The Marketing Mentor Podcast

In the Marketing Mentor podcast, Ilise Benun, founder of, 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 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

Apr 23, 2012

Newly-minted freelancer, Kelsey Grafton, of Lewiston, Idaho, knows she has a lot to learn about running her new business, BlueSkyMondays. She said it wasn't hard to convince her new boss (herself!) to invest in sending her to the Creative Freelancer Conference as her first big step in that process.

Apr 16, 2012

Listen to this 15-minute interview, where Allison Manley, from Rogue Element, answers these questions:

  • How much time it takes to do the proposals and how they decide which ones to do.
  • What to do if the prospect isn’t responsive during the proposal process.
  • What if you don’t have access to the people involved in the actual project, as happens a lot with higher ed and government agencies?
  • Why they present the pricing in 2 pages (overview and detail) in the proposal and how much detail is necessary.
  • How much self promotion they include and the thinking behind it.
  • How and when they decide how to include terms and conditions (T&C) in the proposal or the contract. (See what a good T&C that’s been vetted by a lawyer looks like.)

Want 11 sample proposals to use as examples? Buy the Designer’s Proposal Bundle

Apr 11, 2012

The 5th Annual Creative Freelancer Conference, June 21-22 in Boston (early bird deadline is April 30!), is rapidly approaching. For today’s podcast interview, we have Marcia Hoeck, giving us a preview of her session, Skillful Communication with Clients. 

Q: What’s the biggest mistake creatives make when communicating with clients? 

Marcia: The biggest mistake is not setting the right tone and maybe taking things personally. We’re in a business where it’s our art, it’s our creativity, so we tend to take things more personally. We have to step back and realize this is a business relationship. We have to set the right tone. The client has to place his trust in you in order to feel confident that you can do the work. 

The biggest miscommunication mistake is that we don’t establish ourselves right out of the bag as a partner, as a resource, so that the client can relax. When we feel boxed in by client demands, it’s when our role hasn’t been positioned correctly in the beginning, and that’s our job. If the client knows that you have strategic ideas that will help him, as well as the implementation skills, that client can relax … It gives you equal footing and leverage in the relationship. 

Most powerful people … they’re really not looking for “yes” men. That’s the biggest mistake that I see is when we’re making that assumption that they are, and we’re taking things personally as a creative person. 

Q: Do you think these problems are rooted in the creative professional’s lack of confidence? 

Marcia: I’m really glad you brought up confidence. That isn’t talked about enough in business. People don’t teach it. It isn’t something that comes naturally to creative people. But in creative work especially, where we highly value our work, and we are passionate about our work … we often undervalue our own role in what we do. There’s kind of a disconnect. We have great confidence in our work, and we know the value of our work, and we have great confidence in our ability to do the work, but we often can’t show that confidence when communicating our role in the process. We don’t come off as confident in selling situations, or when defending our pricing … What that comes off as to prospective clients is lack of competence. They think we can’t do the work because we can’t defend it, because we can’t talk about ourselves…

Listen to our 11-minute interview to hear more. Use your Big Ticket pass to catch this CFC session – or sign up for CFC on its own. If you aren’t yet registered for CFC, sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before April 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12” 

And listen to the rest of the podcast interview series with our speakers, including Dyana Valentine, Mark O’Brien, Shane Pearlman, Jonathan Cleveland, Ed Gandia, Sarah Duham and Allen Murabayashi


Apr 2, 2012

Last time we talked, Jeff Tara from Brand Vue Design had gotten a client by sending an email (in which he shared his honest opinion about his favorite wine company’s new label). Recently laid off, this happened one week after Jeff officially went freelance. 

With such a productive first week, I couldn’t wait to speak to him again and find out what’s happened over the past month. In our 10-minute interview, Jeff brings me up to date with recent developments:

  • After reading a “doom and gloom” article about the demise of Kodak (which ultimately caused Jeff’s layoff), Jeff decided, “It’s not all doom and gloom—I have a chance now to chase my dreams.” He wrote a letter to the newspaper, and it resulted in a front page article in his local newspaper.
  • A connection in the healthcare industry saw the article about Jeff, and now they’re discussing upcoming projects over golf.
  • The wine company who Jeff redesigned a label for—is now having him redesign all of their labels.
  • Building on that wine experience, Jeff is reaching out to other wineries. He sent a personalized letter to one, called to follow up on Monday, and by Wednesday, he was inside talking to the owners of the winery for two hours.

Listen to our interview here.

If Jeff keeps sending emails and letters, who knows what will happen next… 
I’ll keep you updated.


Mar 26, 2012

One of the most popular speakers from last year's Creative Freelancer Conference, Allen Murabayashi, CEO of PhotoShelter, will be back this year (June 21-22 in Boston -- early bird deadline is this Friday, March 30!).

Allen joined me for a podcast interview to preview his session, Building Your Prospect List: Quality vs. Quantity.

In our interview, we talked about the importance of qualifying prospects. Allen said:

You’re going to drive yourself crazy if all you’re trying to do it gets tons of people through the door. You have to simultaneously qualify your audience. For example, if you’re Prada, and you’re selling shoes for $500, you’re not going to go to a suburban mall where nobody has discretionary income—and the most popular place there is Walmart.

You have to be very strategic in the way you spend your time. I was talking to a wedding photographer, and on their contact form, they say, “How excited are you to work with us on a scale of 1-10?” They told me they didn’t respond to anything where it’s less than an 8—as a pre-qualification mechanism.

Listen to our 8-minute interview to hear more.

Use your Big Ticket pass to catch this CFC session – or sign up for CFC on its own. If you aren’t yet registered for CFC, sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before Mar 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12

Mar 26, 2012

The 5th Annual Creative Freelancer Conference, June 21-22 in Boston (early bird deadline is this Friday, March 30!), is rapidly approaching and for today’s podcast interview, we have Sarah Durham, Founder of Big Duck. Sarah’s session will be The Nuts and Bolts of Pricing and Negotiating.

At Big Duck, they design exclusively with nonprofit organizations. In fact, they haven’t worked with a for-profit organization in over a dozen years. With such specific experience, I asked Sarah to share some insight into pricing for nonprofits.

Q: How do you handle pricing for nonprofits? Should you offer discounts?

Sarah: “I think with nonprofits…this idea that they don’t have any money for communications is both true and false. It’s true in that most nonprofits, and particularly very small nonprofits, haven’t budgeted for communications. They aren’t thinking the way a tech startup would think … making sure that they have a marketing person and a budget…Communications tends to be overlooked and under-budgeted.

With that said, they have missions that require them to communicate … when they understand the importance of the work we do for them, they put together budgets.”

Listen to our 14-minute interview to hear more on pricing and non profits.

Use your Big Ticket pass to catch this CFC session – or register for CFC on its own. Sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before Mar 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12

Mar 26, 2012

The 5th Annual Creative Freelancer Conference, June 21-22 in Boston (early bird deadline is this Friday, March 30!), is rapidly approaching and for today’s podcast interview, we have Cameron Foote, Editor of Creative Business, who will be taking part in the Perspectives on Pricing Panel at this year’s conference.

In this 14-minute interview, I asked Cam how freelancers can compete with bigger firms. 

Q: Should freelancers be pricing any differently than larger firms or entities? 

Cam: Yes and no. I don’t think a person’s talent should be worth any less depending on whether they work for themselves or whether they work for an organization. On one level, your talent is worth what it’s worth, period.However, the realistic part of this is that when you talk about pricing to clients … they’re looking at you and trying to decide whether you’re worth the money or not. Pricing has to do with perception. So if you’re working from the kitchen table, you haven’t been in business very long, you don’t have a good portfolio and so forth, it would be unrealistic to assume that you could charge what a business that’s been around a while could charge. Your talent is worth what it’s worth, but you have to be realistic.

Q: How can freelancers use marketing to build up the perception of their value?

Cam: You are what clients perceive you to be. If you market extensively … particularly using the editorial “we,” and you’re sending out material regularly, they’re going to see a company. A company is worth more, in most cases, than an individual.

Listen to our 14-minute interview to hear more of Cameron’s thoughts on pricing, including his take on hourly rates vs. project pricing.

And if you aren’t yet registered for CFC, sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before Mar 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12” 

And listen to the rest of the podcast interview series with our speakers, including Dyana Valentine, Mark O’Brien, Shane PearlmanJonathan Cleveland and Ed Gandia.  


Mar 23, 2012

As we get ready for the 5th Annual Creative Freelancer Conference, June 21-22 in Boston (early bird deadline is March 30!), we’re doing a podcast interview series with our speakers! Recently, we featured Dyana Valentine, Mark O’Brien, Shane Pearlman and Jonathan Cleveland

Today, we have Ed Gandia, freelancer copywriter, speaker, coach, and co-author of “The Wealthy Freelancer.” He joined me to discuss his upcoming CFC session, “How to Create and Execute your Marketing Plan.” 

People considering freelancing always ask me, “What does it take to be a freelancer? Can I even make this work?” so in our 12-minute interview, I asked Ed that same question and here’s what he said: 

“It’s definitely possible … The idea that the economy is hurting all businesses is really a misguided assumption. In my own business, for the students I coach, and for most of the freelancers I come in contact with …. things are actually even better for them right now. So many companies are outsourcing work. They’re working with leaner staff, but the projects still need to get done … and they don’t want to hire full time employees.” 

When we talked about wealth, Ed said his definition isn’t just about “material wealth.” To Ed, a “wealthy freelancer” is someone who can consistently generate the clients, the projects, the income and the quality of life they want. 

I asked, “What does it take to be a wealthy freelancer?” Ed said: 

“You have to have an entrepreneurial mindset, be self-motivated,  be a go-getter, and you have to realize you’re running a business. 

Also, you have to become really good at marketing your services. If you want to be truly successful, you should be just as good at marketing your services as you are in your own craft. I think I’m a good writer, but it’s really marketing and selling that have gotten me to where I am today.”

Listen to our 12-minute interview to hear more of Ed’s ideas, whether you'll be at CFC or not! 

And if you aren’t yet registered for CFC, sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before Mar 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12” 


Mar 19, 2012

As we get ready for the 5th Annual Creative Freelancer Conference, June 21-22 in Boston, we’re doing a podcast interview series with our speakers! Recently, we featured Dyana Valentine, Mark O’Brien and Shane Pearlman.

Today, we have Jonathan Cleveland, Principal of Boston-based Cleveland Design. With a staff of five, his firm fills an important need for large corporate clients who, interestingly enough, also have in-house agencies AND ad agencies. (Does this make you less timid about approaching prospects who already have an in-house team?”)

In our 13-minute interview, Jonathan (who will be participating in the upcoming CFC panel discussion, “Perspectives on Money and Pricing”) talked about a recent pricing issue he encountered:

The situation: A client hired them to do a corporate video project which had a generous budget, then wanted a companion print brochure, but started to nickel and dime them on price. Then before the print brochure was resolved, the client came back and was ready to put a larger budget toward more videos.

The disconnect: Why there is such a big difference in perceived value of print design and digital design? Jonathan says:

“In today’s day and age, with computers and personal layout programs, the more unsophisticated marketing client thinks they can layout a brochure or flyer themselves … There is a perceived notion that ‘I can do something, throw it together and print it out.’ They sent us a PDF of a very nice brochure and said ‘Just copy this.’ We couldn’t get through to them on the value of the brochure, but when it came to the video, they were more than willing to open up and say ‘Let’s just do this video’—budget wasn’t an issue. The print brochure seemed to be all about budget.” 

Listen to find out Jonathan’s strategy for dealing with clients like this… 

And if you aren’t yet registered for CFC, sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before Mar 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12


Mar 16, 2012

As we get ready for the 5th Annual Creative Freelancer Conference, June 21-22 in Boston, we’re doing a podcast interview series with our speakers! Recently, we featured Dyana Valentine and Mark O’Brien. Today, we have Shane Pearlman, describing his upcoming session, “Planning for the First Year of Freelance.” 

Read an excerpt below and listen to the 10-minute interview, in which Shane talks about the biggest mistakes he sees freelancers make, and more.

When it comes to being a successful freelancer, there are three areas that stick in Shane’s head:

  1. how to make the money (sales, marketing, contacts)
  2. how to keep the money you made (track time, manage contacts, bookkeeping)
  3. how to be happy and balance it all

In his session, he’ll describe how to succeed in each of these areas.

In addition to the road to success, we also talked about common mistakes that freelancers make.

Shane said,

“Another mistake I see all the time—this is probably the most common—is waiting to sell until they need it. So, you get really busy, and you think, ‘I’m so busy, I can’t think about sales, I’m busy!’ Then by the time you get to the point when you think, ‘I wish I had something to do, I should start selling’–well, that’s three months too late.”

Listen to the rest here

And if you aren’t yet registered for CFC, sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before Mar 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12”

Mar 12, 2012

Bryn Mooth is an independent journalist and copywriter focused on food, wellness and creativity—she blogs at -- and I’ve been following her marketing journey since she became self-employed less than a year ago.  

Lately, we’ve been talking about the merits of LinkedIn, and Bryn has dedicated time, twice a week, to gain visibility and find prospects using it. This past week, she turned a LinkedIn connection into a client! How? (If you want to learn by doing, join the next Basic Marketing Group that starts Wed. March 14). 

In our latest interview, Bryn describes what she did: 

She narrowed: To be with her ideal prospects, she joined a group on LinkedIn called “Food Industry Marketing and Communications Professionals” – looking to find people at food brands or in food marketing – rather than the broader “food industry.” 

She participated: This is an active group with 6500+ members, with people posting links to articles and questions. Bryn participates by commenting on articles others have posted, responding to questions and initiating her own discussions.

She reached out directly: Bryn also scans the group members and reaches out to connect directly if it looks like a good fit. Recently, she connected with one member in Texas, the principal of marketing group in the food industry, and now that’s turned into a small project for her company – but there’s larger potential, if it goes well, for this agency to hire Bryn for their client projects, making her an excellent referral source and collaborator.

 What did Bryn say to connect with this prospect? Listen here to find out.


Mar 9, 2012

As we get ready for the 5th Annual Creative Freelancer Conference, June 21-22 in Boston, we’re doing a podcast interview series with our speakers! Last week we featured Dyana Valentine whose topic is “Pitch Perfect.” Today, we have Mark O’Brien, President of Newfangled, describing his upcoming session, “Is Your Website Generating Business?” 

Read an excerpt below and listen to the 10-minute interview here, in which Mark talks about content strategy—and how it’s missing from most of the freelancer website he sees. 

“There’s nothing to attract, inform and engage –nothing for Google to read on the site—that Google would then use to refer prospects to that freelancer’s site. There might be a portfolio, and that’s it. If prospects do get to the site, they can see the work, but they can’t read about the expertise behind the work… 

If your site is not independently attracting people who do not yet know about you,  but need you, and then guiding them through your site as if they’re taking a tour of your firm with you on the phone, and then bringing them into engagement with you through calls to action (signing up for newsletters, blogs)… If you’re site’s not doing that, it’s not going to generate any sort of business for you. It’s serving the group of people who already know about you, and doing nothing to expose you too all the new prospects who are out there looking for you…”

Listen to the rest here

And if you aren’t yet registered for CFC, sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before Mar 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12”


Mar 7, 2012

Amy Graver’s design firm, Elements, positions themselves as a “virtual marketing department.” It’s a strong positioning for them—but the only challenge is, with such a potentially broad audience (Who doesn’t need a virtual marketing department?), where do you go to find those prospects? How do you efficiently locate those people? 

When it comes to Amy, I have a sense there is also something else involved in their success, so in our recent interview, I asked her:

“There is something in you, in the way you talk about what your firm can do, that I feel almost balances the need for a target market. I imagine you can sell anything to anyone… You can talk to anyone anywhere, and maybe as a result, you don’t have to say, ‘Alright, I’m doing healthcare… Alright, I’m doing financial services....’ What do you say to that?”

Amy responded: 

“I never saw myself as a salesperson, but my father used to say I could talk the paint off a barn … I feel very comfortable talking to anybody and finding something in common. I also think it’s my passion for what I do. I really believe in us, I believe in my team. I’ve made very careful hires … Every time we have a new hire, I want to know what they bring that’s unique, because I’m going to go out and talk to the clients about it. It adds to the depths of who we are as an agency… The creativity, passion and love of what we do comes across … We’re doing great things for our clients. We’re a thinking, strategic, creative agency. Our clients seem to agree. One of our best resources is all the referrals we get from our clients…”

I also asked Amy, “What suggestion do you have for someone who is resisting the idea of targeting a market and wants to apply their services to many different industries?”

For this answer, and more, listen to this 19-minute interview.

Want to choose your market, use content marketing to your advantage, or finally start email marketing? New groups are starting this month.


Feb 29, 2012

Stephanie Helline, Owner of Strategic Design Studio, had a very surprising response to her latest email newsletter. The topic was, “Is the Business Card DEAD?” and she didn’t think much of it when she scheduled it to go out Friday morning. She didn’t even like the topic much, but she was committed to staying in touch monthly with her list of 150+ so she wrote it, scheduled it to send and forgot about it.

“A little after 10, the phone rang,” she says. “A client mentioned my newsletter; we talked about a small job, we talked about a larger job. The phone rang again. I looked and noticed there were voicemails. As I was on the phone, emails were popping into my inbox. I wouldn’t want to say this went viral, but viral for me, definitely.”

Stephanie had originally thought this topic would be a non-event. She thought everyone knew that business cards weren’t dead. When the calls started coming in, she had an ah-ha moment.

“Even though I’m constantly looking at marketing techniques, maybe not all my clients aren’t looking at them in the same way,” she said. 

“When I first started writing about the business card, I thought I need to add something more… So I took it one step further and talked about adding a QR code, and remembering to add your social media contacts. I mentioned that some people now scan cards so it’s important to present simply so scanners will work. I talked about digital printing for business cards.” (Read Stephanie’s newsletter here.)

Listen to this 13-minute interview, in which she shares: 

  • How she decides what to write about
  • How long does it takes
  • What her process is?
  • Whether it’s worth it?

She also shares four excellent tips for anyone who might be struggling to get their newsletter out consistently.

Listen here.

And if you need help creating your own email newsletter, check out this Marketing Mentor group that starts the week of March 19.

BTW: If you’re trying to decide with email marketing service to use, check out, a Marketing Mentor partner. You’ll get 20% off when you sign up.

Feb 24, 2012

Dyana Valentine is one of our favorite Creative Freelancer Conference speakers; we bring her back every year! This year at CFC (June 21-22nd in Boston) she is going to be talking about Pitch Perfect—and I interviewed Dyana to get a preview.

Listen to find out more about Dyana, hear her “working pitch,” and learn:

  • The difference between a tagline and a pitch
  • How to craft your pitch and tagline based on the “defining features” of your ideal client
  • Why pitches are constantly evolving, and how often Dyana updates hers

Plus, get a little preview of what CFC attendees can expect to learn in her session, Pitch Perfect. Find out:

  • How your pitch will evolve in the session
  • What will make Dyana feel like a million bucks
  • How Dyana helps shy people
  • What Dyana is looking forward to most at CFC this year

Check out the full list of speakers and sessions.

If you aren’t yet registered, sign up here and take advantage of the combo $100 discount: $50 early bird before Mar 30th + $50 Marketing Mentor discount with promo code “CMM12”



Feb 22, 2012

“I've already landed 2 freelance jobs since I launched my website this week! Without your materials, I don’t think I would have been as prepared as I am now.”

This is what Jeff Tara emailed me after launching his website for Brand Vue Design with the help of the Freelancers Essentials Collection

I had to know more, so I interviewed him—and I was delighted to discover his passionate approach to his new business. Jeff reminded me that enthusiasm and fearlessness go a long way—sometimes even further than a plump portfolio (especially when you don’t have one).

Jeff told me about how, after being laid off a month ago, he dived right into his own business thanks to the preparation he’d done over the past year. In one instance, simply by sharing his honest opinion about his favorite wine company’s new label, he gained a client. He had a fearless, nothing-to-lose approach, and the “roadblocks” didn’t stop him:

Obviously they already had a designer—but that didn’t stop him.

The only email address he could find was an “info” address—but that didn’t stop him.

He had no samples to show in this particular industry—but that didn’t stop him.

See the email that got him in the door and listen to our interview here.

And if you have a feeling you might be on your own soon or already are and need help getting your own marketing plan in place, take advantage of the free mentoring session to hash it out.

Feb 8, 2012

Last time I talked to independent journalist and copywriter, Bryn Mooth, from Writes4Food, she confessed to slowing down in December and paying the price in January.

When I asked her, “What could you have done differently to avoid this slowdown?” Bryn said, “I should have put more effort into marketing in October and November.”

Bryn realized, “This marketing stuff isn’t hard, except if you wait until you’re really slow and you’re desperate and have to do it all at once.” By plugging marketing into her calendar, and doing marketing steadily, she says, “It’s not hard, it’s not time consuming, it’s not overwhelming.”

In this 19-minute interview, we talk about the actions Bryn has been taking to ramp up her marketing machine, with a special focus on how she’s using LinkedIn to:

Decide which groups to join

Ask and answer questions

Get introductions from her connections

Turn connections into phone calls

See how her marketing efforts have paid off in just one month.

Listen here…

Feb 1, 2012

In this world where “content is king,” more and more of marketing is “content marketing.” With the need for content so vast—you can be a writer who specializes in exactly what a prospect needs, such as a web writer, content strategist, direct response writer or technical writer.

Stacey King Gordon, from Suite Seven, started as just a plain “writer” in 1998, and now she’s a “content strategist.” An evolution happened during that time, in which she realized what type of writer she wanted to be—for herself and for her clients.

In my first interview with Stacey, we talked about the process of renaming her business. In this interview, I wanted to delve deeper with Stacey to determine how the shift from “writer” to “content strategist” happened.

She answers these questions:

●      Was there a gradual shift in perception or positioning?

●      Where did the process begin?

●      How did confidence play a role?

●      How long did it take?

●      What marketing outlets did you change first?

●      How is she gaining recognition in the content strategy community?

Stacey also talks about her new elevator pitch, why she was choosy about which portfolio items to show, and more…

Listen here.

Jan 25, 2012

When it comes to taxes, are you deducting everything you can?

Bryn wasn’t. 

Bryn Mooth is an independent journalist and copywriter at Writes4Food. We’ve been following Bryn’s journey, and recently, we talked about taxes.

In the first meeting with her accountant, Bryn had a big surprise:

She had a percentage in mind for Uncle Sam, but says,  

“It was significantly higher than I expected… I knew that I needed to account for self-employment tax and social security; what I didn’t realize is that, as an independent contractor … I need to pay my income tax quarterly… When I was employed by someone else, it was sort of off my radar…”

Having to pay a much bigger percentage than she expected was a “rude awakening” for Bryn. Fortunately, she had built up a financial cushion before becoming self-employed. This cushion was a huge relief.

Now, Bryn has a different mindset. Going forward:

She realizes that she can expense a lot more than she thought. All of a sudden, knife sharpening, food for recipe development, and props become expenses. 

Every time a paycheck comes in, half goes into a tax account (just to be safe). 

Bryn is now very careful about keeping receipts and updating her spreadsheet on “Finance Friday.” This way, when she files next, her estimate will be more manageable and realistic. 

Listen to this 10-minute interview here.

Have you experienced any tax surprises?

For guidance when it comes to taxes, we adore June Walker, tax advisor for the self-employed. Read her guest posts on the Creative Freelancer Blog and check out her books,  Self-employed Tax Solutions + Five Easy Steps, and her free resources

Jan 18, 2012

Bryn Mooth is an independent journalist and copywriter at I’ve been checking-in with Bryn for the past 8 months (since she went freelance) to follow her journey, and last week, we did our first calls of 2012.

How did she do? Overall, 2011 “exceeded” her expectations. Bryn was pleased with the income she earned and the work she did.


January is slow.


Bryn says she “checked out” in December. She put off doing things like following up on completed projects, “slacked off” on networking and contacting, and now, she’s “paying the price.”

What’s her plan of attack?  She says, “I’m starting from scratch, a little bit.”

Bryn has identified the kind of projects that really appeal to her, and in 2012 is going to actively pursue that kind of work. She spent the last week on LinkedIn building a list of prospects. Then, she’s seeing who in her network can make an introduction.

What she’s learning about the marketing process:

Like most freelancers, I’m not really good at it. Early in this freelance career… some things were landing in my lap… I was doing some networking and yielding some good projects. But I wasn’t doing as much of that as I need to be. I got busy. I kept thinking, I need to allocate some time to think about who my ideal prospects are and get that planning going, and I didn’t.  So, that’s what I’m doing now.

In this 11-minute interview, I suggested for Bryn a three tool combination to turn these prospects into clients:

1. Use LinkedIn to connect.

2. Use email to follow up.

3. Use the phone to make it real.

Bryn is going to do this—and we’re going to talk to her next month to see how she did.

How long does it take to take to turn cold (or warm) prospects that you find on LinkedIn, and turn them into actual clients?

Stay tuned to find out…

Jan 13, 2012

Recently I interviewed Scott Hull (, 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.

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