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A photo of a forest

Hey, there. Katie here.

Almost exactly four years ago, I got a life-changing email from a friend and fellow copywriter.

Abby was about to launch The Voice Bureau and wanted to know if I was interested in doing some project management for her. I was fairly new to the freelance game at the time, but I could see that she was doing something really special, and I was thrilled to be a part of it — any part of it. But, to be honest, I had a hard time seeing how I could be much help.

I knew she needed someone on her side. We’d talked before, when she was running her business as a solopreneur, about the insane hours she was putting in, and even with just a few months under my belt (and pre-kids!), I’d already seen how quickly the work day could turn into the work night…and following morning…and weekend…

But, even knowing what challenges Abby had ahead of her, it was hard for me to see exactly where I fit in. It’s not as if I was entirely green — I’d launched my own business earlier in the year, and I was coming from years of writing for a living in some form, from penning radio commercials to editing magazines. But what she was asking for — project schedules, tracking deliverables, email support — all seemed so straightforward.

I was excited to be part of The Voice Bureau, but did I really have anything particularly useful to offer that Abby couldn’t just do herself, given enough time?

I quickly learned that what seemed like a simple, straightforward list of to-dos for me was anything but, for Abby. Spreadsheets gave her hives. Schedules were stressful. All the things I took for granted, she dreaded. With a bit more self-awareness, I probably would have seen this sooner, but analytics and logistics? They are my jam. Apparently, not everyone feels that way. Who knew?

The opposite was true, too. As our partnership grew over the years, Abby and I discovered more and more areas in which our strengths were complementary. She possesses a warmth in her interactions with clients that is natural and unforced, while I stare at my computer screen for ten minutes every time I open a new email. It’s not as if I don’t enjoy connecting with our clients — in fact, I love it! — but what comes naturally to Abby decidedly does not for me.

They say you can’t see the forest for the trees, but in business, that blindness can keep us from connecting with our Right Person.

When you don’t know what you have to offer that makes you different from your competitors, it’s impossible to connect with the person who needs just that. Your special skills might be squarely in your blind spot, but they are exactly what someone out there is looking for.

Take me, for instance. If I had to choose between being an accountant and working in outside sales, I’d be digging out my calculator before you could say, “capitalized expense.” But there are people out there who feel exactly the opposite, and may not even realize that what comes naturally to them is something I would hire out in a second.

So how do you figure out what you have to offer when you’re so close to it that it feels invisible to you? Well, that closeness is the key — what’s invisible to you probably couldn’t be more obvious to the people around you.

It’s not hard to see when you’re consistently praised for your work in one area. If you’re a great writer and people are always telling you that, you probably know that writing is your strength. If you’re a charismatic speaker who lives for the limelight, there’s a good chance someone else has noticed. Think about times you’ve gotten compliments. Do you notice any patterns?

Of course, compliments don’t always reveal your hidden (to you) talents. Maybe you’re a serial overachiever and can’t dig out a pattern among all the accolades. (Way to go!) Or maybe your particular shade of awesome isn’t the sort of thing you’ve been able to fit into a neat deliverable.

Sometimes, the special thing you have to offer can make you stand out in a different way.

Do you ever feel, well, weird?

Different? Do your friends tease you because your closet is color-coded? Are you the free-spirit who never fit in at that corporate job? Do you feign the flu to curl up with a good book rather than check out a hot new club with your friends?

What makes you different makes you exactly what someone is looking for. Not everyone is red-sweaters-on-the-left organized. Not everyone has those outside-the-box thoughts in the boardroom. Not everyone has a measured, quiet approach.

I’m a little bit neurotic. I can’t throw a party without everything being just right, from the flow of the playlist to the color scheme of the menu. Pre-kids (that is, when I had more than 30 seconds to put away a load of laundry), my closet wasn’t just color-coded, it was sorted by style, color, and sleeve length. I never met a spreadsheet I didn’t love. But those things I’ve been teased about are also things that have gotten me praise in my work. And there are plenty of people out there who need exactly what I have to offer, now that I’ve realized just what that special something is.

When you finally figure out what makes you weird, you’re thisclose to connecting with the people who need just that sort of weird on their side — and building ease into your business around the things that comes so naturally to you, you might never have noticed how special they are.

And how special you are.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Do you have any idiosyncrasies that come out in your business? Are there any quirks that make you different from your friends — or your competitors? Are you taking advantage of them, or fighting against them?



scaling my business for small

“My mother loves small things,” the customer said to me.

She was describing what she saw as a particular quirk of her mother’s, but the truth was that many people love small things — for very particular reasons. When I owned my retail shop, this seemingly idiosyncratic detail was one my shopgirls and I heard often.

On this day, I’d been working the sales floor, chatting with regulars, greeting first-time customers, and giving some of them a quick tour of new finds we’d just unpacked and displayed. This particular customer (we’ll call her Marta — she was a regular) was shopping for a Mother’s Day gift. She picked up a set of tiny, glazed ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of bluebirds, painted in a soft wash of robin’s egg blue (natch).

“She’ll love these,” she said, walking them up to the counter where I ran her credit card, wrapped the bluebird shakers in our signature kraft-and-chocolate polka dotted tissue paper, and tucked them into a logo gift bag. Then she was on her way, to return again another day seeking a new find, hoping for an experience that felt very much like the one she’d had on this particular day. Particular. Personal. Curated.

People love small things — for very particular reasons.  

Most of the business owners we’re lucky to work with at The Voice Bureau have very small businesses. While their revenues might range anywhere from $20,000/year (in ‘just launched’ mode) to multiple six figures, they insist on designing and running a business that feels small. Particular. Personal. Curated.

Usually, their “team” is just them, or them and a VA. Or them, a VA, and a few other collaborators or team members.

It’s fun for my team and me to work with these types of values-based microbusinesses because that’s the type of business The Voice Bureau is. We get why small and particular appeals to you.

In these online entrepreneurial realms, we hear so much about the importance of scaling a business so that more parts of it can be ‘hands-off,’ leaving the business owner with more time and energy for a life outside her business. While I totally agree with the second half of that equation, I don’t think that scaling for volume is the only way to go about having a business that feels good and is profitable. I think it’s time we talked about scaling for a tiny little jewel box of a brand.

Scaling for small

In my own business, I am scaling to be a tiny little jewel box of a brand. That’s how I think of The Voice Bureau.

Right now, and for the past couple years, I’ve been working at scaling my business for four things:

  • IMPACT — which, to me, means seeing my message and my work reach as many Right People as far as it can go
  • GROWTH IN REVENUES — which, to me, means having operating leverage, being able to bring in as much income as possible while being as modest and sustainable as possible in growth efforts
  • PLEASURE — which, to me, means getting to do mostly the stuff I truly love doing that’s within my zone of genius, and building the business in a way that’s beautiful, and not doing the things that don’t actually bring me pleasure or an internalized sense of adding value (like hustling for speaking gifts, going after PR opportunities, etc.)
  • PARTICULARITY — which, to me, means serving the exact Right People in the exact right ways in the exact particular tone and style that works for them and for me

I want to be known for really specific ideas, concepts, and approaches. I want to feel particular, selective, curated, and well-appointed.

I want my business to be well-honed, lithe, and supple where it counts (which is always around the needs of The Voice Bureau‘s Right People). I want flexible architecture. And I want to give my clients an experience that feels small, regardless of the revenues I’m bringing in. Because ‘scaling for small’ does NOT have to equate small profits.

Think about it.

Maybe in your business, the dream is to work with three carefully vetted clients each quarter, and that’s it. You’ll make fully a quarter of your yearly income each quarter from your engagements with these clients. You’ll maintain the emotional and psychological bandwidth to deliver a truly great experience for them. And you’ll have a tiny, quiet team behind the scenes engaged in building the infrastructure to support the clients’ experience and your experience. To keep focused, you’ll lean on your high Love, Security, and Excellence Voice Values.

Maybe in your business, you plan on building a suite of courses around the topics you teach and model. Your goal is to eventually license your own material so that other practitioners can teach using your work as a guide. Someday you’ll create a high level private mentorship for people who really want to go deep. You’ll lean on your high Community, Depth, and Helpfulness Voice Values to get this done.

Or maybe you’re a visual artist who works on commission, always in a very particular style and medium. You have no desire to ‘scale’ in terms of client volume, but you are interested in opening an online boutique where people can peruse and purchase non-commission works. You plan to hire a terrific Virtual Assistant (VA) to help you carry this out. You’ll lean on your high Intimacy, Accuracy, and Enthusiasm Voice Values to make this work for you.

There are many different ways to scale for small, and not all of them require you to be “hands off,” to enroll huge numbers of buyers or clients, or to hike your prices sky high so that only the heavily invested can work with you.

Toward a tiny little jewel box brand

I’m kind of in love with this ‘tiny little jewel box’ of a brand idea. It’s what I’m going for these days, and it’s what we help our clients move toward and into in their own work.


Only what fits.

Only what’s precious.

A few heritage pieces.

A few current favorites.

Lots of eminently wearable standbys.

And lots and LOTS of value.

If you’re intent on building your own business brand as a tiny little jewel box, I invite you to join me.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What does ‘scaling for small’ look like in your business? What would you LIKE it to look like?


Think like an editor about your own brand

This post is a sample of the intro content from our NEW, 4-week course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine. Enrollment for the first live round closes the evening of Sunday, April 17th. Join us!

What is Content Strategy?

So here’s the thing: in this creative business realm we’re swimming in, we see terms like ‘content strategy’ fly by on Twitter and we think to ourselves, Yeah, I probably should have one of those.

Or our eyes glaze over when we see yet another jam-packed blog post on Pinterest from some software company full of tech bros dressed in content marketers’ clothes telling us why we need to be writing what our ideal clients and customers want to read, awing us with their brightly colored infographics all the while.

Content strategy. It’s a buzzphrase.

It’s important. It’s essential. It  . . . sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it?

The word ‘content’ just sounds so dry.

The word ‘strategy’ just sounds so . . . strategic, maybe even in a game-y sort of way. And gaming your Right People is exactly what you don’t want to do.

And yet, our attention, as industrious creatives, keeps landing again and again on this idea of having a content strategy. Our curiosity is piqued — because we know we need it. We sense that if we could just wrap our mind around how a content strategy could work for us, in our own brand, with our own intrinsic style applied, it could change everything we’re doing in the realm of words and work.

If you’re thinking along these lines — you are right.

A pragmatic yet inspired content strategy can cause the stars to align in your business and brand.

When you’re writing about what you love and feel deeply inspired by, in a way that scaffolds your Right People’s journey with you — not only their buying journey but their internal journey as a human being — you can rest assured that you are Doing It Right. You’re HELPING people, all the while doing work you find meaningful — and you’re writing about it, or photographing it, or making videos or podcasts about it!

A content strategy is nothing more & nothing less than a really cool roadmap for the journey on which you want to accompany your Right Person reader, client, or customer.

The course we just made, which starts its first live round on Monday, April 18th, will teach you what the world’s great magazine editors have always known: how to craft a compelling roadmap that turns ambivalent passengers into fully awake and aware drivers on the road to becoming your buyer and your lifelong brand ambassador.

Do you want that for your business? If not now, then when?

Now let’s talk for a moment about the editorial mindset.

The Editorial Mindset

The editorial mindset is the perspective on content and audience engagement that an editor has.

Yep, some people are just born with a keen editorial eye — they’re naturally able to spot trends, to predict what will be hot next Fall, and to perceive whose star is on the rise before THAT PERSON even knows.

But if you’re not born with this gift, you can cultivate the skill set within yourself.

This course will teach you how to cultivate the skill set of thinking like an editor about your own content.

When you hone your editorial mindset, you learn how to be be selective, be discerning, develop your intuition, follow your hunches, take risks, do more of what works, kill what isn’t and doesn’t, get the best work out of your writers (even when your only writer is you), and hold people accountable (including, yep, yourself).

If you want a keen content strategy that defines your brand’s point of view in the marketplace and turns your Right People’s brights ON, not off, every time they see a headline of yours fly by on social media, Run Your Business Like a Magazine is made for you.

If you want to think like a magazine editor and rely on a dangerously effective balance of strategy and intuition to create a great product ‘issue after issue,’ Run Your Business Like a Magazine is made for you.

The only question now is: will you join us?

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What’s your relationship to your the editorial mindset? Do you feel like you were ‘born with it’ or is a skill set you’ve developed or would like to develop?


Katie Mehas Voice Bureau Creative Director[Hey there, it’s Katie, taking over the blog for today to share a few of my thoughts on content strategy. And grasshoppers. Keep reading, we’ll get there.]

content strategy is business strategy

Last night, my daughter asked me to read “The Ants and the Grasshopper” to her before bed.

If you’re not familiar with the story, pull up a chair.

So basically, there’s this grasshopper, and he’s having an awesome summer. Going swimming, dancing, having margaritas (I may be embellishing a little here). Basically, living the life. Good for him! But all the while, he keeps seeing these ants, working like a bunch of suckers. He manages to convince an ant to call in sick and take a beach day, but he gets caught by the boss and ends up back at work. Rough summer for the ants.

Then autumn comes, and the grasshopper breaks out his favorite sweaters, spends a weekend upstate doing one of those fall foliage walks, drinks some cider, plans a big Halloween party. None of the ants can make it though, because, as usual, they’re working through the weekend. Again.

Then winter shows up. It’s nice at first, I assume, because winter usually is. First snow, nice and white, icicles glistening. But before long, the grasshopper realizes he may have made a mistake. It’s a lot colder than he figured it was going to be, and he forgot to stock up on milk and bread and now the store is out of everything but that weird sprouted stuff that you could build a wolf-proof house out of, if you were in a different fairy tale.

So he goes to see the ants, and they’re having the party of their lives. Huge feast, probably a little too much drinking, big fire going in the ant-sized fireplace. Because this was the Disney version we read, the ants decide to take pity on the grasshopper and let him stay there for a few months in exchange for playing his fiddle and keeping the party going. Aesop is probably spinning in his sarcophagus over the kinder, gentler ending, but I’m glad I don’t have to explain to my daughter what happens to grasshoppers when they freeze to death.

The moral of the story, of course, is simple: If you don’t plan for winter, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Anyone who’s been self-employed for any amount of time knows that business is cyclical. (If you’re new to the party, welcome! Lesson One: Business is cyclical.) Generally speaking, most online businesses, especially service-based businesses, find that the summer is pretty quiet, and things pick up again in the fall.

Maybe it’s because the kids are back in school and you can actually get things done without someone spilling orange juice on your laptop or dangling from your sleeve or asking, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Can I go [insert the thing they can totally do, later, once you’ve finished sending this one email seriously please go entertain yourself for five minutes]?” Maybe it’s just the natural progression of the year. Either way, summer = quiet, fall = suddenly not (generally speaking).

So why on earth did we choose to launch our new course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine, in mid-April, just as we’re heading into summer?

Good question.

Producing interesting, informative, entertaining content on the regular is an amazing way to connect with your Right Person (that’s the person who loves what you do, who advocates for you, who buys your services and is a joy to work with).

By giving them something worthwhile to read, you’re not just saying, “Here’s something to think about,” you’re saying, “…and think about me every time this crosses your mind.”

Figuring out what YOU love to write about, what interests you and is relevant to your brand conversation, what your Right People readers want to hear — that is how you set yourself up for success. It gives you the foundation and the framework to write and write and write, all year long, without it feeling like work, and it gives your readers something to look forward to. To bookmark. To share online. It creates a bond between you and your audience — a community. And when it’s time for them to dust off their credit card come those first red leaves of fall? You’re the one they’re thinking of — the expert who entertained them all summer as they sat on the beach with their margaritas, the virtual friend they’ve connected with and want to know better.

As a magazine editor, I had to come up with a lot of content every year, and there were days when I definitely felt like an ant with the worst job in the world while my grasshopper friends were relaxing at the beach. Right around press time, I worked a lot of late nights and weekends. I won’t lie, sometimes it sucked.

But in the end, creating a solid editorial calendar allowed me to gather a lot of really amazing content over the course of the year without scrambling every month.

I got great reviews. My sales went up. People started recognizing me at car shows. (Okay, not super exciting as a non-car-person, but still pretty cool.) Friends and relatives all over the country would find my magazines on the racks at Borders (R.I.P.) and text me pictures. I felt like a celebrity. I mean, not Anna Wintour or anything, but still. And I owed it all to putting out really good magazines, month after month, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring.

Creating a content plan is even more important if you’re in the midst of shifting your brand conversation.

This might be tied to a new direction in who you’re serving, how you’re serving them, or how you’re presenting yourself — basically, if you sit down at your computer (or your workbench or your phone) and aren’t jumping for joy at the prospect of another day of work, there’s a pretty good chance a rebrand is churning around in the back of your mind. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, even if you haven’t admitted it out loud yet. But there is something out there that will light you up again, and figuring out what that is and how to start talking about it is the first step in changing your brand conversation.

Planning how to talk about it regularly is what’s going to build the bridge from where you are now to where you want to be — and make sure your Right People (either the ones who already know you or the ones who are about to discover you) can follow.

Don’t get me wrong, Run Your Business Like a Magazine — or any content strategy planning — takes some effort on your part.

If you want a content plan that you’re going to love in a few months, you need to put some thought into what that will look like. But we’re talking red ink, not blood — this doesn’t have to be painful. And it doesn’t have to keep you from having a nice, relaxing summer. In fact, you’ll probably have a better time if you spend the next few months connecting with your clients over something you really want to be talking about than if you try to muster up enthusiasm for something that’s run its course.

Imagine you’re sitting on your porch, soaking up some sun with a glass of water…but what you really want is an icy-cold glass of mint tea (or that margarita we’ve been talking about — can you tell I’m seven months pregnant and craving something I can’t have?). Yeah, you have to go all the way inside to get some from the fridge, but won’t you be glad you did?

Your content determines your conversation, and your conversation determines your clients. If you want to be intentional about the work you do — whether that’s something new or just more of what you’re doing now — you can’t just put yourself out there and hope for the best.

A content strategy is a business strategy.

I guess if you’re a really great fiddle player and don’t mind low ceilings for a few months, you can cross your fingers and hope the ants have a spare room. But if you want to build your own place, you have to be willing to put in a little work when things are slow and the beach is calling. And right now, heading into the quiet season, is a great time to do it. You can establish what’s really lighting you up, make an easy, actionable plan to talk about it on a regular basis, and build your community. And then, when the cycle shifts, you’re not frantically searching for your next client, because here they are, right here, talking to you on Facebook, checking your site, waiting for your next blog post — or product launch.

Run Your Business Like a Magazine kicks off on Monday, April 18th. We’d love to have you join us. (Margaritas are up to you.)

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What’s YOUR relationship with content creation — do you wing it or plan ahead? Have you seen a change in your business’s cycle based on how you communicate with your readers?


how to rebrand or reposition your business through content

Let’s talk about branding or rebranding an existing business.

This is one of my favorite topics within branding because I like starting with what the client already has, rather than starting from scratch.

Fair warning: I’m about to stuff this post with a passel of unrelated metaphors. I often think in wild and elaborate metaphors. I find them immensely useful when explaining a concept that’s unfamiliar to my reader. Hopefully they’ll work for you here!

Is it time to rebrand your business or reposition your brand?

They say all change starts from within and when it comes to branding or rebranding a business, it’s true!

Before you choose a new color palette, commission a new logo design, or start overhauling your service menu, there’s some connective tissue [pulling a metaphor from the hallowed pages of Grey’s Anatomy — the medical tome, not the TV show, though I adore it and Shonda Rhimes, too] that must come into place first to cushion those newly growing bones.

Initiating a rebrand starts, in my view, with shifting your brand conversation.

What is ‘brand conversation’?

The first layer of a rebrand is a shift in the brand conversation. What is a brand conversation? For the purposes of a business that markets itself online (or even offline), brand conversation equals the subject matter your business takes on, the topics you address under the subject umbrella, the motifs you lean on, the themes you use, and generally what the brand is about.

This is the part of branding I find most satisfying. It’s identifying the threads of an ongoing conversation that feel like they have the most electricity in them. The tripwire, so to speak, that cracks everything open. If you haven’t found your tripwire yet, it’s OK. I think that’s, like, a twice in a career type of thing.

If you want to rebrand or reposition your business, start on the level of content — the words on your website, the words in your blog posts, the affect of your video editing (yes, I mean affect with a hard emphasis on the first syllable, like in Ben Affleck, not effect, though the former influences the latter), the styling of your Instagram images.

Rebranding with content allows you to reposition your business from the inside out, rather than visually from the outside in.

When you know that you want to shift your positioning in the marketplace or start talking to a different market or segment of the market, the first best way to do that is to write about it. You can shift your brand quickly or you can unfold the shift slowly over the course of a year. You can accomplish a repositioning in a 3 to 5 blog post series or in a 10 to 20 post series. 

The first step is to find the link or the connection (the connective tissue) between the thing you have been talking about and the new thing you want to talk about.

There is always a connection.

I repeat: there is always a connection.

How do I know? Because these (maybe) seemingly disparate things — your ‘before’ topics and themes and your ‘after’ topics and themes — both originate in you and with you and your experience. It’s not that they have to be personal, and the connection you make for your readers doesn’t have to be a personal one. (You don’t have to write the post that starts, “So I’ve been blogging and teaching about X for the past 3 years, but one day I realized it’s really Y that matters! And so now, I’ll be talking about Y!”)

The connection you explore with your readers through your shifting content might be related by topic, by industry, or even by energetics, by the unseen forces that tie these things together.

You can also start your rebrand by hinting or suggesting on social media. I don’t suggest you be overly quiet about it, though. There’s no need to tease your audience, unless that’s your bona fide style; maybe it is if you have a high Playfulness, Power, or Love Voice Value, all of which could inhabit the energy of teasing, though in very different ways.

The key is to release some minnows into your already well tended pond. (Last metaphor of the post, I promise.) Let them start feeding on your pond’s algae. (Couldn’t resist getting that in there.) Let them adapt to the ecosystem you’ve already created. (Aaaaand there’s that.)

Before you book your designer for a visual rebrand, outline a new service offering, or even change your title, consider what it is you want to SAY through this retooled brand of yours — and let content lead the way. It’s the most organic way to start shifting the brand that speaks for the business that contains the work you do.

Our new 4-week course melds practical content strategy with ephemeral brand voice to help you craft a brand conversation that really sings. (Ooh, one last metaphor.)

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

Have you ever rebranded or repositioned your business? How did you start the process? What did you do, content-wise, to support your brand shift?