E2A 035: The Acrobatics of Marketing Yourself – A journey from circus to business coach to author with Caelan Huntress 

 August 9, 2022

By  Scott A. MacMillan

The world of digital marketing can often be a tricky web of endless platforms and algorithms. It can sometimes feel like a bit of a circus: overwhelming and a whole lot of hit and miss, if you don’t have a proper strategy…

In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan speaks with Caelan Huntress, a former acrobat turned internationally-renowned virtual speaker, website designer, copywriter, and sales strategist, about his journey from entrepreneur to author and how it changed his marketing business.


Download a free chapter of the book https://marketingyourselfbook.com/freechapter

Website: https://caelanhuntress.com/











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Episode Transcript

Please note: The transcript is produced by a third-party company from an audio recording and may include transcription errors.

Scott A MacMillan:        

You're listening to the Entrepreneur to Author Podcast.

Mike Manz:                  

Welcome to the Entrepreneur To Author Podcast. The podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now here's your host, Scott MacMillan.

Scott A MacMillan:        

My guest today is Caelan Huntress. Caelan is an internationally renowned virtual speaker, web designer, copywriter, and sales strategist, and he specializes in helping entrepreneurs create systems that sell their offers automatically. He's also the author of Marketing Yourself: How to Elevate Your Personal Platform to the Next Level.

Caelan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Caelan Huntress:          

Thanks, Scott. I'm looking forward to this conversation.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Wonderful. Well, to start with I'd love. If you could share a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey for our audience so they can get a bit of a sense of where you're coming from.

Caelan Huntress:          

Sure. I've had an unorthodox journey. I started my career as an acrobat in the circus and I was a street performer for a long time earning and maintaining the attention of an audience was how I learned my craft. And now as a marketer, I use those skills to earn and maintain the attention of a demographic.

They're very related in a number of ways, but what I like so much about marketing is it's the art of earning and directing attention. I started as a WordPress web designer and I've been a digital nomad for 10 years, traveling around the world with my young family and making websites for experts and entrepreneurs. And then I transitioned from websites more into marketing strategy, helping people figure out what's my message going to be, and how do I convert this attention into revenue? And I've been doing that for a number of years and it's been a lot of fun.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Oh, I love that non-traditional background. It's those non-traditional, different experiences that really give us a different perspective on things that other people maybe look at in a very traditional way. So thank you so much for that.

And you've written Marketing Yourself, could you share a bit about the book itself and who it's written for and what your goal is for that reader?

Caelan Huntress:          

Sure. Marketing Yourself is a book about elevating your personal platform. A lot of the clients that I specialized in working with in my web design agency, Scott, were authors, coaches and speakers, people who had something to say and something to sell. And I found that these types of entrepreneurs, they generally went through four different phases of their business. And the first phase was the soapbox, and anybody who has something to say can get up on a soapbox. But it's not until they have something to sell that it becomes a commercial enterprise. And that level of a platform, I call the showroom where your communication is focused on the things that you have on-offer and how people can buy from you.

Showrooms are great because you can build a business that can sustain a lifestyle in a showroom. The problem with a showroom is that it's got a ceiling. People often want to expand to the stage where they can go around and talk to other audiences and the systems do the selling for them. Helping people make this transition from the soapbox to the showroom to the stage, that's why I wrote this book, is to give people the practical tools that they need to elevate their platform, clarify their message and attract attention from the right types of clients.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Fantastic. Soapbox, showroom, and stage, that's a really cool metaphor for those different phases. I love that a lot.

How did you find the writing process? I know you're a bit of a content producer. How did you find the process of taking that intellectual property out of your head and getting it onto the page?

Caelan Huntress:           

Well, I've been writing for a long time. I started blogging back in 2003, so I've been in the content production game for quite a while. When I was in college, I actually spent a lot of time publishing magazine articles. I really got into that article form writing. And that's been the mainstay of my creativity for a long time, but I'd never published a book before Marketing Yourself. Getting into the long form process was really a transition, but I used my short form experience to create that volume of content.

What I did, Scott, is I wrote a big, long, bad first draft, that was my first step is just to get a whole bunch of words down on paper. And then I went through the revision process and did rewriting. What I did was I published my book as chapters through my newsletter first. Every week I would send out a newsletter, because that's what you do if you're going to maintain a relationship with an audience, is you send something every week to stay top-of-mind and providing new and interesting content is a great way to do it.

After this bad, first draft, I knew what this was going to be about, but I didn't have it in the right order, some of the topics didn't belong. While I was in that crafting process, deciding what goes in and what goes out, I did two things: the first is I made a Trello board that had a list of the different topics that I wanted to talk about. And then the second thing is, for every one of those topics, I had a Trello card that I built a lot of assets for.

The first asset for each one was sending a newsletter on the topic. So I'd write a big, long newsletter on this one topic that eventually morphed into a chapter in the book. Every week I'd send out a big, long newsletter that had this idea that I wanted to work on in my book. And it was still raw, but I got this refined version of it. So I got a newsletter out of it, which turned into a blog post, which got some social media content. And then after I got through all of these topics, I put them onto these Trello cards and I moved them around and I used this Trello board to say, "Here's the rough stuff. How do I move this around into a framework that's going to make sense for my book?" And that's how I discovered the four cornerstones model that I use for elevating your personal platform.

These platforms that go from the soapbox to the showroom to the stage to the stadium, they each rely on the same four cornerstones. There's what you say, what you sell, your strategy, and your systems. And those are the four sections of my book.

Every platform needs all four of these cornerstones, and if one of them is weak and it's lower than the others, then your platform's always going to be leaning in that direction. That cornerstone's going to be dominating your attention. What I've found in my work with experts and entrepreneurs, Scott, is that they don't all need the same thing. They don't all need the same prescriptive process. They all have this one area of their business that's doing really well. And this one area that they need a lot of work for. So I've developed a lot of resources and materials for individuals to say, "This is where I need to focus. I'm short on my positioning cornerstone. I need branding. I need messaging. Or my systems are broken. I need to figure out this journey from stranger to customer." So I've made the book more like a choose-your-own-adventure story so that a reader can skim through the pieces where they're feeling strong and then really dive deep on the cornerstones where they know they need some work.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Very cool. Very cool. How long did it take you to write your big, long, bad, first draft?

Caelan Huntress:          

It took me a month because I did it during National Novel Writing Month.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Fantastic. Good for you.

Caelan Huntress:          

If you don't know about national novel writing month, NaNoWriMo is the hashtag, during the month of November fiction writers try and write a 50,000-word manuscript and they share their word count on social media. And there's all sorts of clubs and organizations you can join. And I've done NaNoWriMo a number of times, I've never published a book from it, but I've written a bunch of manuscripts and I think it was 2018, I decided to use that month to write my big, bad, first manuscript. Since the average novel is 50,000 words, and the average nonfiction book is 30,000 words, that was my goal. I'm just going to write 30,000 words during the month of November. And that's what I did.

I ended up starting from scratch, and I didn't use any of that old manuscript, but at that writing process of getting through that first manuscript was really essential to try and figure out what it was I wanted to say. I really like first drafts for that, because you can write a bunch of garbage and that's fine because it helps you get through the process of mining your own creativity to discover what you actually want to write about.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Very smart. It's funny, I was recently reading, Write a Must-Read by AJ Harper and she talks about this notion of a healing draft. Because often you have people who are writing memoirs, for example, and there's a bunch of stuff that probably shouldn't make it into the final manuscript, but they almost need to write it just to get it off their chest and get it onto the paper so that it can get massaged and cut and edited into something that does help the reader.

Caelan Huntress:          

I love that concept of a healing draft. How great.

Scott A MacMillan:        

It's very cool. I'm really happy that you mentioned NaNoWriMo, as well, because I think a lot of people think of it as a, even if they've heard about it before, they think of it as a fiction writer's event so to speak. And I think it traditionally was, but the fact that you used that for your first draft of your non-fiction book, I recently heard that Pat Flynn did the same thing with his recent book, so, that, I think is a coming trend.

Everybody listening, NaNoWriMo's coming up every November, November's coming up soon. So start thinking about it.

And then in terms of publishing, I'd love to get your perspective on the publishing process. Obviously the publishing, all of the elements that are required to get a book from manuscript to publication, that's very different from the short form content area that a lot of people are familiar with. What did you find was perhaps surprising or even frustrating and even exciting about that whole process?

Caelan Huntress:           

Well, I was really excited about the design aspect, Scott, because I'm a designer and I can geek out about which platform to use for which program and doing the design of the illustrations. And I really had a hands-on design process by finding the designers that I wanted to work on it and going through the revision cycles. So I really enjoyed that. What I got out of that was a whole lot of social media content for the future.

The illustrations that go in the book have become the framework for a lot of the promotional assets that I'm planning to use in the future. And I really like the publishing process because I've helped many clients go through their book publishing process myself, because a lot of my clients, as I said, are authors and speakers and coaches who often produce these sorts of materials. I've been on the backend of a lot of book funnels, doing the landing pages and the outbound campaigns, but I've never actually gotten to do it myself, so it felt like I had done all the rehearsals working on other people's performances for so long that this was my opportunity to really get on stage. Like I said, I think of things as an actor because that's where I apprenticed in my craft early in my life. It was really great to be able to step out on stage myself and make this happen.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Wonderful. Anything that you found frustrating?

Caelan Huntress:          

I knew in advance that I was going to have a bunch of revisions because I'm picky about things like design. I think I would've been a lot more frustrated if I had given myself a shorter timeline, but I've been working on this book for five years and I thought a couple years ago I was nearly done and then I realized it just wasn't good enough. And I thought about nine months ago, the manuscript was done, and then I realized it wasn't good enough. I redesigned my book cover three times. And I had designed it the first time a year and a half ago and thought I was done. This really frustrated me, my coach said to me, "This book cover looks boring and corporate and you are not boring and corporate." So I said, "Okay, I'm going to do a completely different book cover." And I decided to put myself on the cover for the second cover.

I have a lot of feelings about authors putting their face on the cover. A lot of times it looks like it's because the author thinks that they're more important than the reader. I've been repelled by it, but after some advice from some other people, I had this great photo shoot and I had this dynamic photo of me in this acrobat pose and the title above Marketing Yourself and I loved the cover. People who knew me loved the cover, but people who did not know me hated it. Because I look like this spooky clown and people have a phobia of clowns. I realized I have to go back and do this again. And that really frustrated me to go back for a third time to revise the cover. But I did and the cover that I ended up with I'm really happy with.

That was frustrating to go again and again, in the cover design process. But a lot of times, Scott, when we go through that revision process and we do the hard work to do it again, even if we thought we were done, doing it again, often, it makes it better. And that friction, it's like a whetstone, that's where sharpness comes from is the friction of difficulty.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Absolutely. And the iteration, right? That's the magic of editing, as well, right? What you start with is maybe great or might be very good, but it's that iteration and getting... I love what you talked about that people that knew you loved it, but everybody else, people that didn't know you, hated it. And that's that process of getting reader feedback, right? Understanding who is your target reader and making sure that you're resonating with them. That's wonderful.

Caelan Huntress:          

Reader feedback is so essential.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Absolutely. Throughout the whole process.

Now, what are your goals for the book? Obviously you have goals for your reader, but personally, and professionally, what are you hoping that your book is going to deliver for you as an expert and for your business?

Caelan Huntress:          

The book for me is really a positioning piece. I've been on the back end of enough book launches to know that they're not big money makers, unless you have that runaway breakout hit, you're not going to count on the book as the mainstay of your revenue as an entrepreneur. But boy, does it bring a lot of work.

Having a published book and being the authority on the topic because you wrote the book on it, I mean, now I can say, I wrote the book on Marketing Yourself. As a business coach, that gives me so much credibility that, what I'm really hoping this does for my business, Scott, is that it positions me so that I get more speaking gigs and more coaching clients without having to do so many outbound sales calls. Because I've worked as a salesperson in a boiler room making phone calls early in my career, so I know how to do that. I know the sweat and grunt work that it takes to do that, and I do it because I'm willing to, but I'd really like to start fielding inbound requests where people reach out to me and say, "Hey, we have this keynote presentation for this conference. We think you'd be perfect for it." Or somebody reaching out and saying, "I need to elevate my platform and you're going to be the perfect guy to do it." Instead of me having to proactively reach out to people for those opportunities. I'm looking forward to getting more inbound requests.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Very well put, and I think what, what you'll find is even when you are making outbound requests, there's just far less friction when you're reaching out and you are that established expert as evidenced by your book, sales close more quickly opportunities where people might have previously just shut the door and not interested in having the conversation. They just open up. Good for you. I'm really happy to hear that that's how you're thinking about it.

For those in our audience, because I think there are two camps of listeners to the Entrepreneur To Author Podcast, there are those who have already embarked on the journey and they're writing their book or there are at some stage of that entrepreneur-to-author process. And then there's a large number of people who have considered writing a book, but for whatever reason, they haven't taken that plunge. What advice would you give to that second group of people? The people that are perhaps sitting on the fence? They know that they should, but they haven't done it yet.

Caelan Huntress:          

I'd say the best advice I could give, Scott, is to publish in public. When I published my chapters as newsletters, every newsletter was syndicated into a blog post on my blog. And the last line was, this is an excerpt from my upcoming book Marketing Yourself, subscribe here to get on the wait list. So I built my list while I built the topic.

As I was doing that, everybody who was subscribing through that avenue, I knew they were interested in the topic. They didn't find me because of something else I was doing. The Marketing Yourself message was what they were interested in. By publishing in public, you build anticipation with your audience and it doesn't matter if your audience is 10 people or 10,000 people, getting people involved in the process, it gets them excited so that every time that you give another announcement, "Hey, I'm doing this thing." People are going on that journey with you. So that when you finally come around and say, "Hey, I've hit this milestone. I've hit 30,000 words." Or, "I've got the new covered design", or, "The book hits the stands on Monday", when people are taken on that journey with you just because you shared it, it could be as simple as taking a photo of your printed-out manuscript that you're writing your notes on.

Every little bit of content that you can create that involves people in the publication process, it means that by the time you're ready to start selling your book, people aren't surprised by it. They don't need to be educated about your book and who you are and what you're doing because they've been watching you do it for a year. That's the best piece of advice I could give, Scott, is to share your journey.

Scott A MacMillan:        

That's great advice. And another advantage of that is that it keeps you accountable too, right? Once you've put that public commitment out there, it helps push you along, too. It gets your audience excited, like you've said, but it also gets you excited and puts that little bit of pressure that some of us need to actually get the book written. That's wonderful.

Caelan, what is the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to learn more about your book and also about you and the services that you provide to entrepreneurs?

Caelan Huntress:          

Well, the services that I provide are through my digital marketing agency, Stellar Platforms. And at stellarplatforms.com I've got my portfolio and case studies about my digital marketing work.

Most of my work is on my personal website on caelanhuntress.com. I've been blogging there for years, documenting my adventures, living in Costa Rica, moving to New Zealand, which is where I live right now. My name's hard to spell, and so I'd say the best place that your audience could find out more about me is that marketingyourselfbook.com. And that's where I've got all the information on the book. You can subscribe to my newsletter to get a free chapter of the book at marketingyourselfbook.com.

Scott A MacMillan:        

Wonderful. Well, we're going to put that in the show notes so that it's easy for people to access. Caelan, this has been so great. I really appreciate you joining us today and sharing your valuable experience, both as a marketer, but also as an entrepreneur-turned-author.

Caelan Huntress:          

Thanks, Scott. It's been great talking with you.

Scott A MacMillan:        

As we wrap up this episode of Entrepreneur To Author, remember now is the time, time to write, time to publish, and time to grow.

I'm Scott MacMillan, until next time.

Scott A. MacMillan

Scott A. MacMillan is a speaker, international best-selling author, entrepreneur, and the President and Executive Publisher at Grammar Factory Publishing. He and his team help expert entrepreneurs write and publish books that build their authority and grow their business.

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