The one and only Joanna Wiebe, who invented the title, conversion copywriter, joins Rob and Kira for the 14th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. They talk about Joanna’s ambition to be a dermatologist (she’s never talked about this publicly before), dropping out of law school on the first day, being a creative writer (and how that was a mistake), what she would do if she had to build her business from scratch today, where Joanna finds inspiration and a bunch of other copy-related questions. Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The copywriter mastermind
Fresh Skin Care Products
Rob’s Newsletter (which Joanna says is “really good”)
Joanna’s post on time management
Dan Kennedy’s Ultimate Sales Letter
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
Rob: The Copywriter Club Podcast is sponsored by Airstory, the writing platform for professional writers who want to get more done in half the time. Learn more at airstory.co/club.
Kira: 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 Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for episode 14 as we chat with the original conversion copywriter, Joanna Wiebe, about how copywriters can build a platform to get noticed, how she built her list, and what she would do differently if she had to start over today, how writers can command bigger paychecks, and what she’s learned working one-on-one with writers in her mastermind group.
Kira: Hey Rob. Hey Joanna. How’s it going?
Rob: Hey Joanna.
Joanna: Hey guys. Nice intro. I love it. Your voices are both very radio friendly. It’s amazing.
Rob: Maybe we need a radio show instead of a podcast.
Joanna: NPR will pick this up, so don’t worry.
Kira: That’s the goal.
Rob: Joanna, we are really thrilled that you’re willing to chat with us. Maybe we could start with you just telling us a little bit about your story. I noticed on your, on the Copy Hackers site in your bio you mentioned that if you weren’t a writer you’d be a dermatologist, which kind of makes me laugh because I cannot even think of myself doing that sort of thing. But tell us a little bit about just your history and your story and how you became a writer.
Joanna: It’s so long. I fell like it’s, like I have to get much better at editing myself when I speak, so apologies. Or that’s a terrible way to set it up actually. This is going to be a very exciting story. Are you ready?
Rob: There you go. We’re ready.
Joanna: I fell into copywriting. I had been a law student and I graduated.
Kira: Oh wow.
Kira: Didn’t know that.
Joanna: No, for two whole days. I love the idea, like I love the LSAT. I finished my English degree. I went lived in Japan. Of course in Japan I was like isolated in the middle of Hokkaido which is the northernmost island and I was in the very middle of it. It’s snowing constantly for like nine months of the year. I was very isolated and I got some LSAT books and I just started practicing the LSAT. I went through thousand LSAT practice books and I really loved it. I loved the game side of it so I was like, “Well, maybe I’ll just like go and see if I can like, what if I just like become a lawyer. Okay, I could do that.”
I took the LSAT and I got into law school. It was actually the night before, the night before my first day of law school my dad died, the night before. You’re like, “Oh crap.” I emailed the U of A where I was going and just said like, “Hey, this happened. I’m still going to come,” but I’m like, “This just happened,” and they were like, “Cool, no worries.” They were all very good and the profs pulled me aside after. It was a very nice thing. But I decided after the second day it was just, I was a mess. My dad was like everything to me.
After that I was like, “Okay, well I’ll deffer for a year and I’ll come back.” Of course I think they all know, like once you deffer you’re probably not coming back. I was floundering for two months and I had a friend who worked at an agency. She was like, “Well, we’re looking for a writer,” and I was like, “Cool,” so I went through and got the job. I didn’t know what marketing was. I didn’t know what we would do at an advertising agency, but I liked the idea of having creative writer on my business card, that’s neat, and maybe even getting paid to write which is like when you’re an English major that you’re told every day like this will never happen, like enjoy these four years but after this you have to go and figure something else out. To be able to do that was really, really cool. But I didn’t know what any of it was and so I got the title creative writer which was a huge mistake.
Then you start writing copy as a creative writer which rule number one is clear over clever. To go there, it was really good for tag lines and coming up with concepts, but not for actually closing stuff. For small businesses that want to land business, it wasn’t the best approach. It wasn’t until I went to Intuit about two years later that I took on the role of being a copywriter and then focused more on conversion and learning a lot more about direct response, copywriting, and how to apply that kind of stuff to what we’re doing today online and in email. That’s kind of my story.
But along the way, when I was a child, when I was a teenager my skin wasn’t that great. I wanted like I was like, no, if anything, if I could like solve a problem with my life it would be helping teenagers get through having the confidence issue, because I think confidence is a huge part, confidence is a huge part of what you do in life and how you attack or don’t attack things. If you have those little things that hold you back. Anyway, that’s where the dermatology thing comes in, but I suck at science. I wouldn’t have made it even a day there, so that’s my story.
Rob: But it’s interesting because you sort of take that same philosophy, you’re not applying it to popping zits and identifying skin cancer but you …
Joanna: Rob, you should not do that. Everybody knows you don’t do that.
Rob: In your masterminds you’re sort of helping copywriters sort of fix those little problems that are holding them back.
Joanna: Amen for that connection.
Kira: And increase their confidence.
Joanna: Yeah, confidence is of course one of the biggest things I think, because copywriting is grounded in writing and writing is a very soft skill. People are like, “Well, everybody can do what I do,” like in your earlier stages like, “Oh no, I mean I’m good at it, right? But like, everybody could really do it. If they just sat down and did it, they could do what I do.” It’s hard to feel like, no, like that’s … Own your skills and you can actually help businesses grow and help customers get the solutions that they’re looking for that they need to solve their problems. But a lack of confidence there holds most copywriters back.
Kira: Okay, before I ask my serious question, because we went there, what is your top tip for having beautiful skin, because you do. I’ve seen you up close and you have beautiful skin. So how do you do it?
Joanna: Oh my 15 year old self is like loving you right now. I once had this kid, Josh was his name. He was like really mean and he said when I was in like [inaudible 00:06:54] or something he was like, I said something, he was like, “Chill out Joanna,” or something like, “What are you going to do? Break out about it?” And I was like, “What?” That’s like the meanest…
Kira: Oh my gosh.
Joanna: It’s so mean. Kids were so mean. They still are, like all of the … Anyways. But thank you. Well I wash my face. What? I use fresh products and that’s worked really well for my skin. I recommend fresh.
Kira: Oh, okay.
Joanna: Well, anyway, so yeah.
Kira: Okay serious question, sorry.
Joanna: I like it. I like it.
Kira: Rob and I have talked about you a lot already on the show and in the community. We mentioned in episode zero that we, Rob and I had met through the Copywriter Mastermind which you created. We won’t go into how that’s changed our businesses, but since you’ve worked with so many copywriters through the Copywriter Mastermind which is now in the third cohort, what have you seen as some of the top critical mistakes that we’re all, like 90% of us are making over and over again?
Rob: And if you could leave my name out of the answer that would be…
Joanna: Well Rob you’re actually the first one on the list.
Rob: Yeah, I’m always the good gentleman, right?
Kira: I know I’m on the list too.
Joanna: Watch Rob and do everything opposite. No. So it depends, like between … Being a freelancer of course is like you have to wear every single hat on the planet, so it’s like well which one of those hats do you have to work on more. One of the bigger things that I see coming up, like it’s not even with your copywriting skills because I think copywriters are always, the ones that I’ve been around are always trying to acquire new skills and learn new techniques knowing that there’s so many techniques and strategies out there and frameworks and formulas, all of these things to work with.
I think a lot of copywriters who are serious about being copywriters already know that. But a lot of like the freelance side of things, for being a freelance copywriter in particular is like … And it’s not even freelance because this happens in businesses too. If you work in a creative department or marketing department, it’s letting other people drive your copy, and I don’t mean the customer. The customer, yeah, should be the focus of where you find your message, but I mean letting your clients tell you how the copy is going to go, so letting other people drive your copy process and the copy that you end up creating, the copy you end up writing.
For example, when you’re in a client meeting letting the client set up the meeting or waiting for the client to determine when the meeting should be, not sending an agenda in advance. Like failing to control it, it just immediately breeds this environment where clients don’t know that there is a way to approach the whole process of copywriting and reviewing copy in particular. If you don’t control this kind of stuff right out of the gate, control those client meetings, run the client meeting, drive the entire project that you’re working on. If you’re not deeply involved in that, I have found at least if you’re not deeply involved in that, that’s how you end up getting clients who give you feedback like, “I don’t like this,” or almost worse is, “I really like this.”
That feedback isn’t going to help anybody. They don’t know any better, but it’s your job as a copywriter to help people understand that although it appears your skill set is soft, there’s a lot behind the scene that’s going on that has nothing to do with whether somebody likes or doesn’t like your copy, and going through multiple reviews to get to a place where at long last the boss’ husband or wife says, “Yeah, I really like that honey.” That’s bad. A lot of freelance copywriters work with small businesses that do have people who shouldn’t be involved in the copy review process giving that kind of feedback. I think leaving your destiny as a copywriter, as a happy copywriter in the hands of people who don’t know how to deal with copywriters is definitely one of the bigger mistakes I see people making.
It might sound small but it does lead to huge frustration when you find yourself being dragged around by your clients and taking their feedback and actually implementing it, even if it’s not the right thing to do. Like when they say, “Oh, shouldn’t we have, you know, a money back guarantee here,” and you didn’t put a money back guarantee there or you don’t believe it’s the right thing to put in there, but you say something like, “Oh yeah. No, I can add that,” and immediately I think that devalues what you do. It doesn’t mean you can’t take client feedback, but you have to control that whole thing and you have to help them understand that you’ll listen to their feedback but in the end the copy that you produce for them that you’re going to sign off on is copy that meets certain standards and follows certain rules and isn’t just like Frankenstein together based on a bunch of different opinions.
Kira: What is the best way to control that review process because as you’re talking through this I don’t think I have a done a great job of controlling it. Do you just say, “Hey, like I don’t want your partner to review this copy? It’s just for you.” How do you do it?
Joanna: Actually asking for that feedback in a real way. Like not just like … This is like, okay, so how does the client get your copy in the first place? Do you email it over or do you present it to them? If you email it over and go like, “Hey, here’s the copy, have a look and let me know what you think,” which is a pretty common way of a lot of copywriters presenting copy, this let me know what you think. You have to control and I’m sure that they’re looking for accuracy. It’s not about let me know what you think.
I recommend that when you’re presenting copy to a client, internal or external client, when you’re doing that send the copy about an hour before the meeting so that they’re not reviewing from scratch and let them know beforehand that you will send the copy about an hour before the meeting so they should take a chance, to have a chance to look at it before we get into this meeting. Book an hour to review that copy, even if it’s short copy, especially if it’s short copy, book an hour of their time and then present the copy live to them. That means starting with, okay, here’s a reminder of here … These are the goals. This is what you wanted us to work toward. Here’s what we learned. Here’s the process. As a reminder, here’s the process that we go through to arrive at this copy that I’m about to present to you today. Here are some interesting findings and now here is the copy and let me walk you through it.
You can walk them through it line by line or you can let them read whatever feels most natural to you and the client at that time. You want them to feel comfortable too. But walking them through it and encouraging them of course to look for things that are inaccurate, that are off brand where they can really point you how it’s off brand, or that are inconsistent with what they were expecting. That doesn’t mean that you will change things. Inaccuracy is yes you will correct those, but things that are inconsistent you will take them in and go away, review, and that’s where it’s good to have a team, you can say review with your team, put your heads together about how to address those and then come back with the final copy for them.
But controlling all of that where the client isn’t saying, “Oh here, change that and do that.” Of course clients when they do that, they’re mostly confused about how they should be giving you feedback. They don’t know any better. If you don’t teach them how to give you feedback, then you can’t be too upset when they give you crappy feedback and expect you to implement it immediately.
Rob: That seems like really solid advice to act like the expert or to be the expert and not the supplier or vendor.
Joanna: They’re not going to pay you 250 an hour if they think they can do your job better than you do. If they’re running your meeting and giving you feedback and you’re like, “Yup, okay, I’ll go do that,” you are not worth 250 an hour anymore. If you control the whole thing and make it so that they’re confident in you, now they, in my experience, can see that you are somebody to look to, to get this stuff done and they don’t question how much they’ve spent.
Rob: What are some of the other pieces that are missing? What else, in addition to sort of acting the part, what are the table stakes for being the writer that can command $250 an hour?
Joanna: You know, I do th … Speaking from my experience only it’s, I know that a lot of writers become copywriters because they want, the same reason I took that first job, you want to believe you can get paid to write, and that’s true to a point. You will be using words. It’s true. You’ll be typing them out. Very good. That’s about as far as it gets when it comes to writing. Everything else is really relearning what it is to write copy which is a very different thing than writing anything else. A big mistake I see or a big challenge along the path there is copywriters in order to command higher rates need to be able to point to results.
A lot of copywriters really cling hard to this idea that you can write creative copy. Oh it’s going to be really friendly, fun, wonderful copy, and your voice is going to shine through so powerfully, and it’s going to convert. Well, are you sure it’s going to convert, because in almost every test we run where we’ve put really creative voice stuff up against something that’s more really honestly based in frameworks and formulas that are all like kind of not that fun and they don’t necessarily make the copy “sing” the copy that sings loses. It doesn’t always lose. There is room there, but you have to start … A lot of copywriters start from the creative part where they’re like, “Oh, okay, I’m going to take this, what you have here, and I’m going to rewrite in this like really voicey way.”
Voice can do incredible things, but voice should come last in my opinion. First, get the message down clear, first, understand exactly what you have to say and the order you have to say it, and using rules, using actual rules like as we know the rule of one is a really good starting point for a lead gen page. Knowing the opening stage of awareness of the visitor to that page, coaching the client toward if they’re trying to drive every visitor there and you know that there’s going to be multiple types of visitors and different stages of awareness, coaching them toward multiple landing pages so you can break them using the rule of one. Get those things down, get that essential stuff down, and then, in the editing process, then come in and do the stuff that’s going to liven your copy up and make the brand look really good to make you feel really good as a copywriter too while also getting those results.
But if you don’t get results, if you can’t point to things where it’s like, “Look, we got this much more money for this person.” It will be, it will always be harder for you to actually command those rates that you could be commanding.
Kira: I read in one of your articles that your, well one of your recent articles I looked into, your minimum project is $60,000. In some ways I feel like I look at you as like the unicorn of copywriters, because we all want that but it seems so far off and nearly impossible. Yet, you’re doing it. I mean what else, why are so many of us undercharging and is it possible for us to get to that point or is that almost reserved for a select few?
Joanna: No I think is, there’s nothing, I’ve said it again and again, and I don’t think it’s the world’s greatest story to tell about yourself but there’s really nothing special about me. I don’t approach. I’m just following the rules here. When you’re running a job, when you’re running a small business, you get up every day and you do the work. When someone invites you to speak and promote your business, you go do it and you do it the best you can. I’m not … But I do think that certain things have helped but they could help any copywriter do it.
Seize every opportunity when it’s early on, seize all of the opportunities that come along, be on podcasts of course, like stuff like that, and especially if that podcast is good at promoting itself because naturally they’re promoting you then. Do webinars for people. Do a lot of guest blogging. I don’t care if it’s like, if some people are like, “Oh, it’s not that good for SEO after all.” That’s not what you’re doing it for. Be real about what you’re doing here. You have to promote your business. You have to be known as an expert in X, and if you’re not, why wouldn’t you command higher rates if you’re not the go to person for that thing? If you’re the go to person for email that sells and somebody wants to have emails that sell, if you establish yourself as the go to person for that, you can command higher rates.
Now when I charge a minimum project rate of 60,000 I am immediately disqualifying a huge number of clients and that’s by design. I don’t have time and I don’t have an interest in working with clients that aren’t going to take what we’re going to do and implement it, test it, and then move forward from there. I need to see results with the time that we put in. We’re not trying to take on a lot of clients either at all. When we do these minimum project rates it’s in the hopes that we’ll only have one or two clients at a time because we’re doing so many other things.
But yeah, to get there I think the path is really simple. Determine, decide what it is that you’re going to be an expert in, create tons of content about it, say yes to all the opportunities, get that content out there, make that content better than anything that most people will pay for, wherever possible. I’m not saying that all of our stuff is better than what you’d pay for, but where possible be the best at the thing that you do, work really hard at that, and that means the idea of a lifestyle business.
I have not experienced a lifestyle business here. My lifestyle was much better actually when I think about like the number of vacations I went on when I worked at Intuit, I went on … I was in Hawaii. Lance and I were just talking about this. We were in Hawaii like twice a year and having other vacations too. I haven’t been in Hawaii in like four years, five years. Lance just corrected me. Haven’t been there in forever and that’s because we’re running a different, we’re running something different. It’s really good in so many ways but it does take a lot of work. I think if you think it’s going to take less work just prepare to not have these big projects and just be cool with the smaller projects and then not having to do as much work to promote yourself and your brand.
Rob: Joanna, in your work with Copy Hackers you’ve build this platform for yourself and a really great email list. You have products that you offer from time to time. I know you’re building Airstory which we’ll talk about in a minute. But if you were starting over today and had to build your list from scratch, nobody’s there, you have no contacts with writers, maybe not even with other entrepreneurs, what would you do to build your list and to start your business, to grow it to where again where it is today?
Joanna: For me I would, I think it’s always a good idea to borrow someone else’s list. That sounds like I hate when people, I’m worried that when I say that people are like, “Okay, good, I don’t have to do any work, I’ll just go email people that I want to have their list.” I wish I had their list and I’ll just say, “Hey, can we promote something together?” That’s not a good idea. But what can you do to access other people’s lists? I think that for writers especially writers have the greatest unfair advantage today. We write. This is inbound content marketing. It is all about what we do. If you can do what you do, you can grow your list from there.
That doesn’t mean you should write your own blog post on your own site. Go use someone else’s “list.” That could also mean traffic. So yes, that still means guest posting. That also means writing on Medium if that makes sense. Look at the options out there instead of putting some six ways to write a headline as a blog post on your blog, which you then have to drive a bunch of traffic to and nobody gives a damn about six ways to write a headline anymore. Like everybody knows that or whatever. I just said six ways to write a blog post. I don’t remember what I said. Everybody knows that.
But what interesting thing can you put out there into other’s spaces and really work hard on those pieces, if you want to get in front of Neil Patel’s audience, so how do you form a relationship with Neil Patel, a real one, where nobody expects him to know your birthday or anything, like not a perfect friendship kind of thing, but how do you start talking to him? What can you do? Can you hire yourself to figure out how to get your content in Neil Patel’s audience, if that’s the right audience for you?
Then when you do get that content, when he is like, “Sure, I’d like to see that post, great pitch,” or, “Just send me your post,” or, “Sure, let’s talk about doing a webinar together,” how, you have to have like the greatest content for that. So growing that list from scratch today I would eliminate any of these older ideas, just start writing on your blog and people will come, unless, unless you have the most killer stories ever in which case cool, maybe, but even then, just put them on Medium and drive people back to your site that way to get like the opt-in bait from that point on, or the content upgrade in that case, but don’t start on a cold site. Start with somebody else’s.
Rob: It seems like the operative word here though is really great. I mean there’s so much crap content out there, even from writers on their own sites, maybe even on my site. How do you get to really great?
Joanna: Your stuff is really good Rob. I love your stories. I love. I read your newsletters all the time. I love them. Anyways as a side note.
Rob: That’s really nice of you to say, but I mean just sort of illustrating that as an example. Not everyone of my posts is awesome, right? I mean there are days when I’m struggling to come up with content, but like what are your secrets for going from good to really great, to being that different?
Joanna: One of the first posts I published was about bullets, bullet lists and how you shouldn’t use too many bullet lists on your site. It got like zero shares and like no comments. I was like, “Okay, so I’m not going to write about something that people don’t care about.” Or, “I’m not going to like just put my thoughts down on the page and like give a screen shot of something that’s wrong versus something that’s right.” I learned pretty quickly because I think a lot of us are driven by like gold stars and pats on the back and if you don’t share my stuff or you don’t comment, then I have a hard time with things. I’m upset.
Rob: You want validation, for sure.
Joanna: We do. Everybody does. So for me I was like, “Okay, well what can we write that people really want to read.” I knew that I had already read a whole bunch of stuff on other people’s kind of foundational copywriting blogs like Copyblogger. I’ve seen all of the foundational stuff there already. I can’t just be another Brian Clark teaching all of this great stuff. I have to say something different. Obviously we need differentiators. So what think I can say differently and that’s were we from that point on started to talk more about split test. We’d run the winners and the losers, and sometimes not just split test we had run but that our friends had run. I’m part of a couple of little groups. When like my friend Tim Grahl, when he writes, when he does a split test and his audience doesn’t need to hear about how he is split testing but my audience does, then I’ll just ask him if I can take his data. So leveraging other people good partners and stuff like that.
But yeah, really we know good content. You know it to see it. You know and that often means just a really great story. We’ve put out good data driven content that will teach you something but we haven’t framed it in a story and that hasn’t gone over anywhere near as well as the ones that do. For example, Jen Havice says or hey vices. Jen, it’s the wrong way to pronounce your name. Her posts that she did a couple of years back on working with me on the Summer of Buttons where we did a bunch … Or no, it wasn’t Summer of Buttons. It was some, I don’t remember what it was. It was some split test, was a series of split test that we did. That first draft of that was just like, “Hey, here’s what, here’s what happened.” Then we revised the draft of that post to be like I spent the whole summer running split tests and here’s what I learned or and basically it sucked.
That story, that became our number one post of the year, and it was largely because it wasn’t just talking about like hey split testing is hard and here are examples of how hard it is. That’s all good. But here’s my personal story of like what I went through with data to support it. Those are the kinds of things that we’ve seen work again and again, so now when we do take on guest posts or even when we write things ourselves, we are trying to come at it with a personal side. If it’s not working in the first person it’s not going to be as good as if it is in the first person. That’s like one tip. Yes, stay in the first person, have your own story or narrative around it, but then too support that with as much data honestly as you possibly can, so use any, any learnings you have from your own business where you can say, “Okay, I haven’t run a split test but here’s what we did and here’s what the outcome is.”
Go on deepdive.com and get an account there and keep reading every month. Subscribe to the Journal of Consumer Research or whatever and keep getting those in and see what studies are being done that could help support something you’re going to write about. People want to hear your story but they don’t just want an editorial piece. They want more than that. That’s I think what we have started, well I know what we are looking for when we write content or publish content.
Kira: And that is a great segue into what I was actually going to ask you next, which is about one of your recent posts entitled Note to Self on Time Management, which is a great example of that. You took the personal story and then you added a ton of research and tips. I want to know the story behind that post and what was the catalyst for that, what was happening behind the scenes in your life, whatever you’re willing to share. I also want to know the second part of that is what has changed since writing that post because there was a lot packed in there and a lot of changes that you were suggesting to yourself in that post.
Joanna: Okay, so what motivated it and then what the outcome is, yes. I had been drafting and outlining this great big wonderful post on how to manage your time better. It was part of freelancer month on Copy Hackers where all of our posts in the month of November were all for freelance copywriters, and one of them was … One of the big things that we see again and again is freelancers not managing their time well. But that’s also true for me. I was writing this post and I was just feeling like a hypocrite because I kept bumping my deadline for it. I kept moving it out. I kept shifting things around to allow myself more time, which meant Joanna you’re like the last person to teach someone how to manage their time, like you get stuff done, but clearly you are messing up in a lot of ways.
I was writing this post and I realized exactly that. For me to tell this and teach people this it’s not very honest. So I rewrote it. I kept all that … Well, actually only about a 10th of the research I had. I had so many cards in our story it was ridiculous. I scrapped like the bottom 75% of this post that I’d already put together and I redid it to say like, hey, really Joanna, like it’s time for you to smarten up and start managing your time better because you have a lot of crap on the go and you are, you’re losing it, you’re not taking advantage of all the opportunities. That’s what motivated it.
I wrote this post in the hopes of helping people understand, especially freelance copywriters that there’s, everybody’s making these mistakes. I am making a lot of mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, cool. Let’s maybe solve this problem together. Like here are some techniques that other people are saying to use. I’m going to try to use them. Then of course what was underneath all of that is hopefully others will use them too.
I wrote this, I published it, I sent it out just to the freelancers on our list, so that was cool. But Todd Herman as something that comes out it, Todd Herman was on the list for some reason on the freelancer one, I don’t know why he was on that one, but we’d connected before because he’s Canadian. We both went to the U of A so we’re from the same area and we know a lot of the same people. We had connected, but it’d been like a year since we talked. Anyway, he emailed me and said, “Hey, I read your post. I can help you,” and I was like, “Okay, cool.” Then he’s like, and I’m, “Okay, great. Let’s get on a call,” and he sent me his questions in advance and I was like so nervous. I was so nervous going into that call it was ridic … I was certain, I was certain he was going to say like-
Rob: That’s so funny. You’re the expert. He’s expert in his field. You’re an expert in your field and you’re still nervous. That cracks me up.
Joanna: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. This guy was going to tell me everything I was doing wrong. I was like, “Okay, all right.” I’m just going to get born a new one and I am like going to have to sit through this and be embarrassed and all this kind of stuff. I got on this call with him and he started swearing right out of the gate so I felt instantly like calmer at least, like, “Okay, well he’s not going to expect me to be someone I’m not maybe.” Then he started saying things like the idea of the weekend is a relic. It’s not a real thing anymore, not for people who run their own business. It’s you don’t have to worry about working weekends. You’re allowed to work weekends. And I was like…
Kira: Oh that’s nice.
Joanna: “What?” I know. I know. I was like, “Okay, okay.”
Kira: That makes me feel better.
Joanna: I know. Instantly I was like, “I am. I’m not doing it wrong but everybody thinks I’m doing it wrong.” “Nope, you’re not doing it wrong.” “Okay, well that’s interesting.” Then he told me about theme day. I don’t want to teach anything that Todd teaches because obviously it’s his and he’s like a genius, but like go, follow Todd Herman if you’re not already to, if time management or productivity is an issue for you. Then I signed up for the 90 Day Year and he said that he will coach me but I am extremely terrified of him coach me personally.
Kira: Oh wow.
Joanna: I know. I’m going to go through the 90 Day Year and then see where I’m at and maybe work directly with him which should be very, very cool. He’s a super nice guy. Yeah, very encouraging, good soul. Yeah, that was the outcome of that. Since then I have themed my days to avoid context switching, and yeah, I don’t beat myself up for working weekends. It’s starting to help me get things under control. Of course I’m going through the 90 Day Year as well which is helping too. That’s it.
Kira: Is your almost mother-in-law still telling you that you look tired every time she sees you?
Joanna: I just don’t visit anymore.
Kira: I could relate to that one. I was like, “I’ve heard that.”
Joanna: Right? Where it’s like honestly every time. She is super nice and she means well, but yeah, when you keep hearing, “Oh, you look tired hun,” like really, really? I know I do. I know I do. I don’t need to hear that. I do. What am I going to do about it? Quit my job? I have to keep working. What? Anyway.
Rob: We should definitely add as part of that article that you wrote. You said you weren’t doing podcasts anymore in 2017, and yet you’re here on our podcast. If we’re lucky maybe we’ll even have you back this year. So thank you.
Joanna: I mean you guys are obviously awesome, so no brainer.
Joanna: Just don’t shut your podcast down. Just keep sticking with it.
Rob: We’re not, we’re not anywhere near shutting down. Yeah, for sure.
Joanna: No, and years. I’m talking years. You’re in this. You’re in this.
Kira: Oh wow.
Kira: Oh okay. All right.
Rob: Joanna, one of the things that we’ve seen with you and your business when we are in our Facebook group, The Copywriter Club in Facebook people mention that the way they got started is that they found either Copyblogger or Copy Hackers. Like over and over people are saying Copy Hackers, Joanna had this great impact on getting me started, which is an awesome thing. But I’m curious. You’re the inspiration for so many other people. Where do you find your inspiration? How do you grow?
Kira: That’s a good question.
Joanna: Where did that come from?
Kira: Wow Rob.
Rob: I don’t know. Something I wrote down somewhere. I don’t know. Every once in a while there’s a flash of something and I might have just spent it for the week. I don’t know.
Kira: You’re done for the week.
Joanna: Yeah, I want to know where you guys find your inspiration too, because I, I haven’t been asked that question ever, so I am like thinking about it. I can only say, like I know this isn’t going to be very inspirational in any way, but I am a very competitive person and I think for copywriting in particular I’ve, a lot of the time that I was working in-house or at agencies it was really devalued work. While I was doing it I knew that I was talking directly to the people who were going to hand over their credit cards or not going to hand them over. It was on my words. So I felt, I think I always felt kind of shoved down in organizations, even though I don’t think people would look at me and say like, “Oh, she feels shoved down,” because I was very vocal and kind of known for that. I don’t know how. I wasn’t even that vocal but somehow I think I just said things in a way.
Anyway, but after … Going out of that I do feel a bit of a drive I think to prove that copywriting is hugely valuable, not a luxury, an absolute necessity, and that there are skilled copywriters that can really change your business. That’s not an inspiration thing. That’s a drive thing. What inspires me will probably make me like cry or something if I think about like past inspiration, so just-
Kira: We’re trying to get more tears. We’re trying to get more tears in the show to up our ratings…
Joanna: No more crying, no more crying.
Kira: So that’d be great.
Joanna: I don’t know what … I can’t say I absolutely know outside of like the things that have happened throughout life and the people that I have known that are inspirational having come from a background with, right, very little money and seeing my dad go through university when he had seven mouths to feed. It’s like if he could do that, what could possibly really stop me. I don’t have any of the barriers that he had. I think I’d be kind of lazy not to push myself hard and try to be the sort of person. I’m not going to finish that off. I’m going to start crying. Rob, stop asking the hard questions. They’re too emotional. I’m over it.
Rob: Like I said, the brilliance only happens once in a while, and I think I’ve just sort of shot that bullet.
Kira: He’s going to sit the rest of this out.
Rob: That’s right.
Kira: He’ done today.
Joanna: No, what inspires you guys? I do want to know.
Kira: Oh gosh.
Rob: Yeah, for me from a work standpoint there are the books, the typical books that you read. I like to go back to some of the old DR experts, Dan Kennedy’s Ultimate Sales Letter and Breakthrough Advertising and that sort of thing. But more than that in the past year sort of hanging out with and talking with more writers has been the most positive thing for me because there are so many smart people out there. It used to be that I would walk into the room and you knew you were the best writer in the room and maybe one of the best marketers. But some of the people that I’ve hung out in the past year, it’s like I’m definitely not. I’m not the best at this or that. So being able to learn from people like Joel Klettke and Kira Hug and Sam Woods and Jen Havice that you mentioned, learning from those people is completely inspiring. I mean that’s I think really where for me the magic is happening at least over the last couple of years. How about you Kira?
Kira: I mean it’s the same. I get competitive. I’m really competitive as well. Not totally sure where that comes from. I try to channel that in a positive way. Sometimes I don’t know if Joanna you have this problem, but sometimes it can get really ugly too. I try to use it for good and to kind of motivate me in a positive way, but sometimes it can also just I beat myself up because I’m competing against other people. So it’s good and bad but that definitely pushes me as well.
Okay, I want to ask probably my last question. Recently you shared some really personal stories that maybe you had shared before. I had never read them before. You had like a really touching story about you being a janitor at your high school and you shared more stories about your family and your father. I guess I’m just curious to know what triggered you or maybe you had shared this before, but if this was the first time what triggered you to share those personal stories even through a sales process? I think it was when you were launching 10x landing pages, and what was the impact? Did you see an impact? Did people, did they notice? Did they reach out? Did that change anything for you?
Joanna: Yeah, it’s interesting. I hadn’t spoken before that webinar or actually for 10x landing pages. What’s funny is I had worked with Dan Martell on helping him kind of get his site out there. Just writing his site essentially. We did a swap where he coached me for Airstory and I wrote some of his copy for his site. When I was doing that I heard his story. I asked him. I went through the interview, learning about who he is and all that kind of stuff. He told this really personal story and I was like, “Dan, that’s your story, you have to tell that, you have to.” He was like, “No, I don’t want to be known for that.” Then now more recently he’s talking about it more. It’s like he’s come around there and saying that it’s a really inspiring story. If you haven’t heard it, check out Dan Martell. I won’t tell his story, but it’s really crazy.
For me, after that, that was like a year ago, and I felt like it wasn’t just that, but other things like my step son. It seemed that he thought I was raised with money and a casual easy life, and not that my life was anywhere near as hard as some are, but it was not a casual easy life growing up. I felt like this growing need to be more honest about where I come from and I think that’s also a big part of for people who are like lacking confidence and they think others are born with it or others, all the cards fell into place for them and everything was always building up to this better life. That’s really, really not true and hasn’t been true for me, and I know that that’s not true for a lot of successful startup founders and people who are out there doing things that other people think are cool and want to do too. There’s a lot of hard stuff there so I wanted to just get more honest about it.
I didn’t tell a whole lot of it, but yeah this story of being a janitor at my own high school while I was going to high school there, I think it can help for me when I think of that and I don’t often think of it, it’s not like the warmest memory ever, but it was a real thing that made me who I am. I think it’s leaving out important parts of your narrative that make you a whole person and that really help people see who you are. I think that’s amiss for a lot of people and I think it was amiss for me. That’s why I wanted to just start talking about it, especially in the context of talking about confidence which I was doing in that webinar it seemed like. If I can be confident after a lot of craziness and hopefully everybody out there can see like, okay, you can get there too.
Rob: It’s been so awesome chatting with you Joanna. I feel like we’re like on the edge of running out of time and so we definitely want to have you come back. But before we close, tell us a little bit about Airstory, what you’ve been building. This cool software tool, elegant. I mean it’s beautifully designed, really targeted writers. Tell us a little bit about that.
Joanna: Yeah, I’m very excited about it. It’s been a long time in the making, over two years now, but that’s like we went through, built it once and then that partnership fell apart and so I restarted from scratch back in February of 2016. We’re coming up on a year now of it being under way and we’ve had it launch to beta users, a few in the summer and then a lot more from Halloween on of 2016. Now we’ve got all the team stuff built out and everything and we’re getting ready to launch it properly. On February 2nd I think is the date that we have planned. It’s essentially when I talk about it the easiest way to describe it is it’s like Google Docs and Evernote had a baby and let Trello raise it.
It’s essentially you’ve got writing space, number one, but what you put on that is a lot easier than working with again Google Docs or Word which are fantastic tools but they’re made for everybody who is writing anything. Airstory is really designed for people who are seriously invested in writing. That really means marketers who work in the world of writing, like everything that happens in marketing generally happens in a document until you publish it. So much happens in that document so where the idea here is that you can drag and drop cards onto your document, move them around and merge them, and then create cards out of whatever is on your document too in a lot of other ways.
There that’s been important and it’s been really useful for us, and we’re getting some very cool feedback now from serious writers. Like Alaura Weaver just wrote to us yesterday out of the blue and said like all these ways it’s changed how she writes. It’s about you making you a fast or more efficient writer. So if you have billable hours, or if you have like aggressive deadlines, you need to get more done in less time. If you can drag and drop your content together instead of manually writing every thought out that you have or copying from here and pasting there and all that kind of stuff.
For people who don’t write for a living, it’s not a problem to solve. Great, keep using the tool that you use. But for those who are trying to get a lot done, all of those little inefficiencies are complete time wasters, and especially for people who are consultants or freelancers too working every … Time and money are critically tied together. There’s no way to separate them. If you are wasting time you are wasting money. That’s where Airstory of course is great in just making you a very efficient content creator.
Rob: I love it and it is a really cool tool. I mean it’s elegantly built and it’s just a lot of fun to play around with. If you haven’t and you’re listening to this, you should check it out.
Kira: Joanna, where can we all find you? Not that … I think everyone knows by now, but can you share the URL with us?
Joanna: Yeah, so I’m at copyhackers with an S .com and on Twitter at Copyhackers again with an S, because there is a Copyhacker and we don’t want to go to him.
Kira: Oh, interesting.
Joanna: He was before me. Yeah, he was there before I was.
Rob: So you’re not the original copyhacker.
Kira: We have to change our intro.
Rob: My goodness.
Joanna: Like I can sue you or me or something.
Rob: That’s a terrible way to end the show but I think we’re still-
Joanna: Everything is online.
Rob: Yeah, we’re still going to end the show here.
Rob: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, and full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.