May the fourth be with you: my 5 top takeaways from CopyCon 2019, Australia’s copywriting conference

What does Princess Leia have to do with website copywriting? Or Rio Carnival have to do with branding and client relationships? And why should we never, never, ever use the word passionate again?

I explored all these questions and more at this year’s CopyCon, Australia’s copywriting conference. I’ve made investing in myself and professional learning a real priority for 2019. By learning and growing in my business, I can challenge myself, streamline my processes, and ultimately better serve my clients to make a difference in their business and their lives. So, along with 160 other copywriters from around Australia and beyond, I headed to the Arts Centre in Melbourne on May 4th and 5th 2019 for a Star-Wars themed copywriting conference extravaganza. And, what a conference it was.

Here are my five top takeaways gleaned from listening to the expert speakers, networking and bonding with other copywriters and generally soaking up all the copy goodness.

Copywriters Kate O’Mealley ( Oh My Word! ), Jacqui McCallum ( Blue Budgie Communications ),  Harriet Edmund  and me -  Emma McMillan  - at CopyCon.

Copywriters Kate O’Mealley (Oh My Word!), Jacqui McCallum (Blue Budgie Communications), Harriet Edmund and me - Emma McMillan - at CopyCon.

You can change your mindset

Well, you may not be able to change it, but you can absolutely work to reframe it. It’s all about how you look at it. Mindset affects every aspect of running a business from ‘How much can I charge?’ to being confident when cold pitching for work. It’s the difference between doom and gloom thinking - ‘All my work has dried up, I must be awful,’ and positive, practical thinking - ‘Thank goodness, now I have some time to implement some new systems and processes.’ This is relevant, no matter your role or industry.

Robert Gerrish, from Flying Solo, gave some practical tips to help us work through the challenges of imposter syndrome. According to his research, I’m a perfectionist/expert. I’m rubbish at delegating (guilty), and continue to take courses/learn everything to be an expert ‘just in case’ I need to know something. The advice I’ll be implementing is to ‘just start’ things even when I don’t feel ready and to adopt more of a ‘just in time learning’ approach. Many speakers echoed Robert’s thoughts. Kate Toon, conference organiser/party planner didn’t hold back, inviting all the copywriters in the room to step up and shift their thinking to encourage positive changes.

Absolutely everyone has an X-factor

Wonder how you can stand out in a sea of sameness in your industry? That’s easy, according to Rob Marsh. He talked us through a huge list of questions in Sunday’s mastermind to help nut out our point of difference. The next important step? Once you’ve nailed your X-factor, you also need to check how it ties in with the needs of your ideal client. Rob is the co-host of one of my favourite podcasts, The Copywriter Club. He also put us on to a couple of great episodes that I’ve already tuned in to, Tanya Geisler talking about imposter complex and Jenny Blake discussing her book Pivot.

Nurture your relationships for long-term success

This mantra is as true in life as it is in business. When my husband takes the kiddo on Sundays so I can get to my boxing class, that’s nurturing our relationship. It also means I’m probably more likely to throw on a load of washing when I get back, or cook up a batch of soup. It works both ways. And, newsflash, clients are just people, too. So, it’s a nice idea to just check in from time to time, without explicitly being motivated by a business transaction. Maybe share an article with a note, ‘I thought you might be interested in this.’ You’re in it for the long game with your clients, so little gestures along the way help nurture those relationships.

The revolution of the heart - Suzanne Chadwick

We’re in the revolution of the heart

When Suz Chadwick enters the room dressed for Carnival, you know you’re in for a treat (and some wise words about branding). Suz, who hosts another brilliant podcast, The Brand Builders Lab, dissected the way customers purchase. Having gone through the industrial revolution and the technological revolution, we’re now in a game-changing revolution of the heart. It’s a time where brands that are value-based and offer a relationship will begin to rise to the top. Reputation, visibility and uniqueness are no longer enough; the emotional connection to the customer is what will develop brand strength. When I thought about the way I buy things, these ideas really resonated. Watch this space for more bold branding this year!

There can be too much passion

When it comes to taglines, be enthusiastic, do care, be spirited and fierce. But, according to Ryan Wallman? Whatever you do, don’t say you’re passionate!

There was pizza and wine, there were stickers and plenty of genuine interactions. Over the weekend, it became even clearer to me than ever before that the copywriting community in this country are supporters of each other, not competitors. We’ll happily refer work on to a better fit, seek mentorship and further learning all in the name of giving our clients the best experience possible.

What does this mean? When you do business with this kind of copywriter, you’re in the best hands. Find out how I can help you.

Star Wars-themed copywriting lightbulb moments

The 5 qualities of a great copywriter

So, you’re in the market for a copywriter.

When you first started out, paying someone to write your website copy was an expense you couldn’t justify. Makes sense. But, you’re out of that basic survival phase and thinking it could pay to get an expert on board. Because words? They’re not your thing. But for a copywriter, they’re a match made in heaven. Think chocolate and peanut butter, poached eggs and avo, or hot sauce and, well, anything. 

Or, you’re part of a marketing team, stretched to the limit and you need some content support. Someone to develop consistent SEO-friendly blog posts or emails, who won’t be whisked away onto another project. An external copywriter could be the answer.

A bit bamboozled about where or how to start? There are so many copywriters out there. So, before you open your wallet, here are five qualities to keep in mind when searching for your wordsmith.

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Good listening skills

This one may not be obvious. But, in the beginning, your copywriter should be doing a whole lotta listening. This will be peppered with questions, of course, but you'll get the space to finish your thoughts without rushing.

Writing chops

If you’re someone who needs oodles of physical proof, please don’t be offended if some copywriters push back at some point. Our time is precious. And, let's face it. Our websites, blog, accolades and testimonials are legit proof that we’re serious writers. We may have a portfolio, or links to show you, but can’t always create new work samples, just for you.

Clear communication

I love that my clients know how important this is to me. I expect it whenever I’m the client, so I always work to deliver it in spades. I’m talking about prompt responses to your emails and phone calls and generally being easy to work with. Check out the testimonials on a website for evidence before submitting the contact form. Once you’ve been in touch, are you getting all your questions answered and are you clear on timelines and process? Awesome. You’re on to a winner.

A thorough briefing process

The better the brief, the better the copy. So, don’t panic when you get served a hefty briefing form or asked to schedule a briefing call. And, please, as Tom Cruise once said, help us help you (or something to that effect). To write you the absolute best copy for your business, we need the inside scoop. Trust me. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Experience

When it comes to copywriting, experience can come in many forms. While specific copywriting experience is a big plus, a background in another industry is a bonus! Training in psychology or education, for instance, provides depth to a copywriter’s expertise. Teaching’s where I nailed my processes and time management. It was also my training ground for creating and delivering engaging content, day in, day out to all kinds of audiences.

So, now that you’re armed with the tools for your search, happy copywriting process to you!

P.S. If you think we might be a good fit, learn more about how I can help you or check out some happy client feedback.

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How preparing proposals is like dating again

Ok, I’d better start with a disclaimer.

I haven’t actually dated since 2005 and, granted, things have changed a little bit. I never swiped right - or left - and those friends who dated someone they met online in the early 2000s were seriously in the minority. Rather than take the advice of a well-meaning friend to ‘go where your dream guy will be hanging out’, I figured my odds were better in a seedy club than a bookstore. I must have been on to something. In 2006 I met my husband in a Thai nightclub, and the rest is history.

Couple standing holding hands

But, I digress.

I’ve been prepping a bunch of copywriting proposals lately, and it’s all starting to feel a little bit like the dating dance. Let me explain.

You put yourself out there

You’re on the web and social media, often using big, bold shots of your face (nowhere to hide) and brand promises for people to decide, would I like to work with this person? Whether you’re in the business of business or dating, this part of the process can feel pretty confronting.

Someone shows interest

There’s a bite via your website contact page, or someone slides into your DMs - well, hello there! The vibe feels right, and you respond. From there, a phone call, coffee date or longer email eventuates.

First contact goes well

So far so good. You’re enjoying each other’s banter, and you feel you’re understanding each other and what this prospect is looking for in a copy relationship.

The second date

You were right. The stars have aligned, and your potential client has requested a proposal. Now you have the chance to really show your copy chops. What you can offer that will help boost their business, the ways you can take the pressure off them, or build their reputation as an industry authority. There’ll be a plan, proposed timeline and summary of the conversation so far. You’ll agonise over the pricing because you want to offer you as much value as you can while still valuing your time and expertise. Then you’ll take a deep breath and hit send.

breathe

One of these three outcomes will likely eventuate:
Ghosting

Either you’ll send the proposal, then follow up once, twice and...crickets. Or, the client signs off on the proposal and then ignores the commencement invoice. You end up feeling like your date has shown up for dinner, seen you and left (awkward!) or that an ex has got back in touch. Either way, it’s pretty hard not to take personally.

Sometimes circumstances change, and we copywriters are pretty understanding types. We’d much rather get your honest feedback about a proposal so we can amend things to make sure everyone’s happy. Just shoot us an email - we won’t bite. Even better, try the phone where there can be no misinterpretation of tone!

Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen

If you wanna be my copywriter, you gotta work with my budget (sung to the tune of Spice Girls). Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it works. My rates are very competitive within the industry. You can pay more for your copy, but you can also get it much cheaper. When you work with me, you’re also investing in my years of communication experience, and my responsive manner and attuned listening skills come as standard. If you’re likely to be offended when I politely decline your request for a discount, please don’t ask.

When it comes to dating, the ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ approach is an unusual strategy. It may have worked for my first boyfriend Lachlan back in 1995 (and I use the term boyfriend VERY loosely), but I’m a little savvier these days. Here’s a thought - in business or dating, just be a nice person.

This could be true love

Sometimes, like in the Green Mango on that hot January night in 2006, the stars align, and a lasting partnership is born. As a copywriter, these are my faves. There is mutual trust, respect and understanding. Revisions are communicated clearly and in a timely fashion, and invoices are paid on time (or early, even more dreamy!). The good news is, there are plenty more clients in the sea (or something like that), so you don’t need to settle. When you finally find true client love, you’ll feel the difference.

We found Emma to be great to work with, easy to contact and responsive, understood our needs and those of Council, and has a quick turn-around on content. Emma met expectations, wrote to a high standard, completed work according to schedules and deadlines, and to our corporate style. We will use her for future writing/editing/interviewing jobs.
— Rose D'Angelis, Stonnington Council

Think we could be a match made in copywriting heaven? Come and find out.

Want to read more love letters? Find them here.


How to get daily gratitude actually working for you

I’ll be honest. I always thought daily gratitude was just a little bit woo-woo, even for me.

What I’ve discovered is that a little bit of gratitude, done right, helps me to feel thankful not just for the big things but also for the smaller ones. Admittedly, this is a recent addition to my daily routine, but one that’s helped me to start the day on a positive note.

It can be easy to get bogged down in the challenges of a freelance lifestyle, rather than embracing and celebrating the awesome bits. By carving out five minutes before I jump into my email or an important copywriting project, I'm choosing to start the day feeling uplifted, and with an I-can-conquer-the-world vibe.

grateful for a shelf of books

From zero to hero

So, how did I go from zero gratitude to a daily habit? I heard about a better way. I had a bit of Marie Forleo in my ears over January, as some of you probably did too. She shared her method, and it really resonated with me. Rather than merely listing everything you’re grateful or thankful for, you choose just one each day. But, this is where the magic happens. For that one thing, you list five reasons why. Let me give you an example.

Today I wrote that I’m grateful for my freelance life.

  1. It allows me flexibility, extra precious when I have a young child in my world.

  2. I can choose which sorts of clients I work with, based on whether it’s a good fit for both of us.

  3. I can work from home in my new office. Or a cafe if I fancy a change of scene. Or a library, or a coworking space. You get the idea.

  4. I can start my day with a strength training workout, which gets the creative juices flowing, and also leaves me more time in the evenings to hang with my family and friends.

  5. I can continue to grow professionally and personally, following my passions and unique areas of interest.

In this past week, I’ve expressed gratitude for my neighbourhood, my husband, my son, my business and fresh water. It’s a new practice for me, so I’m starting with the big and perhaps obvious choices. As I continue to explore it, day after day, it’s going to get me thinking more deeply about all the small blessings that surround me.

Small Blessings book Emily Brewin

Speaking of Small Blessings...a GIVEAWAY!

‘Small Blessings’ also happens to be the title of talented Melbourne author Emily Brewin’s second novel, out now with Allen & Unwin.

(In case you missed it, you can catch my interview with the inspiring Emily here).

I’m thrilled that I’ve got a copy of the book to give away. Oh, and another small blessing. A $100 voucher to use towards any of my copywriting services! (A new author bio or blog post, perhaps?)

For your chance to win both of these fab prizes, head to Instagram. But, be quick. The lucky winner will be drawn this Sunday night 10th Feb at 8pm. Good luck!



Part 2: Introvert? Here's How to Navigate Social Media.

Welcome to Part 2 of this series - why you need a social media presence if you’re in biz, and how on earth to cultivate one - from one introvert to another.

If you missed Part 1, check it out here first. It’s all about why you need social media for your business, even if frankly you’d rather poke your eyes out. I look at how to begin, outline several platforms and the differences between them. Today’s post is all about the c-word, content, helping you decide what to post, as well as how often, plus a bunch more tips and tricks. Enjoy!

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Ok, but I don’t want to put myself ‘out there’ too much.

I’m not going to lie. Social media does require you to put some of yourself online. But, the good news is, you can choose how much. Now, before you rush to say, ‘I’ll never post a photo of myself on social media’, remember this. People buy from people. That’s in bold and italics for a reason! Truthfully, the more people can connect with you, the more they’re inclined to keep you top of mind and feel like they can relate to you and your business. So, think of popping a pic of yourself up as short-term pain for long-term gain.

You might decide not to include your partner, children or family in your business socials, which is entirely up to you. My family do appear in my copywriting biz socials, but I regularly reassess this decision.

Is it too soon to talk about professional photos to show you at your best? If the ‘people buy from people’ part resonated with you, some profesh piccies might be just what you need. I feel much more comfortable posting these sorts of shots than candid ones (which may be one of the reasons I’m yet to do a Facebook live! Baby steps, people...)

What type of content should I post?

In part, your content will depend on what type of business you have. Here are ten suggestions of the kinds of posts you could incorporate into a weekly content calendar (plenty more to come in my upcoming workshop!):

  • Advice about topics related to your industry

  • Anecdotes about your brand or business story

  • What you’re reading

  • Good advice you’ve received

  • Quotes or words of inspiration

  • Testimonials from happy clients

  • Shoutouts to other businesses or accounts you love

  • Anecdotes or stories about your local community

  • Explanation around your processes

  • Things you enjoy doing in your life outside of work

How often should I post?

There’s no need to worry too much about this in the beginning, especially if the current frequency is zero. You could start with once a week and build up from there. If you’re aiming to grow a healthy swag of followers, once or twice a day may be your goal. Be realistic, while acknowledging a certain level of commitment. You can post on the fly or, schedule in advance with a range of tools, whatever suits you best.

You’ve got this!

Gather a cheer squad of people around you who get what it’s like to be in biz. There are a whole bunch of us introverts hanging out online already. Once you’ve created your Facebook business page, for instance, join a few Facebook groups where other biz owners hang out. These groups can be a treasure trove of advice, and somewhere to feel part of a community, as well as a potential source of referrals and connections.

Remember that being on social media is a two-way street. As well as expecting people to interact with your page or account, you’re encouraged to do the same! You may even find you build some genuine connections by liking and commenting on other people’s content.

Lastly, know that very few people find the process of being online entirely comfortable. But, the benefits of being on social media for your business make it worth exploring.

A little reminder that this September I’ll be running a workshop for those of you who hear ‘social media’ and run for the hills. This will be a stripped-back, user-friendly chance for you to begin to build an online presence for your business and brand, with no experience necessary. You can register your interest in an upcoming workshop here. Be sure to sign up to my newsletter, so you don’t miss a thing. And, come and say hi on Facebook, Instagram and LInkedIn!

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