Celebrating two years as an independent consultant

It was two years ago this month that Bulbstorm was acquired, finally freeing me to set up shop as an independent marketing consultant.

I tried to escape the 9-to-5 world twice before. Both of those attempts blew up on the launch pad. I tried to start my own ASU sports magazine, but was runner-up for the booster club’s contract. Then I was set to become a freelance copywriter when Bulbstorm made me an offer I couldn’t refuse on my way out of Insight.

Two years into attempt my third attempt, this one seems to have reached orbit.


I celebrated the anniversary as I celebrate most things – by traveling. Hey, after helping to organize the inaugural Phoenix Startup Week, I’d earned a vacation. So, I spent a week exploring the natural wonders of southeastern Utah.

Happy anniversary indeed!

yoga at arches national park

Enjoying my flexibility at Arches National Park. Flexibility! Get it?!

The Way of the Solopreneur

I define solopreneur as anyone who runs his own business without intending to hire employees. There’s a lot to like about being a solopreneur. The most obvious benefit is that you’re the boss. You make the rules.

An overlooked benefit is just that. Benefits.

Corporate perks are one size fits all. A Friday afternoon beer cart. A discounted gym membership. Bagels and benefits. There’ll be some variability in health plans, but if you don’t have a pet then that pet insurance subsidy is useless.

As a solopreneur, you choose your own adventure. Maybe you want to work from home instead of an office. Maybe you prefer to work only with companies with a conscious mission. I truly believe that a solopreneur should get more out of it than just not having a boss. It’s too hard and too risky otherwise.

For me, being a solopreneur has been all about summers off and the ability to work for anyone I choose and from anywhere that has Wi-Fi. Did you know that there’s Wi-Fi in Yosemite National Park? Sure, I pay 100 percent of my health insurance costs. But, yeah, benefits rule.

(I wrote more about my life as a solopreneur – including how I decide what to charge, how many hours per week I work, and more – at Scott’s Marketplace.)

How long could it last?

I’m loving my new career. I’ve learned about PR for tech startups and sharpened my sales skills working with Ubiquity PR. I’ve implemented CRM and marketing automation solutions for a number of companies, from software startups to a car dealership. I’ve built a digital marketing program from scratch for a custom tile manufacturer.

And, yet, I wonder if and when my career as a solopreneur will end at the hands of opportunity. Two years after exiting Bulbstorm, I’m starting to get the itch to do another startup.

Six years ago, Bulbstorm found me by googling Phoenix Marketing Copywriter and landing on this website. When I initially turned them down to focus on my new copywriting business, the CEO trash talked me on Twitter. I couldn’t turn him down after that.

Is the end imminent? I doubt it. But, as I learned in my experience with Bulbstorm, you’re always one unexpected email from getting back in the game.


3 Opening Moves for an In-House PR Startup

This article originally appeared as a guest post on Brian Camen’s excellent The PR Practitioner blog.

With limited marketing resources, you have to reach for the low hanging.

With limited marketing resources, you gotta reach for the low hanging fruit.

A corporate reorganization left my manager and me – both marketing copywriters by trade – as stewards of the media relations program for a Fortune 500 enterprise in Phoenix, Arizona. Our company had historically shied from media coverage. But, despite limited resources, we wanted to transform our minimalist approach into a more proactive model.

At the start, our assets included a press release template, a process guideline for media engagement, and a pool of incredibly knowledgeable but far-flung subject matter experts (SMEs). That’s about it.

So, like most in this economy, we took a deep breath and got to work. These were our opening moves:

1. Pick the low-hanging fruit. With limited startup resources, we had to accept our limitations and identify and pursue easily achievable wins to gain momentum in our efforts. We simply didn’t have the manpower to pitch stories or build deep relationships with the media. So we patiently followed journalists on Twitter and browsed HARO e-mails and waited for a pitch to hit.

2. Secure executive buy-in. In some large companies, it’s easy to lose hours, if not days, in approvals. That dog won’t hunt for journalists on a 3 p.m. deadline. So we made the case for responsiveness and flexibility and streamlined our engagement process. Fortunately, our executives were very supportive—especially after we whetted their appetites with a handful of early wins.

3. Build a SME list. We’re blessed with a robust and deep pool of SMEs. Unfortunately, they’re spread from Boston to Chicago to Dallas to Phoenix, and that’s when they’re at their desks and not in the field. Plus, our industry is pretty technical. So we had to assess the SMs for which we had SMEs, and then locate the SMEs. Our SME list enabled us to react quickly to media opportunities.

We didn’t do everything right. But we managed to keep the lights on while building relationships with local journalists. And we advanced long-term projects including an online media room and an introductory media kit.

Eventually the plan called for adding resources and scaling our fledgling operation into industry publications and key markets outside Arizona.

So how’d we do? Let me know if we missed any key steps – or low-hanging fruit – in building out our program.

Content Management: To Post or Not to Post?

Dear Yorick, how doth your skull enhance our brand image?

Dear Yorick, how doth your skull enhance our brand image?

A bit of media exposure last week left my company’s marketing communications team to resolve a philosophical debate regarding content management.

To post or not to post?

The local metro here in Phoenix, Arizona, was working on a feature about Challenge ABC, for which my company offers Solution XYZ. We matched the reporter with a subject matter expect, and our company was featured in the final 63 words of the 958-word article. (Go team!)

The question then arose: Should we post the article as an additional resource on the webpage for Solution XYZ? The page already offers datasheets, case studies and an archived webinar, so finding enough content to post is not an issue.

I figure there are two ways a third-party article adds value to your website.

1. Audience Education

Will the audience better understand the challenge? In this case, probably not. Because it was written for a daily metro’s broad audience, the article was a tad general for our highly-informed B2B audience. A white paper or technical brief is a better candidate for the real estate.

2. Brand Enhancement

Will the audience have a more favorable impression of the company? Again, probably not. Our value proposition was properly represented and our executive’s sound bite added value to the article. But our place at the bottom of a 1,000-word article didn’t provide great brand exposure.

If the answer to either question was yes, we would have posted. Instead, we punted.

The article was a perfect catalyst for a post on the corporate blog and conversation on social networks. And from those social media forums we could drive to the Solution XYZ page. But we decided the article didn’t add value as a standalone link.

What’s Your Take? Would you have posted a link to the article? Is there a question we failed to ask ourselves? Let me know in the comments below!