What we're about

  • The Marketing Mix is the official blog of Marketing Mentor and the community that's sprung up around it.
  • We're devoted to helping small business owners, freelancers and independent professionals grow their businesses into thriving enterprises.
  • Feel free to join in the conversation: leave a comment, send us an email. Or, if you're an MM client, past or present, with the blogging bug and/or great stories to share, let us know—we're always on the lookout for guest bloggers!



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    View Ilise Benun's profile on LinkedIn
  • Deidre on LinkedIn
    View Colleen Wainwright's profile on LinkedIn

The Mix Master

  • ILISE BENUN is the founder of Marketing Mentor, and has been teaching people to promote themselves and their services since 1988. Author of 4 books and many, many more articles, Ilise has been self-employed for all but three years of her working life.

    More about Ilise here.

The Mix Mistress

  • DEIDRE RIENZO is a copy writer who helps small business owners turn their ideas into words. She partners with web designers to create simple, compelling, and keyword-rich website content for their clients. The Marketing Mentor program is the driving force that has helped Deidre grow her business, and she blogs about her experiences, adventures, and struggles here at the Marketing Mix.

Guest Mixers

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March 24, 2014

New case study: From in-house designer to firm owner

Stephanie Helline took Strategic Design Studio from a dream to a specialty healthcare design firm winning six-figure projects.

Sounds pretty impressive, right? It is. But Stephanie started someplace very different than where she is now. She was in-house—and she was nurturing the spark of starting her own studio. She took on some freelance work, and started thinking as though she were running her own studio even before she made the leap.

In 2006, Stephanie started Strategic Design Studio, and over the past 8 years—has worked to grow it into a virtual firm that provides senior level talent to invigorate healthcare and wellness organizations, while also allowing Stephanie the flexibility to spend 3 months in Italy every year.  SDScover


Stephanie says that after reading the Marketing Mentor K9 Design Studio case study, it seemed like her big dreams could actually become a reality. “I read about what K9 did, and I thought—hey, I can do that! That was a huge influence.”

Through our work together, we determined Stephanie’s target market and figured out which tools she should use—and voila—she recently landed a six-figure project and is the subject of my latest case study! 

Download the new SDS case study to learn about the tools Stephanie used to go from in-house designer to specialty firm owner.

March 20, 2014

Don’t focus on the negative.

Hi, I'm Deidre. In my posts, I talk about my voyage down the road of self-employment as a web copywriter, my achievements and roadblocks along the way, and what I’m learning as I go (with Marketing Mentor as my guide).

On a networking quest today (I’m back on-site in corporate-land for a few days), a man from Starbucks handed me his business card and the first thing I saw was “Parsuppany, NJ.” If you’re from this area, you know it’s actually “Parsippany.” Here is this nice man standing in front of me, talking about marketing, and I can’t remember his name even though I’m holding his business card—because all I can think about is: Wow, they probably printed like a zillion business cards that say “Parsuppany.”  Shutterstock_85658770

We all make mistakes (Remember when I printed a phone sex hotline on a ferry flyer?) – but that’s not the point. It struck me: Why am I immediately drawn to the negative first?

Starbucks man was a smart man, with bright blue, kind eyes and a nice shirt. Not your average corporate type, he spoke gently and had plenty of time. I noticed these things too, but only after I had this entire conversation in my head.

Today’s personal lesson? Keep smiling at strangers and try to see the good first. And if I see the bad, I should move past it quicker.

Let’s look for the positive in everything today. Deal?

* New Jersey image, courtesy, Shutterstock.

March 19, 2014

Too old to reinvent yourself?

Are you ever too old to reinvent yourself?

That’s one of the questions I asked Alina Wheeler in our recent podcast interview in advance of CFBC/HOW Design Live…. Before answering, she insisted on defining “old.”

To Alina, you’re old if you are between the ages of 95-100. “If I had a tattoo, it would be the George Eliot quote, ‘It’s never too late to be what you could have been.’”

Reinvention is a process – which she will outline – and it requires flexibility, desire, discipline, and courage. That can be scary. 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Before taking that leap into a new future, ask yourself a series of questions, such as:
• Has your day job lost its appeal?
• Are you no longer using the part of your creativity that sets you apart?
• Has the profession changed so much that you don’t want to be part of it anymore?

Ultimately, she says, it’s about a shift in why you get out of bed in the morning and how proud you are to answer the question, “What do you do?”

Listen here.

The reinvention process involves dreaming, imagining, and seeing what’s around you as well as weighing the risks and rewards and being very honest about how risk-averse you are.

In our conversation, she referred to a few examples already, Vanessa Kreckle of Two Paper Dolls and 37Signals (which reinvented itself into Basecamp).

“At the end of the day, it comes down to survival for your soul.”

See Alina at CFBC in Boston, MA - May 12-16, 2014. Early bird rates - extended through April 1st! Use my promo code “ILISE14” for $50 off CFBC or the Big Ticket.

*Illustration by Ian Keith.

March 18, 2014

Content: Can you think of one idea per quarter?

When it comes to content creation, does “starting from scratch” every time make you freeze in your tracks? Are ideas the biggest obstacle? Or is it the writing that you don’t have time for?

With a systematic approach, I’ve been helping clients create one big idea that feeds plentiful content. And my team has been handling all the writing for them.  Shutterstock_128750492

  • With Paragraphs, we work together to develop one big idea per quarter, then my team writes quarterly case studies that feed their weekly blog and daily social media

  • At Cleveland Design, we collaborate to come up with one big idea per month, then my team writes monthly email messages and blog posts to disseminate via social media

Want to get your content flowing, painlessly? Let’s talk.

* Idea image, courtesy, Shutterstock.

March 17, 2014

Portland, OR: Work Smarter, Not Harder – March 20th

If you’re in the Portland area, don’t miss this Freelance 360 event:

Work Smarter, Not Harder:
Streamlining Your Day-to-Day Freelance Life

Portland, Oregon
Thursday, March 20th
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM (PDT)

Freelance expert Allie Rice will lead you through the ins and outs of building a healthy, well-organized business that frees you up to pursue your passions – instead of tying you down.

You'll walk away with:  Fu360

  • Advice on how to effectively manage day-to-day finances, including best practices for budgeting and building stability
  • Tax tips and tricks for independent workers
  • Guidelines on how to find and hire help
  • Tools to help you streamline your workflow and reduce tedious tasks – allowing you to take full advantage of your flexibility

Details and sign up here.

March 14, 2014

Pricing Your Work: Photojournalism – Free Guide from PhotoShelter

In partnership with Wonderful Machine, PhotoShelter just launched a brand new guide, Pricing Your Work: Photojournalism.

In it, photographers can get tips to connect with news clients and publications, learn what fees and terms to expect, plus get negotiating pointers and resources to help build their career.


Get more info and download here: http://blog.photoshelter.com/2014/03/new-guide-pricing-work-photojournalism/

March 12, 2014

Creative Freelancer Blog Roundup

With the Creative Freelancer Business Conference rapidly approaching (May 12-16 in Boston), the CFC blog is ripe with great information. Here is a selection of recent posts:

Graphic Design Rates: Are Your Prices Too Low?
Here's the scoop, courtesy of Ilise Benun's recent interview with Jason Blumer of Blumer CPAs.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Virtual Teams: Coming to a Business Near You!
Damien Golden writes about how virtual teams are all over the place, spanning multiple industries and changing the face of business as we know it.

Freelancing to the Rescue (again!)
Love this New York Times article, After One Spouse Loses a Job, Finding a New Balance in a Marriage, by Rachel Swarns. It’s another story of a creative professional who lost his job, tried freelancing and is making a go of it...

7 Freelance Virtues
Whether you're just starting out or have been a solo pro for decades, Tom Tumbusch shares how we can all thrive in 2014 by renewing our commitment to these 7 freelance virtues.

Freelancers: Do You Avoid Conflict?
Here’s an excerpt from a post on WorkMadeForHire.net, the blog of Katie Lane, a lawyer who specializes in working with freelancers on contracts and conflicts — especially avoiding the latter!

Time To Start Your Freelance Business?
If you are a: Moonlighting freelancer In house designer who may one day go freelance New freelancer who isn’t sure if you can make freelancing work A veteran… freelancer who wants to take your business to the next level …then it just might be time to take my brand new 2-week, online course, “How...

Do You Need a Freelance Business Plan?
One of the topics I often discuss with freelancers is how to grow. And at the Creative Freelancer Business Conference, there is always at least one session on “options for growth” — because there are many, many options. (This year’s session is on Reinvention with Alina Wheeler.) One tool for growth no matter which option you choose is a plan.

[Podcast] Are you prepared? with Dana Manciagli
In this lively interview with CFBC host and founder of Marketing-Mentor.com, Ilise Benun, Dana gives a taste of what she’ll be speaking on and shares some of her techniques (learned in her 30 years at Microsoft and other corporations) for living up to the expectations of corporate world.

For more information on topics like this, join us at the Creative Freelancer Business Conference. Use my discount code (ILISE14) to get $50 off your ticket to HOW Live or CFBC this May 12-16, 2014 in Boston.

*Illustration by Ian Keith.

March 10, 2014

Start your own freelance business today

If you’re a new freelancer, you’re moonlighting, or you’re in-house but hoping to make the jump—then my brand new 2-week, online course, “How To Start Your Own Freelance Business” is for you. This online class starts today! Join us live, or get the materials to use at your convenience—just be sure to use promo code “IBENUN” for 20% off.

In this multi-media, self-paced, two week course, I will show you how to set a strong foundation and then we’ll cover the four hats you wear as a successful freelancer. You’ll learn about marketing and sales, client relations and etiquette, pricing and taxes, and how to establish a work/life balance.

With my promo code (IBENUN), you’ll get a wealth of information for just $79, including: 500x500_HowTo-FreelanceBiz-190x190

LESSON 1 Setting a Strong Foundation for Freelancing
• What it Takes to Succeed as a Freelancer
   o Reading: The Freedom of Freelancing
   o Audio: What It Takes to Be a Successful Freelancer
• Integrating Your Values & Vision into Your Business
   o Audio: Integrating Values Into Your Positioning
   o Companion Worksheet
• The Nuts ‘n Bolts
   o Reading: How to Plan for the Jump
   o Reading: Freelancing 101-103
   o Audio: What to Expect When You’re Freelancing
• The Legal Basics of Freelancing
   o Audio: Legal Basics of Freelancing
• The Importance of a Strong Network
   o Reading: The Four Types of People You Need in Your Network
• Back Office Task Checklist
   o Reading: Back Office Task Checklist
• Assignment 1: Setting Your Strong Foundation
• Bonus Material

LESSON 2 SYLLABUS: The 4 Essential Aspects of Freelancing
• Introduction
• Money: Pricing Basics
   o Reading: The Business Mindset
   o Audio: The Art & Science of Pricing
   o Audio: The Dark Art of Pricing
• Marketing/Sales: Your Ideal Client and the 5 Best Marketing Tools
   o Video: A Little Marketing Every Day Goes a Long Way
   o Reading: 3 Steps to Find Your Ideal Clients
   o Video: Marketing-Smart Websites
• Client Relations: Setting Boundaries
   o Audio: Saving Your Sanity Through Better Client Relations
   o Reading: Managing Your Clients
   o Reading: Your Business Policies
• Work/Life Balance: What Is Your Ideal Day?
   o Video: Design Mom
   o Audio: What the Heck Is “Work/Life Balance” Anyway?
• Success Stories from Freelancers Who Took the Leap
   o Reading & Video: Nick Matarese of The Creative Barn
   o Reading & Audio: Jill Anderson of Jill Lynn Design
• Assignment 2: Creating Your Freelance Business

Ready to start your freelance business? Sign up today for “How To Start Your Own Freelance Business” – and don’t forget to use promo code “IBENUN” for 20% off.

March 07, 2014

Get Jezra’s new book for free today!

Marketing Mentor client, Jezra Kaye from Speak Up For Success, is giving away her new book, INTERVIEW LIKE YOURSELF... NO, REALLY! for free today on Amazon!

To download your free copy, just click this link.


March 06, 2014

The spinach didn’t cut it.

Hi, I'm Deidre. In my posts, I talk about my voyage down the road of self-employment as a web copywriter, my achievements and roadblocks along the way, and what I’m learning as I go (with Marketing Mentor as my guide).

I take my vitamins, eat my spinach, and generally pride myself in being someone who rarely gets sick. So when the flu hit me like a freight train last week, I was equal amounts of surprised and annoyed. It started with a scratchy throat and a silly little cough. I took extra vitamin C. Instead of waking up brand new, I woke up with a 103 fever. Boo!

I had 4 deadlines looming—and was supposed to be doing lots of work. But I couldn’t. I could barely move. As much as it pained me, I had to ask clients for extensions. They were really lovely about it—but I still hated asking.  Shutterstock_94604374

Sure, my clients were super nice, but guess who was super mean? Me! How dare you get sick, Deidre? We have deadlines! I’m a compassionate person—just (evidently) not towards myself.

The lesson: Sometimes I need to ignore myself (when I whine inside my head, feel unmotivated or want to sleep in). But sometimes, I need to listen (like when my body really needs to recover). And most of all, I should forgive myself (or at least remember there’s no room for feelings in business).

My continued quest: Put aside the bull, honor the real, and be smart enough to know the difference. 

Fluey February update
January needed work—but despite the flu, I got a bit closer to my monthly goal in February. I’m just going to keep on truckin’. If I don’t meet my yearly goal, at least I will have pushed myself harder than if I had a lower goal, right? (That’s my working theory, anyway.)

  • total projects: 6
  • days sick in bed: 6
  • episodes of House Hunters watched (while sick in bed): at least 15
  • un-newsletters sent: 1 (2 for the year!)
  • dollars short of monthly goal: 700 (Getting closer.) 
  • dollars difference from Feb. 2013: +100
  • projects in pipeline: 4

So friends, if you’re sick, take time to get better. And if you’re healthy—post your monthly update!

* Spinach, courtesy of Shutterstock.


The Tagline Series