Marketing Mentor

Another HOW Conference session I attended was “What it Takes to be Your Own Boss”, given by Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor. I had previously attended one of their workshops locally and it was extremely helpful, so I was excited to see how the content from this session would build upon that.

Ilise went through a presentation that discussed the skills and traits you need to be your own boss, what you need to do to prepare, and what the rewards could potentially be once you get there. Two self-employed designers (Jonathan Cleveland, from Cleveland Design and Julie Vail, from Marquis Design) helped Ilise by contributing their own personal experiences to the presentation. They are both at very different stages of their careers—Cleveland was established in 1992, and Marquis less than 5 years ago—so it was really interesting to hear both of their perspectives. Despite their differences though, they both seemed to agree on all of the big points. Here are a few highlights to take away:

Preparation (what you need to have in place before you take the leap)

  • Money in the bank, or some sort of steady income stream
  • A place to work so you can focus
  • Education: learn about whatever you don’t know, bookkeeping, accounting etc.
  • Marketing plan and target market
  • Support: both personal and professional

5 Best Marketing Tools

  • Cold Calls/Research calling
  • Networking: choose a target market and go where they go
  • Email marketing
  • A marketing-smart website that identitifies you as an expert (beyond portfolio)
  • Printed materials and samples

Marketing Mentor—operated by both Ilise Benun and Peleg Top—conducts various workshops and seminars focused on marketing your small business. Check their site for dates and locations. They also maintain a blog with lots of helpful advice, distribute an email newsletter with marketing tips, and produce various books and publications on the topic. I highly recommend checking them out.


Courtney is the founder of Design Work Life and Seamless Creative, a small design studio she runs with her husband Brian. She now splits her time between developing brand identities for small businesses and soaking up (and passing along) as much inspiration as she possibly can.

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