Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ban Bargain Shoppers

“So, my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.” ~ Tina Fey, Bossypants

It doesn't matter how many times people tell you to "ask what you're worth", you still probably struggle putting it into practice. I'm no different. I think many of us young career women sometimes excuse our inability to stand by our prices and be confident in the value of our services because we're girls...and we're told that the professional landscapes we live in are hard and unfair and unjust. We have to fight the system, make demands, turn to the aggressive tactics of our male counterparts in order to succeed...

Seriously, this is a crock of certified B.S. Besides being one of the coolest female role models of all time, Tina Fey makes what I think is an important point about this gender divide. We need to stop caring. Really.

When I started out freelancing, I thought that charging as little as possible was the key to getting more work. As soon as I met a haggler, I got dry-mouthed and caved, horrified that a potential client might pigeonhole me as some kind of greedy bitch. I thought that I should be grateful I even got the gig.

Eventually you realize that you need to start walking away from the bargain shoppers. In the end, they will just waste your time, try your patience and kill the joy you reap from your work.

A fellow female entrepreneur I once crossed paths with told me that she had an interior decorating business which was doing well, but she still hadn't met her financial goals after a couple years. She decided to raise her hourly rate 40%. Guess what? She got more business. Conversion rates improved. She got really, really busy. She didn't increase her marketing efforts...all she did was raise her prices. It might seem ridiculous, but it's natural for us to perceive a product or service with a higher price to be of better value and therefore more desirable.

In my opinion, what we need to start doing is simply outperforming the people who get in our way or try to make us feel like we're worth less than our price tags. We need to lavish our attention on the kind of clients that deserve it and not the ones who always want it for less, but demand more.

So try giving yourself a raise sometime in the new year. Stop asking for what you're worth and start expecting it. Make a point of being tough and driven so you can exceed the expectations of your clients and prove your price so they'll never ask you again why you get paid $125 per hour. After all, you're worth it.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Book Review: Mad Women by Jane Maas

I won't lie. I poured through AMC's hit drama Mad Men on Netflix in the matter of a few weeks when I first discovered it. There was something strangely captivating about the 1960s-era advertising world with its rampant sexism, unabashed adultery and the excitement of the creative revolution. It was addictive.

However, the more compelling aspect of life on Madison Avenue for me was the rise of the women at the Sterling Cooper agency - the push back of Peggy Olson's unbridled determination and the startling strength and competence of Joan Harris. I couldn't help but be a little inspired by how these women overcame the obstacles of the male-dominated power structures that threatened to keep them down.

In the riveting and oftentimes humourous book Mad Women, advertising vet Jane Maas chronicles her own experiences as a copywriter on Madison Avenue, shedding light on issues such as unequal pay, the prevalence of chauvinism, and the difficult choice women faced between motherhood and careers. Not so glamourous, after all.

On "unequal pay":
"Of course we didn't make the same salary as a man with the same title, even if we knew we were doing a better job. We didn't even have equal space - the guys got offices with windows; we got cubicles."

It certainly came as no surprise to me that women had unequal rights back in Jane's heyday. It was, however, interesting to hear about how female copywriters weren't allowed to be placed on male accounts. Instead their opinions were only valued when it came down to developing campaigns for feminine products - hair dye, tampons, kitchen appliances. Credit cards and cars? Leave it to the guys. Women weren't even taken seriously as consumers most of the time.

On "sexual harassment" in the workplace:
"That phrase was simply not in our vocabularies. Women who complained were usually ostracized. You were expected to handle things like this without making a big fuss about it."

I found the depiction of sexual harassment in the workplace in the 1960s startling. Not only were women expected to tolerate it, they were even encouraged to comply if it could result in a move up the corporate ladder. There was certainly some incentive to become sexually involved with someone above your post. More importantly, there was reason not to complain even if the advancements were unwelcome. Putting your job in jeopardy just wasn't worth it.

On "working mothers":
"Most working mothers were on the job seven days a week. We were professionals Monday through Friday from nine A.M. until whatever time we could get home; we were wives and mothers and housewives the rest of the time. And we were tired. We were almost always tired. It really didn't matter how much status you had at the office, or how much money you made. It was still the woman's job to make sure that the household ran smoothly, that the kids did their homework, that there was a good dinner on the table (even if she didn't cook it)."

Jane does an extraordinary job of bring to the forefront the oxymoron of the "working mother" in the 1960s, and for me, this was the best aspect of her book. According to her, working mothers were looked upon with a sort of pity and disdain. Women were simply expected to stay at home and raise their children, and for those who decided to work, facing scrutiny and judgement was a given. Instead of admitting you took the day off to take care of a sick child, you lied to your boss and pretended you were the sick one. Watching your daughter's dance recital on your lunch break? Better not make it public news unless you wanted to be ridiculed and embarrassed. It was all about the catch-22. As a working mom, you were frowned upon by your colleagues for not taking your work seriously enough and punished by other women for not devoting all your time to being a mom.

Jane's interviews of current day working moms are even more intriguing. Guess what? We're still struggling to do it all. The statements made are eerily similar to those made by career women in the 1960s. Even today, working moms seem to be plagued by guilt. We constantly worry if we're fulfilling all our duties and obligations as wife and mother and career woman to the best of our abilities. We're still exhausted and overwhelmed, pulled in a million different directions with a to-do list that never ends. We still seem to hate to ask our men for help and try to manage all our work and family-related tasks independently, even if it costs us our sanity and well-being in the end. Jane's quite candid about the fact that we still have a long way to go and I think she's right.

This book was a compelling account of life on the other side of Madison Avenue in the 1960s. Jane's voice is thoughtful and always entertaining. If you're interested in this time period, the advertising world or working women in the 1960s, I'd highly recommend it.

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Little Weekend Inspiration

Whether you're heading to the cottage this weekend to soak up the last little bit of summer or you'll be getting reacquainted with your couch and Netflix (I know I'm planning on the latter), here's a little inspiration to kickstart your weekend...

Read about this inspirational photography project from freelance photo travel journalist, Sivan Askayo, which helps to give New York tourists memories that will last them a lifetime.

I told myself I would stop buying stuff off Etsy whenever the impulse struck me and then I stumbled across this wicked print...

Yeah, I bought it. So sue me.
This hair tutorial from Cup of Joe is so cute. I tried it out one day this week and it offered a simple, laid back look. It's hard to go wrong with this one whether you're styling your hair for the office or a night out on the town.
This neat-o suitcase diy project. I'm thinking I might give it a whirl!
Photo c/o Design Sponge
One of my new favourite career girl websites! All my fellow business ladies should check it out.
This blog about healthy eating on a budget. The website is chock full of scrumptious recipes and helpful advice.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

MIA Excuse

Hello folks.

I apologize for my lack of posting this week. Unfortunately, someone gave me the cooties and I've been chained to my couch the past several days with a flu bug. Thankfully, the time off has given me the chance to take unflattering self-portraits on my webcam of my recently dyed and cut hair, because you know...being sick is all about being productive with your down time.

I'll be back in action tomorrow, but in the meantime, feel free to check out my favourite YouTube video ever.

Warning: The above link is related to monkeys (I have an unhealthy obsession) and is most certainly could be a total waste of your time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Reasons I Love Hamilton #2

Hamilton may be known as steel city, but we're also the waterfall capital of the world. Yes, folks - the world! I've gotten the chance to visit many of these scenic spots over the last couple of years, but my favourites are definitely Sherman Falls and Albion Falls.

Our Hamilton waterfalls are so beautiful, in fact, that you can hardly tell how severely lacking my photography skills are from the pictures below. They seem to look stunning no matter what.

Albion Falls
Tiffany Falls in the winter

If you're from the area and you're interested in learning more, just visit Hamilton Waterfalls for trail information and maps.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Art & Copy

"Good advertising makes food taste better. It makes cars run better. It changes everything" ~ George Lois

Art & Copy is a highly intriguing social and cultural documentary available on Netflix which offers an in-depth study of the inner workings of the minds of modern advertising giants, explores the question of whether or not advertising should be taken seriously as art, and discusses the experimental and intensive nature of the creative process.

When you think about it, ads are really the most focused form of communication out there. While Art & Copy does a poor job of addressing newer web elements of advertising, the movie does a great job of addressing the emotional impact of ads and how celebrating a brand in a truthful and artful manner can be meaningful. Not all advertising should be considered "pollution", although much of it is.

Successful advertising is, as discussed in the movie, "strong ideas presented simply". It's about being risky and trying to be authentic, as well as ensuring the corporate mission lines up with something the customer supports (i.e. Nike endorsing physical fitness at all levels, from the everyday jogger to the professional athlete).

My favourite elements of the documentary were the interviews with the 1960s "mad women" Phyllis Robinson and Mary Wells who proved that women had a fundamental role amongst the men that saturated the industry and had the talent and creativity to oversee impressive accounts like Clairol and Braniff Airlines.

I also really loved how nontraditional approaches to advertising gained such repute, including the Volkswagen Beetle's marketing campaign of humility ("Think Small") and the risky billboard that launched the Tommy Hilfiger name overnight. I appreciated learning how Nike's "Just Do It" slogan was inspired by the final words of Gary Gilmore just prior to being executed, how Apple's revolutionary Mac computer commercial made such an impact without actually unveiling the product itself, and how the "got milk?" line was fought tooth and nail before it skyrocketed milk sales. It was also really fun to get a sneak peak onto some of the most well-recognized ad agencies out there and witness how creative individuals operate within these structures.

If you're interested in how advertising can be recognized as an art form for its compelling social effects - its true ability to make people feel something - this is a great movie to check out and I'd highly recommend it.

Are there other Netflix documentaries that have met with your approval? Please feel free to share!

Friday, 10 August 2012

A Little Weekend Inspiration

Happy Weekend everyone!

Here's a little inspiration to fill your day...

This cute DIY spool hook project to hang jewelry:

This blog post on "schlepping" (aka carrying around way too much crap, or to put it more nicely, the ultimate urban workout) which discusses the physical benefits it actually offers. As a city dweller who commutes by public transit, I'm all too familiar with lugging around what feels like half my weight in groceries in the pouring rain. Makes you feel a bit better better about my unintentional workouts, right?

Peggy from Mad Men. She is seriously my hero, and not just because she's a wicked copywriter, but because she acts as inspiration to all the ladies out there struggling to find their place in arenas still dominated by men. Her success is earned by hard work, taking risks, creativity and perseverance.

What happens when a 6-year-old girl judges a book by its cover? This. Guaranteed to make you laugh!

This blazer from ModCloth (so cute for the office!):

This recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I tried it this weekend and it was to die for.

I'm off to the cottage for the weekend for some fun in the waves, beach fires, smores and good company! Hope you've got something just as awesome in store.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Blog Crush: A Cup of Jo.

Picture c/o Cup Of Joe

Cup of Joe is one of my favourite current reads. Joanna Goddard is a successful writer and female entrepreneur with a down to earth, casual voice that makes me feel like I'm chatting with one of my oldest friends over coffee.

I really love the diversity of information on Joanna's blog. She's got loads of awesome hair tutorials, beautiful photographs of New York that make me swoon, delicious recipes (I've tried some!), lovely advice about motherhood and creative inspiration coming out the wazoo.

Her recent Blogging as a Career article was a remarkable read, documenting the evolution of her career and the challenges she faced along the way. I also enjoy her "have a nice weekend" posts which list a medley of wonderful links that always get my creative juices flowing for the week to come.

You should probably go check her out. And if you have any suggestions on some blogs I should check out, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The "A" Word

"The point is we are all selling. We are all in advertising. It is part of life." ~ Paul Arden

When someone I just meet asks me what I do, I tell them I'm a copywriter. This usually prompts a "what's that?" and I try in my head to craft this romantic description of what I really do which in its rawest form is advertising. I think about copping out with "I sell stuff" but then commit to my standard elevator pitch: "I help businesses communicate more effectively and build long-term relationships with their customers, thereby increasing their bottom line."

You'll notice nowhere in that descriptor do I use the words "sell" or "advertise" or even "market". Why? Advertising has become a dirty word. It's associated with someone who tries to sell people things they don't want. Having "writer" in my job title has always managed to give me some elevated bohemian status in most people's eyes, but as soon as I start using descriptors like "marketing" or "advertising", I can see the ewww surface in their expressions as they start associating me with the evil salesperson. You know, those sleazy in-your-face jerks who come knocking on your door or call you at that exact moment you sit down to eat dinner? Yeah, I hate them too.

I don't like to be accused of "selling out" because I'm not a 'real journalist' or a 'real writer'. To anyone who has done this, I apologize for becoming a brat and ranting at you, but you kinda deserved it. I've written for newspapers and magazines and non-profits. I've written poetry and short stories. I'm published in local and national publications. I've written for a diverse range of mediums in more forms than I can count. Is the speech I wrote for a college director or the website content I did for a trade company somehow less legit than the article I wrote for a fundraiser? I just don't see how.

I don't like to think of myself as a traditional "salesperson", but yes, I am selling something. I sell the brands, products and services of my clients by telling their stories, using relationship-building strategies and letting everyone know how awesome they are. That's what I'm paid to do and I truly love my job.

The truth is, I believe in advertising. Without it, some of my clients who deserve every success they have achieved would not be where they are today. And in the end, as much as we may hate to admit it, we're all selling something.

Have you ever tried on ten outfits before deciding on the sexy black dress, slathered on lipstick and curled your hair for a first date? Aren't you selling yourself?

Have you cleaned your car before selling it? Aren't you trying to show it at its best?

Do you love yoga and not even hesitate to fork out dough for a membership with your local studio? Have you noticed how they're selling a particular lifestyle and mindset?

Not everyone may be in the advertising and marketing field of work as I am, but whether it's a product, service, impression of oneself or belief system, we're all trying to sell something. And that's perfectly okay.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Passion with a Plan

"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." ~ Simon Sinek

Today I want to talk about passion with a plan and why it's so crucial to starting and maintaining a successful business, especially for us disorganized creative types. Simon Sinek is a visionary thinker who really tickles my motivational buds. However, I want to take his advice above a step further.

So you wanna be an "artist"?
Do you want to tag "starving" to that descriptor? Nah, I didn't think so. I'm a real crusader when it comes to passion, but even I've come to realize the harsh reality that passion on its own really isn't enough to reach your goals. It's a beautiful thing, don't get me wrong. It keeps you highly motivated and keen of mind, and someone who loves what they're doing will always produce better quality work than someone who doesn't believe in what they do. But that brings me to the productive end of things...

Mapping out a plan...
It's kind of ridiculous how easy it is to lose sight of your goals if you don't have a plan in place to help you identify realistic, achievable benchmarks. It's all about what I like to call the process. There are always smaller steps to help you reach that end goal, and without a plan, you're never going to make it happen.

Channelling your passion into a purpose...
Before I started my copywriting business, all I knew was I wanted to write. I had romantic visions of stowing away in a mysterious attic, letting the words flow effortlessly from my brain through to my typewriter (because every cool writer uses old machinery, c'mon), churning out countless bestsellers and rubbing elbows with literary celebrities at wine and cheese parties. Yeah, I guess you could say my imagination was a little overactive.

I soon realized that while I had a true love for writing, my fantasy was never going to happen, or at least not overnight. When I researched other avenues, I came to see that I could make a viable business out of my skills through copywriting, but there were a lot of steps from creating my brand from scratch to finding low cost marketing strategies to test, snagging my first client, building my roster, networking, and the list goes on (and on...and on...).

I became a compulsive list maker. I took one step at a time. I fueled my passion, but I always, always kept it in check by following a plan that mapped out realistic goals that I had set for myself and which were certainly attainable.

While I've come far the past two years, I've still got so many accomplishments I've got my heart set on and a plan to make them happen. It's all about the baby steps. Having a fire under your ass is a great start, but you should never forget to enjoy the process of evolution and growth that takes place when you're chasing after your career dreams. It's pretty awesome to experience.

Don't think I'm not still holding out for my cobweb-ridden attic.

Reasons I Love Hamilton #1

Detour Coffee.

They make the best coffee. Seriously. They roast their own beans. They're local. And they're fun conversationalists, as you can see above.

Without the lovely gents and ladies at Detour, I'd be zombie-esque every day, sporting black circles under my eyes (I wish I was joking), fighting back cumbersome facial twitches, and trying really, really hard not to become paranoid about that raccoon that likes to hang out on my fire escape.

Want my personal recommendation? I'm digging the new Yergacheffe beans they have in for the summer. Delish!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

How Buffy the Vampire Slayer inspired me as a female entrepreneur.

I thought it was gonna be more like in the movies. You know, inspirational music and a montage: me sharpening pencils, reading, writing, falling asleep on a big pile of books with my glasses all crooked because in the montage I have glasses. Real life is so slow and it hurts my occipital lobe. ~ Buffy

A few years ago, I had another blog I kept when I first packed in my 9-5 job in and took my chances at starting my own freelance business. Because the post itself was such a hit and since this blog is meant to highlight the struggles that are so often associated with running a small creative business, I decided to pull together a revised version of it to give others going through that oh-crap moment a realistic glimpse into where we all really start--square one. Check it out below:

Here's a little secret. I'm a shameless, obsesso-fan of the T.V. success that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When teenage life was sucking, the campy horror series was what I turned to--blood-sucking fiends included. It provided comfort when gooey, chocolate-chip cookies were threatening my waistline. Buffy was my hero (sorry Oprah). Not only was she athletic and resourceful, but she could be witty and pretty while kicking demon butt.

When I took the brave leap as a creative entrepreneur, I attempted to invoke that slayer power to deal with the struggle of starting up a freelance career. I'm going to be honest and tell you that starting up a copywriting business has been hard work. I didn't realize the perseverance, patience and motivation that would be required. I had visions of sipping on my morning cappucchino, bunny-slippers propped up on my desk, projects rolling into my lap. Well, maybe not rolling...more like dripping from a leaky faucet.

Instead, I was often sporting some lovely black circles under my eyes, using caffeine to combat a constant stream of anxieties--am I good enough, when will the next paycheck come, did my email to that editor fall into a black hole?--wearing 5-day old pajamas. That's the ugly truth.

Now, don't get me wrong. I certainly don't regret turning to freelancing after losing my steady office job due to the poor economy. Especially after reading Ed Gandia's supportive words:

So, for Gen Y’ers everywhere, here’s my (blunt) advice: Forget about trying to find a “job.” Forget about politicians’ promises to fix things. Forget about waiting this one out. (Even if you wait it out, you risk having even greater competition when younger rivals start entering the workforce en masse in two or three years.)

Instead, put your faith where it belongs: on your talents, abilities, creative capacity and ability to solve problems. Then, sell those abilities as a freelance professional. You’ll get back to work much faster. And you’ll have the freedom and flexibility you and your generation craves (we all want that freedom, but you guys have taken life-work balance to a new level).

Pretty promising words, don't you think? And I agree with him. But I've also realized that being a freelancer is no easy choice. But guess what? I was still just as enthusiastic about pursuing my goals. And you can be too if you're new to the game.

Here are some fundamental tasks I completed to help launch my personal brand, which I'd recommend all newbie freelancers consider attacking:

  1. Get a website and business cards designed - Vital marketing tools. I used my website to start building my own online portfolio and handed out my business cards to family, friends and potential clients.
  2. Rev up the education - I knew I was competing with more seasoned freelancers, so I did a bogus amount of reading to further develop and hone my skills. My reading included blogs and books, and I also started taking a copywriting course so I could get more experience in my chosen field.
  3. Set up a home office - I soon realized that sitting in front of the T.V. in my living room didn't really inspire productivity or concentration. So I found a stylin' used desk to set up in one corner of my room and purchased some basic office supplies to make it all schnazzy. I had a great work space that forced me to focus on my work without the typical distractions of home.
  4. Pursue a local marketing campaign - I designed a simplistic but professional brochure advertising my services, included a business card and pen (potential clients generally respond well to a small, inexpensive gift related to the services you're offering), and dropped these marketing packages off at local houses. I got one of my first official clients this way. You never know.
My first few steps were some of the most challenging I've ever faced, I won't lie. Yet, like you, I had faith in my skills and the passion to back it. Giving up wasn't an option. And just like Buffy, I eventually started kicking some serious butt.

Monday, 4 June 2012

I kinda love my town

I have a little confession to make. I have a serious love affair with Hamilton. Some may call us the armpit of Ontario, but this little steel town has some gritty authentic charm - a hard thing to come by.

This weekend, the man and I decided to check out Buskerfest, an annual June festival that brings out all kinds of eye-catching talent including acrobats, sword eaters, jugglers, and the odd certified crazy person (one guy swallowed a balloon...he could be absolutely ingenius or just nuts, and I'm banking on the latter).

We enjoyed street meat, ridiculously cheesy poutine from a truck called The Poutine Machine (seriously, what's not to love?), delicious Detour lattes and the tastiest snow cones we've ever had from these lovely ladies at Sweet Ice Cones.

Yeah, it was a good day.

P.S. I'm moving into my dream apartment this week! I'm completely stoked. More updates to come.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A Little Weekend Inspiration

I'm stoked for a long weekend filled with BBQing, fireworks, hikes with my dog Boston and some kissing with my handsome man under the stars. Granted, celebrating last weekend with these guys for my birthday will be nearly impossible to top. Jealous? I know.

Here's a little inspiration to fill your day:

One of the coolest blogs I've stumbled upon in a long time, described as "a periodical on the wears of work". If you're into fashion, do yourself a favour and check it out.

This powerful poetry reading by Katie Makkai about the meaning behind the word "pretty". Every lady should take the time to watch this.

This etsy shop which repurposes dictionary pages. I surrendered and bought four prints for my new apartment!

These pillows from Freshly Picked couldn't be any cuter:

Gorging myself on these pancakes. Hands down, best recipe ever - I've been using it for a couple years now and they get gobbled up at lightspeed whenever they hit the table. I also like to mess with the recipe and add a little vanilla extract and cinammon to the batter because I'm a real culinary rebel that way.

And this picture of Boston when he snuck some of my birthday cake which I haven't been able to stop laughing at:

Happy weekend!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hola! And welcome...

Let me introduce myself.

I'm Janine.

I'm a 20-something-year-old copywriting rockstar and creative entrepreneur working out of my home office in Hamilton, Ontario.

Pen Maven Diaries is at its heart a lifestyle blog that focuses on the ups and downs of developing, nourishing and growing a small business. You'll get a healthy dose of helpful advice that I've learned along the way (and lets me honest, I'm still learning), but you'll also get an honest and candid peek into the life of an artistic professional.

It really is cooler than it sounds, I promise.

You may hear about these characters along the way...

My sad addictions:  vintage and retro treasures/fashion, macaroni & cheese, bad horror flicks, anything vanilla scented or flavoured, kickboxing, cupcakes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mad Men, historical fiction, making lists, monkey YouTube videos

I love to connect with readers, fellow bloggers and other creative sorts, so don't be shy! Feel free to leave a comment, email me, or get chummy with me on Twitter or Facebook.