Welcome to another edition of Freelance Friday! Today I interview marketing and strategy extraordinaire, my friend, Lydia Kortelink. I first met Lydia 20 years ago when I was working as a young marketer for Zia Natural Skincare. Lydia was a consultant and we worked very closely in putting together promotional packets, print collateral and trade show events on a shoestring budget. I have fond memories of her carting my ass around Clement Street looking for aluminum takeout boxes in bulk. Oh yeah, and we went to Disneyland last year for her birthday. Lydia has had an interesting career path in that she’s been self employed for a long time. She’s an expert in problem solving and has some great advice for those of us trying to make it in the freelance world.
DG: LYDIA! YOU HAVE HAD QUITE A CAREER! PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU STARTED OUT:
LK: I began my career in New York City, developing a new category in Bath and Body with the creation of the Bilange product line and the Mesh Body Sponge, a product that is now universally seen in every shower and bath. When Bilange was sold, I started looking for positions in retail that would allow me to experience every aspect of the retail cycle to which I'd become familiar. That has included freelancing, owning my own small agencies and holding senior positions in sales, marketing, product development, public relations for companies like Caswell-Massey, Gump’s, Tart, Zia Natural Skincare and Allison Eyewear.
Another major part of my career has been in education.
DG: WHAT DOES AN EDUCATION MARKETER DO?
LK: As director of the website for Lake Forest Academy I was responsible for increasing enrollment for the school. At Meritas, an international family of schools, I was responsible for the development all digital marketing programs and web strategies as well as the Meritas corporate web site. While at Meritas I sat on the advisory board for Whipplehill (now Blackbaud).
It’s through that experience in education that I was able to connect with organizations that support students struggling to make it through public school for a number of socioeconomic reasons. Those experiences were very powerful to me and I hope that one day I can open up a place that provides support to those students. Somewhere they can have a safe and quite place to gather, study and get the support for their education because, unfortunately those simple things are missing for them.
DG: IN LAST WEEK’S POST, I TALKED ABOUT THE TREND OF FREELANCERS CREATING THEIR OWN CAREER NICHE IN THIS WORLD. I THINK IT’S REALLY INTERESTING THAT YOU HAVE MADE THE COMBINATION OF YOUR BUSINESS EXPERTISE AND YOUR PASSION FOR CHILDHOOD EDUCATION WORK FOR YOU. THANK YOU FOR SHARING THAT.
DG: LYDIA , ONE OF THE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU, IS THAT YOU ARE ALWAYS TRYING SOMETHING NEW! YOU’VE HAD SEVERAL SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES, AND WORKED FOR CORPORATIONS AS A SALARIED EMPLOYEE. YOU ALSO HAVE LOADS OF FREELANCE EXPERIENCE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN RUNNING YOUR OWN FREELANCE CAREER?
LK: The biggest challenge probably has been that I have had such a diverse career. I don’t think about my skills in a traditional way. Meaning that I don’t think that there is anything that I couldn’t learn in my field, I didn’t go to school to train for a profession. I went to school to learn how to learn. The biggest challenge has been convincing people to let me use what I have already learned and apply it to a position that I have never held before.
DG: I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU. FOR PEOPLE WITH A LOT OF VARIED EXPERIENCE LIKE US, IT’S VERY FRUSTRATING TO BE DEFINED BY A JOB TITLE OR LABEL. BECAUSE, GIVEN THE CHANCE, I BELIEVE WE COULD DO ANYTHING! TO THAT POINT, CAN YOU SHARE WITH US SOME OF YOUR SUCCESSES?
LK: The mesh body sponge would be a success, because it really is a product that you see all around the world. When I first started selling it, I sold them for $25 each and started off in high end stores like Barney’s and Neiman Marcus (which I have to say was pretty bold) But there was nothing like it on the market. There was a very throughout and successful strategy on how to take the product globally from high end into mass market and private label.
Another success would be when I worked with the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy where worked on creative, content for multi-national online educational programs - students K-12. When I was working on the lead character for the lessons her name was Gabriella, I was starting to see her in my sleep at one point I never wanted to see her again. But then when they did a test of the program down in Brazil and the students were completing the lessons so that they could see what Gabriella was going to do next I almost started crying. It was really was worth it.
DG: HOW DIFFERENT IS WORKING WITH SMALLER PRIVATE CLIENTS THAN WORKING WITH SOME OF YOUR LARGER CORPORATE CLIENTS?
LK: With smaller companies I work with the owner. So the company really is a part of who they are and they often need to take a step back so that they can grow to the next level. Work begins with a series of meetings with the owner to discuss how they started, their vision, and where they see themselves in the market. I also meet with the company’s executives which can sometimes cause strain because some automatically assume that I am looking to find fault in what they are doing. Which is not true. What I am actually doing is taking a look at their skills and in what ways they can bring more to the table. What I love about working with smaller companies is that they are risk takers and willing to move quickly to gain success.
Working with large companies I am usually working on a small part of the business that has to seamlessly fit into the program. The challenge is knowing where to find your subject matter experts and making sure that you know everyone involved in signing off the work that you have done.
DG: THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD GET CONFUSING. HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE ALL THE RESOURCES YOU NEED IN ORDER TO MEET DELIVERABLES?
LK: When I start a project I usually do a short document that lays out what was discussed, when it is needed and those responsible for the review.
DG: AS A FREELANCE MARKETER, HOW DO FIND MOST OF YOUR CLIENTS /JOBS? DO MOST HIRING MANAGERS REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR? ANY ADVICE FOR “MANAGING UP?”
LK: I do research on companies that I am interested in and then find a contact that I can reach out to. I have also had people recommend me to others. I think that hiring managers usually have an understanding of what they need, but that through conversation they may begin to realize that they may have missed some things and that’s why they get interested.
DG: WHAT DOES A DAY IN THE LIFE LOOK LIKE FOR A MARKETER AT THE EXECUTIVE LEVEL LIKE YOU? IT’S REALLY EASY TO WORK AROUND THE CLOCK IF YOU ARE FREELANCE. HAVE YOU FOUND A WAY TO SET BOUNDARIES ON YOUR WORK DAY?
LK: I don’t have a typical day so when I am working with a global companythe day is different than when everyone is in the same time zone. So that means meetings at 11:30 pm with Singapore and then 6:00 am the next day with London. If you do that enough times you are just a mess and no good to anyone. So be firm about when you are and are not available. The rule is if you start at 6:00 am finish at 3:00pm for the day. Try not to be the 24 hour doughnut shop. There are also times when you are just excited by what you are doing and so it’s hard to stop.
DG: I LIKE THIS. I RECENTLY READ AN INSPIRATIONAL INTERVIEW WITH DREW BARRYMORE ABOUT FINDING ONE’S PASSION. SHE SAID, “I THINK WHATEVER KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT… THAT IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING. I COULDN’T AGREE MORE, BUT IT'S ABOUT FINDING A BALANCE TOO.
DG: HOW DO YOU GET INSPIRED?
LK: I am a pretty visual person so I have stuff just randomly around me. I might see an article in a magazine andrip it out. I have books about history and art that are all over that I will randomly pick-up and look through. I’ll find a rock or a shell and love the shape or color. I might be part magpie.
DG: I KNOW YOU OFTEN WORK FROM HOME. DO YOU HAVE AN ALLOTTED SPACE FOR “WORKING?" WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE FOR YOU CREATIVELY?
LK: I have an office that I have set-up for myself. I have sparkle rocks and books on my desk and it faces the window, I absolutely need light. I like to work in quiet, occasionally I’ll play music but not that often. You will however find a dog nearby.
DG: HERE IS A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO WHICH SOME OF MY READERS WILL SURELY BE ABLE TO RELATE: IF YOU HAVE A PARTNER WHO ALSO WORKS FROM HOME, HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORK/HOME LIFE? THIS IS HARD! PLEASE SHARE YOUR TIPS TO MAKING IT WORK!
LK: I do have a partner that works at home most of the time and it can be hard. There have been times when we both start working at 6 am and the day just gets all sorts of weird. He is louder on calls and so that means I have to shut myself if my office. We came to the realization that just because we are together we can’t talk to each other all the time or assume that the other person can be interrupted. We are still working on it.
DG: DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE REINVENTING THEIR CAREER MID STREAM?
LK: Yes, try not to listen to people that tell you what you can’t do. Just keep going until you find people that understand what you are doing they are out there.
DG: WHAT IS YOUR SECRET SUPERPOWER?
LK: That’s a great question. I would say my sense of humor.
DG: YOU ARE PRETTY FUNNY. THANKS SO MUCH!
Another superpower Lydia has is her networking abilities! She loves linkedin.com and you can find her here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lydia-kortelink-717865