Try your best to give credit where it is due. Yes, I hustled hard. But I also leaned on friends and they were incredible. Build a support system cause it’s rough out there. Make actual, meaningful connections…not just the ones who can get you something or to someone.

That Charlie is a real ‘Jane of all trades!’ With a BA in Journalism and Political Science from the University of North Texas Mayborn College of Journalism, she holds expertise in editorial content planning, social media copy and visual storytelling elements (infographics, short videos, podcasting, etc.), media relations and placement, plus trend forecasting. She is a published author, reporter and feature story writer. She also ghostwrites for brands about a vast variety of topics, including STEM, small business, health industries, non-profits, entrepreneurial spirit, and legal resources.

Where did the idea for Checkmark Creative come from?

I was raised in a small business – a diesel repair shop in El Paso, TX, to be exact. I learned the value of direct word-of-mouth marketing and a need to communicate your brand to people at a very young age. I watched my mom look for creative ways to market way before this digital revolution. I think I was sketching their flyers and ideas by the age of 12.

After journalism school, the recession hit. While people were getting laid off at newspapers and magazines, I got an internship doing public relations and marketing. As a journalist, I dreamed of making it to DC and writing those Pulitzer-worthy investigative pieces but instead, I turned to telling stories about companies and eventually science, innovations and complex discoveries as a government contractor.

And then I got fired, without any justification. When you work for other people, that can happen at any time, even in “secure” jobs. I knew the only way I could build my future was through my own skillset but I didn’t know exactly where to start. I began walking dogs in DC in the meantime. I reconnected with people from college, side hustles, passion projects, who was doing what, where and when and how could we collaborate. I took low…and I mean low paying gigs to get my name out there again, separate from the STEM circles I had built around me.

Checkmark comes from my name: C. Heck = check. Every time I start a new project, I make myself a little checklist. The creative parts are always at the very top because they are my favorite parts of entrepreneurship, hence the name Checkmark Creative. Let me add a little checkmark to the creative aspects of business development, while you handle the rest.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I have clients on both sides of the coast, so I try to be awake between 5:30 – 6:30 am PT time. If my inbox is clean or the Supreme Court is not delivering opinions, I use this early morning time to work on my own personal branding and development (again the fun parts). Then, I move on to my now digital (thanks ASANA!) checklists. However, there is a level of flexibility you need to work with multiple clients and accounts. You can prepare as much as you want to, but if a story comes out with a client in it that you had no idea would publish, that has just become your new day now. Organization and tiny details are key, get a (digital) to-do list going!

How do you bring ideas to life?

I research, a lot. One of the elements of journalism that inspired me as a child was this ability to lose yourself in a topic. Learning is a key aspect of successful entrepreneurs. If you stop learning, you stop growing. After I spend my time in research, I walk; seriously! I take it to nature and reflect and come back to the table and am ready to rock it. Burnout is a serious problem in major industries. If you don’t build time for reflection, you lose the better parts of creativity.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Hands down – authenticity! I’ve been reading a lot on the importance of – and working with brands to tell – their real story. Who do you want or see your customer as, where did YOU come from, what’s YOUR story? Authenticity is here and people want to know why they should use your product or service and where your materials come from. People can tell when you’re not being true to your story. Social media is planning a key role in this authenticity movement.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Listening is crucial in creative services. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a pitch completely miss the mark. Did you actually listen to what your client is looking for or did you tune them out and insert your favorite marketing buzzword of the month? My clients refer accounts to me on a continuous basis. In fact, I haven’t really implement any lead generating protocol yet. I get at least one request for a proposal from a referral every month. Why? Because I listen to their needs in the beginning, got to know who they are and can anticipate what they need once I’ve truly gotten to know their story.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t take edits and feedback so personal. It makes you a better writer, creative, storyteller and just general person. At the end of the day, if your client wants a pink rose and you think it looks a little strange and you’ve pleaded your case as to why, let it go and make the best damn pink rose you’ve ever made.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

People are collectively bad, unless you’ve worked in the service industry. Now, hear me out. When I was walking dogs for some of the wealthiest people in America, I saw some of the shadiest things. I was also treated incredibly by some but also completely dehumanized by others. I had leashes thrown at me, got bitten by a little devil dog whose owners just kept insisting that I pick him up and he’d calm down, plus had my car broken into in the rain while a certain dog walking app could not be reached. If you’ve worked in an industry where customer service is involved, you should be paid more than anyone else on this entire planet.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Try your best to give credit where it is due. Yes, I hustled hard. But I also leaned on friends and they were incredible. Build a support system cause it’s rough out there. Make actual, meaningful connections…not just the ones who can get you something or to someone.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Respond to emails, even if it’s to say, got it, thanks. My very first large account contacting me for a small project. I now run a variety of their platforms. Why? Because they couldn’t get their freelancer to just respond with okay, I’ll have edits to you by XX. When you are a freelancer, chances are you’re ghostwriting/designing for other clients, you may just not know it. Be an adult, respond, take action and let your accounts know you are there, even if it might take you a few days to work them in.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Setting up boundaries; I cannot say this enough. Uncle Joe and Aunty Linda will most definitely have an idea that they need you to build a site for. They will never help you out when you need them, have no concept of a deadline and most certainly do not have the capital to make it a priority. Because a majority of my clients are in the legal industry now, I have contracts, approvals, processes and procedures (thank you!!) and if clients don’t work well with them, we usually don’t create the very best version of work we could. Always protect yourself and learn how to say ‘no, but thank you.’

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Cannabis, cannabis, oh cannabis! Really anything in this emerging industry but what about a senior dog spa? The grooviest, chill zone for senior dogs only. I had a wonderful pup, RIP Stella, and I wish we had access to the CBD oils pets have now. It would have helped her in her senior years and what a fun, cool idea.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Self-care – always. It had been almost a year but this month I booked a spa day. I also have what I call Charlie days that cost way less than $100 but just as important.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I almost don’t want to share because it’s one of the best tools in my assets box but Loomly is incredible. They are also based in the Los Angeles area, their customer service is impeccable and it has saved me countless hours on social media scheduling, running analytics reports, even finding inspiration ideas from their trending sections, they have saved my life!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Art and Craft of Feature Writing by William Blundell. To be successful, you need to be able to write your story or find someone (like me) who can. It’s becoming a lost art, really. That was one of the first books I was assigned in college and George Getschow’s feature writing class was one of the hardest classes I took. There will always be art in the ability to tell a story.

What is your favorite quote?

I’ve looked for years for the actual source or quote and there are many variations of this very old saying… “Stop standing in the fire when there is a city to rebuild.”

Key Learnings:

Learning is a key aspect of successful entrepreneurs. If you stop learning, you stop growing.

There will always be art in the ability to tell a story.

Authenticity is here and people want to know why they should use your product or service and where your materials come from. People can tell when you’re not being true to your story.

Respond to emails, even if it’s to say, got it, thanks. Be an adult, respond, take action and let your accounts know you are there, even if it might take you a few days to work them in.

Don’t take edits and feedback so personal. It makes you a better writer, creative, storyteller and just general person.

Connect:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlieheck/
https://twitter.com/CharlieHeck
https://www.instagram.com/heckofalottohandle/
http://www.charlieheck.me/

https://www.checkmarkcreative.com/
https://www.instagram.com/checkmarkcreative/