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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Hanst

I'm About to Make My Marketing Coach Cry

Don't worry: they're happy tears. Whenever I tell my awesome marketing guru how much she's helped me, she tends to get a little misty.

But hold up: I'm getting ahead of myself.

“Voiceovers? Really? That’s your full time job? How do you market yourself?”

I was used to hearing all the above questions in a conversation about my work, but to the marketing question, I could never figure out exactly what to say. I should have worked out a good canned answer since I fielded the query somewhat regularly. Something nebulous that sounded good, or a deflecting joke.

But usually what I said sounded like this: “Well, I audition for a lot of things, and, uh, those people are actively looking for a voice talent-- so I sort of look at the auditions themselves as my marketing.”

That response must have sounded half decent, because people often nodded approvingly. But it always felt hollow to me.

A marketing strategy. Yeah. I need to get one of those!

For the vast majority of time that I’ve been self employed, I could afford to have my advertising efforts basically be a good work ethic and serendipity. I had a few dry stretches where I wasn’t making as much as I needed to, but they always leveled out.

Then: 2018. I lost my biggest client in June of that year. A retainer client I had been blessed to have for about 8 years. Not only someone who paid me every month, but someone who gave me an enormous amount of creative freedom. Losing the gig was a major gut punch. Even though it represented only a small percentage of my overall biz, it also exposed the absence of any kind of ongoing plan to retain existing clients, reach out to old ones, and connect with new folks.

All of a sudden, I felt very freaked out.

To my credit, I didn’t curl up in a ball and cry… much. I knew that to right the ship, I was going to have to try new things and bear down, so I began to. I called friends and colleagues, made new voice demos, and even signed an agent to represent me for my radio work-- something I had never done before.

But there was still a void. Even though I was “doing things” there wasn’t much method to the madness. I still felt like some kind of deus ex machina would come to my rescue sooner or later. Weeks turned into months, and months grew into quarters. Things were getting spooky. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, my old pal serendipity dropped by, and her name was Melinda Thomas.

Melinda and I were working on a pro bono project for an eLearning client of mine. She had written the copy, and I was doing the voice over and punching up the script with jokes and ad libs. At some point she reached out and suggested we have a chat.

We weren’t 2 minutes into the call before Melinda and I hit it off. We didn’t talk “business” at all; we just gabbed about where we lived, how we got there, and our respective journeys as freelancers. It was a loose, free-roaming chat. It wasn’t until later that I did any research into what exactly Melinda did. I knew she wrote copy and I had a vague sense that she consulted the owner of the eLearning company we were working with. But when I went on her website, her tagline said it all:  

“I figure out why your marketing plan isn’t working and create an action plan to fix it.”

Things were beginning to click in my head. I knew I needed marketing help and I knew that structure was good for me. So many things had changed in the marketing landscape since I started my business but I hadn’t done a great job at keeping up. As they say: the first step is admitting you have a problem.

I scheduled another call with Melinda-- this time focused on learning more about her coaching business and how she might be able to assist me. As the conversation progressed, I became more and more convinced I needed someone outside of my ‘bubble’ to give me a hand. It was time to raise my marketing game.

All this played out just 5 months ago, and I can honestly say that hiring Melinda has been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. She gave me the framework I needed to market myself in a much more consistent and defined way. And one of the coolest things about the process was that, after a few weeks of getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things, I began to enjoy it. Marketing became a way to reflect my personality and “put it out there.”  

It became (dare I say it?) kind of fun.

If you work for yourself and know that your marketing plan is stuck in neutral, trust me: everybody needs a Melinda. It doesn’t have to be Melinda Thomas specifically (though I certainly recommend her) but I’ve realized that most small business owners need help focusing and re-evaluating from time to time. If you have taken that path, please share the coach you used and some of your story in the comments. :)

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