TCC Podcast #76: Building an Authentic Personal Brand with Tepsii | The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #76: Building an Authentic Personal Brand with Tepsii

Back by popular demand, Tepsii is in the house for the 76th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. If you’ve been following along at home you know that she was our guest once before (on our 27th episode), but Kira and Rob wanted to follow up and see how her business has changed in the past year. Here’s what we talked about.
•  how she got started as a copywriter, business coach, and entrepreneur
•  how she makes money in her business today
•  why she started working with her husband in her business and what he’s doing
•  why she wouldn’t recommend that others follow her path and what she thinks you should do instead
•  the systems (and tools) she uses to keep her business running smoothly
•  why she uses a checklist to move her clients through all the processes in her business
•  what she does with her membership community (and the mistakes she made)
•  why you shouldn’t launch “cheap” products just because your clients ask for them
•  the impact that depression had on her personally and in her business
•  the first steps to take to build a compelling personal brand
•  why she thinks the future of copywriting is offline, not online
•  why she talks about money with the entrepreneurs she coaches

Plus don’t miss the moment when Rob accidentally calls Tepsii out on her personal brand and how reframing her beliefs around “rights” helped her share her political beliefs with her clients in an authentic way. If you want to hear this one, you’ve got to click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.

The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:

Sponsor: AirStory Tepsii’s first TCC Podcast
H&M’s tone-deaf ad
DIY The Law
Selena Soo
Trello
Streak CMS
Born to Convert
Ramit Sethi
Jeff Bezos
Fabiola Giodani
Tepsii.com
Kira’s website
Rob’s website
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
Outro: Gravity

Full Transcript:

The Copywriter Club Podcast is sponsored by Airstory, the writing platform for professional writers who want to get more done in half the time. Learn more at Airstory.co/club.

Kira: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.

Rob: You’re invited to join the club for episode 76 as we talk for a second time with a copywriter who only needs one name—Tepsii, about what’s happened in her business over the past year; the importance of business systems; why she created a paid community for heart-centered entrepreneurs; and her no-brainer tips for creating a premium brand.

Kira: Tepsii, welcome! Welcome back!

Rob: Hey, Tepsii.

Tepsii: Thank you so much for having me; I can’t believe it’s seventy-six episodes. Congratulations! I feel so honored to be number seventy-six!

Kira: Laughs.

Rob: Seventy-six and twenty-seven! You were one of the first people who dared to join us when we first started out to talking with copywriters, so we’re excited to hear what’s happened since we last talked. But I think we want to start maybe with just a brief introduction to your story, for those who maybe haven’t heard episode number twenty-seven yet.

Tepsii: So my story—when I came here, we talked a lot about how I started my business largely by accident, and how for me, you know, starting this business, I knew I wanted to “freedom lifestyle”. I knew I wanted a sense of connection with, you know, people around me who were like-minded, and I didn’t know exactly what that was going to look like, so I had some stumbles and some hiccups on the way to starting this online business. I was able to start by really saying “yes” to someone who saw talent in me, that I did not see myself. So, they just has this sense, this feeling, that I could be a good writer, a good copywriter, and they took a chance on me and, based on that chance, I have grown a business that has sustained me and my family for the past almost three years in March.

And, it’s kind of come full circle with so many different things and skills that I’ve been able to lean into, so, starting with the copywriting, I moved into business coaching when people started asking me, you know, “Why is your business successful and why are you known? Can you help me as well?” So I moved into the business coaching, and I did that exclusively for a while, and I realized I missed the copywriting. I had a copywriting course that I was launching and teaching it, but I wanted the hands-on piece, and my goal this year is to build an agency, and to center and highlight other copywriters.

And my biggest interest is getting messages out into the from people of color, because we’re seeing all this hiccups from these companies, like H&M. You know, they allowed a tee shirt to go out that said, “The coolest monkey in the jungle”, or something like that, and with a black kid, which is really tone-deaf, and so totally insensitive, and racist too. And these things are happening time and time again; there was a Dove ad last year, and so to me, this says we need more people of color represented in these spaces, sharing these messages, and being the ones to really filter the messages so that we can have copywriting as more of a tool of understanding, and, you know, the whole point of communication is to share meaning. And so I want that meaning to be something that impacts people positively, so…that’s kind of where I come from, where I’ve been. I hope that’s a good synopsis. I’m based in South Africa: Pretoria, South Africa, and I was raised in the U.S. So, my lens is really an interesting one to look through when we talk about what’s going on in the world right now, and I’m so excited to be here on this podcast.

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Kira: Yeah, and Tepsii, you’re last interview was one of my favorites, and a favorite for a lot of our listeners and mostly because you were so open and just shared lessons learned, and some of the really hard lessons from starting your business from scratch. So can you just share where you are today as far as structurally, what does your business look like? Like, how are you making your money today?

Tepsii: So, my money today comes in a variety of different ways. I have recurring payments from my mastermind, and so the mastermind has people who enroll for twelve weeks at a time. We meet weekly, usually it’s rolling enrollment, so, I get a chunk of money from those people, and what I didn’t like at first was that I allowed people to do a payment plan over, like, twelve months for something that was $5,000 and I thought at first, “Oh my gosh, these payments are going to take forever,” you know, it’s not going to feel like I have real money. But when, you know, different things are happening, and I have these payments come through, it’s so awesome; it’s like “Oh my gosh, Christmas!” Because, I have these recurring payments. So I have a chunk of my business in that way; we have a chunk of business that comes from the copywriting; people have found me really easily through me not even trying. I don’t know much about SEO, I’ve never been really an SEO copywriter, but I’ve got a lot of clients emailing me saying, “I searched for ‘female copywriter’, and you came up. I checked out your work, and I hired you.”

So, I am doing copywriting, probably like two-thirds of my business comes from the recurring payments from membership community and from my mastermind, and then one-third comes from copywriting. And, the mastermind—the membership community—is something that I’m…we’re going to talk about later. And something that I might be shutting down and restarting. I don’t know; things are always shifting and I think that’s important to remember as…if you’re working in your business and you’re feeling bad, or something, you know, is coming up for you, because you don’t know exactly where you’re going at the current moment, it happens to all of us. Even people who’ve been around for a little while.

Rob: And, I might be mistake, but I think you and Mr. Tepsii have added some systems training to your business as well that he does some teaching for, is that correct?

Tepsii: Yes, so he—out of necessity—well, I don’t know. I just kind of like held a—laughs—a gun to his head and I was like, “Listen, you’re going to learn online marketing dude.” And…

Kira: Laughs.

Tepsii: Laughs. …so he was totally interested in the beginning. But when he saw, like… He likes technical things, and so he learned how to make websites, and he learned graphics, and he learned Facebook advertising, and funnels, and all these things. And he was doing them for me, and they were working, right? I’m having these launches, and they were successful; people are watching going, “How are you doing all this?” And I was like, “I’m doing all of it because of Mr. Tepsii. And so, he’s a lawyer by trade, so he has a business called DIY The Law. And he sells a course, a legal course, and he does trademark and intellectual property for entrepreneurs through that, and then, because he just loved the systems side, we also launched that, which is sort of a plus for the people who joined my mastermind, or my membership community, because those systems pieces are the ones that are toughest for creative entrepreneurs.

My mind certainly doesn’t think in terms of systems, and his mind does. He kind of breaks things down logically. So, very natural for him to offer that; as well as we created some WordPress templates, like, website templates for sales pages, about pages, home pages…all the pages you need on your website, and it’s cool because when somebody purchases it, they can get, kind of, the framework that I do copywriting, and they can DIY their copywriting, and DIY their website. And so he created that as well in conjunction with a partner I have, who’s based in India. So, those systems pieces? So necessary. I don’t know where my business would be without him and the systems piece. So, that’s where a lot of us…. because we don’t have systems, we don’t know what we’re doing, we don’t know where the money’s coming from, we don’t know where our next client’s coming from, and things kind of of crumple and fold for that purpose, so—if you’re listening, pay attention to your systems.

Rob: So, before we jump into, like specifics on things like systems or community, I want to ask the personal question, you know; how is it that you work with your spouse, and live with the spouse, and still get along at the end of the day? We’ve talked with one or two other writers who have done this kind of thing, and to me, I think I would drive my wife crazy. I’m not sure that it would work for us; how do you guys make that work?

Tepsii: I drive him crazy, for sure.

Kira: Laughs.

Rob: Laughs.

Tepsii: I’m not going to lie to you! So here’s what’s difficult. So I have a very specific aesthetic and, like, an idea of what my brand looks like and feels like, and you know, things have to kind of gel altogether. And he has a different aesthetic, and so I always think it’s not a good aesthetic but, let me tell you something. When he does Facebook ads for me, and he will do whatever he wants, and make these images, and then I’ll be all “Mm-mm, it’s not pretty enough; I don’t like that”, and he’ll be like, “Fine, let’s split-test.” And guess what? His ugly imagines always win!

Kira: Laughs. Whoa!

Tepsii: Laughs. So….and so then I started being like, “Well maybe I have bad taste; I don’t know.” But, when we’re kind of having these conversations, he’ll usually take it kind of personally when I tell him I don’t like an image he created, or the style of something, and he will sometimes stay mad for a little while until I’m like, you know, “Honey, we’re…that was work. Work is over. We’re back into our household now.” It’s a struggle; it’s a daily challenge, and he just tells me that I need to learn how to give the criticism in a nicer way, and I’m like, “Well, if we were in an office, and you were my colleague, I would say the same exact things. Like, I’m not sure. I’m not good at the ‘messaging ego’ part first. I need to learn that…laughs…so that, it can be better or easier. So, as a result of us working together, I love it. But I don’t think he loves it as much—laughs—and he’s looking for other ways to fill up his time, and to get someone to replace him doing all of those things that he does for me, because, I don’ t know. I think I drive….like you said Rob, I drive him crazy.

Rob: Yeah, I get that for sure. Yeah.

Kira: He’s looking for his way out, at this time, so he…sounds like he’s looking for a replacement?

Tepsii: Yeah—laughs.

Kira: There’s a job offer opportunity for anyone listening.

Tepsii: But like, he’s so good at what he does, and I’m like, really you know, I can’t imagine replacing him. I love it. You know, to be able to wake… You know, sometimes I’m kind of one of those spur-of-the-moment people. I’ll have an idea at midnight and be like, “Oh my gosh! Sean! What if he could do this, this, this, this, this, and launch it in the morning? What about that?” And he’ll be like, “Sure! Alright, what do you need? What colors do you want? Well you know, what should the cage look like? What style?” And he’ll just implement. And it would never be that seamless with someone I was hiring.

Kira: Right. So it sounds like, from our last conversation to this conversation, you know, you were more copy-coaching focused. And now it sounds like you’re…it’s more of this empire where you’re helping creative entrepreneurs with just about everything; it’s like systems, copy coaching, mindset… Was that intentional? Did you have that moment where you’re like, “I really want to support them in every way I can?” or, has it just happened over time?

Tepsii: It happened, it evolved as people asked for different things from me, or they noticed the things I was doing, and asked me to help them with it. Now, would I recommend what I have done? Absolutely not. Laughs. Why, why is that? I’ve got this mentor named Selena Soo, I don’t know if you guys know of her.

Kira: Yeah!

Rob: Yeah.

Tepsii: Yeah. She’s based in New York City, and she… I was on a call with her one time, and she was talking about the way her business has grown, and the, sort of, “failures” or mistakes she made, versus the things that have been super successful. And one thing that she noted was that when she made—she simplified everything. And she started having like one or two offers in very specific ways to work with her. She was able to tweak those offers like for example, one of her courses. At launch at once time, discover what works; discover what didn’t work; decide on, you know, what she would keep for next time; and really refine that, so that the next time she launched, she would be using lessons from the previous time. And she did that, until she was able to really make her business, make those courses for example, into a million-dollar course a year.

I feel like the scattered way that I’ve done it…if I was to do it again, I would not do what I’ve done. I would really perfect the one thing at a time, scale it, use those lessons learned, and grow it in that way. I loved when she gave that advice and, going forward, I think I’m going to simply things. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how…always keeping copywriting, and then maybe one offer at a time, grow it big time, scale it big time, and then move on to the next thing.

Rob: So Tepsii, when you’re working with people in your community, and you know, copywriters who are coming to you, what are the systems that you recommend that they get set up so that they can succeed?

Tepsii: So last time we talked a lot about Trello; I’m obsessed with Trello and I gave a specific overview of how I deal with my clients in Trello. So, I have one board for questions and comments, and one place for them to access their documents and all the links they’ll ever need; and one board for them to upload any documents or any supporting materials that they want to show me, or images, or you know, just any extra collateral they already created. One place for them to always access their contract, and any, you know, sort of legal documents we have created together. So it’s like one repository where all types of things can happen, and all the questions are answered, and they can actually reply to me in email; they don’t have to log in to Trello all the time. Trello provides you with an email address so the client doesn’t have to learn a new system in order to communicate with you. Yet, you can keep all of your things in one place and really find, you know, moving between inbox and Messenger, and you know, who knows—Slack, or Asana…I can’t do all those different things. I actually have ADHD. I was diagnosed with adult inattentive ADHD, and so, I need things to kind of be really streamlined and no gray areas when it comes to me working with clients, or else I can drop the ball or I can forget things very easily if I’m moving between a lot of systems.

Kira: And what is the cost of that, if we don’t create that system? If copywriters don’t create that system, what have you seen as repercussions in our businesses if we don’t figure that out?

Tepsii: If you don’t figure that out, you give people a poor customer service experience. And, you forget key deadlines, right? And so like, in Trello, you can add your calendar, you know; I know exactly when things are due, I know when I need to communicate with people, and the moment you drop the ball—even if it’s an accident—there’s people in the world who can be super-understanding and say, “Oh, I get it, you know, you forgot; you got a lot of things moving,” and then there’s other people, who will be like, “Oh my gosh, you’re such a jerk; I hate you forever! This is over!” And that’s the last thing you want; it’s not what you meant to do at all. And so, you know, it impacts not just the relationship you had, but also your self-confidence, and it, you know, it’s kind of a hit to you, you know, your self-image; you kind of get down on yourself for, you know, dropping the ball, making a mistake, or whatever. And so, I don’t think it’s worth it; it’s much better to have some systems to decide what do I go everything single time with every client that comes in? So, from you now, cradle to grave—not to be to, you know, morbid here, but—from the beginning when someone contacts me, what’s the system I use to make sure that I stay on top of them? And so, in my email, I have an add-on called Streak, and I love Streak. I don’t know—have either of you ever used it?

Rob: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard of it; it tells you data about your users, right, and if they’ve opened email—that kind of thing?

Tepsii: It does that. It allows you to pops up their—I think it can linked into their LinkedIn so you can get a little bit more information about them. It also allows you to create like canned responses in really unique ways to queries that you get all the time. It allows you to write an email now and, maybe you’ve got insomnia, it’s three o’clock in the morning; you write an email now, and it can allow you to schedule it in the morning so people don’t think you’re a freak and awake at three in the morning—laughs. And it also has a CRM built in, so you can see exactly what stage of interaction your in with a person. How many times they contacted you, and it connects to the… You know, if you write them an email, you can actually create like a box for that person, and it will track every single email that person ever sends you, and you can also track what stage of the sales process you’re in with them.

So, from inquiry to having had a conversation, to follow-up, to close, or to you know, thinking about checking on them way later, whatever—you can make notes. It’s so cool and such a great way to keep track of your clients. I also use it to keep track of social media posts, and all types of things. You can edit your different boxes and labels in Streak to do anything you need to do. So that is one tool I really recommend. They have tutorials and Youtube videos to check out, and it took me about four or five hours to set up, and I realized when I was doing, how many leads I let fly into the ether because I didn’t have a system for tracking all the people, and having to do it one by one, or creating a spreadsheet…it’s like one extra step that, if you have another extra step, some of us don’t do it when we’re moving quickly, and this automates it for you.

So I love Streak for that purpose, for sort of planning and tracking clients. And then, finally, I do the same thing with everybody. So we have our clarity call, discovery call. That process is always the same. Those questions are always the same. There’s a standard operating procedure for how I connect with people the first time. And then there’s a questionnaire I send them every single time, and there’s a welcome letter, and there’s a contract and all these things. And so, my husband Shawn has set it up for us so that there’s a checklist of everything that should be happening with each new client, and all the interfaces that need to happen, and as he does it, he checks it off. So he really thinks in that systems way; it’s so awesome because we bring it in to everything we do from if I’m planning a webinar, running ads, whatever, there’s sort of a checklist that goes along with that procedure, and can help me stay on top of it.

Kira: And that checklist is—that’s in Trello, right?

Tepsii: Yeah; he keeps the checklist….where does he keep the checklist?…I don’t know exactly where he keeps his checklists, but, he has them in Google Docs, and then he has them somewhere else where he can check it off. I think that he—he actually keeps notes in his phone and he checks things off in there. I’m not exactly sure how he does it, but….and I don’t want to know either. Laughs.

Kira: Laughs. Alright, so I want to hear more about the membership community, you know. What did it take to put that together? What was the goal behind it, and what has happened with it?

Tepsii: So the goal with the membership community—it’s called Born to Convert—and it was like, I was on a live stream talking so much, and I was talking about how I had a launch that failed—totally flopped in the beginning—and ended up being successful in the end because I tweaked some things; got a sales coach to help me, and edited my webinar; I did a couple of different things to tweak it, and I was explaining on this live stream how I just didn’t understand at the moment that it was failing. I was like, “I don’t know understand! I was born to convert you guys, I don’t understand!” And then I was like, “Gasp! That’s the name of my membership community.” So, I named it that with the goal of helping people have access to an expert, and to have access to someone who can help them with their copy and, you know, have conversations about mindset and whatever is going on in their business at that time, and at a much lower rate.

So my community kept asking me, “When are you going to launch something less expensive?” So, the least-expensive thing I had going on at the time I think was my copywriting course, which was maybe like $497 at that time. And, I kept getting emails from certain people telling me, you know, “When are going to launch something that I can afford? I can’t do this right now. But I could do something more cost-effective.” Funny enough, those exact people who asked for it never signed up, laughs. It was like $7 a month to start, and then it went up to $9 for the first month, and then $37 after that. And I immediately as soon as I launched it, got about seventy-five people in, and it was a very quick launch like, from inception, like I had this idea to launching and closing the doors the first time. I think it was about five to seven days, so it was really really quick; I threw some ads up; I did one webinar, I think, maybe; a bunch of emails to my list; and posts in my community.

And what I liked about it was that there were certain people who were going to be super-active. As it happens in Facebook communities, about 10% of the people are really active in most groups…except for yours, which has like, crazy engagement. Amazing; congratulations to you guys. And, you, it was tough for me. I felt like, you know, all these people here, they’re not asking questions. I wanted them to ask questions and engage, and in the beginning they did, and then they kind of fell off and dropped off. And, at the same time, what I did not anticipate—and I don’t think any of us can anticipate in our businesses—is major depression. I was going through depression that I didn’t really understand. I never understood depression before, because I’m the kind of person who is like, “Well, okay that situation happened. Now let’s move on to the next thing.” You know?

I always had a pretty strong mindset. I’ve been through some really, you know, difficult things, you know—the death of a parent as a teen, and spousal abuse and leaving ex-husband when I was in my early twenties, and always super-resilient and bounce back up. And this depression just…it like, hit me like a ton of bricks. And I had not made a contingency plan for what happens if I get sick and I cannot perform 100%. And so I feel like, my membership community, I could’ve done a lot more. I was depressed and I didn’t really have it all together to support them in the way that I wanted. So, closing that for now. And I might relaunch it later, but my big regret is not having sort of a contingency plan; maybe not having a community manager to help me, sort of, doing everything myself, and maybe that led to the depression and little bit of burn-out. Who knows.

These are things a lot of people don’t talk about, you know; some of our failures. Some of the things that didn’t go well for us. I’m an open book, as you guys saw last time, so I’m really willing to share the lesson. So the awesome thing about a membership community is the recurring income, you know, making a few thousand dollars a month; knowing that that payment is coming every month. The hard thing is keeping people engaged; getting, you know—getting the content revolving while I’m doing all these other things in my business. That’s a challenge. And then there’s a turn rate which, you know, certain people drop off. You know, they’re only going to have a life span of six or eight months in that membership community before they graduate and find something else, or choose not to be involved in some kind of coaching community. And so, you know, those are all things to consider, and if you go all in with a membership community, you have to…it’s almost like a full-time job I think to do it really, really well, and I was doing it as one-third, or one-fourth of my business model, without the systems that I talked about being so important in place. They were not in place to support it. So, I’m hoping me sharing this and being vulnerable will help the next person who’s thinking about having a membership community to do it right, to do it well, and to avoid some of my mistakes.

Rob: I think your answer anticipated a lot of the questions that I would ask about your membership community. There are a lot of writers I think that look out there and think, “Okay. How can I connect with my niche better?” And, one of the ways that they consider is, “Maybe I set up a Facebook group,” or you know, a LinkedIn group or, some kind of a community whether it’s paid or free. Obviously you’ve outlined a lot of the challenges that go along with that, but, when you think of all of the other ways that you could connect with your niche and your target market, would you say memberships ought to be considered, or is it one of those things like, you’ve really got to go all in in order to make it work, and there are better ways to connect to the people you want to write for?

Tepsii: I think that’s done in a very specific way. I think it can really be powerful, and it can work. I’ve been part of membership communities that I loved, and I think as a writer, though, you should really have your other bases covered, and your things moving really smoothly—your systems moving really smoothly. I thought my systems were moving smoothly when I launched this but they weren’t necessarily, and you got to look at the cost-benefit analysis of the time and energy you’re spending in there. You know, I think we’ve all heard of Ramit Sethi; he had a multi-million-dollar-a-month membership community that he closed because he realized that the value in terms of his time and energy versus what they were bringing in wasn’t the best for him. And he wrote a long article on that, that I really, really loved; the transparency of it. So, I think it can be really challenging, but, I know that there are people who are doing it really really well, and I think if you studied from those people… I didn’t necessarily; I was like, “I’ve been creating communities for years. I, you know, I’ve been launching courses; I know what I’m doing.” And, this is one area I think, getting a mentor who’s done it before you, and can kind of help you figure out some of those pieces that you wouldn’t anticipate on your own because you just, you don’t know what you don’t know… Having someone like that, you know, to learn from whether it’s a program or course, coach, whatever, to help you, I would suggest doing that; working with them to make it successful.

Kira: So, we’ve talking about memberships. You mentioned that you have the mastermind. You also have had coaching courses, copy services, systems and products… So you’ve kind of tested everything!

Tepsii: Laughs; yes!

Kira: What would you say most copywriters today are missing out on? Because, most copywriters are focused solely on copy services; one-on-one services. So what are you kind of surprised at most of us aren’t focused on launching, x, y, or z?

Tepsii: The thing that really bugs me the most about copywriters that I see in our space and in other spaces, is that they’re not thinking about themselves as a brand. I don’t think about myself as just a copywriter, or just a coach of this kind or that kind. I am a brand. And so I am really selling me. So I have decided what kind of things I stand for, what I want to communicate to my audience, what’s really important to me, and my brand moves ahead of whatever offers I’m selling in the world. And so, I think most of us are too focused on getting that next client and not focused enough on building a brand for themselves. So, you know, I get invited to…I’m invited to come speak at your invite—whoo-hooo!–I get invited to speak at all types of events. People think of me as a mainstream entrepreneur, not just a copywriter. And, not to say that ‘just’ a copywriter is something lowly, but I think being a copywriter allows you to stand behind other peoples’ businesses and to hide out a little bit, and I really want to encourage people to stand up and be in front, you know? And speak for yourself, and use the skill that you have to add value—tremendous value—to the world. Not everybody knows how to share a message in a way that’s persuasive. Not everybody knows how to rally people behind them.

And I think that copywriters are missing out on creating their own communities and their own brand that speaks and says something for them when they’re not in the room. As Jeff Bezos says, “The definition of a brand is what are people saying about you when you’re not in the room? And that’s what I really want to encourage people to focus on, is that emotional connection to an audience, because that’s what’s going to help you sell much more copy than you sharing that you’re the expert and that you’re really good at writing sales pages. I lot of us can write really well and can write sales pages. What makes you stand out? What makes you different? What makes you be someone who people feel intimately connected with in a way that makes them want to hire you?

Kira: That’s really powerful. So, for someone who’s listening who’s like, “Okay, this sounds really great and I know I’m not doing this,” what is the first step to help them, like, the baby step to help them create their own community and brand, and build that emotional connection?

Tepsii: So the first question I would ask myself when I’m thinking about my brand is, if I had to share one message with the entire phone—I had a megaphone, and thirty seconds—what would I talk about? And, you know, that question? If you ask yourself that question, can lead you to start to figure out what you brand is about, and then start to think about how do you want people to feel when they connect with you? How do you want people to feel when they talk about you, and think about you? What do you want them to say to other people when they’re recommending you? And I think that’s where we start to build our brand, what we stand for. Personally, my thing that I stand for has evolved over time, so if you don’t feel like you are perfecting it at the first go, that’s okay. Don’t worry.

When I first started I talked a lot about being for soulful entrepreneurs and bringing soul into your business, and really connecting from a heart-place. And, as I’ve evolved and grown and as the political climate has changed, my brand…what I stand for really now is equality. It’s centering different voices, and allowing people of color to show up and have a place on different platforms. It’s talking about equality between the sexes, and really allowing women to liberate themselves, and be economically empowered and use entrepreneurship as a tool for social justice and economic equality, and for building community all around the world. And so, you know, my message continues to evolved and continues to change, and I’ve gotten a lot of people in the beginning saying, “You’re ruining your brand, talking about these things,” you know, “These are political things, why are you going there?” And, you know, I just kept doing it because it felt good to me and because it was important to me. And, you would not imagine how many people have hired me saying, “I’ve been watching you for years, and I didn’t really….huuuh, I liked you, but I wasn’t going to hire you.” And as soon as they say, “I watched you, and I saw that you’re fully expressing yourself right now without holding back on your beliefs and ideas, and now I see you 100%, and there is no one else I want to hire; there’s no one else I want to work with. Because I want to show up the way that you’re showing up, and so I want you to help me with my message.” And it’s not necessarily that they’re all working with social justice. Some of them are business coaches, artists, healers—all types of entrepreneurs—but they’re hiring me for this specific reason, because I’m speaking out and I’m expressing myself and they love it. So, I think that it’s really important to remember that, there’s going to be some people who are for you, and some people who aren’t for you, and that’s okay, and you’re allowed to evolve, and to change, and to grow every single day; that is your right, and something you should doing, you know? Unless you’re dead, you really should be learning and growing.

Rob: So Tepsii, how do you express this to world? If we go to your website, we don’t see any real political thought, at least on your home pages or on your sales pages. Is it through social media? Is it when you speak? Is it just in day-to-day conversations? Like, where does that part of your brand come out? And, of course, that’s not the only thing that you stand for as well. I mean, you’re not just politics all the time, or beliefs all the time. You’re also, you know, about helping people reach their business goals too, so obviously there’s a really good mix there.

Tepsii: Yeah, so you just called me out, Rob. Laughs. You just called me out.

Rob: Did I? Laughs.

Kira: Laughs.

Tepsii: So, I am that copywriter who’s staring at their website everyday going, like, “What do I do? What do I change here? How do I fully express—I’ve got like fifteen drafts of a new homepage.”

Kira: Laughs.

Tepsii: And…I want to go for a new photo shoot, and I feel right now like what you see, the visual branding, is still like glossy and it really fit the ideal clients I was going for at the time when we had this built by my wonderful fabulous friend named Fabiola Giodani. If you’re looking for a website to be build, she is amazing. And, they did all the graphics and stuff on my website and put it together. And so, I want to go for a whole new look, a whole new feeling, a whole new brand. And, I am going to be—sigh, it’s so scary to say this, but, I am scared to do it. I’m so terrified to change everything, and to share this on my website, and now after being called out, maybe I’ll have the courage to go make some shifts.

Kira: Laughs.

Tepsii: Laughs. But for the most part, I made an announcement to my email list; I emailed them and I said, “Hey guys—this is going to be changing.” I think I made the announcement almost maybe a year ago about, you know, I would be talking about different things and sharing different things; I do it almost every day on my Facebook page, I do it a little bit in my Facebook group, and I’m kind of taking baby steps into it. I think I had this fear that if I mixed it with my website, which feels like the storefront for my entire business, that I would really turn people off, or something. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I’m not sure the psychology behind it, and now that I’ve been called out, I’m going to do what I would tell my clients to do, which is rip the Band-Aid off and just show up. You know, so, so far it’s been social media and email. And very soon, watch the space, tepsii.com is going to have a change.

Kira: Laughs.

Rob: I’m looking forward to it. I think this is really an interesting conversation though, because Kira and I have talked about how do we deal with political things within The Copywriter Club, and we have members that are on the right side of the political spectrum, and we have members that are on the left side of the political spectrum, and we’ve purposefully not discouraged those kinds of conversations in our group. Even though, sometimes they get a little bit heated….

Tepsii: Yes!…Laughs.

Rob: I mean, you know, somebody will take, you know, offense. It doesn’t have very often, but it does happen occasionally. But I have to say, I actually like those conversations because the only way that we learn from each other and sort of get closer to each other is by talking these things through in a rational way, and I think, at least in the states you know, maybe in the U.K. as well, the political conversation is so polarized that we can’t even talk to each other—or talk with each other—we’re sort of shouting at each other all of the time. So, Kira and I probably don’t share the same politics, and we sort of want to bring that diversity to our group. But, it’s a hard thing. It’s really a hard balance to strike between business, between you know your personal beliefs, whether it’s politics or religion, or you know, something else. I’m just impressed that you’re able to do it in a way that works for you and your business.

Tepsii: Yeah, it was not easy. I actually came across this entrepreneur on Snapchat, back in the days when I was using it a lot. Most of the people I was snapping with don’t snap anymore. But, this person is named Alex Beadon, and I really like her. She teaches, I think, business and a little bit about Instagram, and she’s got a really fun brand. And one day she was really vocal about her feelings during the election in the U.S. last year—or, actually, in 2016. And, I was watching her, she’s a white entrepreneur; I’m a black entrepreneur, African. And, I was like, “Oh my gosh, what is she’s doing? She’s talking about politics, she’s talking about that stuff.” And so I messaged her to ask, you know, how that works for her. And she said to me, “You know what, Tepsii? Some of the—a lot of the stuff, people will want to tell you that’s it’s political, and they’ll tell you not to get political. But what I’m talking about is human rights; it’s not politics.” And so, you know, she said, “I feel a very distinct different in you know when you call people names, you use racial epithets, those types of things are not political; those types of things are about human rights.” And so that actually, after her saying that to me, I made my first post that kind of probably revealed my political leanings, but I realized that it was my responsibility to speak up, because I felt that people’s human rights are being violated.

I think one of the first posts I made about social justice and things like that was about police killings and shootings of African-American people in the U.S., and I don’t feel like that’s a political issue, it’s a social issue, it’s a human rights issue. And it’s an important issue for me to highlight and center based on wanting human beings to live as long as possible and only die of natural causes, especially at the hands of their state! So, I think that’s where I kind of distinguish it; I decided, you know, human rights and social justice versus politics, I don’t have to mix them, I don’t have to tell them who I’m voting for. I guess you could guess, by what I’m talking about, but I’m more talking about people being safe, and, I also bring spirituality into it, and I think having a spiritual practice—the importance of people who have spiritual practices is that we’re working on ourselves, we’re working on our mindset, we’re working on how to have calm responses and how to communicate with people. And so, it’s the responsible thing to do as a spiritual person, for me, to have these conversations and to show up and be an activist.

Kira: Yeah, and I—I’ve watched these conversations, because I’m friends on Facebook so I’ve been able to see it. And you handle these conversations so well. So, I’m just curious to hear, along this journey, as you’ve really expressed yourself, has anything surprised you as you kicked off these conversations? And then also, do you have any best practices, which sounds kind of silly but, you’re managing—especially you have a ton of connections—you’re managing conversations within a Facebook post with, I don’t know, maybe even a hundred comments from a diverse range of people. How do you kind of handle it as the leader of that page, who’s kicking off a conversation?

Tepsii: I like to respect people. I want people to use respectful language. It’s really important to me that just because somebody doesn’t agree with you, you don’t call them stupid; you don’t call them, you know, names… That is really important, so I’ll let anybody come on my page and comment as long as they’re being respectful of other people. I have blocked and deleted somebody because, you know, they called other people a bunch of, like, “nitwits”, and you know, started getting rude. And I don’t think there’s a place for that in having these conversations. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is, I make these posts and a lot of the time it’s really to help white people who otherwise wouldn’t understand the conversation to hear it. And I don’t necessarily like to be the one to respond to all the questions and to be the voice that answers. I invite my community, my friends, my colleagues, people who are working on being allies, to come into the space. My husband is a white man; I invite him to come in and explain things and share things, because I think a lot of the time I can start the conversation, but people will assume that what I’m saying, I’m saying because I’m angry, or because, you know, there’s the stereotype of the angry black woman, and all these things. And, sometimes they won’t hear it from me, but they will hear it from my husband. And I’ve seen people have tremendous shifts and express empathy and compassion that they, you know, previously showed up angry and rude, after having these conversations, with people who look like them, right?

I think a lot of the time… I studied communication, and we talk about the theory about why people like each other. It’s about likeness, or how alike are we; it’s about proximity, how close and distanced are we; and it’s about similarity, what do we have in common. And so, people want to hear from people who are somewhat like them. So I can start the conversation, and I’ll tell you, most of my friends are white. Most of my colleagues are white. I grew up in Vermont, so that means, everybody I grew up with, for the most part, was white. And I went to college at the University of Vermont. So I am in a lot of spaces where I’m maybe the only one who looks like me, and I think that is one of the reasons why I wanted to have these conversations, because being the only one who looks like me, means incurring a lot of harm from well-meaning people who are just ignorant on what they’re saying and what they’re doing. And I felt like it was my responsibility to start to educate my immediate circle and say, “Hey guys; these things are okay, and these things are not okay. Here’s what’s really going on; here’s what I’ve really been going through over the past twenty-five, thirty years of being, you know, in contact with certain people. And, here is where I’m going and here what’s not okay with me anymore.”

And, this is sometimes even in my own family because I married a white man into a white family. And, you know, over the holidays, my brother-in-law said some things, that I had to like, check and say, “Hey, dude, you just said this; this is not okay for you to say, and here’s why it’s not okay to say.” And this is something I didn’t used to do. I used to be quiet; I used to just smile and wave. I used to internalize everything I heard and feel bad, when people said racist comments and not speak out. And, I’m so relieved to finally have built up the resiliency and the courage to speak out and have this voice, and own this voice 100%.

Rob: A the risk of being the white guy shutting down the political conversation…

Tepsii: Laughs.

Rob: ….I want to shift just a little bit. Before we started recording, we were talking a little bit about money mindset. And this is one of the things, I think, that you focused on a lot with some of the entrepreneurs that you’ve coached. Just, the idea that it’s okay to make money, you know. Some people struggle with. Let’s talk a little bit about that, and the things that you have shared with the people that you’ve coached around money mindset.

Tepsii: So, I’ve coached a lot of people who come into entrepreneurship as a necessity, not having seen anybody in their family or their immediately friends circle amass wealth, make these amounts of money in just one payment that looks crazy, you know? You charge thousands and thousand of dollars maybe for a coaching package or for a sales page, and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, who am I to deserve this? Who am I to ask for this? Who am I to hold on to this?” And so I’ve seen a lot of really successful, really smart people in my space either dwindle out, phase out, go back to corporate, because they cannot get fully behind the idea that their business exists to make money, and that if they’re not making money, then there’s really no point to what they’re doing. And so, I recognize that it’s many, many reasons for this.

Many of them are generational, you know. You come from a family who’s never seen wealth, and so you start to mimic the things that you saw your parents and your grandparents do. And, although, you know, money helps us all—it’s a tool that helps us get what we need in the world—if you come from a community where nobody else has it, it’s actually not safe for you psychologically, and emotionally you feel like it’s not safe for you to be different than the other people in your community. And so, you do things without even realizing it to sabotage the income that you’re making so that you can stay as part of the circle, stay as part of the community, and still belong. So I’ve seen that a lot with clients I’ve worked with.

I’ve also seen people who have this idea that, you know, making too much money is somehow not in alignment with their spirituality, you know, if they’re spiritual folks or religious people, and so, that has been something that has been something that people have really, really struggled with. And, the other thing is self-image, you know. Tying their self worth to the money that they’re making today; the money that they see in their bank account today. And, having to kind of untangle those things, create a new self image; let go of the generational stuff that’s happened, and participate in ongoing healing so whether that is therapy, whether that is life coaching, whether that is self-coaching, journaling, meditating, visualizations—all of those things that I really believe in that have helped me a lot—are things that, I think, are a huge necessity. I’m also a master Reiki practitioner, and I do some other kinds of energy work. And so, I kind of throw all the tools at the money mindset stuff to kind of unravel what are some of the subconscious beliefs that people have; what are some subconscious beliefs I have; how am I acting those beliefs out; what are my patterns; where can I start to do some pattern-interrupts, and, you know, make some little baby steps to changing my beliefs; and how can I keep up my belief changes so that if I make a quantum leap today, I don’t, you know, then go back down the drain tomorrow and start making the same mistakes again, you know? It’s kind of maintenance work.

So, that—I think the most important thing you can focus on as an entrepreneur, or if you’re a want-to-entrepreneur, want to be entrepreneur, and you’re thinking about growing a business, start with growing the resilience and thinking about yourself and how you think about money, and how you would interact in certain situations. And the other thing I like to do it visualize my success; spend a lot of time in my head thinking about how awesome things are going to go for me, how awesome this podcast interview would go and how well-received it would be by the audience, and how well-received my quotes are going to be when clients reach out to me, you know? Those things—rehearsing my success over and over—is so important; such an important part of having a money mindset.

Kira: Wow. So, as we wrap up this conversation, I want to ask you a final question, and kind of a big question: what does the future of online marketing looks like?

Tepsii: You know, I think the future of online marketing is offline. Laughs.

Kira: Laughs.

Tepsii: I feel like a lot of the best practices that have been working for a lot of people aren’t necessarily working anymore. I see some of the really big dogs and the heavyweights of online marketing from the past fifteen, twenty years, not making the same kind of money that they used to make, and I see them making huge shifts in their business. I see some of them doing a lot more direct marketing, or you know, those free-plus-shipping offers that then have people sending—you know, sending people things in the mail, and then having that audience respond via mail, or then getting online with them, but you know, going offline, getting in-person, going to events like the one that you are hosting, I think that if we need to remember that we are human beings—social creatures—and that we need the physical intimacy, being in the same spaces, and we should be blending that with these online communities, these online conversations that we’re having.

I think a lot of people had the idea that they had hit the jackpot and struck gold with webinars and with, you know, funnels and email sequences, and then they go offline and host a conference or an event, and have like a 50% conversion rate in the room, you know? And when they present their offer after people seeing and feeling and experiencing a transformation with them. So, I think online entrepreneurship is going offline in a large way, at least for those initial interactions when we want to make the sales and want to connect with people, and bring it back online to curate and continue that sense of community.

Rob: We’re really looking forward to seeing you at the event next week in New York City to meet you in person and to hang out, but I can’t agree with you more. I think so much of what we do online needs to become real in the real world. Yeah, I think you hit it 100%.

Tepsii: Ah, thank you! Laughs. I…I was worried, I’m like,  “Oh gosh, they’re asking me about online entrepreneurship, and I’m giving you a completely different answer,” but, I think it still fits, right? I think you can still call yourself an online entrepreneur even if you do things offline as well.

Rob: Yeah, I think the world’s changed, right? I mean, online is a channel; offline is a channel. And, to use them both effectively, just makes your business, you know, that much more resilient and effect. I think you’re 100% right.

Tepsii: Yeah.

Kira: Tepsii, where can people find if you if they want to reach out, and say “hey”, or if they’re interested in any of your programs?

Tepsii: You can find me on tepsii.com. So it’s spelled T-E-P-S-I-I dot com. You can also search for “Tepsii” on Facebook; I have a business page, and I have a personal page. You can go hit the follow button; don’t friend me, but please follow me. Got a lot of friends and  I’m trying to curate the circle of friends so that I can have real, meaningful interactions and then conversations with people that I actually know, and I encourage you to do the same. So, come follow me on Facebook. I’m also on Instagram; you can search @tepsii on Instagram. And, I’m here. I’m available, and I’m open and especially excited about helping other entrepreneurs step into their greatness, especially if you are a person of color or you are a woman, get at me because this is our time to grab hold of our economic liberation and empowerment, and use this as a tool to change the world.

Kira: Thank you Tepsii; can’t wait to meet you in person.

Rob: Yes, thanks Tepsii!

Tepsii: Thank you! Me too, I’m so happy and so honored that you invited me back for a second round; I feel like I won the lottery…

Kira: Laughs.

Tepsii: …in terms of that, so, it’s a big deal to me. Thank you very much.

 

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