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Business as UnusualMy daughter recently started preschool.

Go ahead, take a moment to bemoan the passage of time. It’s my new hobby.

With the total upheaval of our schedule, it’s been hard to find the time or motivation to keep up with everything, if I’m being completely honest. Client work, sure. But blog posts, web updates, social media, not-so-pressing emails? I’m…a little less focused.

It’s been really good for her — this is the first time she’s been away from me and around kids on a regular basis — and I’m sure it’s good for me, too (and not just because I’m walking or biking the half-mile to her school twice a day). But it’s also been a huge change, and a major emotional adjustment. And she’s already gotten sick twice.

That’s not all, of course. It never is.

There’s the family stuff, as usual. (When you have a big family, there’s always some sort of family stuff.) And it seems like lately, every time I read the news, there’s something new to worry about. If it’s not the threat of nuclear war, it’s literal Nazis marching down our streets. It’s collusion and corruption and floods and widespread wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth.

And I’m supposed to blog about marketing tactics.

I think, especially for those of us who are particularly sensitive to the world around us, it can feel like we’re constantly on edge, and that can make it hard to focus on things that feel a bit…banal in comparison. Who can think about a sales funnel when the world is ending? (It’s not. Not today, anyway.)

So how do you keep on keeping on with business as usual when it feels like life is anything but?

Well, there are a few different approaches you might take.

  1. Use your voice.

When it feels like the world is falling apart — personally or globally — you want to talk about it, right? So use your platform to amplify the signal of people who are doing good work. Take a stand. Ask for help. Share your feelings. Your business does not exist in a bubble, and it’s okay to acknowledge that. This approach is probably the most healthy, and certainly the most helpful. Tackling these problems head-on — in your own way, however you can — is the way we create change. You might even build this into your business — plan for a portion of proceeds to go to a charity that means something to you, or schedule time to dedicate to something important to you, whether that’s a volunteer organization or family dinner every night (or once a week). Be explicit about your priorities, and it will be easier to build your life around them.

  1. Plan ahead.

One of the nice things about having a few blog posts in the bank is that you can just drop one into the schedule when you’re feeling less than motivated. Of course, this means you need to do some planning and set aside some time to actually write a block of posts before you need them, and it doesn’t really help with more time-sensitive work, but you might be surprised by what a difference this makes.

  1. Remember that life goes on.

While it may feel strange to talk about business when the “real world” is all that’s on your mind, people are still working. Your clients and your readers still want your support, even if you feel strange offering it. Don’t shy away from being in business. If you had a desk job where you had to punch a timecard each day, you wouldn’t stop going into work when the world got you down — or at least not for long. Which leads me to my next suggestion…

  1. Take a nap.

Or a walk. Or a vacation. Sometimes, you need to acknowledge that life takes precedence, and business will wait. If you miss a blog post, will the world end? Will you find genuine relief from a day off? When your job description doesn’t come with a vacation package, it’s easy to find yourself working 24-7, 365, but sometimes, life calls for a day off. Just make sure a day doesn’t turn into a year.

  1. Know when to back down.

You can’t shut down every time there’s a bump in your life, but there are some occasions that call for a moment of respectful quiet. I, personally, have found myself really turned off by businesses who refused to adapt their calendars immediately following a major event, especially one that would be considered a disaster. A general rule — if a large portion of the world (or, at least, of your audience) is glued to the news because of something major unfolding, don’t butt in with an advertisement. At best, you’ll be ignored, and at worst, you’ll come across as callous. If you’d rather not talk about what’s happening, just step back and keep quiet until some time has passed. And if you’d prescheduled a few posts that you weren’t able to cancel in time, follow up with something relevant and heartfelt. No one expects you to shut down your business, but be aware that while you’re promoting, other people may be hurting. Be kind.

It’s impossible to completely separate our work from our lives. Behind every business is an actual human, and it’s important to remember to be gentle with ourselves. We live in an imperfect world, and sometimes, that needs our attention more than another blog post about how to optimize your email marketing or make the most of social media.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How does your life factor into your work? Do you find it hard to shut out the outside world when it comes to your business?


Making the Case for a Dash of Audacity

Despite what my Crayola-colored hair might suggest, Audacity is not one of my top Voice Values.

In fact, it’s pretty far down my list. I tend to favor a measured, cautious approach. Accuracy is more my speed. Slow and steady. Dot my i’s, cross my t’s. Fortune may favor the bold, but brash and brazen give me hives.

It doesn’t help that our current climate here in the United States is basically a tableau of Audacity gone wrong — an endless stream of entirely over-the-top things said or done seemingly with the sole purpose of shocking us until we’ve become numb to the constant onslaught of stupefaction and vulgarity. Can he say that? Is this legal? Is this real?

Audacity done right, though, can bring a punch of humanity to your business — a spark of motivation, a much-needed laugh, a gentle nod to your fellow outsiders. It just takes a light touch and a bit of self-awareness. A nudge, not a slap.

Whether you’re looking to embrace Audacity as one of your top Voice Values or you’re interested in just a pinch for added flavor in your brand conversation, Audacity can be a lot of fun. It’s bold and daring. It’s loud and courageous. It’s…not for everyone.

Or, well, it can be. You just have to know how to use it.

Audacity is an interesting Voice Value because it gives you permission to be who you are, no apologies. You can be Audaciously non-Audacious — brazenly square, in a room full of dance-party unicorn badass babes. There is a rawness to Audacity, a realness and an authenticity, a willingness to see a trend and say, in the immortal words of Arya Stark, “That’s not me.”

In a brand conversation with a softer, gentler feel, Audacity can help you build a sense of urgency.

In some cases, Audacity comes through as playfulness. It’s not necessarily a no-filter nose-thumbing at the establishment — sometimes, it’s a play on words and a refusal to take itself too seriously. Not everyone with a high Audacity value is comfortable with — or interested in — swearing in their business communications. (And not everyone who lets slip the occasional burst of colorful language is sporting a high Audacity value, though it’s often a sign of some Audacious tendencies.)

Audacity shows your readers that you’re not afraid to be authentically you. Sometimes, that presents as a rebellious middle finger at the establishment. Sometimes, it’s a refusal to fall in line with what’s expected or “cool.” It’s rejecting the narrative and replacing it with something that feels more true to you. It takes courage.

Letting loose a tirade of invective is certainly Audacious. Airing your dirty laundry is Audacious. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. There are certainly businesses who have built their reputations around scandal and feuds, but I think we can do better.

I recently placed an order with Lime Crime*, a company that positively oozes Audacity. At their best, this comes across as vivacious, enthusiastic, and inclusive of customers who see themselves as outsiders or even outcasts. At their worst, it’s resulted in a mountain of complaints and criticism — not about their products but about their behavior. To be honest, as someone who votes with her wallet, it kept me from purchasing from them for years, and it was only after several glowing reviews from friends that I was willing to give them a try at all. In this case, a little too much Audacity overshadowed their Excellence and actually detracted from the humanity of the brand a bit — a heartfelt mea culpa would’ve gone a long way to soothe their scandals, and I probably would’ve been rocking those badass lipsticks for years.

That’s the thing about Audacity — it’s easy to wear it as an armor when asserting your individuality, but if you don’t pair it with a bit of vulnerability, it can backfire, and what started as authenticity becomes a facade.

So yes, I think a dash of Audacity could do you some good. You can use it to spur your readers into action. It can make them feel included and special. It might make them laugh, or reply with a hearty, “Eff yeah!” It’s empowering — for you and for your readers. But it doesn’t always need to look the same, and it should never overpower the substance of your brand conversation.

So be bold. Be courageous. But, above all, be you. Because you are why your Right Person is here.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How do you embrace Audacity in your business? Do you see an opportunity to be a little more Audacious, or does the idea make you want to hide under the covers?


*Yes, that’s an affiliate link. While I can’t — and won’t — speak for the actions of the company, I can wear their lipsticks without leaving little kiss marks all over my babies, and that link gives you $5 off if you decide to give them a try.


In Defense of Saying "No"Have you ever worked with your Wrong Person?

It’s not a phrase we use often — we’re more focused on the positive here, the Right Person ideal client who you really want to do business with, day after day.

It’s a very different experience with the not-so-ideal client.

There’s a mindset in certain circles of business that’s focused on getting as many sales as possible. Don’t say anything too “out there” or you might scare off clients. Try to mimic the voices of the big names; it’s working for them. Appeal to as many people as possible. Hustle. Promote. Sell sell sell.

But here’s the thing: when you dilute yourself to appeal to everyone, you’re going to miss out on the people who would love your weird little quirks. And you’re going to attract people who are looking for…well, whatever it is you’re pretending to be.

Your Right Person comes to you because she believes you can do the job better than others in your market. Sure, it might take some convincing — samples, testimonials, great sales copy, even an exploratory intro session if that’s your thing — but by the time she signs on that dotted line, she trusts that you know what you’re doing. This isn’t blind trust, and it’s probably not boundless, but generally speaking, she hired you for being good at what you do, and she believes you’re going to do it well for her.

Your not-so-right person? They question you every step of the way.

Do you really need to follow this process? Can’t we do it my way?

I know you said you needed this, but I thought maybe you could work around it.

I was talking to my partner’s sister’s neighbor’s friend, and she knew someone who did work like this once, and she said…

It’s exhausting.

It’s not that they’re bad people, or even bad clients — they’re just not your clients.

See, that’s the thing about the Wrong Person.

It doesn’t mean they’re wrong, just wrong for you.

Someone else is already following your Wrong Person’s process. They totally agree with the partner’s sister’s neighbor’s friend’s acquaintance. All those areas of friction that keep you stalled and sluggish? Like buttah.

Your Wrong Person is their Right Person. And yet, here you are…

They’ll fill up your schedule. They’ll take all of your energy. Six weeks into a two-week project, you’ll glance back at your scope in the rear view mirror as you fly into double-overtime with no end in sight. You’ll work nights. Weekends. Your daughter’s birthday. You could be hit by a bus, and you’ll be pecking out an email on your phone with two broken thumbs, responding to the 8,654th “I know it’s a bad time, but…”

You remember how you were so excited to make the sale? You’re spending twice as long on a project that doesn’t bring you half as much joy. Too many of these, and you’ll find yourself questioning if following your dream is really worth it.

(It is. But not like this.)

Working with your Wrong Person takes a lot out of you. They expect you to work outside of your comfort zone, because they don’t understand where that is for you. It’s not their fault; they probably don’t know any better.

So here’s the thing. You do know better. And you know what else?

It’s okay to say no.

I’m not talking about after they’ve signed on, though, you know, feel free to have someone without two broken arms shoot them a message to that effect if you have a run-in with a Greyhound. I mean, at the beginning.

“I’m sorry, but I really don’t think I’m a fit for your needs.”

Boom. It’s that simple.

(It’s not. It never is. But it’s a start.)

Of course, some people will take it personally. It’s not. You just see what they need and know what you have to offer, and you understand that there’s a disconnect. So help them see where that disconnect is. Keep it simple but straightforward. You want X, I do Y. You don’t owe them a thesis, but be kind; they’re lost and don’t realize they haven’t found their solution. Try to have a plan for how you’re going to approach this in advance, because, if you’re anything like me, rejecting someone  — even for all the right reasons — is going to give you all kinds of anxiety, and having a script to fall back on takes some of that pressure off of you.

If you know of someone who’s a better fit to support them, make a referral. I know, it sounds totally crazy to pass a potential client on to someone else. But think of it this way: if you’re a dog-walker and someone comes to you looking for a birthday cake, you’re going to send them to someone who bakes birthday cakes. This isn’t really any different, just a little more specialized.

When we live in our own zone of genius, we tend to do our best work. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stretch yourself and try to learn more, but you understand what you’re all about, and you probably know, in your gut, when a potential client is asking for something different. Don’t fill your schedule with the Wrong People and then find you have no room when the Right People come calling.

So how do we avoid attracting the Wrong People?

Some of it is probably unavoidable. You’re going to get the occasional rogue inquiry, whether from a random web search or just someone who likes your philosophy but doesn’t really understand your process. Learn how to say no to them gently and with kindness. Make sure they understand that you simply don’t offer the experience they’re seeking, and steer them in the right direction if you can.

Other times, it’s just a matter of keeping your content authentic. This is especially true if you’re selling a physical product — you can’t exactly stop someone from pressing that “Add to Cart” button, but you may find yourself disputing their bad reviews and processing their returns for a product they just didn’t really understand (because, um, it wasn’t meant for them).

Remember that warning about scaring people off? Try to reframe your thinking. So you geek out over systems, or you cry at ASPCA commercials, or you take one week off every month to re-center on a desert meditation retreat. So your throw pillows are designed to suit a funky witchy-goth-boho vibe, or your hand-thrown ceramic mugs are intentionally a little bit wobbly. The kind of person who is going to love working with you is going to love that about you. They’re going to see you in all your quirks and think, “Finally, I have found my people.” And you’re going to have an awesome time working with them. But not if your schedule is already full.

So don’t be afraid to say “no.” It just frees you up to say “yes” to the Right Person — and it gives your Wrong Person a chance to find the place where they’re all Right.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Have you been approached by your Wrong Person? Did you end up working with them, or did you pass? How did it go?


We recently had to replace our front door.

Our old door (a classic, ‘50s-style wooden panel door, with a half-round arch window, a mail slot, and an old-fashioned metal twist doorbell that perpetually infuriated our chihuahua) had finally succumbed to the carpenter ants cheerily gnawing away at its insides. One hefty shove might’ve sent us flying through the now-hollow shell of paint, dumping us unceremoniously on the dining room floor. Hey, honey, welcome home.

As we spent — let’s be honest — way too much time scouring the internet and every hardware store in a 50-mile radius for the perfect replacement, I was reminded of the blog post Abby wrote nearly four years ago on writing your Home Page like a great front porch. It’s still one of our most popular posts, and it’s packed with great info. (Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.)

In it, Abby highlights a few key points on creating a cohesive, welcoming, uncluttered Home Page, tying in the “front porch” metaphor throughout. But there’s one point I’d like to add:

Not every front porch is welcoming to the same people.


When we were door shopping, we saw a lot of options. Gorgeous doors with lots of glass (too see-through, since our living area is within view of the front door). Extra-large doors to make a grand entrance (too big for the space). Craftsman-style doors (beautiful, but not really the style of our house). Intricately carved wooden doors (an all-you-can-eat buffet for carpenter ants). Hefty, hurricane-resistant metal doors with no window at all (too institutional).

We have a cute little slate blue front porch, with lime green beams supporting the overhang, and a classic 1950s Florida house. We needed something a little bit traditional, a little bit interesting, and with just enough window to let in the light without letting out the little naked toddler butts that tend to run by there half a dozen times a day. We wanted it to be welcoming to our guests, without overpowering the simple style of our house with something ostentatious. And, well, we needed something we could paint lime green without it looking ridiculous.

In the same way, you need to consider your guests as you’re building your website’s Home Page. Let’s say your website is throwing a party. What kind would it be? Are you rolling out the kegs? Hosting a book club? Afternoon tea? A Gatsby-esque black-tie soirée? Who is reading your site?

In Abby’s post, she discourages use of the word “Welcome” on your Home Page, because it reads as a lazy cliché. Simply put, your readers are going to gloss right over it, and you need something that will catch their attention. You only get one front door. Don’t waste it on something generic. So how do you welcome visitors? Well, as always, I like to turn to the Voice Values to guide me.

Each Voice Value has its own particular style, and you’ll find that knowing what kind of party you’re throwing (that is, what your blend of Voice Values says about your business) will help you decide just what kind of front porch you’re using to welcome in your guests.

Here are a few ideas for each of the Voice Values. Feel free to pick and choose, and blend the ideas that apply to your top mix of Voice Values. (Not sure what your Voice Values are? You can sign up for our free assessment here.)


These readers want to know specifically what they’re here for. Keep it short and to the point: we offer these services. No cutesy names, no gimmicks, no “I mean, technically…” If this is what you’re looking for, you’re in the right place. This front porch leads you straight to the door.


Ah, this is the lime green paint on the door of your website. Greet your readers like the badasses they are. Make a bold statement about your business or about your reader. If they see a generic, beige Welcome mat, they’re going to run screaming.


Much like Accuracy, those with a high Clarity value want to know what you do right off the bat. Simple and elegant, no hiding behind clever phrasing or overgrown shrubbery. What you see is what you get.


This is one instance where “Welcome” fits (though don’t lead with it — it’s still a lazy intro). Your readers want to know they’re being brought into the fold when they arrive. Invite them to join you. This door is always open.


Don’t try small talk on these readers; they don’t have time for that sort of shallow junk. Go deep — you’re not happy to meet them, you’re happy to know them. Skip the “Hey, there” or the “Welcome” and dive right into the statement you’re trying to make. This isn’t the place for a wide porch — they want to get inside.


Roll out the welcome mat — these readers are so glad to be here! Match their energy. You want to keep the excitement going! (Exclamation points help.)


These readers would never set foot in a doorway with an ant-ridden door. (Sorry.) When Excellence is a top Voice Value, it’s worth it to spend the extra time and energy perfecting that portal — they should feel like they’re arriving when they reach your Home Page. Hand them a (virtual) glass of champagne. Take their coat. Usher them in with class. Click here to view our Services menu, madame.


If you have a high Helpfulness value, you’re probably already trying to think of ways to make your Home Page more useful. Keep it accessible. Don’t go overboard with copy or links or promises, but do let your readers know you’re available. Take their coat, not because you want them to feel like they’re arriving at a swanky party but because you can see that their hands are full, and you know it’s warm inside.


Oh, Innovation. I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for a door with a gadget. (Bluetooth keyless entry locks, what??) But you don’t have to roll out the big, flashy gizmos right away. Just show readers you do things a little differently — maybe it’s the way you lay out your Home Page, or how you spell out what you do that’s different from other people in your field. These readers want to know that there’s something new and unique about you. It doesn’t need to be weird, just different.


This is the classic front porch. Think Pinterest — big, wicker chairs, a swing bench, a sweating glass pitcher of lemonade. Readers who react to a high Intimacy value don’t want to arrive for a party, they want to come by some afternoon for a one-on-one. Speak directly to them, first-person, singular. Show (don’t tell) them that they’re welcome. Make them feel at home.


You’re probably horrified we got rid of that old twist doorbell, aren’t you? (I didn’t throw it away, I promise.) This is a Home Page that should be timeless. Don’t bother with the gizmos and gadgets and trendy new themes here — your readers want to know they’re part of a tradition with some history to back it up.


You know those houses where the owners rush out with a hug even before you’ve rung the doorbell? That’s what a high-Love page feels like. Let your readers know you’ve been waiting for them, that they’re loved, that you’ve already put the kettle on for them and you picked up some of that tea you know they like.


It’s all fun and games on this porch. Think a smattering of pink flamingos and a cheeky sign about solicitors. Your readers know that anything on the other side of that door is sure to be a good time. Greet them with a joke or a nickname, and keep the whimsy coming.


This is the door of someone who knows what they’re doing — solid, capable, probably with some serious-looking brass fixtures you can’t find at your local chain hardware store. Let your readers know you’ve got it all under control — and that you can empower them, too. They’ve come to the right place.


How many deadbolts does one door need? And a security fence? If you have a high Security value…well, maybe a lot. Your readers want to feel safe with you. Let them know that this is a sanctuary — that, on the other side of that door, they can let down their guard because you, unequivocally, have their backs.


These readers love the open glass door — the more of your home (er, business) they can see from the street, the better. Lay it all out there for them, no ambiguity and no holding back. Explain your process, show the math, trust them to take it all in.


There are so many different kinds of front doors, and so many different ways to greet your readers. A generic “Welcome” just isn’t enough to stand out. There are a lot of houses on your street. How can you make sure your guests find yours?

P.S. Don’t forget, our Summer School Special is coming to a close soon. If you’re looking for more guidance on how to put your Voice Values to work for you, writing effective and authentic copy designed for your particular Right Person, you don’t want to miss out.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How do you make sure your Home Page welcomes in the right type of guests? What kind of party is your website hosting?


Running a business is hard work.

I’ve been pretty busy behind the scenes for quite some time, so it’s not as if I didn’t know there was a lot to do here at The Voice Bureau. But before I took over as owner, Abby was running the show and had me to help her. When I took over…I had me, full stop. And I knew that wouldn’t work for very long.

The problem is, I’ve always had trouble delegating. I was the one in school taking the group project home over the weekend to polish and reformat. I don’t ask for help, as a rule. I just like things to be done right, and it’s been easier most of my life for me to do them myself. But if you want to build a strong business — not to mention one that’s growing — delegation is a required skill.

I needed a Virtual Concierge. And that’s where Sara LeHoullier came in.

As a long-time member of our talented copywriting coterie, Sara had already proven herself a formidable wordsmith. I knew I could trust her to handle client communications with warmth, tact, and finesse. She understands digital marketing, appreciates our processes, and is a quick study. I also just happen to really like her — a quality that’s key for someone I’ll be working closely with on just about every project, both internally and for our clients. Over the past few months, she’s been an irreplaceable asset to our team, easing the transition in ownership and keeping us humming along at full speed, supporting our copywriting clients and repackaging every single Voice Bureau course as part of our Summer School special.

And so, without further ado, it’s time I finally got around to introducing you to Sara. If you’re a current client — or are considering becoming one — there’s a very good chance you’ll be speaking with her soon.

Sara LeHoullier, Virtual Concierge at The Voice Bureau

MY TOP 3-5 VOICE VALUES ARE:Sara LeHoullier, The Voice Bureau's Virtual Concierge

Helpfulness, Playfulness, and Transparency

[Katie’s Note: Discover your own Voice Values when you subscribe to The Voice Bureau’s Insider Stuff e-letter.

Enter your best email address below and click Go to get started.]



I love the neatness of a fully checked-off to-do list. [Katie’s Note: Me, too! I’ll even add small items to my list just for the satisfaction of checking them off.] I adore crafting emails and writing pretty much anything – and working with passionate, beautiful minds really floats my boat.


I live in the tiny wooded hamlet of Olalla, WA, with my husband, two stepchildren (boys aged 6 and 8 – it’s a wild ride!), and our plott hound, Lucy.


This: since I met Abby and Katie and started following TVB, I have marveled at their way with words – in every context. Not just in terms of copy written for clients, but every communication I received was so thoughtful, so lovingly written, that I felt hugged. I always wanted to be a part of an organization that appreciated the importance of kindness as well as expertise. I think that goes a long way in attracting lovely clients as well, which is always a joy!


They truly love what they do, and believe in making the world a better place.


Loved fully and lived joyfully.


Waze – I literally never know where I’m going. And I like that I can change my lil’ costumes.


Binge-watching good (and bad) television shows.


The Sun Also Rises, anything by Saligner, Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Out of Africa (the book AND the film), 30 Rock, Portlandia


Enneagram Type 2 (The Helper) with 7 (The Enthusiast) coming in close second. My Myers-Briggs is ENFP (The Campaigner) [Katie’s Note: Nearly the perfect complement to my INTJ!], and my Clifton Strengths are Positivity, Empathy, Woo, Activator, Developer.


Have written two travel guides for Madagascar (I lived and traveled there for a number of years, and I speak Malagasy fluently). [Katie’s Note: So cool! It doesn’t surprise me at all that you have a knack for language.]


Travel guide


Cooking shows!


Being yourself.

In the comments, we’d love for you to:

Say hello to Sara and welcome her to The Voice Bureau!

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