You DO NOT Have to Do It “Their” Way to Succeed in Business (AKA, Online Business Practices That Kinda Make My Skin Crawl)

I have this annoying habit of reading certain emails, certain websites, and certain articles that I know are going to make me angry, and yet, I read them anyway. It’s almost like I actively want to feel aggrieved.

And I’m not just talking about articles on the terrible death spiral our country has been in since the 2016 election, either. Though I must admit, I read my fair share of those too.

No, I’m talking about the emails, newsletters, websites, and blogs that tell us all the things we “must” do online to succeed in business.

But Do You, Really?

I subscribe to many newsletters and read many blogs about marketing, copywriting, list-building, traffic generation, and multiple other topics about doing business online.

As someone who writes marketing copy for solopreneurs and small businesses, and advises on web marketing, I have to keep up with these things. Heck, I want to keep up with these things. I genuinely find these topics interesting. I’m a nerd like that.

But many of the things on the online business success “must do” list make my skin crawl a little. Which is to say, they would be out of integrity for me to do, but that doesn’t mean they’re inherently bad, or that the folks who employ these tactics are “bad.” They simply don’t jibe with the way I like to do business.

(There are a couple things on that list, however, that I find straight up unethical. I’ve placed an asterisk next to any of those practices on the list below.)

What I want to stress about the following list is that you DO NOT have do any of these things to succeed online. If you want to try some of these tactics, that’s cool too. The point is, you do you. Do what feels right and comfortable for you.  

Don’t feel pressured to do what some so-called “expert” says to do, just because it worked for them. Heck, don’t feel pressured to do anything I talk about on this blog either, for that matter. Unless it makes sense and feels right for you.

(The exception to this is ethical, legit marketing, sales, or business practices that you know would move your business forward, but make you feel uncomfortable or scared, or feel like too much work. We all gotta do that stuff that makes us feel uncomfortable to make progress on our dreams.)

BUT – just because some online “guru” says you must use push notifications, or do a retargeting campaign, or buy Facebook ads, or “invest in yourself” by joining their program, or do this or that “hack,” doesn’t mean you’ll fail if you don’t.

It absolutely, positively, does not mean you’ll fail if you don’t.

Online Business Practices That Make My Skin Crawl

#1: Calling people who teach online “gurus.” In my mind, a guru is a spiritual teacher or guide (yes, I know a word can have more than one meaning, and yes, I know I used the word “guru” above.) The word has been overused to the point of becoming a giant cliché to describe those hawking their wares online, and has therefore become meaningless.

#2: Light bullying and/or shaming, disguised as a “sales technique,” i.e., when people selling their courses or programs tell you if you don’t invest in their program that you’re not committed to investing in yourself, or that when you say you can’t afford it, you really can, it’s just that you’re not prioritizing your success. Or you’re afraid of success. Or failure. Or digging in and doing the work. Or a handful of other lame BS.*

This kind of sales “tactic” always strikes me as light bullying, or at the very least, light shaming. Which it is. It’s also the height of privilege and arrogance. If you tell a single parent with $27 in their bank account and no other financial resources to draw upon that they just don’t want success bad enough, I mean, C’MON. WTF?

Sure, there are times we tell ourselves we can’t afford something when in fact it’s just not a priority us for right now. I get that fear, not affordability, sometimes keeps us from doing things that would be good for our businesses. That dynamic exists.  It’s happened to me.

On the other hand, there were times early on in my business when I wanted to invest in a course or program, yet only had enough in my bank account to pay that month’s bills. And shelling out $600 or $2200 or $3600 (all amounts I’ve paid for training and courses) would have meant I couldn’t pay for the really important things that month, like rent, or health insurance. And yet, if the copy on the course creator’s sales page is to be believed, I just didn’t care enough about my success, or believe in myself, or want it badly enough.

When I send a sales email for my own services, I say something along the lines of, “If this is right for you, great! I’d love to work with you. And if it’s not the right time, no worries.” I often say things like, “there will be no arm-twisting to get you to buy.” What I don’t do is try to make someone feel in any way “less than” if they don’t want to buy, have other priorities, or simply don’t want my thing, whatever it is.

#3: The language often used to describe potential clients and customers. For example, referring to real, live, human beings, with thoughts and feelings and wishes and hopes and dreams and fears as “leads,” “prospects,” “conversions,” or similar. Now I’ll admit, I’ve used the words “leads” and “prospects” in my blog posts and in my weekly newsletter from time to time. I wish I could say I hadn’t. But I haven’t done it with any real frequency, and not in a long time, once it started to get under my skin how dehumanizing it felt to refer to flesh and blood people that way. I typically use the term “potential clients” or similar.

What I find truly heinous though, is blog posts with titles like, “Best ways to push prospects down the marketing funnel.” Really? I don’t want to push anyone anywhere, and especially not “down the marketing funnel.”

In another example of language I find troubling, a recent email from a successful copywriter I respect and admire kind of floored me by talking about how people with “unrelenting standards” are often “easy prey for good salesmanship” due to their competitive nature. That’s more than a little distasteful.*

I don’t think of the people who might be interested in my services as “prey.” They’re either right for what I offer or not, and if not, that’s totally cool. I’m not on the “hunt” for folks who might be an easy mark, and I would hate to feel like someone became a “casualty” of my sales campaign. Goodness gracious.

I’m sure there are plenty of A-list marketers and copywriters who would laugh at my naiveté or unwillingness to go aggressive, or to use tried-and-true copywriting and sales techniques like the ones described above, but that’s ok. I do what feels right for me, and you can do the same.

#4: Push notifications on websites. Ok, ok, call me too sensitive. I know some people love to receive push notifications, but when I’m on a website and that little notice appears at the top of the site asking me if I’d like to receive “push notifications,” I instantly click no. [While thinking, “No, no, hell no, not in a million years, NOOOO!”] I think it has something to do with the word “push.” Language is powerful, my friends. If were called something less aggressive, like “updates” or similar, it wouldn’t bother me.

#5: Retargeting Campaigns, otherwise known as being stalked relentlessly, unceasingly, and annoyingly all over the internet by a marketer/website owner whose site you may have visited once, in a brief moment of curiosity, which has forever doomed you to seeing their ads all over the internets.

Here’s a more “official” definition of retargeting from Moz.com: Retargeting is “a form of marketing in which you target users who have previously visited your website with banner ads on display networks across the web.”

Let me just say there are many people online I respect and admire who use retargeting. Which is fine for them, but it’s just not my cup of tea. It feels predatory, aggressive, and a little desperate. Like a party guest you made pleasant conversation with for two minutes, who then follows you around the rest of the night at said party, butting into your conversations, invading your personal space, and otherwise attaching themselves to you like a barnacle. Maybe, even, asking for your number, though you are clearly not interested, and following you out to the parking lot when you leave. You just can’t get away from this leech.  All because you expressed the tiniest bit of attentiveness during your initial conversation. But you were just being polite. Yep, that’s what retargeting feels like when it’s being “done” to me.

#6: Overly aggressive/demanding or trying-too-hard-to-be-provocative email subject lines.  I’ll admit it, I don’t like being told what to do. So when I see a subject line that reads “Urgent, open up!,” I will not. Unless it’s from my doctor, an email with a subject line like that always gets an instant delete from me. Because your course or program or sale is going away at midnight tonight doesn’t rise to the level of an emergency; I wouldn’t even consider it “urgent.”

Ditto, subject lines like, “You’re not going to like this email.” My first thought is, “Good, I can delete it then!” And then I do.

#7: Countdown timers. Again, there are people online I adore, whose products and programs I’ve happily purchased, who use countdown timers on their sales pages and in their marketing emails. They work. Yes, I know you need to use urgency to get people who could really benefit from your program off the fence, blah, blah, blah, I know people tend to procrastinate until the last possible moment, blah, blah, blah. But they’re just not my jam. And there are other ways to communicate that an offer is going away, by, for example, saying the offer is going away.

#8: List posts. Yes, yes, yes, I know they still work to a degree. Heck, some people have even made a big name for themselves online and gotten a 6-figure book deal out of writing what boils down to list posts. All good. I’ve written what might be considered a “list post” on this blog a few times. But I’d never want to make a habit of it, as it can feel derivative and cliché.

#9: “Hacks.” Am I the only one tired to near death of “hacks?” Hack this, hack that. Marketing hacks, growth hacks, content hacks, copy hacks, conversion hacks. I’m weary just writing this sentence. Make it stop. [By the way, Paul Jarvis wrote an excellent article about the practice of growth hacking called, “I don’t wanna grow up to be a growth hacker.”]

#10: The white maleness and tropes of online marketing. Hoo boy. This is a BIG topic, and deserves a fully dedicated blog post all its own. In fact, I’ve already started writing it. So I’ll leave elaborating on this one for another day.

Filters

When it comes to online marketing and business practices, I often think of those people and businesses online I adore, respect, and admire, and how they do things. And I might use those people and businesses as a filter when considering a tactic or technique I want to try.

The top three that come to mind for me are Ash Ambirge [The Middle Finger Project], Alexandra Franzen, and Danielle LaPorte. They all have wildly successful businesses, yet none of them employ any of the practices above.  Which is one of the reasons I love ‘em so.

The bottom line is, you can do things your way, ignore all the tactics, techniques, “hacks,” and whatnot online marketing “experts” tell you you must do, and still be successful. Wildly so. And at the end of the day, still walk away with your integrity and dignity intact.

 

Some Notes on Determination

Determination.

Sometimes it kicks in at the exact moment you need it.

I surely would have given up on my business this year without it.

In fact, I almost did.

The last eighteen months around here have been wildly challenging, confronting, and just dang difficult. Most of it I can’t share publicly, but suffice it to say that I find it miraculous, given all that’s transpired, that I’m still running my solo business and haven’t voluntarily checked myself into Butner.

That series of events, combined with a recent slow business month, had me convinced I should seriously consider chucking the business altogether and go get myself a . . . gasp . . . j-o-b.

You know, consistent bi-weekly paycheck, employer paid health insurance, paid vacay, a team of colleagues to interact with, opportunities to advance, the whole nine.

Is Getting a 9-5 Really the Answer?

I thought about it and I thought about it, and finding a 9-5 job in the copywriting and digital marketing field felt like the best decision I could make under the circumstances.

I was exhausted; I felt like I simply didn’t have the energy to hustle in my business the way I wanted/needed to, and work out the stuff going in my personal life at the same time.

So I started spending 4-6 hours of my precious business time each week job searching online, researching companies, writing kick-ass cover letters, tweaking and polishing my resume, and sending said resume for jobs I thought I was a great fit for.

Lo and behold, I got an interview pretty quickly after I set this in motion. With a big, global company, for a copywriter/editor position I would have loved to have. With a nice salary, regular paycheck, and good benefits. Etc.

Can I tell you how excited I was?!?!

Wow, I thought, this could be a dream come true! The answer to my prayers! Working with a team again, instead by myself at the dining room table most days! Knowing exactly how much I’m going to earn! Direct deposits into my bank account twice a month! Relying on someone else to make all the work-related decisions!

I really, really want this, I thought. This would be absolute bliss, I thought.

You know what happened?

My car broke down on way to interview, no kidding. Still, I was only four minutes late. I called my HR contact and the person I was interviewing with, and they were both kind and understanding about it.

Alas, I must not have sold my candidacy convincingly enough, because they didn’t offer me the position.  It’s been long enough now that I know I am never hearing from them.

Initially, I was disappointed. Not devastated, but genuinely disappointed.

(And after I spent all that dough on a new haircut, highlighting my hair, new shoes for my interview outfit, and so on. Ah, well, these things happen, no?)

But This Was Good. This Was Exactly What I Needed.

After my 9-5 flirtation, and the initial sting of rejection of the big, successful, global company deciding not to hire me, I did a whole, whole lot of thinking.

And soul-searching.

And journaling.

And inspiration-seeking.

I binge-listened to podcasts. I read dozens of blog posts. I sought out my favorite business people online, and read and listened to every story they wrote or told of overcoming great odds to get where they are. If I’d ever bought a course from them, I went back through their course material.

I asked myself if giving up on my business was really the answer.

I wrote a question in my journal, “What do you really, truly want? If your business could look a different way, would you stick it out?”

After a week or two of what often felt like self-indulgent navel-gazing, I started to feel better. Motivation and inspiration began to creep back in. Just a little at first, then more as the days passed.

My determination kicked in.

I made a promise to myself to go all out this last quarter of the year, to really, truly give KDH Ink all the love, devotion, strategery, focus and commitment I can possibly muster. To work harder than I’ve ever worked, or at least smarter, if harder isn’t the answer.

To get out of my comfort zone and do things I’ve been putting off for far too long because I don’t feel “ready.” To finally release a small course or other product/program. To go after a couple of dream clients I’ve been wanting to work with. The list is long and I won’t bore you with it here, but there is a list. Because I love me some lists.

Then There Was This Wealth Mindset Book . . .

It just so happened that while I was in the navel-gazing phase around my business, I was reading Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, at the same time.

(Highly recommended, by the way, especially if you like a sense of humor and fun stories of mild debauchery served up with your wealth-attaining advice. The book is both practical and funny, and you can’t beat that combination when it comes to finance/personal development advice, which is often chock full of platitudes and greasy earnestness.)

What she has to say around determination when it comes to improving your finances also applies to business. Bigly.

I read the passage below over and over again, and decided to adopt it as my business rallying cry for 4Q 2017.

I’m going to share some Sincero’s thoughts on determination here. Just replace “desire to get rich” and other money talk with “desire to create the business you love,” and you’ll get the idea.

(If you’re sensitive around the whole idea of “getting rich” and think it’s shallow, selfish, or corrupt, you might want to skip this part.)

On page 141-143 of the book, Sincero says: “Deciding to get rich means you put that decision above all else (except doing illegal, amoral, revolting things for money, of course). You need to be ruthless with yourself because you’re not only growing a new moneymaking mindset, you’re battling a whole lot of subconscious beliefs about money that you’ve never faced before. Any chink in your armor will offer your old conditioning an opportunity to take over and steer you off course, which it will do so quickly you won’t know what hit you.”

You can’t, according to Sincero:

  • Be weird about the fact that you not only desire to get rich, but that you’re going to focus everything you’ve got on making it happen.
  • Make sure everything is perfect before starting.
  • Be precious about getting rid of all the distractions in your life.
  • Whine about how little time you have or how nobody around you is supportive or that you’re already working forty hours a week, how the hell am I supposed to do more?
  • Need to know exactly where you’re going before moving forward.
  • Get advice from people who aren’t farther along than you are.

To all that, I say, yes, yes, and YES. OMG, yes.

All very good advice to implement in your business.

I would love to wrap this up neatly with a bow and tell you my exact plan for 4Q 2017, but I’m still working that out.

What I do know is that somewhere in the last few weeks, a mighty determination came roaring back.

I’m ready to get hyper-focused on my business again and kick 4Q’s arse. 

 

Would You Rather Push a Boulder Uphill with a Feather, or Nail Down Your Compelling Marketing Message?: A Question for Creative Business Builders, Solopreneurs and Small Business Owners

Let’s go way, way back in Internet years to late 2011/early 2012.

I was just bringing my writing business online, and was excited as all get out to finally launch my website and start selling my services on the World! Wide! Web! Yee-to-the-haw!!

I’d been helping clients with marketing copy, content, and other marketing initiatives for years; going live with my website would finally make it legit and “official.”

Ah, the rainbows and unicorns of those halcyon early days! The harp-playing angels on fluffy white clouds when I thought of the possibilities! The opportunities! The freedom! The revenue!

And yet.

By the end of 2012, I was experiencing one of the most frustrating, maddening, and exasperating periods of my business. I was exhausted and on the verge of giving up.

I’m talking tear-inducing, anxiety-producing, hair-pulling frustration, and the occasional to-the-hell-with-this-here-business-thing-if-it-has-to-be-so-hard crying jag alone in my apartment, while my friends were out doing “normal” things like going to dinner, or the movies, or out for beers and live music on a Saturday night.

Pushing a Boulder Uphill with a Feather

It wasn’t that I didn’t have any clients. I just didn’t have enough clients, and certainly not enough of the right kind of clients.

I wanted to serve creatives who were doing interesting things in their business who valued my expertise, and had an actual budget for marketing and copywriting. Yet I was attracting clients in all kinds of random, non-creative industries, many of whom were looking for bargain-priced services, and who didn’t always appreciate the value (and necessity) of persuasive writing/copywriting to their business success.

If you provide one-on-one services in your business, you know how frustrating it can be to work with the wrong kind of clients. Good people, just the wrong clients. Ahem.

On top of that, I was spending hours upon hours producing weekly content for blog posts, newsletters, and social media, yet it didn’t seem to be moving the needle. My email list growth was nearly stagnant, and I wasn’t faring much better in the attracting-the-right-kind-of-buyers department either.

And when I doubled down and worked even harder and longer producing still more content, thinking maybe “more” was the answer?  Nope, still no real change.

It was like pushing a boulder uphill with a feather.

[I covered this fun time in much greater detail in a 3-part blog series from 2013 called Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?]

Then It Dawned on Me . . .

In case clicking over to read that 3-part series is not in the cards for you time-wise, I’ll give you the short version of my epiphany here.

My big mistake, and why I wasn’t getting the results I wanted was three-fold:

#1: I didn’t know who my ideal client/target audience was and what they struggled with, #2: I wasn’t expressing how I was different from others who offered a similar product or service, and #3: I wasn’t making an emotional connection with my ideal clients. (You have to do the first two to be able to pull off the third).

The problem was my marketing message. Or lack of one, to be more precise.

That’s when nailing down and conveying the right marketing message to the right audience became my mission. I was NOT going to give up on making my fledgling business work. No way, no how.

If you read the blog series linked above, you’ll know I eventually worked my way through this exasperating conundrum by figuring out who my target audience and ideal customers were and what they wanted; determining my unique selling proposition (otherwise known as a USP, or what I prefer to call your “meaningful difference”); and using that information in all my content, copy, marketing, and social media, etc., to attract and make an emotional connection with my right people.

Once I did that, things started to improve. Bigly. I got more client inquiries. My email list started to grow. I started getting booked out with projects I loved working on, with clients I loved working with. I started earning more.

[By the way, I’m teaching a course for wedding, portrait, and lifestyle photographers later this year about how to do exactly this, based on my own experience + the work I’ve done with my photographer copywriting clients, helping them nail down their own marketing message.]

To be clear, the process of determining and implementing a marketing message that attracted the right audience took time. Things improved when I got clear on who I wanted to serve and what they wanted, but there were still adjustments to make and ideas to tweak.

Still, I started to see better results almost immediately, which gave me the motivation to keep going. And that was huge for me. It’s what kept me from giving up.  

That’s how it is in business – as you learn more about your ideal audience, you fine tune. Then learn more, fine tune more. Even now, several years in, I’m still fine tuning my understanding of my audience and how to best serve them, and adjusting my messaging, my marketing, and my offers accordingly.

What You Can Do Next

Whatever stage of business you’re in right now – just getting started, three years in, exhausted and ready to give up, or digging in your heels and declaring, “I’m going to make this work!” –  it’s always a good time to take a long, hard look at your audience and your messaging, and ask, “Am I attracting the kind of clients I want to attract? Am I attracting enough of them? Is my message resonating with the right people in this saturated, overcrowded online space?”

And if not, do what I did. Determine who you want to serve, what they want/need/desire, and what makes you uniquely qualified to serve them, and use those insights in your content, copy, marketing, and everywhere else you interact with your audience, so you can begin to attract and make an emotional connection with your right people.

Imagine the possibilities when you do that.  It might just be what your business needs to turn the corner and start feeling joyful to work in again.

Just don’t give up too soon.

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If you want immediate feedback from a professional copywriter and marketer on your website copy, customized-for-you answers to your top copywriting challenges, and clear ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients, then check out my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session right over here.

How to Stop Whining and Enjoy the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Out of Your Unexpected Downtime

(Image: Opening of new Forsyth County Central Library, Winston-Salem, NC. One of the many experiences I got to enjoy during my recent downtime.)

This week I basked in the giggly glow of spending three glorious days slap in the middle of an ordinary work week with my best friend of 30+ years.

Yep, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week was ours to do with just as we pleased.

Mind you, this mid-week downtime was not planned, not part of a staycation, and not, if I’m honest, exactly what I wanted, at least not initially.

In fact, it was creating all kinds of stress for me.

See, I did the thing you’re never, not-in-a-million-years-E-V-E-R, supposed to do as a copywriter/marketer/web strategist for hire – I didn’t market myself near enough during all those months I was up-to-my-eyeballs busy with client work.

In fact, for the last few years I’ve been blessed to have enough client inquiries from folks who found me through my website, that my project schedule has been full to the gills for a very long time.

During that time, I haven’t had to actively market or promote myself, other than sending an email to my subscribers 2-3 times a year to announce a special or a new service.

(Ah, the magical appeal of nailing your marketing message, and having a website, blog, and newsletter that conveys it. These things have served me so, so well.)

But then it happened – a client who provided 25% of my monthly income mysteriously went AWOL with no explanation (never, ever, and I mean EVER, work with a client without the benefit of a contract, no matter how honest, above-board, and ethical they seem. Because when they decide, inexplicably, that you are entirely disposable, you will be left scratching your head while nervously regarding the moths flying around in your bank account).

Then my longest”-term client, who I’ve been working with for seven years, had very little work for me in August. And to compound the problem, I was coming to the end of two big one-off copywriting projects right around the same time.

Wherefore, oh wherefore, my usual monthly income?

‘Twas my fault though, so I cannot complain. Can I?

The Silver Lining

Alas, this late August downtime, as stressful and unwanted as it initially was, allowed me to spend three glorious days and nights with my best gal pal who lives 40 minutes away in the next town over, going out to dinner, enjoying flutes of bubbly, savoring a couple of glasses of a most delicious Pinot Blanc from the Willamette Valley, and imbibing a refreshing beer or two (not all on the same night, ha ha).

Also, eating cheeseburgers two nights in a row, watching many episodes of Arrested Development while laughing our fool heads off, scarfing down Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream, and eating these luscious things called “cake bars,” from a beloved local bakery.

There were many long conversations about subjects both serious and silly, lunches out in the middle of the day (this was a revelation to me, since I usually wolf down avocado toast while working on client projects during lunch), a visit to the gorgeous, newly renovated public library in town, and dinner and a movie (“The Big Sick” – highly recommended) with popcorn, M & M’s, and real Coke, not the diet kind, on the final night of my visit.

It’s not that I never see my BFF, it’s just that normally when I’m there for a multi-day visit, I sit at her dining room table chained to my computer for 8+ hours or more. And while we spend a couple of hours together in the evening doing fun stuff, I’m always thinking ahead to the next day’s workload, deliverables, and deadlines.

But this visit wasn’t like that. It was like being on vacation. It was liberating and refreshing and full of the kind of quality time I don’t usually get to have with my dearest friend in the middle of the week. And once I let myself lean into it, instead of worrying myself silly laser-focusing on my slow-business-month woes, I relaxed and enjoyed the best three days I’ve had in a long, long time.

It was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.

Now, I don’t have some grand transformation to share (of the “I’ll-never-let-my-business-get-in-the way-of-living-my-life again” variety, because I know that ain’t the case), or an inspirational meme-worthy lesson to impart, but I do know this:

This is what life is for. Experiences. Fun. Downtime. Enjoying your life when you’re busy, and when you’re not. Embracing the middle-of-the-week blessings that come your way, despite said moths flying around in your bank account.

And not whining like a baby about the slower times in business. (Ahem . . . especially when you could have done something to prevent it. Hello, consistent marketing.)

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How to Write a Simple 3-Part Email Marketing Campaign That Sells Your Creative Products and Services in 48 Hours or Less

 

(Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash)

What if there was a way to bring some $$$ into your business ASAP, with a minimal amount of hassle and without spending hours slaving away to come up with a brilliant sales campaign?

There is.

If it makes sense for you (i.e., you have the bandwidth to write a few emails, and a receptive email list you’ve been “romancing” with valuable non-sales content between your sales offers), you can do it with a simple, 3-part email marketing campaign.

This email campaign is not difficult to write, and you can automate the entire process through your email service provider (ESP). I use Aweber, but other email service providers offer the same capability.

Caveat: While this is fairly simple to do, it’s not a magic, “easy button” solution. You have to be willing to spend some time figuring out what your clients and customers would love to have, then writing a handful of persuasive emails to tell them about it.

I’ve done this style of email campaign a handful of times, and found it to be one of the best ways to create a decent bump of revenue in a relatively short amount of time.

How It Works (for e-commerce or service-based offerings)

We all know holidays are a great time to launch a sale or special offer, especially if you’re in the e-commerce space.

You likely get dozens of emails around Black Friday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and maybe even obscure “holidays” like Groundhog Day or Summer Solstice.

And since Labor Day is coming up (depending on when you’re reading this), it’s the perfect time to plan your email campaign:

Determine your offer and nail down the details in early August; draft, then perfect your three emails by late August and get them pre-scheduled into your email service provider; test to make sure it’s all working properly, then launch the email campaign a week to a few days before Labor Day (which is Monday 09.04.17 this year).

BUT – but, but, but –  even if you’re not in the e-commerce space – for example, you sell services, like I do – your business could still benefit from running a 3-part email sales campaign.

Let’s Learn How!

Ok, so here’s what I’m going to do . . .

I’m going to point you to a series of guest articles I wrote about how to do a 3-part email marketing campaign over at the Artstorefronts blog, which will give you an overview of how to implement this if you’re in the e-commerce space.

Then, for those of you who sell services, I’m going to share how I implemented a very similar campaign to sell copywriting packages. You can easily adapt one or the other of these approaches – e-commerce or service-based – to sell your own creative products or services.

Now – whether you sell art, products, or services, I highly recommend you read (or skim – a couple of them are pretty dang long) the blog posts at the Artstorefronts blog first, so you can get a good sense of the 3 emails you’ll need to write.

In those posts you’ll find info on:

:: How to run a holiday email marketing campaign [works for non-holiday promotions as well] – how many emails to send, when to send them, and importantly, examples of subject lines and body copy, so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

And no, you don’t have to follow every single thing suggested in those posts for this to work.

I used a version of the 3-part email campaign loosely based on the e-commerce model explained on the Artstorefronts blog to sell my copywriting packages, and I sold out of all the spots I had.

Check Out the Email Marketing Guides at Artstorefronts Here:

(Each of these posts will open in a separate window so you can stay on my blog and read the rest of this post.) 😊

Valentine’s Day Email Marketing Guide for Artists 

Mother’s Day Email Marketing Guide for Artists 

Father’s Day Email Marketing Guide for Artists 

If You Sell Services

Ok, if you headed over to the Artstorefronts blog and read one or more of those posts, you’re now familiar with the overarching idea behind the 3-part email campaign, so I won’t go into more detail here about the whys and wherefores.

What I will do is explain how to adapt the e-commerce campaign you just read about to selling services, by sharing details of my recent email campaign.

I used the 3-part email sales campaign to sell a special copywriting package: website Home page copy + a compelling tagline. I made 5 packages available (because that was all I could fit into my summer project schedule), and ran the special for 48 hours.

My goal was to sell 5 packages within the 48-hour window. I sold all 5 within 24 hours, then, before I could send an email to my list to alert them there were no more spots available, I sold one more package, for a total of 6, which generated $2988 in revenue.

This was all from just one email, when I had planned to send three. Which is proof that a compelling offer + an engaged email list + a real, true, limited supply of something (i.e., none of that “fake scarcity” b.s.) can work really well when it comes to selling via email.

Let’s break down why I got these results:

#1: It was a special price. My standard fee for a Home page is $549, and for a stand-alone tagline, $297, for a total investment of $846. I made this package available for just $498 during the 48-hour sale period.

#2: I let folks get started for a down payment of just $150 (instead of the standard deposit, which is usually 50% of the total project fee).

#3: I let folks pay the rest of the investment in two installments of $174 each, spaced 30 days apart, which made things even easier on the wallet.

#4: The deal was available for a limited time, for just 48 hours, or when 5 spots sold, whichever came first.*

(*I kind of messed that up. Keep reading for details.)

#5: And, this is important – I’ve established a good relationship with my email subscribers over the years. I don’t make that many sales offers, generally 4-5 per year at most, and I send out really valuable copywriting and marketing advice each week without asking for anything in return. I don’t pummel my subscribers with sales offers, in other words.

The Emails I Sent

The thing I messed up?  Not mentioning in the first email that when the five spots were sold, OR when the 48 hours was up, whichever came first, the deal was over.

And I know better, because I’ve done this kind of campaign before. D’oh!!

The emails pasted in below are the actual emails I wrote to sell this offer.

NOTE: I only sent the first email below, because I sold all 5 spots within 24 hours, then an additional spot before I had a chance to let folks know all the spots were taken.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: I’m sharing these emails so you can model them to do your own email sales campaign, but don’t copy them verbatim. That would not be cool. Put your own unique spin on them based on your personality, writing style, and service offerings.

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Email #1

Subject: 48 Hour Flash Sale on client-attracting Home page copy + tagline

Planned Send Date: Weds 05.31.17; 10:45 a.m. EST [This is the first email; it generated 6 sales.]

Hey there,

Hope you’re having a fantastic Wednesday!

Depending on how long you’ve been one of my email subscribers, you may or may not know that 2-3 times a year, I make a special offer on my website copywriting services exclusively for my email list.

This special offer is for email subscribers only, and not something I share on social media or mention anywhere else.

And guess what? It’s that time of year!

I ran the Get Your Client-Attracting Home Page Copy + Compelling Tagline special last fall and it was a BIG hit.

I’ve gotten lots of new email subscribers since then, so it’s time to roll it out again!

I’ve created a super-secret, hidden-from-the-general-public page on my website to tell you all about it at the link below.

So if you want to get the hands-down most important page of your website written by a copywriter with over 16 years of experience, and you want to get it at a very special price, go on over and check out my Summer Special Offer at the link below.

Because not only is there a special price, but there’s also an awesome payment plan for a limited time. Woohoo!

*This offer will only be available until Friday 06.02.17 at 5:00 pm EST, and I have just 5 spots available.*  [See my mistake here? I failed to mention that the offer would available until I sold all 5 spots OR when the 48 hours was up, whichever came first. Sheesh, Kimberly.]

To get the most important page of your website written so you can finally start getting the results you want, go check it out right here:

Get Your Client-Attracting Home Page Copy + Compelling Tagline at a Seriously Reduced Rate for a Limited Time [This linked directly to my sales page with a simple PayPal “Buy Now” button for the $150 down payment. To collect the next two installments, I sent a Freshbooks invoice.]

Warmly,

Kimberly

P.S. If you have any questions, simply reply to this email and let me know. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

P.S.S. You’ll be getting two more emails about this special over the next two days, so if this doesn’t interest you, just ignore an email from me on Thursday 06.01.17 and Friday 06.02.17, then we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled weekly Tuesday emails, full of copywriting & marketing advice geared specifically to creatives.

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Email #2

Subject: Ending soon: Big savings + awesome payment plan on client-attracting website copy

Planned Send Date: Thursday 06.01.17, 12:45 p.m. [This is the second email I planned to send, but didn’t for the reasons mentioned above. However, I’m including it here for those of you who want a template for creating your own 3-part email sales campaign.]

Hey there,

I know you’re busy running your own empire, so I’ll get right to the point. J

Yesterday I sent an email out to let you know about my Summer Special Offer – a special mini-copywriting package that includes getting your Home Page (THE most important page on your website) + your compelling tagline written, at a deeply discounted price, for a limited time.

In case you missed that email, here’s the important bit:

I’ve created a super-secret, hidden-from-the-general-public page on my website to tell you all about this special offer. So if you want to get the hands-down most important page of your website written, and you want to get it at a very special price, go on over and check out my Summer Special Offer.

Because not only is there a special price, but there’s also an awesome payment plan for a limited time. Woohoo!

*This offer will only be available until Friday 06.02.17 at 5:00 pm EST, and I have just 5 spots available.* 

To get the most important page of your website written so you can finally start getting the results you want, go check it out right here:

Get Your Client-Attracting Home Page Copy + Compelling Tagline at a Seriously Reduced Rate for a Limited Time [This linked directly to my sales page with a simple PayPal “Buy Now” button for the $150 down payment. To collect the next two installments, I sent a Freshbooks invoice.]

If you have any questions, simply hit “reply” on this email.

Warmly,

Kimberly

P.S. If you’d like to see a few examples of web copy I’ve written for other happy clients, check out the writing samples page on my website right here. [This linked to the Writing Samples page on my website.]

P.S.S. You’ll be getting one more email about this special tomorrow, so if this doesn’t interest you, just ignore an email from me on Friday 06.02.17, then we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled Tuesday weekly emails, full of copywriting & marketing advice geared specifically to creatives!

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Email #3

Subject: Ends Today: $348 savings + payment plan on copywriting package

Planned Send Date: Friday 06.02.17, 2:00 or 3:00 pm [This is the third email I planned to send, but didn’t for the reasons mentioned above. However, I’m including it here for those of you who want a template for creating your own 3-part email sales campaign.]

Hello & Happy Friday!

Here it is, your final reminder about the Client-Attracting Home Page Copy + Compelling Tagline special offer.

If you want to get the hands-down most important page of your website written, and you want to get it at a very special price, go on over and check out my Summer Special Offer.

Not only is there a special price, there’s also an awesome payment plan, through 5:00 pm EST today ONLY. That’s in just a couple of hours, and this is the last email about this offer, so if you’re interested, now is the time to take action, my creative friend! : )

To get the most important page of your website written so you can finally start getting the results you want, go check it out right here:

Get Your Client-Attracting Home Page Copy + Compelling Tagline at a Seriously Reduced Rate for a Limited Time [This linked directly to my sales page with a simple PayPal “Buy Now” button for the $150 down payment. To collect the next two installments, I sent a Freshbooks invoice.]

If you have any questions, simply hit “reply” on this email.

Warmly,

Kimberly

P.S. If you’d like to see a few examples of web copy I’ve written for other happy clients, check out the writing samples page on my website right here. [This linked to the Writing Samples page on my website.]

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In a nutshell, the 3-part email campaign looks like this:

#1: Email your list to announce a special offer. Share what’s special about this offer – it’s for a limited time, it’s a percentage off the regular price, it’s a special holiday promotion, it’s your birthday, you’re offering a solid gold baby with every purchase, etc.

#2: Send a second email letting folks know the offer will end soon. Here’s the thing – we’ve all been trained by the multitude of marketing emails we receive each day that the first email about a sale or special offer won’t be the last one, so we often ignore it. Plus, people are so busy, they may not have seen your first email at all.

#3. Send a final reminder email. A few hours to a couple of days before your offer expires, depending on the length of campaign you’re running, remind folks that the special offer is going away; most buyers will buy in the last 24-48 hours. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, we’ve all done it.

And there you have it: a simple 3-part email marketing campaign that sells your creative products and services in 48 hours or less. Yeehaw!

P.S. If you’d like to write your own email sales campaign and want the help of an experienced copywriter and marketer to help you polish and perfect it before you hit “send,” I’m now offering this service. This offering is not on my Work with Me page, and I don’t plan to add it there just yet, so if you’re interested, simply email me at kimberly (at) kimberlydhouston (dot) com with “Email Marketing” in the subject line, and tell me a little bit about your planned email campaign. I’ll reply within 48 business hours with information on next steps. 

Photographers: How to Write Your Website Investment or Packages Page

I recently received an email from one of my lovely email subscribers, a boudoir photographer, asking if I had a blog post or other resources on how to write an Investment page for a photography website.

I didn’t, but I thought that would make a great topic for a blog post, so here it is, my photographer friends! (Many thanks to Ashlee for giving me the idea.)

I know photographers have all kinds of ways of delivering their pricing information: some of you ask potential clients to reach out to request a pricing guide, others of you put detailed information about packages and pricing on your website, and still others say something like, “Packages start at X,” without getting into the nitty gritty investment details until the client reaches out to you personally.

What’s the best way to handle this on your website?  

Let’s discuss.

The First Thing You Need to Do

However you deliver your pricing information, one of the first things you must do is provide a clear path to buy, so your potential clients will see your Investment or pricing info page in the first place.

What does this mean?

A clear path to buy will look different depending on what you sell, and how you sell it.

Let me illustrate with an example:

If you were selling inexpensive sterling silver jewelry in the $20-$30 range, for example, you’d likely have just a couple of steps between the customer finding your website, loving what they see, and clicking on the “Buy Now” button.

That’s because $20-$30 is a relatively inexpensive price point. It’s not a huge investment that someone needs to think long and hard about, consult their significant other about, or weigh the pros and cons of.

They also don’t have to check 20 other websites to see what else is out there in the same genre of thing they’re getting ready to fork over their dollars for before they make a buying decision.

All they need to feel comfortable purchasing is a clear picture of the jewelry, a compelling product description and/or product size & specs, info about the return policy, and a readily available “Buy Now” button.

Those elements are likely already on the page they’re viewing the jewelry on, so the path from landing on the website to the actual purchase is mostly frictionless.

That’s an example of a clear path to buy.

If, on the other hand, the potential jewelry customer encounters obstacles – they have to search high and low for the return policy, or the product specs, or delivery info, or the “buy now” button – they will leave that website faster than green grass through a goose, because there are at least a thousand other websites out there selling nearly identical sterling silver jewelry at the same price point where the path to buy is simple and clear.

Implementing Clear Path to Buy on Your Photography Website

Why all this talk about a clear path to buy?

Because unless you provide a clear path to buy, your potential clients aren’t likely to stick around your website long enough make it to your Investment page. 

I want you to really think about this, and how it applies it to your photography business.

With photography, the path to buy is different than our silver jewelry example, of course, because the investment is much larger.

There are more steps involved in making a sale, more personal attention required, more wooing of the client necessary, and therefore a greater need for persuasive client communication.

It needs to be crystal clear and super-easy for the potential client to take the initial steps in your sales process – from the second they land on your website and decide they’d like to learn more, to filling out your contact form or emailing you for more information – or you may lose them.

If there are obstacles between your potential clients’ desire to learn more about your services & pricing, and actually getting that information, they’ll likely move on the next website in that long list of at least several dozen other photographers who do what you do that came up when they googled “wedding photography Cincinnati” or “Austin portrait photography,” or whatever search term they used to find you.

Don’t give them a reason to do that by putting obstacles in their way. Make sure the path to buy on your website is so easy a caveman could figure it out, so your potential clients can easily and intuitively find and read your Investment page.

Ok, you understand the importance of a clear path to buy. That’s the first step.

How to Write Your Investment Page

Now that you’ve laid out a simple and intuitive path for your ideal clients to your Investment page, what should go on this page?

This assumes, of course, that you share the details of your photography packages on your website, which is what I recommend.

I know there are photographers (and other service providers) who would disagree, but having pricing information on your site weeds out those who can’t afford your services, and saves you from having to field inquiries from them.

It pre-qualifies the inquiries you do get, which is better for everybody.

This is how I do it on my website. Which means I generally don’t get emails from folks who have a tiny budget for copywriting and marketing services. There’s no long, drawn out, back-and-forth between me and the potential client only to discover several emails or conversations in that I’m not in their budget, after all.

If you don’t want to share the details of your pricing info on your site, you can simply say “Packages start at X,” so potential clients have some idea what to expect.

An Easy, No-Fuss Investment Page Template

Just so we’re on the same page here, I’m going to share one possible template you can use.

There are many ways to write what is essentially the “sales page” for your service offering – and that’s what your Investment page is, by the way, a sales page for your service. (If you Google “how to write a website sales page,” you’ll find 18,100,000 results. Have fun!)

What follows is NOT the be-all, end-all, “you must do it this way or you will fail” Investment page template.

What this template IS, is a very basic, very simple way to write your Investment page so it’s more client-attractive & effective than simply slapping up your prices and calling it a day. It’s straightforward and quick to knock out, and you don’t have to be a copywriting ninja to make it work.

You can get this handled in an afternoon, then when you have the bandwidth and the funds, you might want to take a basic copywriting course. You can find them online for not a lot of money. (If you’re doing any amount of business online – and if your website is meant to generate client leads, then you’re doing business online – you’ll want to learn the basics of copywriting.)

Here’s the template in a nutshell:

  • A Headline That Makes an Emotional Connection with Your Ideal Client
  • Short Client-Focused Paragraph or Bullet Points
  • Your Package Details and Pricing Information
  • Social Proof/Testimonials
  • A Call to Action (including an opportunity for folks who aren’t ready to commit to a consultation to reach out to you for more information)

Start with a Headline That Makes an Emotional Connection with Your Ideal Client

First things first – you must know who your ideal clients are and what they desire in order to write compelling headlines (and to write the rest of your website copy too, of course).

It’s not within the scope of this blog post to go into detail about how to write headlines. You can find many, many headline formulas and templates with a quick Google search. If you want to check out the detailed blog post I wrote on this topic, you can do so from the live link right here in this sentence. : )

Short Client-Focused Paragraph or Bullet Points

Next you want to have a short client-focused paragraph or bullet copy that speaks to your ideal clients and what they want. The goal is to grab them by the eyeballs by demonstrating that you understand their fears, hopes, dreams, desires and goals related to the kind of service you provide.

You want to warm up and romance your potential clients before you start throwing prices at them. Otherwise it’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date.

Keep in mind, you are writing this page, like all your website pages, using client-focused copy. That bit is very important.  Write your website copy to address your potential clients’ needs, hopes and desires.

To see examples of client-focused headlines + first paragraphs I’ve written for creative clients, check out the “Web Copy for Creative Businesses” category of my writing samples page.

There’s only one true “sales page” there, but the principal in each example is the same: a client-focused headline + client-focused paragraph or bullet points BEFORE you introduce what you have to offer. Most of the writing samples in my “Web Copy for Creative Businesses” model that.

Your Package Details and Pricing Information

If you already have your package and pricing information on your website, it’s simply a matter of adding the other elements I’ve outlined here before and after your pricing info where appropriate.

Social Proof

Add a “what others are saying” or testimonials section with a few quotes from clients about working with you. This builds trust.

A Call to Action

Create your call to action based on what you most want your audience to do next. In the case of your Investment page, you’ll most likely want folks to reach out to you for more information or to set up a complimentary consultation.

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Here’s an example of call to action copy I wrote for a wedding photographer client a few years ago:

Ready to get started?

I photograph a limited number of weddings each year to ensure you receive the personalized service you deserve.

Contact me today for your no-strings-attached consultation to lock in your ideal date.

[Photographer email address & phone number here.]

Here’s one I wrote for a wedding photographer client more recently:

Want to get in touch?

To schedule a no-obligation consult or in-person meeting to discuss your special day & see if we’re a good fit to work together, please fill out my contact form here. I’ll get back to you within 48 hours during normal business hours.

Or feel free to email directly at [email address], or give me a call at [phone number].

I can’t wait to hear about your wedding plans!

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For Potential Clients Who Aren’t Ready to Book a Consultation

Of course, some people who land on your Investment page are not going to be ready to book a consultation, but you still want to give them a next action to take.

They may be interested in your services, but have lingering questions about your pricing, your process, or if you’re a good fit for them before they commit to a one-on-one meeting or phone conversation.

To accommodate these folks, you’ll want to add a line that says something like, “Feel free to reach out to me with questions about packages & pricing, my complimentary consultation, or how I work. I’ll be happy to help you figure out if we’re a good fit.”

Your potential clients are afraid that when they reach out for more information, they’re going to get a sales pitch, so you want to alleviate that fear as much as you can in your Investment page copy.

In my copywriting business, I tell potential clients we can hop on the phone for a 15-20 minute no obligation conversation as a first step. I let them know that in this call they can share what they’re trying to accomplish with their website, and we can chat about my services and determine if working together makes sense.  That way they know there won’t be a sales pitch. This call is about me and the potential client exchanging information, and that’s it. No pressure, no hard sell.

Here’s that template again in a nutshell:

  • A Headline That Makes an Emotional Connection with Your Ideal Client
  • Short Client-Focused Paragraph or Bullet Points
  • Your Package Details and Pricing Information
  • Social Proof/Testimonials
  • A Call to Action (including an opportunity for folks who aren’t ready to commit to a consultation to reach out to you for more information)

Alternatively, you can write your Investment page like a straight-up Sales Page. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be aggressive or overly “salesy” when writing this copy.

Here are two resources you might want to check out if that’s the route you decide to take:

#1: The Naked Truth Sales Letter Formula. Many very wise and skilled copywriters recommend this sales page template, and I’ve used it myself for my own stuff occasionally. It’s one of the quickest ways to just get something down on paper you can work with to create a good sales page. (The article references writing a “sales letter,” but the principles are the same when you’re writing a sales page/sales message for your website.)

Some of you are going to take one look at that formula and think, “No way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks am I using that model to write my Investment page.” That’s fine, but do yourself a solid and take note of the timeless copywriting principles you’ll find therein.

#2: This is an article written by Amanda Genther called My 8-Step Process for Writing Sales Page Copy. It’s pretty darn good, especially if you’re writing your own sales copy for the first time.

Dos and Don’ts

Let me finish off this long-arse blog post with a few dos & don’ts.

I reviewed many, oh-so-many, wedding, portrait, boudoir, and lifestyle photography websites to see what my photographer friends are up to on their websites to prep for writing this blog post, and noted some good, and not-so-good, practices when it comes to Investment pages.

Here ya go:

:: Do call the page “Investment,” “Services,” “Wedding Packages,” or similar in the navigation menu/button copy. You can call it “Pricing” or “Price List” if you wish, because at least that’s clear, but I think “Investment” works better. The bottom line is, you want people to be able to instantly find your pricing & packages information. It all goes back to the “clear path to buy.”

:: Don’t call it “Details,” or “Information,” because it’s not immediately clear to people that that’s where they’ll find the packages & pricing info.  Remember, you want a smooth sales process, the fewer obstacles, the better.

:: Do make it about your client and their needs.

:: Don’t go on and on about your camera equipment or other tech-related photography stuff on the Investment page. Your potential clients don’t really care about that.

:: If you’re going to tell people to contact you from your Investment page (and you are), do give them your contact info ON THAT PAGE, or paste in the direct link to your contact page at the end of your Investment page copy.

You’d think that would go without saying, but I saw some version of this on several sites I looked at:

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Hello! Thanks for stopping by and checking out my website. I’d love to hear all about your plans for the big day! You can customize any of my photography packages. My base wedding package begins at $3,400, and all packages include image files.   

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And that’s it, end of story.

There was no call to action directing folks to get in touch, and no contact information. You have to scroll back up to the main menu at the top of the website, then click on the “Contact” page nav button to reach out to the photographer. This is an obstacle in the path to buy. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

:: Do tell people about your process and how it works. Many photographers don’t do this, yet most people have never hired a photographer for anything, and are uncomfortable if they don’t have all the information about what to expect. So give them that. You can do this on an FAQ page, and link to the FAQ page from your Investment page with a call to action like, “Want to learn more about my process? Check out my FAQ page here to get all your questions answered!” or something similar.

:: Don’t refer to yourself in the third person, as in, “John is available for weddings worldwide.” It’s off-putting and creates a barrier between you and the potential client. Better to be warm, personable, and approachable by writing your copy in the first person.

:: If you ask folks to email you for pricing information, do say something like, “wedding packages begin at $3200,” or “portrait sessions start at $500,” or similar to give potential clients some idea of what to expect.  You don’t want to waste their time or yours if they have a maximum budget of $2000, and your lowest cost package is $3500.

:: If you do include detailed pricing information on your Investment page, lead with your higher priced packages for price anchoring.

Conclusion

And there you have it. I hope this resource helps you write an Investment page for your photography business that vastly increases the number of high-quality client leads you get.

Resources for Photographers

By the way, I’m launching a budget-friendly course for photographers, 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers, in Fall 2017.

This course will help you determine who your ideal clients are and what your unique selling proposition or “meaningful difference” is, & teach you how to use that information to create a client-attractive marketing message for your photography business that helps you stand out in an overcrowded market, attract & connect with your ideal clients, & get more bookings.

Get on the VIP notice list to find out when the course launches right here.

What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells

magicofthinkingbig image

[EDITING NOTE: This post was originally published in November 2014. Because its topic and principles are evergreen, and because I’ve gotten lots of questions lately about how to write for your ideal clients and how to “paint a picture” with your web copy, I’ve decided to republish it.]

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Wherein we talk about how to create killer copy for your small business website by painting a picture, and I give you an example of how it’s done . . .

So a few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house drinking wine, chatting, and having a gay old time, as the old-timers say.  On the way out the door, I stopped by her bookshelf – I’m a sucker for spying on what other people read – and spotted a book called The Magic of Thinking Big: Acquire the Secrets of Success . . . Achieve Everything You’ve Always Wanted, by David Schwartz, Ph.D.

(Even though this book is a classic published way back in 1959, I’d heard of it; in fact, it was on my mental list of “inspiring books to read soon.”  A mental list which, miraculously, hadn’t been erased by all the booze I drank on vacation last week, or I might never have remembered I wanted to read it.)

While the book is certainly worth reading so you too can train yourself to “harness the power of thinking big,” what I want to talk about today is a specific passage in the book that perfectly describes what your small business web copy needs to do if you want to attract your ideal clients and customers, and that thing is “paint a picture.”

This picture you’re painting with your copy is of your ideal customer’s ideal outcome, and if you do this well, these ideal customers will want to give you money for your products and services. 

Say, wouldn’t that be just swell?

Painting a Picture with Your Web Copy

On page 71 of the afore-mentioned book, the author tells us to “see what can be, not just what is.”  Which is a perfect instruction for small business copywriting.

He illustrates this concept by telling us about a successful realtor he knows.  This realtor is selling lots of unattractive rural property that other realtors in the same area can’t sell on a bet.  How does our realtor do this?  By selling the property not as it is, but as what it can be.

As the realtor states:  “I develop my entire sales plan around what the farm can be.  Simply telling the prospect, ‘The farm has XX acres of bottom land, and XX acres of woods, and is XX miles from town,’ doesn’t stir him up and make him want to buy it.  But when you show him a concrete plan for doing something with the farm, he’s just about sold.”

So here’s what successful realtor guy does:  He comes up with three possibilities for what the farm can be, and sells prospects on one of those three possibilities, fully fleshing out the benefits of owning this farm so the prospect can see in his mind’s eye exactly what an idyllic life he will have once the farm belongs to him, revenue-producing possibilities included.

Keep this technique in mind as you’re writing your own small business web copy.  You want to highlight the benefits of your product or service.  (“Sell a good night’s sleep, not the mattress,” as a famous copywriter once said.)  In our example here, the “XX acres of bottom land and XX acres of woods” are features, not benefits.  And while it may necessary to mention features at some point, remember “facts tell, benefits sell.”

The Realtor’s Painted Picture

In my favorite of the 3 scenarios, our realtor paints a picture of the farm converted into a riding stable.  Why does this work so well?  Because the farm is near a big city, which means access to a large, sophisticated market of eager end users of the riding stable. Our realtor knows that big city residents of a certain income level like to escape to the countryside to enjoy the great outdoors on weekends, and that many of those people like to ride horses.  All he has to do now is sell the potential buyer of the lot on this scenario.

So, instead of selling his prospect on XX acres of bottom land, and XX acres of woods, and is XX miles from town, he shares the compelling vision of a thriving riding stable business, with glossy horses and wholesome couples with disposable income riding off into bucolic nature with their picnic baskets full of expensive artisan cheeses and fine champagne. (OK, I made that last bit up – there is no picnic in the realtor’s painted picture, but there would be in mine.)

Using this method, our realtor says, “Now, when I talk with my prospects I won’t have to convince them that the farm is a good buy as it is.  I help them to see a picture of the farm changed into a money-making proposition.”

Smooth, right?   He is not selling the land, the dirt, the acreage – the features, in other words – but the full-blown dream of a horse farm with a riding stable and beautiful couples riding happily through the trees, which they will pay handsomely to do.

So whatever it is you sell, help your clients and customers see what can be for them, in their particular situation. Show them the payoff of using your product or services by selling them the solution, the results, the vision of what can be.

A Real World Example from the World of Interior Design

Now, let’s look at a real-world example of copy that does not paint a picture from the world of interior design.  Specifically, an interior design business’s “About” page.

Why an “About” page, you ask?  Well, here’s what I see over and over again on interior design websites and blogs:  designers using their About pages to list their education and design credentials, when what they should be doing instead is “painting a picture” of their ideal customer’s ideal outcome, while weaving in their credentials and experience.  Because even in your About page, you want to paint a picture of what you can do for your clients. 

This is a much more powerful way to connect with your prospects on an emotional level, which is key to driving more sales in your business.

(And because I would never want to hold anyone up to ridicule publicly, names and specific details have been changed to protect the innocent in the following example.)

Jane graduated from Parsons with a degree in interior design and a minor in studio art. She is an active member of ASID Carolinas Chapter and the local design community.  She attends many conventions and workshops locally and internationally to stay on the cutting edge of design. Jane makes each project unique for each client and has a fine-tuned ability to work with a variety of interior design styles and settings.  Her signature style combines practicality with sophistication.

Where do I begin?

From a strictly writerly perspective, that copy commits a cardinal sin – that is, it tells rather than shows.  We want to know HOW Jane makes each project unique for each client – show us.  Also, it’s boring.  And thirdly, it talks about Jane, not the client.

When looking at this copy from a “painting a picture” perspective, you can see that, beyond being deadly dull and not really saying anything very useful to the client, it does not, in any way, shape or form, make an emotional connection with the reader/potential client and show them what can be by working with Jane.

Here’s how we might improve Jane’s copy:

You’re one-of-a-kind.  An iconoclast.  The “rules” you follow in life are your own.  Not everyone gets it. And you want your home to be a reflection of your unique perspective.  Your approach to life can’t be replicated on an assembly line, and your home’s interior shouldn’t be either.  

Hi, I’m Jane, an expert in telling your story, your way, through your home’s design. Together we’ll create a truly singular space that boldly expresses your one-of-a-kind personality and translates your unique sensibility into a home that could belong to no one but you. 

My approach to design is less about rigid rules and color schemes and more about translating your personal tastes and preferred lifestyle into a sophisticated oasis that is luxurious, yet livable. The result?  A home that gives you that “I-can’t-believe-I-get-to-live-here” feeling every time you walk in the door.

Jane could add more “painting a picture” copy here, then add information about her training and design credentials.  But she should lead with painting a picture

Now obviously, if I were writing this copy for an actual interior designer copy client, I would meet with said client to get the details about their target audience and their target audience’s needs, wishes and desires so that I could write copy specifically for that audience.

Here the copy I wrote was meant to appeal to a design client who has a strong vision, knows what they want, and wants to work collaboratively with a designer to achieve their dream home design.   The copy would be vastly different if “Jane the interior designer” only worked with Moms on a budget with young toddlers in tow, or a family with teenagers and a grand home on the beach, or empty nesters looking to pare down.  You get the idea.

So that, my friends, is how you paint a picture with your copy.  

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

 

What a Copywriter REALLY Does (How I Work)

In Part One of this blog post, Should You Hire a Copywriter? (The answer may not be as easy as you think), I shared my thoughts on when I think you’re ready to hire a copywriter, and the minimum required “good-to-haves” before you do so. I also shared links to a couple of other articles by well-respected copywriting experts addressing the same question.

In this installment, I’m going to share my process of working with copywriting clients in detail, so you can get a sense of what really goes on, learn more about how copywriters work and what they actually do (it’s SO much more than simply writing), and if you’re wondering, find out why the investment for copywriting can sometimes seem “high” (which of course is relative).

Hiring a Copywriter? Some Things to Consider

Something to keep in mind as you look to hire any kind of service provider is their level and type of expertise. If possible, you want to hire someone who specializes in providing services to your specific kind of business and/or the specific marketing channel you need help with.

For example, I’ve been writing marketing communications copy & content since 2001. I have a background in advertising, PR, sales, and marketing, so I understand the role that marketing copy plays in the bigger picture of business-building as a whole.

Over the last several years, I’ve narrowed my specialization to writing copy for websites and other online communication channels almost exclusively, and almost exclusively for clients who have a creative product or service to sell.

I still write other kinds of marketing copy occasionally [brochures, press releases, blog posts, e-books, case studies, etc.], but I’m mostly focused on online communications – email newsletters, autoresponder sequences, lead magnets, blog articles, etc., and website copy in particular. 

Writing web copy is a specialized skill. In order to write effective web copy that moves your site visitors to take the appropriate actions (for example, signing up for your email list, contacting you for more information about your products or services, setting up a free consultation, etc.), you have to have knowledge of how websites work, how people read and interact on the web, and an understanding of Internet-based content strategy and creation.

If you plan to write your own website copy, that’s fine, just educate yourself first about the differences between web copy and copy/content for other marketing channels. You can’t just throw some old brochure copy you had written once upon a time up on your website, or have your niece who’s an English major write your web copy.

The First Thing I Do When a Potential Client Reaches Out to Me

Not everyone who reaches out will be a good fit. If you’re a service provider too, as many in my audience are, you know this very well.

And as you also know, the pain of ignoring your instincts and working with a client who is not a good fit is not worth the money you made on the project. It’s just not. Life is too short for that nonsense.

And that’s why this first step is so, so important.

Once I hear from someone that they’re considering hiring a copywriter and want to find out more about working with me, I reply with an email telling them I’d love to hear more about their project, and that the first step is what I call a “get acquainted” call.

I also sometimes share the link to my Work with Me page if they haven’t checked it out yet, so the potential client can get a sense of what I do and the investment for my services before we get on the phone.

The “Get Acquainted” Call

The “get acquainted” call is a 15-20 minute no obligation conversation where we briefly look at the potential client’s website together, and I share a few top-of-mind thoughts about copy improvements they can make on their own.

I ask them questions about what’s currently working for them with their web marketing and what’s not, how their web copy is performing, and have them tell me about any big challenges they’re facing with generating clients and new business from their website.

I then ask them to share a few specifics about what they’re trying to accomplish with their website right now, and we chat about my services and determine if working together makes sense.

It’s my policy not to quote prices over the phone, but occasionally I’ll give a ballpark estimate of what the investment will be for the service they’re considering.  Not usually though.

At this point, we’ll end the call, and either one of two things will happen – they’ll need to think about all we discussed and agree to let me know within a few days if they’d like me to write up a customized proposal for the specific copywriting project they’re interested in, OR, they’ll ask me to go ahead and write a proposal for services then.

At this point, there’s still no obligation on either side. However, if I don’t think the client is serious, OR, if they’re not a good fit for whatever reason (say, they’re not far advanced enough in their business yet to drop several hundred to $3-$5K on copywriting when there are other things they need to have in place first), then I’ll share that with them, and ask them to circle back around with me if/when they’re in a better spot with their business.

Not all my copywriting services require a proposal. If a client chooses one of the services on my Work with Me page exactly as is, then there is no proposal phase, the project then moves on to the invoicing and service agreement stage.

The Proposal Phase

If, however, the potential client has a custom project, and is ready to move to the proposal phase, I ask them to give me 2-3 days to do the research and writing required to create the proposal.

Before writing the proposal, I do research into the client’s niche/market and competition, and review their current website thoroughly. I consider everything they shared with me during our initial call about what their challenges are and what they’re trying to accomplish with their website and other marketing outreach, and write a custom proposal based on that information, plus what I feel the best course of action is.

Each proposal includes the following sections:

  • Scope of Work
  • Copywriting Objectives
  • Target Audience Information
  • Possible Objections to Overcome
  • Initial Observations and Recommendations
  • An overview of background/prep work I’ll do before writing the copy
  • Investment (usually includes 3 options for moving forward)
  • Proposed Project Timeline
  • Action Items Needed to Commence Project
  • Next Steps (which includes the date by which I need to know if it’s a yes or a no; I usually ask potential clients to get back to me within 48 hours, or 3 business days at the very most after receiving the proposal. If they need longer than that to make a decision, I know they’re waffling/not serious/not ready for this step financially.)

In the Investment section, I typically give the potential client 3 options for moving forward: a basic option, which consists of exactly what they asked for and nothing more, say, home page copy + a compelling tagline; a mid-level option, which includes everything in the basic option, plus a couple of other copy deliverables I think would benefit them and help their business; and an “all the bells-and-whistles” option, which includes everything in the mid-level option, plus additional copy deliverables that are “nice-to-haves,” along with 2-3 months of strategy consulting, among other things.

To give you an idea of what that looks like, here’s an Investment section of a proposal I wrote in summer of 2016:

INVESTMENT

Option 1: Home page copy + About page copy: $998, with a 50% deposit of $499 upfront, and the remaining balance of $499 due upon project completion.

Option 2: Home page copy + About page copy + Newsletter Signup Landing Page Copy: $1498, with a 50% deposit of $749 upfront, and the remaining balance of $749 due upon project completion.

Option 3: Home page copy, About page copy, Newsletter Signup Landing Page Copy, + 2 Hours of Strategy Consulting to be used within 90 days of project completion:  $1649, with a 50% deposit of $824.50 upfront, and the remaining balance of $824.50 due upon finalization of all copy. (2 hours of strategy consulting at a 50% discounted rate of $75 per hour.)

[I’ve raised my prices since writing this proposal, so if I were providing these copy services today, the investment would be higher.]

I also let clients know that, given my typical project schedule, there will be at least 30 days between project kick-off and project completion, and sometimes as long as 6-8 weeks for bigger projects, which means a minimum of 30 days between paying the 50% deposit and paying the final balance.  I like to share this information with clients so they have it for budgeting purposes, as I find it helps them feel more at ease with the investment.

I have occasionally let people break up the investment into 3 equal installments if that works better for them.

The Proposal Review Call

A proposal review call isn’t always necessary, but if a client needs clarification on anything in the proposal, or just wants to talk it through together step-by-step so they’re crystal clear on each element of the document, the suggested service package, or any other details, we get on the phone and review the proposal together.

Once the client has the proposal, and a review call if necessary, they have 48 hours, or 3 business days at the very most, to let me know if they’d like to proceed. As I mentioned above, if a potential client needs longer than that to make a decision, I know they’re not serious, or they’re not ready for this step financially.

I always try to determine this beforehand, however. I don’t want to spend hours writing a proposal, going back-and-forth over email, and dealing with other “I’m-not-really-serious” waffling actions, only to have the potential client not move forward.

It’s fine for a client to make a decision after reviewing the proposal that they don’t want to move forward, I don’t mind that, but if it took them days and days, and multiple emails, and a phone call or two, and endless, relentless questions to get to that point of no, then that’s a huge waste of my time and theirs.

This is fresh in my mind, because I recently dealt with that very situation, and when all was said and done, I had spent 12+ hours dealing with someone who decided not to move forward.  This person did not respect my time, but I let it happen, so I have no one to blame but myself. That’s no way to run a business, and I’ve learned my lesson. Never again.

Invoicing & Client Services Agreement

Once the client says yes to the proposal, if it’s a custom project (service packages purchased exactly as they’re described on my Work with Me page don’t require a proposal), the next step is invoicing and the client services agreement.

The client services agreement includes a project summary, payment details, the project timeline, information about changes and revisions, cancellation policy, and so on.

I spell out in the agreement that when I say yes to a project, that means I must say no to other projects that come my way, so if the client cancels the project after I have already begun work, I retain the down payment.

The client is paying me to write copy, but they’re also reserving time on my schedule, and I cannot rebook that time if they change their mind.

The Work Begins!

Once the client signs off on the services agreement and pays the 50% deposit, the work begins, woohoo!

At this point I send the Client Intake Questionnaire. It consists of 25 questions about the client’s business, their audience, what sets them apart among others who do similar work (if they don’t know the answer to this, I help them figure it out), who their ideal clients are, their goals for the copy, and other questions designed to help me get crystal clear on their vision for their business, the copy, and the outcomes they want to achieve.

I’ve had so many clients tell me that just the act of filling out the intake questionnaire has helped them gain clarity on the direction of their business, what their competitive advantage is, and what they want to achieve with their marketing and their business overall.

I usually ask clients to return the completed intake questionnaire to me within 3-5 business days. I then go over it with a fine-tooth comb, highlighting anything I need further clarification on, noting concepts and ideas that will help them stand out in their niche, pulling out phrases and ideas I can use in the copy, and generally getting crystal clear on what I call their “big idea,”  – essentially, the answer to the question, “Among all the other _____ [thing they do] out there, why choose _____ [their business]?”

Next comes a phone call to review the intake questionnaire together before I start writing the first draft.

Now It’s Time to Do Research & Other Pre-Writing Prep

In addition to thoroughly combing through the intake questionnaire and reviewing it together with the client on the phone, I also do the following before I begin writing:

  • Review client testimonials and other feedback from previous clients
  • Review current website & website copy
  • Review any marketing collateral the client has used in the past or is currently using
  • Research competition online
  • Brainstorming and concepting to come up with the client’s “meaningful difference,” and what I call the “hook” – the combination of things that set them apart in their niche and that are part of their BIG IDEA, as mentioned above, which is the answer to the question, “Among all the other ______ out there I could buy from, why choose to buy from ______?”

This is an abbreviated list, but you get the idea.

After all the above is completed, I put together what I call the “Core Message Doc.” This document contains information about:

  • The client’s “big idea”
  • The common objections they receive for resisting the sale and how to overcome those objections
  • Information about their ideal clients and unique selling proposition or “meaningful difference,” and how to craft a compelling marketing message using this info so the client can authentically stand out in their niche
  • Voice, tone & other language notes to use when writing the copy
  • Features and benefits of the clients’ products and/or services
  • Values the client wants conveyed in the copy

And so on.

Then and only then do I begin writing.

So when I “write copy,” I don’t just sit down and write. The writing part comes after many hours spent doing other important things first, including gaining a deep understanding of the client’s business and the results the client wants to achieve, AND how I can help them get there. 

The Writing Process

The writing process is fairly standard.

Once the prep work above is complete, I write the first draft and send it to the client for feedback. I give them specific instructions about the kind of feedback I’m looking for, and ask them share anything else they think is relevant for me to know before I write the second draft.

With this first draft, I also include a document called a “Copy Rationale/Explanation of Approach” – this is a separate document explaining in detail why I made the copy choices I did.

Once the client has had a chance to review the first draft and the copy rationale doc, I ask them to put their comments, proposed edits, and feedback in writing on the draft, and send it back to me.

Once I receive this, we schedule a call to review the first draft together before I write the second draft. I like to do this to be sure we’re on the same page about changes that need to be made before writing the next draft.

I then write the second draft and send it to the client with their edits, feedback and suggestions incorporated, and give them the opportunity to give me another round of feedback.

Although I offer 2 rounds of revisions on all copywriting projects, it’s rare that I have to do more than one round of revisions. It’s happened 2-3 times in the last 6 or 7 years, but that’s it.

Once the final revisions are made and the client signs off on the project as “complete & final,” I send the invoice for the 50% balance of the project fee.

Then we hug and do a happy dance, and break out the champagne!

Ha ha, just kidding about that last part. My clients aren’t local, so we don’t see each other IRL, as the kids say. But I would love it if we could! 🙂

Final Thoughts

I hope this article helps you understand why copywriting is so much more than “just writing,” and that good copywriters, in addition to having strong writing chops, also know a great deal about marketing, sales, how to help you stand out and get traction online, and other business-building topics.

We’re not “just writers,” and copywriting is not “just words.”

I will leave you with this, in the words of the great marketer, businessman and copywriting genius John Carlton:

Working with a copywriter is gonna be one of the most time-and-money intensive relationships you have in your business.

Copy is the MAIN ELEMENT in your ability to attract prospects and close them as customers. (Yes, the quality of what you offer matters… but never forget that the Marketing Graveyard is crammed with superior products that died horrible and fast deaths because no one figured out how to sell them.) ~John Carlton

If you think you’re ready to hire a copywriter for your creative business, check out my copywriting services here.

If you’re not quite at that stage yet, but could use some expert advice on your current copywriting challenges, check out the super-affordable Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session here.

Should You Hire a Copywriter? (The answer may not be as easy as you think)

When you’re first getting started in business, putting up your first website, dipping your toe into the vast world of building an audience online and marketing your products and services, creating content and driving traffic to your site, and all the other million and one things you need to do in a day to get your business rolling, you’re most likely in bootstrapping mode and watching every penny.

That’s certainly how it was for me when I first got started.

My Very First Business Investment

I remember the first time I spent $97 on something for my business – a course on how to use Facebook for marketing, I believe it was. It felt like a huge investment at the time. And truth be told, it was, because I hadn’t made any real money yet.

Nervous as my twitchy fingers hovered over the “Buy Now,” button, I felt like I’d jumped off a cliff without a parachute the instant I clicked the button and the $97 wooshed out of my checking account.

I tell you this because in the years since then, I’ve made countless other investments in my business:

:: $2200 for an online business-building program

:: $3600 for a 9-month group coaching program

:: $1200 for a 3-month group coaching program

:: $1200 for a course on course-building

:: $600 on a course about list-building

:: Many other $500 – $1000 investments into various other business-related courses, coaching and programs

:: Plus several one-off purchases of $100 – $500 for books and other resources

But I’ll still never forget that first $97 I spent and the way it made me feel. Like “sh*t just got real – I am really doing this here business thing.”

Which was a very good thing, because it meant I now felt serious about my business; I wasn’t just “playing” at business anymore, and “hoping” it would work. Spending that first $97 created the necessary mindset shift I needed if I was going to move forward and support myself with my copywriting and marketing business.

So, Should You Invest in Your Business by Hiring a Copywriter?

If you’re at the stage where you’ve gotten your business ducks in a row – you’ve launched your website, you have your products and/or services ready to roll, you have at least some idea about who your likely buyers/ideal clients & customers are, and you’re ready to start making some sales, then you may be considering hiring a copywriter or other service provider, and you’re nervous about the investment.

I’ve talked to loads of people over the years who reach out to inquire about my copywriting and/or marketing services. Some are clearly ready to hire a professional copywriter and marketer, and some most definitely are not.

It Can Get Really Confusing, Really Fast

Google “When should I hire a copywriter?” or “Should I hire a copywriter?” or “At what stage of business should I hire a copywriter,” and you’ll find plenty of articles with titles like, “14 Reasons You Should Hire a Copywriter,” “5 Reasons You Should Hire a Copywriter for Your Business,” “Why You Need to Hire a Professional Copywriter,” and so on. [Google returned 10,400,000 results when I did that search. Yikes.]

But the truth is, though these articles make some good points, only you know if you have the dollars to spend, if you’re ready for the kind of services a copywriter provides, and if you have the understanding of what a copywriter actually does.

That last one is really important, because I can tell you that the clients I’ve most regretted taking on over the years are the ones who are confused about what a copywriter does, don’t understand the serious investment of time and expertise a copywriter puts in to get to know your business, your clients, and your business goals so they can write copy that converts web visitors to sales, and who don’t understand that copywriting is a collaborative process that requires time, effort and input from the client side too.

These kind of clients have made my life, if not a living hell, then at the very least, deeply unpleasant during the time I was working with them. Luckily, I have a pretty good spidey sense of who those clients are when they first reach out to me, and steer clear of working with them. But every now and then one slips in, unfortunately.

If I Had to Go Out on a Limb and Say When to Hire a Copywriter . . .

For me the bottom line is, if you have a good idea who your likely buyers/ideal clients & customers are, you’re clear on the benefits your products and/or services provide to your clients, you’ve already proven the need/desire for your products and/or services through the sales you’ve already made, AND – this is important – you understand that hiring a copywriter can be a substantial investment and you understand why that is (i.e., you get that copywriting is about so much more than simply writing), and you have the dollars in your marketing budget to hire a copywriter without creating financial hardship, then by all means, go for it.

These are the minimum required “good-to-haves” before you hire a copywriter, in my book.

Wherein Other People Answer the Question of When Is the Right Time to Hire a Copywriter

One of the best articles I’ve read on whether you should hire a copywriter or write your own copy is Amy Harrison’s  . . . wait for it . . . Should You Hire a Copywriter or Write Your Own Copy?

As Amy points out, if you’ve got more time than money, “you’re already watching your budget, and you have a few hours a week to spare, it’s better you flex your own copywriting muscle.”

Check out the rest of Amy’s article here for six questions you should ask yourself before you hire a copywriter.

Another thing to keep in mind is what kind of copy you need written. For example, I specialize in website copy. I’ve written, and still occasionally write, other forms of marketing communications for clients, but my specialty is website copy.  

What this means is that I have knowledge and expertise in how people interact with online content specifically, what a website must do to move people from browsers, to requests for more info, and to clients and sales, and other web-specific attraction, marketing, and conversion knowledge.  

If it’s website copy you need written and you’re going the DIY route, make sure that you’re learning from someone who specializes in website copy, or if your budget allows, and you meet the other minimum required good-to-haves above, that you hire someone who specializes in writing website copy. There are a lot of us out there.

If you’d like to read one of the most trusted resources online about copywriting and when to hire a copywriter, check out Copyblogger’s 5 Situations That Demand You Hire a Professional Copywriter.

This is one of the best short, wise, and to-the-point articles on when to hire a copywriter I’ve read, and I’ve read A LOT. Also, as I tend to great wordiness in my blog posts (*cough, cough*) I surely can appreciate how much knowledge they pack into this brief blog post.

If you were confused when you first started reading this article about whether or not it’s the right time for you to hire copywriter, but based on what I’ve shared, and what the experts I linked to here have to say, you’ve made your mind up about what you need to do, then good on ya. I’m happy I was able to help.

On the other hand, if you’re even more confused now than when you started reading, leave a comment below, and I’ll reply as soon as I’m able and see if I can help get you on the right track.

Next Up

In Part 2 of this post to be published in March, I’ll share my process of working with copywriting clients in detail, so you can get a sense of what really goes on, learn more about how copywriters work and what they actually do (it’s SO much more than writing), and if you’re wondering, find out why the investment can sometimes seem “high” (which of course is relative).

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If you want immediate feedback from a professional copywriter and marketer on your website copy, customized-for-you answers to your top copywriting challenges, and clear ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients, then check out my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session right over here.

Should You Buy Tim Ferriss’ Latest Book, “Tools of Titans?”

Tools of Titans

(The full title of the book is Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.)

I bought this big behemoth of a book on 12/11/16 and I’m about 475 pages into it.

I’d been reading about it and hearing about it on podcasts for a few weeks when I finally decided to fork over the $28 to make it mine. (You know how it is with book launches these days – they go on for what feels like weeks and months and years on end.)

By the time I walked in to Barnes & Noble in early-ish December 2016 and read through a few pages of Tools of Titans, I decided I had to buy it. (That’s what priming’ll do for ya. It works.)

But wait, let me back up a minute. That’s not exactly how it happened, come to think of it.

The first time I actually saw the book, I picked it up read through the table of contents and the bullet copy on the back cover, thought, “Hmm, never mind,” put it down, and walked away.

I wanted the book, no question, but I was resistant, and here’s why: if my math is correct, of the 112 people in the book Ferriss shares wisdom and insight from, just 14 are women. Of the bullets on the back cover of the book – you know, the copy that’s meant to really sell the thing (so it’s where the – ahem – uber “important” people are mentioned) – there are 14 bullets and only one features a woman.

So it is that most “successful” people come in the male variety in Tim Ferriss world.

I’ll admit, I was disappointed. It confirms what I’ve long felt about many of the male-lead businesses and people I follow online, great though they may be – you’re way more likely to be featured in/on someone’s podcast, website, blog, book, or even in their testimonials or case studies if you’re a man, unless the website, blog, or podcast is woman-owned. I’ve seen it over and over and over again.

If you came here from another planet and took notice of this, you’d think, “Hmm, what constitutes ‘success’ on this planet is for men, defined by men, and about men.”

[As an aside, if you want to read a fantastic piece on this dilemma, far more eloquently written than what I’ve scratched out here, check out Sarah Kathleen Peck’s article, Why We Can’t Keep Having “Best of Entrepreneur” Lists That are Overwhelmingly Male.]

Anywho, back to the book. I bought it despite my disappointment over the underrepresentation of women, so obviously I believe there’s value in it.

Now, if you’re still with me, here’s a brief overview of the book:

The book is laid out in three sections: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, which Ferriss describes as “a tripod upon which life is balanced. One needs all three to have any sustainable success or happiness.” (His definition of wealth is about more than money, it also includes an abundance of time, relationships and other life categories.)

He calls it “a compendium of recipes for high performance,” lessons he’s learned from the 200 world-class performers he’s interviewed on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Among these are writers, actors, comedians, and photographers, so it’s not all hedge fund managers and Silicon Valley people, not that those folks don’t have important lessons to share as well.

The book is made up of distilled wisdom, strategies, tips and tricks from these high-achievers that Ferriss put together for his own use, and only later decided to publish. It’s not just a book of interviews, it’s “a toolkit for changing your life,” according to Ferriss, and many of the lessons he’s learned and applied have indeed changed his life, he says.

And because it’s such a long book (well over 600 pages), Ferriss says to treat it sort of like a buffet, to skip what you don’t feel compelled to read, and read what grabs you. I skipped the entire first section, “Healthy,” and started right in with my reading at section 2, “Wealthy” (page 164). I’ve been reading in order straight through from there though.

(It’s my OCD. I feel like I can’t skip pages and sections now, and once I get to the end, I’ll go back and read the “Healthy” section.)

What I liked:

There’s something here for just about any kind of challenge you might face, as cliché as that sounds.

For example, if you tend to “compare and despair,” Sophia Amoruso (page 376), founder of global clothing brand Nasty Gal and #Girlboss Foundation, says not to be so impressed by the high achievers you admire, because you are entirely capable of doing what they do, and there’s no reason you can’t have the things they have. Despite her massive success, she shares that she still cries sometimes, and doesn’t ever feel like, “I’m done, I’ve arrived.”

Or maybe you have a medical condition, or something else in your life is causing you mental, emotional or physical pain that keeps you from doing all you’d like to do, and your tendency is to complain about it, as much as you’d like not to (been there/still sometimes there).

Tracy DiNunzio (page 313), founder and CEO of Tradesy, who has raised $75 million from investors including Richard Branson, talks about being born with spina bifida and having to undergo several surgeries. She says she tried “complaining and being bitter,” but it didn’t work. Because, she explains, sharing a Stephen Hawking quote (someone with a bigger reason to complain than most people), “when you complain nobody wants to help you.”

She talks about putting herself on a “complaining diet,” because she was thinking and talking about being in pain enough that it caused her life to go in a negative direction. She decides not to say, or even think, anything negative about the situation she’s in. She admits it took a long time and she wasn’t perfect at it, but that replacing the negative thoughts with more positive ones helped get her life moving in a better direction, one where she wasn’t obsessing about what was wrong, which served to lessen the physical pain.

Feeling stuck? Legendary music producer Rick Rubin (page 502) says to start with a very small, doable task. He recounts the story of an artist he was working with who hadn’t made an album in a long time and was struggling mightily with getting anything finished. So Rubin gives him the assignment to write one word in a song that needs 5 lines by the next day. Just one word. This advice resonated with me because I’ve found the “small, doable task” trick great for building momentum in my own work and life when I’m feeling stuck.

Searching for the courage to do something bold? Research professor Dr. Brené Brown (page 586), whose TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” has been viewed more than 31 million times, shares her experience teaching as a public figure despite hurtful online comments and attacks. She realized that if she wanted to live “a brave life,” a life “in the arena,” that yes, she would get her ass kicked, but she chooses to live by the question, “When I had the opportunity, did I choose courage over comfort?” As someone who regularly chooses comfort, this is a lesson I need to ponder. Actually not to ponder, that’s too “comfortable.” I need to implement this, fer cryin’ out loud!

Afraid to be your “true self,” online or elsewhere? Glenn Beck (I know, I know, but bear with me. Page 553), shares some excellent advice, especially appropriate for those of us conducting business online who sometimes hide behind our “real” selves so as not to offend or scare away potential clients or customers.

Beck says, “What I realized . . . was that people are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are. Once you start lying to them, they’re not interested. We’re all alike. So the best advice I learned by mistake, and that is: Be willing to fail or succeed on who you really are. Don’t ever try to be anything else. What you are is good enough for whatever it is you’re doing.”

This is only the second time in the history of ever I’ve agreed with something Glenn Beck said (the other time was some comments he made about Trump), so I’m as shocked as anybody that I’m mentioning him in a blog post. But there it is.

My Favorite Bits

These are my favorite bits, meaning, I’ve actually added these practices to what I call my “Daily Practice,” and do them regularly now:

The Five-Minute Journal, page 146, which consists of a couple of brief morning prompts, and a couple of evening prompts. Each morning I write 3 things I’m grateful for, 3 things that would make today great, and 3 daily affirmations. In the evening, I write about “3 amazing things that happened today,” and “3 ways I could have made today better.” Though I was doing some form of this before, it wasn’t organized, and it wasn’t daily. Now it’s both, and I feel happier. At the end of each week on Sunday night, I spend 10-15 minutes reviewing that week’s journal entries.

Tim’s 8-step process for maximizing efficacy, page 200, which is a list of things he does to make sure he gets stuff done, despite “self-defeating habits and self-talk.” Oh, how I love this, because we all have bad habits, and so do the most successful people we admire. But they still manage to get big and amazing things done, and so we can too.

I won’t share the entire list here, but the crux is: Wake up at least one hour before you have to be at a computer screen; write down 3-5 things that are making you the most anxious or uncomfortable; for each item, ask yourself, “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”; look at only the items you’ve answered “yes” to for that question; then block out 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. [That’s a brief overview.]

I love that he says, “This is the only way I can create big outcomes despite my never-ending impulse to procrastinate, nap, and otherwise fritter away days with bullshit.” Sounds like someone I know very well. Ahem.

And lastly, one of my favorite new practices that came from the book, is wishing for random people to be happy, page 158. What you do is simply randomly identify two people who are standing, sitting, or walking nearby, and wish for them to be happy. Just say to yourself, “I wish for this person to be happy, I wish for that person to be happy.” It’s just thinking, mind you, it’s not saying it out loud.

I’ve done some form of this before as part of my daily practice, but not consistently, and not for a long time now, but after reading this passage in Tim’s book, I sat on my bed and randomly wished for all kinds of people to be happy, even people I don’t much care for, like Trump. AND BOY, WAS THAT EVER DIFFICULT TO DO.

This practice does tend to make me feel happier, and I think it’s because of what Ferriss identifies – it takes the focus off you and your “stuff,” at least briefly. Which is a welcome respite for those of us who tend to live so much in our heads and focus obsessively on all we have to do/be/accomplish/handle, etc.

At the end of the day . . .

Despite my quibbles about the book’s mostly male focus and version of “success,” I’m happy I bought the book, and would recommend it.  

That said, I have to say I agree with Emma Jacobs, who reviewed the book for the Financial Times:

“Halfway through this book, I started to feel battered, like I had been hit by a tsunami of testosterone. I flicked through the book tallying the number of men and women proffering the advice — just over 10 per cent of the interviewees were women. Granted, there are fewer female billionaires — to take his subtitle — but icons and world-class performers? Give me strength. The overall effect is a kind of quantified self, Silicon Valley machismo. And that will appeal to many.”

Though I don’t find “Silicon Valley machismo” compelling in any way, shape, or form, I still found many things to like about this book, and found it worth the $28. 

And there ya have it.