Copywriter Zafira Rajan is our guest for this un-numbered episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Zafira’s business has really taken off over the past year as she’s focused in on a niche and gotten herself in front of the right clients. We talked about that as well as how she has used events to connect with people in person. Here’s what we covered:
• her journey from Nairobi to Vancouver and journalist to copywriter
• the skills she learned as a journalist that make her a better copywriter
• the surprising interview question that often leads to a new idea
• why she doesn’t have a standard list of questions for interviews
• the little things she did to start her business the right way
• the systems she uses to make projects go more smoothly
• the changes she made to her business in the last year—and the impact it’s had
• how niching has *surprise*helped her business grow
• the packages she has created and what they include
• how she uses events to connect with clients
• her tips for doing well on instagram (and who to follow)
• how to think about brand messaging as a copywriter
• a few of the mistakes she’s made over the past year or two
• a few details about her women of color project
• why she’s excited for The Copywriter Club In Real Life
Like we say, this is a good one. To hear it, click the play button below, or simply scroll down for a full transcript. If you prefer to listen while you work out or run errands, download it to your favorite podcast app.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:The Copywriter Accelerator
The Copywriter Think Tank
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Intro: Content (for now)
Kira: 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 Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join The Club as we chat with copywriter Zafira Rajan about how her background as a designer has made her a better copywriter, what’s she done to gain traction in her business, building relationships, and her secret for networking, and what she’s doing to support other women of color.
Kira: Welcome, Zafira.
Rob: Hey, Zafira.
Kira: It’s great to have you here. We met you a year and a half ago in the Accelerator Program, and then you moved into the Think Tank Mastermind Group. And then you and I have worked on several projects now, so I feel like we know you really well, and the more we chat with you about your business and how you’ve grown over the last year or so. Rob and I are both like, “We need to bring you onto the show and share what you’re doing, what you’re learning, because it’s working, so we should share with the other copywriters as well.” So excited that you’re here, and let’s kick this off with your story. How did you end up as a copywriter?
Zafira: Yeah, well it’s not a long journey. I realized pretty early on that I wanted to have a business of my own. I’m originally from Nairobi, Kenya, and I moved here to Vancouver about nine years ago, when I started university. My path probably started just even by doing an English Literature degree, writing every day, and I really thought at the time I would be going down the path towards journalism. And I was writing for the student paper, I started a platform for college women to share their voices that’s still alive today, and then I started managing a lot of social media accounts during that time and when I graduated I was doing marketing for the university. But I was also penning columns for publications here about global news and word just started getting out that I could write and I could manage social media and I could do a bunch of different things. So I started getting requests from people I knew, people who knew other people to do work for them, and then I suddenly had a full-time job but also tons of work to do on the side.
So I started to think that I really wanted to make that leap to being my own boss, to managing my own schedule, but I wanted to do it really strategically. So I saw the perfect opportunity at my university to take on a marketing role that was just a 60% position so that I could still be earning money for a year, but having the time freed up to work on my own stuff and build up a business over the year. So I started doing that, and by the time that year wrapped, that was really like my deadline for me to be like, “Okay, we’re pressing ‘go’ on January 1st. Like, you are doing this on your own now,” and that was about three years ago now and I haven’t really looked back since. I mean, the types of copy I’ve written, the journey that I’ve taken, and the clients that I’ve worked with have really changed along the way. but that was how I made the leap initially.
Rob: Zafira, I’m really interested in knowing, when you were studying journalism what kinds of things you learned there that apply to how you write today.
Zafira: Oh my gosh, so much. The first thing I would say, really, is just learning how to listen to people really well, and that’s something that naturally, I’ve always been a listener in the room. I’m not the loudest person in a room. In fact, my parents never even knew when I was home, I was so quiet. But when I was trying to get into journalism, and this is like being 19, 20, and interviewing people who would lead frats, and who would be athletes who were about to go to the Olympics.
It was just getting to talk to so many different kinds of people. I was sitting down with them for an hour, and having the opportunity to do that as a student where time feels different the way it does now, I could really sit and have those long conversations and listen to them really intently. But also just learn the art of asking the really good questions. Like I’ve always been so surprised by what I get at the end of an interview, like by, “Thanks, is there anything else you wish we would have talked about or you wanted to add?” And then my whole story comes out from there.
But I think it’s really, yeah, the art of listening is the art of learning to ask the right questions, but also reading people really well and knowing where you can push them where to look back, and just talking to people. I don’t love being in a big crowd, but I really relish the power of that one-on-one connection, and that’s something that I think naturally, seamlessly floated into how I run my business today, especially when it comes to customer interviews or even just sales calls and letting my perspective clients just open up, is a skill that I really value and I’m so glad I have the opportunity to use it.
Kira: Can you dig a little bit more into that, because I don’t think it comes as easily or naturally to all of us where you can really understand when you should push a little bit more to get an answer and allow a conversation open up. So are there certain questions or any tips that you have for us when we’re in those customer interviews and we’re trying to build rapport and build trust quickly so that they can open up.
Zafira: That’s a good question. Honestly, I think it’s just seeing them as humans, not seeing them as another person you have to interview, or another person that’s on the list to check off. And bringing empathy to the table, for me, is huge, and I try to do that in everything I do. So listening for those moments where they’re pausing, and not even trying to talk over them or trying to introduce the next question, or seeing where it looks like they’re holding back and they might want to go a little further and just prompting them.
But I think, just being able to approach it in a way that you’re not actually trying to massage the conversation. You’re just trying to create little bubbles and facets for things to open up in. And I really think that comes from just not even going through a standard list of questions, but going with the flow of the conversation, seeing naturally what that person wants to talk about, and what they’re gravitating towards. I think in the beginning when I started out, I always felt like, “I have to cover a checklist of things,” and I had to get all this information out. But I’ve learned over the years to just see where things go and let them take the lead sometimes, because they’re the ones that have everything to offer, not me, in that conversation, and to just trust that they’ll open up and they’ll share vulnerably with you, and just holding that space for them to do that.
Rob: So this isn’t really a question, but I want to agree wholeheartedly with what you were just saying. It seems to me that one of the mistakes that a lot of copywriters make is that we, when we’re doing our research, when we’re interviewing potential customers with products that we sell, we have this list of questions that we want to find out answers to. And because we’re stuck to the list, we don’t even let the people that we’re talking to go really deep with their story. And it seems like you’ve gotten really good at overcoming that stuck-on-the-list kind of a thing.
Zafira: Yeah, yeah. And I think that there’s no value in sticking to the list. You can always come back to the list. That’s what I mean when I say treat them like humans. If you met them outside of your zoom room, would you be like, “Wait a second, let me just go back to this question,” and, “Let me cut you off because I need to check this off my list.” You wouldn’t do that, and I found that there’s a lot of power in just treating it like a real conversation.
More recently, I actually ended up getting two clients from my customer interviews just …
Zafira: … because they were like, “Oh my gosh, it was so easy to talk to you, and you asked me really good questions, and I’m looking for someone who can do that for me in my business,” you know? So treat them like real people and you just never know what might happen. But mostly you’ll get really good voice-of-customer data.
Kira: And are you on video when you’re having customer interviews?
Zafira: I do audio just so that they don’t freak out, but I always give them the option to do video if they want. And for a bunch of them, they do hop on video and they’re happy to do that, which I love.
Kira: All right, so you mentioned that three years ago you built your business over that year at your job, that year where you what were working 60%. So you were really intentional about your business growth and the leap. What did you do over that year while you were in the building mode to ensure that you could successfully jump and get your business going.
Zafira: A couple of things. So the first thing I would say is I really geek out about the boring stuff in my business. Like my invoicing and setting up contracts and all the legal stuff, so I really wanted to make sure I had a system in place for when I launched that I’d know everything, and how to deal with all the legal things.
The other thing that was big for me that year that I felt I really needed a bit of that time off to do was to find my own voice again. I think as copywriters you can kind of lose it when you’re taking on the voices of so many other people. And I actually went to Laura Belgray’s Italy workshop that summer to help me kind of kick start my own creative juices, because sitting down to write my website felt so daunting. But I really waned to have more ownership over what my voice sounded like, what I wanted to bring to the table, what values I was going to infuse my business with. And I really did that work and took that time for myself to get comfortable with showing up as me, and being really public about it.
The other thing I started doing was growing my community. I always advocate for volunteering and I’ve been leading communications with a nonprofit here in Vancouver for the last couple of years, and I just started doing it when it was that year. But we organize networking events for women in our city, and just organizing those and being on the back of things like that and going to those events was a really great stepping stone for me to building community, building a network of people that would refer me to their friends or hire me. But also just growing my presence outside of my bubble within the university because I’d been a student there, and then I’d been an employee, and I just needed to get out.
Yeah, I think those were a couple of the core things was really just putting the systems in place, getting comfortable with who I wanted to represent myself as, and growing my community and lists of potential clients.
Rob: So I definitely have lots of questions to ask about networking and growing that client list, but first I want to talk a little bit more about systems.
Rob: You are so good at systems and I’m curious, what advice would you have for someone like me who avoids systems or struggles with systems? What are the systems that I need and how can I get past that struggle to make those systems work for me?
Zafira: Honestly, I feel like putting systems in place is so daunting that for me, it’s so much more stressful when I don’t have them. So I’m willing to put in the work to get them up and running. For me, the systems that work really well right now is like having a system for my proposals and how I send them out, and making sure that’s just really standard. Having project management software – I’ve dabbled in a lot of them and I think it’s different for everyone, especially copywriters because the nature of our work can really be so different from person to person.
But for me, I love using Basecamp, so I do that, and setting up accounting systems I use Wave and I love it. But really, I think experimenting and seeing what works for you but not giving up right away when it doesn’t feel right, and talking to other copywriters and seeing what they’re using and creeping their processes. I’ve learned so much just from being in the Accelerator and the Think Tank. I’ve seen how people run their businesses with more systems, but yeah, honestly I just hired a VA this week because I want to get to that next level and make it even more seamless. So maybe you need a VA of your own, Rob, whose gonna help you set them up.
Kira: I’ll be your VA, Rob. I’ll be your VA.
Kira: I’d be the worst VA ever.
Rob: Kira can run my systems.
Kira: Things would just fall apart and crumble in my hands. And I also have to note that you are, I mean the systems work because I’ve worked with Zafira on several projects and she always delivers on time or even early, which doesn’t always happen. Especially it doesn’t always happen with me either, so what you’re doing is definitely working.
Zafira: Thanks Kira.
Kira: So I want to ask you about how you business has changed over the last few years. You mentioned the type of projects have changed. Can you just talk a little bit about the evolution and even why you’ve made some of those changes along the way?
Zafira: Yeah, totally. Oh my gosh, it’s changed so much since the beginning. A year ago, I felt like I was in a place of offering almost everything. I was doing social media strategy, social media management, blog posts, communications campaigns, web copy, email copy – it was just like, “Give me all the things, I will do anything.” And you know, it wasn’t bad. I mean, financially it was okay, but it wasn’t great because I didn’t really feel like I had a clear idea of what I was working towards or where I was going next. I was getting really comfy in a lot of retainers, especially when you’re doing social media or blog posts, and I just knew that I was capping out and at some point I wasn’t going to be able to grow beyond what I had. So I wanted to make a shift, wanted to make a little bit of a pivot. I needed to stop calling myself a communications expert – I wasn’t even calling myself a copywriter until I started listening to the podcasts, and I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I do.”
So I was doing well up until a certain point that I wanted more consistency, and I wanted some differentiation. And I started going through a re-brand process with my visual identity, so I hired designers to work on my logo because, even though I can do my own it was never gonna happen and I needed someone else to just do that for me. I invested in a photo shoot, a brand photo shoot, which was awesome, and I just knew I needed something else to tie it all together. So that’s when I actually heard about the Accelerator and it was really like divine timing because I was like, “Oh my god, I need all the things that they’re going to give me,” because I needed to get better systems in order, but I also just wanted to figure out my thing, you know? I wanted to get in the same room as other smart people.
And there’s so many different kinds of copy I hadn’t really written yet, even though I was writing so much. I wasn’t the best at anything and there was so many things out there, like sales pages and so much other stuff that I hadn’t touched yet. So I wanted to learn, wanted to know more, and that’s when I joined and I got really amazing support from you two, which has really changed the way I run my business and the way I show up in the world, honestly. Kira and Rob forced me to niche down, which I needed, and I love the idea of treating it like an experiment.
I niched down into the wellness industry and I packaged up my services really neatly, so now I offer copy audits, I offer brand messaging guide and launch copy, and those are my three signature services now, which two years ago, Zafira would have been like, “What’s all that?” So much has changed, yeah. But I think the biggest shift for me has been in the last year. It’s been getting really clear and concrete on what I’m offering, and to who, and to also start being more intentional about how I market myself because I’m not talking to a mass audience anymore. I’m trying to get really good at offering something really specific to a certain set of people, and I was really scared about doing that in the beginning. But now it almost feels easier, it feels like there’s a smaller group to talk to and I can show up there and be an expert.
So now I feel like I love almost every client I work with, which feels like a dream. I’m charging higher rates, I have better processes for onboarding and off-boarding clients and the way I work with them has totally changed. I’m no longer hopping on a call just cause a client wants it, like, in an hour. I don’t function like that anymore, and I just feel like I’m in control now and it’s a really liberating feeling. And joining the Think Tank was really the extra step to continue being the dumbest person in the room, which I really loved. And yeah, I love what I’m doing now and I’m going to keep rolling with this experiment and see how it’s going. But yeah, yay for niching.
Rob: Definitely a great example of somebody who has niched and done well. When we talk about niching, we get a lot of pushback sometimes from people who say. “I get bored writing in my niche,” or, “I won’t be able to find the clients that I want,” or, “I won’t be able to write for all these other opportunities that come my way.” Has niching had any of those negative impacts on your business at all?
Zafira: Oh my gosh, no. I was terrified in the beginning. I thought I’d be shutting the door on so much potential work, but it opened up more space for me to explore and see that I could work with only my ideal clients instead of fishing in this big sea of them. So my only worries I think were mindset-wise, like who am I to do this kind of work for this particular client? But I think, I’m a person whose naturally really immersed in the wellness world, so that went away pretty quickly because I’ve been a consumer on the other side of things, and I understand what works when you’re talking to the audience and what doesn’t, and what messages people are hearing over and over again and what they want to hear now.
So, I think even if you end up choosing a niche for an industry that you are an avid consumer of, that you fangirl or fanboy over, that could be even better for you because you’re the customer, and you’ve been in those shoes and it’s that much easier for you to tap into.
Kira: Yeah, I mean it’s always great to choose a niche or industry where you actually enjoy hanging out with the people, and attending events and getting to know the people in that community because you might be a member of that community, or maybe you even want to be a member of that community. So it gives you an excuse to hang out with them.
Zafira, can you talk more about your packages? You mentioned an audit, but you’ve branded it and called it the Personality Peel, and you have beautiful imagery and created these personalities for each of your packages. Can you just describe a little bit about each one? Offer the name, and then give some advice for other copywriters who want to create some type of branded packages like the ones you have that are struggling to put it all together.
Zafira: Yeah, so my first package is my entry-level one which is called the Copy Cleanse, and that’s a copy audit service and it’s a 45-minute session with me where I go through up to two pages of web copy with a client, reviewing the words, the grammar, the story, optimizing it for conversions. But I also bring my design expertise to the table there, and I think that’s what makes it really high-value as well as I value the user experience. I geek out over, you know, the font here is different from the font there, and the colors are all over the place. And on mobile, your nav menu takes up the whole screen. So, stuff like that too.
So yeah, my Copy Cleanse, I love doing that. I always recommend actually having an entry-level service of some kind. Mine is $375 and it’ll probably go up now, but it’s an easy way for people to test out working with me or to get quicker results, or if they can’t afford me, it’s a lower tier option. And they’ve led to much bigger projects later on, so I love having that. I usually do a few audits per month, and then my mid-tier package is called the Personality Peel, and that’s the brand messaging guide, and I’d say right now that’s my bread and butter at the moment.
So I work with clients on getting really clear on everything from their values to their vision, their story, their promise, and working on them on a really branded framework for their process. So that’s a really intense process that usually takes about four to six weeks when we work together. But I love doing brand messaging guides and I’m seeing a greater need for them, and I think that’s an opportunity for copywriters to jump into as well right now.
And then my biggest package is called Launch and Let Go, so I’m playing into spy imagery and really relaxed imagery because of the wellness word and trying to tap into that language. But that’s a customizable package and it really depends on the client’s launch. It can be anything from their email sequence to their sales page to their Facebook ads. It really depends on the scope of things, but more recently I’ve been having that package for course creators in the wellness world, and that’s been really fun to work on.
So my advice for creating packages is testing out writing a bunch of copy, like different kinds of copy for different clients. I never knew that brand messaging guides might be my thing, Kira, until we worked together on one last year. And I was like, “Oh, okay. I can do this. This is really fun and it feels really natural.” And then I was able to spin that into a much bigger package that I’m offering all the time now. An opportunity I think copywriters should really take advantage of is collaborating with other people on their projects, especially if they’re bigger ones, and taking on different pieces and seeing where you shine. Seeing where there’s opportunity for you to explore certain types of copy more, and then think about where your zone of genius is. I’ve realized I don’t really want to be writing blog posts anymore, so I’m not going to write that because they bore me after a while, doing it for the same kind of clients.
But the packages that I’ve chosen are in such a way that each one, every time I take on a new project, is going to be something new and it’s going to be something that excites me. And the way I’ve laid them out is that they could technically all feed into each other. Like a Copy Cleanse could feed itself into a brand messaging guide which could then feed itself into a launch for a client, and it has taken that path once or twice with prospective clients before. So do it in a way that feels like it’s tiered, but they could all be layered. And don’t be afraid to have fun with the names – I think that was my favorite part of coming up with them was seeing how they could align with my brand really well. But try to be just anything that you can do to differentiate yourself, and know that if you only have to work on those three things, you would be super stoked all the time, go for it.
Rob: Yeah, I think that’s really solid advice. I want to jump back to something we started talking about or at least mentioned a little bit, and that’s how you network and build relationships with other writers and potential clients, and just the people that are in your scope of influence. How do you do that? What is your approach to networking, and what do you do in order to start a relationship that can then blossom into something like a client relationship? Something where you’re actually making money.
Zafira: Yeah, great question. So full disclosure, I’m a total introvert, so going to events is kind of like my personal hell. But I really had to learn to get over it. But for me, really building relationships, even if it starts online. My platform of choice is Instagram, and I think that’s just because it really lets you open space to create community and create conversations in a way that feels really organic but really casual at the same time. There’s no stuffiness around it.
So I hang out on Instagram because I feel like that’s where my people are, and that’s where my ideal clients hang out. And building relationships there can start by even replying to someone’s story, commenting on their posts, making sure that we are constantly engaging with each other, but in a way that feels natural and authentic. And I’m not expecting anything out of it, I’m just like, “Oh hey, you’re cool. I resonate with what you’re putting out there.” And then, if we seem to be going back and forth a few times, or we keep DM-ing each other.
When we are interacting with each other’s content, I’m usually the one to say, “Hey, do you want to hop on a call?” Or if they live in my city, I’ll be like, “Let’s go for coffee and let’s just meet in real life.” And we have that one-to-one connection first, so I love taking my digital connections out for coffee as much as I can because I feel like, if we’ve already resonated on so many different touchpoints, we’re going to have a really good time chatting in person. And it’s not as intimidating as trying to meet at a big event.
But the way it’s penned up from here in Vancouver anyways is a lot of those one-on-one coffees, we end up at similar events together and they end up introducing me to other people, and it just feels a lot more comfortable. It feels like I connect with connectors, so it’s not even the people I’m connecting with might be potential clients, but they probably know people in my zone who want to hire a copywriter, or who could use advice from a copywriter. So now I show up to events I feel where I’ll likely be the only copywriter in the room, or one of the few.
But I’m also probably going to know someone there. I think it’s still really intimidating to show up when you don’t know anyone, or the space is new or the concept is new. I love going to panel events because I think then it gives you really natural talking matter to talk about with other people when you’re there, when you’re meeting people for the first time. Usually for me it’s wellness events, talking about anxiety or mindset or something. But they’re things I’m likely already writing about for other people and I can talk about with confidence.
So I love connecting with people in Instagram, I love taking those conversations offline and I always, always recommend going to events where you’re likely to be the only copywriter in the room. And then show up for conferences and workshops that are also uncomfortable once in a while. You know, even just going to Laura Belgray’s workshop in Italy, I created so many connections and friends that I’m actually working with today. Going to the Think Tank Mastermind real-life meetup, when we had it in San Diego last year, was amazing, and I think we feel really nervous or we feel really apprehensive a lot of the time to make the effort to show up in person. It almost feels more daunting than doing it behind a screen. But I think just 10 minutes with someone in real life hones in on the “no trust” factor way faster than posting on LinkedIn every day for a month.
So just show up and just be there and talk to people, and it doesn’t have to be a million people. I usually only connect with someone, like two or three people max at an event. But we talk for 20 minutes, and I try to get to know them really well. So show up and make, even if it’s a few connections, make really strong connections. My brain gets saturated when it’s a bunch of small talk, so I can’t really handle that at conferences. But be intentional about who you’re speaking with, and really get to know them really well. And just, I would say don’t be afraid. I had to get over a lot of fear to start showing up to places in person, but once I realized I’m much better off sitting in a corner talking to someone than mingling between 50 circles, I just use that approach and it works for me.
Kira: Yeah, and that’s such a great point though. I mean, I’d much rather attend an event and build some really strong relationships quickly in a 10-minute conversation, 20-minute conversation, than post content on LinkedIn daily for six months. I mean, it’s just such an easy option and you’re right, it’s way more effective.
So can you talk more about Instagram, which has worked for your business and for attracting the right clients. It’s not necessarily for everyone, not everyone’s prospects are hanging out on Instagram. But if a copywriter does have clients on the Instagram, what would you recommend as far as tips for doing really well on Instagram based on what’s working today, and frequency of posting, what to post. Really, the basics for Instagram today.
Zafira: Yeah, great question, and I love pushing copywriters towards Instagram if they feel like it’s a natural fit for them. So some basics: first thing would be to make sure, I recommend switching to a business profile instead of operating under a personal one and deciding whether you want to merge your personal with your business feed, or whether you want to create a new one. Personally, I feel like if you’re the person behind your brand, you’re the face behind your brand. Just own it, and don’t be worried about pissing off your friends because they’ll support you along the way, as you’re making that shift.
What happens when you switch profiles, I find the most useful thing is getting all the audience analytics and insights, which you only get with a business profile. So I use those really carefully to assess what time of the day I’m going to post and day of the week I’m going to post. But it also gives you an overview of what content is most engaging, and you can start seeing what works and what doesn’t. So that’s really number one basic.
Number two is to plan out your feed. I like to think of my Instagram feed as a homepage for me. I really think it’s like another mini homepage. So if you wouldn’t put badly filtered photos of your dog on your website homepage, maybe it doesn’t need to go on your business Instagram homepage. But that’s just my personal take on it. You can be as real as you want, but I think there just has to be some consistency. So use your grand colors and your fonts and try to weave in an aesthetic that feels really distinctive, but also true to you. And I like to use apps like Later, or Planoly – you can look them up, and some of them are free to use. And you can just plan out your grid in advance and see what it looks like, especially if you’re playing with text-based posts versus photos. It’s good to create a bit of a pattern and people will know what to expect from you, but also have an image that comes to mind right away when they think of you.
The other basic is just to start following the right people and be aware of who’s following you, too. We’re in an age where there’s so many bots and really scammy accounts, and I think people take pride in having a lot of followers but making sure that they’re quality followers is really important too, because I think your content doesn’t perform as well when it looks like that’s who’s behind you. So look at who’s following you carefully, don’t be afraid to block people that seem like they are just scammy, and preserve the quality of who you’re following, who’s following you back.
And then just engage with content in a way that’s really real and authentic. Comment on posts with your genuine thoughts and insights, always have a CTA at then end of every post you create that’s not just, “I’m here on Instagram to make a post and now I want to here from you.” Post something when you really have something of value to bring to the table. It’s a crowded space and people have a lot of the same things over and over again, so I post maybe once or twice a week. It’s not even that much, if even. But I like to post when I know I have something different to say, and the engagement is always really high as a result. Reply to your DMs or reply to your comments really quickly because that’s what makes sure your post shows up and feeds really easily, and it doesn’t get lost in the darkness.
And finally, use Instagram Stories and don’t be afraid. I’m personally a little video-shy, so you won’t see my face on there a lot, but I use it to share my opinions, parts of my life, and just make things real. People want to know who you are as a human. Anything to do with my dog is very high-performing content on my Stories. So just be yourself, yeah, and – oh, one more thing is, just don’t be afraid to brag. I think if people don’t know who you’re working with, or what you do, what’s the point of that? So I share a lot of testimonials on my Instagram, and that has led to a lot of leads because it could even be a bit of a kick for leads that went cold to remind you that, hey, I’m awesome and you should work with me. But don’t be worried about sounding braggy or like you’re showing off because what you do is awesome, and I think if nobody knows about it, then why are we on social media? So yeah, just own your awesome.
Rob: So Zafira, I want to ask, when you say, “Follow the right people,” is it more than just not following spammy accounts or are there certain influencers within a niche that you should be following or engaging with? Does that kind of thing help with the engagement on Instagram?
Zafira:I think, when it comes to following the right people, if you’re using Instagram to tap into your ideal clients specifically, start following your dream clients. Start following people in the niche that you’re in, people who are LinkedIn professionals, industry experts, because you can also see how they’re marketing themselves and what’s working. Follow other copywriters too. I would say, make sure your feed is really intentional and that whoever you’re following, like you don’t mind seeing anything that they post. I think when we start following masses of people, then you also lose out on seeing how people are doing things really well. So yeah, follow people that you want to work with, follow people that you think will support you and that you can learn from.
Kira: You mentioned that it’s important to find events where you’re the only copywriter in the room, and I totally agree as far as trying to find clients it makes sense at a lot of events. But sometimes it also makes sense to hang out in a room full of copywriters, which is why we’re hosting our event in March. So can you just speak a little bit more about why you’re attending our event, TCC in Real Life this March, and why it really is important to connect and collaborate with copywriters to grow your business that way?
Zafira:Totally, and I’m so excited for next month. I wasn’t there last year, so I feel like I’m gonna just be so stoked to be there this year. But yeah, being in a room full of other copywriters, oh my gosh, there’s no better feeling. A lot of use are isolated behind our screens and our little offices, and I don’t get a lot of opportunities to hang out with copywriters in real life. But when I do, I’m just like, “Oh my god, these are my people.” And they just get it, you know, they get every little thing that you struggle with. Client issues, or trying to work through different kinds of copy with certain frustrations. And the challenges that you’re facing in your business, you realize you’re not alone. That sounds really simple, but surrounding yourself with people who have been where you are or who are where you’re are, it’s just such a relief and it’s so, it’s like a weight off your shoulders to realize that you’re not alone in all this.
And hanging out in the Facebook group is great, but talking to these people as humans is totally different. I’m learning how they approach things in their life. For TCC IRL, I am really stoked to be around other copywriters who are killing it and I want to learn all their secrets. And I want to soak up all the good things that they’re doing to fuel these really profitable businesses in a way that also leaves them time to rest, which is like a trend I’m seeing with some of our more successful copywriters is that they’re managing to do it all with taking tons of vacation time and creating these systems that operate in the background and are really seamless.
So yeah, I think there’s just so much value in showing up, creating those connections, you might even find someone to collaborate with or subcontract for later down the road just by making that connection in real life. But really, copywriters are your people and they’re not a lot of opportunities to bring us together in a way that feels really not stressful, or a stuffy ballroom full of a thousand people. And what I think you two have created ad what TCC IRL will end up looking like will be a really intimate opportunity to get to know people really well. It will be a big group of introverts, so that will be great then.
Rob: Yeah, you’ve convinced me, I think I’m going to go, so it will be …
Zafira: Well done.
Rob: Yeah, it will be fun to be there. So you were telling us that one of the things that you do is this brand messaging package that you have put together. You’ve gone through it on your own for your own website, and you went through your own re-brand. Will you walk us through maybe the basics of that process? If I wanted to redo my brand, what are the first steps that I should be doing? What should I be looking at? And as a writer, how do I help myself show up in a bigger way do that my clients can find me?
Zafira: Totally. So I actually, I did end up doing a brand messaging process for myself. I should probably do that now. I did a mini brand strategy, but I think for any copywriter going through a re-brand, I would first recommend toning down your visual identities, so making sure you have a good logo, you have a color palette, you have a font system, and you have those elements that you can show up with consistently. I would also recommend investing in a photo shoot because your face is going to need to be somewhere at some point, but I think it’s a big confidence booster as well.
My brand messaging guides go into, more into how you want to approach the way you run things and the way you do your business and how you talk to your customers and what your approach is. So when I work with clients on brand-messaging packages, it’s really digging deep into their personality and why they do what they do. For a lot of my wellness clients, it’s usually tied to a really deeply personal story, and they have a lot of trouble trying to bring it to the surface in a way that they’re comfortable talking about it, but that their audience understands it very well.
So brand messaging can look like having brand values, brand vision, a promise, digging into your tone and voice, and creating sort of like a unique framework or a process for how you work with people. And when I work with clients so that it involves, you know, a couple of one-on-one sessions together, it involves a couple of customer interviews, like up to 10 or 15 sometimes, and a couple of weeks of just sifting through that research and pulling those things together.
But I think it’s really important for people to have that because it’s almost like a cheat sheet for your brand, and I think we often get stuck, or we start growing super fast, or we start taking things that start coming our way from every direction. And I think it’s a good thing to have to keep you centered and remember why you started doing what you’re doing, what your intention is, and what your ultimate promise to the people that you’re working with is. So I like to think of it as a bit of a compass for your business, to keep you on track.
Kira: All right, so we’ve talked about a lot of what you’re doing right in your business and what’s going well. Can you share some, or one, mistake that you’ve made in your business, or even a challenge that you’re dealing with now?
Zafira: Yeah, so I would say some of the big mistakes that I keep making are taking on too much work, or running into burnout really easily, and I’m trying to get a lot better at this. But definitely for the last two years, I have burned out almost every six months, like almost on schedule. So I think something that I’m trying to get better at is buffering my projects more and really having the confidence to say no to things. I think, I love the shiny objects and I have to stop doing that because I think my body suffers, my health suffers, my works suffers and I don’t think I can bring my best work to the table if I’ve got too much on the go.
And I think the other thing that I struggled with earlier, and I’m trying not to run into again, is getting too comfortable. I think when we get to a place where we’re like, “Hey, this is going really well. I’ve got the money coming in, I have a process. And this was happening a lot for me when I was doing things like blog posts or social media strategy, things that were recurring that were really good at bringing in money, but were stunting me creatively. It was hard for me to pull myself out of those situations and make the call because, really, nothing is wrong. It’s just that I’m not making that creative space to work on things that light me up.
And even up until last year when were in the Accelerator, I was struggling to let some of those retainers go, and I think that’s something I wish I would have learned earlier, is to just drop the things that aren’t lighting me up anymore, like making a smooth transition. And I finally have let go of all my retainers, or things that I felt were dragging me down mentally a little bit. Yeah, so it’s like they’re two opposite challenges, which is like being too comfortable or being too burned out. But I have struggled with dealing with both of those over the years, and this year I will hopefully do better, and just trust that I’m doing the right things to market myself and bring in the work. I can say no to things if my plate is full.
Rob: So Zafira, where does your business go from here? What’s next for you?
Zafira: What’s next for me? I’m really excited about the next year. I feel like I’m finally doing everything I want to be doing. I am excited to grow my team and bring on more support. I still don’t know where I want to be five years from now, but next year I know I’d like to be charging even higher rates than I am right now and steadily increasing those prices, working with a few more clients but on bigger projects, and then also starting to activate a lot of my half-baked ideas that are lying on a list somewhere. I have a lot of good ideas that I want to put out into the world, a lot of stories I want to share, a lot of products I want to create. And I think just freeing up that space this year, to just work on things on the side, things that will grow my business, I’m really stoked to do that.
Kira: Can you tell us more about one of your projects that we’ve discussed before supporting other women of color and building a networking community. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Zafira: Yeah, so one of the things I noticed when I stepped into the wellness world, and writing for it, is that diversity and representation was really lacking. So one of the things I’m working on right now is a series with women of color and the wellness world, and really diving deep into their story and how we can do better. I have been in a lot of yoga classes or been in a lot of situations where I was the only woman of color at a wellness event, or a retreat or a workshop, and I’m just really curious to explore at those barriers, or what are the forces at play that’s creating those environments. And I think that’s important work for me to do if I’m going to be a copywriter in this space, yeah. So stay tuned for that.
Rob: That’s an exciting project, and love that … I mean, obviously you’ve seen what we’ve tried to do and supporting different groups within copywriting, which has often been an old boys’ club and kind of exclusive. And so we love seeing you do the same kinds of things within the communities of color, it’s just an awesome thing to watch.
Zafira: Thanks so much, yeah. And I think one of the things I want to do in the next year is figure out how I can give back to that space a bit more. One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is donate part of the proceeds from my client work to a cause that I really care about, so if I’m looking towards maybe supporting diversity and representation in some ways, so that’s something I’m working on as well.
Kira: So Zafira, if we want to find you, where can we go to connect with you online?
Zafira: Yeah, so hang out on Instagram. You can follow me at zafira.rajan. Otherwise my website is zafirarajan.com, and that’s the best place to find me.
Kira: All right, thank you so much for jumping in here with us and sharing more about your story and your business growth. It’s been really inspiring to just watch you grow.
Rob: Yeah, it’s awesome.
Zafira: Thanks for having me, guys.
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