Writing copy with personality is hard. So what does it take to do it? We invited copywriter and brand ventriloquist Justin Blackman to talk about how he does it for the 216th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast—and to give us an update on everything he’s done since our first interview with him way back in episode 59. If you’re looking for ways to write with more personality, this interview is for you. Here’s what we covered:
• a recap of what he’s done in his business for the past 4 years
• how he doubled his salary a year after leaving his full-time gig
• how important building his authority was—and the result
• when it’s time to move on to the next thing in your career
• recreating your job/career as new opportunities arise
• what it takes to build the confidence to move forward
• taking on big challenges as a way to grow your authority and business
• the investments Justin has made in mindset
• how Justin’s ego kept him from writing his best work
• Justin’s advice to anyone who feels like they aren’t as far along as they should be
• how to write with more personality—the formulas that work
• how to figure out your own unique voice
• why so many voice guides are useless and what to do instead
• Justin’s WTF framework and how it captures the 3 parts of brand voice
• the things we’ve done in our businesses to change our mindsets
• Kira’s brand strategy guides and what they include
• the program he’s created to help others write with personality
• how he gets everything done—it starts with working on his own stuff first
• how to have fun while working as a copywriter
• his tattoo story—this goes back to what he said about ego getting in the way
As usual, this is a great episode you won’t want to miss. Scroll down and hit the play button, or scroll a little farther to read a full transcript. Or download the episode to your podcast player. Better still, subscribe and never miss an episode.
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The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Episode 59
Never Lose a Customer Again
The Go Giver
The Codex Persona
The Big Leap by Gay Hendrix
The tattoo video
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Rob: Writing is hard, but writing with personality or perfectly capturing the personality of your client is even harder, but that’s what Justin Blackman does. Justin is our guest for the 216th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. He stopped by to share how his business has changed since the last time that we spoke in depth about the Headline Project way back on episode 59.
Kira: Before we do that, this episode is brought to you by The Copywriter Underground, the membership for copywriters of all experience levels who want to invest in their businesses and grow. As a member, you get more than 60 hours of video training courses on marketing your business, improving your copywriting skills and fixing your mindset so you’re set up for success. Learn more at thecopywriterunderground.com.
Rob: Okay. So let’s jump into our interview with Justin.
Kira: Let’s kick this off. My first question I even wrote down was, dude, what have you been up to the last year? Question mark. Question mark. Question mark. Because I feel like you’ve taken off. And I don’t think it’s just me because we talk about you and we say good things in our circles, and I feel like you just have, I don’t know, like you just are doing the right things and it’s paying off and you’ve put in a lot of hard work too that is worth acknowledging. But it just seems like you’re doing really well. And so I am really excited to hear about what you’ve been doing, the changes you’ve made, and how it starting to pay off for you too.
Justin: See, I think that’s the fun part because the last couple of months, it doesn’t seem like it’s been the hard work. It seems like the years leading up to this have been the hard work. And now, when everything shut down and I was like, “I need to figure out what to do.” I said, “You know what? Now I can have a little bit more fun.” And that’s when I embraced the fact that there weren’t a lot of people talking about just the silly things that I was talking about and writing with the style and the weird techniques and things that I do, because there really was a structure behind that. And I just wrote an email saying, “You know what? I’m going to keep it light.” And I made it fun.
And then at the end of the email, I broke down exactly what I had done above it. And people wrote back to like, “Yes, more of this. I had no idea that there was actually a science behind this. Tell me about this process.” And then I started talking more about that and just having fun, literally not knowing what to do, not feeling comfortable to sell anything because of just the whole economic situation. And that created the course of Write More Personality-er, which was even just a placeholder joke name. I actually don’t like that name at all because grammatically it bugs me.
I was just having fun, and I put some stuff out just to see… really just for entertainment value, just to take people’s mind off of everything. And that’s really what set the wheels in motion for everything that I’m doing right now.
Rob: So before we get to all of the things that are going on in your business, I think maybe we should take a step back. You’ve been on the podcast a couple of times before this is you’re certainly competing for one of the people that we’ve had on the most. You’ve talked about a lot of the things that you’ve done in the past, the Headline Project and your work with the hotel and some of the other stuff that you’ve done, but maybe we could just recap because while it does feel like you’re everywhere and we keep seeing you pop up in a lot of different places, we know because we’ve seen the behinds, that there’s been like this progression through your career, as you’ve built your authority, as you’ve developed the pathway that you’ve followed, we’ve seen what’s happened.
Maybe you could give us a short recap of some of that stuff. And then we can talk about the particulars, how you’ve partnered with people, the training that you’ve done, the events that you’ve attended, that you’ve spoken at, how you’ve grown your authority, and really look at what you’ve done almost as a case study for what copywriters who might want to do the same thing as you should be doing.
Justin: I could do all that in case there’s one or two people out there that don’t know who I am, I imagine that there are a lot more than that. The background was, I was working in-house at a international hotel company and I was writing for like 14 different brands at the same time and just pumping out a lot of different content. I had taken a couple of different writing courses. And I was a decent writer, I’d say it was better than average, but I didn’t necessarily identify as a copywriter at that point. I invested in the first round of the Accelerator in the beta program, you guys ran me through the gauntlet clip with the Headline Project where I wrote 100 headlines for 100 days for 100 companies, which came out of an idea through Kira in the hot seat.
And that’s what put me on the map. I eventually got recognized about a year after that by an agency that was creating Facebook ads, long form Facebook as an email series for coaches and consultants. They needed someone that could write in multiple different styles and voices. And without even realizing that I was able to do it, I took an assignment with them just as a test and made it fun. They had a very lighthearted style, but I was able to emulate it really quick. Some of that also came through the Codex Persona, which was a training that I’m now a co-instructor, but because of that really unique skillset that I had developed without realizing it, I nailed the project.
And he told me afterwards that I was the first person in four years that ever nailed it on the first try. So I went with that confidence. I left the hotel company, moved to create a Pretty Fly Copy as it’s really is its own entity and took on the agency is my first retainer client. And my first year, I wound up doubling… My first year as an official copywriter and freelance slash business owner, I wound up doubling my salary from the hotel company. Over the course of two years, I’ve written for more than 329 different people, realized that I didn’t necessarily want to continue writing the Facebook ads and emails, but I was able to figure out that the consistent process that I had with being able to sound like different people was my superpower.
The being able to nail voice was something that I could do better than pretty much any other writer that I had come across. And it took a long time for me to be able to say that as confidently as I can now. I’m still not entirely comfortable with it, but I’m starting to own the fact that I’m pretty darn good at voice. And now, I’ve moved forward with training other people on that process. And in addition to just the voice, I also have broken down all the techniques that I’ve stolen from all these different people and from my background studying comics and comedians and improv, and combine it all together now. And I love working with copywriters to teach all this stuff.
Kira: All right, cool. Yeah. Let’s talk about doubling your salary because you just slipped that in there, but that’s a big deal. You left your full-time gig at the hotel, went out on your own and doubled your salary. It sounds great and wonderful and probably anyone listening is like, “Huh, how do I do that? I want to leave my job and double my salary.” Are you just a unicorn and it’s just you Justin, or is there a method to the madness and something that other people could pull from that and possibly replicate?
Justin: This is where it really helped to have you guys in my corner. If you remember, this was right before round two of the Think Tank. You had just finished the beta program, and you and I were talking about it and I had actually decided not to do it because I was pretty comfortable in my job. And then this offer came seemingly out of the blue, but really it was because of a year of the Headline Project in getting my authority out there. I didn’t really know what to do, and you guys helped me structure a contract that gave me security so I could create a company with a retainer basis.
We set up a couple of different parameters with minimum monthly amounts that I would get paid and the minimum amount of deliverables, and we also set in a cancellation clause. So it wasn’t just 30 days, but because I was leaving a full-time job for this and they really wanted me and they actually wanted to bring me on full-time there, we basically did a three-month cancellation, because all my eggs were going to be in one basket for a while, and that was scary. But I took the leap, we put in that cancellation clause and we rolled that out for a full year.
That was a great process because with this retainer, I didn’t necessarily have to work on any other projects for the month and I would still be okay. If I wanted to finish up those projects quicker and bring on other clients, I was able to do it. And that gave me a chance to continue to develop my skills as an entrepreneur because I had total employee mindset for a while, but I was able to build up my business and network a little bit more so when the time come that the agency contract did end, I was in a place that I can move forward.
Rob: So I’m really taken with this idea that as you’ve progressed through your career, that where you are now is completely dependent on all of those steps that you took, that you walked through. Do you think, and I’m going to break the rule of podcasting, never ask a yes or no question, but do you think that if you had missed any of those steps, if you hadn’t done the 100 Headline Project or if you hadn’t connected with the client that had you writing Facebook ads every day, if you had skipped any of those steps, would you be where you are today?
Rob: And maybe explain that a little bit.
Kira: No, and interview’s over.
Justin: No, we’re done. So the Headline Project, again, it had been, I’d say probably a 14 to 16 months from the time I did that to the time that the agency reached out to me. And I hadn’t even connected the dots right away that that was how they found me. And he didn’t either, it was because of an SEO ranking when they search for funny copywriters, which I, yeah, Lianna Patch was number one, I was number two. I don’t know if I’m still number two, but there was a point actually when we first started in the first round of the Accelerator, my goal was to rank for funny copywriter, and you guys helped me create some content that did that. Then the Headline Project just boosted up my rankings and my authority as far as Google is concerned, so it helped with that.
So they found me because of the Headline Projects and I was able to move forward because of the business building skills that I learned in the accelerator, which even when I took it, I wasn’t entirely sure why I was taking it. It was just kind of like “You know what? I’ll learn this, maybe it’ll come in handy one day. I don’t really know.” But that’s been the story of my life, is I’ve accidentally been prepared.
Kira: Right. And because you were in a full-time job that you were happy with at the time you joined our beta accelerator program.
Justin: Yeah, I was very happy. I had no intention of leaving.
Kira: Okay. So I want to hear more about that retainer that allowed you to double your salary because you were there for over a year. How did you grow and advance business during that retainer time that you could say it was comfortable? I know you were working hard and it kept you quite busy and it was demanding, but I feel like it’s really easy to get into a retainer situation, especially if you’re getting paid well, and get really comfortable and possibly even lose that year if you wanted to grow and just I don’t know, lose that time, but you didn’t do that. So how did you look at it and what were some of the steps you took to grow your business while you had that retainer?
Justin: I did lose that time for a while. There were times that I just enjoyed making money and just writing. I was in that shut-up-and-let-me-write phase where I didn’t have to deal with clients, there was an account manager that just gave me feedback, they gave me the intake forms. I took that, I watched a video or two, and then I just wrote. And I was in writer heaven, no contacts with clients, very little feedback, just wrote and wrote and wrote for hours a day and I loved it. I got super comfortable with that. I learned a ton about mindset during that year, we can circle back to that in a bit because I know we want to focus more on this.
But I learned more about mindset and productivity and realized that if I wrote faster, then I could have more free time, and built that and then use that free time and set in the processes to get what normally took four weeks done it two weeks so I could still take out additional work that would be more fun or more in line with what I wanted to do or take a couple of classes or read more about business because I did know that with all my eggs in one basket, I was in a dangerous spot. So continuing to grow and read more about business, and even dive into a lot of the business books that I had been putting off for a long time, that helped a lot.
I guess I stayed a little scared that all of it could go away and that helped.
Rob: So you mentioned books. I want to stop and just ask favorite business books that you read during that time? What was most impactful?
Justin: Most impactful. There was one that you gave me, and it wasn’t Never Lose A Customer Again, which was a good one that you gave me. The one with, there’s like the five different types of people that you meet. You gave it to us in the Think Tank.
Kira: In heaven?
Justin: It was like that, but in the real world. But I remember it talks about the different types of people, and one of them was the connector. I can’t remember. But it’s a fictional story about a businessman, he’s on a sales call and he’s not making his quota.
Kira: The Go-Giver?
Justin: Yes. The Go-Giver… that’s it.
Kira: Yeah, that’s a good one.
Justin: That one helped a lot. That really changed my way of looking at what my role was and how I could up-level and network was out… Finding my role in what networking was to slowly build my business and find my space.
Rob: So then that relationship ultimately comes to an end, you decide you don’t want to be that anymore. Then what? In your business, how did you make the big leap to the next big thing?
Justin: There was a long pause, probably three months where I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do. And that was right at TCC IRL in New York, the second one. I had just finished that retainer and wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do. And I basically took a month off of client work just to decompress because I’d been writing so much, I just didn’t want to write anymore. And couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to do. And because of some of the networking that I had done, that’s when I connected with Abbey Woodcock and started learning more about voice and realizing that that was the superpower that I had.
I started talking more about that, got her approval and permission to use some of her frameworks and modify them toward becoming my own. It took advice from the outside. It took you guys, Prerna, Chanti, every one of the Think Tank, really helping me figure out that voice was my superpower. And probably over the course of three months, I really repositioned everything to go all in on voice guides.
Kira: How did you know when it was time to leave that retainer? Because I think it’s easy to stay. Again, if it’s comfortable, it pays well, it’s easy to stay for a while. And there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s where you want to be, but how did you know it was time to move on, especially since you didn’t know exactly what the next step was.
Justin: There are two ways that I knew, the first way is because they told me. It had to do when Facebook changed the algorithm and it really affected their business, and so we saw a slowdown come in, so work just wasn’t coming in. So that was clearly a big part. But even before that, I was really okay with everything. Aside from seeing the shutdown coming…. Actually, it’s not the shutdown, they’re alive and well at this point, they just had to step back and wait for the new algorithm to kick in.
But it got to the point when I opened up some of the new projects and I just felt gross about it. And not that the client was bad, but it was just like, I’ve done this ad 1,000 times. Yeah, I’m putting a new spin on it. Yes, it’s a new person, but I just didn’t feel good about the work anymore. Not the quality of it, just the fact that I was still writing it. And I hadn’t really grown any more over the last few months than I had in the beginning. I think that was probably the biggest issue, is when I stopped growing.
Rob: Yeah, it’s this is a really interesting topic that maybe we should explore a little bit more, this idea of growth and how do you identify times in your business or in your life where maybe you’re a little stagnant and it’s time to, whatever it is, try a new thing, maybe it’s buy a course or whatever. So aside from the feeling gross, you had this happen several times in your career, Justin, how do you know? How do you know when it’s time for the next thing?
Justin: You just trust your gut really. I guess looking back, I’ve almost been fortunate where I’ve been forced out of situations. It doesn’t seem fortunate at the time, but before when I was in the corporate world, I was on a three-year cycle where every three years I was getting laid off because of company changes. And even when I left the hotel company, there were pending layoffs. Actually, if I had stayed, I would have been laid off later. And that would have been probably a three and a quarter years. So there was that, but I think maybe that put an innate fear in me that every three years, I need to change it up.
I don’t know if that’s the right answer, but a lot of it was just when you stopped growing or when you’ve learned all that you can, that’s probably time to find it a real-
Kira: Justin’s done a really great job of going from unknown to the famous copywriter who many of us know, and we know him for what he does best, which is voice, but that path from obscurity to fame isn’t an easy path and it’s not always a clear path. What do you think, Rob, are the milestones along the way or the points along that path from obscurity to fame?
Rob: I think it’s important… You say it’s not easy because we often will say it. Sometimes I hear a lot of other people say, “You’ve just got to get yourself out there. You’ve just got to get yourself in front of the right clients,” or whatever. And to somebody who’s maybe new to copywriting, even some people who’ve been around for a while, it’s not that easy, it’s not just as simple as getting yourself in front of the clients. There’s almost a process to it. And as we’ve explored it, as we’ve done it ourselves in our own businesses, as we’ve seen a lot of the experts that we’ve interviewed, it feels like there’s a couple of things that most people have in common.
And I don’t think there’s just one path, there’s lots of ways to do this, but most people seem to focus when they’re getting themselves out there, trying to build their level of celebrity or the level of fame or whatever, they focus on one or two things. They go all in on. So they go all in on a particular social medium, or they go all in on podcasting, or they go all in on building a YouTube show, or speaking on stage, or they focus in… They may do one or two other things, but they really tend to focus on one thing. So that’s one of the things I really like about what Justin did is he went all in on headlines, and literally, every single day for 100 days, more than three months, he spent three to four hours writing headlines, posting it. And then after the project was over, he’d done his 100 days.
He then spent the next six months to a year, hopping on podcasts, talking about it, posting on his own blog, sharing his experiences, really milking the work that he had done over those 100 days for the next year in order to build his credibility. And then of course that led to one thing, and he did it all over again with brand voice.
Kira: Yeah. It seems like it really comes down to confidence. And even for Justin to come on our show this time and say, I don’t have his exact wording, but I’m confident that I’m one of the best copywriters who can capture voice of clients and mold myself to their voices. That takes confidence to go into podcasts and even say that, and I don’t think that’s something he could have said a couple of years ago, or at least when he first came on our show. So part of that is figuring out, “Well, how do I get that confidence?” And like you said, something like an authority building project, like the Headline Project where you’re doing something that’s super focused and that most people, 90% of people would not do.
And because it’s hard or it’s grueling, it’s going to take a lot of time, maybe it’s stressful, it’s just tough. And so I think if you can find something that most people will not do because it’s that difficult, that’s where you have an opportunity to stand out, and to practice, and to teach from that, and talk about it and be the only one talking about it because you’re the only one who did it. And it doesn’t have to be writing headlines like Justin did, it could be anything, but thinking through how you could create your own challenge like that, that would allow you not only to improve and gain confidence, but also to teach and talk about it and build it into your marketing.
Rob: Yeah. And I think it’s really important to remember, Justin did not have the confidence to do the Headline Project first. Confidence comes after doing the thing. We were there when he was talking about starting this project, and it was an experiment, he’s like, “Well, maybe I’ll try it. And who knows if I’ll finish it.” He actually did three or four days before he even started talking about it because he wanted to make sure it was something that he could lean into and do. So confidence, you can’t wait for it before you start doing the thing. And it’s the same thing when he moved into brand voice, we were there for those discussions as well, “Should I make this move? Should I take on this client? Should I be doing this thing? Or should I be focusing on something else?”
And it wasn’t necessarily confidence led him to do it, but just willingness to try. And because of the experience he had doing all of the things he did with brand voice, now he also has the confidence to go out into the world as one of the experts talking about it.
Kira: I think one of the important parts is that when you take on something that feels really big and daunting like the headline, that you take it seriously, and you’re intentional about doing it, whether it’s something that lasts for a week or 30 days or maybe six months that you go all in and do it well. And that’s what Justin did that separates him from so many other people who have good intentions and take on a challenge like the Headline Project, but don’t actually complete it, which is easy. It’s easy to give up on something that big, when you have to pay the bills and take client work and you get distracted
But Justin was able to harness that project into his own authority and build his business off of that because he took it seriously from the beginning and he took it seriously until the end, and then beyond when he was teaching and talking about it.
Rob: Yeah. And I also think that somebody is listening to this thinking, “There is no way that I can carve out four hours to write headlines every single day.” It does not need to be something as big as the Headline Project. If you are just starting out and thinking, “Okay, I want to build my authority, I want to get known in my niche.” You could start out by posting on LinkedIn once a day or maybe twice a week, if once a day is too often. Posting on Instagram and trying to engage an audience there for 15 or 20 minutes a day, or maybe three times a week, if every day is too often.
You do not need to go all in on a super huge project that you really don’t have time for and that you’re going to quit two or three weeks in simply because you can’t get it all done. You can start small, it really just depends on what fits in your business, what is going to fit for your niche and for the clients that you’re trying to attract, make sure that you’re going after those people and you’re focusing on the things that are going to move your business forward.
Kira: All right. Let’s jump back into our interview and talk a little bit about mindset and magic. Let’s talk about mindset, you mentioned that you had an employee mindset and that you focused on your mindset during that time you were at that retainer. And then I know from talking to you that you really took it seriously and really invested in programs and coaching that would help you transform your mindset. Can you just talk a little bit about what was the catalyst for you? How did you even recognize that you were struggling with that? And then what were some of the investments that you made time-wise or money-wise in that space?
Justin: Yeah. I tried a lot of different things. I think when mindset first started to hit my radar, people were talking about money mindset, and I believe Tarzan was one of the first people that did it. And that’s played into gender roles and stereotypes here, but as a guy, it didn’t really resonate with me at all. Guys weren’t talking about this, I was even getting some comments from other people that were trying to push these programs like, “Hey, will you come into this group, I can’t get any guys to register?” And I’m like, “No, I don’t want to, I don’t really have a money mindset.” I mean, I did, I realize that entirely now, but at the time, it wasn’t.
I guess it was a stage of awareness, and I wasn’t at that stage. What got to me was it hit a point when I was writing and it would take me hours to come up with something that took minutes. And I realized that I was just getting stuck, there was this need to make it perfect. And this had to do a lot when I was writing for myself, and I think it’s because I held myself to a high standard because I always felt like I was a pretty good writer and I was like, “This needs to be right. This needs to be good. I need to prove to people that I’m a damn good writer.” So I focused and I struggled really hard and I was editing as I wrote and just stopped the process and gunked up everything.
And I was talking to Ian Stanley who had gotten into mindset, and he’s like, “Your ego is getting in the way.” And I’m like, “What does that mean?” And he broke down this whole need for perfection and associated to mindset, and I was like, “All right, tell me more.” He gave me a couple of different guided meditations, and I had never meditated before, I thought that was a little hippy-dippy. But the way that he did it, it was a story. So the guided meditation, you’re walking yourself through a story, and I liked that aspect of it. And that really helped me, it showed me what I was doing wrong, it showed me where I was gumming up my process, where I was slowing myself down.
And it worked, I was writing faster, I was running better, it was just like someone opened up the valve on creativity, just ideas were flowing, and I was getting out some of the best stuff I had written in years. And I said, “All right, there’s more to this.” I went deeper, got into more meditation, figured out more mental blocks and mindset that I had around family, around money, around business. The employee mindset was real, and that had to do with a lifetime of being an employee. But two, even when I had that retainer gig, I was sitting back and the work was coming to me. I never felt like I had to go out and hustle for it, it just came. And then I did the work and then I handed it in. So I was used to people handing me projects, and I liked it.
It’s easier when you don’t have to do your own marketing and go out and hustle. So really fell into that mindset. So getting out and pushing myself out there to the point where I needed to rely on myself to get clients, that took a big mindset shift. There was a point where I was like, “Well, you know what, I’m good enough that people should come to me.” And it doesn’t work that way. As much as I wanted it to, it didn’t work that way. So I had to change my mindset on that and go out and push myself. And then it had to do with, am I really good enough? And then I started working with Linda Perry, who I met through the Think Tank, and she opened up even some bigger mindset issues that I had just around owning my authority and my presence.
I sound more confident now, but a lot of that is because of the work that I put in over the last two years.
Rob: Let’s say that I have a friend who’s stuck in that before state, they maybe have mindset issues, maybe it’s money mindset, maybe it’s authority based or whatever, what are one or two steps that they can start taking that they might be able to follow the same path that you have and start to get that stuff under control?
Justin: Guided meditations were the easiest first step, for sure, because meditating is hard, but a guided meditation is more passive where you’re listening and you’re letting your mind wander. And even just the whole act of shutting down your mind and not punishing yourself if you start to wander where you’re just like, “Oh, my mind’s wandering, back to focus.” And just that little tweak where you’re allowing yourself to just calm down. It doesn’t take long for that to work, just a couple of days, a couple of weeks, and that’s when you realize, “All right, maybe there’s something more going on here.” That’s really what opened up the door to me, before that, I never really believed in mindset.
Kira: You mentioned proving something to people that you felt like you had to prove yourself, and the perfectionist, the need to be perfect stemmed from that. What advice would you give to someone listening who feels the same way and like they need to prove their credibility as a writer? What can we do to overcome that?
Justin: I think the simple fact if you’re listening to this, if you’re in the Copywriter Club, then you are probably a better writer than 98.9% of the world. So know that. As long as you are better than the people that you’re helping, you are helping. There are still certain people that I know are better writers than me in certain areas that I absolutely love their writing, I love their style. I stopped comparing myself to them and I realized that, “You know what, I’m pretty good where I am, and that’s okay.” And I embraced my imperfections, I actually even doubled down on them. And that’s even what right more personality it is, it’s basically figuring out what your style is, and even if it’s not perfect, it’s rolling with that.
And there’s a Neil Gaiman quote that I use all the time, and he says, “Style is the stuff that you get wrong.” And I’ve embraced what I get wrong and turned it into style.
Rob: I love that quote. Now I’ve got something to ponder and think about. As you were going through your mindset battles and the different things that you were working on, were there any things that you tried that didn’t work or that maybe set you back a little bit?
Justin: There are lots of things that set me back. I would say each time I discovered a block, little things, and Linda is a master of this, some of her like her suitcase, exercise that she does, she does these little meditations where you’re just thinking back and figuring out what it is. Those set me back every time I uncover something new, I’m just like, “Really that? That little incident in the grocery store when I was eight years old. That?” It gets in your head until you figure out the correction. So I think, yeah, there’s always going to be a step back when you’re about to move forward.
Actually, Mariana Norton, she had a great line when I stepped back for a little bit, she’s like, no, it’s like, when you’re about to jump off the high dive, you go to the edge, you look over and then you step back and then you run and jump forward. I was in the stepping back point. So I think that there’s always a few things with mindset that you’re going to learn that will push you backward, but then you just run through it.
Kira: How do you look at it and moving forward? You’ve done a lot of the work already, you’ve worked with people who specialize in that. Do you have some practices that you continue to focus on? Or do you take some breaks from mindset because things are going well and revisit whenever you hit another block? How do you look at that?
Justin: I am a classic example of when things are going well, you can stop doing it because it’s working. It’s not the way that that works though. The fact is, it does stop working, it’s like charging a battery and then unplugging it, it’ll eventually die back down. It is a constant practice, but there are times that I think I’m more focused and clear. I don’t meditate every day, but I know that when I do, I’m better. I should meditate every day, it’s just been hard with quarantine and everybody at home to find that time, but I think that probably means it’s also more important than ever.
I think the biggest steps of where I’m able to not be in it as deep anymore is when I realized that it’s a mindset thing coming up. Like if someone says something and I find myself immediately reacting defensively I don’t necessarily say it. I say, “Wait, hold on, something’s going on here? What is it?” And I interpret it internally before it becomes a bigger issue. So just being aware and then maybe trying to figure out what it is later, I think that that’s helped, I think that’s where I’ve been able to step back a little bit. But no, I’m definitely better when I practice it every day.
Rob: I want to change the conversation just a little bit, let’s talk about writing with more personality or however we do that. So you’ve carved out the space, I know there are others who write with a lot of personality, with humor. You mentioned Leanna, she definitely does it. Abbey has got processes around that, you mentioned Abbey as well. What are you doing? And tell us about the things that you teach in your course and how do you teach people to write with more personality?
Justin: I think that the background that I accidentally build up since the time I was a kid really came into play here, and it’s just where I see the patterns and the structures behind jokes, and they really apply to writing as well. And I’ve said this before, but if you made a Venn diagram of a comedy techniques and copywriting techniques, you would have a circle. So what I do is I see the overlap and I dissect the patterns in that, and I just show people where it works, like, “Hey, this style worked here, this structure is setting up the same thing. You can apply this to that.”
And it’s just finding the patterns and showing how to steal like an artist, how to borrow techniques from Twitter and apply them to email, just really showing the full gamut of what’s available to you to build up your arsenal, and then you can create and choose on your own. But I think the difference is with a lot of great writers, you read them for the entertainment value, what I do is I go and like, “Wait, why is this funny? What’s interesting about this.” And I go deeper than I probably should, and then I just show the secrets.
Rob: Okay. Let’s reveal some of those secrets. To get started, what are one or two things that we can start doing ourselves to infuse our copy with more personality or to help us capture our client’s personality and be able to reflect that in the copy we write?
Justin: Yeah. Before I do this, I just want to say, it’s almost like when you watch Penn & Teller, and they reveal how the magic is done, but when you see it, it doesn’t take away from it, it actually makes it more interesting. You’re like, “Wait, how did they do that?” Because you’re still impressed by the fact that these people can do this and they have the creativity to create it. There’s a lot with the cadence that I do, some of the easiest things to tell, like this would be Penn & Teller showing the French Drop, how to make it look like you changed hands with a coin or something, would just be playing with the cadence. And one of the comedy techniques is you always end on a power work and you want your funniest words to be last, you want the last word to be the punchline.
And there are a couple of different reasons for that. One, it holds your interest to the end, and two, for a comedian, you’re not going to laugh over the line. So it gives a distinct pause. So one of my favorite things to do is restructure any sentence, so the funniest thing, or the most powerful thing is always going to be the last word. It’s an easy technique. I play around with my cadence, I write like a comedian where I focus on word economy and I cut out extraneous words. So my cadence is super short, super tight, my average word per sentence is like eight. Most people’s tend to be around like 13.
So by playing around with that, but I also know that if I want to make a sentence 37 words long, it looks really out of place and really interesting, so sometimes I do that deliberately. And that’s a fun way of changing the cadence and changing the flow and the rhythm. So there’s some easy ones with that. Playing with punctuation, I control the reader speed a lot by either swapping out commas for em dashes, so I get a little bit of a longer pause, or just changing things around stylistically, playing around with the capitalization. There’s all these little things that just don’t make sense and are breaking the rules, but really help you enunciate and control the way that the reader is interpreting and feeling the words.
Kira: What advice would you give to writers who want to figure out their unique voice, maybe they spend most of their time writing for clients, so they haven’t focused on developing their own voice. And maybe they also get a little bit tripped up too because they’re focusing and reading other people’s, other writers emails and Insta posts, and so they might be comparing themselves or pulling in other voices and still feel like I haven’t discovered their unique voice?
Justin: It takes a while. It took me a long time. I actually, if I look at my writing from four years ago, it’s almost unrecognizable, not just the tones or what I’m talking about, but the style is totally different. Writing for that agency, as much as I did, they had a very short, punchy style, totally changed my style to the point when I wrote an email once about three years ago, and I remember, actually, I guess two years ago, panicking as I wrote it because it didn’t look like me, and I forgot how to write like me. And that was actually a rebirth period. I truly couldn’t figure out how to make this email look and sound like me, and I just burned it all down and built it back up. I don’t know that that’s something that every writer can or should go through, it was scary it was, it was an anxious moment.
But I think what helped was, I think, I stole other people’s style by swiping copy and not straight out. I would always adapt it, but by taking the lines and looking at the structure and rewriting things in my way. And I figured out what I did differently and created this hybrid model of other people and them, and it was just doing it enough until I found only the things that I liked, and that’s all that was left.
Rob: Let’s say there are copywriters listening who maybe are going through a similar process or certainly trying to do it for their clients. I know that one of the things that you create for your clients as you work through this stuff is a voice guide. Can you talk about what a good voice guide includes? Maybe there’s certain sections. This isn’t something that I do in my work, so it’s interesting to me when I see other people doing it, but walk us through your process for developing that voice guide and what you would deliver to a client.
Justin: The reason why I focus on voice guides is because I saw so many that were just useless, and they had good intentions and no offense to the people that wrote them, but they’re designed to appease the CEOs and the marketing teams, but as a writer, they really didn’t do me any good. And it was at a point when I was at the hotel company where I would be in a room and everyone’s nightmare was he had like 12 different people reviewing your copy. All 12 of them had an opinion and all 12 of them were right. And the voice guide didn’t put clear enough boundaries in there that we knew exactly how it was supposed to sound and what walls we were supposed to play with it. And it was just too loose.
And I learned that more entrepreneurs and personal brands were having trouble figuring out how to stay within those walls to get everything, to stay consistent. And that’s when I was working with Abbey, she’s got that the Codex Persona, where we teach the structure of voice. There is vocabulary, the tone, and the cadence I have since adapted it for my own style, which is words, tone, and frequency, which is the WTF Framework. Essentially, I have a little bit more fun with it, that’s me playing with vocabulary, but I put very strict parameters on what level of vocabulary it should be, what the cadence should be, the average words per sentence, and then the tones and the emotions.
Is it optimistic? Is it hopeful? Is it confidence? Is it fearful? Is it scared? Timid? Is it friendly? Is it more aggressive? And by putting these three rings on everything and getting everything to fit within that framework, that enough is alone. And that enough alone is to be more of a tighter guideline for most writers, than we sound like our considerate friend. Things like that. I put real concrete structures behind the voice rather than a loose feel.
Rob: And we’re back, so let’s briefly recap just a few thoughts about mindset. I think we may even have mentioned this last week, mindset comes up a lot in our podcasts and what Justin is talking about here, specifically the mindset shift that he went through from being an employee at a large chain to CEO of his own business, that’s a really big leap. And I think that maybe we don’t even talk enough about the money mindset and the changing mindset around marketing, and we’re just talking about authority in the last segment, but we really, I think, need to think more about how much mindset impacts the business that we’re building, especially as we’re starting off, but even two or three years in, where a lot of us start to realize, “Oh my gosh, the thing that’s holding me back, isn’t my ability to attract clients, it’s not my ability to do the work, it’s maybe a mindset block that I’ve got around. How much can I charge or what clients that I should be working on?”
First of all, Justin did a really nice job of working through this, but Kira, what do you think about ideas for helping us, you and me, and maybe some of our listeners, move through the mindset blocks that we have?
Kira: For me it’s been more about, I would say the biggest mindset factors has been who I surround myself with, which I know Justin mentioned, the five people you surround yourself with, that’s been most critical. And so that’s been a huge part of my mindset growth, and that has stemmed from different mastermind groups that I’ve been in along the way. And I’m constantly looking for the group where I can be the dumbest person in the room, or I have the smallest business and everyone else has been a little bit more advanced. That for me has been most impactful. I’ve also worked with coaches, I think there’s a place to work with coaches who specialize in mindset. That’s always helpful when you can have someone listen to you and reflect back what they’re hearing and can call you out too.
So I think that’s also nice to pull that in when you need that extra support. But really when I look back for me, it’s just like, what am I taking in? What trainings am I taking in? What conversations am I taking in? Who are the people that I’m experiencing and hearing from and hearing their conversations? And that all goes to mastermind groups, which we’ve talked a lot about, but I do think mastermind groups does do wonders for mindset. Even though typically we talk about mindset coaches when we talk about mindset shifts.
Rob: Yeah. I agree. I think the first time that I got into a mastermind group and saw people who were making two or three times more than I was making and knowing that they’re just regular people, just like me, but seeing what they were doing differently in their business was really eye-opening. It’s not that I didn’t have the capability to do that before, but I just wasn’t thinking about my business and in the ways that they were thinking. And so that for me was a big change. The other thing that has helped aside from that is a couple of the books that I’ve read over the past couple of years, one in particular that was mentioned by Ian Stanley and Liz Painter when we interviewed them recently is a book called The Big Leap.
And that’s all about a limit on the upward, the upper limit problem that we have, where we’re okay with things in our lives, and it’s not just business, but personal things as well, that fit within our comfort zone, but once something pushes us beyond our comfort zone, whether that’s charging more or working with a different level of client, or spending more time with a family member in order to improve a relationship there, or something, we tend to start to pull back because we’re uncomfortable in those situations. And so being aware of where those limits are helps you break through them, or at least helps you be able to see what it is that’s going on behind the scenes. That’s maybe a little subconscious sometimes.
Kira: Yes. And for me, I can identify when I have a mindset issue bubbling up, and I’ve had many recently because I start to get defensive, internally, my thoughts are very defensive with what I’m taking in and more negative oftentimes. And that’s usually an indicator that I have some block that I need to figure out, or I could ignore, but it’s not going to go away if I ignore it. And so it’s like Justin mentioned, it’s an ongoing process and it never truly disappears. And so the more you can just figure out how to work on it and not be afraid or upset when it happens, the better off you’ll be.
Rob: Yeah. We should probably mention, obviously we’ve talked about this a lot in the podcast, we interviewed Linda Perry previously, anybody who wants to listen to that, she talks about the suitcase exercise that she takes people through that’s really helpful. We’ve talked to Ian Stanley, he talked about the ayahuasca stuff that he went through and his mindset changes. Tanya Geisler, I think that’s episode 47 if I remember right, who talked about the mindset shifts all around the imposter complex. So there’s some really good episodes that we’ve recorded in the past if people are interested in talking about that or thinking about it in more depth.
I think the other thing that Justin talked about here that I think we should touch on is his voice guides and the work that he’s done around voice. This isn’t something that I’ve done a lot in my business myself because of the kinds of companies that I tend to work for and with, but I know this is something that you’ve done a lot in your business, and this is something we’ve created some resources around this in the Copywriter Underground, and that is creating voice guides. So can I ask just for a brief breakdown of what you think about voice guides and what you put in your voice guide, Kira?
Kira: Sure. Yeah. I think Justin’s voice guides because they’re called voice guides, they are heavily focused on voice and he just dives deep into that space, which is really cool. I don’t do that. In my guides, I need a snazzier name for it, but I call them more brand strategy guides because while I touch on voice, I don’t do a deep dive into voice. I’m talking more about messaging and doing more of competitor analysis, and introducing different offers, and talking more about business structure connected to audience personas and really like understanding audience and key messages, and then the best offers for that audience.
Minds have evolved and they’re constantly evolving based off of what I’m most interested in. And more recently, I am more interested in how to put together really good offers, especially since so many companies have been pivoting in this year and need that, and that’s what they’re asking for. I also focus on what makes you weird, some more of your USP, and figuring out that marketplace advantage. So it’s more of a holistic brand strategy guide that I go pretty deep into, but the cool thing about these guides is you can do something like Justin that’s more heavily focused on voice. You could do something that’s more focused heavily on key messages.
You could go really deep on audience personas or again, competitive analysis or figuring out offers, or you can touch on all of it. And so that’s the great thing is just figuring out who your clients are and what they’re asking you for. And then what you are you most excited about creating? And what is your sweet spot when you put together these guides? I don’t think it has to be cookie cutter, I think we could tend to think that every guide needs to be the same, or I need to go really deep in voice, but if that’s not your specialty, then do what you’re best at. And for me, again, it’s been thinking more about businesses holistically and figuring out how they’re different in the marketplace. And that’s what my clients asked me for.
Rob: Yeah. And they’re a natural outgrowth, I think, of a lot of the work that copywriters do in the research process. You’re looking at competitors, you’re looking at how do you differentiate? And so putting that all into a report that goes back to your client as a voice guide, or a brand guide, or a strategy guide of some sort is almost a natural add-on. You’re doing the work anyway. So why not? If you’re not charging for it, why not at least present it as a bonus to your client, but there’s a huge opportunity charge, what these guides are worth. And that can be thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of dollars,
Kira: Definitely tens of thousands. And there’s so incredibly valuable for clients. And again, like you said, we get paid finally for the research that we were doing anyway. So to me, it just seems like a no-brainer to offer this so that I can get paid for the work I’m doing and not skip over it and just gloss over all the research that we’re doing. So it’s a really great addition to your suite of offers as a copywriter.
Rob: All right. Let’s go back and finish up our interview with Justin
Kira: I love to pivot a little bit here, you mentioned Abbey a couple of times and this partnership that you have with Abbey, what I’m wondering is just how you’ve built your authority and started to market yourself and build these partnerships and gone after what you want after doing all that mindset work where you said everything was coming to you now, I know because I’ve seen you, you’re going after what you want. And what does that look like now that you’ve worked on your mindset, what does that look like to you at this point in your business? What does that marketing part of it look like?
Justin: I think some of it still does, go back to that employee mindset where I liked to be with someone who I think is the boss. And there’s a lot of times in my own business where I have to realize, “Oh, that’s me, I’m the adult in the room.” But when it started, the way that I initially started going forward with the voice was through that networking, through working with people that I wanted to be close to and being that go-giver type of personality as being the connector, where I wanted to connect with people, I wanted to bring people together, I wanted to share information that I thought was great and little by little, it grew my authority and I became associated with those things. So it was I talked about voice enough that I became just as well-known, if not more known for it than Abbey.
And Rob, even circling back to that Neil Gaiman quote, he actually talks about this, that quote, stylist is stuff that you get wrong, he says that it’s from Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys that he read in an article somewhere, but the article does not exist anywhere online, and now he gets credit for saying that. So it became his quote, you literally can’t find anything about Brian Wilson, the only time that you’ll see Brian Wilson’s name come up with that quote is when Neil Gaiman is talking about it. And I think that happened with me when it came to the voice. Abbey’s obviously still a big part of the Codex Persona and the instructions that we teach. But I’m now carrying that forward and doing more and different things with it than she is while she’s focusing on the next part of her business.
So I’ve been able to come in and run with elements that she built that she doesn’t want to anymore that I really do. So it’s almost like a spin-off and it became a new thing. And I think that I’ve done that a couple of times where I just find the pieces that I really, really like. And then I get inspired and fired up talking about, and I just talk about it as much as I can.
Rob: So the more you go into voice and personality, I know you’ve created your own, is it a group program, a course, whatever? Talk to us a little bit about the ins and outs of running a group program like that where you’re giving feedback and helping people work through some of the stuff that they need to fix in their own businesses, or some of the products are trying to create, because this is something we see with a lot of members of the Underground, members of our Think Tank, creating group programs. Tell us what you’ve done In order to do that.
Justin: When I first launched Write More Personalty-er, I underpriced it, and I did that deliberately so I could be done with it and not feeling like I had to deliver this multi-thousand dollar program. The beta round was at $69. And it was because I kept trying to stuff more in for it, like, “No, I need to over-deliver, I need to over-deliver.” And I felt confident that when I launched it, I had way over-delivered for that price. That helped a lot, I mean, talk about a money mindset, but that gave me the permission to stop and to just send the damn thing and it worked. And the feedback was great, again, I’ve recognized my need for perfection and realize that the information that I had was helping more people and it really set everything in motion that like, “Oh you know what? What I do is unique and it really is helpful. There is a demand for it. I’m happy, and I love teaching people about this. It’s actually the direction that I want to go in.”
But just shifting that mindset, that what I have is valuable, there is a need for it and I can help, really set the whole direction for whatever it is that I’m doing right now.
Kira: Can you talk more about the transition from offering the one-on-one services, which I know you still offer to selling programs, and maybe this is the same question, but I’m just looking at, how do you function differently as a business owner now that you are scaling and teaching and selling programs, that require you to function differently. So how has it changed how you spend your time, how you organize your time, how you show up online, how you market yourself?
Justin: The voice guides are great, and I love doing the one-on-one with that and going deep, and I’ve got to work with some amazing people. It’s all right to name drop, Amy Porterfield, Stu McLaren, Danny Iny, Melissa Griffin, was some absolutely amazing dream clients. And the one-on-one service that I offer has given me the opportunity to do that. That being said, it takes up a lot of space in my brain to the point where I can’t do it all the time, it’s exhausting. It’s not entirely scalable, so I needed something that was a little more fun to allow me to do more and just be myself rather than just embracing these people’s writing style and personalities and personas for five weeks at a time.
The scaling factor came for, it’s a lot more fun and a want of being around other copywriters. I just am a copywriter’s copywriter, I just love being around those. So I wanted to be around as many people as I could. And that’s where the bigger programs came in, and being able to scale that, I think some of it had to do with… Because I had been working on Amy Porterfield and Stu McLaren’s voice guides and embracing their programs and seeing what’s in there, seeing, “Oh you know what, there actually is a process that I can do through this,” and just tried it and it worked. And I spoke to other writers that are doing similar things. That’s how I found the easiest software to use, just working with different coaches and communities to set things up, Prerna Malik, they gave me a fantastic foundation for the easiest ways to create a course and scale.
And it’s the same information, it’s a little less interactive, but that’s a good thing because it allows me to shut the door every now and again, they are paying less than the one-on-one, so it gives me permission to step back, and I still over deliver, but it gives me back my brain and allows me to write about things and talk about things that I want to talk about.
Rob: Speaking of wanting to talk about, let’s talk about you, how you get it all done. Do you have a morning routine, or a weekly routine, or something that you use, a system that you use to keep everything organized so that you’re ending the day on time and delivering for clients and finishing up the work in your own business?
Justin: I always work on my own work first. That’s pretty much my one rule. That’s when I’m most fresh, and that was the time that previously I’d given away to clients. I’d say like, “You know what, I’m fresh from 8:00 to 11:00, that’s going to be when I’m going to whip out my client work, and then I’m going to focus on my stuff, my stuff later.” And my stuff never came. What I’ve got now is now I focus two to three hours on my stuff, whether it’s writing new content or right now, I’m working on my new website. So I’m focusing on that in the morning. The client stuff is going to get done because it has a deadline. So even if I move that to the afternoon, I know that it’s going to get done. That little shift helped me tremendously, putting my own work first.
Kira: You’ve mentioned fun a couple of times throughout this conversation, and so I think it’d be fun to talk more about fun. It’s easy as our own CEO and business person to create a business and to realize at some point, I’m not having as much fun right now, and not question it, but you are having fun, you’re creating a business that is fun. How do you keep it fun? How do you intentionally design it so it feels that way even if it can’t feel that way all the time? What advice would you give to copywriters who maybe are just feeling like it’s a painful process to build their business and even wondering why they’re doing it at times?
Rob: Here’s why I’m saying she’s not having fun.
Kira: This is my call for help, somebody help me. It’s true, there are days where you can lose that fun and have to regroup, and think through, what do I need to change? And so I’d love your advice on this.
Justin: It goes back to the whole Ben & Jerry’s thing, I think their motto is, if it’s not fun, why do it? And I even learned this during the Headline Project, when there were days that I was just struggling and I was like, “This is a slog. I don’t want to write these 100 headlines.” And then I would try to make jokes out of them, and then it became fun. And it was also better lines that I made. So when I write, if it’s fun to write, it’s going to be fun to read. And I want people to open up my emails because of my sender name rather than the content that’s in it. I want the content to be great too, but I want them to anticipate that there’s going to be something fun in there.
And I just I share jokes, I share silly stories, I share background, but the more fun I have, the better my business does, the more people reach out to me, the more money I make, I don’t know exactly what it is, but having more fun has definitely been a huge catalyst over the last six months of my career.
Kira: What is the next fun thing you’re working on? What’s coming up`?
Justin: Write More Personalty-er, I’m going to create the Personality-er Academy, which is going to be a group version of that. So I’m expanding on that. I’m working on monster sessions, which is a program I’ve got going out right now. And that’s where I’m working with writers one-on-one to boost their personality, but more detailed than that, I’m also going to do the voice analysis on their personal brand to figure out where they are. And every time I’ve done it uncovers some deep deeper, underlying tone that is the meaning of their authority. It’s something that they’re hiding and their confidence isn’t quite there. So we overcome that and we rewrite the writing within three hours to become more confident, and more powerful, and more fun if that’s what they want to do. So those are the two programs that I’m really focused on right now and crazy excited about.
Kira: This is a little bit self-serving or entirely self-serving, but you’ve been through our Accelerator Program, the beta, you’ve been through in the Think Tank a couple of times, you’ve been in the Underground membership. You are actively participating in the Underground and doing weekly headline challenges with us in that group, you know us really well. So for anyone who doesn’t know us as well and is listening and not sure of how we can help them or where they should start when entering the Copywriter Club community, can you offer any advice because you’ve seen us firsthand, you understand what value we add. So
Justin: About some of the reasons about why you should invest. The fact is, this is going to sound a little bad at first, but stick with me. When I first joined the Accelerator, I didn’t know why I invested, I just felt like maybe this is something that I should learn. When I joined the Think Tank, it felt like it was more of an immediate need, but also during that time, I was learning through you guys through different trainings and for different groups. And I didn’t necessarily why I was doing it, but I knew that investing in myself was never going to be a bad decision, and it has paid off every single time. You don’t necessarily need a reason to invest yourself other than the fact that it’s you and you should definitely grow you whenever you can.
Kira: Awesome. I also want to ask you, Justin, about your tattoos story.
Justin: Yeah, it’s a fun story. When I first got into meditation, there’s a guided meditation by Ian Stanley, which you can find, it’s called the Second Self Meditation. And the way that it works is first, you calm and relax your mind, and then you go through this journey where you look in a mirror and you see a person and you become that person. You walk through the mirror, you go through this little journey, this little adventure, and it ends with you getting words that guide the rest of your day. And it says like, “Here are your words.” You open up an envelope, you mentally see the words on the page, and that sets your theme for the day.
And I do this meditation all the time, and it is amazing. When I first got into this meditation, this was right after I had learned that my ego was getting in the way. So the first time I do the meditation, I get to the mirror and I see this man, and he is in a purple jacket, a top hat, brown pants and brown leather shoes. And he looked like a skinny version of Jason Statham, almost like if Jason Statham had been in the hospital for a couple of days. And I look at him and I ask, “Who are you?” And he says, “My name’s Meeko.” I didn’t quite hear him, I said, “Meego or Meeko.” And he paused for a second and he smirked, and he said, “Meeko, with a K.”
I went through the mirror, we do the adventure, we get through the end, I open up the folder, look at the words, and he puts his hand over the words, and he says, “Not yet.” I say, “Okay, this is probably just part of the meditation. This is the way that it works.” And the next day, the same thing happens, I go, when I look in the mirror, I see Meeko, we go through, get to the end, open up my words, he puts his hand out and says, “Not yet.” This happened every day for about six days, and I was getting really frustrated. I still wasn’t getting the benefits of the meditation, I wasn’t writing faster, I was still getting stuck. It wasn’t happening, Meeko kept stopping me. And then I did the meditation another day, and it felt different.
When I got to the end, I almost got my words, it was the closest I’d ever been, but something about that meditation and being in that story just felt different. And I remember, I was actually at the gym when I was doing this, I did the meditation in the sauna. And maybe that was it, maybe just changing the location, maybe that was at the signature. But then as I was driving out of the gym, I’m at a stop sign in the parking lot, it just dawned on me all of a sudden that his name wasn’t Meeko, his name was Meego, me ego. And he was blocking me from getting my words, and everything just became crystal clear. And I know that this is going to sound ridiculous, but I looked in the rear view mirror and I swear to you, I saw Meego and his purple top hat, tip his hat and just fade away.
And it was crazy, I can’t explain it, but my ego let me go. And the next day when I did my meditation, I looked in the mirror and I saw me, not Meego, not somebody else, I saw me in jeans, and where the sidewalk ends, white t-shirt.And on my reflection forearm, was a tattoo of an interrobang, which is a question mark, exclamation point hybrid. And I looked down at myself and that tattoo appeared. And then I went through and for the first time ever at the end of the journey, I got my words. And that day I wrote so much, I wrote free, I wrote fast, I wrote great, I just felt alive.
And from that point forward, I always get my words. And whenever I go to the mirror, and it’s usually me that I see, but sometimes it’s a different character, it can be anybody, but anytime I see them, they have the tattoo of the interrobang on their left forearm. And that signifies that like, all right, today’s going to be a good day, I’m going to get my words. We’re going to move forward. So that became the process and the symbol that I’m ready to write that I should stop questioning myself and that I have the answers. And it works, I always get my words. Now, I actually have that tattoo. Afterward, I did go, and I got the tattoo it’s on my left forearm. And anytime that I’m struggling on a word, I’m just obsessing over a sentence, I just looked down at that tattoo and I tell my ego to shut up and go away and I have my words.
Rob: Listening to you tell that story, Justin, I feel like Rob Reiner’s mom in when Harry Met Sally.
Clip from movie scene: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Rob: That kind of inspiration, it’d be good to have. Thanks for sharing that story.
Kira: That wraps up our interview with Justin.
Rob: So Justin, this is something I know, we actually joked about this at the last TCC IRL, but Justin shared that story about his tattoo that he got, the interrobang, and you and I have talked occasionally about tattoos and neither one of us has one. But this keeps coming up between us. At IRL, I put a little fake tattoo on my back at one point, and we revealed that, but if you could get any tattoo, Kira, maybe it’s on your wrist or your ankle or wherever, what would you get and why?
Kira: You can’t ask that? That’s such a big question. If I knew exactly what I wanted, I would get it in a heartbeat. I would love to get a tattoo, but for me I have commitment issues, and so the idea of getting… It’s almost like the perfectionist in me, I want the perfect tattoo. And I know that’s ridiculous, so I just put it off and I don’t get anything because I’m waiting for the best idea and the perfect idea and the perfect spot to put it on my body. I will get one eventually, maybe Rob, you and I will get one together someday.
Rob: I don’t know.
Kira: We’ll get one like when I’m 70 and I’ll just do it then, but I will have one at some point for now. I’m also totally fine being tattoo free as much as I actually love tattoos, just because sometimes it does feel like you’re more different without tattoos because they’re so common today. So I’m just rocking the tattoo free body right now.
Rob: Yeah. And I think I’ve shared this, I don’t know if I’ve shared it on the podcast, but my great grandfather had a tattoo, and the first 20 years of my life, he was still alive and I would see that he would always tell me, “I regret this. Don’t ever get a tattoo,” or whatever. And so that got into my brain, and so I’ve just always thought, “Well, tattoos aren’t really for me,” but I have definitely seen some really cool tattoos on other people and thought, “Okay, that maybe.” But I’m like, it would have to be the perfect tattoo before I would put it on my body.
We even had three people add tattoos, our logo to their tattoo collections at the last TCC IRL, and we did a little video that we can link to that in the show notes.
Kira: Yeah. And I also just don’t know where I would put it on my body. I know there are lots of different options, but I don’t know where I would put it on my body. I don’t have the perfect spot for it. Maybe I’ve got some body issues I need to talk about, but I’m just like, “I don’t have the perfect spot for a tattoo on my body.” I don’t know. I’d love to hear from people who have the perfect spot and have the perfect tattoo and get some inspiration from them.
Rob: Okay. So is there anything else from the interview with Justin that stood out to you besides the tattoos?
Kira: Just the tattoos. No. Yeah. So I also liked that Justin mentioned his rule, which is to always work on your own work first, and we do mention that a lot with copywriters we work with, but that has been the key to any growth I’ve ever had in business, has been when I flipped it and started to work on my own work first, client work second. And sometimes client work, especially if you have created multiple offers and maybe you are coaching or you’re teaching, maybe you have your own memberships or courses now, the client work, those are your members and you still have customers in those groups too, and so they become your clients.
And so it’s easy to want to then serve the 20 or 100 of customers and clients you have at that point, but you always have to put your own work first, the work on the business, otherwise you will not see that growth. And so Justin’s experienced it. That’s a big part of the growth that he’s had is because he flipped it and now it works on his own business first. And the copywriters we’ve worked with who have really progressed the most and hit their goals, are the ones who get that and they do that.
Rob: That’s not just a rule for copywriters who are creating products or memberships or programs or courses or any of that. If you only write copy, it’s still a really good idea to work on your own stuff first, because you still need to do marketing, so you still need to be writing emails to your own list or blog posts to share in places online where your clients are going to find them or social media, or whatever that thing looks like as you build and develop your own business, work on that first. And it doesn’t have to be an hour a day, it doesn’t have to be one day a week, like what we’d like to do, you can make that work for you and your business, but you definitely need to put your own work first, otherwise that stuff just never gets done.
Kira: We want to thank Justin for joining us for this episode. If you want to connect with Justin, join us in the Copywriter Underground most Tuesday mornings for the Creative Juice Box, or visit his website, prettyflycopy.com, where you can learn about his programs or hire him to write your brand voice guide.
Rob: That’s the end of another episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Our intro music was composed by a copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. The outro was composed by a copywriter and songwriter, David Muntner. To learn more about how we can support you as you build your copywriting business or as you grow your own authority, like Justin was talking about today, visit thecopywriterclub.com. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.