5 Signs You Might be a Marketing Scaredy Cat

"You're going to have to do things differently."

Hearing this is enough to send cold chills up the spines of many business owners. They want more customers. They want to be noticed. They want to increase sales. They want to make a difference. But they want to do it by marketing their businesses in one or more of the following (and very PREDICTABLE) ways:

  1. By being cautious so that they don't risk any negative perception.
  2. By going broad in an attempt to appeal to EVERYONE.
  3. By talking about EVERY. SINGLE. FEATURE. their product or service offers.
  4. By talking about what THEY do, what's important to THEM, what THEIR focus is and freakin' awesome THEY are.
  5. By doing what their competitors are doing.

Any of these sound like you? (Don't worry. No one's looking--so you can nod sheepishly to yourself.) If they do, then you (da-da-dum) might just be a marketing scaredy cat. And THAT can hold your business back from reaching its full potential.

Truth be told, most of us have been marketing scaredy cats at one time or another. It's hard to do things differently--because with that comes risk. Risk of missing out on perceived opportunities. Risk of the unknown. Risk of failure. But here's the thing:

Marketing courageously--daring to do it in ways that are more thought-provoking, more awe-inspiring, more head-turning--is what will get your business noticed in our very busy and very noisy world. And that will put you on the path to the success you're seeking.

If you don't believe me, then maybe you'll believe master marketer Steve Jobs. Check out this 1997 commercial that featured one of his most famous quotes about the power of thinking differently:

Approaching marketing differently doesn't mean that you do it without thinking or by ignoring proven fundamentals. That's not being a fearless marketer. That's being a careless one. Instead, the businesses out there who are ROCKIN' it are differentiating themselves and winning against companies MUCH bigger than they are by doing doing really smart things like this: 

  • Knowing what they stand for and not being afraid to go with it. Think Quest Nutrition. The protein bar industry is HUGE and packed full of major players. But this company--one that wants to make "clean eating fun" and whose focus is on ending obesity--is doing protein bars differently. Customers responded (in DROVES!), sales increased and now Quest is expanding its offerings to other food choices.  Check out the Quest story:
  • Focusing on serving a specific audience EXTRAORDINARILY well, instead of underserving an audience that's much too broad. Think Blue Apron. So, do you have any idea what the significance of the name "Blue Apron" is? Well, according to the company's website, "chefs around the world wear blue aprons while learning to cook." And that's PERFECT for this company, considering that it's mission is to "make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone." It's not trying to put itself out there as the food home delivery company for everyone no matter how well you can cook. Instead, it's focusing on those who probably aren't going to be hosting their own show on The Food Network anytime soon. Check out what some of their raving fans are saying:
  • Refusing to be like everyone else--and having fun in the process. Think Ben & Jerry's. When I was growing up, the most "out there" ice cream flavor was Rocky Road. And when you bought ice cream, well--you were just buying ice cream. But Ben & Jerry's changed all of that back in 1978 when they opened up their first scoop shop. They made buying ice cream an experience. Personalities were defined by what flavor you liked. Cherry Garcia®? (YES, thank you!) Phish Phood®? Chocolate Therapy®? And Ben & Jerry's also became known as a company with a conscience.
  • Avoid "feature fatigue." (Seriously. It's a thing. Check it out here.) Think Uber. Here's what Forbes had to say about it: "When the service launched, would anyone had cared if they had a slightly better taxi experience, but could also make deliveries? No, that would have just been them trying to do too much and, most likely, doing it all poorly. Instead, people care about Uber because it is way, way better and way, way more convenient than riding a taxi. Uber focused on one thing—being a great transportation app—and devoted all its resources into doing that one thing really, really well." The lesson here? Find your one thing and do it better than anyone else.

If you have a great product or service or cause to sell, don't shortchange it by being a marketing scaredy cat. Be brave. Be bold. And be willing to push beyond what feels comfortable. That's where you'll stand out from all of the noise--and that's where the world will be waiting for you.

START TELLING THE WORLD ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS MORE EFFECTIVELY TODAY--FOR FREE!

Take the guesswork (and PAIN) out of writing great copy that sells what you're offering! Get this easy, step-by-step FREE guide that teaches you a simple and proven formula for writing copy that sells whatever you're offering. All the cool kids (and REALLY successful businesses) are using it! So get it today!

Are Your Words Lightning Bugs or Lightning Bolts?

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Mark Twain

We've all been there. We know what we're trying to say--but we just can't figure out how to say it. So, how do we go about finding those words--those lightning bolts--that make the hair stand up on the back of the reader's neck? That are so powerful they leave us awestruck? That elicit a desired emotion with surgical precision? And that--far too often--seem so very elusive?

I wish I had a magic something-or-other to give you that would be a foolproof way of grabbing the right word out of thin air every single time. But I don't. What I CAN do, though, is suggest two different--yet complementary--approaches. One is practical. And one is tactical. So, here goes:

PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR LIGHTNING BOLT HUNTERS

Explain It to a Kid (or Your Grandmother)

If you have a child or if you're around children for any length of time, then you're very familiar with questions like these:

"But, why??"

"What does that mean?"

"How does it work?"

If you're like me, these moments often leave you saying something incredibly intelligent. Something like, "Well, uh, you see, it's like--uh..." It's not that we don't KNOW the answer. (Well, at least we know it MOST of the time.) Instead, we find ourselves struggling to explain something that seems so obvious to us--but so mysterious to this curious child standing there looking to us for the answer. But just because something seems obvious doesn't mean we understand well enough to explain it. A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein says:

"You do not truly understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

Regardless of who said it, the big idea of the quote is true. Sometimes when I'm having trouble finding the right word, it's because ​I'm not fully understanding the concept I'm trying to write about. It's not clear enough in my mind. But, once I gain a better understanding of WHAT I'm writing about, then I become much more clear about HOW to write about it--including finding just the right words to do it. 

Write Like You Talk

One thing I see when working with writers is that they often try to write in ways that sound NOTHING like how they (or their audience) talk. So no wonder they struggle to find the right words (or ANY words, for that matter)! It's almost like they're writing in a foreign language that they can't speak and certainly don't understand. They use a word like "notwithstanding" instead of just saying "regardless." Or "furnish" instead of just plain ol' "give." Or they've picked some word out of a thesaurus that sounds smart--but they flub up the usage of it. (Remember--just because a word is listed as a synonym doesn't mean it conveys the meaning you're looking for.)

When you write like you or your audience talks, words start flowing much easier. Give it a try.

TACTICAL ADVICE FOR LIGHTNING BOLT HUNTERS

The following are some free online resources that can help you track down that lightning bolt of a word  you're searching for. Check them out. Play around with them. And see which of them works best for you.

Thesaurus.com

You probably already know about this resource. If you do--GREAT! Use it. It's pulled me out of some tough spots on many occasions. If you're not using it, USE IT! Why sit there struggling with how to say something when the answer might very well be right at your fingertips. ​

One Look Thesaurus

Although this is a thesaurus, you don't use it in the same way as you do a typical one. Instead, you type in the phrase that describes what you're trying to find a word for and it helps you find that word. Pretty cool stuff!​

RhymeZone

In addition to helping you find rhyming words, RhymeZone can also help you find things like descriptive words, lyrics that include the word you're researching, and even PICTURES that represent the word. All of these are incredibly helpful in getting the creative juices flowing when ​you're looking for just the right way to say something.

Lexical FreeNet

This tool is great for helping you find connections between words. For example, when I type in "football" (the American version of the game), it gives me connections like "quarterback", "league", "players", "coach" and--yes--"soccer." 🙂

alphaDictionary

When you're writing about something in a specific area--like food or construction or even dinosaurs--this tool provides easy access to dictionaries for these various topics. Need to know the lexicon of parrots? Terms used in folk dancing? ​The name of a dress style from the Baroque period? I'd start with alphaDictionary.

Words by Grammarly

I really like the interface of this tool. You not only get synonyms and definitions listed on the same page, but you can also see the WordScore--which gives you information about how often a synonym is used in comparison to others.

Power Thesaurus

This tool is SO cool! It's a crowdsourced thesaurus built by writers for writers. ​And our fellow wordsmiths are adding to it all the time, so it's a living, breathing resource. You can also see what words people are looking for in real time--which is a fun feature in and of itself if you're a word geek like me.

We're All Storm Chasers

As writers, we spend a lot of time chasing down the right word. Why? Because we know the power it has to make a difference in the impact our writing will have. It can be SUCH a frustrating search, though. We KNOW it's out there--but where?

Being a great writer--not merely a good writer--means that we have to accept that we'll always be storm chasers. We'll always be on the hunt for that lightning bolt that will transform our writing into something magical. Something that people don't just read--but actually feel. And it's up to each of us to figure out the best way to approach the hunt. But, regardless how how you hunt, the most important thing is to never stop searching.

It's okay to have some lightning bugs sprinkled through our writing. Because, after all, great writing has a rhythm to it. But for those certain parts --only a lightning bolt will do. It's out there. Go get it.

If you like this, then you'll like the other stuff we're doing over at The Smarter Writing Lab! So, join us!

A Smart Conversation about Smarter Online Courses with Janelle Allen

Janelle Allen of Zen Courses

In addition to giving you the tools to help you WRITE smarter, The Smarter Writing Lab also provides information about how to use your writing skills to EARN smarter. And that's the purpose of my conversation with Janelle Allen of Zen Courses. Enjoy!

One of the most exciting things about being a writer these days is that there are SO many ways to earn a living with your writing skills. You just have to be open to trying things that might not be as traditional as freelancing (which is still a good revenue option). One of those ways is online course creation. This is an area I've become SUPER interested in during the past year. I actually launched a course last fall called How to Start a Freelance Writing Copywriting Business (go figure) and I'm getting ready to launch another one this summer. I love everything about creating online courses--from coming up with the idea to figuring out the best way to deliver the information to making a difference in the lives of my students. Oh--and getting paid to do it is a nice perk, too!

Earlier this year, I found out about Zen Courses--an online resource for creating online courses that matter. My first interaction was with the podcast, which is produced and hosted by Zen Courses owner Janelle Allen. And then I visited the website and signed up for Janelle's FABULOUS and FREE email series 5 Types of Online Courses. Now--I'm a RAVING FAN of Janelle's and what she's doing over at Zen Courses.

Recently, Janelle graciously agreed to chat with me about online course creation and why it can be a really good fit for writers who are looking for ways to either add to or shift their revenue streams. Here's what she had to say:

So, first of all, I really LOVE the emails I get from Zen Courses! They're so well-written and interesting. I actually look forward to seeing them in my inbox!

Thanks! I'm glad you like them. At my core, I'm a writer. So I hope that shows through in all of my communications. During grad school, I worked as a freelance copywriter as my side-hustle. But I didn't like writing to sell things in a pushy way. And that's not very helpful if you're trying to make a living helping your clients sell what they're offering! It wasn't until much later that I learned you could write persuasively without being pushy.

You started out as a freelance copywriter, and now you're running a very successful course creation business. How in the world did THAT happen?

Well, it's certainly been a journey! I've always been drawn to self-employment and the entrepreneurial lifestyle. During my stint as a freelance copywriter, I attended graduate school to earn a degree in instructional design. I liked the idea of building learning experiences, so instructional design made sense for me. After graduating, I started working with corporations and colleges in creating online courses for them using the principles of adult learning and design. My goal was--and still is--to find those lightbulb moments for students. Those moments when they go, "Aha! I get it!"

I've always blogged on the side and, over time, I started to have a LOT of entrepreneurs coming to me asking for help in developing courses. They wanted to know everything--including instructional design, which surprised me. So, that was the genesis of Zen Courses. It's guiding purpose is to help entrepreneurs--including writers--to make actionable, learner-focused courses that change lives. I'm pretty proud of it.

Wow! That really HAS been a journey! I love what you're doing at Zen Courses--but let's talk about some of the hype out there about creating and selling online courses. What's up with all of that?

Well, yes, there is a lot of hype out there. There's this idea that you're going to throw up a website, launch a course and make six figures--all in the span of a few weeks. But that's just not the case for most people. It's NOT a quick thing. It's probably going to be 18 months or so before you start to see returns on your course building efforts. Until then, it's likely that you'll spend more than you make.

Also, it's important to realize that some of the folks out there who are talking about the ease of course creation and how it can bring in so much revenue so quickly have extra time, money, employees and other resources necessary to build and run these six- and seven-figure course launches. It's much easier for them to do that than it is for those of us who don't yet have those resources to support our efforts.

If you're realistic about the time it's going to take to create and launch a course, and if you can be patient while waiting for the revenue levels to rise to where you want them to be, online courses can be a profitable undertaking. Just don't expect too much too fast or you'll end up getting frustrated. ​It's a long game but totally worth it.

Okay. That definitely brings us back down to earth. So, here's my next question: Do you think online course creation is a good income opportunity for writers to consider?

I do--especially if there's a specific area they have expertise in. It doesn't even have to be writing. It could be a hobby they have or something like that. And when I say "expertise", I'm not saying you have to be the all-knowing expert about a topic. You just have to know more about it than your audience does.

What advantages do writers have when it comes to creating and selling online courses?

They actually have a couple of really important ones.

First, to make money with courses, you have to market them. You have to create sales funnels and email sequences that build trust with the audience. Writers know how to do this. They know how to write in way that connects.

Also, writers can explain things well. Before you can write about something effectively, you have to understand it. Writers know this. And they know how to communicate in ways that make complex things easier to comprehend.

So there are advantages writers have. How about disadvantages?

This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about my reluctance to write sales copy when I was freelancing at the beginning of my career. Writers tend to be uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money and selling. I get it. We--as writers--want to focus on the CRAFT of writing. But, if you want to make a living with your writing, you have to get comfortable with marketing. This is true for entrepreneurs, too.

My advice is to figure out how YOU market things instead of looking at how everyone else is doing it. One way to do this is to identify three or four people online who you follow and respect--and who are successful. How are they marketing? What are they doing that resonates with you? What--in your mind--makes them trustworthy? Why doesn't their marketing feel slimy to you? Then--FIND YOUR VOICE. And remember that selling is ultimately about sharing value with others. That's the mental mindset you need to reach. You're not pushing something on your customers. You're tuning into the value of what you're offering and connecting that value with people who need it.

For writers--or any entrepreneurs--who want to get started with online courses, what's some advice you can offer?

  • First of all, you really need to have an audience and an email list. It doesn't have to be a huge list. I'd say around 250 people is good for getting started. If you don't have an email list that you can market your courses to, the chance of generating any significant revenue is slim.
  • Next, focus on your learner. What problems do they struggle with? How can you help solve them? What will they be able to do after they finish your course? Decide that first--THEN start building your course.
  • It's a good idea to validate your course idea with a free offering--say an email course or workshop--before you invest a lot of time and energy creating it.
  • Be sure your content is designed for learning. In other words, take your learners on a journey from Point A to Point B. Be sure to keep in mind any questions or challenges your learner might be facing along the way so you can address them in your content. Don't just randomly jump from topic to topic. Instead, topics should build on each other.
    • Decide how the course material will be delivered. Will there be videos, PDFs, audio files, a mixture of several formats?
    • How will you determine success? Will there be quizzes along the learning journey? Is there a final project students have to produce and submit for feedback? Whatever it is, you should have a way to determine if learning is actually happening.
    • Once your course is developed, THEN focus on technology. If you're looking for a place to host your course, there are a lot of online course hosted platform options out there--like Teachable, Thinkific and Ruzuku. And you can also self-host your course--you just need to be moderately comfortable with WordPress and LMS plugins in order to do that successfully. That being said, I usually recommend one of the hosted platforms.

This is FANTASTIC information! How are you helping entrepreneurs with course building at Zen Courses?

Different people are at different places in their course building journey, so I try to meet them where they are by offering a variety of products and services. Right now, I provide workshops and consulting in which people can roll up their sleeves and get things done, I'm launching two new self-paced courses for those who like to work on their own timeline;  and I offer really intensive bootcamp courses a couple of times a year covering a variety of course building topics.

Other than Zen Courses--which has TONS of great info --are there other resources folks can access to learn more about creating and launching online courses?

I would definitely recommend Jeff Walker's book called LAUNCH. After you create your course, you're going to need a launch plan. Also, I really enjoy the online community for entrepreneurs called Fizzle. Lots of great support and information can be found there.

FULL AND COMPLETELY ABOVE BOARD DISCLOSURE! The link to LAUNCH! is an affiliate link of mine--which means I get a few coins tossed my way if you use it. And that helps me keep doing what I'm doing here at The Smarter Writing Lab! ​

Thanks SO MUCH to Janelle Allen of Zen Courses for sharing her thoughts and advice about online course creation! As I mentioned, I'm a HUGE fan of online course creation as a revenue stream for writers and other entrepreneurs. And I'm also a HUGE fan of Janelle's!

Like what you've read here? AWESOME! Make sure you don't miss any of the great info from The Smarter Writing Lab. Join the community of writers and entrepreneurs who want to learn how to write and earn smarter!

Nick Loper–Smart Conversations about Smart Writing

I've been a HUGE fan of Nick Loper's for a couple of years. He's my kind of guy--smart, humble, curious and really nice! He hosts The Side Hustle Show: Business Ideas for Part-Time Entrepreneurs--a podcast  that delivers the kind of info I love: Real-life examples of the creative ways people from all walks of life are using their skills and talents to launch part-time (and even full-time) entrepreneurial ventures.

For the first post of my new blog series--​Smart Conversations about Smart Writing--I knew I wanted to talk with Nick about why writing well is such an important part of building successful businesses. One reason is because he's interviewed SO many entrepreneurs and has heard their stories about how they're promoting themselves, creating courses, writing books, etc. The other reason is that I wanted to hear how he views writing when it comes to building his own business.

In the infographic below, you can read about our conversation and also learn about a smart writing hack Nick uses to create headlines. (He's really good at writing headlines, so you don't want to miss it!) Additionally, he recommended the following episodes of his podcasts for those of you who are interested in hearing how others are earning money with their writing skills:

Dave Chesson: Amazon Ranking Secrets for Books and Physical Products from an SEO Pro​

Lise Cartwright: Earning $3000-$4000 per Month on Kindle in Just Six Months as a "Professional" Author

Nick Stephenson: Permafree on Amazon: How and Why to Give Your Book Away​

Rob Cubbon: The Path to $5k a Month Passive Income Sharing What You Already Know

There's TONS of great info in these podcasts. So I encourage you to listen to them and take notes! Nick also provides fantastic show notes for each of his podcasts that summarize what was discussed and that provide links to websites, books, resources, etc. mentioned during the interview.

Now--on to MY interview with NICK!

Like this infographic? Download a PDF copy of it here. And if you like this kind of information about smarter writing, join The Smarter Writing Lab Community here!

It’s ALWAYS About YOU!!

"This is what I want to do."

"I don't care what you need. I need THIS."

"Just be quiet and listen to me." 

If you've ever been in a relationship that centered around the other person, some of this might sound all too familiar. And--it's probably not TOO much of a stretch to guess that you might have said this one or two times:

"Why is it ALWAYS about YOU?" What about ME? Don't I matter?

When a relationship is (or at least appears to be) one-sided, it doesn't feel good, does it? It doesn't make you feel close to the other person. It doesn't make you want to do anything for them. It doesn't make you miss them when they're not around. And it surely doesn't make you want to stay with them. 

What does any of this have to do with being an entrepreneur?  More than you might think.

If your business is coming off to potential customers as being all about you, then why in the world would they want to pick you over one of your competitors that's all about them? Again, think about relationships. Who are you going to be more attracted to? The person who's always wanting the focus to be on them? Or the person who's genuinely and consistently interested in your needs and finding ways to fulfill them? It's a no-brainer, right?

So, how do you know if your business is coming off as being self-absorbed? Here are three simple red flags to look for:

  • Your website copy includes a lot of sentences starting with "We" or "I".
  • You talk about features of your offerings instead of benefits.
  • You use language in your marketing copy that's full of industry jargon instead of communicating in a way that potential customers will understand and relate to.

If you find one or more of these red flags, here are three simple things you can do to make your potential customers swoon:

  • Be "YOU"-focused when writing your promotional copy--including what's on your website. Start more sentences that put the customer first--such as "You work really hard to make sure your kids have what they need." Or "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to not worry about money?" By doing this, you're acknowledging the pain points of your potential customers and, in turn, they see that you really "get" them.
  • Talk about benefits more than features. Who cares if you offer freelance design services? What does that mean for the customer? Tell them how you're going to make their life better with the services you offer. Maybe it's that you make the design experience fun for them. Or that the design work you do will set their business apart from the competition and increase their sales. Whatever those benefits are, COMMUNICATE ABOUT THEM TO POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS !
  • Write copy like your potential customers talk. When you use industry jargon or other complicated language, you lose a chance to connect with your audience. Communicate with potential customers in ways that they can relate to. Do that and you'll win fans along the way.

No matter what business you're in, you've got competitors out there who are trying to look better in the eyes of potential customers. By simply changing the focus of how you communicate, you can stand out--BIG TIME. So, get out there and prove to everyone what a great catch you are by putting the needs and interests of your current and potential customers front and center!


Like this post? Be sure to check out similar cool stuff at The Page-Turner Mission, where we help wannapreneurs turn the page to being entrepreneurs! We can also take a look at your website or other marketing materials to make sure you're focusing on your potential customers in a way that connects. Send an email to Michele@smarterwritinglab.com to get the details.


Is Your Business Showing Up to the Wrong Party on Social Media?

"I've just started a new business and I need to be on Facebook."

"My competitors are on Twitter--so I need to be on Twitter, too."

"I just heard about Snapchat. How do I get started on it?"

These are the things I hear from my coaching clients and others when it comes to how their businesses should show up on social media. They feel a crushing sense of overwhelm when it comes to figuring out how to fit social media into their already crazy schedules. They struggle with how they're going to find time to tweet, post and pin things their audiences will like every single day.

Believe me, I get it. The pressure is on to make sure your business is getting likes, shares, pins, retweets, comments, views, and all other kinds of recognition. One--it makes us feel good to get noticed. And, two, there's hope that this recognition will lead to increased brand awareness among those in our target audience and that this awareness will eventually generate sales.

Here's the thing: You don't need to be on EVERY social media platform-or even more than ONE-in order to succeed.

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When it comes to choosing which social media party you're going to attend--go where your audience already is. And don't assume you already know. Just because you use Instagram doesn't mean your customers or clients do. Here are a few quick tips to help you figure out where you need to be:

  • Know who your target audience is.
  • Ask your current clients or customers which social media platforms they use the most.
  • Do some research to see how active your audience is on social media platforms. (If they don't actually engage with the platforms they're on, then you might want to consider if you want to spend time posting content to those platforms. Again, this is something you can ask them about.)
  • Understand the demographics of each of the most popular social medial platforms. Here's a great post from Sprout Social to help with that.

Once you decide which platform(s) you're going to focus on--and I advise my coaching clients to pick no more than two--learn everything about how they work and the best type of content to post on them. Also, remember that if you're not posting content and engaging with your followers on a regular basis on social media, you quickly become irrelevant. Harsh--yet true.

If you're going to pursue social media as part of your content marketing efforts, COMMIT!

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No doubt, social media can be a mind-boggler for entrepreneurs--especially if it's just YOU who's having to run everything with your business. But keep it simple. Go to the social media party where your audience has already arrived. And forget the rest.

If you're just starting a business or in the process of thinking about starting one, you probably have a TON of questions and not nearly enough time to find the answers. That's what The Page-Turner Mission Coaching Program is here for! I'd love to chat with you about how I can help you on this new venture. So, shoot me an email at michele@smarterwritinglab.com to schedule a time to connect!

Luftschlangen Konfetti Party

10 Novels that Rocked My World

I really LOVE getting book suggestions from people who've read something that moved them in some way. It always feels like such a gift when I receive that kind of recommendation. It's like they've given me a small part of themselves in some way. So, in this post, I'd like to give you a gift of 10 book recommendations of my own. Some of them you might recognize. (Frankly, some of the books have been around FOREVER.) But there might be at least a few that are new to you and that you'll enjoy as much as I did. The links are affiliate links--which means I'll get a small commission if you use them, but it won't cost you anything extra. If you don't want to use them, that's cool. You can always go directly to Amazon or any other bookseller--including your local bookstore! Enjoy!

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain  

Ever heard of Hemingway--as in Ernest? Yep. Thought so. Well, this book is a fictional account of his first wife--​Hadley Richardson--and their passionate and heartbreaking romance. The setting is 1920s Paris and the cast of characters includes many you'll recognize, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce. As a writer, I ate all of this up! It was so much fun to be transported back to a time that was as creative and transformative as it was wild and heady.

Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

My soul sister introduced me ​to the Chief Inspector Gamache books several years ago and I fell in love with them from the very start. Although the books are typically murder mysteries, the focus is on the characters who live in a small, out-of-the-way town near Montreal, Canada called Three Pines. I love them all--from the profanity-spewing elderly poet to the gay innkeepers to the intelligent and kind chief inspector. And I miss them while I'm waiting for Louise Penny to publish the next book in the series.  The book I've mentioned here isn't the first book in the series--that would be Still Life--but it's my fave.

​The Art of Racing in the Rain--A Novel by Garth Stein

If you love dogs, this is a must read. Seriously. ​Get it now--and bring tissues. I read this book right after I had to put my beloved 15-year-old Labrador to sleep several years ago and SOBBED when I got to the end. (And I'm not a crier.) But it brought me an overwhelming sense of peace that I hadn't been able to find until this book. It's that good.

The Prince of Tides--A Novel by Pat Conroy

When Pat Conroy passed away, it felt like such a huge loss to me. I had never met the man--but I was so sad that I'd never read a new work by him. I'm a southerner by birth and loved how he wrote about the South--fearlessly and beautifully exposing its downfalls and celebrating its wonder. The Prince of Tides was the first book I read by Mr. Conroy. I was in my early 20s and I clearly remember sitting on the floor of my two-room apartment reading the final pages of this magnificent novel--realizing that this would be the book against which I'd forever measure all others.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood--A Novel by Rebecca Wells

Maybe you've seen the movie Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I did. And I loved it! But, even if you saw it, you still need to read the book it was based on. It's such a wonderful tale of strong--and sometimes broken--female characters. I was mesmerized by the way it explored the relationship between mother and daughter and the strength and resilience of the tie that binds a group of such uniquely different friends through the decades.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I loved The Kite Runner. Amazing story. But I ADORED A Thousand Splendid Suns. From beginning to end, I was absolutely spellbound by this story of two women. It seemed to constantly move back and forth between heartwarming and horrifying. ​And I was also awestruck by the way Khaled Hosseini brings Afghanistan to life in such a vivid and beautiful way.

American Assassin: A Mitch Rapp Novel by Vince Flynn

Okay. I must confess. I'm a political junkie. And the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn feeds my habit. The main character--Mitch Rapp (obviously)--is a CIA secret operative whose focus is counterterrorism. I've read the entire series to date and most of the reading I did was when I was on the treadmill. The action in the books is too intense for me to read sitting down. Let me just say, it made my workouts go by faster than EVER.

The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

I've always been a history buff and this book set during WWII is the REAL DEAL when it comes to sweeping historical fiction. I read it years ago when I was a college student--and it wasn't a class assignment. I read it because it's a story that absolutely consumed me. I lived with the characters day after day, night after night as I made my way through this epic. And the best part? It didn't end at "The End." There's a sequel called War & Remembrance!

Pompeii by Robert Harris

I've always been fascinated by the story ​of Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. We've all seen the ghostly images of those who were frozen in time by the ash and debris that rained down on the city. But that doesn't even begin to tell the story of the vibrant seaside community that existed before that terrifying day. This book by Robert Harris brings it all back to life in a way that gave me a whole new perspective--not just about the disaster, but about the people who lived through it and died because of it.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I've been a fan of Sue Monk Kidd for years. And The Invention of Wings just solidified that fandom. Set in 19th century Charleston, it's a tale of an unexpected and complex relationship between a female slave and the plantation owner's daughter. Their age is about the only thing these two have in common--but their life stories are intertwined in ways that held my attention from beginning to end.

So--there you have it! Ten books that I've loved and that touched me in so many ways. Now, how about sharing YOUR favorite books with me and others in the comments below? I'd love to hear your recommendations. Summer's coming up and I need to get my reading list together!

The 10 Commandments of Client Relationships for Freelance Writers

Client Relationships for Freelance Copywriters

The following is a chapter from my first book in the The Lunch Hour Master Class Series(TM)–The Quick Start Guide to Making a (GREAT) Living as a Freelance Copywriter: The Information You Need to Get Up and Earning FAST!

 

Establishing a client relationship is only the first step. Building it and maintaining it over time is where the real work–and rewards–come in. How do you do that? Follow the 10 Commandments of Client Relationships. Now, to be clear, they did NOT come down on stone tablets from a mountaintop. But they are things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me build lasting relationships with clients who are good for my business and good for my soul:

  1. Really take the time to get to know your clients business. Study it. Fall in love with it. Ask for a factory tour. Ask to meet with their customers. Get to know it better than anyone else–including your client.
  1. Develop a very clear understanding of what your client is looking for. Ask for a creative brief that includes project objectives, messaging points, must haves, etc. And it needs to be signed off on by client. Also, be sure you fully understand what you’re being asked to deliver. If you don’t–ASK.
  1. Find out how success of the project will be defined–and by whom. Will it be defined by a specific person? If so, will you have access to that person? Will be defined by a committee? If so, what’s the process for that? In order to achieve success, you need to know what it looks like from your client’s perspective.
  1. Be sure to manage a client’s expectations from Day 1. Be clear about what you can do, when you can deliver, how many rounds of changes, your rates, etc. By doing so, everybody knows what to expect from each other—and that can avoid a lot of frustration in the long run.
  1. Get your fee agreement in writing. This helps protect both you and your client. They know how much they’ll be paying and you know what’s expected in return for your fee.
  1. Present your work with confidence–and in person whenever possible. Don’t be apologetic about it. If you don’t feel like your copy is great–then don’t present it. Only present your best work that provides the best solution. Remember–YOU are the champion of your work. So present it confidently. Doesn’t mean client will always love it or that changes won’t be needed. But it can go a long way in helping clients have confidence in you and your work.
  1. Don’t get defensive when clients ask for changes. As long as changes are reasonable–make them. If directions are shifted–you might need to renegotiate your fee.
  1. Deliver what you promise when you promise. No excuses. Don’t make your problems your client’s problems. Find a way to deliver.
  1. Be easy to work with. This goes far in terms of getting repeat work. If you’re talented, listen well, and are easy to work with—you’ll get called back for more work over and over.
  1. Always be providing value. Help clients think about things in a different way. Do simple things, like sharing articles of interest with them without asking for work. They’ll begin to see you not just as someone they’re outsourcing work to–but as a valued partner.

Want to learn more about how to become a freelance copywriter? Great! Here are two things you can do right now:

  1. (Shameless Plug #1): Purchase The Quick Start Guide to Making a (GREAT) Living as a Freelance Copywriter: The Information You Need to Get Up and Earning FAST! on Amazon.
  2. (Shameless Plug #2): Join us over at The Page Turner Mission and pick up your free copy of The 5-Minute Copywriting Class

How Much Copy Should Go on Your Home Page?

It can be hard determining how much copy to put on your business website’s home page. Should you put a lot? Or will that turn people off? Should you just put a little bit? Or will that not give site visitors enough info to make a decision? This fantastic (and well-researched) infographic by Neil Patel at QuickSprout will help you answer those questions.

 

How Much Copy Should You Write on Your Homepage?
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout