What Do Customers REALLY Want to Hear From You?

A couple of years ago, I was sitting out on the deck with some folks who had been invited over for dinner. I didn’t know them well at all. But—as we were waiting for the grill to heat up—everyone was chatting about this and that. One person sitting near me asked me what I did for a living.  I was about two sentences into my response when I realized that she seemed to be totally preoccupied with something else. So, guess what? I stopped talking. And as soon as I did, she jumped in and spent a good part of the night talking about herself.

For better or worse, right or wrong— I formed an opinion about her that evening: She wasn’t someone I wanted to invest time in. Why? Because the impression I came away with is that the thing that mattered most to her was—well—her. Again, maybe I was wrong about that. But that first impression was a lasting one. If I were to play amateur psychotherapist, my guess would be that she might have been a bit nervous that evening and felt a need to impress those of us who didn’t know her that well. And she tried to do that by talking about her job, her accolades, her qualifications.

Here’s my question to you: Is your business acting like the dinner guest that just can’t quit talking about himself or herself?

If you’re not sure, take a look at your marketing materials—your website, brochures, email campaigns, sales sheets, videos—and see if they do these things:

  • Focus primarily on the features of your product or service. (Things like “Our lawn mower has 5 cutting levels.” “Our law office gives you personalized attention.” “You’ll learn better time management in this seminar.”)
  • Loudly tout awards you’ve received or credentials you’ve earned.  (“I graduated summa cum laude from ABC University.” “We’re the #1 choice!!”)
  • Use words like “we”, “us”, “me”, “I”, “our” more than the word “you.”

If you’re doing any of these things, odds are you’re making a bad first impression on potential customers or clients who don’t know you or your business yet. And—just like I did with the dinner guest mentioned earlier—they very well may decide they don’t want to spend any more time trying to get to know you. But don’t worry. All isn’t lost. There are a couple of quick and easy things you can do to help you communicate about your business in a way that will entice potential customers to hang around and learn more about what you’re offering. And here they are:

  1. Focus on BENEFITS instead of features. People don’t buy toothpaste because it has whitening ingredients. That’s a feature. They buy that toothpaste because they want to feel more confident about their smile. They want to be more attractive. In other words, they’re buying the benefits of the whitening agents in the toothpaste. And that’s what needs to be communicated. You need to clearly explain how your product or service is going to benefit your customers. How is going to make their lives easier or better or more meaningful? If you’re only focusing on features, you’re losing sales.
  2. Show empathy and understanding by putting the customer at the center of all of your communications. If all you’re saying on your website or in your brochures or any other marketing materials are things like “we can” or “we are” or “I know” or “our solution”–you’re a bad dinner guest AND a bad communicator. People don’t care about you. They care about what you can do for them. So, how do you fix it? Here’s a quick example:

BAD: I’m an attorney with 15 years of experience in handling divorces. So I know exactly what it takes to help you with matters including property distribution, custody and spousal support.

GOOD: Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. You have so many questions. How are you going to pay your bills? What will happen to your house? How are your children going to react? And you’re trying to figure all of this out while your entire world seems to be crumbling around you. This is where I come in. Together, we’ll find the solutions you’re looking for.

If you’re someone who’s looking for a divorce attorney and the only way you have to evaluate which attorney to use is by looking at law firm websites, which one would you choose?

In the end, it’s not so much about what customers want to hear. It’s about what human beings want to hear. If you want people to listen to you—to connect with you and buy from you—you have to connect with them. Pure and simple. And to do that, you have to show that you care about them, that you understand and empathize with their problem or challenge, and that you are listening to them. This alone will set you apart from many of your competitors. And it’s SO easy to do if you just think about it. When you keep your customers at the center of your communications, you’ll be the dinner party guest everyone wants to sit next to.







Are You a Wallflower at Your Own Party?

WallflowerIf you ever went to a middle school or high school dance, you saw them. Or maybe you were one of them. The wallflowers. They literally seemed to melt into their surroundings. Maybe it was because they were afraid of being noticed. Or maybe they wanted to be noticed, but didn’t know how to get anyone’s attention. Or maybe they didn’t want to be there in the first place–but their parents made them “participate.” Whatever the reason, wallflowers were a mainstay of those dances–sitting or standing there in silence, watching everyone else having fun.

Here’s my question to you: What do you remember about the wallflowers at your school dances? Unless you made an effort to speak to them or to get to know them, my guess is that you probably don’t remember much–if anything–about them. In fact, I’m also guessing that you didn’t even see them. You were too busy having fun, talking with friends, meeting new people who brought something new to the party, and doing whatever kids did at that age during that time. Right?

So, as grown-ups who are entrepreneurs offering a service of any kind, what can we learn from thinking about the wallflowers of those school dances?

If you don’t differentiate your service offering in a clear, compelling way and if you just aren’t interesting, put your party dress away. Because NO ONE WILL NOTICE YOU!

If you offer a service–whether it’s writing or legal services or psychotherapy or plumbing or anything else–you’re selling something that’s completely invisible. People can’t see it. They can’t hold it. They can’t take a picture of it and post it on Pinterest or Facebook for all their friends to see. And that puts you and your business at a distinct disadvantage. But there’s a solution! It’s something I like to call Connection Communication.

A Mini-Case Study: My First Traffic Ticket

I can remember the very first traffic ticket I ever got. It was a cold, windy winter evening and I was on my way to a friend’s house for dinner. I had stopped at a red light and then turned right. Right on red. Right? Wrong. As soon as I did, I saw the blue lights behind me. I pulled over and the officer came to my window. He informed me that I had made an illegal turn at an intersection where right on red wasn’t allowed. I explained that I hadn’t seen the sign–probably because the wind was blowing everything around, including THAT SIGN. While I thought that was a good enough excuse to get out of a ticket, the officer didn’t. So, that was that. My parting gift was a pink sheet of paper with my name listed as “defendant” and the date and time I was scheduled to appear in traffic court. Totally sucked–particularly since I had always been a strict rule follower. In my mind, I imagined that the entire world would forever look at me as an outlaw. That was heavy stuff for a girl who wouldn’t even taste the grapes in the grocery store before buying them because she felt like that was stealing. (And–no–I still don’t taste the grapes.)

Within a couple of days after getting that ticket, I started receiving letter after letter from attorneys in the area who wanted to represent me in court. They all said the same things:

1. They knew I had gotten a ticket.

2. If I did nothing about the ticket and simply paid the fine, it could hurt my driver’s license and result in higher insurance premiums.

3. I could avoid this pain by simply hiring them to represent me in court.

4. All I had to do was call them to talk about my ticket over the phone.

I didn’t know who any of these attorneys were. I didn’t know nearly enough at that time to differentiate any of them from the others. None–that I can remember–acknowledged how I might feel about getting the ticket. None said anything that made me feel like they might be the right choice for me. And they all were going to cost me money.

So, what did I do? I did a little research about what I should do and went to court for myself. It all ended well–although I had to spend a good part of my morning waiting in a courtroom with about 150 fellow law breakers. I would have gladly paid to miss out on that–but I simply didn’t know who to trust.


The Lesson–and the Solution

Although I used the story of my traffic ticket to make a point, I’m not picking on attorneys. ( I am one, after all.) ANY service provider is at risk of blending in with all of his or her competitors. You become a wallflower in your own industry. That’s not good for you OR for your business. So, what can you do? Here are a few key things that make a huge difference when done correctly:

1. Know who your ideal customer is and what they need from you. If you don’t know what they need, ASK THEM! And then create solutions that will fulfill that need.

2. Know who your competition is and how they’re communicating to potential customers about their service offerings. You DON’T want to do it the same way they are. (Remember–NO WALLFLOWERS!!)

3. In all of your marketing communications–including sales letters, your website, emails, etc.–talk to your customers like human beings. And that means being conversational. Talk to them in a way that helps them see that you’re a human being, too–not just a business. Remember–people do business with people. In my traffic ticket example, all an attorney would have had to do to stand out from the crowd was to open his or her letter to me by saying something as simple as this: 

Dear Ms. Lashley, 

Getting a traffic ticket can certainly ruin your day (or your night). Believe me. I know. My name is Joe Attorney and I’d be honored if you’d allow me to take away the worry of dealing with your ticket and the court system. This is something I do every day for many other Anywhere County citizens and I’d also like to do it for you.

4. The About page on any website is typically the page that receives the most traffic. However, that’s the page that is so often the WORST page on businesses websites. People go there to find out who you are and what you can do for them. They don’t want to hear how AWESOME you are. They want hear how you can make their lives better.

5. Be clear about what you’re offering and explain it in a way that people will understand and that exudes empathy for the challenge they’re looking to you to resolve.

I’ll be talking about each of these in more depth during a series of blog posts that will be running in January. It’s not only important stuff–it’s absolutely necessary if you’re going to run a successful service-based business. And, if you’re a licensed or certified professional (like a psychotherapist, attorney, plumber, electrician, designer, trainer, etc.) interested in getting hands-on practice, direction and feedback regarding how to do all of this for your business, I’m going to be opening a pilot version of my new course, Connection Communication: Using the Power of Story to Attract (and Keep) Your Ideal Customers, within the next few weeks. You can get on the mailing list here to receive notification about when it opens. For the 5-week pilot course, I’ll be offering it at a WAY reduced rate (because you’ll be helping make this course FREAKIN’ AMAZING as we work through it) and I’ll only be taking 10 students for this first round. Why? Because we’ll be working together a LOT and I want to make sure I have enough time to spend with each person in the class to get their business “storified” for success!!


A Funny Thing Happened (in my head) on the Way to a (non-existent) Speaking Gig

Public Speaker A businesswoman giving a speech to a crowd of people. The businesswoman & podium, crowd, and background are on separately labeled layers.

As I was checking my email on the way into a meeting last week, I saw a message from a former colleague of mine. It started by explaining how she had been in a brainstorming session at the (MEGA) large company where she works and they were trying to identify potential speakers for an upcoming event. So, she was reaching out to me. That’s as far as I got before the meeting started.

In my head during almost the entire meeting, this is what I heard:

OMG! OMG! I’ve finally made it BIG!! They want me to come speak about something really cool–like branding and storytelling and–well–something cool!! This is AWESOME!! I’m AWESOME!! I need to update my bio, put together a list of topics they can choose from and GET A NEW OUTFIT!!! Yay!!!!!! This is so AWESOME!!!

Okay–besides the fact that I use the word “awesome” far too much in my daily conversations–I can’t even begin to tell you how wrong all of that stuff going on in my head was. Bottom line: I wasn’t being asked to speak. Once I got out of my meeting and had a chance to read the entire email, I saw that what I was actually being asked to do was to provide some names of potential speakers who I thought would be a good fit. (Cue the screeching brakes sound effect.)

Yep. No glory. No recognition of awesomeness–real or otherwise. No new outfit. BUT–it was an opportunity to reconnect with a former colleague and provide value where it was needed.

So, What’s The Lesson Here?

Well, besides the need to read ALL of an email before jumping to conclusions, this experience also serves as a reminder of this critical lesson:


Yes–I know the person contacting me wasn’t a customer. BUT–she was someone who was looking to me to provide a specific thing of value: my opinion and suggestions. And by delivering on that, it provided an opportunity to build a more authentic and meaningful relationship. And that’s exactly what we need to do when it comes to our customers.

When we assume we know what our customers want, we’re typically wrong. And you know what the result is? Lost sales, lost opportunity, lost interest, lost trust. We’re not mind readers–and we should NEVER fool ourselves into thinking we are.

Do you want customers who love you and what you do? Who will tell all of their family, friends and colleagues how AWESOME you are? (See–there’s that word again.) Who will look to you for solutions to the challenges they face? Then, here’s how you do it:


How do you do this? Here are a few ways:

  1. Monitor them on social media. What are they talking about on Twitter, in Facebook groups, on LinkedIn?
  1. Conduct a survey. You can send it out to your email list or post in on a social media platform. It’s easy to do with services like SurveyMonkey.
  1. Read reviews on platforms like Amazon. The negative ones can actually be really helpful because they’ll often include information about what a customer needs–but isn’t getting–from a competitor.
  1. Talk to them! Identify people in your target audience who would be willing to talk to you for 15 or 20 minutes on the phone or who will meet you for a quick cup of coffee. This can lead to a goldmine of information and insight.

Now, about that new outfit.

So, I don’t have a speaking gig to use an excuse to get a new outfit. But, why should that stop me. Right? I’m thinking that it might be just the thing I need to put all of the little, tiny pieces of my shattered  pride back together again. Good thing no one knows that I actually thought I was going to be a rock star keynote speaker. Whew!


Some Other AWESOME Stuff

ARE YOU A LICENSED OR CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL (LAWYER, THERAPIST, PHYSICIAN, COACH, ETC.) WHO WANTS TO COMMUNICATE IN A WAY THAT WILL BRING IN MORE CLIENTS? I totally get it. As a licensed attorney, I know the unique challenges you face when it comes to marketing. And I can help. The first step? A no-obligation free 30-minute consultation. Email me at michele@smarterwritinglab.com to schedule a session.

HEY, WRITERS! INTERESTED IN ONE-ON-ONE COACHING THAT WILL GET YOU MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION WITH YOUR WRITING FAST? Let’s chat! I develop customized programs for each of my students. So email me at michele@smarterwritinglab.com to set up a free 30-minute consultation. (No strings. PROMISE!!)


Did you like this? Did you REALLY like it? Then please shout it from the top of your social media rooftops! (In other words, do a little SHARING!)


The “Screw It. Let’s Do It!” Challenge for Writers Who Want More


I’m the Queen of What If. Nobody does it any better than me.

“WHAT IF I make a mistake?”

“WHAT IF this doesn’t work?”

“WHAT IF I’m following the wrong path?”

“WHAT IF I’ve forgotten to problem solve for a key ‘what if’?”

Fun fact: I’m completely OCD. No joke. And it’s held me back in so many ways throughout my life. (Seriously. You have NO idea.) But through a lot of experiences (both good and bad), I’ve learned to use the stumbling blocks of OCD as starting blocks for bigger and better things in my life–both personally and professionally. For me to take even small steps forward, I’ve had to learn how to summon up a mindset of “Screw it. Let’s do it!”. Otherwise, I’d stay stuck in places that I really don’t like very much.

Getting to the “Screw it. Let’s do it!” mindset is truly mind over matter for me. It doesn’t come naturally. I’m not a “throw care to the wind” kind of gal. Quite the opposite, in fact. But every time I make the conscious decision to live by this mantra—I’ve found that I come out on the other end a much better, stronger and smarter person. And that’s the case regardless of whether I’ve succeeded or failed when taking that leap.

So, what does all of this mean for you as a writer? My guess is that if you’ve read this far, you probably have those whispers of “what if” running through your head from time to time, too. You might not be OCD. But you’re creative. And because of that, you have to deal with the evil villain called RESISTANCE. In The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win You Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield explains the danger Resistance wreaks in the lives of writers:

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

How true, huh? Whether it’s sitting down to write website copy for a client or to start a new novel or to develop a new online course or to draft an outline for that fantastic “how-to” book you want to self-publish, Resistance can be a killer. And it’s not going away on its own–so don’t even think about not addressing it. We’ve basically got two options: We can give into it and remain stuck. Or we can confront it and fight our way past it, allowing us to realize the awesome potential each of us has within. It’s up to us to make the choice.

Now, back to the “what if” syndrome. What if…we turned those doubts into positive challenges that pushed us past the long and powerful reach of Resistance?

“WHAT IF I stopped putting off contacting potential new clients for my freelance writing?”

“WHAT IF I figured out a way to build a writing business that allows me to quit the job I hate and provide a great lifestyle for my family?

“WHAT IF I developed an online course that really helps people AND creates a significant passive income for me?”

“WHAT IF I contacted a few of the popular blogs I’ve been following and write a guest post for them that gets me a lot of new subscribers to my own blog?”

The positive “what ifs” are endless. And they’re certainly life changing. So, here’s my challenge to you:

Instead of wishing you made a better living as a writer or hoping a new client will call or dreaming about the life of being a published author or thinking how cool it would be to create and launch an online course—SCREW IT. LET’S DO IT!

I’m not just issuing the challenge. I’m taking it. Although I make a very good living as a freelance copywriter, I want to push myself further with my writing skills. I want to use them to build my business, to create new revenue streams, to help others, and to inspire myself in ways I never imagined. The list is long and I’ll be sharing my goals, my successes and—yes—even my failures with you along the way.

Let me know in the comments if you’re taking up the SCREW IT. LET’S DO IT! challenge and what that’s going to look like for you. We can all learn from each other—and it surely makes it a lot more fun when we know we’re sharing the journey with a lot of other kindred spirits!

To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less that we are and were born to be.– Steven Pressfield

Get your FREE copy of The Prosperous Copywriter’s Toolbox — a comprehensive resource of the tools I’ve used to build a successful freelance copywriting business! Click here. 

9 Lessons a “Play-It-Safe” Gal Has Learned (So Far) By Risking It All to be an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur taking riskFor most of my life, I’ve chosen to live within a nice, predictable box. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. It’s a relatively fear-free zone for me. So why in the HELL am I risking pretty much everything to start a new business?? Something that pushes me so far out of my cozy little box that I literally can’t breathe? Believe me—this question keeps me up night after night. But six months in to this crazy roller coaster of an entrepreneurial adventure, I wanted to take a break in the action to fill you in on some of the lessons I’m learning. They’re helping me become a better businessperson—and just a better person. Hopefully you’ll find them helpful, too:

1. Want to make a difference? Know your “why” and your “who.”

It’s not enough to know what you’re going to offer your customers or clients. You need to know why you’re in business. Using Apple as an example, Simon Sinek does a great job of explaining this in his book Start with Why (affiliate) and in his incredibly popular TED Talk:

“Here’s how Apple actually communicates. “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”–Simon Sinek

Apple’s “why” isn’t about making great computers. It’s about challenging the way things have always been and facilitating our ability to “Think Different.”

You also need to know exactly who you’re targeting with your product or service. It needs to be more than just something like “women 50+.” Instead, your “avatar” should be as specific as this:

“My avatar’s name is Beth. She’s 53 years old and is just now taking the leap to start her own business. Her kids are in high school, so she still has daily ‘mom’ duties. But she really wants to flex her entrepreneurial muscles. The problem, though, is that she’s overwhelmed by all of the information there is about how to launch a business. And, because of that, she just can’t seem to get moving. She needs help getting focused and she needs to find the confidence to take that first step toward building the business—and the life—she’s always dreamed of.”

Now that you know this person so well, you can create products and services that answer “her” specific pain points. In other words, you can provide real value that will result in you having a community of raving fans who look to you for solutions—and who will be willing to pay you a fair fee for them. If you don’t know who your avatar is, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to find ways to connect to your audience. And you can pretty much forget being able to deliver anything of tangible value to them.

2. Be clear about what makes you different and figure out how to communicate it.

Marketing today—whether online or offline—can feel a bit like yelling into the wind on an empty beach. Nobody hears you. More than likely, there’s someone else doing or offering exactly what you’re doing or offering. So you have to find a way to differentiate yourself in order to avoid being completely ignored.

Remember–what makes you different is YOU. No one else talks like you, has the same perspective as you or can establish the same connection as you. So, when you write a blog post, create a video, give a talk, host a webinar or communicate in any way, shape or form about your business, be yourself. We want to hear you. We want to feel like we know you. And we want to believe that you know and care about us.  Also, regarding the product or service you’re offering, make it BETTER than what everyone else is offering.

3. Don’t say, “I think I can.” Say, “I will.”

It’s a scary thing to commit to something. There’s always a chance of being disappointed. What if it doesn’t work out? What if it’s too hard? What if it’s not as great as you thought it would be? But I’m telling you–if you don’t commit 100% to your new venture, there’s little to no chance it’ll ever gain any significant traction or grow in any significant way. Jump in with both feet. Believe in yourself and in your dream. Yes—there will be obstacles all along the way. And some days you’re going to want to shift directions instead of figuring out a way to overcome those obstacles. Maybe you’ll even want to quit out of frustration. But, don’t. Keep going. That’s what successful people do.

4. Beware of shiny objects. They’re closer (and so much more distracting)  than they appear.

I don’t know about you, but my inbox is absolutely overflowing every day with offers to help me earn more, do more, BE more. And everybody has THE solution that you just have to implement (i.e., purchase) or else. Two words of advice for you: Don’t engage. Unsubscribe from every single newsletter or email list of people you don’t have a deep amount of respect for and a great deal of faith in. I can count on one hand the number of “experts” in my industry that I listen to. The rest? They’re just annoying chatter that takes up too much space. So, I’m getting rid of them. At least from my inbox.

One concept that’s really helped me narrow down who and what I listen to is this:

F.O.C.U.S.—Follow one course until success. This simple—yet powerful—idea keeps me productive instead of just busy.

5. Get a coach and/or join a mastermind group. (Maybe even get a great therapist!)

Two things I’ve done this year that are making a HUGE difference in the growth of my business are getting a coach and joining a mastermind group. Yes—they are financial investments. But when you find the right coach who can help you avoid pitfalls and seize opportunities—it’s totally worth it. Also, the mastermind group has been fantastic because it’s helped me realize that I’m not alone in this entrepreneurial world. There seems to be an unwritten code among entrepreneurs that we’re all in this together and we’re here to help each other out. LOVE that!

On a more personal note, I have to say that I’m not a huge believer in therapy. BUT—I found an amazing therapist a few months ago who really gets what I’m trying to do with my life and has proven to be a fantastic source of support during what can be a very trying time during the start-up phase of business. Like my business coach, she’s part of my “team.” She’s helping me move forward toward my goals. But, UNLIKE my business coach, she’s helping me understand the personal changes that I’m experiencing as I grow into my new role. How is it impacting my parenting? What’s the best way to manage my fear and anxiety? How is my perception of myself changing? And let me just say—having her guidance is a significant factor in my ability to take very scary steps forward each day.

6. Stop gathering. Start doing. Now.

My name is Michele and I’m an information addict. There. I admitted it. Maybe you are, too. How can you tell? If you keep collecting information—whether it’s in the form of blog posts, newsletters, courses, books, videos, you name it—but you rarely (if ever) DO anything with it. You don’t implement the tips  you’re given. You keep doubting your readiness to take the first step toward what you say you want. Sound familiar?

One of the major changes I’ve made in how I’m living my life is that I’m becoming a doer rather than merely a thinker or dreamer. Thinking and dreaming are great—and necessary. But they don’t do anything on their own. You have to take action. You’re going to mess up and make mistakes. I certainly have. But I can say that in every single case, I’ve learned something that’s made me better at what I do. And I’ve certainly learned FAR more by doing than I ever have by just gathering.

7. Have a daily plan of attack to kick the can down the road.

Before you turn the lights out each night, write down a list of action items to accomplish the next day. And be specific. Don’t just say something like, “Work on my website.” Instead, narrow it down to something like, “Complete a draft of the copy for my About page.” And if you can’t hold yourself accountable for progress—find an accountability partner who will hold your feet to the proverbial fire.

One thing I’ve seen is that some days I feel like I’m doing a lot of little actions with no results. But, in reality, these “little” actions add up to big results over time. For me, the goal has become to do something specific—no matter how big or how small— every single day to move my business forward. And I do this even when I don’t feel up to it. Because I have seen that this consistent action really DOES make a difference. You sometimes have to be a little more patient than you want to be in order to see the impact.

8. It’s okay to be scared.

One of the toughest things I ever posted in my mastermind group was a declaration of how scared I was that things weren’t going to work out. I did it really late one evening, in a moment of complete despair. And I couldn’t be more glad. The responses I got were so supportive, so helpful and so empathetic. I realized that the way I was feeling wasn’t just something that I alone was experiencing. And that changed everything.

It’s okay to be scared as an entrepreneur. It’s not weak. It’s not cowardly. It’s normal. If you’re not scared—then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. And you’re not going to make any significant change in your life. I never thought I’d say this, but fear is a good thing. It means you’re doing something very, very right.

9. You’re an entrepreneur, dammit! And that in and of itself makes you AWESOME!

A lot of people talk about starting a business. But very few ever take the leap to do it. (Sort of like all of those people out there who say they want to write a novel—but never put down the first word.) Yes, it’s scary. Friends and family might even think that you’ve completely lost it or that you’re being careless or selfish or unrealistic or any number of other unflattering adjectives. But, DO IT ANYWAY! This is your life—so LIVE IT!

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”— Unknown

One thing I’m learning as an entrepreneur is that there’s really no better way to get to know who you are as a person than by taking this leap into the unknown. It tests you in ways you never thought possible. But it also rewards you in ways you never dreamed of. So—onward we push despite the obstacles and the naysayers and the voices of doubt in our minds. There are so many lessons to be learned, so many new friends to be made and so many adventures to be lived. Let’s go!

Get your FREE copy of “The Prosperous Copywriter’s Toolbox”—as well as ongoing stories and lessons from the entrepreneurial trail— right here!

Learning some lessons of your own as you move forward along the entrepreneurial path? Share them in the comments so we can ALL learn from them!



9 Simple Ways to EARN More by BEING More than “Just a Copywriter”

To Do List - Make More Money

If you’re a freelance copywriter who feels like you’re EARNING PLENTY, who’s NEVER QUESTIONED YOUR WORTH during projects driven by mid- to upper-level (non-writer) executives, and/or who has COMPLETE CONFIDENCE in the value you bring to your clients—then get back to work and stop reading this post. Because you already know and do the things I’m going to be talking about. For the rest of you, stick around. Your life as a freelance copywriter is about to change in a really good way.

During the 15+ years that I’ve been a freelance copywriter, there have been a lot of new techniques, platforms, systems, and other “shiny objects”  pushed as the silver bullet to becoming a high-income writer. But, frankly, I found the vast majority of them to be distractions rather than income generators. And, after hearing from some of you, it sounds like you’re having the same kind of experience. That can be frustrating and demoralizing—to say the very least. So, what’s the answer when it comes to earning more? You have to see (and present) yourself as being more than “just a copywriter.” That’s where I see so many freelance copywriters getting stuck in the muck of crappy income. What they say (and what we’ve probably all said at one time or another) are things like this:

“But, I just want to write. The business side of things is just too complicated and takes up too much time.”

“I know I’m a good writer. But I can’t charge big fees like  an attorney or an accountant.”

“I’ll do whatever job someone sends my way—even it if doesn’t pay a whole lot. After all, I need the work.”

“All I ever here is that ‘everybody can write.’ If that’s true—which it must be since someone really important and smart said it, why should my clients pay a higher fee for what I do?”

So, what’s the answer when it comes to earning more? You have to see (and present) yourself as being more than “just a copywriter.”

Okay. So, I’ve got one response to all of these things: HOGWASH! And if you ask other freelance copywriters who are making a VERY good living—they’ll say the same thing. But what separates them (the high earners) from you (a potentially low earner)? And how can you join their ranks? Here are nine key things to start doing NOW:

1. Treat your freelance writing business like what it is. A business. If you got into freelance copywriting thinking it was a quick and easy way to bringing in a load of cash…SURPRISE! It’s not. Yes, it can bring in a very handsome living. But, it’s not easy. And it’s not quick. You have to be willing to wear both a writer hat and an entrepreneur hat. You can’t just sit behind your computer focused on writing (or scanning Facebook or sending emails to friends and family) and think your business is going to grow to be anything significant. You have to do things like:

  • Get an attorney to help you set up the right business structure (like an LLC, corporation, etc.), draft agreements, etc.
  • Hire an accountant who can help you navigate the tax requirements of the self-employed
  • Stay on top of your billing (and collections)
  • Execute a focused and strategic marketing plan
  • Understand what your cash flow is—both in and out
  • All kinds of other stuff!

Yes—you’ll do the writing you love. But if you want to grow your business to the level you really want, don’t forget to grow your entrepreneurial IQ.

2. Build your own brand in order to stand out. Why should potential clients hire you instead of the other 50 copywriters who are flooding their Inboxes with emails and constantly calling to explain just how great they are? This is where clearly positioning yourself in the marketplace comes into play. You have to find and communicate your Unique Selling Proposition just like you do when you’re developing promotional copy for a new product or service. What sets you apart? What’s your unique skill set? What value can you bring to the table that no one else can (or at least that no one else claims they can)? You need to figure out what the answers to these questions are and then put your writing skills to use in finding a creative and engaging way of communicating them. If you can’t sell yourself to a potential client, how likely are they going to be to trust you to sell their product or service? The answer to that question is “not likely.” Also, take the time to name your business something that will resonate with your target audience and invest the funds in having a logo designed, getting a website up (including a portfolio section for your work) and having business cards designed and printed.

3. Don’t just be a note taker. Be a difference maker. Speak up! Your clients need to hear what you have to say. Because you’re coming at a project from an outsider’s perspective rather than an insider’s, you have the ability to see gaps that might otherwise be invisible to your client. Never EVER think you’re just there to be a note taker so that you can recite back to your client what you hear in a meeting. That’s not how you provide value. Instead, listen to what’s being said, ask good questions, push for understanding and clarity, and—when appropriate—challenge concepts that you feel are heading in the wrong direction. You can become invaluable to a client when you prove yourself to be someone who really thinks about and processes information in ways that lead to bigger and better solutions.

4. Fall in love with whatever your client wants to promote. (Even if it’s a freakin’ pencil!) Once you accept a project, it’s no longer okay to feel “meh” about whatever your client is promoting. Some things just aren’t that exciting. I get it. Believe me. As someone who’s had to promote electrical transformers in her past, I completely understand. But I also know that—as writers—we are naturally curious beings. And we love to learn new things. Trust me when I tell you that if you are curious enough, there’s always something you can find to love about what your client is promoting. Take the time to get there. It’ll be worth it.

5. Realize your worth—and charge for it! (And it’s typically 3x more than you think.) If you’re always focused on being the freelancer who charges the lowest fees—then that’s what you’re going to get. Ridiculously low fees—which translate into a ridiculously low overall income.  Don’t ever get trapped in the very WRONG idea that you can start off with lower fees to get your foot in the door with a new client and then raise your rates once they see how awesome you are. Not going to happen.

Even though writing comes easily for most of us, it doesn’t mean that our skills are worth less because we don’t see the big deal in what we do. Building a brand story. Engaging customers in ways that sell. Convincing an audience that a particular service is right for them. ALL of these things take talent and skill—just like questioning a witness requires the specific skills of an attorney and preparing complex financial statements requires the knowledge of a CPA. What you do with words and ideas carries significant value. So charge for it! Figure out what it’s worth and provide your estimate to the client with confidence. Oh—and you might think about tripling your estimate before submitting it since many of us tend to underestimate our worth. Yes—be reasonable. But never devalue the work we all do as writers by charging bargain basement fees.

And one more thought about this: Focus on clients who can afford you. Not everyone is going to be the right client for you. But you don’t want to find yourself agreeing to a lower fee just because someone says they can’t pay the fee you’re charging. They’ll find someone else. That’s fine. But—trust me—you’ll be so much happier working for people who value what you do and who can afford the fees you charge.

6. Forget one-offs. Go for repeats.  I see some freelance writers going after any ol’ job they can get. No matter how little it pays and no matter whether they’ll ever see that client again. And it makes me really tired to look at them or listen to their stories of woe. It really must feel like they’re running on a hamster wheel all the time. Here’s a piece of advice: Don’t focus on getting one-off projects. Those that involve a client hiring you for one small job and then they’re done with you. Instead, look for clients who you can develop a long-term relationship with. The ones who understand the value of the work you do and who have an ongoing need for copywriting. The ones who will call you again and again for help. These are the clients you can build a high-income freelance writing business with. And they’re the ones you should focus on.

7. Figure out which projects get the highest fees—and then get MORE of them. I wish I could tell you that there’s a specific type of copywriting project that pays better than anything else. But I can’t. It really depends on the market you’re in. For me, I’ve found that partnering with companies to develop sales training programs tends to be a really high-paying gig. Also, helping ad agencies create pitches for new business development tends to be a really profitable area for me. Others have found that writing white papers or writing video scripts creates an income bonanza. My point here is that you need to pay attention and identify the types of copywriting projects that bring in the highest fees for you—and then go after more of them with all you have.

8. Repeat after me: Specialization. Specialization. Specialization.When you’re just starting out, focusing on a specific industry niche for your copywriting business might not be practical. You’re trying a lot of different things out to see what feels right AND to get that income flowing in. But as you get your freelancing legs under you, I would suggest finding a niche in which you can specialize. Why? Because you can charge more. You’ll become known as the “go-to” person in that industry. Your knowledge and experience will have a higher perceived value. And you’ll be viewed as a more valuable team member. For me, the pharmaceutical industry is where the majority of my clients live. They know I “get” what they do. I understand the goals, the language, the guidelines, etc. And that means they don’t have to spend valuable time bringing me up to speed. Instead, I can jump in with all engines firing. I can add value immediately. I can make their jobs easier. And that makes me more than “just a copywriter.” It makes me a valuable partner.

9. Show up.  Finally, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is this: Be easy to work with and ALWAYS show up. By showing up, I mean meet your deadlines, be on time for appointments, be flexible, don’t make excuses and find a way to get it done. By doing that, you’re going to move to the top of a client’s freelance list pretty quickly. Easy peasy.

So, there you go. Nine simple ways to kick your freelancing copywriting business up to the next level. Want more info about each area? Well, keep watching The Page-Turner Mission this summer as I roll out a series of more detailed posts about them. If you have other ideas about business building, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Get your FREE copy of The Prosperous Copywriter’s Toolbox — a comprehensive resource of the tools I’ve used to build a successful freelance copywriting business! Click here. 


The Business of Writing: Are You In?


For many of us who write for a living—either on the side or as a full-time career—there have been times when we’ve wanted to stand on a rooftop and shout to the top of our lungs, “I’M IMPORTANT, TOO!” Unlike engineers or architects or surgeons or other professionals who are viewed as being able to do those amazing things that the rest of us can’t even begin to understand, writers are often viewed as a commodity. I mean, everyone can write—right? Uh—no. They can’t. But, you can. So, how do you command fees that reflect the value of what you do and the experience you have? And how to you gain the level of respect that other elite professionals seem to obtain so easily? You do it by rethinking what it means to be a freelance copywriter or business writer. Simple? Not necessarily. Possible? You better believe it.

I’ve started The Page-Turner Mission because I believe that—as copywriters and business writers—we have something unique to offer to our clients. We are the storytellers of the world. We tell the stories of businesses, of organizations, of causes, of people. And that’s an incredibly powerful skill—one that you can leverage both financially and professionally—when you start thinking like an entrepreneur rather than a struggling artist.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a breakout session of freelance writers at a conference. I went into it thinking I was going to hear about all of the interesting ways my fellow freelancers were marketing themselves, making a difference in the lives and businesses of their clients, and finding new revenue streams in our ever-expanding digital world. But—it didn’t take long for my expectations to be dashed, stomped on and swept out the door. Most of what I heard from this talented group of folks included comments like these:

“I love what I do, but I really don’t think I’ll ever be able to make a decent living chasing down freelance gigs.”

“There are SO many writers out there. I’m just one more—so why should anyone choose me over the others?”

“No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to find clients who really appreciate what I do. Instead, they’re always trying to get me to go lower on my fees.”

For me, it felt like a great big therapy session full of people who would rather whine about how everything sucks rather than taking an honest look at what they were doing and searching for solutions that would lead them to a better place. Instead of leaving that session feeling like I had made a whole bunch of new connections—I left feeling like I had heard a secret that they hadn’t. And that “secret” is that freelance writers can make a damn good living if they’re talented AND if they:

• Promote themselves based on the benefits they provide their clients rather than the commoditized product (writing) they’re selling.

• Look for projects in markets that are used to paying (and are willing to pay) higher feeds.

• Consistently, diligently and strategically market themselves through a variety of channels and platforms.

• Developing a strong lead generation program and process.

• Remain open to new ways of using their writing skills to create revenue streams.

• Shift their mindset from one of “I’m just a struggling writer” to one where they know it’s possible to make a great living (think six figures) with their words.

• Find ways to provide value to clients beyond just writing.

Here at The Page-Turner Mission, we’re going to be exploring these areas (as well as others) and finding ways to get really good at each of them. One of the really great things about being a writer is that you’re always learning something new. There’s a lot of “new” for us to test drive out there. New strategies. New tactics. New ideas. Different things will work for different people when it comes to building your business. And, together, we’ll find out what those things are and how we can help each other create the Page-Turner careers and lives we’re meant to have.