Copywriter, course creator, and coach, Belinda Weaver joins Kira and Rob for the 103rd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Belinda’s also the co-host of the popular Hot Copy podcast. We talked with Belinda about the variety of ways she’s created income streams for her business.
Note: links and a full list of what we discussed is coming soon.
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The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
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Rob: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Kira and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Kira: You’re invited to join the club for episode 103 as we chat with freelance copywriter and coach Belinda Weaver about building an information business as a copywriter, what she’s learned coaching other writers, creating courses, and running one of the most popular copywriting podcasts, and how tap dancing makes her a better copywriter. Welcome, Belinda.
Rob: Hey, Belinda.
Belinda: Hi, guys. It’s really great to be here. Tap dancing, flashback. Oh my gosh.
Rob: Should we jump into tap dancing immediately, or do we want to save that to the end?
Belinda: It’s completely up to you. I think it’s a lovely hook we can leave people with.
Kira: Let’s save that for the end. Let’s start with your story, Belinda, and how you got into copywriting.
Belinda: Well, like most people, had a day job I didn’t really like, was looking for an opportunity to do something else. I was working in marketing in Melbourne. We lived just over an hour out of the city, so two plus hours of commuting every day, plus a job I didn’t really like. My husband and I started talking about a family, and I started thinking, ‘Well, how is this going to work?’ So I was open to new opportunities, and then I got taken to this kind of sales day with the job. It’s a lot of people standing up, giving presentations, doing their pitches. One of them was about copywriting.
Now, I did copywriting every day, but I didn’t know it was a thing you could actually do as a job on its own. So when, at the end of the presentation, this copywriter started talking about running your own business as a freelance copywriter, I didn’t listen to the rest of the day, because that was the idea that I’d been waiting for. As soon as we got back to work, I quietly registered my business. Maybe not that day. I took a day or two to brainstorm a name, but I registered my business. Then, while I was pretending to work, I started marketing and figuring out how to run a business and developing service packages, and then being on social media, and I started getting work.
So I did that for about six months. I did my day job. I worked, did copywriting at night and on the weekends. Then after about six months, I was confident enough in my marketing abilities to know that I could get more work. So I was getting regular leads coming in, and I thought, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’ Then on my last day, rather than walking through the office going, ‘Screw you all,’ I put together a presentation for the MD, and I said, ‘I can save you $20,000 on your marketing if you keep me on at my new freelance rate,’ and I just stopped doing all the time-wasting activities. I divided my job into value tasks and low-value tasks, and I had this whole little spiel, and he actually agreed before the presentation had finished. So I had my first client before the end of the day.
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Rob: Wow. I mean, that’s so smart. Love it. What resources did you use when you made that first decision to move away from marketing and into copywriting, to start writing? Were there books or things that you turned to, to teach yourself the skills, or did you just go at it?
Belinda: I’m a learner, so I took a course. I took a copywriting course, because I think many copywriters, I was doing it, I loved it, I had trust in my instincts, but I wasn’t aware of the construction element of copywriting. Once I learned that, I felt much more confident in my ability. A lot of the things I was doing anyway, but I wasn’t applying a method to it. So I did a course. I started reading books. I started reading a lot of blogs and following a lot of copywriters to see not only how they wrote, but how they put their business together, how they did their marketing, and gleaning any kind of tips I could get about copywriting as well.
Kira: What did those early days look like for you as far as finding those clients? So you found that first client, your employer. How did you find the other clients at that point?
Belinda: Well, my first client actually came through a mentoring group. I jumped into a mentoring program for copywriters, and my first lead came through there, but then I started publishing on social media. It was back in the day when you could be on social media and share tips about copywriting, and people would flock to you, which is not what it’s like now. But, I started doing some social media marketing. So I got a few leads through there. I got my first lead through the mentoring program. The other thing I did was I started connecting with graphic designers and web designers, because I realized we had the same customer base. That was one of my really proactive actions, was introducing myself to web designers and graphic designers and getting to know them, often through social media, and just positioning myself as a copywriter they could refer work to. That’s actually where most of my leads started coming from.
Rob: As you started out, how quickly did your business grow? Did you go through that struggle where you felt like you were starving or failing, or was everything a pretty smooth ride?
Belinda: I have to admit, I don’t have a dramatic starving copywriter story. It was actually pretty smooth for me, and that’s because I was really, really determined, and I’ve really put a lot of effort into my marketing. I built relationships with people. I maintained relationships with people. I tried to share my knowledge and expertise as much as possible, and I’ve really felt that that’s what drew people to me. I started going to networking events as well, and that gave me enough business to keep going while I refined all my processes around onboarding, and project management, and post sales, and things like that. But, I found it was really quite smooth. Then, within a year I think, I was booked out say four to six weeks in advance. I found people were willing to wait, and that really is all down to the marketing.
Kira: I mean, you said it’s smooth, but it sounds like it was smooth because you were really smart about how you jumped into your own business too. I believe you said you spent six months at your job working on the marketing, and really prepping the business before you even quit and felt confident enough that you could leave, while also snagging them as a client. So it sounds like you were really smart in your transition, and you didn’t just jump into it without really thinking about it.
Belinda: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Jumping into things really works for some people. It does not work for me. I need a plan. I need structure. I need to know I have a safety net, and I need to know it’s going to work, and that’s all in the preparation for me.
Kira: I’d love to hear about the marketing activities. It sounds like you were doing a lot of different activities when you started out, but what would you say are the key marketing activities that you recommend to new copywriters that deliver the most value if you could only focus on maybe one marketing activity early on?
Belinda: I think it’s networking, networking and building relationships. Investing in my network, investing in my marketing, especially when I was busy, is the thing that kept clients coming over and over again. I think a lot of people, a lot of copywriters go, ‘I’m really busy. I don’t have time to write a blog. I don’t have time to go to networking. I don’t have time to be on social media. I just need to write,’ and then the work dries up, and they have to hustle again to get more clients in. So I think consistently building relationships, and doing other marketing activities, but building relationships with people who can refer work to you is something I always prioritize, because when people send you leads, they convert much more easily. You don’t have the overheads of getting new business, and you have that consistent stream of clients. It works really well.
Rob: Too true. We could not underline that advice enough. I think relationships are everything in this business. So Belinda, you reached the point with your business that you decided to start doing some additional things in addition to client work, especially creating some information products. Will you talk about the decision to do that and what those products looked like at first, how you developed them, and the impact that that’s had?
Belinda: Yeah, sure. At that time I had my first child, and we moved to the states. We moved from Australia to the states when she was 10 weeks old. I found myself in a new country with a small baby trying to manage time zones and nap times, and I found the pressure of getting on the phone to get briefs from clients who were mostly in Australia, and then having enough time to write copy to meet deadlines, I found it incredibly stressful. I found that I wasn’t being present with this new baby who was only relying on me, and I also wasn’t leaving the house very much, because I was either working or parenting. So that’s when I kind of went, ‘I need to change the way my business looks.’
I worked with a coach. So I’m all about getting help from people who can push me in the right direction. She basically said, ‘Hey, you’re doing these courses with other people. Do you like it?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘I really do,’ and she goes, ‘You need to create your own.’ So I put up a wait list page, and started telling people about this course that I had not written, or mapped out, or created in any way, shape, or form. I sort of noticed that people were interested in what it could be, so I took three months. I set a launch date. I said, ‘This is when it’s going to be available,’ and I set about creating it.
So the first one felt like a bit of a shambles, because I didn’t have it written when I started promoting it, but it filled up and it worked. Since then, I’ve just been refining that course process to increase the experience. But, an interesting thing is I switched client deadlines, managing time zones, and managing parenting, with spikes in business and income. My course runs three times a year, so I just have these incredibly intense spikes now of work, which … I switched on challenge for another, but I’m finding the course work and the coaching much more rewarding.
Kira: Are you still taking on copywriting projects, or is it course work and coaching primarily?
Belinda: I have a few long term clients that I still write for, just because I know their business so well now, it’s really quick and easy for me to slip that work in amongst my other work. So here and there just to kind of keep my fingers in it, but otherwise it’s mostly courses and coaching.
Kira: How would you say courses have changed your business and even your life, speaking to the fact that you had moved and were dealing with time zones, even financially, how did it help you once you really jumped in and launched three times in that first year?
Belinda: Well, the first year was just the once, because it was September. Then, the second year was two times, and I’ve recently gone to three times. So I have gradually built up to it to make sure I don’t die along the way from stress. But like I mentioned, one of the surprising challenges has been I’ve switched this kind of ongoing management of time to these spikes. So when people join the course, they get super excited, because part of my course is I review and I critique everyone’s work. So I have these periods of intense work for me, and it gets a bit more hectic, and then it peters out. So I’ve just got to be a lot more on top of my time management during those peaks and troughs, but I find it incredibly rewarding. I really enjoy doing it. It’s kind of … if you enjoy what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel quite so laborious.
Rob: Can we talk a little bit more about how you structured the different courses that you offer? So I know you have a free course. You have a copywriting master course, and then you also have an SEO course. Do you run them together or apart? Does one lead to another so that you upsell one to another? How does it all fit together in your business?
Belinda: My grand master plan.
Rob: Exactly. That’s what I want, the master plan.
Belinda: Well, I launched with the mega course, that’s the copywriting master class, and I’ve kind of worked backwards from there. So what happens now is people can subscribe to my blog, and I’ve just actually switched from being a regular standard blog to having a daily email, which is a really interesting switch. So people can join the daily email, and then they can do a free course. Like if they’re starting to get interested in the tips, they can do this little free mini copywriting course, and then it moves onto the big course, the copywriting master class, and then I just have launched an ongoing subscription for coaching afterwards.
I’m doing these wild hand gestures here. So yeah, it starts with free, moves onto slightly bigger free, then it’s paid, and then it’s ongoing subscription. I’m actually looking at creating a few other lead-ins to the big course as well. But, there’s this idea that you can build trust through some free content, get people to make a small purchase to connect them to you, because if people make a small purchase they’re more likely to make a big purchase. Then, keep inviting, gently, people towards my big course, and then I want them to stay connected to me. So that’s my plan. That’s how it works so far.
Kira: I love that plan. I definitely … we want to dig into that and the daily emails especially. But, course related, what advice would you give to copywriters who want to create and launch, and market their own courses? Any hard lessons that you learned along the way?
Belinda: Definitely that spike in intensity. I’ve basically created a course that is not scalable, because I wanted to create so much value that I was like, ‘Yes, it will be all hands-on coaching,’ but that has a repercussion on my time. It’s not a bad thing, because I can market it as an exclusive selling point that I cap the numbers. So if you want to launch a course, think about if you want to have lots of people in there, then don’t make your time a key element of the sell. I think you have to think about what your end objectives are if you want to create a course. Are you creating it to get more clients, or are you trying to help copywriters? When I realized the difference in the people who followed me, that actually was a big pivot in my business, because I was like, ‘Actually I’m not writing for small business owners anymore. I’m not writing for people who work in other organizations. My tribe are copywriters.’ That’s also part of that decision to create a course.
So you have to be clear about who you’re creating it for, and what your ultimate objectives are. Then, the other big challenge I’ve had is motivating people through the material. I think we’re all, hopefully, we’re all very generous people, and that’s how I’ve done mine. I want more. I don’t want people to miss out on anything, but overwhelm is the biggest reason that people will stop consuming the content you give them. So consider how to motivate people through your course. Maybe that’s creating shorter lessons, or some kind of gamification through the course as well. But, yeah. Be clear on your objectives, who are you trying to attract and what’s going to be in it for you, and then consider how to motivate people through your content because completing something is very rewarding.
Rob: Yeah I’ve heard that as many as 96% of people don’t finish courses that they buy, which is tragic, and talk about a waste of money with the thousands of dollars that people spend on things that then just sit on their hard drives. So yeah, I think that’s really good advice, really solid.
Belinda: And it can be a challenge. It can be a challenge, but it’s something I didn’t really think about when I launched, and I’ve had my course going for three years now. It’s something I’m always working on. How can I make people feel good about completing a small step so that they want to complete the next small step? I think a lot of people get hung up on the text side of digital products as well and don’t let that stop you. If this is something you want to do, just get it going because you can create some PDFs and do it by email. It doesn’t need a big, elaborate, technical setup.
Rob: Yeah, let’s talk about daily emails and what you’re doing with that because this is something Kira and I have talked about maybe we should do this with The Copywriter Club, or even in our own personal emails. Yeah, so what are you doing with it? What’s the impact that it’s had on your business? What are you sending to your people ever day?
Belinda: It’s a really funny shift. It’s was an idea that was suggested to me, again, by an intern I’m working with. Get help from people who know more. It’s a good idea. I thought it was crazy. I was like, ‘People are not going to sign up for daily emails. There’s too much content. People are already feeling overwhelmed. I’m going to be exploding in their inbox and they’re going to hate me for it.’
What I found is really interesting is that out of my email list, a very, very small percentage actually unsubscribed, which surprised me number one, when I made the switch, and I’m getting more engagement from people with the daily emails than I ever got because when people … I welcomed people to my blog. I’d say, ‘Tell me what your biggest copywriting frustration is’ and how many people ever replied ever? But with this one I said, ‘Signing up for daily emails is a thing, and I want to know why you did it. Hit reply and finish the sentence I’m struggling to…’ I think giving people a start has really helped. So I’m getting all these frustrations, and challenges, and issues coming to me, which is hugely helpful in the rest of what I do.
But I’m also getting people taking the time to reply to the little emails. So I make sure that they’re never more than a minute to read. I try to make them as brief as possible. What I’m actually doing is I’m going through my blog archive. I’m using content I have already created. I’m updating it and for big ideas I’m spreading them over maybe three or four emails. I’m getting people writing to me saying, ‘I never reply to marketing emails, but I found this really useful, or this is amazing.’
I’m like wow, calm down everyone. It’s just a daily email. But I’ve been genuinely surprised at the response. It seems to be working, and then the thing at the end of the email, so I give a little bit of advice. I have one call to action, which is if you want to learn to write a copy that will make money go here, and that’s it.
Kira: All right so it sounds like, I was going to ask you how do you do it well but it sounds like you keep them short and engaging by asking questions they want to respond to. How do you actually do it behind the scenes? Are you batching these emails and writing them all at once? Do you write them every morning while you’re drinking coffee? What does that look like?
Belinda: Oh no, it’s definitely batch creating. So I get up offensively early.
Rob: Wait, for copywriters what is, 8:30, 9:00 in the morning?
Belinda: 5:00, I get up at 5:00.
Rob: It’s a good hour. So Kira and I are both relatively early risers as well, so we’re not offended.
Belinda: I am not. I hate it every morning, but-
Rob: I love it. I have to say I love it.
Belinda: Well I am quite addicted to it. I’m addicted to the quietness.
Rob: Yes, exactly.
Belinda: I get to have a cup of tea. That’s when I do my meditation. I have a cup of tea all the way to the bottom and I do some work. Two mornings a week are devoted to the daily draft. So I just have that in my calendar blocked out. What I’m doing is I’m going through my archive. I’m editing all posts. I’m creating new feature images, updating the content, putting it into a writing tool and then I get someone to proofread it, and then I get my VA to put it in my email marketing tool.
Rob: Awesome. I’m actually going to sign up right now because I want to see what you’re sending every day because-
Kira: I know, me too.
Rob: I’m definitely on other lists that come out every day and there are varying qualities. Sometimes you get stuff and there are some people who write 1,000 to 2,000 words a day and send them out every day, and I’m blown away and amazed. Roy Fire does that and really high quality stuff. Then there are others it’s just a paragraph or two, and it’s really interesting to see the spectrum and so much of it is useful no matter what kind of format it’s coming in.
Belinda: One thing I try and leave people with, and it’s not all the time but if I think there’s an action they can take, I’m like just take a moment in your day to think about this. Are you doing that? Can you make this change in the way you’re writing your copy? So I’m trying to make them useful. I’m trying to make them not overwhelming because if people stop reading then it becomes something they feel guilty about, like, ‘Oh God, I got this thing and I’m not doing it.’ That’s the challenge with courses as well. So yeah, I like to keep it super short and it seems like it’s been appreciated. But I’ve been at it about 2 months ahead of schedule.
Kira: You’re two months ahead?
Belinda: Yeah two to three months. So I’ve got about 16 months ahead.
Kira: Wow, that’s impressive.
Rob: Okay, maybe we should just hire Belinda to write our daily emails.
Kira: Can you help me plan my calendar and get more stuff done? That’s incredible, wow. So actually that’s another question I want to ask you, but I want to ask about coaching and mentoring because it came up a couple of times already. I mean you’re coaching yourself. You’re mentoring, but it sounds like you’ve worked with several people over the last few years. So can you just talk a little bit more about how many mentors is enough? Should you have one at a time? Should you have multiple at a time? How do you know when you need a new one and when you can kind of move on from a previous one? I feel like there’s a lot to finding mentors and finding the right one at the right time.
Belinda: It can be a challenge. For me, I have chosen to work with coaches or mentors when I’m going, ‘I need change but I don’t know what it looks like and I don’t know how to do it.’ So that, for me, it was very early on when I got an opportunity to join a copyrighting mentoring program. It seemed like a lot of money at the time. When you’re not earning a lot of money, I was like, ‘This is a big step.’ But it absolutely shortcut my business development process and gave me more confidence. I got a lot of ideas during that time that I didn’t’ put into practice right away. I might have put them into practice two years later. So that was good, and then again when I moved to the States, I was like, ‘I need to change my business but I need someone to tell me what to do. I want someone to tell me what to do.’
So for me, it’s always that moment where I’m like I’m stuck and I need to get unstuck. I’ve always found my mentors through my network where opportunities have come up where I’ve known people who have gone … When I moved to the States I worked with a lady who was like, ‘I’m just launching this thing,’ and I’m like, ‘You are always giving me most excellent business advice. I’m going to buy your thing.’ Then most recently, some strategy sessions came up with the Copy Blogger team. So I was like, ‘I’m in on that.’
So for me, it’s seeing opportunities to work with really smart people have come up at times when I felt I needed really smart advice externally. That could be a bit of bull. It could be that I was just more open to those opportunities when I started feeling a bit itchy about where I was.
Rob: That’s a really good point. Sometimes we don’t realize that we need the help and we wait until we do. So I actually want to ask about some of the specific people that you have learned from, whether it’s in live coaching situations or even from books and programs, your top three, four, five resources, programs, or coaches that you’ve worked with. Would you mind sharing those with us?
Belinda: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Rob: So I know you mentioned Copy Blogger.
Belinda: Yes, so my website is actually on the Rainmaker platform as well, so I find the Rainmaker digital team incredibly useful. They’re essentially one in the same with the Copy Blogger family. I’ve been listening and reading Copy Blogger for a long, long time, really, really smart people. I’ve reread Bob Blythe’s Copywriter Handbook about 11,000 times because one of the things about learning copywriting is the techniques still work. How we respond to the techniques thanks to modern life and technology has changed, but I find the techniques that people have used to understand their loins, they still work. Copywriting formulas, and spot files and templates, and all that, it still works but you’ve got to be able to put the research and the brainstorming time in. I would say it’s the gaps, the blanks that you have to fill in. That’s the hard bit. I find reading books like that every now and then can invigorate me on the basics.
Copy Hackers is another fantastic resource where that’s an organization that gives really freely, and I like that as a model on generosity. Same with Copy Blogger. I mean they talk a lot about kind of SaaS work and stuff like that, which isn’t my field but there’s still a lot to be gleaned. Podcasts have a million things. So I listen to yours and obviously your group is a great network.
What other resources? I don’t know where I’ve looked for mentors. I kind of look at successful people, and what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it, and I try and pick part to find how I can make that work. But it’s a dangerous path to comparison-itis, which often happens. So I like to look at what other people are doing and get good ideas, but I like to stop before I get too green with envy.
Kira: Yeah do you have any advice about that because I agree. I mean it’s really easy as copywriters to just kind of compare ourselves to others, especially other copywriters who have been at it longer or may just have more resources available, and it could really cripple you as a copywriter. So how have you been able to avoid comparison-itis?
Belinda: Well I don’t know if I avoid it all the time, but I work on it. I think it’s something you have to conscious of. I heard someone talk about the difference between inspiration and envy. Inspiration is when you feel like you’re really far away from someone successful. You feel like where you are on the ladder and where they are, are really far apart. So you can look at them and you can be inspired. It turns to envy as you get a bit closer because the things that someone else has becomes more attainable and more achievable. That’s when we can start getting a bit grumpy and bitter about it all, which doesn’t help anyone.
So I’m trying to be really aware of when I starting feeling negative feelings about someone else. It’s not friendly, and I try and work really hard. I have a personal rule, no negative self-talk. So I really try and change the way I talk to myself about it. If I want to achieve something that someone else is doing, then I need to get on and do it. So I really try and focus on my own work. I have a lot of people go, ‘Do you know such-and-such.’ I’m like, ‘No, I don’t know who that is,’ because I really try not to focus too much on what every other copywriter is doing because it’s a trap.
Rob: One of the things that we could compare is that in addition to us having a podcast, you also wrote a very successful podcast for copywriters. I have a feeling that we share a lot of the same audience and talk about some of the same things. I’m an avid listener to you podcasts and you said that you listen to ours occasionally. I’m curious about why you guys teamed with Kate to start your podcast? Why did you do that? What has the impact of that been on your business as well?
Belinda: Well Kate and I met just through social media really. Kate actually started a private Google-Plus group for Australian copywriters so we can have a little winge and support each other. So we got to know each other a bit more, but she posted a picture of this microphone going, ‘I’m going to start a podcast.’ That is so Kate. She throws something out there. She sees what the response is but without a clear plan necessarily of how it’s going to happen. But it got me. I was like, ‘I want to start a podcast too.’ I realized we would be better together than trying to compete against each other. So I threw the idea out. ‘Hey do you want to do something together?’ We did, and the collaboration has been awesome. In terms of the podcast, it has definitely helped to raise my profile in different parts of the world. I get a lot of people coming to the course or coming up to any of the things I’m creating saying, ‘I found you on the podcast quite by accident.’ So it’s been a fantastic lead generation tool for us both, and its fun as well.
Kira: So other than having more attention and being in the spotlight all around the world, what has surprised you the most about your podcasting experience?
Belinda: Well, I was going to say how much work it is, but that doesn’t really surprise me. Any kind of valuable content that you’re creating on a regular basis is going to take some work. I’ve been surprised at how much Kate and I have had to work on our relationship as co-hosts because we knew each. We didn’t know each other that well. We weren’t bestie mates or anything and so it’s having been a freelance writer for years, and years, and years I didn’t have to work with anyone. I wasn’t accountable to anyone. I was the king in my own castle. So working closely and collaborating with someone has really made me focus on the people skills that you often have to foster in an office environment. But yeah, working together we’ve had to be honest with each other, which is hard as an adult sometimes when you have to have those awkward conversations. But it’s always paid off every time we’ve had to do that, and it’s really strengthened our relationship.
Rob: Yeah my favorite thing about podcasting is just you were saying at the beginning of this interview, it’s about building relationships and some of the best relationships that we have had come from interviews on our podcasts, just reaching out and talking to people that we might not be able to get an hour of their time any other way but they’re generous in willing to come and share their expertise with our audience. It’s a learning experience but it’s a relationship building experience that I would’ve never guessed that it was going to happen the way that it did.
Belinda: There’s something wonderfully intimate about listening to someone’s voice in your ear holes. People feel very strongly connected in a way that they don’t when they just read your blog posts.
Rob: Yeah, you’re going to have stalkers showing up at your front door saying, ‘Hey I know you.’
Belinda: It’s a plus and a minus, but I like it.
Rob: Maybe, maybe not quite.
Kira: We don’t quite have stalkers yet. Hopefully we won’t ever but yeah I view the podcast really like a friendship machine. It’s the best way to make friends because you can have an hour with Belinda and just hang out for an hour with no distractions. It’s like one of the few times I’m not on Facebook or like checking my email. I really try to control myself. Sometimes I’m tempted but you just have that intimate relationship, so maybe a copywriter or two listening wants to start their own podcast after listening to us talk about it. What advice would you give to them or what should they think about before starting their own?
Belinda: I would say, absolutely go for it, I mean it feels likes there’s a lot of podcasts out there. But I think the podcasting thing is only just in its infancy. So there’s always going to be space for your voice, if that’s something you want to get into. I would say think about, like all of the marketing. Think about who you want to attract. Are you doing a podcast for your clients so that you can get leads for your freelancing business? Or are you trying to talk to other copywriters for a different reason, so be clear on your who, and then understand them so that you can best serve them. That’s really important for all your marketing.
Rob: Totally agree with that, I think a lot of people start with the idea of podcasting and they’re thinking, oh I’ve got a few things to share. But they don’t necessarily start with whom am I going to be sharing this with. Who’s interested in it? And, who’s going to benefit. So I think that’s fantastic advice.
So, Belinda I want to ask about mistakes that you’ve made along the way because I think anybody could look at your website, your courses, the podcast and look and you and say, ‘What a re-markedly successful career, of course she’s at the top, and having all this success, but I’m sure there have been failures and mistakes.’ What have you done poorly and how did you recover?
Belinda: Well, I’m one of those annoying people who say, ‘A mistake is just an opportunity’, which is really annoying. I know it’s annoying. But whenever I’ve had glitch in my client work, I’ve always gone to the process. How can I stop this happening again? So I’ve always, I’m always tinkering with the processes, how I work with people, how I get people in, stuff like that. So you know I think that mindset is really important. For example, I had a client, years and years ago go completely AWOL, most of the way through the project, I ignored all of the red flags that I had there and I had to call a debt collector in and actually didn’t have enough information about this person to find him. So he was properly sketchy as it turned out. But after that I collected a lot more information than just first name and email address. So, you know, things like that are just you have to be able to let it go and learn from it.
I think, if I’m going to get vulnerable this is horrible story, and something I’m deeply ashamed of.
Rob: Oh let’s do this, yeah.
Belinda: Let’s do this, everyone get a drink. Though I was working with a client, and very early on in the project, I spelled her email address incorrectly. Seems like a small mistake. What ended up happening throughout the life of the project is I was sending her copy and reminders and questions and I was never getting a reply. So I was getting really shoddy about it. From her side she’d paid me some money, we did a brief and then she got nothing from me. Until finally, I was like, ‘I’m calling in debt collection because you’re not paying.’ And she’s like, ‘Hey you never delivered.’ So we had these totally parallel email exchanges that just were not coming through, and we were both frustrated and we righteous, oh my god, so righteous. And it just ended up in a big mess and just parted ways. But I regret feeling so righteous, because when I realized my mistake much later I was just mortified. And I felt I couldn’t come back from that which is another mistake. You can always come back and repair a relationship if you’re willing to admit your mistake, which I never do.
Kira: Wow! Can you share a little bit more about how, how can we be less righteous? I think so many of us feel that way. And maybe we don’t understand the entire situation, we need to take a step back. So after going through that how would you suggest copywriters should look at situations like that and even end situations like that so that you still may have a good relationship with that client, even if it didn’t work out?
Belinda: Yeah that’s right, because if a client situation doesn’t work out they can still refer work to you, so always try and have a happy ending.
Kira: Or they can trash you too, right?
Belinda: Yeah, that’s exactly right, exactly right. I think what I would have done differently is I would have got on the phone a lot sooner. I think what we try and do is we develop strong processes to work with our clients in a way that our boundaries feel safe, that we’re not being abused. It can be very easy to feel righteous about our processes and get to hard and say, ‘If you don’t do this within this time frame then I’m sending an invoice and we are done.’ And I think you have to be a bit more fluid, like you have to protect your boundaries. You have to be the project manager of your project and lead the client. But you also have to listen and be aware for situations where it can all turn to pooh. And I think jumping on the phone and actually talking to someone is way more valuable than a ten email exchange that just escalates the situation, because then you get to say, find out, you know this is with invoicing as well.
Sometimes saying, ‘Oh hi, your invoice is overdue, and I’m just calling to find out what’s happening.’ And they go, ‘Oh, we never got the invoice.’ Or, ‘Oh my God, my accounts lady just left and I’m struggling to keep up.’ Like you can find out what the story is that turns it into a situation you can all be happy with.
Rob: Yeah again, right back to the relationship, and the person to person communication makes all of the difference.
Belinda: Email can get really bad really quickly.
Rob: Yeah, for sure. So, Belinda where does your business go from here? Again, you’re kind of at the top, right? You’ve got a great podcast, you’ve got these courses, you’ve got a few clients that you love and work with. Is it just sort of smooth sailing from here, or do you have big plans for what you’re doing in the future?
Belinda: Yeah, that’s me. That’s my life. Just completely organized and I am on top of it.
Rob: I’m glad we’re not the only ones. That’s good.
Belinda: It’s really interesting to say, ‘you’re at the top.’ Because for me it doesn’t feel like it. There’s always new challenges that you face when you launch a new thing, or change your business in some way. So, linking back to that, don’t look at other people’s things, and think it’s smooth sailing because you never see their backstage. It looks all profess from the front, but the backstage is in fricking shambles of course. I’m fighting to get things done around my life just like everyone else.
One thing I am doing because I mentioned the challenges of the spikes with my course intake, is I’ve launched a subscription based coaching program for copywriters. And that’s going to help me even out my cash flow, hopefully, offer the coaching that I loved to do for people, but to make the time that I’m spending on it work for me as well. So, that’s what I’m doing right now, which I’m really excited about. But it’s just in its infancy so I’m in learning mode. How does having a community work? What do I need to do? How do I get people in? So, for me I’ve just plunked myself in the middle of a whole new set of challenges that I’m working through. But it’s fun.
Kira: What is the sweet spot with your coaching? What part of it really lights you up, and where do you feel like you really help copywriters the most?
Belinda: What keeps me doing it is the little moments when I hear someone go, ‘Oh!’ Like those aha moments, and it more often than not it comes from something I’ve said that I didn’t think would have that much impact, which also always reminds me that the things that I think people want to know are sometimes not the things that people want to know. The challenges I had very early in my business that I think are just normal, and then everyone knows about, and everyone knows how to solve them, they don’t. So, I’m constantly reframing myself on getting back to that grass roots on what people are going through, and reminding myself of that. But just that moment when someone has a shift in how they think about something, or they realize they have a solution, or they have a success. I find that incredibly rewarding.
Rob: So, you’ve talked a lot about mentorship and learning, and I’m going to go all the way back to the beginning where our conversation we mentioned tap dancing. You obviously went through this process of becoming quite a talented tap dancer at one point in your life. Good enough I think to teach it, if that was something that you wanted to do. How does tap dancing apply to what you do today as a copywriter, and as a copy coach?
Belinda: This is something I have never ever thought of to be honest. And just to give people some context, I was a child performer. I used to be part of a group that went to our local shopping center during the school holidays and we had our jazz hands out and our tap shoes on. And I thought that’s what I wanted to do. And I thought, well I’ll … I actually did it all through high school, because I was super cool in high school. And I thought well, I’ll do my teaching certification, because I think that’s what I want to do with my life, and I’ll also go to university and I’ll study IT, but I’ll probably mostly end up being a tap dancer. And I didn’t, of course. My career took a much more adult and responsible … not that tap dancing isn’t adult by the way. It’s awesome.
But I think that whole experience … from a very early age I clearly went, ‘I’m going to have a safety net. Because I thought if it all goes belly up, I can always do this. So, I always like to make sure I have a safety net. And it’s almost like that safety net spurs me on to do the things I generally want to do.
There’s a couple of things that I gave up as a child, or as a young person that I regret giving up. And I think what I remember now is that it’s always cool to make time to do stuff that’s kind of pointless. Like learning an instrument that you’ve always wanted to learn. You’re probably not going to play it professionally. And that’s okay. Going back picking up tap dancing, even though you’re not going to get on stage anymore. That’s okay. Because if it makes you happy, then it’s time worth spending on it.
Kira: That’s such a good reminder. I think I needed to hear it. I needed to hear that reminder too.
Belinda: I think we should take up tap dancing Kira.
Kira: But, I think part of it too, it’s dancing or even playing an instrument. I’ve thought about playing the violin with my daughter. But I’m like, ‘Why would I do that now? It’s not like I’m every going to go anywhere with it.’ But you’re right, it’s the act of learning and just having fun with it, and doing something different, and not being on my laptop all day long. So, that’s a good thing later.
Also, I feel like you should do something with those jazz hands. I feel like that needs to be part of your brand or on your about page. I need to see your jazz hands.
Rob: The next course.
Belinda: They do come into a lot of my conversations.
Kira: Yeah. I love that.
So, my last question for you is just, what is the future of copywriting look like to you? And you can interpret that question however you’d like.
Belinda: Do you know what? I think it’s about investing more research time, or brainstorming time into project preparation. Maybe that’s not the future of copywriting but I feel people get really hung up on the end of a copywriting project, or the first draft of a copywriting project. But, you know as consumers we’re way more say about marketing than we ever before. We see it, and we call it out. So, as copywriters we have to be better at writing messages that, little buzz word, are authentic and real. And to do that we really need to understand people a bit more. So I think copywriting is going to require a bit more psychology, understanding of that, and a bit more of the marketing as well. Because we have to understand how people can interpret our words, how people respond to our words so we can push the right buttons.
So, it’s not just about the technical writing, we really have to concentrate on people.
Rob: Totally agree. It’s more than power words … the right order of words. It’s all about motivation and psychology and where the market is.
Belinda: The big idea.
Kira: Yeah. I love that answer. So Belinda, where can our listeners find you if they want to explore your courses, your coaching programs? Where can they find you?
Belinda: Everything’s on my website. Copywritematters.com. I’ve just recently redid the menus because someone told me it was very hard to find stuff. So you get your stuff up there and you never know …
Kira: Then you never look at it again.
Belinda: And someone told me, ‘You should have a much easier menu.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s probably a good idea.’ So yeah, it should be pretty easy to find everything. There’s lots of free stuff on there, so don’t feel like I’m pitching big expensive stuff at you. But yeah, I really welcome people. Find me on social media as well. I’m there way too much. Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn is where I am. I’ve recently let go of Google Plus.
Rob: Oh. What a tragedy.
Kira: Oh yeah. What about Instagram? Are you on Instagram?
Belinda: Oh yeah. I’m on Instagram as well, too much.
Rob: And of course you’re everywhere the podcast can be found as well with the second best copywriting podcast that’s out there.
Belinda: Do you know, we say exactly the same thing about you guys.
Rob: You know. It’s a great podcast. And anybody who listens to us and doesn’t listen to you they’re missing out. And so we definitely recommend that you add Hot Copy to your podcast listening as well.
Belinda: Well listen, appreciate that guys.
Kira: Alright. Well thank you Belinda.
Belinda: No. It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
Rob: Thanks a lot Belinda.
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