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Changing the Face - Blog

There’s been a lot of change around here lately.

From the outside, it might even look dramatic. The thing is, when I took over as owner of The Voice Bureau a few months ago, it wasn’t a sudden shift. In fact, it’s something that’s been in process for quite a while.

I’m beyond thrilled to be stepping into this role. It feels like a natural progression of the business and of my career, the next step in my self-employment (five years at the beginning of next month!). And The Voice Bureau is such a natural fit for everything I love to do.

Of course, there have definitely been some adjustments.

Abby and I worked well together for the past several years because we have such complementary styles. The jobs she dreaded, I relished. The natural tendencies I lacked, she had. We made a great team.

Now that I’m at the helm, those differences feel more apparent. It’s a bit like wearing someone else’s sweater — there’s a hint of unfamiliar laundry detergent and a tightness around the neck from long days draped across someone else’s shoulders. Even if it’s a style you’d wear, maybe the color isn’t your usual look, or it’s a little heavier material than you like. I’ve stepped into a business that isn’t my own design, and, while I’m excited to be here, it still feels just a bit…strange.

Let me be clear, I love The Voice Bureau and everything it stands for. I love our clients. I love the work we do. I have absolutely no desire to change anything fundamental, especially because I was a part of getting us where we are today. The sweater is my style, but, if you want to get literal about it, it’s a bit more mauve than I usually go for. The INFJ Business course of a few years ago that was such a hit with our community wouldn’t work for me, because, as an INTJ, I get  you, but I am not you. My voice is a bit different, both in our courses and in our blog posts and other communications.

Basically, I’m not Abby. And that’s okay.

Who I am is someone who’s been with The Voice Bureau as it’s grown over the years. I’ve collaborated with Abby on countless projects and ideas — some of which you’ve seen and some of which might get pulled from that back shelf and dusted off in the future. I’m all in.

So where am I going with this?

There’s a good chance you’re never going to have to worry about literally changing the face of your business.

Even if you do decide at some point down the road to hand over the reins to a new owner, the transition process really falls on them, as far as determining the direction and the feel for what’s next. It’s part of, you know, transitioning.

But we do a lot of work with clients in the process of rebranding their businesses. Whether because they didn’t quite get it spot-on the first time or because they’re shifting their goals or their services, a rebrand is a big change. It’s the opportunity for a new start, a chance to realign with your Right Person. It’s also a leap of faith.

How do you make a major change in your business without losing what it is at its core? How do you maintain the momentum you’ve built and the connections you’ve made when your business is — literally or metaphorically — changing faces?

For me, as I find my way in this new role at The Voice Bureau, I’ve focused on what we have in common. Both Abby and I come from a copywriting background, so copywriting, brand voice, and content strategy are all a natural fit — basically, all the work we do. My approach may be a little bit different, but I love the Voice Values, and I know our end result is the same because Abby and I have collaborated on every single piece of copy that’s gone out our virtual door for the past four years.

Our temperaments are similar, as well. While I may be a little more in my head than in my heart, neither of us fit the larger-than-life “copy rockstar goddess” mold. We’ve always taken a more measured approach, and one that eschews some of the more aggressive sales tactics and supersized personalities. It’s a choice that feels more authentic to who we both are, and it’s a better environment for our Right Person, who really is what this is all about.

And that, at its core, is the important factor that drives The Voice Bureau (and, hopefully, any business): our Right Person.

While you may have a different appreciation for my approach than you did for Abby’s, the fact of the matter is that our Right Person hasn’t changed. The way we serve you hasn’t changed. It may look a tiny bit different, and I may sound a tiny bit different, but our mission is the same: to provide personalized brand voice and copywriting support for values-based businesses operating online. To take a quieter, more nuanced approach to effective sales copy. To help you speak your own truth, in your own voice, to your own Right Person — no imitation, no pretending. Just you.

And just me. Because, truly, if we’re telling our clients that the most important thing is to be honestly, unapologetically who they are, how could I run this business without doing the same, myself?

It’s an exercise you might complete as you work through your own rebranding.

What’s working for you? What isn’t working for you? What do you do that brings you joy? What is the core of your business that you want to carry over into this new iteration?

(And don’t be afraid to say that your Right Person is not that core — you may well be rebranding because your existing site speaks to the wrong person.)

Once you’ve discovered the threads that you want to carry over into the new version of your business, it will become so much more obvious which pieces just don’t fit. Once you’ve found the heart of your brand, you’ll see that everything else is just window dressing. And window dressing is easy to change.

So, sure, you may notice some changes around here in the coming months. Don’t be surprised if some of the mauve shifts to indigo. Understand that I blog — and e-letter and write courses — in my own voice. We’re using a new font in our emails. (I know, try not to freak out.) But, at our heart, The Voice Bureau is what it always has been. That’s not going to change, no matter what face — or sweater — we’re wearing.

 

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Have you gone through a rebrand in your business? How did you decide what to change and what to carry over?

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Intimacy wo exposure - Blog

I’m really bad at awkward silences.

Don’t get me wrong, I love silence. In a house with two girls of pre-preschool age, it’s hard to come by. I cherish every single second of ear-ringingly empty quiet (at least until a cat knocks something over or the baby wakes up). But I’m talking about those lulls in conversation when it’s obvious that someone needs to speak up.

And oh, I speak up. For a textbook introvert, I do a whole lot of speaking up.

When faced with the prospect of an awkward silence, I have a habit of filling in the quiet with every little detail of my life. All those things I’d rather not share? The embarrassing stories? Deepest secrets? Private thoughts? Suddenly, I can’t hold them back.

Do you do this? It’s awful, isn’t it? I’m a relatively private person by nature, but one awkward silence and I’m — to  steal a phrase from every mafia movie ever — singing like a canary.

In a lot of ways, the internet is the ultimate awkward silence. Even if a blog post ends up with a hundred comments, a lively discussion, a viral social media presence, when you’re sitting down to write, it’s just you and your writing playlist/Netflix binge. It’s a perfect storm for oversharing.

To top it off, there’s a pretty good chance you want to get a little personal in your writing. In fact, Intimacy is one of the most common Voice Values for our clients. It’s one of the reasons we’ve left our day jobs, to create a career with a more human side, favoring connections over the stability of a regular paycheck. (Yes, even us introverts.) It’s why so many of us prefer to work one-on-one or in small groups. It’s why we’ve scaled our businesses to retain that personal connection. Intimacy and authenticity is what we’re all about.

So how do you foster intimacy with your readers without feeling quite so…naked?

Well, first of all, you need to be intentional.

You’re bound to share some things about yourself, no matter what. You want to share a bit, if you hope to connect with your readers and potential clients. Especially if your brand features you as a person, it’s almost impossible to avoid — at least without coming off as dry and distant. Even if you don’t have what would be considered a “personality brand,” giving your business a face helps your Right Person understand why they’re hiring you. It makes working with you about working with you, and features you, yourself, in particular, as an important part of the process. (Which you are.)

So what do you want to share with your readers? Think about your life. What areas will your Right Person naturally understand?

Do they share your love of hiking, or will they admire your encyclopedic knowledge of craft beer? Maybe they’re homebodies who would love to know that you knit, even if they prefer a good book for their cozy evenings by the fire. What do you do or love or know that gives them some insight into who you are as a person, outside of your work? You may have a hundred interests, but focusing on just a few key pieces helps create a more cohesive picture of who you are. Start there. You can always share more and build on this as you go.

Now, what’s off-limits?

It’s okay to keep some things to yourself. If you don’t want to share your children or your sexual preference or your health struggles with your readers, that’s okay. Hey, if you don’t want to share your knitting or hiking or beer drinking, that’s okay too. It’s also okay if these personal details become the cornerstone of your brand. It’s really up to you to decide what feels right to share and what belongs to you alone. But decide that before you write a single word, or there’s a very good chance you’re going to find yourself with the awkward silence of a blank page, and suddenly every childhood trauma is spilled out in front of you and all you wanted to do was share a recipe for quinoa salad.

Transparency is not the same as intimacy. There is no reason to feel you need to share everything in order to foster an authentic connection with your readers. It doesn’t make it any less authentic. It doesn’t make it any less intimate. It just means you’ve created healthy boundaries. And that’s a good thing!

No matter what you choose to share, though, be sure to keep it real. If you’re hiding your personality or pretending to be someone you’re not, you’ll be maintaining a persona that simply isn’t you, and that’s not sustainable in the long run. Before you know it, you’ll find that you’re avoiding your readers because you don’t want them to figure out that your public face and your private face don’t match up. You’ll be working with clients who are drawn to this false sense of you — and, more importantly, scaring off the very people who would line up around the block for what you really have to offer. When you choose to be just who you are, it’s easier to communicate, to connect. What you share doesn’t need to be a complete picture of who you are, but it does need to be you.

The other side of intimacy, of course, is listening.

If you’re just spilling what you’re all about, you’re not really fostering intimacy, you’re just creating a confessional. Help your readers feel seen. What do you know about them? Is there something they have in common? Something they’re going through?

Intimacy is about recognizing and highlighting the camaraderie you share with your readers and clients. It’s understanding them and building a relationship — a give-and-take that happens over time. It’s not about exposing your deepest secrets in one frantic ramble to fill the silence. When you’re intentional about what parts of yourself you want to make public, and when you take the time to listen and learn about your readers, you create a genuine rapport.

Keep it authentic. Keep it reciprocal. And, if it’s private, keep it to yourself.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How do you cultivate intimacy with your readers? Do you have a tendency to overshare, or to undershare?

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Tale of 2 RPs - Blog

They were the best of clients, they were the worst of clients.

If you’ve been in business long enough — or if you’ve done a good bit of soul-searching and research and strategizing — there’s a pretty good chance you have an idea of what type of client you enjoy working with the most (or maybe you’ve found them by learning what type of client you enjoy working with the least).

These are the clients who trust your process, who get excited whenever you have a new offer, who speak your language. Your tribe, if you’ve got that Community drive going for you. Your friends, if you’re more Intimacy.

We call that client your Right Person, and the more you know about her (or him or them), the better you’re able to serve her.

But what if you find that you have two Right People…and they’re not exactly identical twins?

Don’t freak out. Believe it or not, this is completely normal.

If you’re building your business for longevity, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve started to diversify a bit. Maybe instead of just selling hand-poured beeswax candles, you’re now offering candle-making lessons. Rather than doing all of your yoga classes in a group setting, you’re now offering one-on-ones. Instead of just copywriting, you’ve added consulting and courses. Ahem.

The point is, diversity is good — different types of offerings cast a wider net, appealing to different people in different situations. It brings you more outlets to share your knowledge, more streams of income, more opportunities to connect.

But there’s a very good chance that the type of person interested in one of your offerings is not the same as the type of person interested in another.

Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say there’s a productivity coach. Why don’t we call her Eva.

Eva has been in business for a while, supporting mainly solopreneurs in a one-on-one coaching setting, with an average of three sessions each. Her Voice Values are Intimacy, Helpfulness, Depth, and Clarity.

Now, Eva is looking to bring on some more clients. She’s planning to start up a group program: six months of intensive support, culminating in a live, four-day retreat. The problem is, her regular clients aren’t biting. So what gives?

Well, let’s examine Eva’s original set of clients. She’s been doing this a while, so she’s able to say that these clients are mainly women who are self-employed, age 27-45, mostly in the fairly early stages of their business. Many of them are married with children, and they need some help organizing their schedule to fit everything in without too much stress or lack of sleep. Their three sessions tend to go: introduction and overview, suggested routine, follow-up and adjustments. Some of the clients come back after a year (or maybe once every year) for a fine-tuning, but for the most part, once they’re done, they’re done. Her clients do love reading her blog for additional tips, though, and they make up a pretty active community in the comments and on social media.

So, if these clients are so active in her community, why aren’t they signing up for the new program?

The key is in figuring out what’s different about this program. Rather than three one-on-one sessions, they’re looking at six months in a group. So, for one, this is someone who needs more ongoing — and possibly more complicated — support than Eva’s usual clients. Maybe they’ve been in business longer and have more pieces to juggle. Maybe they’ve got a team to think about, either in-person or virtual. They’re interested in working with a group, rather than one-on-one, so there’s a good chance they see the benefit in networking. They may even be more extroverted than Eva’s regular clients. It’s going to be a larger commitment, but in time and financially (especially given the in-person retreat), so they’re probably making more money, and there’s a good chance they skew a bit older. They may or may not have children.

So what’s a productivity coach to do? Well, create a couple of Right Person Profiles, to start. This is an exercise we like to do (and, yes, something we can help you do for yourself), in which you create an imaginary story about your ideal client. Give her a name. A job. A house. How old is she? Where does she live? Is she married? Kids? Where did she go to school? What’s her favorite thing to eat for dinner? The more detail, the better. Find some stock pictures and imagine what she looks like.

Now, take a look at your own Voice Values. What is she drawn to because she sees herself, and what appeals to her because she needs more of it in her life?

For Eva, her one-on-one clients probably relate to her high Intimacy value, because they prefer to work closely, alone with her. They appreciate the Helpfulness and Clarity she brings to their lives (and their schedules). But her group clients — even though they meet in a larger setting — are probably drawn to her high Depth value, because they’re looking for more ongoing support, a deeper, more lasting connection. So when Eva is talking to each group, she’ll want to tailor the texture of her language — keeping it true to her Voice Values, but speaking directly to the client she wants to work with.

With a clearer picture of her new Right Person, Eva can create a sales funnel that speaks directly to her, addressing her needs, speaking her language, and showing her exactly how this new group program will help support her. She might even restructure her webpage so that each Right Person can more easily find the section that supports her. (Using modules on the Home Page is a good way to do that, or at least clearly defined menu options.) She can even apply this understanding to her blog posts, speaking directly to the Right Person most likely to be interested in each subject.

The more you know your Right Person — or Persons — the better you can tailor their experience to suit them, and the more seen they will feel.

Now just wait until Eva launches a DIY option…

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

How many Right People does your business have? How do you treat them differently (or do you)?

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You can have fun with your blog - BlogHere’s the thing: we like to make business hard.

Harder than it probably needs to be. There are plenty of things about running a company of any size that are hard enough as it is. Taxes come to mind. Also, deciding whether and how to scale. And maybe deciding on your brand’s color palette, if you are a person who loves ALL THE COLOR.

The creatively entrepreneurial mind likes to complicate that which doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated. Partly, that’s because you’re gifted: you recognize the beauty of complexity, you appreciate nuance, you want to hold hands with context always and forever. These are traits that make you a natural born business owner, especially one that’s The Voice Bureau’s type of Right Person.

One thing that, perhaps surprisingly, should NOT be hard is figuring out what to write on your blog.

And how it connects to the big picture of what you do, why you do it, and who you’re doing it for. Yes, seriously.

Your blog should be like the (not so) secret diary of your business’s brain, heart, and spirit. It should tell your Right Person exactly what they want to know (but maybe didn’t know they wanted to know) about the very thing you do, believe, offer, value, create, sell. It should answer questions they didn’t even know they had, but really, the answers to these question are everything for them.

This may all sound intimidating, but the truth is, everything I just said in the paragraph above is already encoded into the DNA of your business. And you, my friend, made that DNA. You know it. You are it.

When you trust your business’s DNA — when you trust yourself — then blogging becomes fun (again. or maybe for the first time ever.).

If you follow what’s in your business’s DNA, blogging stops being hard. And it becomes more effective, because you’re catering to your actual Right Person, not some idealized version of who you think that is or who you want it to be.

We all enjoy conversations about our favorite themes and topics. You know that friend you just can’t wait to get together with because you get to indulge in your favorite discussions, AND you feel seen, met, heard, witnessed, and responded to? That’s how blogging can (and should!) feel, and that’s also how your Right Person feels when he or she reads your best and most DNA-aligned stuff: seen, met, heard, witnessed, and responded to.

Good blogging from a connected and aligned place is a form of delight. And delight is FUN.

Good blogging — FUN blogging — can and should be planful and purposeful, too. It’s all part of the same motion. When you own that your business’ DNA is exactly what your Right Person connects with, and when you stop fighting it and allow yourself to develop a plan that caters to who YOU really are, blogging is going to be easier, more fun, and more effective.

Our latest course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine, is designed to help you put a content strategy in place that honors your business DNA and makes blogging fun — for you, and for your readers. Enrollment is open through February 5, 2017. We’d love to have you with us in this 4-week, step-by-step, build-your-content-strategy-and-let’s-get-to-the-fun-already experience.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Is blogging fun yet? If not, what seems to be standing in your way?

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Copywriter Heal Thyself - Blog

When I’m talking to new business owners, one of my first pieces of advice is simply, “Get yourself out there.”

If you’re not tweeting or posting to Facebook or blogging or talking up your products and services on a milk crate out on the corner, no one is going to have a clue what you’re doing. And I don’t care if you’re the best darned financial-planner-who-maps-investment-strategies-using-astrological-charts on the market, if your Right Person hasn’t heard of you, your Right Person isn’t hiring you.

Almost five years ago, when I started working for myself (and, soon after, with Abby here at The Voice Bureau), I had great intentions. I would work 12 hours a day! I would have a gorgeous website, packed with interesting material! I would have signature offerings! I would blog every week! My social media presence would be consistent and clever and engaging!

I started off okay. Pretty soon, though, life happened.

 

A few months after I began working for myself, while I was still getting things off the ground, I accepted a temporary contract position at the Home Shopping Network as a digital content producer. And about three weeks after I started at HSN, I got pregnant. Suddenly, I found myself working a full-time job, writing and editing for a growing client base, and so freaking tired I could barely keep my eyes open for my twice-hourly trips to the bathroom. Fortunately, I managed to sidestep the morning sickness I’d heard so many horror stories about — though I did develop a sudden and powerful aversion to bananas for a few months — but even without puking my guts up, pregnancy wasn’t exactly the minor adjustment I’d hoped it would be.

When faced with an overwhelmingly large to-do list and rapidly decreasing energy reserves, I did what seemed the most rational: I evaluated my list and cut out anything that seemed unnecessary. Cooking? Eh, my husband is an excellent cook, and he didn’t retch at the smell of browning meat. Housework? That’s an easy one; I wasn’t supposed to touch most cleaning products anyway. Promoting my business? While I was certainly open for business, adding more clients to my shrinking schedule wasn’t exactly top priority.

Fast forward to today. I now have two amazing little girls who keep me up all night. I’m at the helm of The Voice Bureau. I’m still tired, but it’s just sort of who I am now. Check back in 18 years.

This is the part where I promise to blog more, where I take my own advice, get back on that horse, and tell the world via a weekly missive just how much I love good SEO, what tired buzzwords you should cut from your vocabulary, what one simple marketing tip will cut inches from your waistline and add inches to your wallet.

Copywriter, heal thyself. Or don’t.

Because you know what? While I may intend to share my thoughts more regularly, I don’t want to feel guilty when a surprisingly engrossing client project or a crying baby keeps me away from blogging. Sometimes, I just want to do the work.

So what’s a writer to do? Well, I’ll tell you.

Sometimes — just sometimes — you skip the blog post. You find other ways to connect, and you make it work, and you try again next week.

Maybe you focus on networking for a little.

Okay, I am the introvertiest introvert who ever introverted. The idea of attending one of those schmooze-and-drink mixers literally makes me want to close up shop and get a day job that involves never seeing a human during business hours again. Rare jungle animal researcher. Desert island cartographer.  Professional hermit. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t value human connection.

I really love our clients. They (you) are awesome. And they know people who are awesome, too. That’s why referrals are literally the best.

Try reaching out to your previous clients from time to time (or, better yet, stay in touch). You never know which amazing client has an amazing friend who needs you.

And don’t underestimate the power of testimonials. It’s like having a wingwoman on hand at all times. “Oh, The Voice Bureau? They’re great. You should go out sometime.” (I’ll be taking my own advice on this with a new page soon, I swear.)

Or maybe it’s time to try a different medium.

So maybe I’m feeling burned out on the blog format.

Okay, what about speaking engagements? I played Flight of the Bumblebee backed by a combined group of every band in my high school. I laugh at stage fright. Bring it. Podcasts? Why not? Video series? An excuse to brush my hair on a weekday? Look how fancy I am!

Think outside the blog. There are other ways to get your message out there.  Like social media.

(Before you get too excited, you probably shouldn’t ditch your blog for Pinterest.)

 

But when you’re just not feeling up to writing out that long blog post, maybe a few pins, a handful of tweets, a catchy Instagram meme, and a mini Facebook rant would be more your speed.  Nurture those audiences, and when the day comes that you cannot blog another blog, they’ll be happy connect with you where you are.

A note to remember: social media is great for growing your audience and connecting in bite-sized pieces, but it brings the added challenge of inviting readers back to your place afterwards, and it doesn’t help establish your website’s search rankings. Podcasts and videos can help, assuming your Right Person likes those (and you’re hosting them on your own site), but if they’re looking for a good read on their lunch break, they may not be interested in something they have to listen to.

However you decide to get around it, though, you can’t ignore your blog forever.

Maybe you take a week off and try something new. Maybe it’s easier the following week. Or maybe one day you look up and realize you haven’t blogged in six months, and Instagram isn’t doing crap for your SEO.

If you don’t feel like you can get back on track on your own, you might want to get some help.

So where are you feeling stuck? Are you not blogging because you’re too busy with admin work? Maybe it’s time to hire a VA.

Having a hard time organizing your thoughts? A copywriter can help with that. (No, it’s not cheating. Yes, getting help with one or two posts might be all you need to get the process down. Yes, we do offer this.)

Not enough hours in the day? Maybe you need a housekeeper or a nanny or a dog walker or a grocery delivery service. Sometimes, you’re stuck because all you’ve done since your last blog post is work. Get someone else to pick up the slack and go get yourself some ice cream or go for a bike ride or play a video game. A change of scenery might just be the spark you need to figure out what you want to say.

Of course, this is a good time to mention that a solid content strategy — one that takes into account who you are and how you like to work — will make blogging a whole lot easier.

If you are super clear on what you’re saying and to whom you’re saying it, that blank Word doc is a lot less overwhelming. Your editorial calendar should have built-in failsafes so you’re not stuck blogging when you’re not feeling it. You should even be able to batch-write some posts so you’ve always got one ready to go.

That’s what Run Your Business Like a Magazine is good for. It’s happening soon, and I’ve cut the price pretty dramatically (just this once) because I really want you to check it out. Because great content attracts great clients. And great clients make all of this craziness worthwhile (sleepless nights and everything).

 

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What do you do when you’re feeling stuck on a blog post? Do you just skip it and hope for the best the following week (or month)? Do you find some other way to connect?

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