Copywriter Allea Grummert is our guest for episode 199 of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Wait… are we really about to cross the 200 episode frontier? Yep, and Allea is the perfect guest to wrap up the last 100 episodes before we make a few changes to the format. We talked to Allea about her processes, her switch from blogging to copywriting, and how she’s made so much progress in the past year. Here’s the breakdown of what we covered:
• the long road from personal finance blogger to copywriter
• her best personal finance ideas for copywriters
• why she waited so long to call herself a copywriter
• how she finds clients today (a lot of them come from conferences)
• the take-aways from Allea’s work as an implementer
• her process for working with clients—the whole thing—start to finish
• what she charges for her audits (and what makes them valuable)
• the differences between the packages she offers to clients
• how she structures the email sequences she writes
• how she segments lists for her clients to be most effective
• the CEO check-in and how it helps her grow her business
• the hard stuff she’s dealt with as she’s grown
• the things and people she’s invested in to take her business to the next level
• her advice to “writers” who aren’t yet ready to call themselves “copywriters”
• the advice from a friend that caused a panic attack
• the mindset shifts she’s made over the past year to move forward
• getting paid in advance for work that doesn’t start for a month or more
• working with a VA and how to do it so the relationship works
• her advice for list building and creating content for your list
• her experience at TCCIRL in 2019 and 2020
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Notion
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Kira: This episode is brought to you by the Copywriter Underground, the place to find more than 20 templates, dozens of presentations on topics like copywriting and marketing your business, a community of successful writers who share ideas and leads, and the Copywriter Club newsletter mailed directly to your home every month. Learn more at thecopywriterunderground.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 199 as we chat with copywriter, Allea Grummert about email and why it’s such a powerful platform, which email sequences are most important and what they need to accomplish, what she’s done to invest in herself and grow her business, and her five-step framework for writing a welcome sequence.
Kira: Welcome, Allea.
Allea: Hello, thanks welcome to you.
Allea: Welcome to my living room.
Kira: Great to have you here, and let’s kick this off with your story. How did you end up as a copywriter?
Allea: So, I started as a blogger. I was a personal finance blogger, and that’s what everyone does on a Memorial Day weekend. Yeah, it was just a hobby of mine, and I also have a degree in advertising and public relations so blogging came for me as like a, I called it my digital playground, so I could learn and play. And not just about copywriting. In fact, I didn’t call myself a copywriter until this January, but I learned about SEO and content marketing and how online businesses work. So over time though, people would come to me with questions about email marketing, and it was one of those things where it came easy to me and it didn’t for others and became a service to them for them to have me do it versus them doing it themselves.
Rob: Before we get into article writing, blogging, or even copywriting, I’ve got to ask, what are your best personal finance tips? What should we be doing as copywriters to earn or save more money?
Allea: Well, I would always say create a budget. So I’ve been using mint.com since 2010. So 10 years now. It’s a free service just to track all of your expenses. So what I love about it is it connects all of your bank accounts, and so I don’t even check my individual statements or bank accounts. I’m only in Mint when I want to see where my money is, and I get in there probably like three times a week. So that’s a big one. And then I would say set up moving money to savings as its own budget line item. So don’t wait to save just with what’s leftover, build that into your budget.
Rob: So what about the easy stuff? The secret weapon.
Kira: I was going to say, Rob knows I don’t do budgeting. So these are already great tips for me. Thank you.
Allea: Yeah, absolutely. Anytime. I love talking about budgeting.
Kira: All right. So let’s have real questions because we’re not going to talk about finance. You said, “I didn’t call myself a copywriter until this January.” That’s surprising to me because you’ve done so well in your business. So can you just talk a little bit about that? What was the moment where you started calling yourself a copywriter? What changed for you when you started calling yourself a copywriter?
Allea: Absolutely. So I actually started my business … I’ll rewind. I started Duett in August, 2018. And so when I started, I thought I was going to be an online business manager, just with my kind of breadth of knowledge of how online businesses work and tools. And then I got into email marketing, and I really only offered implementation services or strategy. So it was like straddling copy. I was like, “You come to me with the words and I’ll put them in the email.” And so I was just nervous around that.
And I will say a little bit of a backstory, when I worked for an ad agency in college, I wasn’t free. I was a very cheaply paid intern, but my boss or supervisor at the time, I remember writing AWK all over one of my pieces of work. It’s just like, it’s just awkward. And I was like, okay. And that really hurts. And so for years I avoided writing and avoided calling myself a copywriter, and because I’ve never seen myself as a super creative writer. Like I’m watching Jane the Virgin right now, and I’m like, “Jane, is a writer.” I, on the other hand, I’ve always been more of the left brain side of things. And so it took my business coach kind of prodding me for a couple of months to be like, “Girlfriend, you’re writing content, you’re doing it.” But because it didn’t feel like it came from an inspired place of copywriting because it was based more on research and a solid content strategy, and the words just kind of wrote themselves, it felt like it was less about me being the writer and more just me being a communicator.
Rob: So as you’ve made the switch then, or you’ve made the adjustment to calling yourself a copywriter, what have you done in your business over the past few months to start attracting copy clients as opposed to maybe the clients you were working with before?
Allea: So, what’s crazy is that the client base hasn’t changed. It’s been mostly me including it in my title. I’m not just an email marketing strategist, I’m also a conversion copywriter. So as I learned more about conversion copywriting in the last six or seven months and realizing that the data and all of that, that I was pulling to be able to base my strategy off of is part of copywriting. So it just gave me more confidence to be able to tie those things together.
Rob: So how were you finding clients before then?
Allea: Well, it hasn’t really changed. It’s all been through conferences, for the most part, until I did a podcast this past fall as an email marketing strategist expert interview for a food blogging podcast, and then I’ve got five leads from there, one of which has a retainer client. So otherwise in-person conferences. I started with a personal finance conference that I had gone to with my hobby blog, just paid thousands of dollars to go to conferences over the years. And so that’s where I leaned in. I said, “I understand this market.” I believe that’s one of the first principles of Book Yourself Solid. I don’t know if you’ve read that, but lean into the community that you’re already part of. And so I just kind of pivoted. I said, “I was one of you and now I’m serving you. How can I help you? How can I make sure that people know about your message through email marketing?”
Kira: I love that you mentioned that you were on a podcast and you landed five leads from that podcast. Have you been on multiple podcasts since then, or have you noticed any other trends as far as getting new clients from podcasts?
Allea: Let me think. No, not a ton. I’ve been on maybe three for Duett. When I was on my personal finance blog, I probably did three or four there. So I had experience doing it and it didn’t feel weird to pitch things because I knew it would be helpful. So that’s actually become part of my internal marketing strategy is to reach out and pitch more podcasts for a couple of reasons, one for credibility; to be able to put it on my website, but then of course for lead gen as well. And because they live longer than a conference as well. People who maybe weren’t there will see it and hear and listen as well.
Kira: Yeah, definitely. So can you share maybe some takeaways that you’ve pulled from your background as an online business manager and from the implementation services and strategy services you were offering before you fully dive into copy, from that expertise in that time, what do you think you’re doing differently in your business as a copywriter compared to most other copywriters today?
Allea: That is a great question. I would say number one, I have a process that I follow. I’ve always loved systems and processes. Even at my last job, I worked in video production. I think I was six months into working there, and I said, “Here’s the thing, everything you’re doing is reactive. We need to make this proactive.” So I created a to-do list in Asana, which they still use today, and that was 2013. They’ve just modified it over time. Google Docs that they can just copy and use as templates. So that is what honestly has made my job so much easier. And because I serve the same type of clientele with the same type of service, I can duplicate those things because it’s not that I’m duplicating the project itself or the results of the project, I’m duplicating the process so that I have more time to be creative or to think more strategically and get more in zone with the client than worrying about creating a whole new process every time.
Rob: So, let’s get really granular with that. Walk us through your process and how you share it with your clients.
Allea: Sure. So I book a discovery call with new client leads. That form is just available on my website. I ask a handful of questions so I can make sure I know what their core issues are going into the call, and they book the call right away. And so in very few cases am I ever like, “No, maybe this isn’t worth my 20 minutes,” but for the most part it is. And it’s quick for them to be able to know that they have a time on the calendar with me. When we meet, I tell them about my two services. I never want to blindside someone with, I have this one service and then later I’m like, bam, and here’s my 5,000 plus service. So I tell them about my audit and I tell them about the Duett Debut. And I’ll explain that process too.
So the audit is when I come in and I compare what information they’ve shared with me through the new project questionnaire. It’s a little bit more in-depth. This especially comes from my advertising background, and that I’m such a clarifier. I want to know who is your audience? What do you hope for them? What are they asking you for? And when I ask them to, as a business owner, where are you looking to drive people? Do you have certain affiliate pages that you’re like, “Man, if only we had every subscriber getting to this page?”
So I ask all of those questions, and then I go through and actually look at all of their emails in their email service platform. So I look at the copy, I look at calls to action, I look at bullet points, subject lines, preview text, the cadence of the emails. But I also look at the technical setup. I’m like, “Your tags are a hot mess, can we talk about that? Can I make some recommendations for how to improve the nomenclature so that it’s easier to organize?” In a lot of places or in a lot of cases, clients come to me and they’re like, “Oh, I never thought about just renaming them.” They’re like, “I just created a tag because I needed one.”
So that’s the audit. And at the end of the audit, I will tell them, if we want to continue working together? These are the emails that we would write as part of the Duett Debut. If not, my goal is that they can take the audit and implement everything that I’ve just told them. So it’s definitely like you’re either in, or you’re not. Either way you have something of value. But I have heard it called…a paid proposal. So I get in there, I look around, I’m familiar with the product and their products and their audience, so I can give an informed recommendation for going forward.
Kira: Yeah. Let’s dig deeper into that too with the audit, before we talk about the Duett Debut. How much time does it typically take you? What do you charge for something like this? What tips would you give to a copywriter who’s maybe offering an audit for the first time and just needs some advice about how to do it well in the first or second time?
Allea: Great questions, Kira. So I started with an audit at $750, and now I charge 1,500. I actually raised my prices about five months ago because I had zero pushback on the cost. I think it was 1,200. Zero. And so I was like, “What happens if I just bump it up?” Still, no one says anything. Part of what makes the audits so valuable is … and you could communicate this with your clients, is that you are wanting to make sure you’re on the same page with them and what they want based on what they have and how their audience is already engaged with them. So what I do is I position it as, this is the first step for me working with anyone. I can’t just say this is the kind of sequence you need if I don’t know what you currently offer, your products, your long-term goals, how your audience is currently engaged with you, or if you have a cold list. The things that I would find out in an audit inform the rest of the process.
And you ask how long it takes. So I set it up as a two week little window of time. I have a start date, and by then is when I need all of the information from the client; the new project questionnaire, log into their ESP, any other supporting information. And then I spend, gosh, four to six hours pulling through everything. This is when I get to be the most creative. This is probably my favorite part of my job because I get to look and see, okay, there’s a gap here. If we did this, this could happen. Or there’s an opportunity here. Have you thought about doing a Tripwire? I’m not even just looking at the email content. It’s like, how do I make your life easier as a business owner?
For instance, I have one client, she has these free principles, but she said one of her most annoying things is that she gets questions all the time of how do I actually get in? Where do I put the passcode? And I was like, “Ashley, what if you just made a Loom video and included it in the same email where you share the freebie?” And she’s like, really? Little things like that, that actually make her life easier as a business owner too. It’s not even just about the copy.
Rob: For those clients that want to go on from the audit into the Debut, what happens next?
Allea: Well, I feel like I should say to the Duett Debut is, I call it that because I focus mostly on welcome and nurture sequences. So sometimes that includes sales emails, but I tell people it’s your debut, you’re rolling out the red carpet for new readers. So that’s what that’s for. But then moving into it, the next step is audience research. And this has looked a couple of different ways in the last year and some change in my business. Sometimes it’s hopping on a call with people. So if they have a really small audience, I’ll hop on a 15 minute phone call and ask them a few questions. But I have found it’s easier for my process to send out a survey to their list. Because I will work largely with bloggers, they have thousands of people, and so we get lots of responses. And so we kind of curate that.
I have a research assistant on call. She is new to being a VA, but she loves research, and I love that she loves it because I like it. And so we really get to hone in on what are the pain points? What are their desired outcomes? What are they looking for? So that’s where I pull all that information from. But I write those questions based on what I learned from the audit and what we want to learn about their audience in regards to certain products or services. And then I create the survey form on my own platform. And then I offer it to the client with a template email and say, “Hey, here’s how you can send it out to your list.” And I have them do that before their Duett Debut start date, because then that’s when I dig into the research for a little bit, the first phase.
Rob: And then is there more phases after that?
Allea: There are. I just didn’t want to get ahead of myself. So what I do, and I guess I didn’t mention this with the audit, but both the audit and the research portion, I produce a PDF of the results. And from there I record a walkthrough video using Loom, and I send that to the client before we meet. So they get a chance to take in the audit and then we sit and discuss and I go through any questions. Same thing goes with the research phase. They have a video explaining, these are all the pain points, these are testimonials that I saw that would be helpful for you or a treat for you. I had one lady, a testimonial was something like, “I wish I could just sit in your kitchen and just watch you work. I feel like it’s such a privilege that I get to read your emails.” And I’m crying behind my computer.
That’s the gems. Those are the gems that are fun to share with clients. But then when we meet for the research, I share my preliminary strategy. So this looks like a spreadsheet, and I explain what I would talk about in the first few emails, like what the welcome sequence focuses on, and then how I would either segment the nurture sequence or alternate information throughout a nurture sequence and what each of those emails would address individually. So, then we talk about that.
During that call, I also tee it up for them if they have any creative ideas that they’ve been stewing on. I love that though, because it means that creativity isn’t just on me, and that’s part of why my company is called Duett. Because I prefer to work in collaboration with people. So at this point I say, “Okay, client, here’s what we learned from the research. Here are some of my ideas, but what ideas do you have?” And so just recently a client goes … she’s a food blogger. She goes, “Yeah, I just think it would be fun to send out like a weekend menu to all of my list every Friday.” And then like brilliant. That’s a fantastic nurture sequence. So, then that gives us something to base our content strategy off of going forward.
So then that is, we go from research to developing the content strategy. And I say that because I feel like some … I don’t know if copywriters do this, people who call themselves copywriters. They just feel like they need to sit and write right away. I prefer to really outline what’s going to be in each email, not just the topic, but I go and I look for content that already exists on their copywriter website or popular emails that we determined through the audit that people love. I go and I pull that content into my copy doc. I just go mine for it. And then whatever questions I have, I compile them into a document and share those with the client.
In that document, I also include a handful of my boiler plate questions for a welcome sequence; why do you do what you do? What’s the transformation you want readers to experience? So I call that copy coaching. It gives me more language that sounds like them that I can pull straight into the copy.
Kira: And then the final phase, you’re writing in the emails and creating the deliverable. Or do you want to talk about that one?
Allea: Yeah. So then copy writing, it’s pretty straightforward. I will write it. I’ll send it to the client to edit and maybe do two revisions. And then my actual final stage, I go and I put it in their ESP for them.
So I set up the tags, I set up the automations and I run all of the emails by them before turning it on live, and then it’s on. And so that gives me a lot of, what do I want to say? Leverage as a copywriter, because the copy is now out in the world. And then I give myself a 30 day mark to go in and look and see how things performed. So that’s the whole gamut. That’s the whole Duett Debut.
Kira: I love it. So yeah, I like how you’re controlling. I mean controlling in a good way, the process so that you can turn it on and get some results and get a great testimonial too. So just kind of digging into the weeds here, how many emails are you typically outlining and then writing for this type of package? And then what does the timing look like for this package? What does the pricing look like for this package?
Allea: Yes. So the Duett Debut, right now I have a price is $5,200 and it’s an eight week process from start to finish. And sometimes it goes a little longer. Like right now I have a bunch of clients that are still kind of lingering from earlier this year, which I’m kind of okay with because I’m just kind of working on other things simultaneously. I just don’t want all of them expecting them to be done at the same time. And in the welcome sequence, I do up to 15 emails. And I like to keep it between two sequences, two or three. I kind of use that vaguely. I mostly don’t want people coming in and saying, “Can you write two different sales sequences for two different products for me?” Because that’s when you require different research. So I would need to do the process individually for both of those.
Rob: And how many clients are you working with at one time?
Allea: Anywhere from seven to 10. Two of those being retainer clients, and then they’re all working through different phases at the same time. Ideally it would be more like five to seven, but like I mentioned, some of those are taking longer to execute.
Rob: Yeah. I was going to say seven to 10. Now I need to ask, how do you balance all of that? How do you schedule your time so that you can keep 10 different clients happy at the same time?
Allea: Yeah. Some of those clients are basically dormant right now. Like I have one who’s a pediatrician, he’s like, “Bye, COVID.” And I’m like, “See you in a month. I think we’ll touch base then.” So they are all super active at the same time. But I time block. That’s huge for me. I just put it on my calendar so I know what my three priorities are for the next week, and I blocked them off. So yeah. And I can tell you all about my CEO check-In, that’s one of my productivity hacks but I didn’t know if you want to talk about it yet.
Kira: Yeah, definitely. I want to talk about it, all the hacks because I need all the productivity hacks. But before that, let’s talk about welcome sequences. And you talked about your packages, but I don’t specialize in welcome sequences. I’d love to hear from you what you’re thinking about strategically as you’re figuring out the sequence and what you should cover in each one. I mean, we don’t have to talk through what you’re covering in 15 emails or even seven emails, but how are you approaching that and thinking through it?
Allea: Yeah. So my framework, I usually have three or four emails in a welcome sequence, sometimes longer. If that’s all you have, if you don’t have a nurture sequence, you just kind of tag on a nurture email there at the end, a little buffer, a little extra something. But in the welcome sequence, I open up with identifying where the person’s coming from, identify with their struggle, identify with their need or their desired outcome and say, “If this is what you’re looking for, you’re in the right place.” A little winky face. And so that sounds different for each client.
In there too, we also have the best practices of safe listing, add me to your primary inbox or save my email address. Things like that. Setting expectations for what emails are coming. So not just an open loop, but saying, “On Mondays, you’ll get my hot and fresh recipe of the week,” or something like that. So, kind of building that expectation in so they’re not surprised when they get another email from you in a couple of days.
And then I also use the welcome sequence as a time to segment their list. So this is something that the research and the content strategy we are really digging into, how can we serve different segments of your audience differently if they need that in order to take action? So this is when I use link triggers, and we ask the audience to engage and click, which one are you or which of these things is most interesting to you? And that will determine what we share with them in a nurture sequence or in sales content down the road.
Rob: I’d love to get even more granular on how you do that list segmentation. Are there basic categories that you’re looking at or does it differ drastically from client to client?
Allea: It pretty much differs from client to client. So it’s kind of at the starting blank slate every client. But for instance, with one of my clients, they serve … they’re educators. So it’s saying, are you in this phase of your journey, this one or this one? And just telling the reader, that is going to help me determine what to send you next. Because if you’ve already say, started a blog, you don’t need content on where to buy your domain. We’re serving them better by not sending them just content that’s not applicable to them and where they’re at.
Rob: Yeah, totally makes sense. Okay. So we teased the CEO check-in, can we come back to that as a productivity tool? How does that help you, and what does that involve?
Allea: So my weekly CEO check-in, I created it in Notion because I’m also a tool hack person, but I honestly, I pay for Notion just to have my CEO check-in in a way that I have a template that I pull from, so I can go in and edit the template so it’s different the next week if I need to make tweaks. I was trying to keep it in Google Docs and that gets really annoying to copy and paste a bunch of stuff there. But what I do is I have … the first portion of it is pretty narrative based. How am I feeling this week? Or it helps me align with what my goal is for the year. My word for 2020 is enhance. I don’t have to become the best writer, I need to become a better writer. I don’t need to have my blog posts read by everyone, but I’d like them to be read by more people. How do I do that? Do I get on Pinterest? Do I improve SEO? What are those things?
So one of the questions is, your word for the year is enhance. Allea, what did you do this week to help enhance anything? And just giving myself space to write through that narrative. What accomplishments do I need to celebrate? I am terrible at celebrating anything. I don’t know if it’s the Midwest daughter in me that’s just like, no, no, no. Don’t make a big deal about anything. But giving myself space to say, “Hey, I was on so and so’s podcast.” Or, “Hey, I had a client tell me that she loved my process.” Just gives me a space to reflect on that and give it a pause.
And then another section of the CEO check-in is to look at my project review. So one of the tasks is, I go into Asana and go through every client. So what I do is I go in and I check off any tasks that are complete. I rearrange due dates, or I assign them to my VA. And I do that for each of my projects. And then back in Notion, the question is, what are the three client projects you’re focusing on next week? What’s the one internal project you’re focusing on next week? And then the next task is, go put that in your calendar, go time block that. And then from there, if I have any questions for my business coach, my accountant or my VA, I make a list in there and then I go create tasks in Asana for anything that came up or I shoot a message to my business coach or an email to my accountant. It’s like cleaning house every week.
Kira: Sounds amazing. Are you doing this on Mondays?
Allea: I do this on Fridays.
Kira: Fridays. Okay.
Allea: Sometimes I’ll go sit at a coffee shop and buy myself a vanilla latte. I’m super frugal. I’m a black coffee girl, because it’s $2.50, but I’ll spend the $5 on a vanilla lactate to kind of make a fuss of this for myself to say, “Hey, you are checking in, you’re getting a high level look at your business.” I mean, there’s everything in there like what standard operating procedures need updated. I am really thinking from a high level, what will make my business run more smoothly in the next week or two?
Kira: I love that. Let’s just shift gears a little bit and talk about the hard stuff, because I think you’ve done so many things right and well, and you’re approaching your business in such a smart way. But let’s talk about the dark side and what you have struggled with as you’ve been building your business, even maybe more recently. What is hard for you? What are you working through now, or what did you work through over the past few years?
Allea: Yeah. So two years in the business. I was reflecting just the other day, a year ago I brought in maybe $4,000 and now I’m bringing in like an average of 10,000 a month. So a lot of the things that came into play for that was deciding to invest in my business, which feels like a struggle. You’re like, do I just throw money at the problem? Is that actually going to fix it? And especially when I was struggling with, but I’m not a writer so why would people pay me?
Another big problem that I had was, gosh, thinking of welcome and nurture sequences, compared to what I see other copywriters developing doesn’t feel as sexy. It doesn’t feel like you can charge a lot of money for it, but it’s just a welcome email. It’s just nurture content. That’s what was going through my mind, and thank goodness for my business coach. She really encouraged me to find what that value is for people. So I’ve found statistics that talk about list retention, and then with my background in blogging, be able to say, “Hey, blogger for the 2,000 new subscribers you get every month, what if 50% of those were going to this high converting affiliate page, what does that do for your business?” So that’s where some of the mindset shift needed to happen.
Rob: And you did mention that you were investing in your business, and obviously you’ve got a business coach. I know that you’ve invested in a couple of events because we met you at our event this past March. What else? Where else have you invested in your business and where do you put that investment money?
Allea: So my first major investment, when I started my business, August, 2019, I signed up for Val Geisler’s Incubator, her Email Marketing Masters Incubator in November. I paid $5,000 for that. And it was super valuable to me, especially because I didn’t have really any business set up. And so I got to learn from Val and her process, modify it to make it my own. So many of the other people in that incubator are friends of mine, so we have Slack channels. I have people that if I have questions or if I have referrals, I have a community to do that, which is priceless. But I would say especially Val’s process. So she’s the one where I learned about doing an audit, and I learned about the process itself. And then of course I just super-sized it with my own template madness.
But yeah, that was a huge one, going to TCC IRL. Going to conferences even before I was making money as a hobby blogger, I was learning about SEO, I was learning how to write better blog posts and making connections and getting on podcasts. And yeah, I laugh because my blog was costing me money. I made no money on my blog, and I was paying for ConvertKit $30 a month three years ago.
Honestly, it’s kind of full circle. At the time I paid for it because there was no other service that would automatically send a welcome email. I kid you not. It has taken me this long to land on doing welcome and nurture sequences up until a year ago. But that’s why I was paying for ConvertKit because I didn’t want somebody who was downloading something from my website not hear from me right away. And up until I closed down my blog, I was still getting email replies to my welcome sequence. People who are confessing their money woes on me. So that’s also been part of what’s reinforced what I value about welcome and nurture content. Even if it is automated, it can still reach people where they’re at.
Kira: Yeah. I’m wondering what advice you’d give to someone listening who may feel a similar way to how you felt before, when you said I’m not a writer or like we all have our idea. I think that’s how I felt early on too, of who a copywriter is or sounds like, or how they write. So what would you say to that person who maybe isn’t fully owning that ability to write, even though they can do it? What advice would you give to them?
Allea: I would say that I’m part way through the process to being a really confident and stellar writer. And I think what has contributed to me moving along that timeline is having patience with yourself, but continually learning. You’re not going to learn it all overnight.
I will tell you guys a year ago, towards the end of June, I told my friends, I have decided I will focus on welcome and nurture sequences. I wasn’t going to focus on webinars. I wasn’t going to focus on SAS. I was like, “I’m just going to write welcome and nurture sequences.” And within a week, one of my friends and a peer said something about what should be in every welcome sequence. She mentioned pain points. She goes, “Well, of course you’re addressing their pain points in the first email.” And I was like, “What? I didn’t know you were supposed to do that.”
I had a straight up panic attack. I was like, “I’ve just committed to myself that this is what I was going to focus on, and I didn’t even the basics. I didn’t even know what pain points were, to be honest with you.” I think I missed that part of Val’s lesson. I was concerned by other things, but yeah, I had like a full on panic attack. I felt frozen for like 30 minutes and I just had to call it a day. I was like, “No work is getting done.” So that’s a real feeling. And I think it’s been just a commitment ever since then asking questions. Like I asked my friends, “Hey, I’ve developed these survey questions. Do you think I’m getting to the right heart of the issue? Or can you explain jobs to be done? Can you explain what friction or objections or can you help me …”
So part of it is asking questions and using what resources you can. And I say that because once you have … I’m telling myself this, once I have those skills and I know the framework of what makes copy awesome and strategy awesome, I think that will give me more freedom to be a more creative writer once I feel like I have these structural things in place as far as how I’m thinking about email or how I’m thinking about copy. I think I’ll just free up some brain space once I’m implementing that for a while.
Rob: So it seems Allea like a lot of this stuff is mindset, and that you’ve made some mindset shifts. It’s less about ability and certainly not an understanding of the strategy behind things, but yeah, mindset. Will you talk a little bit about how you’ve changed mindset, maybe what you’ve done to move yourself from blogger, not making any money to the success that you are having today. What did you have to change in order to get there?
Allea: Oh, Rob, that’s a great question. I think what’s kept me going is knowing that even if I’m not the best, I’m good at some of this. I wasn’t trying to puff up my feathers and be like, I know how to build a website when I have no idea. It’s like, I know how to write. I know how to communicate. It might not be the most flavorful. It might not be somebody’s in particular their favorite flavor, but I know that I can communicate things clearly. I think part of it too is I could always rest on my laurels a little bit. I could always lean back and say, “If I needed to just do email implementation, I could, but that would get really boring after a while.”
So I would kind of turn it into a learning opportunity of like, instead of feeling like I needed to learn all of it at once, it’s like, how do I learn just a bit more about this to feel a little bit more confident to serve my clients better? And I used to be an information junkie. Especially when I was a blogger, I would follow, I don’t know, I had four or five bloggers or online business teachers that I would consume everything that they sent out. But this year I told myself, the only content I am consuming is that which is actually related to becoming a better copywriter.
I know how to do a lot of things running a business, and I’ve proven that, and it works; my sales process works, my workflows work, training my VA, got a pretty good handle on that. But I told myself 2020 was going to be the year that I became a better copywriter. And just allowing myself to focus on that has been really helpful.
Kira: Other than your CEO check-in what else do you do? And then clearly you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people; having the VA, a coach, having a support network and your community. But what else do you do actively to avoid burnout especially since you mentioned you have seven to 10 clients at any given time? We know how that goes. It can be very painful at times. How do you stay energized by your work and avoid that burnout? What are you doing each week, each month to do that?
Allea: Yeah. Man, I love my clients, but I really love my process. So five to seven sounds like a lot of clients, but let’s see, how do I break this down? So when I first started, and this is just the life of being somebody who just starts a business, when people are like, “Can I hire you for this?” And you just go, “Yeah, I’ll start on Monday,” but with everything. And so it all starts on Monday and then you’re just swamped.
So one of the ways that I have helped alleviate that or that I tend to carry this internal burden of helping people as soon as I can … One of the mindset things, back to your question, Rob, was it’s okay for people to pay me in advance for work that I won’t do for a month or two. I had to get over that. I was like, “Why would they pay me? I can’t even get to it until January.” And it’s just like, well, you’re going to have to get over it because people want to book your spot. So what I’ve done, for starters, I have my two services. I don’t get overly complicated. One takes two weeks. One takes eight weeks.
What I’ve done is I’ve created a spreadsheet, and on the left-hand column is the first Monday of every week for the whole year. And then I’ve created other columns for three Duett Debuts columns wide, and then two for audits. And what I’ve done is I’ve taken just the colored spots of eight slots, and I just drop them in there with different start dates. So I’m starting a new Duett Debut when one ends. So, I’m really only supposed to be managing three Duett Debuts at a time and two audits a month.
But what that does is it books out my calendar so that I know that I have work to do, which is just an awesome feeling. So I’m booked out from now. It’s June, my next Duett Debut is September, but I also have some audit spots available June and July. So I can just go, and I look at that and I know what my availability is. And secondarily, that also helps me in the sales process. So I can tell people, “Well, I’m booked up through August. If you want my September spot, I just need to hear back from you in a few days. I’ll hold it for you until Monday.” But honestly, my clients, especially after the audit, they book within 30 minutes to book their next spot, but it builds in this healthy scarcity. Because it’s true scarcity. I’m not just pretending. It’s like, no, I really do have a spot in September otherwise you’d have to wait until October.
Kira: So, I wanted to ask about working with your VA. You mentioned that you had this VA. It sounds like you’ve got a system set up. This is where a lot of copywriters struggle. It’s just like they get the VA, but something isn’t right or for whatever reason, they just can’t get that working relationship working for their business and not against their business. So can you just talk about how you’ve found your VA, and how you’ve structured that relationship, and your advice around how to best approach it so that it is a successful relationship and part of your business.
Allea: Oh, I feel like we could have an entire podcast just about this Kira.
Kira: I know. This is like a training.
Allea: Yeah. So it’s a learning curve for you and your VA. So that’s something to keep in mind. You’re not going to nail it out of the park on the first try. And then before I get really into our working relationship, I will say my first VA was my best friend who has a full-time job. I would come back from a conference and I would just hand her a bag of business cards and say, “Can you put these into [Apsato 00:40:05]? Can you put these into a spreadsheet?” It started with little things, and I think that’s how you learn too. So with that, and with my current VA, I record a lot of Loom videos. I have an SOP, standard operating procedures folder in Loom. It’s probably over two hours worth of content, but it’s just walkthroughs where watch me as I do this. This is how I would format a presentation, and they just watch and listen.
I had another VA between December and March and that relationship didn’t work out. And that was something that I was really grateful to my community for because it was essentially that the learning curve was too steep for her. Because I work fast, because I use a lot of tools, I really needed somebody who could match my pace. And so it wasn’t because she didn’t like my business. In fact, she loved helping me and I liked her a lot, but I just had to say, “Hey sweetheart, I’m so sorry, but the skills that I need, and as we’ve worked together for the last three months, I’ve realized I need to find somebody who has these skill sets already, and I can’t take this much time to train you.”
So my current virtual assistant, I found her through Rock Solid Assistants. They do an intake process. You meet with the owner, she learns about your needs as a business owner, and then they match you up with someone. And what was cool about that is that I know that they have done their due diligence to put people on their roster of VAs who are good at what they do. Plus I know that Rock Solid provides training for them so that I don’t have to. So they have access to different courses or materials, which is awesome. So I also know that I’m hiring somebody who has, what I would say, an interest in learning more. Because that’s how I’m wired too.
And so now with my VA, we meet every Monday for about 20 to 30 minutes. I spend the Friday before going through all of the tasks and figuring out what do I want her to focus on on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday? Because I hire her for five hours a week, she’s usually done by Wednesday end of day, because I do all my client work at the beginning of the week. And so it’s really front heavy.
So we meet and then I have a tag in Asana for things that are high priority, they get a bright orange tag. But we’re oftentimes touching base about, okay, how many hours do you have left? Let me help you prioritize what’s left on your list. Because I know that I only have her for so many hours a week, and as much as I could have … I could hire her for 10 hours a week and totally fill that fishbowl. The bigger the fishbowl, the bigger the fish or whatnot. But my goal is to really run a lean operation. Sometimes that means I have client tasks for her to go on Monday, of course I would love to have her get it done this week, but I’m okay with waiting because it doesn’t cost me near as much.
Rob: I should be a lot better with the Vas you’ve worked with. Oftentimes I guess I don’t direct them quite as well as you do, so lots for me to learn here for sure. So I want to switch our conversation a little bit. I mean, Kira mentioned that a lot of copywriters struggle with VAs. Another thing that a lot of copywriters struggle with is managing an email list and getting emails out at all. And so I wonder Allea, if you have some advice for copywriters who have either struggled to grow their list or to email their list. What are just the very basics that they absolutely should set up, should have going out, even if they can’t email as often as they want?
Allea: Yes. Did you know that I’m working on content aligned with this? There’s a plaque on the wall.
Rob: No, I didn’t but let’s talk about it.
Allea: Yeah. So what I have learned in the last few months is that my clients, the people who pay me thousands of dollars and people that are on my email list who pay me $0, one common thing that they have a problem with is sending emails consistently. So it’s been like the sweet spot, then I’m like, “Well, I can help you with that because I’m a process geek.”
So I would say first and foremost, let’s see, you don’t have to … I just wrote about this in an email that’ll go out in a couple of weeks. But I’m like, I need you building the castle all the way around. I can’t have you just building one turret. So if you focus all of your attention on lead gen, but you have nothing set up as far as how to actually email them consistently, that’s like a lopsided castle. I don’t know why I chose castle, it’s a fun metaphor.
But I would rather have them create one opportunity for an opt-in, create a one email welcome sequence, work a little bit on traffic, do a little bit of it all at once, create a baseline and then you can improve each of those things. So then you can create a three email welcome sequence where you start segmenting. So I would say that’s the baseline for what you need. And I have a blog post on my one email welcome sequence. It’s simply, hi, I’m introducing myself. If you’re here, you probably struggle with this. Great, I’m here to help you, and this is how I help people like you. Here’s helpful content. Done. There is one email.
You don’t have to create an Amy Porterfield level welcome nurture funnel when you’re just getting started. But then as far as building it out consistently, what I do, I have a content bank set up an Airtable, and I actually have a copy of it, a template that I make available on my website. But from there I have a content bank and then I have another tab in there that’s just every Tuesday, the date along the left hand side. And then I list out the themes, just kind of the same five themes over and over again that I write about, and then I assign which one I’m going to write which week.
So that helps me sit down with a blank document, and know exactly what I’m going to write about. It frees up that brain space. You did all of your creative thinking at one time where you keep a base for it. And then from there I take that content and I turn it into my nurture content. So the same content I sent out in October is getting sent out to new readers right now through an endless broadcast. So it also takes some of the pressure off of me if I need to take a week off, I know that most of my readers are going to hear from me from one of those emails that I’ve already sent out to my list.
Kira: I just love how your brain works, and that you just kind of figure out the process behind everything and hit go. And I wish I had more of that in my brain, the processizing piece of it. I think it’s just really incredible and has shown in your business growth. So to just kind of change subjects here, we mentioned that you were at our event, we got to meet you at the event. Can you just talk a little bit about your experience at TCC in real life. We’re hoping that we can have it in 2021. So we’re hoping it’s still on, but for anyone listening who hasn’t been able to attend and may think about attending, can you share your experience?
Allea: Yes. So I actually went in 2019 when it was in Brooklyn, and that was at the end of Val Geisler’s Incubator. And let me remind you, I still did not call myself a copywriter. I was like, “I don’t know why I’m here. I just like making friends.”
Kira: Yeah, we didn’t know. We thought you were a copywriter. We had no idea.
Allea: I fooled everyone. I didn’t even know. But yeah. And so even all through Val’s program too, my peers were like, “Girl, you’re a copywriter.” And like I said, it wasn’t until nine months later that I really believed it. So the first year I just went and, I mean, it was so refreshing to hear people in my industry talking about how to run their businesses, because I feel like that part of it because I didn’t call myself a copywriter, I wasn’t part of copywriting groups. I didn’t know the Underground existed. I didn’t know about the Accelerator. I didn’t even know that there could be a uniform type way of running your business as a copywriter that other people have seen success that way.
I think I felt kind of like a silo on that front. Like I said, I spent months and years watching a lot of how to run a blog, content marketing, things like that, but the actual running of the business was kind of just on my own. I kind of just guessed or went with intuition or asked around. But then this year, and I would say last year as well, 2019 and 2020. I mean, for me it’s always community. I’m a connector so I like knowing that if somebody comes to me with a lead, and I am either booked or it’s not in my wheelhouse, that I have somebody to direct them to. So that’s awesome.
But I’ve also been able to copyright or subcontract for other copywriters. So people who have bigger teams and they just need somebody who can come in and do research and strategy, I’m your girl. I’ll turn it off to you to keep writing, but if you need direction, I’ll get you the baseline to be able to jump off of. So that has been a relationship that formed through TCC IRL. And so, yeah, I love connecting and getting to know other people and peers.
Rob: So, you mentioned you were working on content around some of the emails or the things that we should be doing, but what’s next for you in your business? What are you building right now, and what can we look forward to seeing from you in the next few months?
Allea: So, what I’m working on right now, as of literally yesterday, I am working on developing an intensive. So kind of a middle ground package. It’s not the audit, it would come after the audit. But it would kind of be in lieu of doing the whole Duett Debut process. That being said, it would really only be for people who have a super tight deadline, and they’re willing to write their own emails. But what I’d be able to do is essentially do data mining for audience research on my own, and then develop a preliminary strategy and deliver it like I normally would in the Duett Debut, give it to the client for a few days to sit on, and then we hop on a call, discuss it, and then I’d refine that process for them. So that means that they would know exactly what emails they would need to write in the sequence, and that it’s based on actual data.
So a lot of times people are like, “Well, this is what I think I went for strategy.” Even then they’re not entirely sure what the email should be about, but with the way that I’ve done things, all of that data, it makes it really clear what those emails should be about, what the pain points are, what their objections are, what opportunities we can inspire them with aligning with their desired outcomes and what not. So that’s what I’m hoping to do is develop that as an intensive. So anybody who completed an audit would be able to sign up for that.
Because I know that I’ve had a few clients … I think I met two or three client leads now that I’ve turned down because the schedule doesn’t work for them to wait for the Duett Debut. So this is kind of my solution to that.
Kira: All right. So my final question is what does the future of copywriting look like to you?
Allea: I think having more audience research that informs the narrative of our content is what I would like to see more of. So I think it just bears repeating. So the data, the voices and the language that people are using. So for instance, I had a client after I did the research and presented it back to them they go, “So you’re saying people just want easy recipes that taste good with food they already have?” And I was like, mm-hmm (affirmative). Sometimes we make things too complicated when in reality if you ask your audience, you might be surprised you have everything that you already need to really nurture that relationship.
Kira: All right. So for our listeners, where can they go if they want to connect with you or find out more about your packages? Where should they go?
Allea: So, the best place to find me would be on my website. It’s Duett.co D-U-E-T-T.co. And from there you can get on my email list. I have a few different opt-ins if anything really strikes your eye or is an interest to you. I do have available that Airtable template if you’d like to make a copy of that for yourself. But I tell people the best way to get in touch with me is to reply back to any of my emails. I read them all, and that to me is a really fun way to build authentic in-person relationships over the internet.
Kira: Yeah. I think we all want to jump on your list just to see your welcome sequence and see how you structure it. So I’m going to jump on your list for sure.
Allea: Glad to have you.
Rob: Thanks Allea for coming on the show and sharing everything that you did. You’ve given me a couple of things to think about, which I appreciate and thanks for all that you’ve shared.
Kira: Thank you, Allea.
Allea: Thank you.
Rob: You’ve been listening to the Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive available on 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.