Lauren Van Mullem is a conversion copywriter who knows the rules and when to throw them out. She believes authenticity is the only way to market a business sustainably, because it feels good (and character wins in the end).
“So there I was, in a tent in the back-end of Rajasthan, armed with a bucket, chasing a six-inch bug (that looked more like a baby dragon) around the toilet.
“I finally cornered it against a canvas flap and it started vibrating at me. Do dragon-bugs explode? Was this a ticking time-bug? But I believe in humane relocation of even terrifying insects, so I went at it with the bucket, trying to trap it, and accidentally lopped off one of its legs.
“And then it flew off and disappeared. I went to bed knowing there was a giant, now very angry insect somewhere in my tent. I didn’t sleep the whole night.”
Lauren Van Mullem will tell you that she went to India before it was cool – before that whole ‘Eat, Pray, Love and leave your spouse thing.’ But she went for a similar reason, at least in terms of mental and emotional healing.
“I’d just left the first real job I’d had since graduating from college, and the boss was so abusive, and the environment was so toxic, I knew I couldn’t go straight into another job. I needed to clear my head. Stop having nightmares about emails with the subject line ‘See me.’”
She’d saved enough money for one straight shot around the world, touching down in England, India and Tokyo. England and Tokyo because she had friends there. India because, for lack of a perfectly logical reason, she felt called.
When you tell people you’re going to India, you’ll run into a few people who’ve been. They will tell you the same thing: it’s a life-altering experience. I didn’t buy the hype. I should have.
“It’s so completely different. Any sense of control you thought you had over your life, you have to let that go, or the very nature of India will beat it out of you. It’s elemental in that way. And it’s intense. I saw the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life jammed up next to the most horrible things I’ve ever seen in my life. Temples with courtyards of blooming trees, green fields where dozens of women are working wearing bright pink, gold and blue saris. Then young men my age with no legs begging in the train station. Skeletal dogs walking the streets with gaping holes in their rib cages. It’s all there.”
Lauren is the first one to laugh at herself, saying “Yes, two weeks in India is enough to contract giardia and change your life.” But it’s also true. When she came back, she did have clarity.
She never wanted to work in an office again.
But more than that – she never wanted to play by anyone else’s rules again. The only path she wanted to follow was one she forged herself.
“It’s how freelancers are made,” she quips.
In this interview, Lauren talks about how to do marketing in a way that doesn’t play by established rules, how she applies her philosophy to her own website, and why “authentic marketing” is both dangerous jargon and the only way forward.