For Creative Business Builders: A Powerful Yet Painless Way to Market Your Business That Practically Does the Selling for You

Most creatives I’ve worked with or talked to have some level of discomfort around the idea of marketing and selling. Sure, they want to earn a good living from their creative products and services, but they practically writhe in agony at the notion of actually having to market, or even scarier, having to sell. 

Look, I get it. Marketing and selling can bring up all kinds of uneasiness. You don’t want to seem intrusive, pushy, or even worse . . . scammy

But, and this is the truth, authentic marketing isn’t pushy or sleazy, it’s simply deeply connecting with your ideal audience and communicating that you can provide a product or service that is beneficial to them, that they already want, or they wouldn’t be searching for it online and have landed on your website in the first place. For more on this idea, check out a post I wrote called They Want You to Be the One (so stop being afraid to market yourself).

That said, there is a powerful way to market your stuff that feels genuine and easy, and in fact, practically does the selling for you, if done correctly.

What is this thing I speak of?

Client testimonials.

Client and customer testimonials are social proof and third party validation all rolled into one. And because of the third party validation aspect, much more persuasive to would-be clients than anything you say about yourself. Potential clients trust them because they’re essentially a referral from someone who doesn’t benefit directly if a new client signs on with you.   

It’s akin to a lesson I learned when I worked in advertising and PR: any business can pay for advertising, but not any business can get written up in Forbes or Inc. magazine, which is why third party endorsement via good PR was much more valuable to my PR clients back in the day than big, glossy ads in high profile publications. 

It’s the same with client testimonials.  

If you have a page of glowing testimonials on your website that speak to the transformational work you do and the results you get for clients, referring potential clients and customers to this page during the client-getting courtship phase can do a lot of the making-a-sale heavy lifting for you. And in way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re twisting arms or coercing anyone to do anything against their will.  And who doesn’t want that? 

So, how do you get your current and past clients and customers to give you the kind of testimonials that persuade new clients to find out more about working with you? 

Well, I’m going to share some wonderful resources on how to tackle that very thing at the end of this blog post, because it’s been covered very adeptly by other people I admire and respect who can show you how it’s done.

What I want to share with you here are a few patient testimonials I wrote for a medical center client that highlight transformation stories, a very persuasive form of third party validation. You can adapt the same idea for your own business to create client testimonials on steroids. 

Note the powerful impact of storytelling in these three examples: 

NHRMC eased Eileen’s pain so she could get back to her garden . . . and start planning her African safari. 

A fall paralyzed her. The trauma experts at NHRMC helped her get back on her feet. 

Minimally invasive spine surgery helps Dianne get back to active life. 

Now obviously you don’t want to copy the style and layout of these examples. I share them with you strictly to use as idea generators for thinking about how you can have your clients tell the story of their transformation, or the key aha moments they experienced after working with you or buying your products. Then craft this client feedback into compelling stories that speak to what’s possible when clients and customers work with you, as in the examples here.   

:: If you’d like someone experienced at extracting persuasive stories from clients and creating testimonials like the ones above, get in touch with me at: Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and let’s talk specifics. I’ll create a custom proposal based on your specific needs.

Resources for Creating Powerful Testimonials

Here’s a brief article by publicity/marketing/business expert Melissa Cassera in which she shares a simple two-step approach to getting testimonials. Love her suggestion here that’s its less stressful for the client and will net better results for you if you ask for “feedback” rather than a “testimonial.”

How To Get Your Customers To Write AMAZING Reviews (Without Begging, Pleading Or Being Pushy + Creepy) 

How to Get Testimonials That Get You Business, wherein business coach Christine Kane share 7 tips for getting great client testimonials that will help increase your sales.

And from the fine folks at Copyblogger, here are 6 Questions to Ask for Powerful Testimonials. Highly recommended. If you only have time to read one of the posts linked up here, please make it this one.

And finally, here business coach and consultant Erica Lyremark shares 3 quick formulas for writing powerful testimonials, in Testimonials Made Easy.

And if you want to understand – and implement – the power of storytelling in your marketing (client testimonials are a great place to do this), read this article:

 Science of storytelling: why and how to use it in your marketing: A look at how humans have always loved stories, and six tips for incorporating them into your digital marketing 

And there you have it. If you have any questions or comments, please share them in the comments section below, and happy testimonials creating!

On Goal Setting, Guilt, and Planning 2015 Around the Metric of Creative Fulfillment

Goals 2015 blog post image_resized

Image by FidlerJan

Ah, the beginning of a new year.

It’s that time when all around the interwebs, you’re exposed to endless talk about planning and goal-setting for 2015, and doing your 2014 year in review. And let’s not forget, it’s also the time for setting some “stretch” goals for the coming year, often referred to as “big hairy audacious goals.” (Why “hairy,” I wonder? I’ve always been puzzled by that phrase. I prefer my goals hair-free. But I digress.)

I’ve listened to a bunch of podcasts, attended half a dozen webinars, and read numerous blog posts in the last six weeks about goal-setting systems and templates and philosophies and rules.

And I’m ready, I’m “ready-eddy-eddy” as Sponge Bob would say, to plan my 2015. In fact, at the end of November I bought a big ass 2015 wall calendar, and I cannot tell you how excited that one simple purchase made me feel! I fairly floated home on a cloud of unfettered fantasies of a rockin’ 2015 in which all my dreams come true.

And then I remembered the goals I set for 2014 that didn’t quuuuuite come to pass.

The 2014 Postmortem

Recently I looked back through my journals from the last two years, specifically, the parts where I wrote down my goals for the following year, and what I discovered left me feeling a wee bit sad and disappointed.

Because even though I’ve been working ridiculously hard for the last two years, there were still many things I said I was going to do in 2013 that I never got around to doing, and even more things I had planned for 2014 that didn’t happen.

I’ve been ruminating about this for weeks, trying to uncover the reason for this sorry state of affairs, and what I’ve concluded is this: my approach to goal-setting in 2014 was based more on what seemed logical and realistic, with a focus on what I “should” want as a writer, copywriter & marketing strategist for hire – and less on what I really, truly, madly and deeply desired.

And while I’m sure there are many circumstances in which being “realistic” and “logical” makes the most sense, I fervently believe that, as Will Smith has said, “Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.” And in my case, it was also the road to unfulfilled goals, and their corollary, disappointment and guilt.

The big picture assessment of where my 2014 goal-setting and goal-achieving missed the mark is that I chose some of the “wrong” goals, and the way I was going about achieving even the “right” ones was misguided.

Let me explain.

4 Insights on goal-setting based on my 2014 experience, and where I derailed:

#1: If you don’t choose goals for the “right” reason, that is, goals that actually light you up and tap into your natural skills, gifts, talents and abilities, and even more importantly, goals that take into account what you actually WANT to be doing, they’re much less likely to get accomplished.

For example, one of my goals for this year was to increase my income by 30-50%. I knew I could easily achieve this by reaching out to more healthcare and real estate-related clients, because I’ve done a lot of marketing communications in these two niches for the last few years, so finding additional clients in these categories wouldn’t be difficult.

And at the beginning of 2014, I set out to do just that. I made an initial list of 50+ healthcare and real estate clients to reach out to, set up an Excel spreadsheet to track my weekly outreach and results, and set about contacting potential new clients. Then about 4 weeks in, I lost all motivation to continue down this path. Even though it felt like a revenue increase slam-dunk, my heart just wasn’t in it. I love my current real estate and healthcare clients, but I simply don’t want to take on new writing projects in these niches unless something uber-interesting comes along.

Result: While I got a few awesome new clients in creative fields in 2014 (Yay – these are my dream clients!), I mostly let myself coast with current healthcare and real estate clients. As a result, my income in 2014 was pretty much the same as it was in 2013.

Solution: In 2015, I’ll be making a concerted effort to reach out to creative service providers and other potential clients in my ideal target audience. Actively marketing to the kind of clients I have a strong desire to work with means the daily marketing will get done, because my heart will be in the marketing, and in getting these clients great results.

Inspirational quote that sums up this point, from Brendon Burchard: “The journey to legend begins the moment our bias for ease and comfort is overpowered by our drive for challenge and contribution.”

So for better results? Drop the “bias for ease and comfort” – love that.

#2: Setting huge goals, then not chunking them down into the smaller, manageable pieces that can be accomplished daily, weekly and monthly, is a recipe for failure.

What happens here is, you look at this huge goal, and because it’s so big, so daunting, so seemingly insurmountable, you have no idea where to begin. And because you don’t where to begin, you procrastinate. You don’t take action because you don’t know which action to take first, and next, then next after that. And then your dream turns into a sad, dessicated husk that drifts away on the wind the first time you whine “I can’t figure this OUT!” (Or maybe that’s just me.)

For example, this year I wanted to begin writing my book for and about creatives, the details of which I’m still sorting out. I took a course in how to write a book proposal, I joined an amazing online writer’s group made up of lovely and ambitious souls who are also working on books and book proposals, and in which there is an infinite amount of advice and support; I even wrote up a skeleton outline of the book. But alas, that’s where it ended.

Result: Because I didn’t break the project down into its attendant daily, weekly and monthly tasks, it felt like such a bear that I didn’t move forward on it after the initial flurry of activity.

Solution: For 2015, I mapped out my entire year in “skeleton” form. It’s not overly detailed at this point, but it has my big goals and intentions for the year sketched out, by quarter and by month. I chose 2-3 key goals to focus on each quarter, then broke those down into my monthly and weekly action items. Next I made an extremely detailed plan for 1Q that includes my blog and email newsletter editorial calendar, marketing, promotions, and client outreach for each month, and the bigger creative projects I’ll work on. I don’t do the super-detailed planning more than 3 months in advance, but with the skeleton plan for the entire year in place, I feel on purpose and directed. Which is a vast improvement from last year, when I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants for most of the year. Having a written plan with an actual timeline feels so much better – and oddly, more liberating.

#3: Having too many goals is also a dream killer.

There were so many things I wanted to accomplish in 2014, so I attempted to work a little bit on each of them, all the time. There was the book, a new interview series for the blog, the 6-month class I took the second half of 2014, regular blog and email newsletter content, the client work, the outreach plan to get new clients, the website rewrite, the guest posting blitz, and at least half a dozen other big-ish projects.

Result: Lots of things started, few completed. This left me feeling exhausted, creatively unfulfilled, and cranky. Lesson: Lots of loose ends and unfinished projects is not good for your creative mojo.

The solution: The cure for this is to focus one’s “whole-hearted creative attention” (a Danielle LaPorte phrase) on two or three main projects at any one time, and forget the rest. With that in mind, my three top priorities for 2015 are: writing the book and all activities related to that project; building my online platform and email list, both to support the book release and to increase revenue for my copywriting and marketing consulting business; and to increase my revenue by 50%.

#4: The corollary to this is not knowing which goals to prioritize (or in my case, not validating your dreams by prioritizing your most heartfelt goals).

What I found was that the goals I was actually most excited about – interviewing other creatives for a new blog series, writing my book, and creating products – took a backseat to the day-to-day grind of client work. I told myself repeatedly throughout the year, “I don’t have TIME to step away from client work to work on my book or interview series or product creation. Between clients and deadlines and marketing my services, I just don’t have time!” That’s probably not coming across as shrilly here as it did in my head all year long, but it was a constant, annoying refrain.

Result: Because I wasn’t carving out big chunks of time to work the goals that actually meant the most to me, there were many times during the year I felt resentful and dissatisfied.

This culminated in an “episode” at the beginning of July that scared the bejesus out of me: I was driving to the location of where I do onsite work for a client, and about half a mile from my destination, I started having trouble breathing, my heart was racing, and I felt like I was dying. I considered pulling over and calling 911, because I literally could not breathe. I didn’t know if it was a heart attack, a panic/anxiety attack, or some other inexplicable health-related thing. I made an appointment with my doctor, who suggested an EKG and a chest x-ray, neither of which turned up anything troublesome, luckily. And that’s when I started seeing an acupuncturist regularly, because this thing, whatever it was, didn’t go away. It lingered in more subdued form for months. And it still crops up from time to time even now, usually when I’m feeling stressed. Anyhoo, I’m convinced the July episode was my body’s way of telling me to stop grinding through the kind of work and the kind of schedule I don’t love and find a better path. Duly noted, plan in progress.

Solution: This is not about not having time, but about prioritizing my most important goals and rearranging my schedule to make the actions required to achieve them possible. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and if people with way more time constraints and family and work obligations than I have can create their art and meet their goals, so can I.

At the end of the day, if I wanted to work on the book, do the interview series, and create the products in 2014, I could have pushed other things off my schedule and carved out time to do them, but I did not. I have to give my goals the same weight I do client work, by doing something as simple as adding a non-negotiable hour of writing/creation time into my schedule 6-7 days a week, first thing in the morning, before I do anything else, including client work.

Something that’s helping me like gangbusters in prioritizing my day is a great post by Ashley Ambirge called, Million Things To Do? Prioritize by ROI. (And Then Get a Life.) I’m not exaggerating when I say this blog post has changed my relationship to my work in a way that makes me feel damn near sane most days! And a whole lot happier. I now follow this template daily for arranging my work flow.

Wins: What Went Right in 2014 (It’s All About Mindset & Clarity).

When I review my accomplishments in 2014, the thing I’m most proud of are the profound mindset shifts I made. These shifts are leading to a more profitable business, and though they impacted 2014 mostly in the 4th quarter, going forward they’ll add to my bottom line over and over again.

So we’ve all heard that saying that goes something like, “everything you want is just outside your comfort zone” right? But how many of us live by that in our day-to-work? I thought I was getting outside the ol’ comfort zone on a regular basis until I took a course called Get Known, Get Clients created by business and publicity strategist Selena Soo. Selena’s course had me doing things way, and I mean waaaay, outside this introvert’s very comfortable comfort zone each week for the six months of the course.

While there were many things I was at ease with by virtue of having done them consistently for the last 2-3 years – list-building, guest posting, target market research, branding and so on – there were other things in the course that made me wildly uncomfortable, panicked even.

Such as, you ask? Well, having sales conversations, creating a signature talk and committing to live networking, for starters. (I’d actually done the live networking thing a ton over the years, but decided I was done with it about two years ago, being an introvert and all. Until this course, when I learned how to do it without feeling like I was selling my soul to the devil.)

So, the big scary: sales conversations . . . . something I knew as a service provider I should be doing on a regular basis, but always resisted. And I didn’t feel I really needed to be doing them, because I had plenty of work. But what if all that went away and I had to start over again from scratch to get clients? That’s where it would come in super-handy to develop some skill in having sales conversations. So I committed to learning this skill.

I’ve now had a few sales conversations. Turns out? Not as terrifying as I thought they’d be. (And in case you’re wondering, “sales conversations” don’t have to feel “salesy” or icky at all. It’s about sharing how you can help potential clients who have already expressed some interest in working with you; it’s never about coercion – there’s a way to have them that doesn’t employ any of that desperate, pushy sales energy.)

And when you actually get a fabulous new client out of the practice right away, one that fits your ideal client profile to a “t,” as I did? Well my friend, that’s when your confidence soars and you commit to doing more of this thing you thought you’d never want to do. AND, you help clients achieve their goals and increase your revenue at the same time. It’s a win-win-win if ever there was one.

And the bonus is, once you’ve done something scary and uncomfortable once, that particular thing gets much easier, so you move on to an even bigger and scarier goal, and wrestle that one into submission too.

On the creating a signature talk front, while I didn’t set out to achieve this in 2014, after Get Known, Get Clients, I’ve committed to creating and delivering a signature talk in 2015, because it’s an excellent way to add high-value ideal clients to your client roster. I’ll do this in steps so I don’t become so terrified that it never happens. Because I love to teach, I plan to start by developing a small web marketing & messaging workshop for creative business builders, then after I’ve delivered this 2-3 times, I’ll step it up and create a signature talk. Believe me when I tell you that this is something that a year ago I would have never seen myself doing. Mind, expanded.

The other seemingly small but profoundly impactful thing I changed as a result of taking this course – and something that’s already increased my revenue – is talking to people one-on-one who email me to express interest in working together. What I used to do before the GKGC course was respond to client inquiries with an email asking the potential client to tell me more about their project. This isn’t because I’m an introvert or fear rejection, it’s because my daily schedule is full, and email is quicker. However, what I found (duh) is that talking to potential clients over the phone results in more clients signing on, so it’s worth the extra time it takes to schedule and have the conversation.

Lesson: Getting out of your comfort zone on the regular is necessary if you want to achieve your biggest goals, dreams & visions.

“Playing safe is probably the most unsafe thing in the world. You cannot stand still. You must go forward.” ~Robert Collier

Sweet, Sweet Clarity

I often say clarity is like gold, because once you have it, you don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter. Which results in a life of more joy, freedom, cash, and fun. And who doesn’t want that?

After my weird summer and fall (see notes on not validating your dreams by prioritizing your most heartfelt goals, above), I not only achieved clarity on what I really want to work on and what really lights me up in both business and in life, but also started taking action on said clarity. I can’t overstate how important this is for creating massive amounts of joy and liberation in your life. The resource that helped me achieve this goldmine of clarity is Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map. Highly recommended.

In a nutshell, the process involves getting clear on how you most want to feel in every area of your life, then setting your goals and intentions based on your core desired feelings, or CDFs. My 2015 plans and goals are now based on my core desired feelings, which include: Creatively fulfilled; Financially empowered; Generous; Connected, and Courageous.

Other 2014 Wins:

:: The most fun and creatively satisfying investment I made this year was Book Mama Linda Sivertsen’s Your Big Beautiful Book Plan telecourse, which is essentially a live version with one-on-one feedback from Linda of the Your Big, Beautiful Book Plan digital program (which I also bought this year)

These two resources helped me organize my copious but incohesive thoughts around the book I want to write for and about creatives. And while I didn’t start writing the book in 2014 as I had originally planned, I outlined the entire thing, bought the book domain name, and sketched out a promotion plan. The challenge in 2015 will be carving out the time to consistently take action on this massive project while keeping on top of client work.

:: I transitioned away from taking on strictly real estate and healthcare clients and started working with creative clients this year. Goooooooooaaaaalllllllll! It’s a good start, and I’ll be ramping up my outreach to these clients in 2015 so I can eventually phase out of writing marketing communications in the real estate and healthcare niches.

:: There was an increase in the number of potential clients coming to me through my website this year, which is what this introvert has always wanted. This is a result of getting clear on my ideal client avatar (ICA) and unique selling proposition (USP) and implementing these insights throughout my website, which I did in 2013. I’ll be tweaking things in both these areas even more in 2015.

Figure It Out, & Do What Makes You Happy

So that’s it, that’s my 2014 year-end assessment. I’m clear about what didn’t work, what did, and what I want to achieve in 2015. And I’m setting my goals and intentions based on what I most want, not on what I feel like I should want, or what someone else says I should strive for in my business and in my life, or on anything other than what I know to be true in my heart of hearts.

What about you?

What if you chose your goals & intentions for this and every year based on what makes you the happiest, on what brings you the greatest joy?

Of course you have to make a buck and keep the lights on, but is there a way to put more of your desired creative work into your daily life?

I’ll leave you with this, one of my favorite quotes of all time:

The great actor, director and author Sidney Poitier once said when talking about his background and achievements while accepting an award:

I knew my dreams were as valid as I was prepared to make them.

Powerful stuff.

So I ask you, are you prepared to make your dreams valid this year? I am. Please join me.

 

Resources Mentioned in This Article

Your Big, Beautiful Book Plan 

Book Mama 

The Desire Map 

8 questions to ask yourself before committing to a goal (or a person, or anything for that matter). 

I didn’t mention this Danielle LaPorte blog post in the article here, but it helped me tremendously in setting and reviewing my goals. It’s a list of 8 specific questions you can ask yourself about each of your goals & intentions to find more clarity. I found this most useful when I was trying to decide if a goal was something I wanted for the right reasons, or merely something I felt “conditioned” to want.

Ashley Ambirge on how to prioritize your projects each day – I’m following this template daily now:

Million Things To Do? Prioritize by ROI. (And Then Get a Life.)  

Get Known, Get Clients 

Here’s another piece I didn’t reference in this article, but it’s a very good one on how to do a year-end review, from the fine folks at Fizzle:

The End of Year Review and Planning Process Every Small Business and Online Entrepreneur Should Follow 

And one more quote, because I can’t resist:

There’s a certain delusional quality that all successful people have to have. You have to believe that something different than what has happened for the last 50 million years of history, you have to believe that something different can happen. ~Will Smith

May we all have a rockin’ 2015 in which all our dreams come true. :) 

 

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

magicofthinkingbig image

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.]

 

Creativity is a Drug

CBD creativity quote

I planned to start this essay by saying that creativity is like oxygen.  But it’s not really like oxygen.  Creativity is not actually necessary to live from a physical standpoint, but it’s hard to imagine a rich and fulfilled life without it.

So I think Cecil has it right. Creativity is like a drug one cannot live without. Once you begin to experience the pleasures of it, you can’t imagine not having it in your life daily.

(In my mind, I’m pronouncing his name Seh-suhl like the character Cecil Terwilliger from The Simpsons, not See-suhl, the way it’s usually pronounced. I feel like that works better here. But I digress.)

Creativity is also like a muscle that must be used daily or it will atrophy. 

I created a “commandments” list a couple of years ago, ala Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project and on it I wrote “do something every day to make myself happy,” which for me more often than not means a creative project of some kind – writing, brainstorming ideas for articles and essays, cooking a fabulous meal, rearranging a corner of my apartment, capturing images with my iPhone, freeform daydreaming, and so on. 

For many months I didn’t practice creativity daily in any real way. This was when I was working a couple of part-time jobs while getting my freelance writing business off the ground.  All my writing at that time was for clients; I didn’t write for myself daily like I do now. Instead I worried daily. Fretted. Felt myself pulled daily further and further into the mesmerizing undertow of living below what my true inspiration called me to do.

I was not happy and fulfilled in my work then. But happiness is a choice, so looking back, I can see that I participated in my unhappiness by buying into the false notion that creative fulfillment is something “over there,” something that has to be put off until all one’s other ducks are gotten in a row. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

As long as I believed that creative fulfillment was something that was unavailable to me while I was slogging away writing what I didn’t want to write and doing work I didn’t necessarily love to do, then that’s where it would stay – “over there.”

But the truth is, there are ways to assure you get your daily creativity fix, even if it’s in small doses. If you’re a writer, you write. If you’re a photographer, you make beautiful images. If you’re a painter, you paint. And so on.

So I started writing for myself for 30 minutes daily, longer on weekends. Writing that had nothing to do with client work, and nothing to do with blogging for my writing business website or weekly newsletter either. I simply opened up a Word doc in June of 2013 and started “journaling” there daily.  Then later, I began writing in a physical journal again, writing my way through one journal, then another, then another after that.

And that practice is what pulled me out of my creative cul-de-sac. It’s an ongoing project, this trying to make more space in my life daily for unfettered creative practice, and sometimes it takes a back seat to client work, or marketing my business, or those boring but necessary admin tasks one must do each day to keep the wheels on the bus going round and round.

But what I notice is that if I’m not committed to accessing that well daily, the sometimes elusive substance known as creativity will shrivel, or evaporate altogether, and I’ll be staring into the abyss of the “mehs” once again.

What about you? How do you make space in your life for the creative work that fires you up? I’d love to hear how you make your creative practice a priority. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

Book Recommendation: The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life by Chris Guillebeau

The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Once you’re near the end, there’s no time for bullshit. But what if you decided there’s no time for bullshit – or regrets – far in advance of the end? What if you vow to live life the way you want right now, regardless of what stage of life you’re in?”

Of all the inspiring passages and quest calls in Chris Guillebeau’s recently released book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, the quote above is the one that resonates with me the most.  

The context: Chris tells the story of Kathleen Taylor, who was a hospice bedside counselor for 8 years and loved her work. Frequently asked how she could enjoy her job, Taylor responds, “Because people at the end of their lives are incapable of bullshit . . . when they’re facing the task of wrapping up an entire life, the distractions that usually tempt us away from being honest with ourselves kind of fall off the map.” (I’ve linked up Kathleen Taylor’s TED Talk on this topic at the end of this post under “Additional Resources.”)

It’s a great question, right? What if you vow to live life the way you want right now? What if, what if, what if . . . it’s exactly the question I’ve been asking myself for months now, which is why the book left such an impression on me.

If you’re a seeker, inspired by tales of others’ accomplishments and adventures, and feeling a vague (or pronounced) sense of discontent, The Happiness of Pursuit is for you. If you’re feeling dissatisfied and restless, this book could be exactly the inspiration you need to bust out of the doldrums and find the right quest to help you get your happy back.

When You Sense Discontent, Pay Attention

The Happiness of Pursuit examines the link between questing and long-term happiness, chronicling real-world quests of “normal people doing remarkable things” who have brought meaning and purpose into their lives through their quests.  Chris (we’re not on a first name basis, mind you, but spelling out “Guillebeau” each time I write his name makes me mighty tired), also writes about his own quest to visit every country on Earth (193, I believe) before the age of 35, a task he accomplished.

As I got eleven pages into the book, I started underlining fragments, sentences, and whole passages.

For example:

“If you want to make every day an adventure, all you have to do is prioritize adventure. It has to become more important than routine.”

 “If you want to achieve the unimaginable, you start by imagining it.”

“Courage comes through achievement but also through the attempt.”

“Everyone is busy, yet we all have access to the same amount of time. If you want to prioritize adventure but can’t find the time, something’s got to give.” (This one was like a punch to the gut for me. Note to self: STOP WHINING about not having enough time!)

“Lesson: When you sense discontent, pay attention. The answer isn’t always ‘go for it’ (though it often is), but you shouldn’t neglect the stirring. Properly examined, feelings of unease can lead to a new life of purpose.”

If you’re thinking, “Hey, that all sounds groovy and everything, I would love to experience more adventure and lead a life of purpose, but I can’t quit my job to travel or pursue some far-flung adventure,” I hear you.

But the quests in this book aren’t all of the travel to distant lands variety.  No, many of them were undertaken closer to home, and some, without ever leaving home.

For example, there’s Sasha Martin, a thirty-year-old wife and mother in Tulsa, Oklahoma who decides to shake off the complacency she’s feeling by embracing “culture through cuisine” and cooking a meal from every country in the world.  Yep, every country, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, a cooking project that took close to four years.

Then there’s Sandi Wheaton, who worked at General Motors for twelve years before being laid off during the upheaval in the automotive industry. At first, she planned to look for another job, as her other laid-off colleagues were doing, but she started thinking about the toll her corporate career had taken on her – “devoting her best energy to . . . corporate America instead of the adventure that tugged at her heart.” What Sandi really wanted to do was travel Route 66 and document the trip along the way. And for six weeks she did, taking 60,000 photographs, sleeping in campsites each night, and getting up early each day to head back out on the road.

As Sandi says, “I had zero clue how to do it, but I was driven by the desire to avoid looking back years later and calling myself a chickenshit for not using the opportunity for something.”

And there’s Elise Blaha, who upon turning twenty-seven set a goal to create twenty-seven different craft projects using twenty-seven different types of materials.

And Travis Eneix, who committed to practicing tai chi and writing down everything he ate for one thousand days.

And Tina Roth Eisenberg, who has multiple creative projects going at all times and set out to publish a body of work promoting innovative design.

Then of course there are the more adventurous quests – such as that of sixteen-year-old Laura Dekker who set out to sail around the globe solo, and Nate Damm, who walked across the United States, and Miranda Gibson, who lived in a tree for an entire year to protest illegal logging, and  John Francis, who maintained a vow of silence for 17 years, and Martin Parnell, who ran 250 marathons in a single year, and Adam Warner, who is in the process of fulfilling every goal on his late wife Meghan’s life list, and many others besides who undertook quests of the creative, self-discovery, exploration, activism, and academic variety.

The core message of all the quests documented in the book is this: a quest can bring purpose and meaning to your life.

And in The Happiness of Pursuit, you’ll see inspiring evidence of this in action, many times over. And if you’re like me, you’ll finish the book with your own list of quest ideas. {More on that in a future post.}

I’ll leave you with a short passage from Chapter One, Awakening:

“What if you could study with others who’ve invested years – sometimes decades – in the relentless pursuit of their dreams? That learning opportunity is what this book is about. You’ll sit with people who have pursued big adventures and crafted lives of purpose around something they found deeply meaningful. You’ll hear their stories and lessons. You’ll learn what happened along the way, but more important, you’ll learn why it happened and why it matters.”

As for me, I’m keeping the book on my bedside table as a powerful reminder to prioritize adventure, and live the way I want to right now, sans bullshit.

Additional Resources

Learn more here about The Happiness of Pursuit and Guillebeau’s other books.

Check out Rethinking the Bucket List: Kathleen Taylor at TED here.

And for a jolt of reality from a former palliative care professional on the importance of living your life the way you want to now, read Bronnie Ware’s Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.

Tough Love: The Business You’re Really In

“Everybody want to be famous, nobody want to put the work in.”  ~comedian Kevin Hart & friends

 

I love this little video clip, firstly, because I’m a huge Kevin Hart fan. But I also love it because its message can be applied to what many of us are spending so much time online trying to do: create a successful business that will support us financially, and fulfill us creatively.

Yep, everybody want to have a successful business, nobody want to put the work in.

Of course it’s not true that nobody wants to put the work in, because plenty of people have created successful businesses that provide creative fulfillment and a comfortable living. We follow many of these people online, do we not? So we know it can be done.

But when it comes to creating the same thing for ourselves, as creatives we’re often too willing to give up too soon, whine about how challenging the whole thing is, or complain about having to . . . gasp . . . market ourselves. (Fact: I originally titled this blog post “Get Schooled on Marketing or Stay Broke.”)

And it’s the “marketing ourselves” bit that I hear the most complaints about from fellow creatives.

A few short years ago I was in that camp, until I realized I had two choices: either hire someone to do my marketing for me (not possible at the time, and not ideal even if it had been financially viable), or suck it up and do it myself, without complaint or self-consciousness.

Now, as someone who has worked in PR, advertising, and marketing and sales for most of my adult life, you’d think I’d be fine with marketing myself. But you would be wrong. Naturally, it’s much easier, and way less uncomfortable, to sing the praises of others through persuasive marketing communications than it is to step from behind the safety of my laptop and do the same thing for myself.

But it wasn’t until I finally decided to stop window-shopping having a business and actually do the challenging and time-consuming work involved in getting some traction for it (which I wrote about at length here), that everything started to change: more resonance with my ideal audience, more email sign-ups, more inquiries about my services, & more clients.

And then one day as things were starting to improve, I read something on A-list copywriter and brilliant marketer Dan Kennedy’s website that drove home this lesson like a shot to the face, wherein he talks about the “one truth businesses don’t like to hear.”

And that truth is this:

The business you are really in is the business of marketing and the thing you do, for example a dentist, a realtor, and info-marketer, etc., is secondary.

Kennedy goes on to say that being a better doctor, lawyer, carpet cleaner, or maker of stuff will not make you wealthier, but marketing your business better will.

I know many of us are squeamish about this prospect, and I get it, but we simply must get over that if we want to get off the feast-or-famine roller coaster, for one, and stop taking on projects and clients that make us want to drive off a cliff, for another.  And paying the rent and eating 3 squares a day is pretty important too, I might add.

So if you’re dreaming of that day when you’ll be able hire someone to do all your marketing for you so you can decamp to your creative cave and simply make stuff, then you’re going to have to find a way afford that marketing help first.

And that means you have to get good at marketing your business yourself NOW. So find a way to like it, or at the very least, find one way to market your business that you absolutely will do and that you don’t hate, and keep at it until you either see some success from that method or you determine it just ain’t working, in which case you try the next marketing method.  And so on until you find the one that you’re willing to do that does work.

P.S. – Just as I was about to hit “publish” on this post, I read something great over on Itty Biz, one of my favorite go-to places for biz and marketing advice that feels like the perfect companion piece to this one, called 10 Perfectly Good Ways to Market Your Business, and What to Do If You Don’t Like Any Of Them.

You should check that out.

Which is the Better Path to Creative Fulfillment?

creative fulfillment

If you do creative work, which is better – working a day job that has nothing whatsoever to do with the creative thing you like to do, or working a day job that features at least some elements of the creative thing you like to do?

You might think, duh, obviously a day job that features elements of the creative thing you like to do is the better choice.

But I often wonder if this is true. Is it really better to be the person who has a creative career – for example, let’s say this person is a writer and works in an advertising/PR agency – so on the plus side they get to write every day – but what they really want to do is write a novel or a screenplay or a book of essays, only they don’t have the energy left over at the end of the work day to make it happen?  

Or, is the optimal choice to be the person whose put-food-on-the-table job has nothing to do with their creative calling, and because of this has the mental clarity and space to do their creative thing on the side exactly as they please, with no compromises, and arrives home at the end of each work day full of energy and inspiration to do their creative work?

Because the advertising/PR agency person, while earning a living writing, would have a demanding job that required a lot of overtime and unfortunate office politics to deal with, which would likely leave them feeling depleted and uninspired at the end of the day, without the wherewithal to write.

(And you know what that means. Another night of indulging in your favorite Bravo-lebrities while downing a few glasses of wine, eating Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Caramel Fudge right out of the carton, and mentally planning your exit from said day job while giving your boss what for on your way out the door. And possibly not leaving your house from Friday afternoon until Monday morning many weekends in a row while employed at this advertising/PR agency. Not that I would know. Ahem.)

The point is, this kind of relationship with our career, creative or not, doesn’t leave us much time or mental space to write that novel, screenplay or book of essays, or whatever form our creative output happens to take.

On the other hand, the person with a job not related to their creative calling, one they aren’t overly emotionally invested in because it’s simply what they do to pay the bills, might arrive home eager to get to work on their creative project. They’ve left the job at work, and aren’t assaulted by the kind of needling gremlins that come with a career you’re expected to try to “get ahead” in, so they have a mental clean slate. They have the bandwidth to be fully and totally focused on their creative output.

I’ve been on both sides – I’ve had relatively low-stress jobs not related to writing that were meant simply to pay the bills, and high-stress, time-consuming, career-oriented jobs where there was a significant amount of writing involved, but also office politics and other assorted craziness. (Such as siblings who owned the business screaming at each other in front of my office door, a place of employment my best friend dubbed the “snit factory” for its silly territorial battles and dysfunctional silent rages.)

I generally get into a more fulfilling creative groove when I’m not preoccupied by office politics, heinous deadlines, and the crushing responsibility to pick out an “outfit” 5 days a week. On the other hand, the deadly combination of underearning and lackluster work you can’t work up much passion for ain’t no picnic either.

So obviously I don’t have the answer to the what-kind-of-day-job-is-best-for-doing-your-creative-work question.  But I’m hoping to get the discussion going, so please leave a comment here and let’s debate the perils and pleasures of each approach, shall we? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!

 

For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It)

photography web marketing

[NOTE: Though this post is geared to photographers, the principles apply to all creatives selling any kind of product or service.]

Photographers, I love you. Fine art photographers, wedding photographers, lifestyle photographers, product photographers, pretty much all of you.

For years, I wanted to be among you:  a working photographer, making a living from photography.  I chased this dream for some time.  I took a year-long course in photography at my local community college, worked for a local photographer as an assistant, then put together a portfolio and applied to the photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Lucky for me, I was accepted into the program. Unluckily, I decided art school wasn’t in the cards for me at that moment. I moved to New York anyway and went to “regular” college, taking a few photography courses during the three years I lived there between other commitments.

I share this with you because I want you to know that my heart is with you, that I’m not coming to you strictly from a place of sharing advice on how to write persuasive web copy that can help you win more clients in your photography business, but also from a place of big, full-hearted, sappy love for the work you do every day.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about the simple yet powerful web copy tweak that can help you win more clients. But first . . . .

The Problem with Most Photography Websites

Many photographers make the serious mistake of assuming their gorgeous images will speak for themselves to sell their services and get clients, imagining that once a potential customer sees the talent evident in the online portfolio, they’ll immediately reach out and inquire about working together.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

While having a web presence and an online portfolio is a great first step, it’s not enough. The “build it and they will come” approach simply does not work online, where you’re competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other photographers in your town who provide exactly the same service you do. And if you live in a big city, thousands of other photographers.

Since your potential clients can easily find at least two dozen other talented photographers whose images are just as stunning as yours with a simple Google search, you’re going to have to show them more than your gorgeous portfolio to get them interested in hiring you.

What Potential Clients Are Looking For

What a potential client is looking for when they land on your photography site is evidence that you clearly understand who they are as a client, that you have the solution they’re looking for, and that you, specifically, are exactly the person to provide that solution.  

In other words, they want you to be “the one.” They’ve been searching and searching online, and they’re feeling frustrated that they’ve already been to 12 other wedding photography/lifestyle photography/insert your photography specialty here websites, and they can’t distinguish one photographer from the next. They want to land on your site and think, “This is it, I’ve found the ideal photographer for my job at last. I can stop searching, cue the trumpets.”

This is why you get price-shopped, by the way. Because most photography websites look nearly identical to one another and most photographers provide similar services, the ONLY thing potential clients have to go on to distinguish you from your competition is your price, so naturally they’ll choose the person with the lowest price.  This is not the kind of client you want.

{To learn more about web surfing behavior and what potential customers are looking for when they search online for that thing you do, check out 7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales: Basics for Creative Entrepreneurs. And pay particular attention to Item #2, where I share an example from the world of wedding photography.}

So how do you convey to your ideal clients that you’re the right photographer for their project? You do it through compelling, client-focused web copy. That’s the simple yet powerful website copy tweak that will win you more clients: CLIENT-FOCUSED web copy.

That may sound way too simple, but you’d be surprised how many photography websites don’t adhere to this simple, yet persuasive principle. (Lots of other kinds of websites don’t either, by the way, not just photography sites.)

Your web copy must connect with the reader/potential client and speak to what’s important to them as a photography client, as opposed to using company-centric copy that focuses mostly on the company, i.e., with language like “our goal,” “we have,” “we specialize in,” etc.

Because the edifying truth is, people don’t really care who you are, they want to know how you can help them. They’re seeking the answer to the question, “WIIFM?,” meaning, “What’s in it for me?”

So what you want your web content to do is make an emotional connection with your ideal clients through speaking directly to their desires, wants and needs in a way that makes them eager to do business with you.

Building the Foundation: How to Create Compelling Client-Focused Web Copy

To create persuasive web copy that effectively sells your services, you have to get the foundation in place first.  This is critical work that if left undone, will create frustration, vexation, and irritation (you can tell we love our thesaurus around here), loads of wasted time, and frankly, will attract more than your fair share of pain-in-the-butt, price-shopping clients. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

On the other hand, if you do the foundational work first, creating compelling web copy for every page on your site, from your Home page, to your About page, to your Services and Pricing pages, and everything in between, becomes a breeze.

This foundational work consists of:

#1: Figuring out who your ideal clients are so you can speak directly to them with a targeted and persuasive marketing message

#2: Determining what makes your work, your process, your services, or the way you do business different, better, more special, or more compelling to these ideal clients than others who do what you do, also known as your unique selling proposition

I cannot stress enough how important these two steps are to creating your compelling marketing message; everything flows from this.  It will inform everything else in your business, from the kind of clients you work with, to the services you offer, to how and who you market to, to your tagline and your client pitches, and lots more besides.

Stick with me, I’m going to tell you how to do this.

{If you want to read the story of the exhaustion, struggle and overwhelm I experienced in my business and how I resolved it by figuring out my ideal clients and unique selling proposition, check out Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?}

Defining Your Ideal Clients

This is the fun stuff – where you get to dream up exactly the kind of person who would be perfect for your services and who you’d L-O-V-E to work with. 

Because the bottom line is, if you haven’t defined your ideal client/perfect customer/target audience, then you’re trying to talk to “everybody” with your web content – which means it’s most likely bland and boring and homogenous.  And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as it may be, it won’t convert the right readers into your dream clients and potential clients. Say it with me: bland and boring does not convert!

To find out more about defining your ideal clients, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your Audience Checklist, check out The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition

Once you’ve determined who your ideal clients are, you can begin to work out what your unique selling proposition is. Your USP is simply the collection of factors unique to you and your business that compel your ideal clients to choose you over someone else who offers the same product or service.  In fact, who you serve – your ICA or “ideal client avatar” – can be part of your unique selling proposition.

The benefit of a well-defined USP is that you’ll begin to connect with and convert your ideal clients, instead of ending up with the ones who make you want to plunge daggers into your eyes.  Because when a potential ideal client lands on your website and sees it’s not like the hundreds of photography sites they found when they were Googling that thing you do, they will stop and take notice, instead of trucking right on past your website never to return.

To find out how to uncover your USP, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your USP Checklist, check out Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

In that post you’ll find a couple of examples of creative service providers doing differentiation right, so you can see what that looks like in the context of writing client-focused web copy. On a similar note, you might want to check out this guest post I wrote called 6 Authentic, Low-Cost Ways to Differentiate Yourself Online to Attract Your Ideal Clients and Customers.

Ok, So You’ve Figured Out Your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) and USP (Unique Selling Proposition), Now What?

Once you’ve knocked out these two very important first steps, you’re ready to implement what you’ve discovered about your ICA and USP to create compelling client-focused copy on your web site. The foundational work you’ve now done makes this much easier.

I would start with the Home page and the About page first, because those are the two most visited pages on most websites.

(For more information on writing an effective About page, including a template created especially for creatives, check out For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring, Lackluster About Page into an Ideal Client-Attracting Magnet.  At the end of that blog post you’ll have an opportunity to get the template I use to write About pages for clients, gratis, of course.)

Now on to the Home page. You want to think of your Home page as a virtual storefront – unless you provide a warm, welcoming, value-packed reason to come inside, people are going to walk right on by.

On the web, that means potential ideal clients will click away from your site faster than green grass through a goose if you don’t instantly demonstrate value and relevance to them.

Your Home page needs to: 

Convince busy web visitors on a mission to find specific, problem-solving information to stay on your site long enough to read further, find out what you’re about, and take some kind of action – such as checking out your products and services, signing up for your email list, or requesting a quote/more information, etc.

And because of the way people read and search on the web, you only have a few seconds to do this.

Here’s a down-and-dirty Home page checklist that will help you get yours in tip-top shape.

An effective Home page will do these 5 things:

1. Demonstrate that you understand your target audience’s problems

2. Offer a solution to those problems by sharing the benefits of what you have to offer, clearly, concisely, and compellingly.

3. Explain how solving the problem will improve your clients’ lives. See copywriting power tip #1, below.

4. Let your website visitors and potential customers know how you’re different from the competition and what makes you uniquely qualified to solve their problems.

5. Include a clear call to action. Very simply, this means giving them something to do next that will deepen the relationship with you, such as reading your blog or signing up for your email list, etc.

Remember, all the copy on this page needs to be client-focused. It’s less about you and more about your potential client’s wants, needs, and desires.

Your Home page will demonstrate what you can do to make your clients’ lives easier, better, healthier, richer, more successful or what have you, depending on the exact product or service you provide.

While the blog post linked up here is not strictly about Home pages, you’ll find some helpful advice on wooing and engaging potential buyers with web copy:  Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly.

For the fine art photographers reading this, I know you may think that these suggestions won’t work for you. If that’s the case, I suggest you check out this post I wrote on how you can apply copywriting principles to what you do:  Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

A Powerful Way to Reel ‘Em In: Three Bonus Client-Attracting Copywriting Power Tips

Copywriting Power Tip #1:  “Paint a Picture”

Whatever services you offer – wedding photography, lifestyle photography, product photography, even fine art photography – you need to help your potential clients and customers see the vision of what can be for them when they use your services or buy your work – their ideal outcome.

A very effective way to do this is to “paint a picture” with your web copy. Get the nitty-gritty details of how to do that here:  What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells.

Copywriting Power Tip #2:  Inject Personality

One of the most common website faults among creative service providers is boring, bland, and flavorless web copy.  Remember, bland and boring does not sell.  And since bland, boring copy is a common malady all over the web, if you buck that trend, you’ll stand out – in a good way.

There are creative ways to invest even the most plain, utilitarian thing with personality through the use of compelling web copy. That said, creative services typically are not bland and boring, so your web copy shouldn’t be either. Copy with personality gets remembered, creates desire for your services, and more importantly, sells more effectively than homogenous, dull as dirt web copy.

This doesn’t mean you have to get crazy, mind you. If you’re more Josh Groban than David Lee Roth, then own it, and let that shine through in your web and other marketing.

To learn more about using personality in web copy, check out these two posts: How to Sell Any Boring Old Thing with Scandalously Good Copy and If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing.

Copywriting Power Tip #3: Tap into the Power of Emotion

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative services, is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy. Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic.

You may have heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.) If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories.  But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because eating them makes you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the exact service you offer.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into? One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  It’s simple, and it works.

Learn the “so what?” technique and how to apply it here: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

The bottom line: you have to use client-focused copy to create an emotional connection – that’s how you stand out among all the other talented photographers online, and that’s how your right people will find you.

And there you have it, my talented photographer friends – the simple website copy tweak that will win you more clients: client-focused web copy, and how to create it.

I know this was a heckuva lot to take in all at once, so here are the steps again, simplified:

  1. Figure out who your ideal clients are and what they desire (I pointed you to a free downloadable worksheet for this)
  2. Determine your unique selling proposition (Ditto on the free downloadable worksheet)
  3. Use this information to create compelling client-focused web copy that speaks to your ideal clients wants, needs and desires, starting with the Home page and About page on your site

But wait, there’s more!

You might find this post I wrote on taglines valuable as you re-work your website copy to focus on your ideal clients. It’s a dead-simple formula for creating a tagline for your creative business in 20 minutes flat: Taglines 101: How to Create a Tagline for Your Creative Business.

Questions? Comments?  Leave ‘em below! 

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, 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 fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

New York Experience Required

photo by kconners

photo by kconners

Nothing could top the magic I felt the day I arrived at New York’s Penn Station from Wilmington, a smallish town on North Carolina’s southeastern coast, to officially begin my New York life. I felt liberated and inspired, intoxicated by the notion that anything was possible now that I was going to be living in this magical city.

It was 1991 and my then boyfriend was getting his MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. I was living in Wilmington, earning my English degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. After we did the long-distance relationship thing for a while, the topic of me moving to New York came up. I was already packing mentally 30 seconds into the conversation. Back in the real world a few days later, I dropped all my classes at UNCW, began the process of transferring to Fordham College at Lincoln Center, and starting packing my belongings for real.

Luckily the boyfriend had scored a sweet little apartment on 119th and Amsterdam, in a building with a doorman and a nice restaurant on the top floor called The Terrace, through some impossible magic of Columbia student housing.  With safe shelter out of the way, my first order of business was finding a job to fill the time and my bank account until I was to begin classes a few months later.

I started looking for waitressing work.  For a girl with plenty of restaurant experience who had never had trouble finding a waitressing gig before, this turned out to be surprisingly difficult. I would comb through classified ads in The Village Voice spying ad after ad that said, “New York experience required.”  I was baffled. I had no clue what the difference between waiting tables in a small southern beach community and Manhattan’s restaurant scene was.

After a few weeks of searching, I scored a job in a casual hamburger joint thick in the theater district just off Broadway on 45th between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.  I was both thrilled and terrified to be given this opportunity. Rows of tables lined up neatly along the length of the restaurant, next to the bar, in front of the kitchen, and around the corner and into the next room, as if every millimeter of empty space that couldn’t accommodate a customer was an affront to commerce. Tables were so close together you could reach out a take a sip of the beer your fellow restaurant patron was enjoying at the next table over as easily as eating a French fry off of your very own plate.

10 minutes into my first shift the need for “New York experience” started to sink in.  Navigating the cramped spaces between tables to deliver food and drinks was dicey. I was forever worried that my butt was in the face of some unsuspecting restaurant patron trying to enjoy their burger and curly fries as I delivered a quesadilla to their neighbors at the next table over.  The distance between my ability to do my job properly and invading my customers’ personal space was exceedingly slim.

Maybe this was different from waitressing in the comparatively spacious and slothlike environment of southeastern North Carolina’s beach scene. 

And it wasn’t just the space issues. From restaurant patrons who arrived at 6:45 pm, waited 30 minutes for a table, then ordered a well-done steak, announcing, “we’re in a hurry, we’re trying to make an 8 o’clock show,” to the purse snatchings inside the restaurant, and from the occasional celebrity sitting in your section to orders for things like lime rickeys and egg creams, nearly everything I encountered in my first few weeks on the job called up the phrase, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

But I was in hog heaven, as we say in the South. I embraced every experience my new job and city had to offer, assenting to both conveniences and annoyances in equal measure, mentally placing them on my “Proof I’m a Real New Yorker” list. The vague suffocation I felt when I lived in the South began to dissipate.

I noticed New York’s peculiarities everywhere: the way the city would empty out in the summer, its residents fleeing the trapped heat and humidity to escape to the Hamptons and other beachy enclaves.  The frequent celebrity sightings, whose frequency made them ordinary. The constant barrage of people asking for money.  The ever present noise of sirens and car horns at all times of the day and night.  Getting shat on by a pigeon as you made your way across 45th street just after crossing Broadway.  (Yes, it happened to me.)

With every new first I felt my hayseed sheen begin to wear off – my first book party in a big fancy apartment on Central Park West, where clumps of minor literary celebs and starving writers from the Columbia MFA program stood around chatting about Lewis Lapham’s latest editorial in Harper’s Magazine, my first celebrity sighting (Paul Schaffer, David Letterman’s musical director) in front of Coliseum Books on 57th and Broadway, the first time I got yelled at by a homeless person I chose not to help that day, the first time I stopped being offended by the admonition of “Next!” and the absence of eye contact in line at the bank.

Like an onion, layer after layer of Southerness peeled away with each passing day.

The day I felt fully transformed into a New Yorker came one glorious spring afternoon as I was leaving the restaurant on my way to everyone’s favorite ubiquitous New York drugstore, Duane Reade. Walking across 45th Street, I spotted a crowd gathered in front of a youth hostel, where several people stood silently hovering around something on the ground, their hands clasped over their mouths, eyes wide. I didn’t want to linger, but I could tell from the shocked energy that hung in the air something bad had happened, and I was curious.

Turns out, a young man had jumped or fallen out of the window of a nearby building, landing on the sidewalk in front of the hostel.

What I remember most clearly all these years later is this young man’s enthusiastically curly red hair, springing from his scalp vibrant and alive, juxtaposed with his body, which clearly wasn’t. 

After a few brief moments of this shared experience with my fellow New Yorkers, the crowd began to disperse, collectively making its way on with the rest of the afternoon. As I walked away, I made a mental note of what I needed to buy at the drugstore.

Lessons Distilled from a Creative Life: “The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art,” by Paul Jarvis

 

The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art by Paul Jarvis

Supported. Seen. Understood.

As a creative, do you often find yourself resistant to business advice or words of wisdom from those not in creative fields, because they don’t seem to get it?  You read a blog post, watch a video, or listen to a podcast to uncover tips for earning a full-time living from your creative thing, and think, “that won’t work for me,” or “that doesn’t apply to me because I sell fine art, photography, design services, illustration, [insert your creative work of choice here].”

While timeless marketing principles, authentically applied, can work for business builders in any category, it’s an unimpeachable truth that as creatives, when we seek counsel on how to up our business game or look for success stories we can apply to our own situation, we want to know that this guidance applies to us specifically as creative business builders. We want to take advice from someone who gets it. We don’t abide yellow highlighter hyperbole, “ninja” tricks, “warrior” moves, or other cliché metaphors of aggression that so many marketers & online business builders promote.

So when a successful creative, someone who earns a full-time living from his creative output, shares what he’s learned along the way, I’m going to pay the gentleman some attention. (“Success” is such a loaded word, so let’s assume here that it means the ability to support yourself from your creative work and feel creatively fulfilled in your daily life.)

Who is this gentleman I speak of?  Why it’s Paul Jarvis, web designer, best-selling author and “gentleman of adventure.”

I recently bought his book, The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art.  It’s pithy, entertaining, and full of good juju in the form of 18 “ideas to consider” when doing your creative thing, wherein Jarvis shares what he’s learned from observing other smart, successful, creative people. He says, “I wrote this book to explore the commonalities between successful artists. These are the 18 traits I see in good creatives. Not get-rich-quick, empty-promise dealers or egomaniacal artists, but good creatives.”

I love his expansive definition of what it means to be a creative: essentially, a creative is a person who makes anything; transforms their ideas into something tangible; curates or edits; leads or teaches; and puts what they know out into the world for others to watch, taste, read or hear.

In the book, Jarvis offers real-world examples to illustrate each of his 18 ideas. And if you’ve spent anytime ‘round these here parts, you know I love me some real-world examples. 

For example, in Chapter One, Try & fail (repeat as necessary), Jarvis shares now famous rejections that didn’t stop the creatives in question from pursing their dreams and becoming wildly successful. Stephen King, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, and Steven Spielberg, anyone?  The message: repeated failure doesn’t stop successful artists. 

In Chapter Three, Launch before you’re ready, Jarvis gives us the example of the Coen brothers’ first film, Blood Simple. The brothers entered their film in the Toronto and Sundance film festivals before the movie was even finished, because they were eager to get something into the competition. Once the film was accepted, they went off and finished it; it then won the 1985 Sundance Grand Jury Prize.

In Chapter Four, Tell your story, Jarvis says, “For creatives, the story behind the art is usually as important as the art itself” (Yes! I could jump up and down!  I give this advice to clients who are creatives all the time), and shares the example of Kris Carr, who launched her career as a wellness activist and author by telling the story of her cancer journey in the documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer.

Other favorite chapters include “Share your ugly process,” “Help others,” “Hug your critics,” “Package your quirks,” “Focus on the work, not the outcome,” and “Break the rules.” But heck, truth be told, I actually loved them all.

As Jarvis says, “These aren’t rules, because you can’t magically follow them and then presto—your art becomes more famous than Gangnam Style,” but the 18 ideas here, embraced and implemented in your own special snowflake way of course, can realistically help you get from “starving artist” to fulfilled creative.

Learn more about the book here

(Depending on when you’re reading this, the book may or may not be available yet.  I bought it on pre-sale from his mailing list; otherwise, it’s available to all on June 1, 2014. I believe it will sell for $25.)

To find out more, get after it here:

The Good Creative: 18 Ways to Make Better Art