TCC Podcast #389: Building a Copy Business Slowly with Kim Kiel - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #389: Building a Copy Business Slowly with Kim Kiel

You’ve heard the saying: slow and steady wins the race. Well, that’s exactly the approach our guest for the 389th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast built her business. Today we’re talking with copywriter Kim Kiel about getting better month and month, and year after year—and not getting caught up in the hustle. And we covered a lot more. You’ll want to tune in for this one. Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.

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The Copywriter Underground

Full Transcript:

Rob Marsh: I love stories about copywriters and other freelancers who find amazing success right out of the gate. They’re working with great, high-paying clients on big assignments almost from day one. Those stories illustrate what’s possible to those of us who are just beginning the journey. But, those are the exceptions that prove the rule. Very few copywriters hit a home run on their first at bat, or even their second or third. For them, slow and steady wins the race.

Hi, I’m Rob Marsh, one of the founders of The Copywriter Club. And on today’s episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, my co-founder, Kira Hug, and I interviewed copywriter and brand voice expert Kim Kiel. Kim’s business growth is the perfect example of the slow and steady copywriter business—getting a bit better every year by charging a bit more, upleveling clients as she gained experience and not getting caught up in the rush to hustle. We talked to Kim about that as well as her unicorn client, her take on the nine word email and why she always follows up every pitch.

But before we get to that, if you’ve been listening to this podcast for long, you’ve no doubt noticed a recurring theme… how do copywriters and content writers find clients TODAY. Shortly after we launched The Copywriter Club, we created a special report with a bunch of ideas for finding clients and shared it with the world. I recently took a week to rework and revise that report… it now includes more than 21 different ideas for finding clients… some of which you can use today and possibly attract a client in the next 24 hours. Some of the other ideas will take longer to bring in clients. But they all work. We’ve either used them ourselves, or know other successful copywriters who have used each one of these ideas. And we want to give you this report for free. This isn’t a one page pdf that will get lost in your downloads folder. It’s comprehensive… 36 idea filled pages… including the 4 mistakes you can’t afford to make when looking for clients—if you make them, clients will not work with you. It also includes more than 21 ways to find clients, several templates for reaching out to clients, and finally the five things you need to do to improve your odds of landing a client. If you want a copy of this report, visit — find a client is all one word.

And with that, let’s go to our interview with Kim.

Kira Hug: All right, Kim, let’s kick off with your story. How did you end up as a copywriter?

Kim Kiel: Well, uh, I got us to tell you, I’m having kind of like a full circle moment because it was about five or six years ago that I was in my kitchen, you know, but bubbling around doing whatever I had to do and listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast and hearing Joel Kletcke, Tarzan Kay, early Justin Blackman talking about this field of copywriting and how they had some really good successes. And it was right around that time that I was needing to find another way to work because I had a day job. In the nonprofit sector, I worked in charity for a couple of decades as a fundraiser, fundraising copywriter, front line communications. And that sort of daily commute and the schedule with the kids, school schedules wasn’t working anymore. And so I needed to make a shift. And so I discovered the Copywriter Club at the same time as I kind of discovered this whole online world of business. The people I heard speaking on your podcast gave me a lot of hope and possibility. And for me to be sitting here now recording on this podcast, like I feel like I’ve made it, like I’m having my little Sally Field moment. So that’s sort of a very…

Rob Marsh: It’s really nice of you to say, and it’s just really gratifying to hear that. Like, you’re not the first person to say it. It makes us feel good. So thank you for saying that, even though you didn’t have to.

Kim Kiel: Well, it’s 100% true.

Rob Marsh: Okay, well, yeah, let’s talk about how you took that early desire and turned it into a functioning business.

Kim Kiel: Sure. So after I discovered this whole online world of business and I discovered the field of copywriting, which I had already been doing, but I didn’t know that’s what you called it. Then I decided to go all in on it and I quit my day job and my first client was actually that employer. So that was sort of how I made the shift from working a day job into becoming a freelancer and becoming self-employed. And as I opened up more time in my calendar, I leveraged some of my older relationships, they would hire me to do smaller projects. And then I joined some different communities. 

So I joined Copy School. I joined your community, The Copywriter Underground. I joined B-School. And in there, I found all these other online entrepreneurs who are doing stuff. And I both used them for inspiration, but also many of them became my clients. And so when I was in those other communities learning about online business, joining masterminds, those other women would actually hire me to write for them because I was one of the only copywriters in the group. But even though I had like a decade and a half of experience writing, I still had so much self doubt, still questioned whether I could actually do this thing called copywriting. So joining some of the copywriter programs really gave me the confidence that I needed and maybe a little badge to make me feel like, okay, yeah, I can do this. And made me feel more comfortable when people would come to me. I could speak confidently that I knew what I was talking about.

Kira Hug: Okay, so many questions for you. Let’s start with leveraging older relationships, which seems obvious, but that’s something I feel like is still untapped for many of us. I even feel like it’s untapped for me. I have a lot of relationships, and how often am I going back and leveraging or warming them up? What does that look like for you, and what does it look like today if it’s changed?

Kim Kiel: Yeah, so I still generally have a long follow-up game. In the beginning, it was sort of reaching out to my personal networks and saying, hey, I’m quitting my job. I’m becoming a copywriter. This is what a copywriter is, because nobody at that time knew what a copywriter was. AI has kind of changed that a bit. And as I reached out to those people, they would know people, and they’d be able to make referrals to me. I got a lot of referrals from people within the copywriting community who would throw me the odd contract, and even if I didn’t land it right away, I would still follow up a couple weeks later, a couple months later, even a year later, just kind of like a, hey, how’s it going? And that is something that I still do today with my past clients and with people who I’ve had sales calls like a year and a half ago, they will come back. And it’s that sort of constantly staying on their radar that I think has really helped me to get repeat business and to get additional referrals because as they are going about their business, they see your name pop up in the inbox and they know somebody in their community is looking for a copywriter. They will connect me to that person. So it’s that sort of gentle, hey, how’s it going, thinking about you, and it always seems to work out.

Rob Marsh: And like Kira said, I think this is really untapped for a lot of us. And so I kind of want to probe here just a little bit. As you were going out on your own, that first, your former employer that became your client, what did that conversation look like? And I’m almost asking you here for a script, because I’m thinking there have got to be other people listening who are thinking, well, I could turn my employer into my first client if I went out. So tell us. How did you approach your boss or whoever you needed to talk to and what did that conversation sound like?

Kim Kiel: Well, I guess I was pretty lucky because they didn’t want to lose me. I had to quit to accommodate my family’s needs at the time. And they said, how can we keep you? What can we do to keep you? And I was able to then create a smaller package or carved off a part of my job that I really liked and I knew I could do remotely. And I said, well, how about I just manage all the grants, the grant fundraising grants, as opposed to doing all of the other fundraising that I was doing at the time. And so by saying like, I can do this portion for you, and I’ll just slot right in, I’ll keep working on it. And it was attractive to them because A, they had already known me, they knew how well I worked, they knew I would be able to deliver. And so it was honestly an easy yes for them. If I were to do it again, I, I have made similar pitches to employers in the past, like say where I wanted to move and work remotely. This was pre-pandemic, like 10, 15 years ago. But it’s still coming to them with a solution fully mapped out and say, these are the things that I’m going to do for you. This is what it’s going to cost. I can work remotely. I can do this totally independent. And I’ll just keep this going for you. So I think it’s identifying a need and showing how you can just slot right into their team without it being more headache and more money for them.

Kira Hug: Yeah, I think that’s the key is the solution piece, like whether it’s a warm relationship or cold relationship, it’s like come to the table with a solution rather than just targeting the problem. You mentioned self-doubt, fear, you know, that’s something we can all relate to, and it creeps up at different times. Like for you, you had all this experience, but it still crept up because you were going into a new business. I think for copywriters, it can creep up at different stages in their business. So what else could help you, knowing, what else helped you or maybe even helps you now beyond the courses? Because I agree, like courses, education, getting that badge does matter, but what else has helped you?

Kim Kiel: Uh, it is, it’s a constant battle. I still like on the weekly have like, Oh my gosh, I should burn down my business. Nobody loves me. Oh, look at so-and-so their podcast has so many more downloads than I do. Look at, they’re getting all these accolades. And I’m like here, just like chugging along quietly in the background and filled with self-doubt. When I have those moments of self-doubt, I reach out to my, like my squad. Like I have some Voxer friends who I’m like, guys, I’m, I’m spiraling. I feel like crap and they’ll come in and they’ll be like, no, you’re good. You’re awesome. And it’s like just having that hype squad is so helpful. And then also having, you know, I’m part of some more intimate business masterminds and having a coach who’s able to see what you’ve accomplished over the last year and remind you Well, didn’t you just land that sales? Didn’t you just land that client? Didn’t that client have an amazing launch? Like they’re able to reflect back to me what I maybe can’t see for the moment. So it’s a constant practice, but I think it’s really having other people around you to help cheerlead you on and make you feel less alone. I think that’s a big part of it.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, I love that. That’s something that we’ve seen. Like you mentioned the underground earlier, we’ve seen that in our groups and our mastermind. And even sometimes just having Kira there to say, hey, yeah, that was actually pretty good or vice versa.

Kira Hug: I thought I brought you down. I didn’t think I brought you up.

Rob Marsh: You didn’t bring me up. It was interesting. We had a sales page that we used for a promotion a week or two ago, and somebody emailed saying, this is the best sales page ever written. Actually, they posted on LinkedIn. And Kira wrote it. I’m like, that kind of stuff is awesome. So maybe this is an opportunity to encourage everybody who’s listening to reach out to somebody who you admire, who you think is doing a great job, and just say, you’re fantastic, and you’re killing it. Because you’re right. I think a lot of us feel like we’re not killing it day to day. or even making it sometimes, and that can be hard.

Kim Kiel: Mm-hmm. And I’m pretty lucky. I have a very super tiny email list, but there’s a few people on there who are copywriters and pretty well-known copywriters. And they will often reach out and say, this was a great email. You know, yours are the only emails that I read. And I get a lot of emails. And so hearing that from people who I admire and highly respect is super gratifying. And I guess sometimes I just have to remind myself that, oh, yeah, I’m actually OK at this thing.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, I love those emails are amazing when they come in. Okay, so I want to also ask you, while we’re talking about this, you know, the hype squad, whatever, you mentioned that you often get referrals from copywriters, maybe it’s not often, but you do get these referrals. And there’s so much follow up. Let’s talk a little bit about that follow up game. Because again, this is another place where I think it’s really easy to get discouraged. Obviously, we don’t want to be spamming people who are not interested in our businesses and in getting help from us. But there is a lot of power in following up and being there at the right time. So let’s go a little deeper there too.

Kim Kiel: Sure. What really changed my perspective on follow-up was, I don’t even remember where I was or where she shared it, but Denise Duffield Thomas, the money coach, she shared one time that her team doesn’t even respond to pitches or to potential prospective clients unless they have followed up two or three times to show that they’re actually interested in working with them. And so when I heard her say that, you know, the bar for actually getting an interview with us is that you have to follow up two or three times, like that totally changed my perspective. It made me feel like, OK, well, I’m going to do that. And so often people will book a call with me. I’ll have that call. Maybe it won’t be a right fit at that time. Maybe they’ll decide to go with someone a little bit cheaper. And I will still, in about a month after that, send an email. Hey, I was just thinking about you. I’m looking at my calendar. Do you have any copywriting needs? If you do, give me a shout. It’s happened so often where people have chosen someone else and then months, even a year later, they’ll come to me and it’s just that sort of, it’s an inoffensive gentle nudge. It’s almost like I send that nine word email every so often just to kind of touch base and it’s a friendly hey, it’s not like a hard pitch. It’s just, I’m thinking about you. We had that sales call. Do you still need help? Did you get it all sorted out? It’s really coming from a place of service and it’s really served me in the long run. People who I’ve followed up with will come back to me a year, a year and a half, even two years, two years after that initial sales call.

Kira Hug: Yeah. And sometimes it’s still, it’s a long game. Yeah, very long. And it’s not a matter of them hiring someone else. Sometimes it is. Sometimes they decide not to hire anyone and just kind of sit with the problem longer. And then a year later, they’re like, OK, the problem’s worse. We need to work together. What else would you recommend? Knowing that, again, it’s been a rough year for many writers and many are struggling, not all are struggling, what has worked for you more recently that you would recommend to copywriters if they’re struggling just to get projects in the door and grow and they’re thinking about, I can’t do this, this isn’t working anymore?

Kim Kiel: Yeah, 2023 did a real number on me, just like it did for so many. I had huge financial goals for last year, and I didn’t even come close. My revenue dropped back to 2021 revenue levels, so it was tough. What I did find towards the end was offering really quick turnaround services. VIP days, power strategy sessions, small service, small bites, audits, things like that, that sort of helped people say yes to this small amount that could help them move the needle just a little bit, even if they weren’t able to invest in a larger project. But that quick turnaround, maybe sacrificing some of that research piece that we all love to do, but just trying to get in and create an instant shift. And that worked for new clients, but it also worked for going back to my repeat clients, so clients who I’d worked with in the past. I reached out, do you need your brand voice guide updated? How’s that email sequence working for you? Do you need any punch ups or additions to any of the copy projects that we’ve worked on in the past? And so I did get a few people coming back to me to update their brand voice guide, to redo a sequence and to hire me for a day and a half to do something. But those smaller bites seem to be more attractive.

Rob Marsh: And as you did that, is there something you’re doing differently in your pitch at all? You know, as you make that approach, are you having a conversation? Well, maybe you’re not ready for this bigger thing. Here’s something else to try. Or is it just you’ve just made the switch and your clients are none the wiser?

Kim Kiel: No, I think it’s still laying out. These are my top tier offers. And if that doesn’t work for you, here’s this quick hit. And everyone’s finances were a little bit tight last year, so that quick hit was nicer for their budgets as well. And the quick time frame was better for them as well. So they do know what my higher ticket offers are, but they would choose that lower level investment.

Rob Marsh: I love that you’re mentioning this because we’ve literally, I think, in the last two months probably had two or three other people say, hey, if you’re struggling, make it smaller, make it bite-sized, make it easier for a client to say yes. This isn’t really a question. I’m just sort of patting you on the back saying I feel like you’ve arrived at the same solution that so many other people who have figured this out have also arrived at.

Kim Kiel: And like, I’m so glad we’re having this conversation because it’s reminding me that that really worked towards the end of 2023. And so, uh, as we head into the slower seasons to maybe think about doing that again.

Kira Hug: Yeah. And I know we talked a little bit about, you know, self doubt and how that you’ve had your, your hype squad and that’s helped you, but how we are coming out of 2023 and I appreciate you sharing that it was a tough year for you. Um, Then how do you look at 2024? I know we’re already a quarter into it, but how do you plan ahead and think about the future and feel hopeful enough to get yourself focused and on track when you’re coming out of a tough year?

Kim Kiel: I do work with a coach, so I have somebody to bounce ideas off of, someone to reflect back to me what’s working. And in addition to my private one-on-one services that are sort of a more premium level, I also have a mid-tier offer, which is called the Joy of Copy Club, where business owners can come in and it’s sort of like a group copy coaching experience. And I’ve been having a hard time selling it. People are not wanting to join this group coaching program for whatever, maybe I’m not selling it right, whatever. But I’ve decided to then focus on what is selling. And right now what is selling is high ticket services. the people who held off on investing in 2023, whose launches tanked in 2023, they’re like, oh my gosh, we need to hire somebody to get this figured out for us. So I’ve had a number of people reach out to me and book me for their launches in early 2024. and I can see that that pattern is continuing. So I’m actually making a concerted effort to actually focus on my one-on-one services and get those booked out and sort of like let the copy club just sort of hang out in the background until I have more space to actually focus on filling that.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, as I listen to you talk about this stuff, Kim, it seems to me that you’re really good at the ebb and flow of business. You know, if this isn’t working, I’m going to try this. And before we started recording, in fact, the conversation that you and I had, you know, and we were saying, hey, you should come on the podcast to talk about this was really all about the slow and steady growth of a business. Oftentimes on the podcast, we talk to people who’ve had a pretty meteoric rise, you know, they made six figures in their first year, or, you know, they’ve, they’ve done something pretty amazing. And I think it’s also really important to hear that perspective of somebody who’s grown a little bit at a time a little bit more each year, and isn’t necessarily worried about huge gains or building a team, or so many of the other things that we often talk about, So with that ebb and flow, let’s talk just a little bit more about that slow growth model and how you’ve accomplished that almost year from year, how your business has changed and you’ve adapted things to make that work.

Kim Kiel: Sure. So I think because I came to online business and being self-employed and a freelancer, As a middle-aged person, like I was 42 when I started becoming a copywriter. I had a family, like my family was older but still young. I still had to, like that was my priority. So my business couldn’t, I couldn’t dedicate as much time to exponentially growing my business as maybe some other people who maybe are pre-kids might be able to. or on the other side of the spectrum whose kids are up and out who can then focus on exponentially growing their business or who have a spouse who looks after the whole household. I had that as a constraint in my life and my business so I had to sort of allow my business to support my family and still grow my business. 

I also would hear all the advice out there and then I would just take what I felt was meaningful to me and what I could do. So, you know, build a funnel, build a lead gen, do all this stuff. I didn’t want to do any of that. I didn’t want to set up a big text. I just set up my first funnel like three weeks ago. I have never had a full tech funnel set up. I run a very lean business with Google Docs, with a wave invoice. I’ve never had checkout pages before, so I just kept it very high touch, very simple, and not having those extra expenses for either a team or a tech stack to have to manage all that for me. I’ve had high profitability, but also it just makes it easier for me to then focus on just doing the work and not worrying about all these funnels and systems working for me. But I’ve just found different ways of keeping that engine going and chugging along and listening to the advice. and then deciding what fits with me and my lifestyle and my family. And fortunately, some things don’t work, but a lot of it has worked out. And I think one of the things that really helped me out over the last several years was I did have sort of a core retainer client. who I was able to work with for four years. And that was super helpful because it just provided that sort of steady, a baseline of steady revenue. 

And then I could add on these other clients and experiment with these other offers. I also think just having a little bit of life under my belt, I can come to these client conversations and sales calls and meet them as an equal. And it was never, I never have felt like, Oh, I’m subservient to the client or I’m lesser than the client. And I think the clients like that when you come to the sales calls, you show up on your kickoff calls with confidence and you know what you’re doing and they feel like they’re well taken care of. And I think that that’s been part of the reason why I’ve also been successful is because I know how to handle people and, uh, and yeah, just having some of that life experience goes a long way.

Kira Hug: So if you had a retainer for four years, that’s really impressive. It’s not easy to do that. Can you share what worked well, what you would encourage other writers to do if they’re setting up a retainer based off your experience?

Kim Kiel: I’ve experimented several times with different retainers, with different kinds of clients. And I mean, I’ve really had a unicorn client. She still is beautiful, but she doesn’t need that kind of service anymore. But she, from the get-go, was just someone who was beautiful to work with. She had me do a test project at the beginning. And I know that there are some people who shy away from wanting to do a test project. or give me a sample of your copywriting. But every time I’ve done it, it has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars. So I just want to say, don’t be afraid to do those test projects because they can turn into a really lucrative opportunity. And it also is a chance for me to try on that client. It works both ways. So with that particular client, we were able to really, over time, build out what that retainer would look like. I was writing Facebook ads for her. And so I would write sort of, it was almost like an accordion. 

Some months there’d be a lot of Facebook ads, sometimes there’d be less, but we had this mutual understanding that We would keep it at this rate to allow for that ebb and flow. With other clients, I have created a three to six month retainer engagement to focus on sales copy. Sometimes it crosses over into that almost an employee relationship where I need the sales page tomorrow. I need a stack of emails. And so I’ve had to learn from my own ways, like suck it up and just do it. But then going forward, being able to set some more strict boundaries around that. So now my retainers are quite clear. In terms of this is what I’m going to do for you on a monthly basis. And over the six months, we’ll work on these three large projects together. Large projects include X, Y and Z. And, you know, I’ll still throw in some bonuses here and there to surprise and delight the client and make them feel like they’re getting a really good value.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, so let’s talk a little bit about what those retainers look like. Because, you know, when we say, well, I’d like a three or six month retainer to do sales copy. How did you manage that, Evan Flo? Were you having meetings to talk about what was getting accomplished that month? Like, how was that all spelled out?

Kim Kiel: With the unicorn–amazing client, we worked pretty much in Slack. She would send me a creative brief, I would do it. Every few months we’d have a call, check in, how’s it going for you? Great. So she’s sort of the pinnacle. She ruined me for all other retainer clients. With my regular retainer clients, we have a monthly call to set the priority for the month. We agree. These are the projects that are coming up. These are the copy assets that we need. This is the timeline that we need. And from there, I would just sort of deliver that. Right now, my retainers, I have sort of two levels of retainer. One is four, four, four, four a month, just under 5,000. And it includes four nurture emails. It includes three major sales copy projects. over the course of the six months, which would be like a big launch. It would be optimizing or writing a sales page in a sales sequence. It might be doing a brand voice guide, or it might be rewriting their website. So it’s those big projects that we can condense into that six month. And then they get sort of a month to month, a few projects, like emails that we can write together. And then there’s a step down from that, which is still about 2,500 a month. And it’s four emails plus some, a mini, like a landing page or like a small, short email sequence. So something a little bit smaller.

Kira Hug: Okay. I love how you structured the six month one, because this is such a struggle. It’s just. how to think about the projects, and then the nurture, how it all works together. How do you hold your boundary with that, especially with launches? Because when you’re saying, OK, we do a launch project over the six months, I mean, that could be a $50,000 launch project really easily. So how do you manage that piece of it?

Kim Kiel: I mean, I make a lot of mistakes in terms of my own boundaries. Yes, I have, there are some late nights that I’m pulling to make sure the copy is done, but that repeatable revenue over the six months is so valuable to me and my peace of mind that I don’t mind. So, okay, May is gonna be really tough because this client is launching and this other client hired me to do something else. Like, oh no, I’m gonna have to put my head down at work, but I’m okay with that. I always feel like I have a choice and I always feel like I’m the one who got myself into this situation. And I just got to suck it up and do it and do it as best to the best of my ability. And then sort of going forward, I might say, well, that’s actually not scoped in or we already covered that. So there are some ways that if someone says, can you do this for me? I’ll say, yes. Would you like me to scope that into the retainer? I can send you a new invoice. So just kind of like. It’s more of I learn my lesson each time, and then just try to fix it going forward.

Kira Hug: And you’re probably a solid planner, right? You’re planning at the beginning of the six months, so you know when the launches and all those events are taking place, and there are no surprises. It’s all built and baked in. So you can manage your calendar, for the most part. I hear what you’re saying, like mistakes happen. And I appreciate you being honest about that. But I’m just thinking to control the calendar, you probably need that ahead of time.

Kim Kiel: I mean, I think the way I’ve structured the retainers now is because I’ve been in retainer relationships before where it was like, oh, I just decided to launch this new mini offer. I’m going to need a sales page and 12 emails. And it’s like, I didn’t have the structure around that or the ability to have the conversation at the time. So now I just have more clear boundaries as I go forward. And yes, those boundaries are going to be wishy-washy at times.

Rob Marsh: So Kim, one of the things that you mentioned as you were talking about the retainers and setting up your business is that you like to keep things high touch. And you won’t have heard this interview yet, but many of the listeners will have heard our interview with Jason Friedman, where we talked about customer experience and building a customer experience. So I’m curious what high touch means to you. Because when you say, well, I was keeping it simple, Wave Invoice and Google Docs, Somebody might argue, well, that’s not all that high touch. So clearly, there’s some personal communication or something else that’s going on here where you’re having a high touch experience. Tell us what exactly you do to make sure that those clients are thrilled with the work you do.

Kim Kiel: I think it starts from that sales call and how you show up on the sales call and how you follow up after that. So when I show up on the sales call, I spend a lot of time listening. I feed back to them what I’ve heard to make sure we’re on the same page. And then after the call a day, maybe two days, sometimes even three, like I’m not like super on it all the time, I’ll send it’s a simple Google Doc with a table that says these are the deliverables. This is the cost. This is the timeline. This is what we talked about. Do you want to move forward? And it’s often like, yep. No proposal, it’s because we’ve had that conversation. If there is further questioning or questions, then they’ll just email me back or we’ll hop on a second call to clarify that. 

In terms of how else I provide that high touch is for premium clients, they get my Voxer, they get my cell phone number, they can text me and message me anytime they want. Very few of them ever do. Because they’re at that high level of operating their businesses, they don’t actually reach out as much as you might think. And even if they did, I would wait 24 hours to respond in some cases, you know, like I just set my own boundaries for when I reply. If they do have a need where they’re like, oh my gosh, something came up, I know you need 48 hours to turn something around, can you get this done? I’ll often say yes, just because I want them to feel well supported in that experience. And then, you know, from time to time, I’ll send gifts. I’ll send little care packages, things to make them feel special and to show my appreciation. I’m not sure if I fully answered that for you, Rob, in terms of that high touch.

Rob Marsh: No, you did. In fact, I know as soon as you said, I give my cell phone number, allow them to text, vox me anytime, I’m guessing a bunch of people listening just went, oh my gosh, she’s crazy. But it also occurs to me that in doing that, you are creating a level of confidence with that particular client where, okay, I know she’s there for me. And like you said, they hardly ever take advantage of it. But that trust, that level of support that you add on, I think, That’s over and above what most copywriters would do, probably more than I would do. I’m not sure that I want my clients texting me anytime that they might feel the need. But on the other hand, I do want them to feel like they could and get that support. So I think I really like that, even though I sort of have mixed feelings about that whole idea.

Kim Kiel: And it’s very rare that anyone ever really texts me. Sometimes they’ll give me a voice note on WhatsApp or they’ll definitely voice note me on Voxer. But I really love hearing their voice and hearing the questions they ask because that is how I can write like them. because when they’re talking, then I can write like them, or they’ll say, I had this idea for a thing and blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s just easier for them to get it out on Voxer or WhatsApp than for, let’s hop on a meeting. Let’s talk about what we can write about in our emails this month. Like, just tell me some stories that happened to you, and then I’ll turn that into a series of emails. So I like providing it. The only times people have ever called me is if, like, they’re going to miss a meeting. Like, it’s really just as a courtesy.

Kira Hug: Yeah, I mean, it’s a good way to avoid conflict, too, right? Where you don’t have a client sitting there fuming over some issue. They’re more likely to just text you or send you a voice memo if there’s something, so you’re aware of that. I probably won’t give out my phone number because I have a flip phone, and I just don’t. Texting is really hard. Like, it just is very physically hard to text on it. But I like it conceptually. Let’s talk about launching, because that’s your specialty, one of your many specialties. I also love that space. And I’m wondering what you’ve seen work recently. What isn’t working now with your clients and their launches? What is working? Any observations you’ve made over the last six months or so?

Kim Kiel: I think we can all agree that people are taking a lot longer to make decisions and that sort of five day challenge and into a high pit high ticket $2,000 sale isn’t working so well anymore. People are maybe coming into that and then maybe they’ll buy on the next round or the round after that. Uh, so allowing for a longer cart where someone can experience you a little bit more. Um, I took Brenda McGowan’s pre-launch plan program. training. And I mean, that was probably one of the best investments I made in my business last year, because it gave me so much structure into that six-week content before you get into the launch. And I have used it with a couple of clients. And they were seeing sales before their cart even opened which they hadn’t seen before. So last year they had really difficult sales and this year when we added in a pre-launch and we updated some of the sales emails, they did see a lift in their revenue and their sales. So I think that being more strategic with that pre-launch process, like hat tip to Brenna for owning that space. But I took the training from her, so now I can do it too, which I guess is another tip for any copywriter who’s listening is get certification and training in other areas that you can niche into because it is an additional service that I can add on. It’s a new product that I can serve, provide. So that longer window, what I know from other people in the launch space is that more of that personal touch. So as we’re talking about this high touch, even people who are launching are using either ManyChat or even Video Ask. They’re actually getting into people’s inboxes, onto their phones, into their DMs. That coach or the team is making that personal outreach. while the cart is open. So just adding an additional layer of touch to invite somebody in.

Rob Marsh: So I’m curious, with adding on services like a pre-launch plan, are you pitching that to clients? Or is that part of the discussion when a client comes to you and says, OK, I’m ready to do a launch? Is that when you lay this out and say, OK, the pre-launch is going to take us three to six weeks. It’s going to be x thousands of dollars. And then we’re going to set up all of the launch material. How does that discussion work? And I guess the reason I’m asking this is I’m wondering how much you’re using a consultant role here, where the client comes and says, hey, I need a sales page for this thing. And you say, hold on a second. Let’s back this up and make it work, which is really two different approaches to what we do.

Kim Kiel: With the client who I most recently worked with, it was very much, we need someone to rewrite our sales page and rewrite our sales emails because the emails are not converting, it’s crickets over here. And when I got in and I looked at that, I said, I see a big gap here in terms of your pre-launch strategy. We were so late in the game. They just reached out to me too late for me to actually do the plan and write the content for them. But I was able to basically sell them the plan and say, I’ll write the plan, but you’re just going to have to implement it on the fly. And they bought that add-on, basically. It was, hey, I see this as a gap. So it is more, you’re hiring me for a service, but I see a strategic gap, and I’m going to offer that to you. With this particular service, the pre-launch plan or like brand voice guides, I’ve been able to go back to past clients and say, hey, this is a new service I offer. It’s a brand voice guide. If you’re becoming a bottleneck in your business, I can help create the structure for you so that you can pass on that copy to your team, your outsourced copywriters. And because a lot of people have worked with me before, they know I am attuned to their voice, so they will say yes to that.

Kira Hug: How are you marketing yourself and how are you showing up? Like I know we’ve talked a little bit about networking and you have a really great referral network and community, but what else, if you are doing anything else to build visibility and authority?

Kim Kiel: I mean, I’m like the cobbler’s kid. I’m the worst. I feel like I’m the worst marketer in the world. I have the tiniest email list. I never had a funnel until a few weeks ago. Like, But I did launch a podcast about a year and a half ago, and it still has very small listenership, but the people who listen to it reply back to me and say, this is amazing. This is filling a gap. It’s very short form, bite-sized. It’s like one copywriting formula, one sales formula, one writing prompt, or sort of one theme. It’s really following the rule of one. Uh, and, uh, it’s a short form podcast that both copywriters and business owners are loving. Uh, but I really have two different audiences. So I have the sort of six to six figure $250,000 entrepreneur who wants to join the copy club or need some smaller ticket services. And then I have this seven, eight figure launcher who they aren’t listening. They aren’t consuming my content. Let’s be real. They’re not on my email list. They’re coming to me through referrals. But when they get the referral, I know they’re coming and checking out my website. I know they’re looking at my Instagram. I know that they’re going to probably go over to the podcast and take a peek. So I have active things there. Aside from the podcast, I really don’t create content or build my authority in any other way. I do host monthly marketing moments. So instead of having this complicated event, I just sort of have open office hours, or I’ll talk about how to write a welcome sequence. And I’ll throw open the doors to anyone who wants to come. And I’ll get copywriters. I’ll get business owners. And they come and hang out with me for two hours. Maybe I’ll make a pitch to join a program or share my services in the hopes that eventually when they’re ready, they’ll come to me or they’ll refer me.

Rob Marsh: Your podcast is called the Ill Communication Podcast. Is that right? Yeah, it’s called Ill Communicate. Tell us about the name. Why Ill?

Kim Kiel: I am a diehard Beastie Boys fan and one of their best albums is called Ill Communication and some of their songs reference it. So I like my original email like way back in the day was beastiegirlk at So when I had the idea for a podcast I was like, it has to be called the Ill Communication Podcast. So like you can become the illest, the best, the raddest communicator when you listen to this podcast.

Rob Marsh: Okay. So why didn’t you lead off with Beastie Girl K? That should have been the introduction of the podcast.

Kim Kiel: I have to, I have to update my intros anyway, so maybe I’ll do that for the next one.

Rob Marsh: I think it’s hilarious.

Kira Hug: So, You know, listening to you in this conversation, you’re so intentional about what you’re doing. Like Rob said, you know, kind of how to zig and zag through business. And I just love the way that you approach growth and the craft. And I’m wondering like what you do to kind of cultivate the CEO mindset that you clearly have. And beyond coaching, you mentioned that. I think obviously we’re big believers in mentorship. But what else do you do? Is it like a weekly check-in, CEO check-in, something else?

Kim Kiel: I have an assistant who supports me in my business. She is another mom at the school, like I met her when my oldest kid was in kindergarten. We met in the hallway and she sort of started her online business at the same time that I did. And she would tell you I do not have a CEO mindset. Let’s bring her into this conversation. I know, right? I have a Trello board. I kind of follow it. She really keeps me on task in terms of like, these are the leads. These are who we’ve got to follow up, but have you followed up with that person? So she really helps me in that regard. I really try to stay in my zone of genius, which is like actually writing copy. And in terms of the outreach, I just know that I have to do it. And I know that it doesn’t have to be hard. It can just, just the other day, I Slack messaged a past client. I had delivered all of her copy by the end of the year. I messaged her saying, Hey, your launch looked like it went really well. Um, following up on the voice guide. Do you need any edits? How’s the website doing? And she wrote back. She’s like, I need to call with you. She booked a call the next morning. We hopped on a call and she bought an audit for $1,200. So like just that little reach out a friendly reach out. 

It doesn’t have to be so complicated and hard. I also know that when I focus on something like if I’m hosting a monthly marketing moment or next week I’m hosting a boot camp on writing your welcome sequence, I’m putting so much effort into that and I’m showing up on social and I’m creating content about it. and I know that the money isn’t going to come from that event. Someone else from left field is going to come and book a call and they’re going to hire me for a bigger package. So I just know that it doesn’t matter where I’m focusing my reach out efforts, just the fact that I’m in motion will attract that new client and I have to just be okay with the fact that even though I’m investing so much time and money into this dang bootcamp, someone’s going to come in from some other way, and I’m kind of okay with that. So I just really have a lot of faith that the universe is going to meet me where I am, but it is a constant everyday practice for me to stay in that positive mindset. And I do go down in the dumps, but that’s where my assistant or my squad will be like, hey, you’re actually doing okay. You’re surviving. You didn’t shut down your business like those other copywriters did. I think just sort of that trust and faith goes a long way.

Kira Hug: Yeah, I love that thinking. It feels a little woo, which I’m sure Rob loves as far as putting out energy here will help me receive in a different way. But like, I know it works. I know if I keep showing up and building momentum that I will be able to receive in other ways in my business rather than just freezing and not doing anything because this activity isn’t working over here. And I love that you said that because I think that’s a big part of business is just like keep trying, keep moving, keep just iterating and getting stuff done.

Kim Kiel: I know inside The Copywriter Underground right now, you’re doing the 25 hard, which I think is awesome. I love seeing the posts people are making in there. But I just know that like that kind of action, people are going to be pitching to those five people a week or whatever it is. And it might not be any of those five people who reach out or who close, it’ll be someone else, like It happened when I was a fundraiser. I’d be going and having conversations with major donors. I’d be writing grant applications for this, that and the other thing. And then a big donor would come out of left field. And it’s just knowing that it’s going to happen, but you can’t just sit back and be passive about it. You have to actually be in motion, take action and take smart action, too. Like, yes, you will get some people will buy tickets to the boot camp, but the big money is not going to come from there.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, I mean, that echoes something I’ve been saying to copywriters for the last few months about how do you, how do you share, why you need to be sharing what you’re doing all the time because it does, it ripples out and it’s not always from your inner circle. Related to this, you have mentioned probably, well, if I went back and counted, it’s probably six or seven times, maybe it was more than that, but you’ve mentioned referrals at least that many times. Obviously, referrals are really important to your business. Part of getting referrals is doing great work and providing that high touch, but is there anything else that you do to encourage clients to give you referrals or you just let it happen organically?

Kim Kiel: I mean, I’ve tried reaching out and when I was in copy school, I think Jo had, or whatever it was called back in the day, she had like a template for how to ask for referrals. And I tried that template a few times and honestly, it never resulted in anything for me. Um, so I’m less focused on reminding clients to make referrals for me. And it’s more just about, Hey, thinking about you, how’s it going? Because they’re in communities with other people who need great copywriters. And so they talk to each other. And it’s those referral conversations. Those people are pre-sold by the time they get on the call with me. Like those are the easiest sales calls that I have is when someone’s on and they’re like, yeah, how much does it cost? Okay. Yeah. What are you going to do? Okay, great. I’m going to go talk to the CEO and then we’ll, we’ll sign off on this. And there. They’re pre-sold, so I love referrals. 

And when people make a referral for me, I send a beautiful gift. Sometimes I’ve sent a referral fee. I follow up. Even when someone makes a referral for me and it doesn’t land, I follow up and I say, oh, that one didn’t land. It wasn’t a great fit, but I really appreciated that you made that offer. Do you know anyone else who might need this new pre-launch service that I’m offering, where I’m now offering brand voice guides? It’s just being in the orbit as opposed to being really strategic. I think that’s kind of the answer to your question, a long-winded way to answer it.

Kira Hug: As we start to wrap up, I want to hear about what’s next for you as you’re thinking about the future of, well, I mean, in the way in parallel, like the future of copywriting and marketing alongside the future of your business and how you see the two

Kim Kiel: One of the things I’m really passionate about is helping women find their voices and helping women have confidence to ask for the sale. In writing or on a sales call, but mostly in writing because that’s my medium. So through the podcast, I really want to have a huge impact. And through the Joy of Copy Club, I know I can help a lot of women business owners find that voice, develop the momentum. Like writing sales copy isn’t that hard. when you know the frameworks and the formulas and the process and for someone who is running a very small boutique consultancy maybe can’t hire a high-end copywriter like you can do it yourself and so I really would love to see my platform expand so that I can serve more of that that group of entrepreneurs who’s kind of not at that seven figure level, not at the newbie level, but like in this middle ground where you have so much expertise, but you just don’t know how to share it in a way that’s going to connect and compel and get the sale. And so for me, I’m very impact driven. So that’s really where I would love to see my business go is expanding that impact and reach. I still see myself delivering one-on-one services, but I also choose those clients because they’re working with the same audience as me. So they’re serving women to help them improve their lives, to gain more authority, to get more wealth into their lives. So it’s really an impact play, and yes, I like money too.

Rob Marsh: This is probably related to that question, but what advice would you have for anybody who’s listening who would like to take a similar path, slow growth, consistent growth over time, not worrying too much about, you know, hitting six figures that first year, whatever that looks like, or maybe this is even advice to a younger you, you know, what would you do a little bit differently to make it work?

Kim Kiel: I mean, the only thing I would do differently was I would have started sooner. I would have not looked at online business for two or three years before I actually pulled the trigger. I would have left sooner. And I think if you do great work, if you are a great human and you do great work and you deliver on time, that that already puts you ahead of the game. Delivering quality work on time is such a low bar, but it seems to be a low bar. And if you can do that, you’re already ahead of the game. And I just really think it is slow and steady. It is just put your foot forward. Some people like to sprint, but I’m not a sprinter. I just want to take a step forward, watch a little Netflix, take another step forward, do a little reach out. Yes, I could grow faster. Potentially, I could grow faster, but at what cost? We’ve seen so many people Like downsize their teams in the last year, the last two years, huge coaches have like completely shut down their business, because they’ve probably scaled too much built too much team can’t handle the stress as they balance those family obligations. And so I really think that. Just being slow and steady and having a small business is fabulous and and is great and just to trust that you know what’s best for you and to stop outsourcing that thinking to other people who are telling you to do it a certain way and to just find your own way forward.

Kira Hug: Well this has been really inspiring and motivating and there’s been so many practical tips that we can use and apply in our businesses today so Thank you so much, Kim. And I hope that you’re speaking on many other podcasts and sharing all your wisdom with other audiences, because this is great. Thank you. Where should our listeners go if they want to connect with you?

Kim Kiel: Sure. So I am kind of active on Instagram. That handle is kim underscore keel underscore copy. You can obviously listen to my podcast, Ill Communication. You’ll find it on all the platforms. And the central clearinghouse for everything is

Rob Marsh: Awesome. Thanks, Kim.

Kira Hug: Thank you.

Rob Marsh: That’s the end of our interview with Kim Kiel. I want to add just a couple of thoughts, as I usually do, to our conversation so you’ve got a little bit more to think about as you listen back and think about how am I going to take some of the ideas from this episode and make them work in my business. 

Kim talked a little bit about the high touch experience. I want to make sure that I underline this because we did mention in the interview, Jason Friedman, our interview with him, which I believe was the last episode. You want to definitely go back and listen to that because we talked about creating the client experience from A to Z and what’s really involved in that. But Kim’s approach is really good. Again, it doesn’t make people jump through hoops. It’s not really expansive, but she focuses on listening, reflecting back what she hears from her clients. making sure that she’s communicating effectively. She wants them to feel like they’ve got premium access to her. So she gives them her Voxer or her text number and invites them to contact her anytime. That kind of connection creates confidence in a client. They know that they’re going to be supportive. They know they can reach out and while they probably won’t, there is some risk that they will, but they probably won’t. And so what you’re really doing is building trust and confidence in you as a copywriter, if you’re doing those kinds of things. And of course, adding gifts or care packages along the way, especially as you wrap up a project, a thank you note, thank you card, a gift, those things all create a higher touch experience than what a lot of copywriters do, which is just hitting send on a Google Doc and letting the clients try to figure out what’s going on, maybe even implementing on their own without any help or follow-up. 

We also touched a bit about the long follow-up game that Kim plays. One touch isn’t enough. We’re building a relationship here when we’re talking about following up with clients on client pitches or even your podcasts or things that you want to do. You need to treat it a little bit more like dating. Now, of course, you don’t want to be creepy, but you also don’t want to give up unless the person that you’re reaching out to has told you to stop, told you that they’re not interested or that they don’t have any availability right now. Follow up three, four, five times at least, and maybe even longer. And of course, if somebody said, I don’t have time right now, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to work with you at some point in the future. So if you get that feedback, set a reminder in your calendar to follow up in say 60 days or 90 days when they might be more interested or they might be ready with a project, but make sure that you’re following up. That’s the difference between success and failure when it comes to pitching clients. It’s all in the followup. 

Finally, I just want to mention in the very beginning, Kim mentioned that her very first client was her previous employer. If you are a copywriter who is thinking about going out on your own and you have a job today, this is a great place to start. Talk about this opportunity that you have to go out on your own with your boss. See if they would be supportive. See if there is work that you can do for them on a freelance basis. Oftentimes that saves the company money because they’re not paying benefits. There’s the expenses of office and computer, that kind of thing. Obviously you’re taking on those expenses. So you gotta be careful that you don’t make under bill and make sure that you’re paying for those things on your own, but it’s often more affordable for clients to be able to work with freelancers than with full time employees. And so if you are in a situation where you’re employed, but you want to go out on your own talk, to your boss or maybe their boss and see if this is even something that they would consider because we’ve talked about a bunch of copywriters on the podcast who have done this very thing and it becomes that anchor client that allows them to set up and run their business for the first few months, maybe even a year or two, and then you’re off to the races. 

Okay, I want to thank Kim Kiel for joining us to chat about her business and the slow and steady growth that she’s experienced over the past few years. Make sure you check Kim out on Instagram or on her website, And also don’t miss her podcast. We mentioned this during the interview. It’s called ill communications. And on that podcast, she shares bite-sized tips about writing and marketing and all kinds of things. It’s worth subscribing. So check her out there.


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