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Hi. It’s Abby, Founder of The Voice Bureau and creator of the Voice Values paradigm for branding.

A while back, in the midst of some big life changes, I found that my relationship to creativity had changed. And, after years of full-time creative self-employment, so had my relationship to work and livelihood. That changed profoundly.

In a tight nutshell, creativity became more important to me. Not in an abstract sense — not creativity “as a birthright” or a concept or a practice. But creativity in a concrete and vital way: my personal creativity and my capacity to explore it. I became very interested in my bandwidth for my own personal creativity, aside from anything that was tied to earning income, meeting expectations, or packaging work for market. I became greedy for more time and more freedom to explore my personal creativity, separate from business.

At the same time, my relationship to livelihood changed. After a decade of full-time creative self-employment (first with a store, then with a freelance copywriting business called Abby Kerr Ink, then with the agency that is The Voice Bureau), I began to question the gestalt of creative self-employment, for me.

The last stop on this self-exploration around creativity and livelihood, for me, was this:

I no longer wanted my livelihood to be tied to the most personal expression of my creativity that I had bandwidth for.

I wanted to separate art and earning.

I decided that I wanted to earn a good living using the following criteria MORE than I wanted to be self-employed:

  • work that left my deepest, most exhilarating, personal creativity largely untapped
  • work that occupied about 40 hours a week and rarely, if ever, more
  • work that stayed out of my nightly dreams and my weekend musings
  • work where I could be an individual contributor, but not the face of the brand, the driver of the business, or the heart and soul

After so many years of completely running the show, I realized that what I wanted now was a job, not an empire.

In short, my priorities changed. As they do, for most people, over time. I was 27 when I first became fully self-employed. I’m nearly 39 now. I want different things, in a different way than I once did. My vision of fulfillment and success has changed.

So a while back, I decided that the right next step for ME was to separate creative desire and work-for-pay. (I know — I might’ve once thought this was blasphemy.)

My current stance on totally embracing a j-o-b doesn’t jive with the ethos and mythos of creative entrepreneurship, a stage on which (theoretically) you should find a way to package what you love to do so that you can do it in a way you feel good about, and earn good money at it.

After 10 years of self-employment, I decided that I no longer wanted to pursue this goal.

And yes, I know that many of my creatively entrepreneurial friends cracked their own code on work-life balance, mastered organic systems, and productivity-hacked their way to fulfillment. Work-life balance is something I’ve always massively struggled with (as my close friends both inside and outside of entrepreneurship know), and I’ve made my peace with that.

So I got a traditional day job. And then a different one. As I write this today, I’ve been full-time employed in the traditional workforce for about a year and a half. I have a job description and a salary and benefits and a manager and co-workers and an office I go to about eight days a month.

I also have evenings and weekends almost always free from income-generating work, and time on my calendar to pursue not-for-pay creativity (hello, fiction and cooking and home design) and relationships and fitness pursuits and SLEEP and travel and hobbies and just all the things I always demoted out of guilt when I was self-employed.

I work a day job so that I can use my creative energy outside of work hours to pursue art that isn’t imminently for pay, and possibly never will be.

I’ve separated art and money, for myself. At least for now, and for the foreseeable future.

But this isn’t the end of the story.

I’m happy knowing that The Voice Bureau can still thrive and is on page one of a whole new volume.

Even though life has moved me into a new season, and I’m no longer self-employed, this business I started 8 years ago is continuing on.

The Voice Bureau is moving into a brave new season of its own. This work that captured my heart and engrossed my imagination for so many years will go on.

I’m so happy to announce that the business has a new owner, the inimitable Katie Mehas.

If you’ve been part of our community for long, or if you’ve been a client of ours over the past 4 years, you already know Katie, the person who’s been running The Voice Bureau alongside me. If you hired us for copywriting or consulting from 2012 onward, Katie’s been your main point of contact throughout the life of the project, and on the blog you’ve gotten to hear her perspective on seeing what’s unique about you in business, hearing your own brand voice, and thinking like an editor about your own brand.

Katie has helped build The Voice Bureau into something even stronger, especially the backend in terms of operations, infrastructure, and organization. She’s a natural born writer with a very distinct voice, style, and point of view, a love of wordplay, and client management super-prowess, so it’s been easy to share decision-making with her over these last few years.

That’s why the decision to hand this nearly 8-year-old business over to her, officially, has been easy, too.

Recently, Katie and I signed the papers that would transfer full ownership of The Voice Bureau to her.

So yes, this is an official announcement that I’m moving on. I’m no longer the owner of a brand voice development and copywriting agency called The Voice Bureau. But the amazing Katie is — and I can’t wait to watch how it flourishes under her aegis.

Like most of the incredible people in our clientele and our readership, Katie is very much invested in remaining creatively self-employed — and she’s going to be even more engaged than ever in working with others who want the same.

She’s been involved with The Voice Bureau long enough to have internalized everything this business stands for. She’ll be carrying on the core tenets of what it stands for — working with values-driven businesses, tapping a business’s innate Voice Values for website and offer language and symbology, helping businesses and brands to discover and use their own unique voice in a way that draws their Right People to them. All the things that I (and that she and I) have created will continue to be a part of that.

It’s true that I won’t be the face of The Voice Bureau any longer. But the work I created for it, namely the Voice Values, are still very much the soul of it.

I’ll be keeping an eye on things from a distance and popping in from time to time with a blog post. I didn’t pour myself into building this business for almost a decade to just walk away without a backward glance.

To you, the casual reader who’s recently discovered us, and to you, the devoted reader who’s been following my entrepreneurial journey and the work of The Voice Bureau for years — thank you. Getting to work with you, your dreams and visions, and your amazing repertoires of talents and skill sets, has been creatively rewarding and personally affecting.

I’m so proud of what we’ve built, and what you allowed us to build through entrusting us with helping to bring your brand voices to life online.

I look forward to seeing what’s next for Katie and The Voice Bureau. She’ll be in touch very soon with a post of her own, a post heralding the start of her first ownership year, and letting you know what you can look forward to.


Voice Values Gift Guide for TransparencyThis holiday season, The Voice Bureau is offering up a list of our favorite gifts, organized by the Voice Values who will most appreciate them. Join us in a bit of festive cheer as we count down the 16 Days of Voice Values!

Your high-Transparency friend can usually be found reading the fine print on her cosmetics labels or sharing an article on Facebook about the secret dangers of Doritos seasoning. She’s not a buzzkill — she just wants to be totally clear about what goes on behind the scenes. She’s drawn to things that are unprocessed, upfront, and honest about their process.

When shopping for a friend who values Transparency, try to stick with foods or body products with limited ingredients that are as natural as possible, and companies that are as up-front about their process and materials as they can be. She wants to know what she’s getting into, so no mysteries. (Note: You are allowed to wrap her present.)

DIY Natural Lip Gloss Kit

Your friend with a high Transparency value is probably pretty cautious about what she puts in — and on — her body. We love this kit for her because not only does it use natural ingredients, she gets to make her own lip gloss (and mix the colors until they’re just right for her), so she knows exactly what’s going into it, with no surprises.


Blooming Tea Set


A propensity for wanting to peek behind the curtain tends to be met with less than glorious results. In many cases, your high-Transparency friend discovers something she wishes she hadn’t and has to find a new web hosting provider/politician/breakfast cereal. But once in a rare while, she finds something truly special, like this tea. Brewed in a clear glass pot, she can watch as a tight bunch unfurls into a gorgeous flower of green tea.



Blue Apron Gift Certificate

Like most of us, your high-Transparency friend is probably a busy person. Some weeks, meal-planning and grocery-shopping fall pretty low on her priority list, and the thought of takeout again just doesn’t cut the mustard. Fortunately, you can treat her to a gift certificate for this ready-to-cook meal delivery service. She’ll love that their ingredients are farm-fresh and sustainably-sourced, and their meats have no added hormones. Plus with how-to videos to help her brush up on cooking techniques and the ability for her to control the drop-off schedule, this is a pull-no-punches service that’s sure to please.


Citrus Body Care Gift Set

Whose skin couldn’t use a little extra pampering? The farm-to-bottle practices of this San Francisco-based body care collection will delight your high-Transparency friend. Organic and artisan by definition, these aromatic products are the perfect match for someone who cares deeply about how products are made — especially ones she’ll be slathering on her body.


Not sure of your Voice Values (or your friends’)? Take our free assessment here.

Check out the rest of the Gift Guides in this series.


Voice Values Gift Guide for SecurityThis holiday season, The Voice Bureau is offering up a list of our favorite gifts, organized by the Voice Values who will most appreciate them. Join us in a bit of festive cheer as we count down the 16 Days of Voice Values!

For someone who values Security, careful planning, organization, and reassurance are key. She’s happiest when you make plans in advance, and you’ll never hear her suggest “playing it by ear” or “winging it.” It may sound overly cautious, but you know who you always turn to first when you need some emergency jumper cables or a couple Advil.

When shopping for a high-Security friend, help her feel prepared for a good time. While an emergency kit or a bug out bag may not be the most festive gifts (“Merry Christmas! Here are some rations to get you through nuclear winter.”), a picnic kit or a portable backpack chair ensure she has what she needs to relax and enjoy herself, no matter what comes up.

Buca Boot

The Buca Boot serves as a sort of trunk for your high-Security friend’s bike — all the functionality of a basket, but the the ability to lock it up if she needs to make a stop. It’s secure, weather resistant, and can be opened up to fit larger items. And can we talk about how gorgeous this thing is? I love the marine-grade wood and brass handles. I kind of want one in all three colors (and I don’t even ride my bike all that often lately).


2017 Midnight 12-Month Agenda

A high Security value points to a need to keep things orderly and secured away, and where better to track the details of one’s life and times than in this gorgeous monthly/weekly planner? With a foil-stamped botanical motif on the cover and plenty of room to write inside, your security-loving friend will feel great knowing everything’s all in one place.



VonShef Picnic Backpack

This picnic backpack is basically glamping for your lunch — all the fun of a picnic, without having to slum it with flimsy paper plates or discovering that you forgot glasses and have to swig from a communal two-liter. Your friend will love that everything is included for a deluxe picnic for four — from the silverware, glasses, and plates to an oversized blanket, wine opener, and chopping board.




ColdGear Infrared Tactical Leggings

If your friend’s lifestyle keeps her on-the-go, what better way to help her feel protected and pulled-together than these heat-retaining, fast-drying, anti-microbial leggings? Whether she’s a cold-weather hiker or simply walks her kids to the bus stop in frosty temps, she’ll have you to thank every time she notices how not cold she is.


Not sure of your Voice Values (or your friends’)? Take our free assessment here.

Check out the rest of the Gift Guides in this series.


Voice Values Gift Guide for PowerThis holiday season, The Voice Bureau is offering up a list of our favorite gifts, organized by the Voice Values who will most appreciate them. Join us in a bit of festive cheer as we count down the 16 Days of Voice Values!

Having a friend with a high Power value may sound like a strategic political move but not much fun personally, but that’s far from the case. It’s true, your high-Power friend is likely to rise to the top in leadership roles and may even be in a position to give you a boost at some point. But she’s also great on those days when everyone else is feeling wishy-washy about deciding where to go for lunch. She’s an excellent organizer when there are things to get done — a community fundraiser, a group potluck, a zombie apocalypse. She’ll naturally take charge and delegate responsibilities while everyone else is still wandering aimlessly, and, chances are, she’ll do it without anyone even noticing it’s happened.

When shopping for someone who values Power, play up her confidence and leadership. A gorgeous business card holder — or even a set of gorgeous business cards — shows you value her career, which is an important area for her to shine. Think of activities where she’s able to take the lead — hobbies for which she leads a club or hosts an event, skills she’s mastered — and take your gifting cues from that. She’ll love knowing that you can see she’s at the top of her game.

“I’m Not Bossy. I Am the Boss.” Mug

Not to get too political here, but, as women, we’re often told to tone it down, even when we’re the ones in charge. Phrase that request as a question rather than a task. Make a little self-deprecating joke to lighten the mood. Smile more. Your high-Power friend has likely heard them all — and is probably sick to death of it. This mug shows her that you see her: she’s doing what she needs to do to get things done. It’s okay to be in charge. She’s the boss. A little Audacity thrown in with her Power? We love this tote, which reads, “My favorite position? CEO.”


Joan of Arc Quote Print

Aside from being gorgeous as a work of art, we love the quote from Joan of Arc on this print: “I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” For your friend who values Power, this statement is an excellent daily affirmation — just the thing to hang where she’ll see it as she starts her day. (Be aware that this is just the print. We’d recommend having this matted and framed, so all she has to do is pick a spot on her wall.)



“A Woman’s Place” Shirt

Whether she’s a passionate activist or someone with political dreams of her own, she’ll be proud to show off the powerful statement this shirt makes. It’s a clever play on words and a smackdown on the patriarchy. What’s not to love?




Cobalt Flame Cuff 2

The striking, royal color of the aura quartz crystal on this bold cuff bracelet totally embodies what a high Power value is all about. It’s about presence (wow-ie!) and purpose (Vega Jewelry says its pieces are for keepers of the flame — revolutionaries, progressives, those of that ilk). Wearing this rich piece, or really any of the pieces from this collection, is like a modern day crown for your friend who’s truly a queen at heart.


Not sure of your Voice Values (or your friends’)? Take our free assessment here.

Check out the rest of the Gift Guides in this series.


Voice Values Gift Guide for PlayfulnessThis holiday season, The Voice Bureau is offering up a list of our favorite gifts, organized by the Voice Values who will most appreciate them. Join us in a bit of festive cheer as we count down the 16 Days of Voice Values!

Your Playful friend is probably a lot of fun to shop for — and to be around. She’s quick with a joke, loves having fun, and doesn’t take herself too seriously.

When gifting for someone with a high-Playfulness value, adulting is overrated. Keep it light, with gifts that are fun, colorful, and remind her of an easier (read: less responsible) time. With as crazy as 2016 has been, we could all use a little bit of fun this holiday season, don’t you think?

Sloth on a Bike Tee-Shirt

I mean, it’s a sloth. On a bike. What’s not to love? Your high-Playfulness friend will appreciate the dose of sunny yellow silliness in her wardrobe — though, if she doesn’t love sloths as much as Kristen Bell does, there’s a whole menagerie to choose from, from llamas to panda bears.


DIY Ukulele

This fun DIY kit lets your friend build her own custom ukulele, in whatever pattern or design best suits her style — and then she has a perfectly custom ukulele, ready for all her future ukuleleing needs. (And you know her. You know she has ukuleleing needs.) As a bonus, Uncommon Goods donates a dollar to a charity of your choice with each purchase. If you want to gift a little something extra, you could throw in a lesson or two, or at least a link to some free online lessons. You may be glad you did.



Kipik Toothpick Holder

Okay, how stinking cute is this little guy? When your friend has a get-together, you know he’ll be the life of the party, and he perfectly suits her style. Plus, a tiny toothpick hedgehog is so much better than using an old shot glass (like the rest of us). It’s adorable and practical!




Streamline Rainbow Color Wheel Umbrella

On a rainy day, leave it to your high-Playfulness friend to bring a rainbow. We love that this oversized umbrella goes beyond the standard “rainbow” colors to feature a full color wheel. It’s bright, sunny, and a little bit unusual (probably a little like someone you know). Not feeling the rainbow? You can brighten her day with a blue sky or sunflower, too.


Not sure of your Voice Values (or your friends’)? Take our free assessment here.

Check out the rest of the Gift Guides in this series.