Category Archives: Creative Business

8 Marketing Blogs You Should’ve Subscribed To Yesterday

marketing blogs for creatives - best of the best

Last month, I fangirled like crazy when a woman visiting our offices for a few weeks told me about the online community she was building to help people find their purpose by connecting them with trained mentors (psychologists, for example).

(My passion is helping people help people, if you haven’t already guessed.)

We got to swapping stories. At one point, she’d been in the marketing industry, but this whole world of online marketing and community building was new-ish for her. She had the army of people and stacks of books, but wanted to know where I went to learn about marketing.

What blogs did I read on a regular basis?

I think I probably turned about fifteen shades pinker when I admitted I could rattle off a dozen or more without even thinking hard.

The truth is, the Internet has propelled us into a state of fear that we’ll miss something if we don’t devour everything. But in that fear, I’ve sifted out the bad and whittled my list down to the core resources for online marketing.

Here’s how it rounds out:

Duct Tape Marketing

Every Wednesday, John Jansch delivers a concise newsletter with a couple new digital tools, a few more articles from some of the industry’s best + brightest, and a sponsor (usually a book or course). To be honest, the newsletter has introduced me to some of the most useful marketing tools to date.

Hubspot

I’m an e-book addict. Send me to the support group. With downloadable guides to social media marketing to best examples of web homepage design to online lead generation, this online all-in-one-software company puts everyone else’s basic 101 guides to shame.

With Intention by Jess Lively

Jess was born to help creative business owners. Her weekly newsletter, “What I Wish I Knew Wednesday,” is a quick + informative read. I always skim them to see if they’re applicable and toss what I don’t need.

Social Triggers

You’ve got to love somebody with a little personality and no nonsense. That’s Derek Halpern for ya. He basis his marketing and social media posts on psychological research, so everything he does and teaches is backed by science.

KISSmetrics

I found KISSInsights, the software behind KISSmetrics, last spring when I was searching for an easy-to-use client survey tool. Since then, I’ve trusted the blog side of things with information about keeping clients happy + building better email newsletters + landing pages.

Help Scout

Things I love about Help Scout: the psychology of purchasing decisions + the guides to better client satisfaction and support (especially for product developers). The content is in-depth, but it’s worth the read.

Mashable

When I visit this site, it’s a cluster of technology information and small business news. Yes, you’ve got to sort through it. But if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find a quality post on that topic. Everything has thousands and thousands of shares, comments, etc.

Content Marketing Institute

Content marketing is the wave of the future, um, present. It’s now. That’s why we blog, develop infographics and diagrams and videos and slideshows. It’s why we are consuming and consuming – so we can learn and teach others who then ask us to design their websites or manage their Facebook pages or write their brochure copy. CMI has ideas on ideas when it comes to all of that.

SEOmoz

Because SEO changes err’day. Because Google keeps it fresh. SEOmoz broke it down for me step by tiny step when I wanted to learn SEO from start to finish. My suggestion? Start with the all-inclusive beginner’s guide.

How To Make A Killer Facebook Page For Your Creative Business, Blog, Website, Store or Studio

how to make a killer facebook page for your creative blog website store or studio

If you’re a creative professional, you don’t have to be on Facebook, but my guess is you’ve got a backpack full of visual content to share and promote. And if you’ve ever stumbled across a blog post about social media marketing, you know that Facebook is ubiquitous – it’s the most widely-used social network and brands are killing it on Facebook.

If you decide to ditch Facebook altogether or have a half-baked Page, that’s your deal.

But I can tell you this:

People. Adore. Facebook.

(For now, at least.)

So how do you rock it out?

Let’s get basic.

Facebook Page versus Facebook Profile

You + me? We’re friends. We added each other. Now, we can write on each others’ timelines and tag photos from our hiking trips and book club meetups and recipe swaps.

We each have own our personal profiles. We’re not brands, companies, websites or stores.

We’re human.

But your blog/Etsy store/LLC/freelance business needs a Facebook Page — not a profile.

Your Page is connected to your profile only in the sense that you log in to your profile to obtain access to your Page. Your fans can’t necessarily see your personal profile though.

This post gets into the nitty gritty on Pages versus profiles.

Categorize Your Page Appropriately

Before you can do anything, you’ve got to pick a category for your Page. The good news? You can change this once the Page is configured. The bad news? There’s no real stellar roadmap for picking the perfect category.

These are quick examples for each Page category:

Local Business or Place: Your mom’s Italian deli

Company, Organization or Institution: Nike

Brand or Product: Cheerios

Artist, Band or Public Figure: Justin Bieber and President Barack Obama

Entertainment: The New York Giants and Saturday Night Live

Cause or Community: Campaign for Cancer Prevention

Each of these categories comes with a laundry list of specialized options, so if you’re still stuck, click on one of the categories and scan the dropdown menu.

Show Us What You’ve Got

Just like your website, your cover photo and profile picture should heighten brand awareness. Use your visual real estate to convey what you do best.

Photographers might use a collage of portfolio shots for their cover photo with a text overlay identifying them and their core service or deal-of-the-month (e.g. 15% off Mother’s Day group portraits).

Graphic Designers and Illustrators might draw or design a cover photo to convey their attitude toward design for future clients.

Interior Designers and Architects might use blueprints or a photo of their favorite space to show off their personality and further their branding.

Fashion Designers might swap out photos of their sketches or dress forms based on the seasons and industry trends.

Application Developers might feature new app releases as they become available across carriers.

Tell Us Who You Are

Right below your Page’s profile picture, a tiny box sits pretty waiting for you. This is your one-liner, your elevator pitch, your 5-second chance to sell the eyes scanning your Page.

Make sure it conveys what you do and why you’re different.

“A new kind of marketplace for handcrafted, mousemade design content like icons, brushes, fonts & more.” Creative Market

“Brightly-coloured designer nerd creating fun and colourful prints, cards and homewares.”Sam Osborne Illustrations

“Codrops is dedicated to provide useful tutorials, insightful articles, creative inspiration and free resources for web designers and developers.”  – Codrops

“Shine Christ. Soar above mediocrity. Live fully. Do entrepreneurship. // An online magazine for young Christian women entrepreneurs //.” – Shine & Soar Magazine

“Delivering a gorgeous + inspiring manifesto to you every day.”Striking Truths

“The world is full of good people. We’re introducing you to them one interview at a time.”Good People Of Earth

“where passionate crafters, designers, & artists connect, converse, and commune.”Scoutie Girl

Get the idea? You know what your Page is about – but have you told anyone?

Get on it, girl.

BTW: Your Facebook Page should have a vanity URL (short, personalized and easy to remember). You’ll need at least 25 fans before you can create one, but once you hit that benchmark, I strongly suggest doing so. It’s super helpful for pointing people to your Facebook via print + digital materials (and they’re more likely to remember it).

The Creative Professional’s Website: 5 Core Components

5 core components to a creator's website[photo credit: 12345]

If Google isn’t showing you the SEO love, no amount of freshly baked gluten-free chocolate chip cookies delivered straight to its headquarters will change that.

Being found online requires significant effort; a huge chunk of which is your website.

Think of your website as your digital house. Even your favorite aunt, persistent though she may be, won’t scoot her butt up your driveway if she can’t find your house hidden behind ivy walls an unmarked mailbox; she’ll likely whip out her flip phone (I said she was your favorite – not forward-thinking) and call to say she’s been circling the same street for an hour now.

The difference between having a poorly identified house and a scatterbrained website is that your aunt will call; the one-woman flower shop looking for a new logo design won’t. If she can’t find you, or worse, leaves your digital doorstep more confused than when she first arrived, you’ve lost her.

And not just her, but employers + clients + networking opportunities + guest post offers + advertising sponsors + affiliate sales.

You won’t capture everyone who wanders around your site but gosh, girl; you’ve sure as heck got to make it easy for them to know who you are, what you do, and how to contact you.

Let’s look at the five core components of a creative’s website. This list is highly distilled and doesn’t cover SEO, social integration, contact forms, etc.

the creative's website - 5 core components

Numero Uno: Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS makes your job as a creative so much easier. It means your website is templated, so when you make changes, you won’t have to modify things like header images, sidebar widgets or site navigation on every single page.

You’ve got three main options here: WordPress, Joomla + Drupal.

The good news is that they’re all open source, which means they’re free as birds. The bad news is they’re not all created equal; some are more difficult to operate than others.

From easiest-to-learn to most sophisticated: WordPress > Joomla > Drupal.

The White House website operates on Drupal. For RWL, I use WordPress (self-hosted – not the dot com version for bloggers). I’ve been told Joomla is a great alternative to WordPress.

One the CMS is installed on your website’s FTP account (see WordPress’ Famous 5-minute installation), you can say “Hasta la vista” to managing the site page-by-tedious-page.

Step two is to download, and install, a theme (either to customize that baby like your very own Christmas morning wrapping paper or to stick with the standard color scheme, layout, etc.). I’ll dive into look + feel later on.

Numero Dos: Cornerstone Content

In a nutshell, this is your blog. If you’re a photographer specializing in captivating landscapes, you best be writing about f-stops and neutral density filters.

Blogging should complement your business. Cornerstone content covers the basics of your industry in a way that positions you at the forefront.

Let’s go back to the photographer example. Miss DSLR might make a how-to video on how to create Photoshop actions. Or write posts on the process of setting up a shot or interfacing with clients (if she does portraits). She might answer FAQs sent via her contact form.

The content centers on educating other photographers and giving Google a thick trail of breadcrumbs when searching for those same terms so that future clients find her, too.

Numero Tres: Email Newsletter

There are two schools of thought on email marketing. The first is that you are crazy to think anybody will read YOUR message in a pile of unread inbox notes a mile high. The second is that if you produce content that people willingly subscribe to, they will fawn over your words each time you hit the send button.

I’m a fan of Option #2. When done right, email marketing is permission marketing. In short, it means somebody asked you to sit in their inbox. They opted in via a form on your website.

Because of that, it’s crucial your email signup form be visible and captivating. That list is your golden ticket to new clients, new projects, new horizons, really.

(This is a quick intro, and likely I’ll circle back to elaborate on how email marketing works for creative professionals, but suffice to say it’s similar to cornerstone content.)

My go-to email marketing tool: MailChimp

(I’ve played with Aweber and Constant Contact, but in terms of look + feel, I always come back to MailChimp’s template options. Plus, the first 2,000 subscribers are free.)

Numero Quatro: Portfolio

Newly-minted creatives tend to fall into two categories: they either complain they don’t have any work to show or say they have some, but certainly not a volume of work.

Let me tell you something: a few great, swoon-worthy projects trump a volume of mediocre-at-best projects any day. And if you’re not proud of what you’ve got, you better hike up your belt loops and step into the sunshine and snap something awe-inspiring or load InDesign and go to work on a magazine layout rebrand.

Give. Yourself. Projects.

Your clients want to know what you’ve done.

So, with that in mind, your portfolio section should include only the projects you feel excellent about. If you don’t like it, don’t show it.

Numero Cinco: Branded Look + Feel

You are a creative. Your cells are buzzing with aesthetic understanding. You are critical. You are hardworking. You want to present yourself well, right?

The average website visitor spends only 8 seconds on a page before deciding whether to leave. Part of that decision is a clear understanding of the page and its purpose. Another part, especially for people in the business of making things, is the consistency in the way the site looks and the emotional appeal it evokes.

If a visitor arrives at your site and it’s a hot mess – hard to navigate, a myriad of eye-throbbing choices, none of which seem to mesh together – they’re out in 3-4 seconds tops.

It’s not so much that your site has to be stellar, or that you have to invest in a 10k design project, but color choice, font selection, etc. should match the logo, header images, social media icons, email signup forms, link colors, etc.

Creating a site like that will make your potential colleagues and clients sigh with relief because they can entrust you to create something for them that’s equally cohesive, fully developed and in tune with their own mission.

Bonus: Freelance Information

This is for the people who are ready to hire you. They’ve sifted through your site, subscribed to your newsletter, read your latest blog posts and decided you are their cup of tea when it comes to their wedding photography.

But they don’t know how much you charge or whether you just take the photos or edit them, too. And is that included or separate? Do you offer packages?

Is your head spinning? Yep. If you don’t want all of this front and center on your freelance page, at least consider providing a form for them to submit the scope of work or contact you for pricing and package options.

Questions? Email me at kay@kaleighsomers.com or leave ‘em in the comments section below.

Writing Stellar Cover Letters: 5 Small + Mighty Parts

writing stellar cover letters in five partsYou are not your resume. You are so much more than that, lady.

You might be your cover letter, though. (Sorry!)

It’s the only handshake you’ve got before somebody sweeps in and offers a face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversation about a job or an internship.

I know you’re a hardworking, passionate, busy-till-the-sun-comes-up-tomorrow kind of gal, but the world doesn’t yet.

Your cover letter is the window to your future job, so if you love what you do as much as you act like it, the best thing you can do is create something that showcases all you have to offer in a one-page letter.

A few years ago, I thought of these suckers as arbitrary top pages for short story submissions. I was a small fish in a big, loud, rambunctious crowd. My confidence in the publishing industry was miniscule.

In the wake of looking for an internship, an honest-to-God, get-my-hands-dirty internship, I hit the backspace button on that theory. That spring, I wrote nearly 90 cover letters.

Why Now?

A few weeks ago, I received a message from an old high school acquaintance who wanted some hands-on advice for her fellow college grads and undergrads. They were wading into the water, hesitant to jump into a career path, but even more so to begin putting themselves down on paper.

I could understand that. I could totally, gut-stirringly understand that.

That’s why I began writing passionate, but economic cover letters. Nobody wanted me to tell them in a 1,000-word essay why I had always dreamed of working for them (thank God I only said that, with total honesty, a handful of times – there are only so many ‘dream jobs’ we can envision at the ripe age of 21).

It boils down to one question: why should they spend more than five minutes reviewing my file before tossing it out – what can I do for them? Why does my experience matter?

Three words for you. Connect. Those. Dots.

Writing those letters becomes the art of dissecting apart our past to barter towards an ever-changing future. The best we can do is work hard, put our time where it best suits, and learn all we can to leverage it weeks or months or years down the road.

Let me propose a few alterations to the throwaway self-introduction.

 

Part One: You Love Them + They Should Love You Because ______.

You’re writing to inform them that you (really want this job, basically) because you have experience (in the same industry, in a similar industry, in a similar position, doing similar things) and, because of that (really think they ought to consider you).*

*Everything in parentheses is broad and/or slang for something professional and specific.

 

Part Two: You Told Me What You Need, So Here’s How I Own That

You’ve got the job description in front of you — use + abuse it for two things:

1) You’re sure this is the right fit for you? Sure you’d like to spend some time trying to win over a gaming company hiring a programmer when you have never so much as picked up a controller but always did know your way around HTML – close enough, right?

2) You’re writing this section with an armful of actionable “I can do this and this and this” phrases in your back pocket. Please hold—you already do 95 percent of what’s in the job description? Did you mention that or hope they would infer from the job titles?

 

Part Three: So Those Programs? I Am Like A Jedi With Those Babies

Creative job descriptions are unique in that they tend to list every program your eyes ever scanned as a requirement or preferred qualification. Depending on what you’re applying for, you’ll be waist deep in a bulleted list of coding languages or design software or customer databases or social networks.

(A great reason to start loving your MacBook Pro until it spits out a beautiful new graphic/website/story/advertisement/business card/logo design/email campaign every single week. People love samples. They also love honesty. So if you can honestly own the whole Adobe Creative Suite, that’s something to write about – in half a sentence, of course.)

 

Part Four: Here’s Why My Work Meshes With You, Part II

One last call for winning them over. Better tell ‘em who they’re dealing with. I tend to write that I work well in fast-paced, detail-oriented environments. And yeah, it’s like, “Suuuuuuure you do.” But then, if you look at the jobs I’ve had, you start thinking that’s exactly what was required of me in all of them. So it’s legit.

What can you say about how you work? Why do you really love them and this opportunity they’ve got waiting to be filled? What two sentences can pack a punch before you thank them and sign off?

 

Part Five: Thanks For Not Using This As A Trash Can-Bound Basketball (Yet)

Sincerity + gratitude go a long way. Finding a perfect candidate in a mound of 200+ resumes has got to be tough. So when someone does get your cover letter + resume and makes it to the final paragraph, please oh please thank them for doing so. Just make sure it’s with a little more confidence than that section header above.

I’ve learned that practice goes a long way – not just with writing cover letters, but with work samples too. Also: please, oh, please, tailor them to the individual (person, if possible; company and position, if nothing else).