What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

What I Wish I’d Known When I Was 18: Some Advice from a Creative Business Owner

Last week I spoke at the Glug Leeds networking event along with four other people. We each shared our thoughts on what we wish we’d known when we were 18.

After a lot of thought in preparing for the talk, I realised there were only a few really important things that I wish I’d known. Some of them I’ve only just come to in the last few years, and I think that’s an important point; it’s never too late to take on board advice, and it’s not useful to berate yourself for not knowing it earlier.

We’re all on a journey and we can’t get to where we are now without having trod our unique path.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#1

The first thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is that relationships are everything. As an 18 year old, I believed I had to make it in the world. I was the one who was going to achieve great things, and I had to do it on my own merit. It couldn’t be part of the team; it had to be me and me alone.

What I’ve realised as I’ve got older is that success is not an individual accomplishment. There are many, many people here helping us do what we want to do with our lives. That might be as small as someone explaining how to use specific tools to run your business more effectively, or as big as a bank manager giving you a loan.

It’s easy to believe in the culture of individualism that we’re living in, but our success and failure in work and in our lives is dependent on the relationships that we have with others.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#2

The second thing I shared with the Glug audience was that boring stuff is surprisingly important. I’ve worked with lots of different businesses since I was 18 – in fact, in the last six years I’ve worked with over 40 brands – and one thing all the most successful businesses have in common is that they run their business in an effective way because they care about boring stuff.

That might mean they focus on doing well all those things which frankly sound completely dull, like HR, operations, facilities management, health and safety and progression plans. Working for myself, I’ve had to be in charge of all the boring things (as well as all the exciting thing) and I’ve gained a newfound respect for how important these elements are in running a business.

Lots of modern marketing businesses attract people with perks. These might be a ping pong table in the office, free massages, beers on a Friday afternoon, company days out or some other fun activity. These are great for team building and for lifting people’s spirits, but ultimately they’re not a replacement for running a business sensibly and effectively.

I think it’s easy when you’re 18 to be distracted by these perks and not ask important questions of the employer you’re talking to, like “How does your HR department work?”,  “What’s the progression plan you have in mind for me?” and “What’s the pension scheme like?”. Thinking about these things feels very boring, but getting it right can aid you in business success; you won’t be worrying about small things because they’ll be sorted, so you can focus on the big, fun, exciting stuff instead.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#3

The third thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is not to ignore the causes of mental health problems. I think this was something which resonated with a lot of people in the audience, and it’s because we don’t talk about it enough.

During my second year of university, I realised I was suffering very badly from depression. Since that point I’ve undergone therapy a number of times, most recently last year when I suffered with anxiety for the first time in my life. I feel very lucky that I had access to therapeutic practices when I needed them, and was able to address the causes of my mental health problem – not just the symptoms.

When we’re busy or when we have limited funds, it’s very easy to try and find solutions for  the symptoms of mental health problems, rather than the causes. The symptoms are sometimes easier to treat, because they may have a medical solution. For example, if anxiety gives you problems with your digestive system, you can take medication to calm this down. Sometimes, it’s essential the symptoms are treated rapidly to protect your health and the health of others.

But.

I see a lot of my students who are struggling with mental health problems for, perhaps, the first time in their life being given access to symptom treatment but not cause treatment. The reasons for this are many and highly political (hey, stop cutting funding and resources!). But it’s also on us to recognise that mental health problems are often rooted deeply in our past and the lessons we’ve learnt about how to behave or how to think, even if those lessons have been unconscious.

By addressing the causes of mental health problems, not just the symptoms, we can start to work on how we feel and how we relate to each other in a much more meaningful way. I don’t think symptoms should be left untreated, but neither do I think the causes should be ignored. Having the time and space to talk about some of the causes behind my mental health problems dramatically improved my happiness, as well as my empathy for others.This in turn has increased my successes.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#4

With that in mind, the fourth thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is to lighten up.

My mum will tell you I was always a very serious child; very thoughtful, often with my head in a book or distracted, often thinking about the problems in the world or the problems that I was involved with. As I got older, this translated into an attitude where I was unable to laugh at myself. I took myself and my work very seriously, to the point of which I became po-faced and sometimes paralysed with fear of being embarrassed or laughed at.

Over the last few years I’ve learnt that I can be silly, funny and even ridiculous – and I can still be respected and liked. For all of the problems in the world, which we should absolutely be fighting against and looking for ways to solve them, the world is an irrational, bizarre, ridiculous and joyful place. Things happen for no reason. The universe is chaotic. We have a silly streak inside of us that makes us do things we didn’t anticipate.

It’s really important we embrace this and make it part of who we are. When I did this, I realised I could let go of the way I thought someone should act if they were successful or happy or cared about their work. Instead, I could just get on with actually caring about my work, being happy and being successful.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#5

The final things I shared with the Glug audience that I wish I’d known when I was 18 is a quote from Brené Brown.

Brené Brown’s TED Talk videos on shame and vulnerability came at a point in my life where I really needed to hear those messages. Since then I’ve read her work, watched her Facebook live videos and tried to integrate the messages she shares from her research into my own life.

One of these messages is this: you are worthy of love and belonging.

This is one of the most powerful statements I have ever read. When I first shared it with my partner, he immediately began to say “…if you do what?”. This is the point of the statement; knowing that we are worthy of love and belonging not because we have done something or said something or acted in a certain way, but just because we are human.

Acknowledging this statement has enabled me to feel happier with myself, care for myself more and care for others even when they are acting in a way which makes me feel frustrated or sad.

In this article about valuing your time I said this:

I want you to know your time is worth something, because it’s precious. You do not have much of it and you must value it because of that. It’s not about your skills or education or any other factor; you must value your time simply because one day it will run out.

My ideas on this are inspired by Brené Brown. Your time is precious because it is limited, not because of who you are and what you do. Because you exist, you are worthy of love and belonging.

I wish I’d known this when I was 18, because so many things in my life were done out of the belief that I was not worthy of love and belonging. I think lots of us do things because of this belief.

We’re in relationships we don’t like because we think we’re not worthy of real love. We’re in jobs we don’t like because we think we’re not worthy of being at a better company. We shy away from making new friends or trying new activities, because we think we’re not worthy of being accepted into a community or being shown affection and care. I definitely did all of these things at some point in my life out of the mistaken belief that I was not worthy.

Acknowledging that you are worthy of love and belonging is hard because we’re conditioned to believe we are only valuable if we do something ‘valuable’. What Brené Brown is asking us to do is give unconditional love to ourselves. Many of us struggle to even give unconditional love to others, let alone our harshest critics. But even beginning to think it could be possible that you are worthy of love and belonging will change the way you feel about yourself.  

It’s not easy to remember it, and it’s not always easy to practice it for yourself or others. Here it is again so it’s clear in your mind:

You are worthy of love and belonging.


What’s next?

I loved doing the Glug talk and really enjoyed watching my co-presenters share lessons from their lives.

If you can this week, spend some time thinking what you wish you would have known when you were 18.

What one lesson or piece of advice would you give that person? Even more importantly, do you think you are living and remembering that advice now, when you have the opportunity to put it into practice?

Please do share your thoughts with me on Twitter @ebsnare.

What I Wish I'd Known at 18 - Eleanor Snare

Eleanor Snare | How I've Helped People and I'm Trying Not to Be Shy About It | Picture of hiding insect on leaf

How I’ve Helped People and I’m Trying Not to Be Shy About It

My name’s Eleanor and you might be surprised to know I can be a bit shy.

I’m shy about talking about my achievements because I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting.

(The social and psychological issues which cause this can be discussed another time.)

But I want you to know about what I’ve done because I might be able to help you.

 


Helping people is what I love to do.

I like to do it by removing the barriers which prevent people fulfilling their potential.


 

I didn’t know how to tell you what I’ve done because it kept ending up sounding like it was all about me. It’s not about me: it’s about what I can help you do.

To try and get round this I wrote down everything I could think of where I’ve helped people as a marketing consultant, copywriter and tutor since I became freelance. I tried to make it about them.

 


When I think about what these people and businesses have achieved, I feel very happy.


 

In no particular order, I have helped:

  • E-learning company Virtual College win Supplier of the Year twice in a row through writing their awards submission (hoping for year three Alex!)

 

 

  • Paul Lenihan feel more confident in marketing his new high-end accessories business, NOTINLOVE

 

  • At least 70 University of Leeds students understand what working in marketing is really like, how to develop campaigns properly, and how to work with integrity

 

  • People approaching retirement feel happier about the transition through writing around 60 articles for a brand new post-50 retirement advice website

 

  • Small, local businesses be better at digital marketing through writing 40+ articles for a new digital marketing advice website

 

  • A marketing agency stand out and service their clients better through researching and writing a white paper about future restaurant trends

 

  • Charlotte Raffo feel more confident and knowledgeable in her brand, customer and marketing her new luxury interior products business, The Monkey Puzzle Tree

 

  • Arash Mazinani develop new services in his image consultancy business that’ll help him stand out and better service his clients

 

  • The team at Home Agency discuss and understand mental health issues at work more easily and freely

 

  • MA students at London College of Fashion create more innovative, commercially-viable concepts for the final major project (blog post here)

 

  • Students at the University of Wolverhampton develop their confidence in getting a job after university through skills practise and action planning

 

  • Shoppers with a leading, European, quirky sock brand make the right choice through writing around 350 product descriptions

 

  • The team at Maxwell Scott Bags refine their tone of voice and use it effectively across all platforms

 

  • Make connections between marketing agencies, universities and students in Leeds and the local area so we can sustain our amazing talent pool in the North

 

  • A sustainable housing business see things differently through in-depth customer profiling

 

  • My fellow freelancers through support, advice and passing on work

 

  • Prospective students understand what one of our local universities can offer through a full prospectus rewrite

 

  • Encourage visitors to a high profile bank website to explore new places through writing 40+ travel articles

 

  • Multiple businesses and agencies fulfil their potential through brand work, website rewrites, editing, proof-reading and emergency copy support

 


 

Thank you to everyone who has hired me. You helped me by giving me these jobs. I’m honoured I got to help you.

 

I’d like to help more people through consultancy, training, copywriting and education in the next years of my freelance career.

Ideally people who value creativity, love what they do, and want to work sustainably.

But most of all people who want to start fulfilling their potential.

 

If you’re that person, get in touch: hello@eleanorsnare.com

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

 


Get in touch: hello@eleanorsnare.com


pexels-photo-94736

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses: Curtisward

In this blog series, I profile creative businesses who’ve impressed me with their marketing, promotion and creative presence. I showcase their best bits and talk about what they could do to improve, giving you best practice case studies to help you improve your business.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses - Curtisward - Eleanor Snare

Despite there being plenty of other shinier marketing tools available online (ooh, Instagram Stories!), a website is still a key part of any creative business’ presence. It’s your home turf, where you can describe your brand and your offer to customers in the way you want.

Curtisward, an independent art supplies retailer, impressed me recently with their website – it’s easy to use, easy to navigate and enjoyable to visit. Here’s why it wowed me so much and what you can learn.


Easy to find

It’s important to remember here that I never, ever click on Google Ads that appear in search results. Never.

Apart from this time.

Although not strictly about their website, I wanted to note how I found Curtisward as it includes some useful lessons for other creative businesses. I was searching for a specific product – Tombow brush pens – and naturally turned to Google.

You can see the results here:

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Google Results

I visited The Pen Company first, because they had three different adverts which suggested a good range of products. Their website was difficult to use and I soon gave up.

I came back and clicked on the Curtisward advert. Why them? Why not scroll? Why not the Amazon link which I know would be cheaper?

Here’s why:

  • When I visited their website, it was easy to use (so I stayed)
  • Their advert imaged showed multiple colours and plenty of pens, suggesting they had lots in stock
  • Their advert image was the only one that showed the pen up close
  • Their advert description had the most detail (I know it’s a pen – they told me it was ‘dual brush’)
  • I was specifically looking for an independent creative business to buy from

(Yes, these really are all the things customers think about in those few seconds when they click on an advert. Trust me.).

What you can learn
  • Don’t be afraid of using Google Ads: there’s a customer out there who will only turn to Amazon if they can’t find you – help them find you!
  • Use product images which show the product clearly and in the most relevant way
  • Use product images to show range if it’s possible
  • Use an advert description which gives specific product detail

Easy to navigate

This sort of thing isn’t very sexy but it’s a critical factor when a customer is deciding whether or not to buy from you. Clear, meaningful website navigation makes it easy for your customer to:

  • Find what they’re looking for
  • Encourages them to explore (and hopefully buy) more
  • Reduces time between exploration and purchase

Curtisward made navigating their website easy through a clear drop down menu – but most importantly, the way they had structured their website and the labels they gave different sections made it easy (and fun) to navigate.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Categories

As an art supplier, Curtisward probably stock thousands of individual items. I was looking for a specific sort of brush pen; if they’d simply had a huge category called ‘pens’ I would’ve been turned off from scrolling through hundreds of different products.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Categories

Instead, they labelled their sections by what the customer wanted to do. Want to clean something? Click ‘cleaning’. Want to make some marks? Click ‘mark making’. This is an impressive structure because it focuses on what the customer wants to DO, not the product Curtisward wants to SELL. That’s good marketing: “You want to do something, and we can help you do it”.

Within each section there’s clear products, then product types, then brands or ranges. This might seem very complicated  (and it might look like that on a site map) but for a customer it’s perfect because it funnels them down a path straight away.

What you can learn
  • Consider what your customer needs to know when they land on your website
  • Make sections about what they can DO, not simply what you sell
  • Lead customers down a clear purchasing path

Mobile-friendly

I searched for, clicked on and bought from Curtisward all on my mobile – and their site was really easy to use on mobile.

This shouldn’t be a thing. Huge numbers of us spend many many hours a day using the internet on a mobile device, for social networking, email, browsing and watching video.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised Full Size
The full size website

Yet there are still many businesses – and unfortunately, small creative businesses tend to be in there – who don’t have a website which is mobile-friendly. This makes it harder for your customer to navigate and use your website when on their mobile, and harder for them to buy from you.

Curtisward has a responsive website, which means that whatever size screen you’re using, it adjusts to look the best for that screen size.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised 1
Smaller screen, still looking good

That meant I could find what I wanted, and explore, and therefore buy more, all on my mobile device. What might have been a £1.85 sale for one product turned into a £15+ sale through ease of use.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised 2
Mobile phone screen size, and still easy to use
What you can learn
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and ideally mobile-optimised
  • Most modern website builders e.g. WordPress or SquareSpace will do this automatically
  • Test the friendliness of your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

Engaging content

Alongside their product pages, Curtisward have a lovely blog and information page packed full of different ideas and posts. While this engaging content wasn’t a key factor in making me buy from them, it does make me think favourably of them; it shows they want to give more to their customer, and that they really do know their stuff.

They have a good range of articles, from quotations by famous painters to art ‘inspired by…’ and showcase different products, like their travel brush sets. They also occasionally profile customers’ work, which is another nice touch.

I do think they could improve some of this content by making it a bit easier to read (with a larger font size) and perhaps a more contemporary layout. Their articles are also scattered over two sections, so there’s no one, definitive knowledge base they can point customers to.

However, the quality of the ideas and the regular posting mean they’ll always have something to share in other marketing channels, demonstrating their expertise and helpfulness to customers.

What you can learn
  • Think about what expertise you can share with customers on your own website to help engage and interest them
  • Make sure it’s easy to read and pleasant to look at; customers are used to beautiful blogs
  • Re-purpose this content for other marketing channels to demonstrate your knowledge and helpfulness

 

And now for some exciting news…

 

How to Make Your Website Read Well, Look Good and Convince Customers - A Free Workshop for Creative Business Owners

If you’ve been reading this article thinking “My website doesn’t do any of these things – eep!”, then this exciting news is especially for you.

I’m running a free, face-to-face workshop for creative business owners on how to make your website read well, look good and convince customers. Because websites are one of the basics of marketing – and yet creative businesses very rarely use them to their full advantage.

There are only 10 places on this workshop to make sure everyone makes the most of the time and activities (of which there will be many, alongside refreshments and fun – of course). You’ll get advice on best practice alongside expert and peer-to-peer feedback specifically for your business; not just generic advice but ideas for you and what you need to do to make your website brilliant.


Interested? Read more and sign up here.


This workshop is in-person, so if you can’t make it (because, say, you live in Madagascar and the bus fare would be ridiculous) then that’s ok too – I’ll be turning elements of the session into an online workshop which you can do from anywhere in the world, including on the beach. Damn you. You can read more about that and sign up to hear about the launch date right here.


Learn more and sign up for the free workshop here.