Mark McGuinness on freelancing and creative entrepreneurship

Anthony Haynes writes: We are very pleased to publish the following interview with Mark McGuinness of Lateral Action.
1. So who is Mark McGuinness and what does he do?
I’m a writer and creative business coach. So apart from writing (poetry, blog posts, courses, ebooks and currently a book) I help other creative professionals become more creative and find more opportunities for their creative business/career.
2. Take someone in the ‘written word’ area of the creative industries (publishing, editing, self-publishing), thinking of setting up on their own (as a freelancer or creative entrepreneur).
a) What pieces of advice would you most want to give them?
The most important thing is to decide whether you’re up for the adventure of attracting an audience and creating your own opportunities. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also hard work, so you need to be sure you’re 100% committed to making it happen.
There are a million and one things you can do to promote yourself online and it’s easy to get confused, but fundamentally you should focus on building what Seth Godin  calls a ‘permission asset’ – i.e. a list of people who are interested in your work and who are happy (even impatient!) for you to contact them next time you have a book out. Email is the most powerful channel for this.
If you’re thinking of making a living in the book/self-publishing world, an inspiring place to start is David Gaughran’s book Let’s Get Digital – begin by reading the success stories at the back!
Other excellent resources are Joanna Penn’s blog  and the newly launched Alliance of Independent Authors  – see my interview on Lateral Action with Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance.
b) What would you suggest they avoid doing?
Waiting for the big deal to land in your lap from a kindly publisher or agent! By all means listen to approaches, but focus on building your own audience, so you always have other options.
Be wary of spending too much time on social networks such as Twitter or Facebook, at the expense of growing your mailing list. And remember, you should never add someone to your list without asking first! Give them an incentive to sign up by publishing interesting/useful/relevant content that’s related to the subject of your books.
c) What’s the best way to persuade them to come on in (the water’s lovely)?
If you do it right, you can market yourself by writing! Whether you publish a blog, newsletter, or do podcasting or video, you have an opportunity to take a creative approach to growing an audience that can be enjoyable and rewarding in its own right.
As a poet I used to loathe the idea of marketing, but thanks to the way the web has developed, it’s now one of the most enjoyable parts of my business, which I’d never have guessed a few years ago!
3. Where should they go next? What resources/services do you offer?
I publish a free 26-week course called The Creative Pathfinder, that will give you a solid grounding in the skills you need to succeed on a creative path. You can sign up here.
If you ever need some one-to-one help on getting your creative work done, or using your creativity to attract readers for your books, I offer a specialist coaching service through Lateral Action.

About Anthony Haynes

Director, Frontinus Ltd Communications Associate, FJWilson Talent Services

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