Copywriter and former cookie maker, Helen Tremethick, is our guest for the 179th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Helen has an interesting approach to working with her clients, so we asked her all about it… and we asked her about these things too:
• the path she followed from R&D director at a cookie company to copywriter
• the common thread running through the jobs she had before she became a writer
• her “complimentary relationship” tactic for finding clients
• the “platypus model” for working with branding and copy clients
• how to create, sell and deliver a workshop for clients (and the economics of it all)
• the mistakes you’ll want to avoid if you want to hold workshops
• what her Clarity Sessions include—getting the underlying brand values right
• the questions she asks her clients in her consulting work
• how she prices her introductory offers in order to attract clients
• the tactics she uses to “do brand voice” better—this is an idea worth stealing
• what she includes in her roadmapping sessions
• where things go off the rails with style and brand voice guides
• the other unique things she’s doing in her business that other copywriters aren’t
• her experience as a blocker in roller derby
• Helen’s and Kira’s copywriting lessons from roller derby
• where she thinks copywriting is going in the future
To hear everything Helen shared, click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript. Or, even better, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher so you never miss an episode.
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The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:The price survey
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Kira: This episode is brought to you by The Copywriter Accelerator, the 12 week program for copywriters who want to learn the business skills they need to succeed. Learn more at thecopywriteraccelerator.com.
Rob: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, 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 Kira and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Kira: You’re invited to join the club for Episode 179 as we chat with copywriter and brand voice strategist, Helen Tremethick about how to position of business so you attract the right clients, creating more than one revenue stream in her business, how she creates balance and ignores the hustle and her experience in roller derby.
Helen: Hi, thank you.
Kira: Kick this off and let us know how you ended up as a copywriter and brand voice strategist. What’s your story?
Helen: Oh, yes, thanks. The short story is that I went to school for radio and television broadcasting. Then I went to school for International Development. Brand voice strategy is really about communicating who you are, and really understanding that deeper motivation. It’s really hybrid of both of those educational channels that I took along the way in a very formal way. But the truth of the matter is, if you get a little bit deeper and uncover the story, there are a lot of hats that I wore along the way from being a research and development consultant for a cookie company, to being an executive director of a nonprofit, and even being a purple tea apprentice at a farm in central Ontario.
All these experiences allowed me to really see business owners as they are, what works, what doesn’t work, and really start formulating a way of communicating that connects to the people that we want to connect to, but still maintains this really genuine and authentic, not authentic TM, but this really authentic way of communicating who you are.
Rob: Did you just say you were an R&D specialist in a cookie company?
Helen: Yes, vegan cookie company in Toronto, also a baker.
Rob: Okay, let’s hear more about that. Because I can imagine waking up as an R&D person thinking, okay, chocolate chips been done, pumpkins been done, snicker doodles been done. What am I going to do today? What do you do as an R&D person in a cookie company?
Helen: A lot of it was really testing out recipe ideas that came from the owner. I got to tell you, a lot of it was taste testing. Baking cookies, taste testing, seeing if they’ll fly and then… Also not just seeing if they’ll fly with the audience, whether they taste good, but if they hold their structure. I suppose we could apply a really good business metaphor here as well. It’s not just what lands but what works well for you as well as the audience involved.
Rob: Okay, what was the weirdest recipe that you developed there?
Helen: Gosh, we did a lot of spicy chocolate stuff for a little while, which can go… Yes, absolutely. Spicy chocolate done well is very delicious. Spicy chocolate done not well, is it honestly…
Kira: How do you ever leave a job like that? It sounds like you dream job. You made it in life at a cookie company? Why would you ever leave?
Helen: I’m a terrible employee. I mean, that’s really what it comes down to.
Kira: Got it. Makes sense. I want to hear more about your time at the farm too, you said as a tea apprentice. Tell us a little bit about your farm time and even just some business lessons that you learned from your apprenticeship at the farm.
Helen: Oh my goodness. It’s so funny we’re digging up all old history here. I was a medicinal tea apprentice at this farm that does herbal teas, and does a lot of wild crafting and stuff. As an aside, I also live on a farm currently so I have spent a lot of my life in urban settings, but really currently have come back to my love for plants and plant medicine and really sharing that with people. I do that on the side. This foray as a medicinal tea apprentice was part of that learning about botany and the plants around us. Not just the plants that we see in our grocery stores, but what we would call weeds and really how they help us.
I think in terms of business metaphors, that’s really one real crucial lesson about running a business is that you don’t always have to be the apple, be the orange, be the banana, be the thing that you find in grocery stores. You can actually also just be the dandy lion. Be the chickweed, be the plants that is not for everybody but is perfect for the right person at the right time with those right needs.
Rob: I think I’m probably the chickweed of copywriters as I think about that.
Helen: Delicious and nutritious.
Rob: Absolutely, but often overlooked. Is there something, maybe a theme that runs through all of these other jobs that you did as you’re making your way in life that then led you to be a copywriter? I know you mentioned the research understanding customers but anything beyond that?
Helen: Oh, absolutely. Every single job that I found myself in, no matter what it was, I was rewriting the operations manual, writing of the press releases, rewriting the marketing materials, really getting my hands in how that business was communicating themselves to their people.
I would wear these hats that said, medicinal tea apprentice or you don’t… There was a time that I did fine furniture building. But all of those experiences, I found myself really just tinkering around with their messaging, and getting back to my roots, radio and television and in international development. Wanting to build that business up based on who they are and showcasing them in a way that’s true and impactful.
Kira: What is your first few months or first six months in your copywriting business? As you started to focus on messaging and building out your copywriting business, what did it look like? How did you get clients? How did you build that momentum early on?
Helen: Thank you. I first… A little known fact is that the communications distillery started as sunrise editing.
Kira: Oh, cool.
Helen: That’s how I got my first clients, is people… I was doing a lot of writing, earning some traction on my blog, and a lot of people started asking me to start editing their blog posts. My first clients were editing clients, where I was helping them indirectly with their message, but primarily with their punctuation. Fairly early on, it became very clear that I don’t care nearly as much about punctuation as I do about people’s message and whether they’re making the impacts that they want to make.
I made a pretty natural pivot from editing into writing blog posts for people, then from there into writing website copy. It was a pretty easy pivot each time. Just opening myself up to more and more opportunities that way. It naturally progressed into writing website copy. Then I realized that in writing website copy that there was really a way that people were communicating online. A way that was a bit more genuine and a bit more authentic, versus this very templated style that the gurus were telling us that this is what had to happen.
There was something else, this undercurrent that was happening and that’s what I started paying attention to. That’s what really led me into brand voice strategy, which I feel is really key to everything that we communicate to our people.
Rob: We definitely want to talk more about brand voice but tell us first, how did you find your first clients as a copywriter? What kinds of things were you doing?
Helen: Well, again, I was writing blog posts. People were coming to me because they wanted somebody to write their blog posts for them. That happened primarily through word of mouth. In fact, the vast majority of my business over the near decade that I’ve been in, comes through primarily word of mouth. I tend to make relationship partners where we refer people back and forth. These partnerships tend to be with complimentary service providers. A lot of my early clients, as well as even my recent clients come through those complimentary service provider relationships.
Rob: That’s awesome. There’s so many people who struggle with that and to have referrals coming from people that you’ve served well. In some ways, it’s, I don’t mean to call it luck or a blessing or whatever but it really gives you a leg up as you get started.
Helen: Especially if you can make those relationships with people who are our complimentary service providers. In copywriting, if you can make relationships with web designers or web developers, and you can make relationships with people who are alongside you. It’s in their best interest to refer to somebody who does really good work. Just as it’s in your best interest to refer to somebody who does good work. That complimentary relationship can really benefit a new business owner, but it can also benefit you throughout your career.
Rob: Tell us them more about what you’re doing today and especially the work that you do with brand voice development.
Helen: Thanks. What I do today is a hybrid. I do a lot of coaching, I have clients who come through for an hour session or I help them walk through their entire website in a big two week boot camp. But I also do copywriting on the side. I have a bit of a hybrid service model. A friend of mine who’s a business coach calls it a platypus business model. Because I do some coaching. I do some teaching and speaking, and I do some copywriting, some of that implementation as well.
Kira: Let’s talk more about the platypus aspect and then we can talk about brand voice but this is interesting to me that it is a hybrid. How did that come about for you? Did you nail the coaching piece first and then later add the boot camp or did you do it strategically knowing that you were interested in creating multiple offers? Can you just talk about your thinking around setting that up in the structure and multiple revenue streams?
Helen: Sure. I would love to say that I was really strategic in the way that my business unfolded, but that would be an outright lie. I think, I love writing for people. In the beginning, I thought that that was all I was ever going to do until people started asking me to teach workshops live and I thought, gosh, this is just the best thing ever. For a while, I was teaching in person workshops, primarily in Toronto, but also in other places in southern Ontario and doing this copywriting for the communications distillery.
That’s where the hybrid began. Then I realized that there had to be a way because I didn’t live in Toronto and so I had to commute every single time, that there had to be a way that I could serve people through a teaching or coaching model that didn’t mean that I had to hop on a train for many hours. That’s where the coaching piece started. It started with one hour coaching sessions, clarity sessions with clients who had written their websites, but our businesses always expect more writing from us.
Even though you may not be dealing with a large project, like a website, you still have maybe a little bit more copy or you’re updating your bio or there’s this thing that you can’t quite get right and clarity sessions were really perfect solution for those existing clients. That coaching started out as a bit of an add on or an extension to those copywriting clients. Then from there was built out to be a two week coaching model. I also launched a course last year that was a group program to go through writing your website.
A few years ago, I launched a program called ‘(bleep) your elevator pitch’, which you can bleep out that, that helps people, just a quick DIY. Helps people figure out what their elevator pitch really is without going through the I’m a so and so that does this and that for these random people. It really breaks away from those templates into who you are. It was really a bit of a natural growth that came out of my love for that in person workshopping.
Rob: So coaching, the program, copywriting, I’d love to talk even more about the workshop. We’ve talked about this I think once before and I know that there are copywriters who offer workshops, but it’s not one of the things that most people jump to when they think about how can I grow my business or what are the products that I can offer. Tell us a little bit about what you would do to create the workshop and how you would sell it to the different corporations or companies or organizations where you are presenting it.
Helen: I was really lucky to have a partnership with an organization who does training. I came in as an instructor for them. They did a lot of that selling of my workshop for me, which was really beautiful. What happened is, in order to create that workshop, what I did is… It’s a little bit like a niching down process where you narrow down what’s the most bite size piece that you can teach to somebody. That bite is not your website, you can’t teach how to write a website in one day. That bite is potentially an about page, which was one of the workshops that I taught.
That bite could also be how to create content marketing strategy, or how to write a blog post. If you can find out one bite that you can offer to people, that’s what you can build on your workshop. This can be for in person workshops, as well as online workshops. What is one bite, one morsel that you can offer that is aligned to the rest of your bigger work?
Kira: Can you talk about, roughly if you don’t have to share exact numbers, but how much you would charge for in person workshops, versus online workshops, or how you think about the pay structure for that, especially… Probably changes based off partnerships, or if it is your own workshop, and you’re selling it. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Helen: Yes. Absolutely. You’re totally right Kira that it depends on not only the structure of the workshop and who is selling it, how long it is, but also where it is, whether it’s in person or online. If it’s in person, it’s going to need to be a little bit more expensive because you have those overheads of renting a room and potentially other affiliate partnerships. When it’s online, you can… Because you naturally have that internet connection at your office that you regularly pay for or at home, then your overheads are much lower. You can charge a much more accessible fee.
All of those things need to be considered when you’re thinking about what that price is. But the way that I tend to base my pricing structure is a little bit strategic and a little bit whoo, which I think is probably a very good explanation of everything that I do. Where I look at all of the other workshops that are similar or aligned with what I’m doing and how much those costs. I get a good idea of what the market is paying for already. Then I sit with a number and I decide what number feels good for me.
Helen: Sometimes I just accept a number that is fine. If it’s $200 for a day long workshop, maybe that feels good. If it doesn’t, then I push it one way or the other and just to see. That’s the whoo part is to see where that feels a little bit on the outside of comfortable.
Rob: About how many people would be in a workshop at a time?
Helen: It varied. I’ve taught upwards of 100 people in a workshop, which is very difficult to manage but I think the sweet spot is in 12 to 15. That way you can do small group projects. You can piece people out, but you can still also remember everybody’s name and their story and to make it really accessible to everybody. In person workshops specifically, that’s my sweet spot. I love that small group.
Rob: When you were talking about finding that one bite sized morsel, is that the topic for the entire workshop or do you also include things surrounding that idea, you just sell with that one hook or is it even bigger than that?
Helen: No, I would say that the vast majority of the time the bite sized morsel is enough, because we vastly overestimate really how… Or underestimate how exactly how long it takes to explain a process. Something that comes really naturally to us as professionals doesn’t take us very long, will take somebody who’s learning much longer. That bite sized morsel is oftentimes enough.
If people are asking for more, always build in a little bit fewer extra exercises or things that you can add if you have extra time, and provide resources at the end. But if you’re offering introductory workshops, that’s a really good place to start and then you can build on it, make it more expensive. If you have a much longer workshop, say you have a group program that’s going to take a week or a few months, then of course, you’re going to want to have more than a bite size. You’ll have a bite size for each module. But as a whole if we’re talking about in person teaching experiences, then narrowing down is going to be your best friend.
Kira: Okay, my last question about workshops, based off your experience, what are some mistakes that maybe you made or you’ve seen other people make with workshops? Almost like best practices and what to avoid when running workshops. We talk about in person and virtual because they are different or if there’s one you want to talk about, this could be useful for someone who wants to run their first workshop and just needs to prepare for the mistakes that most of us make.
Helen: There’s so many. Off the top of my head I’d say know where you’re going. Make sure that you’re… Don’t be late for your own thing. I’m a bit of an over planner in that way. Because I was always taking trains to get to places, going long distances, I was always a little bit too early, but know where you’re going. If you have to deal with parking or whether any of that stuff, it sounds pretty obvious, but it’s crucial that you are there on time.
Know your tech, make sure that everything is running as well as possible. There’s always something that can go wrong. Make sure that that is all going… Slide deck if you’re using one. Then I would say, don’t feel like you have to stick it to the script. I think this comes up in person as well as online classes. That people can feel, presenters can feel so stuck to their goal that they lose the experience of the audience. You have a goal in mind. Do you want to take them from A to B based on that bite sized morsel that you’ve created.
But if there’s something that you haven’t noticed, because of your expert eyes, your audience is going to show that to you. As a good presenter who wants to create impact, it’s your responsibility to notice where those gaps are, and fill them as you go. Adherence to the script is important. You want to make sure that you have your map from A to B but don’t feel so stuck to that script, that you’re unyielding and inflexible to the needs of your audience.
Rob: I think that’s a really good point. Something I hadn’t actually thought about as I think about possibly doing a workshop or to myself. My last question about workshops, what support materials did you provide for attendees? Is there a workbook or did you just present information and they are simply taking notes?
Helen: I am all over the interactive workshops, I love giving people writing prompts and exercises, because that helps them write and hear and do. That triad of learning really benefits the vast majority of learners. I want to make a mention for creating accessibility for your audiences. If there are people up front who you know who will be using screen readers or something like that, that may be something to consider. But yes, absolutely. I am all over giving them handouts or a workbook so that they can work through it as we go.
That way, they’re not just taking notes and making doodles in the margins, but you’re walking them forward. It’s like they have a map in their hand. You’re saying I’m going to take you from A to B. They have that in front of them. It really helps integrate it. It also means that they can go back and keep working that system so that they can see the impact of it later. When they go home, whether they go to their businesses, or even much later when they start a new business, they can come back to that teaching.
Kira: All right, Helen, I want to talk about your other offers, because you do have such an interesting hybrid here. You mentioned your coaching is called… Is it called a clarity session?
Helen: Yes. One hour, laser focus, quick hit, let’s get it done.
Kira: Okay, so is that separate from your brand voice work, or does that include a piece of it? Or is it more people get what they need to get out of the clarity session?
Helen: Yes, people get what they need to get out of the clarity session with the understanding that the vast majority of my work comes from a brand voice lens. I’ll back up a second on that. Your brand voice is how you represent yourself to your audience. We can optimize that brand voice by getting clear on our values and who we are and why we do this work, knowing very clearly what we do. Also knowing our audience, who they are, and most importantly, the language that they speak so that we can communicate to them in a way that they understand.
Once you get that stuff right, then your sale… No matter where they start in the sales conversation, whether that’s on social or on your website or somewhere else, they have a seamless integration all the way through their journey. So when they do finally get on a consultation with you, you’re only talking about how you’re going to work together and when. You’re not talking about whether you’re a good fit or not, because they already know that you are.
You’ve been really clear with them the whole time. Everything that I do is under this brand voice lens. Through a clarity session, if somebody were to come to me with their bio, then we would talk about why it’s not working, what they are trying to get from it, where they’re going to put this bio, who’s going to be reading it, and then we will work it through it in order to make that more nuanced and more effective.
Kira: Okay, so if a copywriter wants to do something similar, they want to get into coaching and have some type of one hour or 90 minutes session with their clients, what advice would you give them for structuring that call and for thinking about it and approaching it so that it works for their business? Because it can feel overwhelming especially when someone pays you and you’re like, okay, now I’ve got 90 minutes to add value but what am I doing? Where do I start? What advice would you give them? How do you structure it as far as even follow up deliverables, just so we can get started and think about it.
Helen: I created the clarity sessions to be a really light and easy entry into the communications distillery. It’s 60 minutes, they will offer me a document or what they want to talk about beforehand. They’ll prompt it about a week or two before to send me a document with all of those… With all of their thoughts and what they want to go through.
Often that backstory gives me enough to go on so that when we start the top of the hour, we’re really jumping into the deep end. The deliverable at the end is all of the work that we’ve done throughout and some of that sometimes it’s rewriting and sometimes that’s suggestions and sometimes it’s really brainstorming out different strategies that they can take for their business.
The deliverable at the end really depends on the client, and then they get a recording of the call. It’s a very light way of seeing how I work and deciding whether or not that they want to go forward. There’s no cell at the end. It is one encapsulated piece of the way that I work. My recommendation to anybody who would be going into that top… who wants to go into that style of coaching would be to do something similar. Don’t bite off too much. Try and keep it really just very light. What do you offer? How do you offer it? Where’s your strong suit? And then start there. What can you offer to somebody that is already something that you’re doing but in a coaching manner.
Then you’re going to end up tweaking it. Every business is a live entity. You’re going to… It’s not going to ever be perfect, it’s not going to ever be done. We’re always going to be growing and striving and changing. You’re going to iterate as you go and you’re going to find your nuance.
The best thing that you can do is figure out what do you already offer? Where is your coaching already aligned with the work that you do? Then start. The way that I started was as an add on to my website copy clients and that worked out really well to allow me to build out what the clarity sessions look like for people who I don’t already have that backstory with.
Rob: You just shared some questions for copywriters but are these the same questions that you’re asking your clients about the product that they’re working on or is there another set of questions that you go through during your process that really helps drill into the clarity that you’re helping to deliver?
Helen: I would ask… It really depends on the client and what they’re bringing forward. Some clients clarity sessions will bring forward copy that they’ve just recently written, or a blog post that they’re working on, or a bio or some other marketing asset. But other clients are really just up in their head with all of their ideas and need somebody to sort through them which is… A lot of the work that we do as copywriters, we just tend to do the typy, typy as well. But a lot of the work that we do is taking all of that muddle and making sense of it.
The questions that I asked a client in a clarity session will depend based on what they’ve offered me already, what backstory they’ve offered me, as well as what deliverable they need at the end. In essence, the clarity session is really one hour of access to my brain. People coming into it know that we’re going to sort out that current overwhelming mess that they’re dealing with at the moment.
I would say, to start off with, the questions that I would ask any client is what are you going to use this for? Who is going to be reading it or accessing it? How is this aligned with your business? Then we would work from there.
Kira: How do you think about pricing with an offer like this? Is it more about keeping the price lower to get people into your world and introduce them to you, knowing that most likely they’ll want to jump into something else later on? Or is it more of a premium price because I feel I’ve seen pricing on this all over the map. Oftentimes copywriters really under charge for… There pricing for the hour and their time for the hour but not thinking about the value they’re providing.
Helen: Pricing is just so difficult. Pricing is just so difficult in part because you’re right, the numbers are all over the map. I know that a few years ago, you did that study to see really what people are earning, what people are selling for what. For how much. The pricing is really all over the map. The way that I try to manage my pricing is again part strategic and part whoo, where I try to consider the fact that I’ve been in this business for almost a decade and so that experience is worth something and is valuable.
As well as what other people and other players in my industry in our industry are selling for. Then I sit with that number and I play with it and then I try to push the edge because copywriters are always under charging. I think entrepreneurs are often under charging not considering all of those overheads we were talking about with workshop. I would say, find a number that feels right, and then push it a bit higher. Then next year, bump it again and push it into just on the other side of comfortable.
Rob: It’s good advice. Let’s also talk about your program. You also have this third thing of the many things that you do, that’s around finding your voice and positioning your product, your service. Tell us a little bit about that and what it covers.
Helen: I think you’re talking about Copy Courage just like a group program. I think that’s what you’re talking about. Copy Courage is a group program that helps people find their voice and then rewrite their website. It’s often rewriting although we can start from scratch. The vast majority of the time that people who come to me have already been around the DIY block and they’re now in this done with you, done for you space. The Copy Courage program allows people to really dive into what they sound like online.
In this vast world of noise that we’ve created that we call the internet, it’s very hard to find your own voice, because it’s very noisy and there are a lot of people telling you what to do and how. That can get very confusing. I work with entrepreneurs, to find out what they sound like based on their values and where they’re from. I don’t mean just… I grew up in Scarborough, but where they’re from and on a deeper level. Why they’re doing this work, and who they really serve, who they really want to serve.
We create their brand voice that way and using a methodology that I created a number of years ago called captivate which we go through the process of finding your brand voice, and then building out all of these words for your websites, and then applying those templates to be more strategic and more clear with your words. It’s a three month program.
It works really well because, again, with those in person workshops, you can really dive into a small group scenario and give people really impactful support and help them along the way. As opposed to it being a very large scale one to very many offer, which really just isn’t my brand. This is a one to small group initiative. That way is very impactful for them but also for me as well.
Kira: Let’s go even deeper into your brand voice strategy and process that’s clearly a part of that program but also when you’re working one on one with clients. I’m just wondering, for other copywriters that also work on brand voice and incorporate that in their offers, how can we do it better and how can we do a better job of capturing our clients voice? Are there, I hate to call them tricks because it sounds so ridiculous here, but do you have tricks that you use or almost your unique way of approaching brand voice that you feel has been really beneficial and could be useful to other copywriters who are trying to improve in this space?
Helen: Sure, I use what I call a brand voice roadmap. This is something that’s actually in reference to pricing as well. Long time ago, when I was creating this methodology that I was telling you about called captivate and I was teaching people about it, brand resonance, strategy, clarity and won’t get into it now. But for brand voice nerds like me, it’s really very fun and exciting. People can ask me about it later. But when I was developing that out, I was creating these brand voice roadmaps for myself as a guide for when I was writing, because a website isn’t written in a day or sometimes it is, but it takes two weeks to get there.
I needed something like a style guide to keep me in the zone when I was writing for that particular client. I started creating these brand voice roadmaps that then became part of my deliverables. Then noticed that when I started sharing it with clients, they really appreciated having the style guide. Now it has become part of the way that I deliver any copy is that we start with a very deep dive discovery process, where I ask all sorts of questions. Sometimes similar questions in a variety of ways, so that I get deeper, more authentic answers.
Then from that, I develop a brand voice roadmap. I share that with the client so that the client knows where we’re going before I even write a word for their website. That, in terms of tips and tricks, has really served me well because we have multiple checkpoints along the path starting with that deep dive discoveries and that brand voice roadmap so that the client isn’t surprised when they get their document. Then it doesn’t really sound like them or it isn’t what they were expecting or maybe the copywriter feels like it does sound like them and it is aspirational but it doesn’t have that same click.
By offering them that brand voice roadmap, and I also offer a sneak peek along the way, they have these checkpoints that allows them to see where we’re going and know whether or not it feels right, right from the get go. Right from that brand voice roadmap where they can feel out whether or not that feels like them. Then I and they have this style guide that they can use for the current project, but also any other projects that come up in their future or if they have a bigger team. They can hand off that roadmap so that people can read through it and create that consistency of tone and language throughout the brand.
Kira: What’s typically included in that roadmap as far as the deliverables or the way that you break that down. Is it the same or do you change it based on the client and the needs of the client?
Helen: Yes, it’s templated in that it’s a structured document and the pieces within it change. It starts off with guiding principles. I’ve talked a few times about the values of an organization, they really like coming back to this idea of underpinnings for an organization. Why we really do the work that we do. By getting clear on that, that kind of really stable basement for the building that is your business, then you can start layering stuff. I start with guiding principles, and then I add on to it. I built out different attributes.
If your business were a personality, what else would we say about it? Then I build out a brand voice persona. Really capturing that character. Then I also sometimes offer examples where they were in their voice so that they know what it feels like and then they feel empowered to write themselves.
Rob: Are there things that you see businesses or even copywriters doing something similar, where this goes off the rails and mistakes that they’re making, things that they shouldn’t be doing?
Helen: I’ve seen offers where they provide style guides that say this not that, which I think can be really beneficial and it can also be quite confusing. I’ve seen those style guides that are again, very close to the script. I think that there’s a lot more impact in a brand when we can be playful and nuanced and have personality. When we as copywriters are saying, do this, don’t do that, that can create a rigidity in the person who’s already feeling uncomfortable about writing.
I think the good work that we can do as copywriters is to really empower those clients to feel more freedom around the words or at least, that’s the work that I do is really in this empowerment space to let my clients know that they can actually update their bio and that can feel free. They can check in and I’ll always be there as a support partner. But that roadmap that isn’t so rigid, allow some flexibility to let them play.
Rob: All right, Helen, when I think of you and I’ve watched you from afar, for a couple of years now. I think of how well you’ve built your authority in this space. My question for you is really, when you look at your authority and how you’ve built it, was there one thing in particular or a move that you made, or an investment that you made that helped you up level your business and build that authority looking back?
Helen: Good question. I think there’s something to be said for time for sure that they’ve been here for a while. That amount of time has meant that I’ve allowed… I’ve been able to build my nest and make it strong. There is something to be said for time for sticking it out but I also think that I’ve done a lot of work around the imposter complex, specifically with Tanya Geisler who is amazing.
I know that she’s been a guest on The Copywriting Club before and she’s really worth her weight in gold. Doing that work around the imposter complex and how it shows up in me and what that voice sounds like has been really powerful in allowing me to stay true to my bigger goals and really also push that edge and not stay inside a comfort zone that doesn’t earn a lot of revenue and stays very quiet online. That, I would say, in terms of primary investments it isn’t in copywriting tools but more in self development through that imposter complex work.
Rob: What else are you doing in your business Helen. As I listen to you talk about all of the stuff, you’ve got so many interesting pieces that you’re not just writing copy. Is there something else we haven’t even asked about?
Helen: I have an off site program that I will share with you today but isn’t on my website on purpose because it’s a much higher boutique offer that’s called the advisory. That’s for people who are writing a lot. They’re writing blog posts, they’re writing newsletters, maybe more than once a week. They’ve got quarterly launches, and they’re updating website copy and they’ve got sales pages.
They’ve got so much on the go all the time, that they need that support partner and it’s called the advisory for exactly the reason why you have a PhD advisor. I don’t have a PhD, but I’ve known PhD advisors. You go into their office, you say, here’s my thing, and the PhD advisor helps you realign it so that you’re going in the direction that you want to be going in. So that it feels like you, sounds like you, that it’s strategic and impactful. That is the work that we do with the advisory.
It’s really fun because I get that deep dive that I love with clients and it’s an ongoing retainer service. It’s a really beautiful add on to the coaching work that I do. That’s often bite size and one off as well as the copywriting work that I do, where it’s these larger projects. The advisor really allows me to hybridize both of those skills. It’s been really fun.
Kira: It’s easy to hear everything you’re doing and I almost don’t feel overwhelmed, but it’s a lot of stuff that you’re doing. It’s impressive. How do you do it? What are you focusing your time and energy on? Do you have a team in the background, helping you build out these pieces and market your business while you’re in your program? How does this all work behind the scenes?
Helen: I don’t have an easy answer to that. I don’t have a team behind me. I really like being in control of my inbox. I have an accountant. That’s great, because she can deal with all of the numbers stuff. But other than that, I really enjoy having those relationships with my clients. I don’t have anybody behind the scenes. But the way that it’s balanced is really quite easy in that I don’t take on more than I can handle. I also have a business with my partner where we host workshops and teach classes at our home and farm. Because of that and the responsibilities of living on a farm and being a parent and so on, I’ve necessarily needed to scale down the number of clients that I take through the communications distillery.
That is been a real blessing and is really the way that I can offer really just these three buckets of services based on the clients specific needs on their journey through entrepreneurship. So that coaching, the copywriting and then the higher level of advisory service. The answer is really that I have, instead of prioritizing a much higher revenue, I’ve prioritized much better quality of life by lowering the number of clients that I serve every year, and being able to focus on things that really fuel me.
Rob: I want to change the topic entirely Helen and ask you a little bit about roller derby. Are you a blocker, jammer. Tell us about your experience in roller derby.
Helen: I was a blocker with goals to be a pivot. I choose door number three Rob. I had goals to be a pivot. I love that, you know the terminology already. I have done a number of jams. I got lead jammer and a pile of points in about one time. That was really awesome and I came home with a bunch of bruises and it was great. I loved it, I played roller derby for a few years. I haven’t played since last summer though. I feel really good and also sad and also good about the decision to stop.
Rob: Is there a copywriting lesson from a roller derby that we can apply to formulas or something?
Helen: Yes, I would say there’s all sorts. Do the unexpected, show up and try. Sometimes it hurts, but it’s still really good. There’s… Roller derby is a really beautiful community of people who are accepting of whoever you are, however you show up on any given day. It’s a really supportive community and it’s a bunch of women identified people hurling each other across a track on wheels which just makes it outside of metaphors Just very cool.
Yes, I would say the thing that I came out of roller derby with was, it’s okay to quit. That was my big lesson. That sometimes something isn’t working and even though it’s something that you like, or it fuels you in a particular way, it’s okay to stop and do something new.
Kira: I think my lesson from roller derby was that it’s okay to get rejected because I had… I told Rob that I had tried out for the New York City Gotham team, which I didn’t know is one of the top teams in the country.
Helen: Except there so good.
Kira: There’s so good. I just tried it out. I hadn’t skated since I was 12 years old. I was just like, yes, this is fun, I’ve got a shot at it. I did not make the team and I should not have made the team. But I do respect the game greatly and anyone who plays roller derby. I think you’re the coolest. I tried and failed, but it’s okay. Worked out for the best.
Helen: That’s a great lesson from roller derby as well. It’s like you try and you show up. Sometimes you’re just not going to play with the Gotham league because they are just so good. That’s okay, they would have rejected me too.
Kira: That makes me feel better. Okay, Helen, my last question for you is what does the future of copywriting look like to you?
Helen: Oh, good question. I really think that we’re going to be headed into more one to one in person stuff, I really think that we need to get back to relationships. Maybe that’s not just one to one, but maybe it’s one to small group. But I’ve seen as balloon from when… The deeper, impactful relationship based stuff out toward this one to a colossal amount of people, style of courses. I see that the trend is coming back. It’s coming back to this deeper relationship based service.
Whether that is online group experiences, they’re going to be small groups, or whether it’s one to one, it’s going to be in person or over video. I see that we’re heading back to something where people want to have relationships with their service providers. I see that copywriting is going to head in a very similar way. With lots of training and lots of how to. I think that that’s really the direction that we’re headed. I’m looking forward to it.
Rob: I love hearing you say that because I think Kira and I both agree that groups, being together in person, is the thing that really has changed our business and is something that we’re really big about. That’s why we do our event. That’s why we host online events and why we get together with our mastermind group in person several times a year and so I totally agree with that.
Helen, if Somebody has been listening to this and they’re thinking, man, I want to be like Helen when I grow up. I want to learn more about her programs. I want to see what she’s doing. where can they go online to find you and connect with you?
Helen: Thanks, you can go to communicationsdistillery.com. That is where I live the vast majority of the time. Then if you want to see pictures of me, my kid, my cats and then sometimes a business metaphor, then you can find me on Instagram @HelenTremethick.
Rob: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Kira: Thank you, Helen.
Helen: It’s been a real pleasure.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast Kira Hog and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Widest Boy Alive available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript and links to our free Facebook community. Visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.