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Life & Work with Erin Clarkson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin Clarkson. 

Hi Erin, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Like many businesses, mine is one that has evolved over time. When my daughter was in high school, we started a website together. The primary goal was teaching her how to earn a passive income so she wouldn’t stress about money once she ventured off on her own in the world. 

She had many interests at the time, so she blogged about a variety of topics. As I was teaching her how to write and format blog posts, I wrote a few travel posts as examples. Those posts, which were primarily about Savannah, ended up getting a decent amount of traffic. 

She eventually started her own YouTube channel, graduated from high school, moved to Savannah to study Fashion Design, and has since graduated from SCAD with a degree in Fashion Marketing and Management. She currently lives in NYC and is earning a passive income (in addition to her full-time job). So… goal accomplished! 

In the meantime, I branched off from our original test site to create my own travel-based website. If it’s not obvious by the “Savannah First-Timer’s Guide” name…I help visitors plan their first trip to Savannah! 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Oh, it definitely hasn’t been a smooth road! I’ve had plenty of ups and downs along the way. 

I don’t come from an entrepreneurial background, so I had no idea how to start a business. I’ve spent countless hours taking classes, seeking out mentors, Googling or searching YouTube for answers, and making mistake after mistake along the way. I’ve had more sleepless nights than I care to count. 

I do 95% of the research, writing, photography, and editing on my site. I also do all of the marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). The hardest part for me is probably the tech side of things since I’m not very “techie” at all. I’ve had to learn from scratch how to build a website and get my posts to rank on Google search. I’ve gotten to the point now where I actually love SEO work, but I think I’ll always get frustrated with any type of coding or back-end work on the website. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I help visitors plan their trips to Savannah. 

I wrote an eBook called the Savannah First-Timer’s Guide, and it encompasses all of my most helpful tips in one handy downloadable guide. I sell that eBook on my website, savannahfirsttimer.com, which I use as an additional place to share my thoughts about Savannah. 

In my corporate life, I was responsible for planning events for the CEOs of some of the largest financial institutions in the world. Since even one mistake on my part could’ve cost my employer millions, I had no room for error! So, I guess you could say I specialize in anticipating what others might need and then planning ahead to cover all contingencies. I’ve thought of nearly every question a visitor could have when planning a trip to Savannah and have included detailed answers to those questions within my guide. I also created a private Facebook group where people who have purchased my eBook can go to get additional insight about their trips. 

I think I’m most known for two things: my photography and my blunt personality. I love taking photos of Savannah, and I’m honored when those photos inspire others to plan a trip to the city. As for my tell-it-like-it-is personality, my readers know they can trust me to give a straight answer no matter what they ask. 

In fact, I think that’s one of the things that sets me apart most from others; I don’t always provide the rosy “tourism” point of view about the city. (I’ve even told readers in my Facebook group that I like the Historic District best when it’s empty and the tourists are gone!) 

I discuss things on my site that the local tourism boards and news stations would probably rather keep quiet, such as crime statistics, homelessness, and the effects of tourism on the city’s full-time residents. Savannah was made famous by the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, and I’m not afraid to shine a light on both the good and the bad sides of the city. I share the pretty and the gritty! 

The way I see it, most tourists are planning to visit Savannah no matter what, so why not give them the tools they need to determine which areas are safest? That way they can make informed decisions about where to stay and where to best spend their time. I think that’s especially important as tourism outgrows the boundaries of the Historic District and visitors begin renting out Airbnbs in areas on the outskirts of the city, where crime rates are often higher. 

Because of my honesty, my reader base has grown to include people who are moving to the city for the first time and are in need of recommendations on the best areas to live, as well as SCAD parents seeking advice about keeping their kids safe. I’m happy to help, especially if it provides peace of mind to parents who are sending students away to school for the first time. 

As for what I’m most proud of, that has very little to do with my business. While I’m honored that my site and eBook help others, I’m most proud of my daughter! She’s an incredible person, who continually impresses me with her compassionate side and independent spirit. 

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
To never give up. 

I had all sorts of doubts when I first started out. However, as one of my earliest business mentors advised me, “You don’t need to know everything about a topic to be considered an expert on it — you just need to know more than the people you’re teaching!” 

She was absolutely right about that, so I’m glad I took her advice and wrote my eBook. 

While I don’t consider myself an expert on all things Savannah, I do know enough to help visitors plan their initial trip. I’m still learning new things on a daily basis about how to properly run a business, the impact my site has on locals, and ways I can position myself to make a positive difference in the community. 

As my audience continues to grow, I’m excited about the opportunity to help more people. I have plans to create a printable edition of my book and expand my site to cover areas throughout the Lowcountry of South Carolina. (Fun fact: I’m actually from South Carolina; I’m not a native Savannahian!) I’m also researching ways to give back to the community from the proceeds of my eBook and sales of future products. 

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Erin Clarkson

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