Marketing Monster Bites Man. Man Succeeds.

Be afraid. Be VERY afraid. If you are a creative solopreneur you may not realize it but a creature so powerful that your prospective clients don’t stand a chance is currently controlling you. Let me explain.

I’m an Illustrator and owner of 5 Fingers Creative. Every year I attend the Creative Freelancer Conference where hundreds of creative professionals just like me infest a lucky city to get a hefty dose of  “get off your creative butt, stop whining and make something of yourself!”  This year the lucky city was Denver and It was there that I immersed myself in the creative energy that would soon release an inner beast that I didn’t know lurked inside me.

My plan was simple. I was to attend the Creative Freelancer Conference, as I do every year, and then head out to Las Vegas for the Licensing International Expo to research a new market, art licensing. The week before I left I called several possible clients also attending the Licensing Expo in hopes of making some contacts. Then I prepared several new and fresh marketing pieces to hand out and gave my website and business card a facelift. My brand was fresh and crisp and I was ready to rock. Two conferences back to back and I knew I’d be pumped coming from The Creative Freelancer Conference but I had no idea what would come next.

The Creative Freelancer Conference, which has a way of taking creative solopreneurs caught in a slump and slapping them in the face, energizing, and igniting a creative spark, is just what I needed to get ready for my trip to Vegas. Although I had spent weeks researching the business of licensing and I really had no clue about what to expect from The Licensing Expo.

When I got to Vegas I armed myself with a handsome stack of business cards, put on my nicest shirt and headed to my first conference class. As I entered the elevator something came over me. I began to transform. I felt a smile coming on, my shoulders moved back as my eyes panned the elevator for others that looked like they might be attending the Licensing Expo as well. Sure enough I saw a woman toting a rolling suitcase and wearing an Expo id tag. And then it happened. THE ELEVATOR SPEECH! That’s right, I unleashed the best introduction I could muster. I didn’t care who she was really. I just made it my goal to meet as many people as possible. If they couldn’t use my services maybe they knew someone who could. By the time I left the elevator we had exchanged cards, I offered to help her with her bag and we shared the long walk across the casino floor to The Expo meeting area.

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As I entered the first classroom it happened again. I quickly scanned the room for the best place to sit. I refused to sit by myself. Instead I chose to follow my instincts and chose to sit next to the first person that looked like someone who might be a future fan.

Sure enough, I sat next the big cheese of a chain of popular hobby stores. We caught each other’s eye.  I gave her my best “How ya doing?” smile and with no mercy I handed her my card and went into attack mode. I actually made her laugh at one point and when it was all done she not only gave me her card but also the name of another buyer at her company that might be interested in my work.

The beast was now unleashed. No one was safe. I preyed on everyone I met, standing in line at a Starbucks, small talk and card exchange, pool side small talk and card exchange, casino bar, small talk and card exchange, restaurant, small talk and card exchange.

Over the next few days I prowled the show floor and collected over 100 cards and handed out or left behind more than 200 of my cards and promo pieces. I met CEOs, art buyers, art directors, designers, packaging companies and other artist just like me.

On the plane home I was reviewing my notes and all the contacts I had made and although not every contact may yield business, I discovered that I’m not only a decent Illustrator with a talent that people appreciate, but also I have the ability to reach out to people and tell my story well.

Self-promotion and marketing is a tough gig and not everyone has a knack for it. I struggle constantly with finding new ways to root out new prospects and gather enough confidence to reach out to them. I’m shy by nature and it’s unlike me to just walk up to a complete stranger to say hello much less pitch my story. Maybe it was The Creative Freelancer Conference, the magic of Vegas or the influence of my marketing coach, Ilise Benun that brought out the beast in me. I can’t say. But I can say that we all have what it takes when we need it most, our own personal Marketing Monster.

Listen to BTW: [audio:]

To learn some of what Tim learned, check out the Creative Freelancer Marketing Bootcamp online learning series.