Our Guest Today: Anna Laman
Anna Laman (http://www.annalaman.com/) is a freelancer who works as a messaging coach for other freelancers, consultants, and other solo entrepreneurs.
Why We Created This Episode:
Every week or so I received emails, comments from Feisworld listeners, ex-colleagues on how to start freelancing, or how to message their services and stand out from the crowd. So I created a How to Freelance mini series to address a lot of their questions.
But then I realize there’s another gap I wanted to fill, which is to talk to actual freelancers and creative entrepreneurs. Last week you heard from Darius Foroux, who’s a most-read author on Medium.com and has built a thriving business on his own for years.
This week, we welcome Anna Laman, who was a grant writer and communications manager for non-profits, as well as an independent bookkeeper for creative businesses prior to starting her own business.
In a role that’s a mix between a business consultant and writing coach, Anna finds herself helping other self-employed people become more articulate, confident, and purposeful about their work, so they can focus in on their favorite work and attract better clients.
What You Will Learn:
Anna came to this interview well prepared to talk about Positioning & Messaging to help you become better at telling your own stories and services. In her experience, freelancers tend to try to be everything to everyone, which ends up backfiring or burning them out. She thinks at the beginning of your freelance career it’s important to try different kinds of clients and work. But then after a while, it’s essential to start narrowing down the types of work and clients you like best and positioning yourself as an expert in your niche. That results in being able to increase your rates and actually doing work you enjoy, which is, after all, the whole point of freelancing!
“When you’re in that early experimental phase, it can be hard to work on your messaging because you’re usually not sure what your specialty is yet or what you want your brand to stand for. But there are things you can do and pay attention to in those early days that will set you up for stronger positioning and messaging down the road.” – Anna Laman
Feisworld podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics. Nuggets can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable. We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have non-interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help deep dive into topics such as freelancing marketing, even indie filmmaking that will benefit creators like you. Show notes, links and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now on to the show. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Fei, your host for Feisworld and the creator who’s working really hard to find more relatable stories with freelancers and creative entrepreneurs. Every week or so, I receive emails, comments from Feisworld listeners, ex colleagues on how to start freelancing or how to message their services and to stand out from the crowd. So I created a how to freelance miniseries to address a lot of their questions, plus more setup and logistical things around, you know, how to set up corporations and how to find health insurance, how to file taxes.
But then I realized there’s another gap I wanted to fill, which is to talk to actual freelancers and creative entrepreneurs. Last week you heard from Darius Fuhru, who is a most read author on Medium.com and has built a thriving business on his own for years. And this week we welcome another writer and messaging coach, Anna Lehman, who was a grant writer and communications manager for nonprofits, as well as an independent bookkeeper for creative businesses prior to starting her own business. Today she’s a messaging coach for freelancers consultants and other solo entrepreneurs. In a role that’s a mix between business consultant and writing coach, anna finds herself helping other selfemployed people become more articulate, confident and purposeful about their work so that they can focus in on their favorite work and to attract better clients. Anna came to this interview prepared to talk about positioning and messaging to help you become better at telling your own stories and services. In her experience, freelancers tend to try to be everything to everyone, which is a mistake I certainly made at the beginning of Phase World, which ends up backfiring or burning them out. She thinks at the beginning of your freelance career, it’s really important to try different things, different kinds of client work.
But then after that, it’s essential to start narrowing down on the types of work and the clients you like best, and positioning yourself as an expert in your niche. That results in being able to increase your rates and actually doing work you enjoy, which is, after all, the whole point of freelancing. When you’re in that early experimental phase, it can be hard to work on your messaging because you’re usually not sure what your specialty is yet and what you want your brand to stand for. But there are things you can do and pay attention to in those early days that will set you up for stronger positioning and messaging down the road. All right, before we start this episode, I want to ask you a question. Do you like watching YouTube videos for tips and tricks for your business? I have been for years and years. In fact, I have been a member on YouTube since 2006. But I hadn’t taken advantage of this amazing platform until very recently. But now you can find me under Phase World on YouTube, sharing more from my toolbox, helping creative entrepreneurs thrive financially and creatively. Hope to see you there without further delay, please welcome Anna Lehman to the Phase World podcast.
So Anna Laman is here with me on Feisworld, and I’m just thrilled that you’re here because you’re a freelancer yourself and we have now a miniseries on freelancing. So thank you so much for joining me. How are you doing today?
I’m so excited to be in here, Fei. I’m doing great. Beautiful weather, went for a nice walk. It’s all looking good. Awesome.
Where are you located currently?
I live in Asheville, North Carolina.
Wow. Beautiful place. So many people from Boston where I am currently. So many of my friends moved to North Carolina.
Yeah. The weather, the culture.
I moved here from New York, and there’s a lot of ex New Yorkers here too, so I think the people from the bigger cities kind of on the East Coast are kind of trickling down here because the lifestyle is so great. Yeah.
What do you enjoy most about living there? Just curious.
Oh, gosh. Well, it’s a small city, but it has a lot going on and a lot of great food. So for the size it is, it really kind of packs a punch. And the mountains, I just love mountains. I grew up in Washington State, and so I’m kind of used to having a beautiful environment around me. So being here, it’s kind of got everything. It’s got great nature, great arts, culture, great food, but it’s so small that there’s not really any traffic or all the annoying parts of living in a bigger city. So we love it here.
That’s awesome. And the reason that really brought us together, thanks to Gusavo Serfini, who actually was a guest on the show as well. I’m not sure if you knew that.
Yeah, I did. I saw him. I haven’t listened to the whole thing yet, but I was excited to see him.
Yeah, awesome. He spoke of you so highly when we had our old Mastermind session about you as a writer, and that’s why I invited you to the show because I would love to hear sort of your origin story as a freelancer. And now in addition to that, you work most likely from home and in a beautiful city. So tell us a bit about what was your mindset or the process to start working as a freelancer?
Yeah, so my background is actually in nonprofits, so I was a grant writer for many years for a variety of different nonprofits, and the last one I worked for here in Asheville went through some financial hard times, and so they laid off about half the staff, and I was one of those people. And at that time I had been kind of playing around with doing some writing projects on the side. I was writing for a local magazine here. I was kind of doing some projects for friends, and getting laid off was really the push to say, like, well, I guess this is the chance to try this new thing. And so I just really went for it. Within a couple of weeks, I had a website up, and I was just networking my butt off with anybody I could find here locally and then friends who live back in New York just trying to make connections to get writing jobs. So at that point, I was really taking on anything I could find.
How many years ago was that, by the way?
Oh, gosh, I think that was probably about six years ago.
Interesting. So it’s been a while and you’ve been freelancing for six years now?
Yeah, I have. Which is crazy to think about and look back.
It’s not like you bounced back to full time job and then out again, back in again.
No, I just loved it so much, and I worked in nonprofits for a long time, so just that idea that I could actually make more money if I worked harder was really exciting to me because that was not the case in nonprofits. I worked really hard at my job, but the budgets are so limited, and so just even getting like a 2% inflation rate each year wasn’t even guaranteed. So I just really liked that I’m a selfstarter. I kind of like being my own boss and all that, so it just it really clicked for me.
So you mentioned the websites. I wonder what tool six years ago that you used to build your website. Was it WordPress?
No, I was not technically savvy enough to build something with WordPress. I used Weebly, which it still is, I think, a free website builder. And it was great for it’s not a platform I recommend to a lot of people at this point. I use Squarespace now for my site, but at the time it was like, I just needed to get something up fast, and that was a great tool for that.
It’s interesting I had to thumb up when you said Squarespace because my website I decided after basically graduating from Seth goton’s l ten BA. I quickly realized every single energy, the money I spent on WordPress was a sunk cost. So I made that leap to move my site over to squarespace. And right now I have about between 25 to 30 of my client websites all running on Squarespace with people literally in their mid 60s, very comfortably editing and learning and feeling empowered and updated the websites more regularly as a result. So quick, I know you’re going to quick side track. You’re bringing up all these really great information. What made you decide to use Squarespace? And what do you still like or even dislike about it these days?
Yeah, well, I had used WordPress at my previous job. We had rebuilt that website and we did that on WordPress. And then I had a side project that I started that was also on WordPress. And that’s such a powerful tool. And for more complicated websites, it’s a great tool to have. But for me, I like to be able to update my own site. I like to be able to do my own little design work there too. So Squarespace was just an awesome fit and I still love it. I think most people really don’t need WordPress. It is complicated to use. There are lots of updates and widgets and all these things you have to keep track of and I just don’t have time for that and I don’t like it. So Squarespace to me was the middle ground between the heftiness of something like WordPress, but a little more advanced than something like Weebly. So it’s really flexible, it’s really easy to use and it’s just really customizable. So I just love it. I can’t recommend it enough. Wow.
I know you should be part of their affiliate program, but unfortunately they are not really all that into that department and they have like the Squarespace circle. But to become an affiliate, there’s a whole process I don’t think they’ve sorted out yet. But I completely agree with you. When I am a WordPress site and when some of my clients still do wink wink, I’m trying to move them over. It’s so crucial and for me to know that my site will be up and running and when it doesn’t, I get a notification. I know the team of developers are working on it. That doesn’t exist for WordPress.
Yeah, that’s true.
What’s more headache is a lot of I came from a computer science and kind of a technology background is what people don’t know is when on one hand, it sounds really cool and sexy that you can download, you know, tens of thousands of plugins and just put them on your website, do whatever you need. But on the other is some of them actually are conflicting in terms of how they’re being set up. And just like you said, literally every week or two, and you don’t know when they release new plugin that might break something else that you have on the site that could be so problematic if you don’t have someone to kind of babysit the site and check in constantly.
Yeah, and I found that it was really easy for me to break a WordPress site, whereas I’ve never once broken my Squarespace site. But you can still do flexible things, like you can do some CSS, and if you need to do more advanced kind of customization, that is possible. But you’re right, you don’t have to deal with all these little widgets and add ons that are just so hard to keep track of.
Beautiful. So I think I would love for our listeners to learn how you got started to sound algorithm. You start contacting people, you have a website up and running, which is wonderful. What did you focus on for the website? A lot of people find it difficult to talk about themselves when they’ve only worked full time, have not taken really the freelance business very seriously. Like, what do you even put on the site? How do you approach to describe to other people who you are and why they should hire you?
Yeah, so this is a great question, and it’s something that I actually work with my clients on. Now, to answer your question about what I did at the beginning, it is hard because you don’t really have a portfolio yet, right? You don’t have a lot like testimonials. You don’t have all those things to point to. I did have a couple of articles I had written that I could put up there. So I really focused on creating a list of like, here are the types of things I can do. Sort of the menu of like I could do website copywriting, I could write brochure copy, I could write articles for publications. So just kind of like a menu. And then my about page was just about my background and my professional writing experience. But what I find is that over time so at the beginning, when we create that sort of initial copy, we have to focus on ourselves. That’s what we’re doing. We’re focused on like, here’s my background, here’s what I can do. And over time, it’s really important to move away from yourself and toward the client and start interpreting what their needs are, what their problems that they’re facing.
But at the beginning, it’s really hard to do that because you don’t know that stuff yet. So that’s sort of what I did. I just created this very basic kind of site, and then I just started emailing everybody I knew, like, you know, here’s what’s going on. I’ve left my previous job, or it was laid off, and I’m starting a freelancing thing. And so if you know anybody who needs things like X, Y and Z, you know, have them reach out to me. And that’s so long ago, I don’t even remember what my first projects were. The publication that I wrote for, they started using me really frequently. And then I got connected through another friend to Coca Cola Journey, which is Coca Cola’s online publication. And so I did a bunch of articles for them, which paid really well, so it kind of just snowballed from there. And I also started this beside project that I mentioned was called the Ashville Creative League. And it started because I was creating the spreadsheet of people that I could network with. And I thought, well, if I’m a writer, I don’t need to connect with other writers necessarily.
I need to connect with designers, people who will bring me into their projects, potentially. So I created a spreadsheet of all the local designers I could find on Google, reached out to a bunch of them individually, and just said, hey, this is what I’m doing. Do you need any help with anything? And so I did get a few projects that way, and then that project itself just became a great networking tool. So the website that I created for that was basically a directory of creative professionals in Asheville. So it was writers, designers, photographers, videographers, kind of the people that all worked together to make these kinds of projects happen. And we started doing events and stuff. So that was a really great way to say, like, hey, I’m just throwing myself into this world. How do I connect with the people that can actually collaborate with me?
I mean, you brought up there’s a lot to unpack. I think one thing you said was very true, is that you don’t really have all the pieces together, but you went for it. And networking was a huge piece, because I think one thing you did mention, but I think it’s worth pointing out, is that when we work full time, and whether you work in nonprofit or for me, it felt like at the time that I worked in advertising consulting, I was meeting dozens of people every day. But just like you said, I think people had the same fears, people had the same constraints, and not really thinking in terms of a freelance career, and by building, in your case, really building a mechanism, a group, a website, really a business, and then having events, who knows? Like these days with podcasts, all broadcasting who you are, what you’re doing, and you are at the center of it. And it doesn’t matter if you’re not the most famous person within that organization or being the most interviewed person, but they see you as an authority because you organized this and you made it happen.
Yeah, and what’s crazy to me is that more people don’t do stuff like that because it’s not that hard to do. I mean, I also made that website in Weebly.
And it got to the point where eventually I had to hire a developer to build a WordPress site for it because it became more like a database, but just to say, like, hey, I see this gap here. I noticed that there was a gap between all of these creative businesses and the clients, and the only way they were finding each other was by Googling random search terms and maybe getting an introduction from somebody being like, oh, I worked with this web designer once, they were great. It’s not complete enough. So I think there’s a lot of potential there. If you have any leadership quality or the ability to see gaps in the marketplace or just within your own circle, how do you start connecting people? Because it’s pretty easy to become a leader that way. I think, and sorry to interrupt. The other part was I think you kind of touched on this. When you work by yourself, especially from home, you’re so isolated, right? So it’s very easy to stop making connections like you would in a normal job. And so finding a way to start having coffee dates and going to networking events and stuff like that is so important just to get out of your own head and meet some new people that way.
I think for me that mechanism is podcasting. And soon there’s a lot of video production that we’re really honing in on YouTube. We made the decision two weeks ago and we’re really excited as a team and just interesting to see how different type of people you’re drawing in. Like, for example, there are people who exclusively listen to podcasts only more kind of audio centric, and the other group of people only like videos. I am someone who loves both audio and video. So all of a sudden you’re getting a whole new, different groups of people engaging with your brand, with your services.
Hey, it’s Faye and you’re listening to the Face World podcast today on our show, meet Anna Lehman, a messaging coach for freelancers consultants and other solo entrepreneurs. In this episode, we unpack positioning and messaging for those who are starting out in their freelance careers. Enjoy this interview and if you want to check out more resources and mini episodes for freelancing, be sure to visit feisworld.com freelance. Now back to the show.
So before we started recording, we had all these really interesting email exchanges and kind of opened my eyes up to, wow, this is a possibility. These are the things that some of the newbies are making. You’ve been freelancing for six years? I have been for four years at this point, full time. You know, the common mistake, one of them that you pointed out is a lot of freelancers trying to be everything to everyone when they start. Why do you think that’s a bad idea on how to go about fixing it?
Well, I don’t think that’s a bad idea necessarily when you start. I think if you’re coming out of a nine to five, it really takes some time to kind of experiment, because before you were kind of given the projects that you were supposed to do, and now that you’re kind of out in the world, it’s important to play around a bit, take on different types of clients, different types of projects. But it’s really important during that time to pay attention to what you like, what you’re good at, which clients really you click with and which you’re just like. That was not pleasant.
We’ve all been there. Exactly.
So I think as you pay attention to that over time and it doesn’t have to take that long, really, you can start to narrow it down a bit. And that’s really important, I think, A, for your sanity, you want to start being able to work with clients you really like and on projects that you really like. But it’s also really important for your marketing. And when I say marketing, I don’t necessarily mean taking out ads in magazines or anything, but just the word of mouth. Because if you say I am a designer and I only work for nonprofits, then it’s much easier for people to send referrals your way because they understand what you do and move forward. But if you are still saying, well, I do some logo work and I do some website design and then sometimes I do illustration and I do for all these different types of clients, then it’s really hard for the people outside of you to say, oh, I’ve got the perfect client for you. Right. So I think that’s a really important shift to make over time is to not get stuck in that place of experimenting for too long, but to really pay attention to kind of what your gut is telling you about where your kind of special thought is.
I agree. And I think I try to look back and think about how long it took for me to realize what my jam was. I think it took about a year. In my freelance career, however, I did have a vision and some clarity beforehand because I started doing some work nights and weekends before I started freelancing full time as of January 2016. So definitely had a lot of learnings back then. But the reason why I say for me at the time as a project manager that took a little bit longer, perhaps, you know, a year or over, that was a lot of these projects lasted for a long time. But then as a PM project manager, you have the kind of luxury to experience a lot more because simultaneously, a lot of us work on multiple projects as opposed to designer. Sometimes it’s like one at a time, one project at a time, two projects. So, by the way, how long did.
It take for you and what did you realize?
What did you learn in that process? Like, who are Anna’s favorite types of clients? Is it an industry? Is that a personality?
Yeah. So I came to my specialty in kind of a weird way. So a couple of years after I started freelancing, I had a baby and I had postpartum depression for about a year, undiagnosed. And so that time kind of just really shook me up. Like I really had no idea what I was doing with my life. Everything just felt kind of wrong. And so during that time, I actually hired a life coach who’s also kind of a business coach. And she helped me see where my magic was and she was like, what is it about going back to work that is appealing to you? What parts about it are you not excited about doing? And it really helped me see that. Doing the actual writing part, I did like it, but it really didn’t fit with having a young child. Like having a big project that I had to put tons of hours into and have deadlines and all of that. I was like, I just don’t see how that’s going to work with this current lifestyle. So what we landed on was I was like, but it’s really easy for me to understand how people should be talking about their work or what elements of their story they should be focusing on in their messaging.
And I really like interviewing people and kind of learning their backstory and all that. And she was like, you know, that’s a really special skill that a lot of people don’t have. And it was hard for me to see it because then this is really common where the thing that you’re really good at is hard for you to appreciate because it comes easily to you.
Yeah, so true.
That’s another thing to pay attention to, I think, during those early stages is like, what is easy for you to do and how do you focus more on that because that’s where your magic is. So anyway, what my work shifted into was instead of doing freelance writing for clients was what I initially called content coaching. And it was talking with solo entrepreneurs and helping them, figuring out what their message was, what their story was, and then coaching them through the process of writing their own website copy. And so I kind of just invented this little niche. I think there are other people out there who kind of do similar things, but it was just really picking up on, okay, what are the parts I’m best at that I like the most that are actually going to fit into my life at this point of having a small child can be more flexible that way. And so that’s kind of how I landed on what I do now. And the clients that I work with are solo entrepreneurs who have a service. So freelancers consultants, I have a client who is a personal trainer, so anybody who’s out there trying to talk and write about what they do, but that thing is themselves.
And that’s really hard to do. It’s really hard to see how to present yourself in the world because you’re so close to it.
It’s funny that now I’m getting to know you a lot more. I feel like we could potentially be really good partners and we can certainly chat a little more even after the show as well, is that I think it’s so smart. I love how every question I ask you, you’re able to kind of shine lights on like so many different areas. I want to just acknowledge before I forget about postpartum depression. And it’s a really big deal. A lot of women tend to one not realize I mean, it needs to be medically diagnosed. It’s so serious. And I say this because I’m in my mid thirty s and a lot of our listeners are starting with about like late 20s, but a lot of them are in their thirty s and forty s. I think women or age are going through so much, so many transitions and changes and are often neglected. Like their family, their kids come first, their husbands come second, and whoever else.
In the middle, maybe their pets.
And they always come last. And I had a woman who is an entrepreneur, a very successful one, who called me and said, I want to talk about postpartum depression. And to be honest, like a couple of years ago I was like, oh, we’ve never talked about this. I wonder how this episode is going to perform. And it did amazingly well. I had so many emails coming, like these essay length emails from people who barely walk up to talk to me at work and, you know, in my personal network to really address that. So I really appreciate you for saying it and especially working as a freelancer, which many more people are transitioning into it’s. I don’t know how you feel about this, but like, sometimes it’s even harder to pay attention to selfcare and think that you should be able to do it all. You have a young baby and these three different career paths.
Yeah. And it’s something that it’s still a pretty taboo topic and I’m trying to in my own tiny ways, trying to change that. So I try to be very open about my experience with that because so many people feel like a failure. And I think that was kind of a key word through that experience that kept popping into my head was that I was a failure. I was a failure as a mom, as a failure as a business owner, as a failure as a wife. It becomes a downward spiral where it’s this hole that you can’t get out of. So I guess the one thing I would say about that is that you do need help to get out of it. It is not something you can think your way out of. And I tried so hard, I was in so much denial and I tried so hard to think my way out of it. I’m smart enough to do this, but it really does take therapy, medication, like all of those things are really important, but you can feel better. It’s hard to believe in the moment, but you really can feel. Better. Thank you.
Very self care. It’s definitely a topic as part of our miniseries. I haven’t really had the chance to address or acknowledge yet, but I’m glad to be able to tease that out. Yeah. So I think we really talked about a lot of really good stuff. I would say we could do maybe a little mini case study of someone else, let’s say, who isn’t a writer. You can pick, you know, designer, lawyer, attorney, or project manager or developer. Like, how does someone be able to hone in on a year and a half into their freelance career? Perhaps how to kind of narrow down, like, how do they go about it, how do they approach it?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, I think it doesn’t really matter what the services that you provide, I think the process is the same. It’s just paying attention to, like I said, what you like to do, who you like to work with. And then sometimes that does take a long time. I have clients who have done their work for five years, ten years, and they’re just now starting to narrow down. So I would say if you can do it sooner, that’s great, just for your happiness, it will be better. But I would say pay attention to those things. And then it’s really about making some commitments and that’s really scary to do, to say, like, well, I’m just going to work with these clients and not the others. I’m going to turn away money. Right. That’s what people feel like they’re doing. But what you’re actually doing is you’re making space and time in your energy to actually work with people that you like, who you will be able to serve better. So it’s really important to learn how to say no. I think that’s the main skill is saying, these are my new standards for who gets to work with me.
That’s how I like to talk about my clients, is you’re going to be picky here. You’ve done this long enough, you know what you’re doing. It’s time to get picky about what you want to spend your time doing because life is too short to do work you don’t like. So create some standards for who gets to work with you. What do your clients need to be or do or have in order to be able to hire you? So I think a lot of that is just turning the tables a bit from new freelancers are just like it’s like you’re begging for work. I’ll take whatever you got. Right. But instead saying, no, I actually this has to work for me too. And so how do I make this function in such a way that it’s meeting my needs as well?
Hey, it’s Faye and you’re listening to the Face Feisworld podcast. Today on our show, meet Anna Lehman, a messaging coach for freelancers consultants and other solo entrepreneurs. In this episode, we unpack positioning and messaging for those who are starting out in their freelance careers. Enjoy this interview. And if you want to check out more resources and many episodes for freelancing, be sure to visit phaseroll.com Freelance. Now back to the show.
And I think you also pointed out strategically how you navigated choosing your clients. And one thing, one phrase I heard from ten to 15 minutes ago is that you work with solopreneurs who have a service or, you know, a product. So I think that’s really important. One mistake oh, sorry about that. One mistake I often hear from freelancers or people who want to start experimenting is that they sorry, my calendar pop up was so loud. So when they first start, they get really excited and for example, they want to work with people who came from nothing and they’re really at the rock bottom. They want to help those people. But the issue that many of them run into is that this group of people don’t really have money. It’s simply put that, oh, I know this is exactly the type of person I want to help. She would not be able to pay me. So but what do we say in that situation? I personally run into those issues as well. So I think there are, number one, if you want to be wild, I mean, I don’t have kids yet, so I could really sacrifice certain things, whether it’s my time, my energy.
You could still help people, but at some point you need to decide how much of your time is devoted to that and how strategically are you going about it. So, for example, could you help a group of people at a much lower discount, whether it’s a Facebook group or is it something, is it a zoom session that you could run? Is it an ebook for free that they can download and then kind of work your way up? But I agree with you. A lot of my clients, truth be told, I look at them, all of them, without exception, have services and or products. So it’s something that they’re already doing. They’re on their way and they found you. So let’s do it together, right?
To your point about how do you help people who don’t have the money to pay you. This is you’re, right? It’s so common. And I’ve run into this as well because sometimes, you know, my market is really entrepreneurs who have already been in business for a few years and so they have already done all this experimentation and they’re ready to kind of narrow down and work on their messaging. But I do get approached by people who are just starting out and they’re like, I need to write my website copy for my first website. What do I do? And I desperately want to help them because I was also in that position six years ago, I had to do the same thing. And I really feel for them. But the reality is, if they could afford me, they probably should not be spending that money right now. Interesting. And I can help them more when they’re farther along. So what I have decided to do to kind of solve that problem is for a while I thought, oh, I’ll do a group program or an online course that kind of walks them through the kind of 101 version of this.
But I realized I don’t really even want to put all of that time and energy into creating that thing, even if it’s and then they’re going to pay $50 for it or whatever. So what I’m going to do is on my blog, just have a series of posts that are about that very thing. So when you’re just starting out, here’s what you should pay attention to. Maybe here’s how to write your first website in a very basic way. And that’s the thing, there is so much free information out there for people just starting out. So you can always refer them to someone who already has that information out in the world instead of taking them on yourself.
Yes, I agree. I think that’s why I approached the freelance miniseries as a completely free out in the open podcast miniseries as part of the main podcast. And I’ve had so much fun. And I noticed this, as you said, observe, pay attention to the world is every party that I went to. I mean, I’m not really a party person, but I go through these bar mitzvahs, for example. I would sit down, eat my bagels and locks, and people will have these conversations with me. And over the course of an hour, I’m like, wow, those are like six mini episodes to break down corporation health insurance. Why are people so afraid of these things to be an issue? They haven’t done their research. They just assume that they will not be able to get health insurance. They will not be able to incorporate their company on their own. I think for us, the people who are really more exploratory, who want to take risks and learn new things on our own, can really pass that information and knowledge down and to kind of help people level up. So it’s a wonderful experience. So I know that I mentioned that this episode will be shorter.
Maybe I’ll cut it down to two parts or we might just do 1520 minutes as part of the show and then so people can go back to the website and kind of really listen to the whole thing and see the transcript for what we’re talking about. With that said, is there anything else you like to touch base on that I haven’t brought up?
Let me look at my notes here.
Take your time.
Yeah, so two things, just about kind of your offerings. The way I like to think about it is when you start out, it’s kind of the way that I did this with my first website. When you start out, you have this sprawling list of all these things you’re capable of doing. And I think about that as if it’s like a diner menu. You go to diner and there’s like six pages of like 400 options of what to eat and you can customize it all. I just want one egg and two and all that stuff. And that’s fine, but notice how much you are paying for those things, right? You’re going to pay $5 for an omelet at that restaurant. The goal is to move closer to something like a fancy French restaurant menu. When you go there, you know you’re going to get excellent French food. That’s their specialty. You know, they’re probably going to have ten options. They’re going to have a nice wine list, and you’re going to pay more because of that experience, because of their specialty, because of the quality. So I think over time, you can kind of think about that metaphor as what you’re doing.
You’re moving from being a diner, serving everyone all the things, to being kind of a fancier menu with a limited menu, fancier restaurant with a limited menu. And then the other thing I want to mention is that when it comes to your messaging, there are two really important parts to that. That is where you should focus your energy. And I know a lot of people get on social media and they’re trying to do all the social medias all the time. In reality, the two kind of home bases for your messaging are your website and your elevator pitch. And I thought of that when you were talking about your, you know, going to the bar mitzvah and stuff. Those interactions are really important. So if you have a conversation with someone at a neighborhood barbecue and they ask what you do, you need to be able to have a one sentence answer that you use every time to describe what you do. That says what you do and who it’s for, because that person will then go through their mental rolodex and be like, oh, actually, I know someone who is like that and needs that help.
But if you don’t have the elevator pitch down, you’re just kind of scrambling and you’re just kind of blah, blah, blah. And at the end you’re like, I don’t even know what I said. It’s just some stuff came out. I hope it made sense, right? So that’s really important to nail down. And then the other thing is your website, Copy, that is the one place on the Internet that you can control. You cannot control social media. And so getting the copy on your website, over time, refining it, so it really reflects who you are, what you do, and who you do it for is really important. So I think people who are like, oh, I don’t even need a website. I think it’s an important thing to have just for yourself. Because it really makes you write down and commit to what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, who it’s for, all those things where if you don’t have that written down somewhere, then it’s going to be sort of amorphous in your own head, and that means it’s going to be a mystery to everyone else, too.
Oh, my God. Could that be more true? Because so many people, even years into their freelance career, even having a product or a mastermind, like, I don’t need a website. Well, I don’t think having a website is just to have a website, to point someone to it, to be proud of it, whether it’s like back in the day with the flash elements that no longer works today. But it’s really, like you said, it’s an exercise for yourself. It’s that commitment to say, I’m putting these words down. I’m structuring the sentence this way, not to put you on a spot. Anna, what is your one sentence elevator pitch for people to barbecue?
I guess we better have one, right? I help entrepreneurs finally figure out how to write and talk about what they do so they can attract more of the right clients.
Perfect. And I love how that’s completely in plain English, like, people don’t jargons, use some industry jargon that sounds so sexy to you, but nobody else would get you don’t want them to have that pause. Like, intellectually, there’s a burden to what they can process. You just wasted your time if that’s the case.
Exactly. Yeah. And that’s a huge part of messaging copywriting. Any of that is you’ve got to move away from the jargon, the buzzwords, all of that stuff. It’s just meaningless for the most part, to the people that are hearing it or reading it. So it’s about translating the things that, you know, in your industry. That those are common terms, but it’s translating that into plain language that your Uncle Joe would understand. Yeah, Uncle Joe.
Exactly. Your eight year old niece. I recently had that. I can’t believe it’s. Five years into I’ll say that’s the last story. Five years into podcasting. I recently returned from podcast movement in Orlando, and I was so proud of a lot of people. There have only been podcasting for like two months, six months or twelve months at the most. I was like, this dinosaur podcaster and Monday attendees, but not people on stage and PR people are like, I started when I was six months old, and it was I never realized, like, you literally run into hundreds of people every day from, you know, women’s workshops. And also constantly people ask you, what is your podcast about? So this is the copy, the copy I used for many, many years. I said, you know, Phase World Podcast is about unsung heroes and self made artists, right. Instead of going after 1% of the world that we focus on. So that worked really well for a while. Now people are like, okay, cool. So it’s optional, right? That’s really great. Somebody devoted her time to do this. Once in a while, I might just go tune in.
If I’m so sick of listening to Tim Ferriss or Tony Robbins, I’ll go to Phase World. And then I noticed, like, wait a minute. Now we are a company. We’re a service. Like, I’m not just a storyteller with a full time job anymore. I haven’t been for four years. So literally the second day or later that afternoon, I was in a session and I started going to itunes and I changed the description and all of a sudden it was like, this podcast is here to help independent creators live their financial and creative freedom. That’s precisely what I’m doing. I just haven’t been talking about it this way.
And you said what you do and who it’s for, that’s the key. And most people don’t. Yeah, you did a great job, but most people don’t do that. They go to a party and someone asks what they do and they say, I’m a developer. Right. And people are like, okay, I’m not even sure what that means.
What kind of developer?
Yeah, developer. That can mean lots of different things in lots of different industries. And it does not start a conversation. It does not spark anything in my brain about people that I know. So, yeah, it’s so hard to do. It sounds so simple to just say, well, just say what you do and move forward. It’s really hard to fine tune that. And it’s something that you work on forever. I don’t think that is ever done the same way. I don’t think your copy is ever done. I think you are just fine tuning it. It’s evolving over time as your work.
Shifts, you’re growing with your message.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But being conscious that it is an important thing to have is like the first step. And if you just do that and if you just have that one message that you use consistently across conversations, your social media profiles, your website, all that stuff, you will be miles ahead of your competition.
This episode of the Face World Podcast is brought to you by Phase World LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses. We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up, and create a profitable brand. Face Feisworld Podcast Team our chief editor and producer, Herman Sevillos. Associate producer, Adam Laughert. Social media and content manager. Rose De Leon Transcript editor, Alina Afmidova. And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Phase World. Thank you so much for listening.
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