also the best move we ever made.”

In the latest Marketing Mentor podcast Jennifer also shares:

• Why even a specific target market will have enough work to keep you growing.
• Why not to waste your time on perfection.
• Why their business name doesn’t matter anymore.
• And more…

Listen to the whole interview on the Marketing Mentor Podcast—and let me know… Did it change your mind about target markets?

Sep 21, 2011

I recently interviewed Stacey King Gordon about her transition from being a freelancer known as “Night Writer Communications” to running her newly named content strategy firm, “Suite Seven,” which has 2 employees and more coming soon.

 

In a nutshell: Stacey always had “stars in her eyes” about owning her own business and started as a moonlighter in 1998. After 10 years, in 2008, she leapt to full-time freelance, and kept the name because it had some brand equity and she was sentimentally attached to it.

 

By the end of 2010, it was clear she needed to shed the image that Night Writer implied (that it was just her, working part-time at night) and start thinking about herself as a “company.”

 

In this interview on the Marketing Mentor Podcast, Stacey takes us through the process of refocusing her business, and her business name, to reflect her new direction as a content strategist. She describes how she got through the painstaking mental process of change, found the confidence, pinpointed her new direction, tested the waters, and more...

 

Listen here.

Sep 6, 2011

Neil Brown of Brown Advertising (http://www.brownadvertising.com/) in Winston-Salem North Carolina recently faced a bit of a business crisis. His biggest client restructured and disappeared. One month later I called to see how things were going. To my delight (and a bit of surprise), Neil said, “Business has been really good.”

When I asked him what he was doing, he said one word: Networking.

That’s when I asked if he would share his story in a podcast interview and here it is.

The short version: When Neil started noticing the instability and personnel changes happening with his biggest client, he started to prepare by joining one of the Marketing Mentor Marketing Groups (next ones start next week!) and getting his marketing machine in gear.

Soon after, his suspicions came true and the client terminated their contract. Despite this, Neil says, “Because of the marketing, I haven’t really missed the client.”

In this interview on the Marketing Mentor Podcast, Neil shares what’s making up his marketing machine, and how it’s working.

One big component is local networking, to which Neil used to have an aversion. He says that since he’s a bit of an introvert, he always found it intimidating. But once he got involved, he now says, “I actually love networking” because it’s “simply talking with other likeminded business people.”

Listen in to find out which networking groups he’s involved in, who he’s meeting, and the response he’s getting from this—and his other—marketing efforts.

Has this ever happened to you? What have you done to prepare? Or what did you do when you were caught off guard?

Aug 13, 2011

I grabbed a few minutes with PhotoShelter's Vice President of Marketing, Andrew Fingerman, to talk about a particularly sticky issue - when and how to directly ask your clients about their budget while pitching for new business.

Here's an excerpt: 

Are we a good fit?

The primary reason to bring up the budget issue is to identify early on if the pitch is even worth making. Many photographers waste a lot of time talking to prospects who can't afford them. You'll find out sooner or later if the client can afford your services, so being straightforward and talking budget can help save both parties some time. But how early is too early? Ilise suggests if you suspect the prospect likely can't afford you, broach the budget question sooner. If you think they likely can afford you, it is ok to wait until later on in your pitch.  

Recognize the conversation itself won't be a dealbreaker

Avoid building up assumptions in your head that can make having the conversation more uncomfortable than it needs to be. Often, photographers will be afraid to start talking money because it may lead to losing the project. Talking about money isn't going to prevent you from getting the job - the client not being able to afford to pay you fairly will. (But, we're assuming that's a job you don't want anyway.) 

See the entire blog post here: http://blog.photoshelter.com/2011/08/talking-budget-with-your-clients.html

And listen to the interview here. 

Aug 8, 2011

It’s 3 months into Bryn Mooth’s career as a freelance food writer, and I’ve been interviewing her along the way. (See our previous interviews: Asking Questions = Looking Stupid and The First Week as a Freelancer.)

In today’s interview, we talked about the importance of tuning into what’s around you. Bryn says, 

“Once you start thinking about something that’s next, or something that’s possible, then you tune in somehow to those opportunities you would have missed otherwise.”

We also discuss some issues related to the “lazy” days of summer and the mindset of self-employment, such as:

- Is it okay to have an “off” day and cut yourself some slack?

- The right approach to a non-productive day…

- Is the glow still going, or has it faded?

- Do you start believing the things you tell yourself when you’re in the non-productive mood? Does that spiral into non-productivity?

- How to deal with not knowing where the next project will come from…

- Learning to be patient…

- How to interpret really enthusiastic prospects

- And more…

If you have a case of the summertime “I don’t wannas,” get back on track by listening to this interview.

Listen here.

Jul 11, 2011

Not following up with a contact you meet—is like not watering a seed that would otherwise sprout into an apple tree. Whether you’re back from CFC and still haven’t gotten to that stack of cards (you know who you are), or you network often but follow up spottily, these interviews are for you.

I joined Jim Blasingame to discuss follow up. The interviews are available on his site, Small Business Advocate, and here on the Marketing Mentor Podcast:

How much is too much?
Listen here to find out best practices for follow up, and learn how much is too much.

Has follow up helped you grow apples?

P.S. See how CFC attendee, Deidre, is following up with her new acquaintances. 

Jul 11, 2011

Not following up with a contact you meet—is like not watering a seed that would otherwise sprout into an apple tree. Whether you’re back from CFC and still haven’t gotten to that stack of cards (you know who you are), or you network often but follow up spottily, these interviews are for you.

I joined Jim Blasingame to discuss follow up. The interviews are available on his site, Small Business Advocate, and here on the Marketing Mentor Podcast:

How to follow up
Listen here for motivation and tips to make sure you follow up with new contacts.

Has follow up helped you grow apples?

P.S. See how CFC attendee, Deidre, is following up with her new acquaintances. 

Jun 29, 2011

Ann Siegle, President of Tria Marketing (http://www.triadesignfirm.com/) in Lansing, MI. has recently separated from her partners to embark on her own. She’s enjoying the transition, and in this interview, she shares with us the new vision she has for her business—and how she’s using marketing to make it a reality.

With a target market of entrepreneurs and associations, Ann began focusing on thought leadership capabilities. As a direct result, she has gained visibility in the right places, and is getting proposals and projects.

Her speaking topic is 5-minute marketing. I found it interesting because it isn’t necessarily about design or web development. I asked her how that broad-ranging topic works to her advantage. 

She said:

I think that entrepreneurs are looking for bigger picture. When they look to us for our credibility, they don’t think, “I need a graphic designer,” they think, “I need help with marketing.” Stepping outside and taking a look at a very common problem, and directing something to that problem gets your foot in the door. Then you can sit down and have a conversation with them. Their needs are going to be unique … one client might need a revamp of the stationary system and collateral materials, another might need a digital strategy, another might need a social media management strategy. The nice thing about the speaking engagement is that is speaks to them at a very broad level about something they all have in common.

Ann also shares how Google AdWords and SEO are working for her website—and exactly how she’s making her website more search engine friendly.

Listen here.

What is your thought leadership topic?

Jun 14, 2011

If you’ve been following along with our story about Bryn Mooth, who left her 20-year publishing career to pursue a career as a freelance writer, you’ll remember our interview a month ago when she was in the glow of Week 1 of self-employment.
 
I interviewed her again in Week 5 to see how she’s coming along. One especially interesting topic that came up in our conversation was how asking the right questions of clients and prospects will make you look smart, not stupid.
 
Bryn says, “People are afraid to ask questions because they think, if I do… it might dampen the impression I’m making with this prospect. But I think asking questions is a sign that you’re interested in their business… and really helps you deliver what they’re looking for instead of taking a wild shot in the dark… Take the time up front to ask a couple of smart questions so you’re not flailing when it’s time to deliver a solution.”
 
I couldn’t agree more. In fact, there’s whole chapter about this in my new book, The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money. In the chapter on positioning your price, there are 8 pages on asking questions, plus 20 questions to ask before you do a proposal. 

In this interview, Bryn also shares how she’s:
 
Discovering what she doesn’t know

Getting better at managing her time, and making time for marketing activities

Trying to build a reputation in food/healthy living

Using online and social media activities, finding places to participate

Using her previous career as an editor to help her get ahead

Recently back from vacation, Bryn also describes how her vacation as a freelancer was different from when she was a full-timer. 
  
What are some of the questions you ask, that get you the information you need?

May 31, 2011

Vivienne Scholl, from San Francisco-based Avenue 4 Design, commented recently on a Marketing Mix post about progress payments. She said:

We've started doing monthly billing with our clients. Billing is now tied to a date, not a milestone. It's so much better for cash flow. Anyone else doing this?

Since getting paid is always an issue, I asked Vivienne if she would share her process. Here’s what she told me in this interview/podcast:

  • Why she started doing monthly billing
  • How she brings it up with clients
  • How it’s especially beneficial if a project drags on
  • Why it keeps things “fair” with clients

And please comment on this billing practice. Vivienne wants to make sure this type of billing isn’t doing a disservice to the rest of the industry.

What do you think about monthly billing? Does monthly billing do a disservice to the industry?

May 10, 2011

Bryn Mooth recently left 20-year career in publishing, and she’s embarking on her own as a freelance writer. Her blog at Writes4Food.com started as a way to spark her own creativity, and has turned into a business where she writes on food, cooking, nutrition, and healthy living topics.

In the beginning of Bryn’s 2nd week as a self-employed person, I interviewed her to see what the first week was like. She shares insight on:

• What’s been most energizing and gratifying during this transition
• Getting her head into self-employed mode
• When she realized she wanted to leave her job
• How she prepared for self-employment
• What it feels like to be “ready” to make the leap
• Building a viable business that creates income to exceed that of a full-timer
• How she knew food was a good market to focus on
• How to balance her own marketing with paid work
• Using the cushion of her network during the transition
• & more…

Any advice for Bryn?

If you’re considering leaving your full-time job and going out on your own, check out the Marketing Group for moonlighters. It will help you get clients in your pipeline—before you make the jump.

Apr 26, 2011

I’ve been talking to clients lately to get a view inside the evolution of their business. A big signpost in the evolution journey is raising rates, but often, the creatives I work with are afraid their clients will disappear if they do it.

In a recent interview with Megan Coleman, freelance web designer, she says, “I charged less in the beginning because I didn’t know how much to charge. The more projects I took on, the more I realized how much things should really cost to make the money I needed to live.”

In this interview, Megan also answers these questions:

  • How did she know it was time to quit her full-time job?
  • What did she do to prepare for freelancing?
  • Did she use up all the money she saved?
  • How she got her first few clients.
  • Why she recommends doing some freelance work on the side first.

Find out where Megan is now, and why this two-time CFC attendee is coming back this year.

Meet Megan at the Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago. The early-bird deadline ends may 1st. Use in conjunction with the Marketing Mentor $50 discount (Use code: CMM11) to save a total of $80 – the best admission price available.

Apr 7, 2011

"A lot of the jobs I was doing were one-off jobs,” said Stephen Hadley, owner of Houston-based Inkwell Media, a creative firm that produces employee newsletters and magazines for the oil and gas industry.

In business over 5 years, Stephen recently completed the Beginner Marketing Group, which he joined because, in his words, “I didn’t have enough of a focus.” 

The group helped him to define his focus, and in this interview with Ilise, he talks about:

  • How he got to such a targeted marketHow his business has evolved from one off projects to clients.
  • What marketing tools he’s usingIdentifying the right companies to targetIf research calling really works
  • How he gets regular, ongoing work
  • The best thing he got out of attending CFC

Listen to the interview here.

Stephen said, “I always had a haphazard approach to marketing. [The group] has definitely forced me to finish all the pieces. It has been awesome because now I have everything done. Now when I talk to someone, or meet with someone, I have a way to follow up and a place to send them. I’m not ashamed now! I wasn’t doing any marketing, and now I am. It feels really good."

Do you need to get focused like Stephen did? A new Beginner Marketing Group starts next week – Thursday, April 21 – and there are 2 spots open. Fill out this form if you’re interested….

 

Mar 29, 2011

At last year’s Creative Freelancer Conference, there was an attendee named Lauren Hybinette. She was employed by a company at the time, but she had an epiphany that made her decide, then and there, that she wanted to be self-employed.

 

Where is Lauren one year later? Find out. Read this blog post from Bryn Mooth on the HOW Design Blog:
http://blog.howdesign.com/how-conference/catching-up-with-a-creative-freelancer/listen to the interview I did with her where she talks about:

 

  • learning the discipline to work from home
  • fighting the loneliness of being a solopreneur  
  • setting boundaries and staying connected

Do you need the inspiration and know-how to finally turn freelancing into a full time career?

Join us at CFC—June 23-24 in Chicago. Don’t miss the early bird discount. It ends April 1st!

Mar 22, 2011

Designer (and Creative Freelancer Conference veteran), Charlene Tiedemann, was getting bits and pieces of work, but struggling with how to get more clients and how to become the boss. She didn’t know who the clients were, where they were, or how to get to them.

Six months later, she said, “Meeting people and having a strategy to meet people were my biggest challenges. I had no idea how to get clients. They’re just people, and they’re all out there, and they need me, but I had no idea how to find them. Now I’m calling people and I’m finding more people…  It’s like a gold mine. I keep digging and digging and finding more people.”  

During those 6 months, she did the Marketing Mentor Beginner Marketing Group and not only found her prospects but also found her positioning as The Loop Design Studio and revamped her web site (see it here: www.theloopdesignstudio.com). 

Charlene’s challenge is a very common one, so I interviewed her for the podcast, in which she shares:

  • What she learned
  • Who she’s targeting and what she’s finding
  • Why networking events are working for her
  • How having two selves makes you stronger (business self, and self-self)
  • How she keeps the momentum going 

Plus, she has a bit of advice to any creative freelancer just starting out, or anyone who needs more work and don’t know what to do.
 
If you need to figure all this out for yourself, the Beginner Marketing Group might be right for you. Next group begins the week of April 18.

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