For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It)

photography web marketing

[NOTE: Though this post is geared to photographers, the principles apply to all creatives selling any kind of product or service.]

Photographers, I love you. Fine art photographers, wedding photographers, lifestyle photographers, product photographers, pretty much all of you.

For years, I wanted to be among you:  a working photographer, making a living from photography.  I chased this dream for some time.  I took a year-long course in photography at my local community college, worked for a local photographer as an assistant, then put together a portfolio and applied to the photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Lucky for me, I was accepted into the program. Unluckily, I decided art school wasn’t in the cards for me at that moment. I moved to New York anyway and went to “regular” college, taking a few photography courses during the three years I lived there between other commitments.

I share this with you because I want you to know that my heart is with you, that I’m not coming to you strictly from a place of sharing advice on how to write persuasive web copy that can help you win more clients in your photography business, but also from a place of big, full-hearted, sappy love for the work you do every day.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about the simple yet powerful web copy tweak that can help you win more clients. But first . . . .

The Problem with Most Photography Websites

Many photographers make the serious mistake of assuming their gorgeous images will speak for themselves to sell their services and get clients, imagining that once a potential customer sees the talent evident in the online portfolio, they’ll immediately reach out and inquire about working together.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

While having a web presence and an online portfolio is a great first step, it’s not enough. The “build it and they will come” approach simply does not work online, where you’re competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other photographers in your town who provide exactly the same service you do. And if you live in a big city, thousands of other photographers.

Since your potential clients can easily find at least two dozen other talented photographers whose images are just as stunning as yours with a simple Google search, you’re going to have to show them more than your gorgeous portfolio to get them interested in hiring you.

What Potential Clients Are Looking For

What a potential client is looking for when they land on your photography site is evidence that you clearly understand who they are as a client, that you have the solution they’re looking for, and that you, specifically, are exactly the person to provide that solution.  

In other words, they want you to be “the one.” They’ve been searching and searching online, and they’re feeling frustrated that they’ve already been to 12 other wedding photography/lifestyle photography/insert your photography specialty here websites, and they can’t distinguish one photographer from the next. They want to land on your site and think, “This is it, I’ve found the ideal photographer for my job at last. I can stop searching, cue the trumpets.”

This is why you get price-shopped, by the way. Because most photography websites look nearly identical to one another and most photographers provide similar services, the ONLY thing potential clients have to go on to distinguish you from your competition is your price, so naturally they’ll choose the person with the lowest price.  This is not the kind of client you want.

{To learn more about web surfing behavior and what potential customers are looking for when they search online for that thing you do, check out 7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales: Basics for Creative Entrepreneurs. And pay particular attention to Item #2, where I share an example from the world of wedding photography.}

So how do you convey to your ideal clients that you’re the right photographer for their project? You do it through compelling, client-focused web copy. That’s the simple yet powerful website copy tweak that will win you more clients: CLIENT-FOCUSED web copy.

That may sound way too simple, but you’d be surprised how many photography websites don’t adhere to this simple, yet persuasive principle. (Lots of other kinds of websites don’t either, by the way, not just photography sites.)

Your web copy must connect with the reader/potential client and speak to what’s important to them as a photography client, as opposed to using company-centric copy that focuses mostly on the company, i.e., with language like “our goal,” “we have,” “we specialize in,” etc.

Because the edifying truth is, people don’t really care who you are, they want to know how you can help them. They’re seeking the answer to the question, “WIIFM?,” meaning, “What’s in it for me?”

So what you want your web content to do is make an emotional connection with your ideal clients through speaking directly to their desires, wants and needs in a way that makes them eager to do business with you.

Building the Foundation: How to Create Compelling Client-Focused Web Copy

To create persuasive web copy that effectively sells your services, you have to get the foundation in place first.  This is critical work that if left undone, will create frustration, vexation, and irritation (you can tell we love our thesaurus around here), loads of wasted time, and frankly, will attract more than your fair share of pain-in-the-butt, price-shopping clients. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

On the other hand, if you do the foundational work first, creating compelling web copy for every page on your site, from your Home page, to your About page, to your Services and Pricing pages, and everything in between, becomes a breeze.

This foundational work consists of:

#1: Figuring out who your ideal clients are so you can speak directly to them with a targeted and persuasive marketing message

#2: Determining what makes your work, your process, your services, or the way you do business different, better, more special, or more compelling to these ideal clients than others who do what you do, also known as your unique selling proposition

I cannot stress enough how important these two steps are to creating your compelling marketing message; everything flows from this.  It will inform everything else in your business, from the kind of clients you work with, to the services you offer, to how and who you market to, to your tagline and your client pitches, and lots more besides.

Stick with me, I’m going to tell you how to do this.

{If you want to read the story of the exhaustion, struggle and overwhelm I experienced in my business and how I resolved it by figuring out my ideal clients and unique selling proposition, check out Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?}

Defining Your Ideal Clients

This is the fun stuff – where you get to dream up exactly the kind of person who would be perfect for your services and who you’d L-O-V-E to work with. 

Because the bottom line is, if you haven’t defined your ideal client/perfect customer/target audience, then you’re trying to talk to “everybody” with your web content – which means it’s most likely bland and boring and homogenous.  And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as it may be, it won’t convert the right readers into your dream clients and potential clients. Say it with me: bland and boring does not convert!

To find out more about defining your ideal clients, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your Audience Checklist, check out The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition

Once you’ve determined who your ideal clients are, you can begin to work out what your unique selling proposition is. Your USP is simply the collection of factors unique to you and your business that compel your ideal clients to choose you over someone else who offers the same product or service.  In fact, who you serve – your ICA or “ideal client avatar” – can be part of your unique selling proposition.

The benefit of a well-defined USP is that you’ll begin to connect with and convert your ideal clients, instead of ending up with the ones who make you want to plunge daggers into your eyes.  Because when a potential ideal client lands on your website and sees it’s not like the hundreds of photography sites they found when they were Googling that thing you do, they will stop and take notice, instead of trucking right on past your website never to return.

To find out how to uncover your USP, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your USP Checklist, check out Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

In that post you’ll find a couple of examples of creative service providers doing differentiation right, so you can see what that looks like in the context of writing client-focused web copy. On a similar note, you might want to check out this guest post I wrote called 6 Authentic, Low-Cost Ways to Differentiate Yourself Online to Attract Your Ideal Clients and Customers.

Ok, So You’ve Figured Out Your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) and USP (Unique Selling Proposition), Now What?

Once you’ve knocked out these two very important first steps, you’re ready to implement what you’ve discovered about your ICA and USP to create compelling client-focused copy on your web site. The foundational work you’ve now done makes this much easier.

I would start with the Home page and the About page first, because those are the two most visited pages on most websites.

(For more information on writing an effective About page, including a template created especially for creatives, check out For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring, Lackluster About Page into an Ideal Client-Attracting Magnet.  At the end of that blog post you’ll have an opportunity to get the template I use to write About pages for clients, gratis, of course.)

Now on to the Home page. You want to think of your Home page as a virtual storefront – unless you provide a warm, welcoming, value-packed reason to come inside, people are going to walk right on by.

On the web, that means potential ideal clients will click away from your site faster than green grass through a goose if you don’t instantly demonstrate value and relevance to them.

Your Home page needs to: 

Convince busy web visitors on a mission to find specific, problem-solving information to stay on your site long enough to read further, find out what you’re about, and take some kind of action – such as checking out your products and services, signing up for your email list, or requesting a quote/more information, etc.

And because of the way people read and search on the web, you only have a few seconds to do this.

Here’s a down-and-dirty Home page checklist that will help you get yours in tip-top shape.

An effective Home page will do these 5 things:

1. Demonstrate that you understand your target audience’s problems

2. Offer a solution to those problems by sharing the benefits of what you have to offer, clearly, concisely, and compellingly.

3. Explain how solving the problem will improve your clients’ lives. See copywriting power tip #1, below.

4. Let your website visitors and potential customers know how you’re different from the competition and what makes you uniquely qualified to solve their problems.

5. Include a clear call to action. Very simply, this means giving them something to do next that will deepen the relationship with you, such as reading your blog or signing up for your email list, etc.

Remember, all the copy on this page needs to be client-focused. It’s less about you and more about your potential client’s wants, needs, and desires.

Your Home page will demonstrate what you can do to make your clients’ lives easier, better, healthier, richer, more successful or what have you, depending on the exact product or service you provide.

While the blog post linked up here is not strictly about Home pages, you’ll find some helpful advice on wooing and engaging potential buyers with web copy:  Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly.

For the fine art photographers reading this, I know you may think that these suggestions won’t work for you. If that’s the case, I suggest you check out this post I wrote on how you can apply copywriting principles to what you do:  Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

A Powerful Way to Reel ‘Em In: Three Bonus Client-Attracting Copywriting Power Tips

Copywriting Power Tip #1:  “Paint a Picture”

Whatever services you offer – wedding photography, lifestyle photography, product photography, even fine art photography – you need to help your potential clients and customers see the vision of what can be for them when they use your services or buy your work – their ideal outcome.

A very effective way to do this is to “paint a picture” with your web copy. Get the nitty-gritty details of how to do that here:  What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells.

Copywriting Power Tip #2:  Inject Personality

One of the most common website faults among creative service providers is boring, bland, and flavorless web copy.  Remember, bland and boring does not sell.  And since bland, boring copy is a common malady all over the web, if you buck that trend, you’ll stand out – in a good way.

There are creative ways to invest even the most plain, utilitarian thing with personality through the use of compelling web copy. That said, creative services typically are not bland and boring, so your web copy shouldn’t be either. Copy with personality gets remembered, creates desire for your services, and more importantly, sells more effectively than homogenous, dull as dirt web copy.

This doesn’t mean you have to get crazy, mind you. If you’re more Josh Groban than David Lee Roth, then own it, and let that shine through in your web and other marketing.

To learn more about using personality in web copy, check out these two posts: How to Sell Any Boring Old Thing with Scandalously Good Copy and If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing.

Copywriting Power Tip #3: Tap into the Power of Emotion

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative services, is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy. Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic.

You may have heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.) If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories.  But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because eating them makes you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the exact service you offer.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into? One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  It’s simple, and it works.

Learn the “so what?” technique and how to apply it here: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

The bottom line: you have to use client-focused copy to create an emotional connection – that’s how you stand out among all the other talented photographers online, and that’s how your right people will find you.

And there you have it, my talented photographer friends – the simple website copy tweak that will win you more clients: client-focused web copy, and how to create it.

I know this was a heckuva lot to take in all at once, so here are the steps again, simplified:

  1. Figure out who your ideal clients are and what they desire (I pointed you to a free downloadable worksheet for this)
  2. Determine your unique selling proposition (Ditto on the free downloadable worksheet)
  3. Use this information to create compelling client-focused web copy that speaks to your ideal clients wants, needs and desires, starting with the Home page and About page on your site

But wait, there’s more!

You might find this post I wrote on taglines valuable as you re-work your website copy to focus on your ideal clients. It’s a dead-simple formula for creating a tagline for your creative business in 20 minutes flat: Taglines 101: How to Create a Tagline for Your Creative Business.

Questions? Comments?  Leave ‘em below! 

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

New York Experience Required

photo by kconners

photo by kconners

Nothing could top the magic I felt the day I arrived at New York’s Penn Station from Wilmington, a smallish town on North Carolina’s southeastern coast, to officially begin my New York life. I felt liberated and inspired, intoxicated by the notion that anything was possible now that I was going to be living in this magical city.

It was 1991 and my then boyfriend was getting his MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. I was living in Wilmington, earning my English degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. After we did the long-distance relationship thing for a while, the topic of me moving to New York came up. I was already packing mentally 30 seconds into the conversation. Back in the real world a few days later, I dropped all my classes at UNCW, began the process of transferring to Fordham College at Lincoln Center, and starting packing my belongings for real.

Luckily the boyfriend had scored a sweet little apartment on 119th and Amsterdam, in a building with a doorman and a nice restaurant on the top floor called The Terrace, through some impossible magic of Columbia student housing.  With safe shelter out of the way, my first order of business was finding a job to fill the time and my bank account until I was to begin classes a few months later.

I started looking for waitressing work.  For a girl with plenty of restaurant experience who had never had trouble finding a waitressing gig before, this turned out to be surprisingly difficult. I would comb through classified ads in The Village Voice spying ad after ad that said, “New York experience required.”  I was baffled. I had no clue what the difference between waiting tables in a small southern beach community and Manhattan’s restaurant scene was.

After a few weeks of searching, I scored a job in a casual hamburger joint thick in the theater district just off Broadway on 45th between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.  I was both thrilled and terrified to be given this opportunity. Rows of tables lined up neatly along the length of the restaurant, next to the bar, in front of the kitchen, and around the corner and into the next room, as if every millimeter of empty space that couldn’t accommodate a customer was an affront to commerce. Tables were so close together you could reach out a take a sip of the beer your fellow restaurant patron was enjoying at the next table over as easily as eating a French fry off of your very own plate.

10 minutes into my first shift the need for “New York experience” started to sink in.  Navigating the cramped spaces between tables to deliver food and drinks was dicey. I was forever worried that my butt was in the face of some unsuspecting restaurant patron trying to enjoy their burger and curly fries as I delivered a quesadilla to their neighbors at the next table over.  The distance between my ability to do my job properly and invading my customers’ personal space was exceedingly slim.

Maybe this was different from waitressing in the comparatively spacious and slothlike environment of southeastern North Carolina’s beach scene. 

And it wasn’t just the space issues. From restaurant patrons who arrived at 6:45 pm, waited 30 minutes for a table, then ordered a well-done steak, announcing, “we’re in a hurry, we’re trying to make an 8 o’clock show,” to the purse snatchings inside the restaurant, and from the occasional celebrity sitting in your section to orders for things like lime rickeys and egg creams, nearly everything I encountered in my first few weeks on the job called up the phrase, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

But I was in hog heaven, as we say in the South. I embraced every experience my new job and city had to offer, assenting to both conveniences and annoyances in equal measure, mentally placing them on my “Proof I’m a Real New Yorker” list. The vague suffocation I felt when I lived in the South began to dissipate.

I noticed New York’s peculiarities everywhere: the way the city would empty out in the summer, its residents fleeing the trapped heat and humidity to escape to the Hamptons and other beachy enclaves.  The frequent celebrity sightings, whose frequency made them ordinary. The constant barrage of people asking for money.  The ever present noise of sirens and car horns at all times of the day and night.  Getting shat on by a pigeon as you made your way across 45th street just after crossing Broadway.  (Yes, it happened to me.)

With every new first I felt my hayseed sheen begin to wear off – my first book party in a big fancy apartment on Central Park West, where clumps of minor literary celebs and starving writers from the Columbia MFA program stood around chatting about Lewis Lapham’s latest editorial in Harper’s Magazine, my first celebrity sighting (Paul Schaffer, David Letterman’s musical director) in front of Coliseum Books on 57th and Broadway, the first time I got yelled at by a homeless person I chose not to help that day, the first time I stopped being offended by the admonition of “Next!” and the absence of eye contact in line at the bank.

Like an onion, layer after layer of Southerness peeled away with each passing day.

The day I felt fully transformed into a New Yorker came one glorious spring afternoon as I was leaving the restaurant on my way to everyone’s favorite ubiquitous New York drugstore, Duane Reade. Walking across 45th Street, I spotted a crowd gathered in front of a youth hostel, where several people stood silently hovering around something on the ground, their hands clasped over their mouths, eyes wide. I didn’t want to linger, but I could tell from the shocked energy that hung in the air something bad had happened, and I was curious.

Turns out, a young man had jumped or fallen out of the window of a nearby building, landing on the sidewalk in front of the hostel.

What I remember most clearly all these years later is this young man’s enthusiastically curly red hair, springing from his scalp vibrant and alive, juxtaposed with his body, which clearly wasn’t. 

After a few brief moments of this shared experience with my fellow New Yorkers, the crowd began to disperse, collectively making its way on with the rest of the afternoon. As I walked away, I made a mental note of what I needed to buy at the drugstore.

Lessons Distilled from a Creative Life: “The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art,” by Paul Jarvis

 

The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art by Paul Jarvis

Supported. Seen. Understood.

As a creative, do you often find yourself resistant to business advice or words of wisdom from those not in creative fields, because they don’t seem to get it?  You read a blog post, watch a video, or listen to a podcast to uncover tips for earning a full-time living from your creative thing, and think, “that won’t work for me,” or “that doesn’t apply to me because I sell fine art, photography, design services, illustration, [insert your creative work of choice here].”

While timeless marketing principles, authentically applied, can work for business builders in any category, it’s an unimpeachable truth that as creatives, when we seek counsel on how to up our business game or look for success stories we can apply to our own situation, we want to know that this guidance applies to us specifically as creative business builders. We want to take advice from someone who gets it. We don’t abide yellow highlighter hyperbole, “ninja” tricks, “warrior” moves, or other cliché metaphors of aggression that so many marketers & online business builders promote.

So when a successful creative, someone who earns a full-time living from his creative output, shares what he’s learned along the way, I’m going to pay the gentleman some attention. (“Success” is such a loaded word, so let’s assume here that it means the ability to support yourself from your creative work and feel creatively fulfilled in your daily life.)

Who is this gentleman I speak of?  Why it’s Paul Jarvis, web designer, best-selling author and “gentleman of adventure.”

I recently bought his book, The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art.  It’s pithy, entertaining, and full of good juju in the form of 18 “ideas to consider” when doing your creative thing, wherein Jarvis shares what he’s learned from observing other smart, successful, creative people. He says, “I wrote this book to explore the commonalities between successful artists. These are the 18 traits I see in good creatives. Not get-rich-quick, empty-promise dealers or egomaniacal artists, but good creatives.”

I love his expansive definition of what it means to be a creative: essentially, a creative is a person who makes anything; transforms their ideas into something tangible; curates or edits; leads or teaches; and puts what they know out into the world for others to watch, taste, read or hear.

In the book, Jarvis offers real-world examples to illustrate each of his 18 ideas. And if you’ve spent anytime ‘round these here parts, you know I love me some real-world examples. 

For example, in Chapter One, Try & fail (repeat as necessary), Jarvis shares now famous rejections that didn’t stop the creatives in question from pursing their dreams and becoming wildly successful. Stephen King, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, and Steven Spielberg, anyone?  The message: repeated failure doesn’t stop successful artists. 

In Chapter Three, Launch before you’re ready, Jarvis gives us the example of the Coen brothers’ first film, Blood Simple. The brothers entered their film in the Toronto and Sundance film festivals before the movie was even finished, because they were eager to get something into the competition. Once the film was accepted, they went off and finished it; it then won the 1985 Sundance Grand Jury Prize.

In Chapter Four, Tell your story, Jarvis says, “For creatives, the story behind the art is usually as important as the art itself” (Yes! I could jump up and down!  I give this advice to clients who are creatives all the time), and shares the example of Kris Carr, who launched her career as a wellness activist and author by telling the story of her cancer journey in the documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer.

Other favorite chapters include “Share your ugly process,” “Help others,” “Hug your critics,” “Package your quirks,” “Focus on the work, not the outcome,” and “Break the rules.” But heck, truth be told, I actually loved them all.

As Jarvis says, “These aren’t rules, because you can’t magically follow them and then presto—your art becomes more famous than Gangnam Style,” but the 18 ideas here, embraced and implemented in your own special snowflake way of course, can realistically help you get from “starving artist” to fulfilled creative.

Learn more about the book here

(Depending on when you’re reading this, the book may or may not be available yet.  I bought it on pre-sale from his mailing list; otherwise, it’s available to all on June 1, 2014. I believe it will sell for $25.)

To find out more, get after it here:

The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art  

An Ode to Being Impractical: A Reading List for Creative Business Builders

On Being Impractical to Achieve Success

I’ve been turning this Will Smith quote over in my head for weeks now. Noticing how I let fear stop me from initiating projects I’d really love to push “go” on. Or how I often get excited by an idea, then say to myself, “Hmm, I don’t know, maybe not,” all because in the back of my mind is that negating caution to be realistic.

As creatives, we’ve likely heard some version of this advice many times over, but how many truly extraordinary things were achieved by following the maxim to “be realistic?”

What if, instead, we gave ourselves permission to be wildly impractical? To throw caution to the wind during our creative process/brainstorming/visioning? How many deeply meaningful and creatively expansive projects would we undertake if the pervasive message was to be outlandish, outrageous, and a little loony, at least every now and then?

With that in mind, I rounded up a few articles I’ve had the pleasure of reading lately that illustrate the benefits of taking the road less traveled. Of being unrealistic.

Whether it’s in your marketing, your creative work, or through simply declaring you are the thing you most want to be – artist, writer, photographer, designer, what-have-you – being open to the unconventional can open up a whole new world of possibilities, leading to success breakthroughs you didn’t even know you were capable of.

These articles each illustrate in their own way that success doesn’t always come from following the default operating paradigm to be realistic. And thank goodness for that.

Oscar-Nominated Director Benh Zeitlin on Not Waiting For Permission

In this interview, writer, director and composer of the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which won four Oscar nominations, talks about how an artist collective called Court 13 made one of the best films of 2012, using a model “contrary to everything Hollywood teaches.”

Read more here about the power of taking an unconventional approach to a creative project.

4 Most Improbable Success Stories You’ll Ever Hear

This group of go-getters didn’t let challenging obstacles or the dreamslayers and naysayers of the world keep them from following their dreams and achieving success.

Check out these four tales of unlikely success here.

They Did What!? 19 Secrets of Successful Business Owners Who Took the Road Less Traveled

The title of this article sums it up: road less traveled. And we love “road less traveled” around here.

Here are 19 secrets from 19 lifestyle businesses that found success by stepping off the beaten path and doing something different.

8 Bold Businesses Reveal How to Build an Unforgettable Brand

In this article Erika Napoletano writes about one of my favorite topics – how to stand out in a saturated market by being your straight-up self. These branding lessons from 8 “bold, brash and brazen” companies prove that building a successful and well-loved business around unique personality factors can have you smiling all the way to the bank.

Read about how these companies brought personality into the branding mix to transform what could have been deadly dull and boring into compelling and drool-worthy here.

I Had Been Fired and Evicted, and Still Retired at 27

Here’s the story of how Brenton Hayden, Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Business graduate and CEO and founder of Renter’s Warehouse USA, made $966,803 in his first full year of business and eventually became a retired multi-millionaire just after his 27th birthday – after being fired and evicted. Proof that opportunity exists in every situation.

Read about Brenton’s path to success here

How I Stopped Waiting to Become a Writer, Quit My Job & Launched My Dream

In this guest post on Problogger.net, writer Jeff Goins admits, “I seethed with envy and bitterness as I saw friends skyrocket to success, living out their passions,” and asks, “What were they doing that I wasn’t?”

Read Goin’s story about how he declared himself a writer, ultimately achieved success, and created a thriving career doing what he loves here.

And there ya have it. I hope you found some inspiration and motivation in these tales of others who found success by doing things differently.

Now it’s your turn – in the comments below, tell me about a time you took the road less traveled (in your business or personal life) despite well-meaning advice from family and friends, and what the happy result was.  

Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly

I recently got a comment on my Facebook page asking for examples of what I consider good home pages for websites selling physical products.

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of a single one.  Yep, that’s right, I couldn’t bring to mind even one example from recent memory of a website selling physical products that made a lasting impression on me. 

Then I remembered I’d stumbled on some I loved in the last year or so, but dang it, I didn’t make a note of them at the time, so they disappeared from my memory like a fine vapor, just like that.

And that is unfortunate. 

But it highlights the big problem with many e-commerce and product sites: most are entirely forgettable.

What bugs me about the default kind of product website (examples coming up) is there’s no wooing of, and engaging with, the prospective buyer. Many of these sites feature tons of images with short and boring product descriptions (well, if they have to be boring, at least they’re short, right?), how to order info, and not much else. It’s all, “Well, here’s what we got; we couldn’t be bothered to make it look/feel/seem compelling or desirable in any way – so how many bracelets/hoodies/cheese logs do ya want?”

Plus, there’s not much to differentiate one site selling jewelry/clothing/food items/what-have-you from the next.  Most are soulless, corporate things that don’t move or excite the likely buyer, or call up any emotion at all, except for “Next!” as the potential customer hits the back button or navigates back to Google from whence they came.

Here’s what I’m talking about.  One of these sites is trying to sell us some lovely Wrangler Jeans, and the other, sterling silver jewelry:

Jeans {<– Click here}

Sterling Silver Jewelry  {<– Click here}

Notice the cold, impersonal feel.  Notice how everything is jammed together on the page, with nary a finely turned phrase anywhere to increase desire for or connection to the products, or paint a picture of how wonderful it would feel to own them.  This makes me sad.

What you want is personality.  Memorability.  Warmth and approachability. Copy that engages with the likely buyer on an emotional level, copy that forges a human connection. You want to give your web visitors an experience. We’ve talked about using personality to connect with ideal customers and stand out online before here and here.

Ok, you say, now I know what ineffective product site home pages look like, but what about product website homepages that get it (mostly) right, ones that exude warmth, personality and a sense of connection, sites that are memorable, engaging, and use copy well? Well, I toiled over my computer to find you a couple of examples, so let’s take a look at those, shall we?

Daniella Draper Jewellery 

Take a look at this site. {Click on company name above} It’s beautifully designed. It’s memorable. It’s evocative.  There’s a person looking directly at you as soon as you land on the page. There’s warmth and a sense of human connection. The likely buyer of this jewelry (or “jewellery,” as it’s spelled here) is going to be intrigued enough to want to scroll down and find out more.  It employs easy and intuitive web navigation.

Admittedly, there’s not much copy on the home page, but there are several markers of personality, warmth, and humanness, from the image of the young woman at the top of the page, to the picture of Daniella herself, to the Instagram feed featuring shots of Real! Live! People! wearing the jewelry and otherwise keeping it real, as the youngsters say.

Two of the brief bits of copy on the home page – “Beautifully British: Handcrafted Silver Jewellery,” and “Incredibly unique, designed and handmade by Daniella Draper” – begin to give you a glimmer of what you can expect from your experience here, and naturally compel you to explore more of the site if you’re the likely customer for this handmade jewelry.

Compare this site to the two I linked up above, where as many products as possible are crammed onto one page, making the products look janky and cheap, even if they’re not.

Hiut Denim Co. 

Again, notice the beautiful design and easy and intuitive web navigation. {Click on company name above}

The “Do One Thing Well” tagline instantly conveys passionate attention to detail, a love for going above and beyond to craft something amazing. And the images and home page copy all support the “do one thing well” ethos.  Very nice.

But here’s what I simply adore about the Hiut Denim site: its fantastic use of a Founder Story to set itself apart from all the other companies online selling premium denim.

Check out the “our story” copy on the home page to see what I mean. It’s actually more than just a founder story – it’s the story of how Hiut Denim helped Cardigan, a small town in Wales once home to the biggest jeans factory in Britain, get back on its feet again after the jeans manufacturing operation moved to Morocco.

How can you not love this? –> “So we decided 4 decades worth of know-how shouldn’t go to waste. That’s why the Hiut Denim Company was born: To get the town making jeans again.” Call me crazy, but that actually gives me chills.  

And talk about differentiation!  What a powerful and effective way to set themselves apart from other premium denim purveyors and forge an emotional connection with the likely buyer – because after all, you’re not just buying finely crafted and beautiful denim, you’re helping a town hold on to its livelihood.

The J. Peterman Company  

Ok, so this isn’t a product company home page, but I always have to share the genius of J. Peterman when I’m talking about pitch-perfect product copy, because it’s the pinnacle of gorgeous and evocative product copywriting. {Click on company name above}

The beautifully written copy here reads like a story, one you aspire to become a part of, or one you identify with, if you happen to be the likely buyer. (And that is who we’re talking to after all – we’re not trying to convince the unlikely buyer to buy our stuff, we’re trying to appeal to those with a predisposition or pre-existing hankering for the product.)

As humans, we’re hardwired to respond to stories, and the copy on the J. Peterman site taps into that longing brilliantly.

If your business sells products of any kind, your time would be well-spent studying the compelling product copy on the J. Peterman site.

Conclusion

What do these product company web pages have in common?  They are evocative. They convey warmth, soul, and personality.  They are approachable. They make an emotional connection.  There are actual human beings involved. They make you want to stick around and explore, even if you’re not planning to buy the goods right now.  They are memorable.

And importantly, the combination of web copy, photography, graphics, and the stories they choose to tell all work together to create an experience that will resonate with the likely buyer. This is what you want.  

In the comments below, I’d love for you to share your favorite product websites and tell me why they resonate with you.  (Even if it’s your own!) Go ahead, share your thoughts; I’d love to see what other product sites out there are making an impact!

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

Pay Attention to What Makes You Cry: A Navel-Gazer’s Guide to Decision-Making

I'm a writer

Something strange was happening.

For close to 6 months I’d feel on the verge of tears every time I read Danielle LaPorte’s blog. Ditto when visiting Linda Sivertsen’s Book Mama website, reading her blog posts, and especially when watching the video about her Carmel writer’s retreats.

Sometimes I’d actually shed those tears.  

Here’s how it looked:

Open email for the day.  Ah! Danielle’s newest blog post. Groovy. “Why Self-Improvement Makes You Neurotic.” Great, I love that topic!  Read. Feel wave of emotion. Tears just about to announce themselves, but don’t.  Feeling rattled and unsettled.  Hmm.

Or this:

Linda’s recent newsletter arrives in in-box.  Feel excited. Begin reading “Writing with Scissors,” about the editing process. Feel bathed in a warm glow of identification and recognition. But, wait! There it is – begin feeling weepy.

If I was keeping track of how many times this happened on my handy abacus, all the beads would be on the right-hand side and I’d be sliding them back over to the left to start the count over again. I couldn’t make sense of it. What was provoking these emotional mini-dramas?

I mean, sure, both Linda and Danielle are gifted writers and what they write about is often moving.  As a writer, I identify with many of the topics they so eloquently cover. And as an emotional creature, feeling moved to near tears while reading something inspirational isn’t unusual for me.

But this was different. It was repeated and insistent, and happened even when the subject matter was ordinary.  Feeling near tears while reading about the editing process – what gives? I was having a hard time figuring it out.  Not to mention, it was becoming a tad inconvenient to flounce around in a near-permanent state of emotional quiver. 

But I’m a world-class navel-gazer, so I knew with enough deep reflection into the minutia of my every fleeting thought and feeling I could figure this out.

After a while, it dawned on me:  the emotional reaction I’m having is because these writers are living the kind of writer’s life I want to live, but don’t – they write and publish regularly, have traditionally published books out, and enjoy creative and financial abundance, doing what they love to do. They’ve created a satisfying and remunerative writing life for themselves based on their strengths and skill sets as writers, writing what they want to write.  

I had to admit that this is what I too want to create. I’ve known it in my gut for a long time. But I hadn’t done it, nor was I even trying to do it. “It,” at the very least, meant carving out time to work on my own writing apart from client writing projects.  So the tears, near as I can tell, were because I wasn’t living in alignment with my truth (I know, I’m very sorry to have to use that phrase, and I really hope you’ll forgive me, but it works here), when faced with two talented writers who are. I felt like the kind of writing life I wanted to create was passing me by. And I ain’t gettin’ any younger, kids.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my copywriting clients to the heavens and I’m deeply grateful for the interesting projects I’m blessed to work on for them. I thoroughly enjoy writing and creating marketing strategy for them, and for my own copywriting business; it’s work that fuels and excites me.

However.

What I knew for sure was that I wanted to make room in my life for longer, more reflective writing than the kind you can do on a blog or in a newsletter that’s geared to helping your audience achieve a specific business or marketing goal.  Who knows what this writing would end up looking like, but I knew I was game to see.

So when Linda Sivertsen announced the Your Big Beautiful Book Plan Telecourse recently, I jumped at the chance to take it. Even though between client work and business classes and other commitments, I’m clocking in about 60 hours a week right now. Even though I had to charge it to my credit card, because as luck would have it, client invoices went out, but haven’t been paid yet this month. And even though I made a commitment to myself not to take one more course until I finish the ones I’m in the middle of now.

Besides, I had buying Danielle and Linda’s Your Big Beautiful Book Plan digital course (which is a separate thing from the telecourse) on my 2014 plan already – for September or October, not March, fer cryin’ out loud.  March was wildly inconvenient, March was for other business priorities, March was all wrong for so many reasons.

But I couldn’t deny the way getting the email announcement about the telecourse made me feel.  Giddy. Excited. Liberated. A big fat resounding yeeeeesssss radiating from every cell.  When I went to bed that night, I tossed and turned all night dreaming of the possibilities. I also felt weepy (see? there it is again) at the prospect of another dream deferred if I chose not to do this now.

When I woke the next morning I was certain I had to take this course, other commitments be damned.  Out came the credit card.  That was March 5.  It’s been 8 days since I did this thing that I’m sure is going to change my life. And I feel jubilant. 

And I think I can toss the Kleenex.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  : )

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing

Baby Carrots_blog image

 

Consider the carrot. The baby carrot, to be precise.  

A nutritious, wholesome, feel-good snack you can feel smug about eating, what with its minimal calories and healthy dose of good-for-you beta-carotene.

And sure, they’re good for you, but the truth is, they’re just not that interesting, are they? I mean, carrots, right? They’ve been around for 2000 years, they’re not trendy or hip like ramps or kale, or whatever other produce happens to be taking its star turn this year; they’re not really unique or special in any way. 

So, what if it was your task to “brand” them? What if you had to come up with a way to position baby carrots so they could compete with, say, cheetohs, potato chips or other junk food as a snack alternative?

Maybe you’d think, well, let’s promote their health benefits, that’ll do it!

Unfortunately, that line of thinking happens not to work all that well.

(Horrifying factoid: In 2012, $116 million dollars was spent on advertising fruit and veggies. And $2 billion was spent on advertising junk food to kids.  Yes, you read that right – $2 billion dollars.  Damn, that’s a lot of money spent to convince kids to eat crap!)

Even though print and online publications have been touting the joys and benefits of eating fruits and vegetables for years, not to mention many dozens of stories appearing on TV about the dangers of unhealthy eating, produce still has trouble competing for our shopping dollars, and per capita consumption isn’t up.

What’s a carrot seller to do?  And what’s the point of all this talk about carrots, anyway?  

My point, and I do have one, is that with enough creativity and resourcefulness, you can uncover the benefits and bring out the personality of any boring old thing to make it interesting and appealing to your audience, as I talked about previously here

Bolthouse Farms did this with carrots a few years ago. And if you can do it for carrots, you can do it for your creative products and services.

How Bolthouse Farms Transformed Carrots from Boring Agricultural Commodity to Cool, Crave-able Snack

A few years ago, Jeffrey Dunn, President and CEO of Bolthouse Farms, which grows and processes more than a billion pounds of carrots a year, was shopping for an ad agency to help create a campaign around baby carrots. Bolthouse had never marketed its carrots before, but sales were down, so Dunn decided to shake things up and get creative.

But he didn’t want to appeal to smarts and responsibility as in, “eat carrots because they’re good for you,” he wanted to market his company’s baby carrots in a different way. He knew that pitting the health benefits of the cute veggie against the perils of eating junk food wasn’t going to cut it. Instead he wanted something funny and emotional that appealed to impulse snacking.

Enter ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.  Instead of pitching a campaign centered around the health benefits of carrots, Crispin proposed aligning the baby carrot with junk food.

In an article in Fast Company, Omid Farhang, vice president and creative director at Crispin, said “The truth about baby carrots is they possess many of the defining characteristics of our favorite junk food. They’re neon orange, they’re crunchy, they’re dippable, they’re kind of addictive.”

The idea was to do the same kind of marketing for carrots as for things like Coke and cheetohs, because as Dunn was quoted as saying in the Fast Company article, “If all we do is tell people fruits and vegetables need to be part of their diet or they’re not going to be healthy – the rational approach – we have zero chance.”  

Think about it – we already know we need to eat our veggies, so telling us that in an ad campaign has no impact. As Farhang said, “What a silly use of advertising dollars to tell people that vegetables are healthy.”

Instead, the campaign they rolled out featured new packaging in which baby carrots were packaged like Doritos, in a crinkly potato chip bag with junk-food-style graphics, and an ad campaign with taglines such as “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” and “Baby Carrots: The Original Orange Doodles.”

You can read more about the whole she-bang in the fabulous article in Fast Company, “How Carrots Became the New Junk Food.” And check out the Bolthouse Farms website here for a great example of how to position with personality in order to stand out in your niche.

Marketing Lessons and Questions to Ponder

I don’t know if it’s because I once worked for an ad agency and I appreciate a killer creative marketing campaign when I see one, but I haven’t been able to get the Baby Carrots story out of my head since I first heard about it late last year.

It’s proof that positioning with personality works.  (Sales in Bolthouse’s test markets went up 10% to 12% over the year before in the year following the test campaign.)

Think about how Bolthouse Farms went against the standard approach in this campaign by deciding not to use a health benefits approach, instead aligning themselves with junk food.  How can you apply this kind of creative thinking to your own marketing?

Consider how Bolthouse uses personality to transform baby carrots from a healthy, but boring vegetable into a hip, crave-able snack.  Are there ways you can do this with your creative products and services?

Share your thoughts in the comments! 

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

 

What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

chocolate cake & persuasive copy

Image by Max Straeten

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative products and services is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy.

Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic. Yes, you’ve probably heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.)

If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories. 

But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because they make you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the product or service you offer.

Worth-repeating-until-eternity step number one is always, always, ALWAYS knowing who your ideal client is and what they need/desire – everything flows from this. 

You really want to get inside their heads and figure out the deeper emotional benefit they’re seeking as a result of buying your product or service.  What is the core desire you’re tapping into with what you sell?

If you make one-of-a-kind jewelry, it could be your customer’s desire to feel unique and special, and therefore validated as the quirky individual she is. If you sell knitwear for infants, it could be that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from your customer knowing how safe and warm her baby is in the wintry weather, all while looking too adorable for words.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into with your copy?

One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  Ask “so what?” until you feel like you’ve gotten to the real benefit your thing provides.

Here’s an example from some work I did with a professional organizer to help her figure out the core emotional benefit of her email opt-in offer:

These tools will help you get more organized. (surface benefit)

So what?

Your home will be less cluttered and look nicer. (surface benefit)

So what?

You’ll feel less frazzled and actually be able to really relax and enjoy your family when you’re at home, because everything is tidy and in its right place. (deeper benefit)

So what?

You’ll enjoy high quality family time the way it was meant to be enjoyed, because there won’t be petty annoyances and frustrations from nagging the kids or the husband to keep things neat or put things away, etc. Time at home will be spent watching a movie, or playing a game, or cooking a meal together and other fun and satisfying family activities.  (even deeper benefit)

So what?

You’ve created this wonderful oasis that your family loves spending time in together and you’re all bonding and getting along so well – wow, you really care about your family, you’re an amazing wife and Mom.  (Bingo! Core emotional benefit.)  

The emotional benefit the professional organizer’s audience – busy Moms with young kids and an active family life – wants to achieve is a calm environment that benefits the whole family and creates stress-free family time. With this in mind, one idea I pitched for the name of her opt-in offer was a handy organizing guide called:

From Chaos to Calm: 9 Easy-to-Use, Inexpensive Tools to Get Your Home and Family Organized, Eliminate Overwhelm, and (Finally!) Create a Stress-Free Oasis Your Family Can’t Wait to Come Home To

So the bottom line is, you want to convey how your creative goods or services enhance your customers’ lives by demonstrating the emotional benefits of owning/experiencing them, like we did here with the professional organizer’s opt-in offer. 

And that’s what chocolate cake and donuts can teach you about selling more: tap into what makes your ideal audience feel good.

Your turn: what’s the name of your business and the core emotional benefit it provides?  Let me know in the comments section!

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

10 Inspiring Business & Marketing Resources for Creative Business Builders

One thing I’ve noticed since I switched my business focus from writing solely for corporate clients to adding independent creatives and small creative businesses to the mix is the number of people who email me saying there aren’t enough business, marketing and other resources online specifically geared to creative entrepreneurs.

And while I can’t know the entire Internet (even though I do spend over 10 hours every day swimming in it – ha!), I agree that when it comes to creatives who want to promote and market authentically, there seem to be fewer resources available than for other kinds of business builders.

So I compiled a list of go-to resources I know about, either through positive word-of-mouth, or because I visit them regularly myself for information, advice, and inspiration.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination, only a few places to get you started, so if you know of others not listed here, please drop ‘em in the comments at the end of the post!

The Abundant Artist: Dispelling the Starving Artist Myth

All kinds of artists will find this site useful. While there is plenty of content geared toward helping visual and fine artists market their work, the advice and tips here would work well for most any kind of creative trying to market authentically and create a robust presence online. As Cory, site owner, says about the site, “This is a web site not only about selling art, but about dispelling the starving artist myth.”

The articles, videos and podcasts on the site cover a multitude of topics, including how to build a better artist website, how to sell your art online, how to market effectively with social media, and other business-building topics geared toward artists.

Sample blog articles: How I Made $50,000 Selling Art on Facebook; Newsletters: So Easy, An Artist Can Do It; Personal Branding for Artists; The Artist Website Checklist; How to Create an Art Blog That Makes Art Collectors Swoon; How to Create Raving Fans by Telling the Story of Your Art, etc.

Free resources available: Sign up for Cory’s email list and receive a 10 week email course called “Learn to Sell More Art Now,” as well as other useful content to help you grow your business.

Other notes: I love Cory’s tone, voice, and sense of humor. You’ll be entertained, and learn tons about art marketing at the same time.

Artsy Shark: Inspiring Artists to Build Better Businesses

The articles on this site cover how to launch and grow a successful art or craft business. Specific topics include the business of art, marketing, selling your work, inspiration, art licensing and art publishing, and more.

Run by Carolyn Edlund, Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute, Artsy Shark publishes articles on featured artists, giving them publicity and linking to the artist’s website, which allows artists to make sales of their work. Artists are chosen several times a year through a competitive juried submission process. 

Sample blog articles: Artist Website Strategies: Improve Your Home Page; Crafting Potent Press Releases That Get You Ink; How to Create an Artist Email Newsletter That Works; 8 Ways to Improve Your Online Portfolio; Effective Art Marketing is Not About You, etc.

Red Lemon Club: refreshing insights into building influence, for creatives

Red Lemon Club features articles and other resources for helping creatives build their influence and land quality clients. The site is a place to “get inspired, absorb, learn and share insight on being influential, standing out, and building an engaged audience to your creative work.”

Sample blog articles: 7 Simple Acts of Daily Self-Discipline That Will Make You a Better Artist/Ninja; 50 Self-Promotion Tips for Creatives; 21 Ways to Add Magic to Your Brand and Stand Out; What Problems Are You Solving? How Great Artists Think Like Entrepreneurs; 11 Things Most Other People Never Do That You Can Do to Win Amazing Clients, etc.

Free resources available: Sign up for the Red Lemon email list and receive the e-book, 9 Things You Absolutely Must Do to Land Quality Clients, plus weekly tips you won’t find on the blog.

Skinny Artist: Create, Connect, Inspire, & Live Your Art!

The Skinny Artist site delves into “the unique opportunities and challenges we face as creative artists in this brave new world of blogs, social media, and marketing our creative work online to a worldwide audience.” Specific topics include marketing myths, online marketing, inspiration, featured artists, artist life, and creative productivity.

 Sample blog articles: 5 Ways to Market Your Art in Your Community; 5 Fears That Can Destroy an Artist; Is Etsy Dying?; The Great Artist Statement Hoax; How to Take Charge of Your Creative Goals; Stare, Share, Steal, and be Willing to Look Stupid, etc.

Free resources available: Sign up for the email list and receive the Skinny School series, “How the @#$&! do I Get More Traffic to my Website?!” plus how-to tutorials, artist marketing tips, and other resources.

Other notes: I absolutely love this site’s irreverent and funny tone.

Fresh Rag: The No BS, Straight Talk Approach to Earning More From Your Creative Pursuits

Fresh Rag is for artists, designers, crafters and other independent, creative entrepreneurs who want to  build their business and make more sales.

Sample blog articles: Calling Yourself Out on Your Own Bullshit; How to Eliminate the Starving Artist Syndrome from the Ground Up; Your Excuses About Etsy’s Changes Are Holding You Back; The 100%, Sure-Fire Way to Sound Like a Self-Absorbed Artist ; I Serve Those That Serve Creativity, etc.

Free resources available: Sign up for the email list and receive free updates with tools, tips and tricks for taking your creative career to the next level. Topics include converting lookers into buyers, building a loyal following, and making more money without killing yourself.

Living a Creative Life with Melissa Dinwiddie

The aim of this site is to offer insights and inspiration to help you live a fully creative life. The goal: “to get you sparked, stoked and creating!” As Melissa says, she wants to see everyone on the planet using their creative gifts.

Sample blog articles: Failure, Progress & the Great Experiments of 2013; Secrets of Living a Big, Bold Creative Life; What to Do When You’re Caught in a Shame Spiral; Case Study: Dealing with Criticism; My Big Secret for Getting Creating (Almost) Every Day, etc.

Free resources available: Sign up for the newsletter and receive a printable poster, 10 Keys to Creative Flow, plus regular email inspiration, first dibs and special offers when Melissa has new stuff to share.

Other notes: I love Melissa’s warm, friendly and encouraging tone. Oh, and there’s the stark honesty about her successes and her failures, which is refreshing. She’s a creative who gets creatives – get ready to feel understood and supported as a creative soul.

Creative Freelancer Blog

Geared to creative freelance professionals – freelance designers, illustrators, writers, photographers and other creatives – Creative Freelancer Blog provides business and marketing advice and inspiration.  

I’ll be honest, even though I visit this site regularly, it kind of drives me crazy because there’s so much going on and it doesn’t seem that well-organized. When you land on the blog it’s a giant mish-mash with a long scrolling list of articles, with no apparent topic categories. Maddening. That said, there’s a wealth of fantastic information for creative freelancers, and the content is well worth reading if you have the time and the patience to dig through the seeming randomness.

Sample blog articles: The Photographer’s Guide to Photo Contests; Work, Life, and You: Are You Staying Sane?; Top 3 Social Media Platforms for Designers & Creative Pros; When They Ask You to Work for Free, Say This; Turn More Prospects into Paying Clients; 12 Stark Differences Between Freelancing and 9-5; Why You Should Say “No” to Clients and Become a Specialist; Retainers Get You Off the Rollercoaster, etc.

Free resources available: Signing up for the email list will allow you to download job-search strategies, interview techniques, and portfolio and résumé tips to help you land the right creative position.

The Unmistakable Creative Podcast: Candid Conversations with Creative Entrepreneurs and Insanely Interesting People

This is hands-down one of my favorite places to visit online for creative inspiration. There are over 400 inspiring interviews here with every kind of creative entrepreneur you can imagine, spanning every kind of background. As the graphic on the site’s About page says, podcast guests include best-selling authors, world-famous cartoonists, ex-cons, graffiti artists, happiness researchers, peak performance psychologists, and more. This is not your usual business podcast, in a good way. A very good way.

Sample podcasts: How to Escape a Life of Mediocrity with Melissa Leon; Idea Execution and the Creative Process with Jocelyn Glei; Creating a Profitable Expression of Your Art with Alex Franzen; Unleash Your Creative Genius with Erik Wahl; How to Master the Craft of Writing with Dani Shapiro; The Importance of Developing Your Own Belief Systems; Redefining Ambition with Amber Rae, etc.

Free resources available: Sign up for the email list and receive notice of the latest podcasts, plus (as of this writing), a weekly email delivered on Sunday designed to make you think about your creative path. Inspiring, thoughtful and honest, this is of my favorite Sunday reads.

Scoutie Girl: Creative Life with Character

Scoutie Girl is a daily digital lifestyle magazine that features stories, philosophies, and innovative ideas about creative living & becoming a more creative individual; offers creative visual inspiration and motivation to the handmade community. Written by a team of creative thinkers and designers, the site seeks to help you become inspired and informed.

This is a site I have to admit I haven’t spent a ton of time on, but others I know have recommended it. There’s a nice resource page on the site with a pretty robust list of other sites that will help the creative person “live a creative, fulfilled life” as well.

Sample blog articles: Tap into Creativity by Letting Go; Just Do the Work; Never Too Late to Bloom; Why Planning Isn’t Always the Answer; Oh, That Inner Critic; Chasing the Light: The Search for Creative Balance, etc.

99u: Insights on Making Ideas Happen

I visit this site at least once or twice a week to see what’s new. 99U’s mission is “to share pragmatic insights on how to push bold ideas forward . . . and ‘demystify the creative process.’” The philosophy here is that creatives often focus more on idea generation than idea execution, and the action-oriented insights found on this site – in the form of interviews, articles, videos, and blog posts – aim to change that. You’ll find loads of actionable tips here for getting the ideas out of your moleskin and into reality.

Sample blog articles: 10 Creative Rituals You Should Steal; The 5 Most Dangerous Creativity Killers; The Case Against “Do What You Love”; How Your Friends Affect Your Creative Work; Talent is Persistence: What It Takes to Be an Independent Creative; Beat Procrastination by Adding Rewards to Your Day; Don’t Get Screwed: The Contract Provisions Every Creative Needs to Know; 7 Habits of Incredibly Happy People, etc.,

And there you have it, a short list of online resources for creative inspiration, education, and biz & marketing advice.

If you know of other practical and effective resources for creatives not listed here, please drop ‘em in the comments below, you’ll be helping us all out! : )

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

On Pricing Mindset: How Much Do You Value Your Own Creative Work?

One of the greatest challenges we face as creative entrepreneurs, especially in the early phase of our business journey, is finding clients and customers who value what we do and who will pay us a fair sum for our work.

The thing that’s so insidious when you’re first starting out – whether that’s in the beginning of your creative career altogether or in the beginning of taking your thing online – is that the offer of online or other “exposure” in exchange for illustration, graphic design, photography services, interior design advice, or in my case, copywriting, almost seems like the smart thing to do. (And let’s be honest, in some cases, it is.)

We’ve all had people try to finagle us into providing our creative work for next to nothing, or even worse, for free.

This blog post is not about how to price your creative services – you can get plenty of great advice on that topic by Googling “how to price creative services” (which will return in the neighborhood of 136,000,000 results). I suggest you read through some of those articles if you’re struggling with pricing.

No, today’s post is about your mindset around the value of the creative services you provide.

I have two things to share on that topic that can help you think of the value you offer through your creative talents in a bigger and bolder way – something much more expansive than some arbitrary hourly rate multiplied by the time it took you to create your work.

Take a quick peek at the two short articles below – they helped me crystallize my value in a way that makes it much easier to both turn down low-ball offers for my services, and to say “no” to providing my hard-earned skills and experience for free or next-to-nothing in exchange for so-called “exposure.”

This first short piece comes from a custom furniture maker named C. H. Becksvoort who often gets asked why his prices are “high.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Visitors to my shop & showroom sometimes ask why my prices are so “dear.” There are several responses, and the list keeps growing: 1) When you invest in my furniture, you are buying 2-6 weeks of my life. 2) You are availing yourself of five decades of experience in joinery, wood technology, restoration, and design. 3) You are investing in a green product, made of sustainably harvested wood from Kane Hardwoods (in operation since 1858); a product that will outlast the next generation. 4) Buying quality once is always cheaper than buying cheap, and having to replace it 4 or 5 times. Most of what you see at big box stores will be in the land-fill within 5 years. You are supporting the local economy, handmade in the U.S. A. 5) Each of my works are built by me, from raw stock, one at a time, to suit your specific requirements. No two pieces I have ever made are exactly the same. The hand of the maker is always in evidence. Most folks think that “custom” means getting the body color, engine size and audio system you desire, not realizing that your “custom” vehicle is one of at least 3,000 just like it on the road.

From years of restoring furniture for the last Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, ME, my motto has always been, “Not how cheap can I make it, rather, how good can I make it.” C. H. Becksvoort © 2012

How brilliant is that?

This second piece is from a published author who often gets asked to provide writing at no cost. If you’ve ever been asked to provide your creative talents for free in exchange for “exposure,” this will resonate deeply with you. Really funny stuff too, by the way.

Check it out here:

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

Next time you’re having doubts about the value of your creative products or services, I hope you’ll remember these two pieces of wisdom.

Have thoughts on the topic of pricing and the often thorny issue of exchanging your creative talents for dollars? Leave them in the comments section below and let’s compare notes. : )