Think your business is not “interesting” enough to stand out online and attract more clients & bookings? That’s where you’re wrong, my creative friend.

I get emails on a fairly regular basis from blog and newsletter readers who tell me they have no idea how to differentiate themselves online.

They understand there are many, so very many, other people online offering similar products and services to theirs, and they know they need to differentiate themselves to be able to attract their ideal clients and get more bookings, sell more art, or get more people interested in checking out their offerings.

But they’re at a loss for just how to do this, declaring themselves and/or their businesses, “ordinary,” “too similar to other businesses out there,” and sometimes even “just not that interesting.”

[The cheerleader in me wants to say, “Don’t say that about yourself, yes you are interesting!!!”]

I mean, of course I get it. (Do you even know how many other copywriters there are out there? Thousands, upon thousands. Upon thousands. That’s a whole lotta copywriters.)

And it’s not just blog and newsletter readers emailing me about this, a few of my clients have also shared that they don’t feel they have anything uniquely compelling to offer to get more traction online with their desired audience.

One of the questions I ask on my copywriting client intake questionnaire is:

Let’s say I turn out to be your ideal client. Could you give me two or three reasons why I should pick you/your business, versus another business with similar offerings?”

I typically get one of two responses:

:: The client understands how their business is different from others with similar offerings, but doesn’t know how to express that difference in their web copy in a way that compels their “right people” to reach out to them about working together.

OR . . .

:: They honestly have no idea how their business is unique in the marketplace, or why anyone would choose to work with them over others with similar offerings.

What I say to blog readers and clients alike is that it’s not usually one big thing that sets you apart, it’s a combination of smaller things, that woven together, make up your “meaningful difference” and help you stand out to the clients you’d most like to attract.

Let’s take me, for instance. I’m a copywriter, one of thousands, as we previously established.

BUT.

:: I work mostly with creatives; and I specialize in writing web copy, mainly. I’m also well-versed in web marketing, so I bring that knowledge to the table too. And I have a background in PR, advertising and sales.

:: Plus, I once studied photography, applied to art school, and got accepted to the photography program at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, which gives me some “street cred” (do the kids still use that phrase these days?) with creatives who want to hire me.

All of those elements taken together make up my “meaningful difference,” which becomes part of my compelling marketing message. And that compelling marketing message is what continues to get me clients who are just right for my services.

Now, there’s a wee bit more to it than that, which I’ve written about at length before. You can check that out in this 3-part series on the tale of my 3 business-repelling web marketing mistakes and how you can avoid them

But what I want to say to you today is that you DO have something unique and compelling to offer: your experience, background, founder story, talents, skills, gifts and abilities; the type of clients you work with and the kinds of products and services you offer, all combine to make up your meaningful difference and your compelling marketing message.

So don’t tell me you/your business is boring, or that you’re “just not that interesting.”

It’s so not true. 🙂

If you want to learn how to figure out what your “meaningful difference” is and how to implement it in your web copy to attract more of your ideal clients, read the 3-part blog post about how I did just that and how you can too –> here

And if you’re a wedding, portrait or lifestyle photographer and you’d like to know when my upcoming course, 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers, is ready, get on the interest list right over –> here

3 Simple to Implement Web Copy Tips To Help You Sell More of Your Stuff

If you’re trying to get better results from your website in the way of more client & customer inquiries, e-mail sign-ups, and sales, and things aren’t going quuuuite the way you’d like them to at the moment, the solution could be as simple as a few strategic website copy tweaks.

Fairly simple to implement things you can do today that can have a big impact on your results over time. Or hey, maybe even tomorrow under the right circumstances. 🙂

These three copy improvements are what I call “The Three C’s” – clarity, client-focused copy, and clear, compelling calls to action.

I recently wrote a post about this topic over on the Artstorefronts blog, and though the post is geared to artists, anyone, in any kind of business, can benefit from applying these 3 simple web copy tips:

Learn more here about using clarity, client-focused copy, and compelling calls to action to sell more of your stuff.

 

[Want more copywriting tips? Sign up for free 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.] 

Embarrassing Web Copy & Marketing Fails

So the other day I had a meeting with the owner of a web design and development company who I may be working with on some upcoming writing projects.

Naturally, we got into a conversation about some of the unfortunate website mistakes we’ve seen over the years, on both the copywriting side and the design side – including our own.

Yes indeed, even the pros make mistakes and suffer web marketing fails.

For example, I remember back in the day when I was first getting started online. Those halcyon days when I actually believed that putting up a decent website, writing some basic copy, and doing a little bit of marketing each week was going to have new clients beating down my door, fairly busting a gut to work with me.

What actually happened?

Well, friend, they stayed away in droves, to quote the late film producer Samuel Goldwyn. (Well, ok, not completely in droves, I did get a few clients from that original website.)

But why so few? Why so many hours spent trying to be visible online to get merely mediocre results, despite doing everything I was told to attract clients through my website?

Turns out the problem was that my website copy was very “flackluster” (a new word I just made up on the spot to describe something that is both “flaccid” and “lackluster” at the same time, ha ha), and so it wasn’t doing me any favors in the client-getting and revenue-generating department.

And here’s the crazy part.

I knew exactly why I was getting these anemic results – I hadn’t figured out who my ideal clients were, or worked out what set me apart among others online who were providing similar services, and all this was reflected in my sad, generic, no-personality, underperforming web copy.

All of which lead to painfully average results.

Still, I dragged my feet for months to fix the problem.

I felt like I couldn’t step off the hamster wheel of blogging, social media posting and otherwise trying to be visible online for long enough to get clear on my ideal client avatar (ICA) and my unique selling proposition (USP), so I could write web copy that was actually compelling to my ideal clients.

Though I knew taking care of these two key things would start attracting more and better clients, and bigger paychecks, I resisted.

But finally, after too many months of craptacular results, and the looming fear that I’d have to go back to work for “the man” if I didn’t get this little challenge resolved, I decided I’d had enough and changed everything.

I got clear on exactly who my ideal clients were. I worked out what my “meaningful difference” in the marketplace was. I rewrote all my web copy, every last page of it, to be compelling, client-attractive and attention-getting to the people I most wanted to work with. I infused it with my personality, worldview and unique selling proposition.

And once I did that? Well that’s when things started to turn around fairly quickly.

I got more email subscribers almost instantly – from exactly the same amount of website traffic. I started getting client inquiries with email subject lines like “I want to work with you, please call me!” and “Photographer very interested in working with you,” sometimes several just like this in a single day.

I got more clients, and not just any clients, but clients who were ideal for me and who I absolutely loved working with. And I generated more income.

Again, I didn’t increase the traffic to my website to do this – I simply wrote better, more targeted, and more persuasive, personality-filled web copy that reflected my unique selling proposition and spoke directly to the kind of clients who were ideal for me.

Why, oh why hadn’t I done this sooner?

It pains me to think of all the wonderful clients, projects, and income I left on the table, simply because I wouldn’t slow down long enough to go off the grid for a couple of weeks to get my web copy in order.

But all’s well that ends well. And I needed to learn the lesson that not understanding my audience or my USP, coupled with the generic web copy that resulted, was never, ever going to bring in the kind of clients, projects and income I wanted.

So, what about you?

Is that where you are right now? Is your web copy “flackluster” and underperforming? Is it not doing its job?

(To be clear, if you’re in business, your website’s JOB is to get you consistent client and customer inquiries, new clients, and sales. If it’s not doing that, that’s a problem. A problem that must be fixed if you plan, like most of my clients do, to use your website as your main marketing vehicle.)

I’ve written about the importance of determining your target audience/ideal clients and working out your “meaningful difference” or unique selling proposition (USP) on the blog before. I even included free downloadable worksheets to help you get clear on these things so you can start getting more traction from your website.

You can check out those posts here:

The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it)

Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to)

Now, if you’d prefer some one-on-one guidance to help you get crystal clear on your target audience and “meaningful difference”/USP, and how to implement these things on your website for better business results, I make a few strategy sessions available each month specifically focused on these two critically-important-to-the-success-of-your business topics. If you’d like more details, simply email me at Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and I’ll send you the info.

On Setting New Year’s Resolutions

Ah, January. The time for New Year’s resolutions.

I don’t actually do resolutions, but I am a habitual goal setter.

Recently as I was cleaning out old papers and files, I found goals I’d written going back to 2011.

I’m sorry to say that many of them are still unfulfilled, all these years later.

Yes, some of the very same goals that have been on my list each year for the last five are still there, wondering when they will get the honor of being crossed off, silently mocking my inability to achieve them.

After the goal review, I had a bout of self-loathing so profound I was inconsolable for the rest of the day, unable to do anything but lounge around in my pajamas and eat Ben & Jerry’s straight out of the carton while watching re-runs of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Then, as I was driving over to a New Year’s Eve party a few days later, I got to thinking about this. I thought, hmm, if I want that satisfying feeling that comes from getting to the end of the week, month, quarter and year with a whole slew of targets hit and objectives achieved, I should set goals I know I will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, achieve.

So I came up with a list of such goals. To wit:

:: I will NOT begin a regular yoga practice.

:: I will NOT lose 10 pounds.

:: I will NOT attend a writing retreat this year.

Etc.

Then I remembered a piece I once read by my favorite writer, Nora Ephron, in which she talks about not achieving her New Year’s resolutions the previous year. She figures she’s aiming too low, so she decides to set goals that are “completely out of reach.”

After all, she figures, she has as much chance of achieving the out of reach goals as she does the more “realistic” resolutions. Thus her resolutions for 2008 include things like “End the war in Iraq,” “Make sure a Democrat is elected president,” and “Start a universal health care program.” 

Brilliant, I thought, that’s exactly what I’ll do!

So I took a page out of Nora’s playbook, and came up with my own big, lofty, unattainable, yet highly desirable, goals.

My Top Five “Completely Out of Reach” Goals for 2016:

:: Get Donald Trump to apologize for all the heinous things he’s said and people he’s egregiously and wrongly insulted this year: immigrants, women, Mexicans, disabled people, journalists, Muslims, and on and on and on, AND ON, because the list is long. So.Very.Long.

:: Solve the refugee crisis. I know this is a complex problem and finding a solution won’t be easy. But if the world’s wealthiest nations come together, I think we can get it done. After all, it’s a massive humanitarian crisis that impacts the entire globe, not just our little neck of the woods, where narrow-minded fear-mongering has caused people to lose their damn minds. Amnesty International has some good ideas for how world leaders can work together to solve the crisis.

:: Stop deportation raids against women and children from Central America. Central American immigrants, many of them children, are fleeing extreme violence and poverty, and they should be treated like asylum-seekers and allowed to stay in the U.S. This isn’t about politics, it’s about treating people with basic human decency, rather than resorting to inhumane fear tactics like storming into people’s homes in wee hours to round them up and deport them.

Again, this is another complex problem. But there will always be people who attempt to escape terrible conditions in their home countries and find a better life for themselves and their families in the U.S., even if it means risking their lives to get here. And no wall, and no draconian, inhumane border patrol “tactics” will ever completely put an end to it, as long as there is poverty, violence, and lack of opportunity to escape from.

:: And, as with Nora’s 2008 resolutions, I want to get a Democrat elected this year. I’m pretty sure this will be a slam-dunk, but you never really know, do you? I mean, just a couple of months ago I was saying there was no way on Earth Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee, and now he just might be, the way things are going. But I must admit, as much as it scares me for our country that any of the Republican choices still in the race could be the nominee, or even more terrifying, end up President, it sure has been an entertaining comedy freak-show on the Republican side, hasn’t it? Ah, silver linings.

:: And as a Southerner, I must confess, I’ve always wanted to learn to make the perfect biscuit. I’m a pretty decent cook, but I’ve never mastered baking. In fact, every time I’ve tried to bake, it’s been mostly disastrous. As a Southerner, what does it mean that I can’t make a proper biscuit? It’s positively shameful. It will not do. So if anyone has a newbie-friendly biscuit recipe, send it my way.

Happy New Year!

My Three Words for 2016

Ever since I read about Chris Brogan’s “3 Words” approach to yearly planning a few years back, I’ve used the practice to help ground and guide me through the year. 

The goal, as Chris says, is “replace resolutions with something a bit more useful.”

I love the idea of choosing just three words to filter the choices I’ll make over the coming year. The simplicity of it all. The ease and grace of applying 3 simple words to all you want to be, do and have, how you want to approach life, well, it feels . . . light and easy.  

And this year I’m all about light and easy. 

I still want to get things done, mind you, and a whole lot of ‘em, but I want to do it this year without my heretofore customary emoting and (over)dramatizing. The goal is a lot less weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a lot more calm, cool, “it’s all good” vibafication.  

Now, I often fall off the “3 Words” wagon at some point during the year, tumbling into a pit of distraction, but how easy is it to simply remind myself what my three words are and get right back on track? 

Pretty easy, I tell you. That’s because I have my three words written in large black letters at the top of my big ass wall calendar, the one that hangs just above my computer screen and stares me in the face for 10+ hours a day. 

Now that we’ve gotten the preamble out of the way, here are my three words for 2016: 

:: ONE: Work on one thing at a time – from big projects to small to-do list items and everything in between, one, one, one, is the name of the game.  

:: COMPLETION: Complete big projects, and smaller action items too, before moving on to the next thing on the list. If I had a nickel for every uncompleted project sitting on my hard drive right now . . . sheesh!  

:: ENOUGH: Let what I do each day, each week, each month, and each quarter, be enough. No more beating myself up with a metaphorical Cat-o’-Nine-Tails for what I didn’t get around to doing. I’m weary of never measuring up to my boss’s (ahem, my) unrealistic expectations, and it’s stealing my joy. 

So here’s to a 2016 full of completed projects, knocking out the most important things on my to-do list, celebrating everything I get done, and being A-OK with everything I don’t! 

Quest 2016: Unmistakable

Quest 2016 Theme, Day 13: Unmistakable, from Visionary Srinivas Rao 

Today’s prompt comes from Srinivas Rao, host and founder of my favorite podcast, The Unmistakable Creative, author of WSJ Best Seller The Art of Being Unmistakable, and avid surfer.

Today’s prompt:

What will you do in 2016 to assure you and your best work are unmistakable?

I will make time to work on non-client-related writing consistently, beginning in 2Q, once I’ve achieved some of the business goals I’ve mapped out for 1Q. (This, by the way, is an entirely new way for me to handle things. In the past my M.O. was to work on 8-10 major goals at once; as a result, I felt scattered and overwhelmed and made little progress on any of them. Which lead to burnout, discouragement and lots of incomplete projects.)

I will prioritize this commitment by scheduling a solid chunk of writing time, in ink, into my day planner weekly. Committing time, energy and focus to my “true” body of work consistently & repeatedly is the only way it will ever have a chance to become “unmistakable.” I already have my 2016 writing goals and timeline mapped out, and I’m feeling good about my plans.

This weekly time commitment shouldn’t be that difficult to make (she says hopefully), because I’m already part of a writer’s group that meets virtually for a four hour “write-in” each Monday. To date I haven’t participated, because for the last 5 years, Mondays have been dedicated exclusively to doing client work for my longest-term retainer client. As a result, I’ve always told myself, “I can’t schedule anything else on Mondays.”

But I have to ask myself, is this really true? If my non-client related writing is, in fact, a priority, and I already have this organized, built-in time container each Monday in which to write, can’t I schedule the day of the week I have reserved for this particular retainer client to a day other than Monday? Why, yes. Yes, I can.

It’s just that I’ve become so conditioned to setting aside Monday as this client’s “day,” that it hardly occurs to me that I have the power to move the work to another day of the week. D’oh! Habits, they are nasty buggers.

And while I’m at it, I also resolve to pursue more fun, frivolity and adventure in my life. And to continue avidly following my curiosity about the enormous number of things I’m interested in, without attaching the label of, “How does that fit into your business?” to any of it. These things will allow the more playful and fun-loving side of myself I feel like I’ve had on lockdown for the last few years to show up again. Which I think can only help me with my writing.

And that’s how I will assure that my best work becomes unmistakable.

Quest 2016: Two Stories

Quest 2016 Theme, Day 12: Two Stories, from Visionary Jen Louden 

Today’s prompt comes from personal growth pioneer Jen Louden, who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 7 additional books on well-being and whole living, including her most recent book, A Year of Daily Joy.

Today’s prompt:

What’s the story you most desire to bring to life in 2016? What’s the story your just-right client most desires to bring to life in 2016? Where do your two stories overlap?

The story I most desire to bring to life in 2016 is to become more creatively fulfilled and financially empowered through the work I do with creative entrepreneurs, and through my own writing projects.

The story my just-right clients most desire to bring to life is exactly what I want to figure out in 1Q 2016. Currently, I write web copy and other marketing materials for clients, and work with them to develop web marketing strategy that will help them achieve their online presence goals.

But in 2016 I want to offer something . . . more. Something beyond standard copywriting and marketing consulting services.

Because I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last 2-3 months, and not everyone is in a position to invest in professional web copywriting or marketing consulting services. But everyone deserves to have compelling website copy and a unique marketing message that feels good to put out into the world, and that sets them apart in their niche and helps them attract and sign on more of their ideal clients and customers, or attract and engage more of their ideal readers.

So I want to create something accessible, fun, and creatively fulfilling to help clients achieve that result without them having to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars to make it happen.

With that in mind, I’m going to develop a few ideas for a budget-friendly minimum viable product to fulfill this need, poll my audience to find out which of the 4-5 product ideas I present would be the most useful to them, and create an MVP version of this product by late March/early April 2016. This plan has been taking shape in my mind since early October this year, and I’m excited to put it into motion in 2016.

And that’s where the two stories of what I desire and what my just-right clients desire intersect.

Quest 2016: Your Brave Race

Quest 2016 Theme, Day 11: Your Brave Race, from Visionary Todd Henry 

Today’s prompt comes from Todd Henry, CEO of Accidental Creative and author of the books, Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day, and Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice.

Today’s prompt:

It takes bravery to know your strengths and operate diligently within them. Are you running your race, or someone else’s?

I am running my own race in some ways, in others, not so much.

When I decided to leave my corporate writing gig in February 2015 to go out on my own with my copywriting and marketing consulting business, that was about running my own race. Decisions that were previously made by someone else – from the schedule I would keep to the kind of projects I would take on to the deadlines I would have to meet – were now mine, all mine, to make. Which felt very liberating.

And terrifying, because now there was no more regular paycheck every two weeks.

But I much, much, much prefer the sometimes stressful nature of the self-employed hustle to the grinding stress of working for someone else, even if the organization is a wonderful one (it is) and the “someone else” I reported to is a stellar person (they are).

I consider letting go of this solid, reliable income stream to focus on what some days feels rocky and uncertain, but is nevertheless way more happiness-inducing than working for others, one of my greatest achievements of 2015. I did something I was terrified to do, but knew I had to do if I wanted to put my happiness first – and I’m not living in my car yet, ha ha.

But . . . .

The way in which I’m not running my own race is by devoting close to 100% of my time right now to client writing projects and my business in general, and hardly any time to my “Bucket #2 writing,” which I talked about in the last post, #Amplify.

Bucket #2 writing consists of essays and narrative non-fiction pieces I’m developing/want to develop, work I consider to be my true “body of work.” This is writing I want to polish and perfect, and eventually publish some of, someday.

But as I mentioned in the last post, I feel a powerful shift in priorities coming on for 2016.

Quest 2016: Amplify Your Best Work

Quest 2016 Theme, Day 10: Amplify Your Best Work, from Visionary Charlie Gilkey 

Today’s prompt comes from Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing and best-selling author of The Small Business Life Cycle.

Today’s prompt:

Which element of your best work do you most want to amplify this year?

Instead of considering simply doing more work, take the time to consider which elements of your work would most light you up to amplify. What’s holding you back from amplifying it? Is it that obscure little thing no one will care about? Or is it that if they see it, they’ll care too much and call the Imposter or Weirdo Police?

There won’t be a time in the future where it’ll be easier to amplify that part of your work.
p.s. You can’t stand out and fit in at the same time.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I make plans for world domination in 2016, ha ha.

The simple answer is, I want to devote more time to the craft of writing this year, and actually begin submitting my work.

I think of my writing as two separate “buckets” – bucket #1 is the marketing communications, web copy, and other writing I do for clients as part of my copywriting business, and the writing I do to support that business – blog posts, newsletters, and guest posts, etc.

Bucket #2 consists of essays and narrative non-fiction pieces I’m developing/want to develop, work I consider to be my true “body of work.” This is the writing I want to polish and perfect (which it needs, badly, oh boy), writing I’d eventually like to publish some of, someday. Alas, this is the writing that always gets the short end of the stick, as in, I spend time on it only if/when I feel like the writing in bucket #1 is under control, which happens almost never.

I’ve experimented with focusing on bucket #2 writing first thing in the morning before I start the client work, all day on Sunday, and in the p.m. when I finish the client work, but none of these three writing times has stuck. Yet.

But I feel a powerful shift in priorities coming on for 2016. Not just in devoting more time to working on the writing in bucket #2, but also in figuring out what additional service offerings I can create that are less marketing and copywriting oriented, and more aligned with . . . well, what, exactly, I don’t know yet. I’m still trying to puzzle that one out.

Quest 2016: Who Do You Serve?

Quest 2016 Theme, Day 9: Who Do You Serve?, from Visionary Chris Brogan 

Today’s prompt comes from Chris Brogan, CEO of Owner Media Group, professional speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including the forthcoming, Insider: Strategies and Secrets for Business Growth in the Age of Distractions.

Today’s prompt:

How will you better clarify whom you serve and what you do for them in 2016?

The answer to this one feels so easy, relatively speaking, compared to the previous questions.

That’s because I’ve already been thinking about this for weeks, at least since the end of November.

What I’ve been doing, and will continue to do over the next few days/couple of weeks to clarify who I serve and what I do for them, is go through all my copywriting and marketing consulting client intake questionnaires from 2015, every question I got from prospective clients via email, and every project I completed for clients, to determine what my ideal clients really struggle with, and what they’re really, truly looking for when they bring me on to work with them.

Because I know it’s about more than simply copywriting or marketing help, it’s something deeper than that. And that deeper “thing” is what I want to tap into this coming year. So as I’m poring over my intake questionnaires from this last year, I’m reading and reading the responses to all 25-30 questions (I ask a lot of questions), but I’m paying particular attention to the answers to these two questions:

:: What are your biggest dreams when it comes to your business?

:: Just for fun, if you were stranded on a desert island or in a Buffalo snow storm, which 3-5 books, movies, podcasts, websites, blogs, t.v. shows or magazines would you absolutely have to have on hand?

I think of all the questions I ask, those two are the most fun for my clients to answer, and yield some of the most heartfelt and interesting responses.

Step Two would be to put together some insights from this process, then circle back around with my 2015 clients to get their feedback on how I can better serve them, and new clients, in 2016.