Nikita Morell is our guest for the 136th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. We’ve known Nikita for a while now and given the success she’s had, it’s a shame we haven’t had her on the podcast before now. Nikita has found a lot of success by niching her business and delivering exactly what her ideal clients need. We talked to her about:
• how she went from selling bread to selling ads to writing copy
• her accidental sales pitch that saved her sales job
• how a job in marketing taught her skills that she uses as a copywriter
• why she chose her niche—working only with architects and the impact on her biz
• how she changed her business to accommodate having a baby
• what she does to find clients—she’s a “prospecting nerd”
• what she did to raise her rates adding thousands of dollars to every project
• how she thinks about her brand and why she takes her brand seriously
• the marketing pieces she is using in her prospecting process
• how she makes her cold emails feel like warm emails
• this mistakes she’s made along the way—it hasn’t all been smooth sailing
• what she does to get a lot of “busy work” done and still avoid burnout
• the things she has done that have made the biggest difference in her business
We also asked Nikita about working with subcontractors, creating a “pretty” framework to show how her process works and why she spends a lot of time with a Japanese floor loom. Nikita shares a lot of advice worth listening to in this episode. To hear it, click the play button below or find it on your favorite podcast app. Readers can scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Seth Godin
The Copywriter Think Tank
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Intro: Content (for now)
Rob: This podcast is sponsored by The Copywriter Underground.
Kira: It’s our new membership, designed for you, to help you attract more clients, and hit 10k a month, consistently.
Rob: For more information, or to sign up, go to thecopywriterunderground.com.
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 for episode 136, as we chat with copywriter Nikita Morell about helping architects with copy and marketing strategy, her approach to choosing a niche and then narrowing it even further, why she created a framework for her process, and the role weaving plays in her life and business.
Kira: Welcome Nikita.
Rob: Hey Nikita.
Nikita: Thank you, hi.
Kira: Yeah, we’re excited to have you here. You are one of our members of our Think Tank, so we’ve been able to witness your business growth, and we’re really excited to share what’s working, because so much is working for you in your business. So let’s just kick this off with your story.
Kira: How did you end up as a copywriter?
Nikita: So, I started in corporate marketing for L’Oreal and George Weston Foods, which is Australia’s biggest bread brand, and I quite quickly realized this corporate life just wasn’t for me. I think it was just all the layers and I just wasn’t that great at taking direction. And it was round about this time I was earning a full time salary, so I was frequenting lots of bars and different restaurants, and after a night out, my friends would come back and comment on the food, or the music, or the cute boy sitting on the bar stool, and I would be looking at the copper lights, or the timber joinery; and I think it was about this time I just became obsessed with everything design related. I signed up to an interior design diploma, and did that as a hobby, and learned how to draft, and draw floor plans, with no intention of becoming an interior designer, just to learn and immerse myself in that world. And, yeah, it was round about this time I thought, you know, there has to be a way to marry marketing and communications with design and architecture.
And I still remember the time, I was sitting there reading a commercial architecture magazine, and I though, aha this is it, I just need to work for this one magazine. And so, fast forward six months, I honestly just stalked, politely, stalked this magazine. I rang them pretty much every week, I just said, can I please meet you? Are there any job openings? And didn’t get much back, and then I think finally, just they thought, we just need to get this girl in; just meet her and just see what she’s about. And I went in, and they said look, we don’t have any positions in the editorial team, because I had been doing a lot of writing, I had created my own design blog called Distracted By Design, and writing for some New York based design blogs as well; and they said, there’s nothing in the editorial team, there’s nothing in the marketing team, all we have is a media executive position.
And before she had even time to tell me what the position was about, I said, yup, fine, sign me up, when can I start? So, a month later I went into the job and said, I’m here for the media exec, and they said, yup, you’re just sitting over there with the sales team. And I just looked at her and said, oh no no, there must be some sort of mistake, I’m not here for sales. And she said, yeah, that’s just a fancy name to what we call sales, and I just went white. I’m brown in color, and I just lost all my color and just thought, I don’t know how to sell. I’ve never, ever, sold anything.
And so I sat down, and I think six months I just really sucked at this. I would go in, meet all these furniture designers with the goal of selling ad space in this magazine, and I would meet with furniture designers, and there’s tapware, all these different types of amazing people, but I would go in there, just blurt out my sales pitch, be like, do you want to buy anything? Here’s some magazine space, here are the costs, thank you, bye. And never, ever, got one sale.
Now I had targets to meet, right? So I think they had their eyes on me, and they thought, oh gosh, what have we done? And so I wrote out my resignation later, and I thought, this is just not for me. And so I think this was about nine months in, and I had it in my handbag, and I thought, tomorrow I’m just going to go resign; but I had a meeting booked. And I thought, I’ll go to this meeting, who cares, doesn’t matter what happens. But I still remember, I walked in and it was this man, and he was a timber. He made this beautiful timber furniture, and I just spoke to him. I just chatted to him for an hour and a half, I asked him questions about how he started, and he took me through his workshop, and I just was blown away by his story. And I just thought, oh, you know what, your story needs to be in our magazine. And without even realizing it, I was obviously selling a solution to his problem, and I was gaining his trust, and I was creating that personal connection.
And I didn’t even take my magazine out of my bag to, or I didn’t even mention the ad space, but I came back to my desk an hour or two later and he said, Nikita, I want to by 12 months of advertising space, and that was my biggest sale. And I thought, okay, I’m just not going to resign today, maybe I’ll give it another week. And I guess the rest is history, I think I stayed there for another 18 months, and became their highest revenue earner in the company, and a year after that I just went to an architecture firm, just to get experience on the architecture side, because I’d done the publishing, selling, as a communications manager. And that’s where my copywriting journey began.
So I wrote newsletters, and about pages, and bios, for this one big significant architecture company here in Sidney, and I though, you know, if I can help these guys do this, why can’t I just help more people? So, I did a course in copywriting and that’s where I took the leap of faith and started my own business.
Rob: I love it. There’s so many different things here that led up to you being a copywriter, so can we talk a little bit about what you did as a marketing person, the role you had as a marketer, and then of course the stuff you were talking about in sales, how that all added up to copywriting as a career choice?
Nikita: Yeah, so exactly. So marketing, a lot of what I was doing was that consumer insight, so I would go, especially at the bread company, I would go into the grocery store for two days at a time and just watch people shop bread. So I’d see how they scan the shelf, whether they squeezed the loaf or choose the loaf behind, so it was, I guess, watching and observing a lot of, yeah, consumer insights. And with that, learning about brand strategy. So understanding your tone of voice, your brand values, and all those kind of essential marketing foundation components, and then, yeah, as you said, naturally fell into selling, which I learned at the end of the day is just all about trust. It’s just getting someone’s trust, and then it just makes the sale so much easier. And then those two things combined, I think, it just, copywriting was a natural progression. I mean, now I look back and I’m always drawing upon my sales knowledge, always drawing upon my marketing knowledge. It was almost like the third piece of the puzzle, and it just made sense to combine those two skills into copywriting. And I’m definitely still learning the art and craft of copywriting, but I think having those two things has definitely helped me.
Kira: And can you talk about, timeline wise, when did you go out on your own in your business?
Nikita: So it was about two and a half, nearly three years ago, and in terms of timing I started my business and then about six weeks later found out I was pregnant. So it wasn’t probably the most ideal timing in terms of that. This pregnancy was a bit of a surprise, but it’s definitely, it’s in a way I think I wonder if I had just started this business earlier, but I think, as you said Rob, it’s taken me these steps to get here and, so yeah.
Kira: Okay, cool. And what did it look like early on, three years ago, whenever you made that jump, how did you start to get clients, and what did you do in those early days to really build the foundation for your business?
Nikita: Sure, so what I did was is I, will go into a bit later, but I love textiles and weaving, so I, in the beginning I would just write to homeware companies, and textile designers, lots of rug companies, and just to build up my portfolio and sample pieces, I offered a lot of contra deals; so I had a lot of rugs and lights arriving, and I would just, in return, write an about page, or just to kind of get a portfolio going. So from the start, I was always, without even realizing it, I had kind of selected, quote unquote like a niche, or as Seth Godin says is the smallest market and that was, artists, and creatives, and that kind of interior design world.
So, I think there came a point where I thought, okay, I can’t have any more rugs or pillows on this couch, and I think my partner also said, Nikita it’s time to start paying the bills, I think our house looks pretty enough. So, that’s when I kind of made the transition and started to focus deeper and deeper. And as time has progressed, I’ve just gone from serving artists, and creatives, and interior designers, now to just doing interior designers and architects, and now even further to architects. So I think, as time goes on, I just keep getting more and more laser focused in who I’m serving.
Rob: Okay, I want to talk more about this, and we talk about niching quite a bit here on the podcast, and in the Facebook group, and even in the Underground and the Think Tank. But tell us more about this process, how you decided to keep going narrow, because going from artists and creatives, to interior design and architects, now to architects, and I think even architects at firms of a certain size. Like you have continued to niche down, and a lot of people think that every time you niche, you’re actually losing audience and potential clients; have you found that to be the case, or how has niching changed your business?
Nikita: Yeah, so, it’s definitely been a scary process, each time I niche further down I think, oh gosh, am I just risking cutting out more of the market? But for me I think, just specializing in something, it’s creating more focus for not just who I’m serving, but my whole business. So it means that when I’m making business decisions, or I’m writing a LinkedIn post, that every time I just have that ideal client in mind. And so it helps me make business decisions every day, I think, put myself into their shoes and I think, well how are they going to respond to this. And it’s really allowed me to go deep into the industry as well. So I’ve got a base level knowledge of architecture, for example, but as I meet each client I can just go deeper and deeper, so it’s not like I’m starting fresh each time, so that’s definitely been of help.
And I guess in terms of selecting a niche, I think it really comes down to your passion. I think a lot of other times we look at potential profit of the market, or your existing network or existing experience, but sometimes, if you want to go down this path and really focus on a specific niche, you need to have that genuine passion. And I think clients can see that when you’re just really, I really want to help you. And at the end of the day, that’s kind of the premise of my whole business is, I really want to help architects, because I think they’re doing some brilliant stuff, it’s just they don’t know how to get themselves out there.
So yeah, that passion piece, and especially if you’re doing it, you need to be able to do something for at least five years. You can’t get bored of it once you pick something so focused, as well, because you’re doing it day in and day out, the same thing.
Kira: Okay, so I would love for you to brag a little bit, because I know that you’ve had tremendous growth over the last year, and you are in demand. I think it’s safe to say that, that you are in demand in your niche, and the go to person to support these companies. Can you talk about what you did to get there? Like beyond niching down, which you’ve already talked about. What are some of the other changes, or even just like game changing moments? What have you done to become this much in demand in your business?
Nikita: Well thank you, but I also think it helps to be one of not many doing what I’m doing, so that definitely does help. But I would say the biggest game changer was when I had my daughter … She’s 18 months old now, but when she first came along I had four to five clients on the go, and they were smaller clients, so in terms of smaller I mean I was doing jobs for a lot less; $1000 here or $500 there, and managing a lot more clients. Where when after having her I thought, this is not sustainable. I was getting very overwhelmed and burnt out, I was always on client calls and just managing too many people, and so I shifted the structure of my business.
I did two things. Number one, I started going after more mid-sized firms with bigger budgets, so I thought, okay, if they’ve got bigger budgets it’s my opportunity to offer a different type of service, a bit more one that’s a bigger value and I can, I guess, charge more, and so that’s what I did, I started going after them. And then number two, I shifted my services to become bigger, so pretty much now I just take one to two clients per month and an average job, which I’m more than happy to talk about in terms of how I structure my services, that can come up to 15, 20k. So rather than doing those $500 jobs, I just thought, and again that was a really scary shift. I thought well what happens if I can’t find these clients. But again, if you’re really focused, and you’re filtering out those clients you don’t want and you’re attracting the ones you do, it is possible, and I think everyone can do it if you just find that profitable market.
Kira: And you said 20k, right? 20k per project?
Kira: Just making sure I heard that.
Rob: Did you find yourself getting bored with these kinds of projects, Nikita?
Nikita: Yeah, people ask me that a lot. And to be honest, I know it sounds really nerdy, but I go into these architecture firms and they are doing very similar things, they’re building buildings, they’re designing buildings. But what I love is, I love going in there and I hold these discovery sessions, and by the end of it, every single firm, and I guess it goes with everything, every copywriter as well, but they always have a point of difference. And it’s about distilling and extracting that story and that why they’re different, and then putting that into words, which is what I love. So it doesn’t get boring, because I go quite deep. I say, well what makes you different, is it your process? Is it your design philosophy? Is it the background of your firm or the topology you’re working in? There’s always different and of course the firm in itself, with the different people, are always different too.
But look, I’ll be honest, sometimes I do wonder. I just see a lot of copywriters doing these awesome sales pages and landing pages, and wonder am I doing real copywriting? You know it isn’t direct copywriting at all, it’s more about pages and bios and taglines, but yeah, I think there is opportunity in the future to shift. I’ve been doing, I sometimes take on a project here and there for architectural products, so timber cutting, or roof tiles, or something like that. Which just adds a bit of variety as well.
Rob: Okay, so tell us how you find clients, and what does your onboarding process look like from either the outreach that you do or for them approaching you, until you land them as a client, how do you work through that whole process?
Nikita: Sure, so, I’ve got two approaches. So I’m a bit of a prospecting nerd, I love prospecting. That sounds really weird, but I’ll sit on my computer on the couch and just troll through industry blogs and news and I’ll see which firms are producing some beautiful work, or I’ll look at industry panel conversations and I’ll see who the judges are and what firms they belong to. So anyone who is open-minded, and you can tell that they’ve got some sort of a public profile, or they’re willing to kind of ramp up their marketing. It already shows that they’re open-minded to it, so I’ve actually got a big spreadsheet. So I’m always prospecting. It’s not really a task to me, it’s just always happening in the background, and that spreadsheet has notes and it’s color coordinated into priority. So, I do a lot of outreach, so, for example, one cold email could take me up to an hour and a half, two hours, to write because I put a lot of effort in to personalizing that cold email. I’ve got a bit of a template, but really it’s just trolling through interviews that the firm might’ve done, or where they’ve been featured, or I’ll comment on something really specific about their job. And so I do find that a lot of my clients, I do get a very high success rate with my cold emailing.
And then number two, the inbound ones, I get a lot of, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, so I do get a lot of direct messages from there. And in terms of onboarding, it’s just, to be honest I always just it off with a call, and I don’t really put a time limit on it, I probably should just to stay a bit more efficient and productive, but it’s just connecting in the beginning. And even prospecting, I don’t really call it prospecting, it’s more just connecting and it’s just letting them know this is what I do. And then it usually carries on from there.
Kira: I want to back up a little bit, because we kind of skimmed over this, but you said that you went from projects that were $500 to $1000, and then you moved to projects that were $15,000 to $20,000, and I feel like that’s a big jump in a short period of time, which is less than three years. So can you talk a little bit about this huge income increase, pay increase, and what it really took to do that in your business; mindset wise, structurally, what did you have to re-think? I know part of that is finding better clients who can pay, and you’ve addressed that with your outreach, but what else does it take, and what advice would you give to other copywriters who are hearing that and are like, I’d like to do that to?
Nikita: Sure, so actually I recently read Seth Godin and he said, you need to fashion a key to the lock. And think that the biggest thing, or I think, sorry I think it was the other way around, something about the lock and the key, but anyways. I think the biggest thing is, a lot of copywriters, and I was doing this too, I had a list of services. I said I do this, this, this, and this, and then what happened was is, when clients would come I’d speak to clients I’d say this is what I offer. Whereas I kind of switched that around and I thought, okay, let me see what these clients need and then I will create services according to that.
So even on my website, yes I’ve got some services, but every single proposal I make is different, and the biggest way I made this jump was instead of just selling an about page package, or taglines for your website, I kind of packaged it all up. So I’ve broken my service down now into two phases. I’ve got my brand and marketing strategy, which is phase one, and I’ve got my copywriting, which is phase two.
Now when I go to clients now, it’s almost like you, I mean I would say 85-90% take both packages, and that’s how that jump has happened, because within that brand and marketing strategy phase, for example, it includes research, so that’s your basic research in terms of interviewing past clients, looking at their existing collateral, obviously internet searches; I spend a lot of time on Reddit and Quora as well, just trolling through threads that architects or their ideal clients have written. Then I do a discovery session, which includes a short presentation as to why I’m there and what this discovery session means, because a lot of architects as you can imagine, they’re sitting there drawing on, and drafting, or designing on their desk, and then they’re called in to a meeting with a marketing person, they’re just kind of, what am I doing? Why am I here? So it’s kind of that why behind what I do, and then we launch into a discovery session, which is a 90 minute just deep dive into their firm. And questions sometimes that they had not even thought of. I mean for us, copywriters, it’s probably quite basic, objections and frustrations that their clients might have, and it’s their values, their why as why their architecture firm exists.
And from there I create a, I would say it’s about, on average, a 50 page document, which is my brand and marketing strategy document. And that in itself, I’ve tried to make a really quite active guide, I don’t want it to just sit on their hard drive, collecting digital dust. I want it to really be of use, so in that guide it’s got everything from vision and mission, it’s got brand values, it’s got your brand essence, your value proposition, it’s got a whole tone of voice guide, which I break up into pillars and I pull real examples from the company’s website and I say, this is how you’re writing now, in this tone of voice, this is what it could be. For example if I say, you should use a direct tone of voice, and I give them an example, I say do’s and don’ts, so it’s quite an extensive document, but it really does take them through and give them that, why they’re different and who they should be targeting. I do an ideal client profile and all that, and then of course the whole marketing strategy piece, so their marketing objectives and then tactics that they should be doing.
So, I just really want to help architects, for them to get the best results possible. So that’s that first phase, then of course I present that to them and get feedback, and then the second phase is the copywriting, and that, sometimes it includes over 85 project descriptions, so it’s a lot of bulk work, which I’m learning to release and get a bit of help on in terms of sub-contractors, which is definitely been able to free up my time a bit more and focus on the more strategic stuff.
Kira: Hey, we’re just jumping into the show today to tell you a little bit more about The Copywriter Underground. Rob, what do you like best about this membership?
Rob: So, this membership community is full of copywriters that are investing in their businesses, and taking what they do seriously. Everything is focused around three ideas; copywriting and getting better at the craft that we all do, marketing and getting in front of the right customers so that you can charge more and earn more, and also mindsets so you can get out of your head and focus on the things that will help you be successful at what we do.
There’s a private Facebook group for the members of the community and we also send out a monthly newsletter that’s full of advice, again on those three areas; copywriting, marketing, and mindset. Things that you can mark up and tear out, put them in your file, save them for whatever, and it’s not going to get lost in your email inbox.
Kira, what do you like about The Copywriter Underground?
Kira: So I, I love the monthly hot seat calls, where our members have a chance to sit in the hot seat and ask a big question, or get ideas, or talk through a challenge in their business, because we all learn from those situations. And then I also feel like the templates we include in the membership are valuable because, who wants to reinvent the wheel, and Rob and I end up sharing a lot of the templates and resources we use in our own businesses. So, I would definitely want to grab those.
Rob: So if you were interested in joining a community of copywriters that are investing in their business and in themselves, and trying to do more; get more clients, earn more money consistently, go to thecopywriterunderground.com to learn more.
Now back to the program.
Kira: Abbey Woodcock recently came out with a survey that speaks to the pay gap within freelancers and women, I think you can correct me Rob, is women are getting paid 47 or 46% less than men as copywriters-
Rob: Yup, that’s correct.
Kira: … in this space. So, for someone like you who is charging significantly higher amounts typically on projects, what advice would you give to any of the women listening who are struggling to charge more, to increase their rates. How were you able to do it? Did you just increase incrementally over time? Or did you have a coach on the side? How did you kind of feel comfortable, confident enough, to put out a 20k proposal in a relatively short period of time?
Nikita: Sure, so I think it also came down to, it was definitely a mindset thing, and for me that shift to asking for more money when it came to jobs also came at a time when I realized I really needed to boost up my perception. So what I did was, is I did invest quite a bit in my business in terms of I got a whole new website, I got professional photography, and just little, they’re not little things, but it just, things that helped me be, no this is the value that I’m adding and in terms of that it definitely helped to then pitch myself to these bigger clients. I just, I felt more confident, I felt more credible, and I felt like I had more authority to be able to pitch myself these bigger jobs and ask for bigger fees.
My website, all my columns, all my touch points, I got a graphic designer to make them look, and I know this might sound a bit, I guess, superficial in terms of, but it is a mindset thing, and I think, I thought well no look, now this is it, this is, I spent actually a lot of time working on my own brand. So I came up with my own tone of voice, I came up with my own brand values, and I think this is sometimes an area where we think we’re just one person, we’re just one copywriter, we don’t need to do this, but I’ve even got a big document myself for Nikita Morell’s brand, and that just gave me that confidence.
So, yeah, it definitely was a mindset shift, because it was, it was a big jump, but just realizing that a, I had the audience that were willing, or the target clients, that were willing to pay, and then b, that I actually could help them. I started to get really great feedback and some really great testimonials, and I thought, we’re adding value, so why shouldn’t we be paid for it. But look, it didn’t come easy, it definitely a mindset and a bit of a struggle in the beginning.
Rob: Nikita, would you mind talking a little bit about the content that you used to promote your own services? I know you offer a free guide on your website. Obviously you’ve created content in the past. How does that impact the sales process and the pitching process that you go through with each new client?
Nikita: Sure. Well it’s actually quite challenging. With my audience, just a little fun fact is that in the architecture world, the American Institute of Architects actually, it was illegal, so it was prohibited to market your firm until the 1970’s. So you couldn’t advertise, you couldn’t send out proposals or do sketches for clients. It was just, you put your shingle up on outside your building, and that was that. So it was not until 1972 that people, or architects, could start becoming competitive. So this resistance and reluctance to marketing is definitely been a challenge I’ve had to overcome.
Architecture is seen as a gentleman’s hobby, so either you go to the golf club, or you have a drink with your mates, and if you do good work, then the work will come. But as we know, you need to market yourself in today’s day. So in terms of my business, it’s been quite a struggle to try and, I guess I’ve got a low level of awareness, so it’s trying to educate them, but at the same time, they’re architects. They don’t care really, at the end of the day, what copywriting techniques or tactics I’m doing, or even what marketing is, they just want it done. So in terms of my own marketing, for me, I created this free guide, and the title’s changed a lot and the content too, but at the moment it’s called Five Mistakes Architects Make On Their Website, And How To Fix Them. So even if, look, I’m quite honest with myself, even if these architects aren’t reading it, and taking all the advice, at least it’s a way for me to showcase my knowledge and showcase what I can do.
So, it’s about pulling out and making them aware of their problem, so it’s really that first stage of awareness, like oh okay, because sometimes, oh not even sometimes, I’d say 99% of the time they know the need to fix something, but they have no idea. So yes, my free guide’s definitely been good just to develop that initial trust, and create a bit more credibility for myself and showcase how I write and what’s there. And I definitely recommend copywriters doing the same thing if they’re not already doing it. I think having a free guide, I get a lot of inquiries saying, oh I just read your guide, and so, I don’t know how much they read but at least I’m getting a response.
And the same goes with LinkedIn, that’s another platform I’ve been using to market myself. And I create quite, I guess, controversial posts toward architects. I have a bit of a go at them, in a light hearted, humorous way, but I just really want to point out that marketing is a necessity for their business, if they want to start getting more and better clients.
Kira: Yeah, and I love that. And some of them will resonate and get that, and some of them won’t. But it’s clearly working for you, and for anyone listening, it’s worth checking out your website, it’s beautiful. And think what you said about investing in your business, that’s what gives you that confidence to pitch a 20k project. And just checking out your report and your website, I can see why it’s working and appealing to your audience, who cares about aesthetics as much as you do.
I do want to back up a bit, because we mentioned the cold email and outreach, and that you love prospecting. I think not everyone loves prospecting as much as you, but can you just talk us through some of the elements that you touch on in that cold email that, because clearly it’s working. I know you have such a great response rate, so do you have any advice to copywriters who really need to improve those cold emails?
Nikita: Sure. I think the biggest things is, it just can’t sound like a cold email. And I go into it, as I said, I just go into it wanting to connect with an architect. So it’s a lot about stroking their ego. So I always, in terms of structure I always open it with something very specific about what they’re doing, and I’ll pull a quote from an interview, and I think that just gets them on board. And you know, even in my subject line, it’s kept very simple, just like, love your work. You know, I mean they can’t help but open it, they just want to see who loves their work. And even in that cold email, it’s not long. So it’s just, I know I said I spent a lot of time on it, but that’s because I really want to make it personal, I want to make it resonate with them. Even just a small paragraph that I say, this is what I do. And I don’t even go into that much detail, because right at the end I say, p.s., here’s my website, so I know that if they’re interested, they’ll go off and have a look.
But another thing I’ve started recently doing, which is really helping with my cold emails is, I’ll just hop onto their website and make a two to three minute website audit on video. So I’ll just record myself going through their site, just really casually, it’s almost like a friend to a friend, just saying oh you know, you could fix this, and you could do this, and that video link can take out a lot of the text, all the copy as well, because I can kind of introduce myself on the video and they think, oh wow, she’s made us a personal video. She really wants to work with us. So that’s definitely been a great little addition as well to my cold emails.
But again, all I really want from that initial cold email is a response. So even if they say look, we’re not interested now, or that’s just an objection, which you can of course use to your advantage and it’s just more information that you can go back with and say, okay maybe not now but, and then continue on the conversation from there. But yeah, I see cold email as a conversation starter, and I know, to be honest, if I hadn’t had that sales job as the advertising agency rep to cold call and cold email, I probably wouldn’t feel that comfortable doing it, but over time I just realized, there’s a human sitting on the other end of that screen and I genuinely just really want to help them. So if I can showcase that really quickly, and show them how I can add value and how I can help their firm, then yeah at least you’ll get a response.
Rob: So listening to you talk about all of this stuff; your website, your contact strategy, your cold email outreach, the way you charge for your products, it feels like everything is working really well. Have you made any mistakes? Is anything not working? Or has it just been a sunny ride the whole way?
Nikita: No, definitely not. So yeah, I’ve definitely come up across a few hurdles and as I said, architects if you know one, they’re very interesting people, so I do feel like a lot of the time I’m climbing up hill, like it’s a lot of following up which sometimes can be exhausting, but look, I’ve made, for example, I’d say it was about a month ago, I thought oh, and I did what I tell my clients not to do, I thought, I should really be on Instagram. I, at the moment, due to my limited time, LinkedIn is where I think my clients hang out, so that’s where I am, but I thought, you know architects are visual creatures, that’s where I’ve got to be. So I honestly spent, I would say a whole weekend and a week, just getting all these images together, writing all these captions, putting this while Instagram page together, and then I just got burned out. I said, okay, I just can’t do this.
So, I did waste a lot of time, and I’ve done a little bit of that along the way, being impulsive and not really thought strategically about what I’m doing, and I sometimes also I forget, and I think it’s easy for us to forget you don’t need hundreds and hundreds of clients. I think I just want every single architect to be my client, but it’s impossible, and you want the right ones as well. But yeah, it’s definitely just trial and error with me. Yeah, I mean I’ve made a lot of mistakes but that’s just one of them.
Kira: All right, so, you mentioned that you are working with subcontractors and I know, because of all the growth that you’ve had, you have grown your business, you’re also growing your family, so time is scarce, energy is scarce. Can you just talk a little bit more what you’ve done to, structurally, to help with the growth and take some of the work off your plate and prep your business so you can continue to grow and not get burned out?
Nikita: Sure, so, I, in terms of, yeah, I realized in terms of my copywriting jobs, a lot of architectural websites do require sometimes 30 bios, or biographies, or lots of project descriptions, and I found I was spending a lot of time in this, and this was something that I could sub-contract out. So, I did struggle in the beginning to find sub-contractors that understood, I guess, design. So what I was doing was I was looking for copywriters who had experience writing architects and designers, and it worked out well, but then I thought, what happens if I get an architect who enjoys writing, would that work? So I flipped it a little bit, and now, and that seems to be really working.
So now, I’ve got two or three sub-contractors who are architects, but love writing and have a real knack for writing, and it’s been great because I really invested time in training them on tone of voice, and on a bit of marketing, and we have regular Skype calls, so they are, it’s good because I think they’re invested in my business as well, and they get it. So that takes a lot of the bulk work out of it, so I can really focus on nailing that value proposition, and taglines, and services page, for example, or more of the marketing around it. But yeah, so, I mean I think it’s definitely been worth bringing on sub-contractors.
Rob: As you look back on all the things you’ve accomplished since you launched yourself as a copywriter, can you identify one or two things that has really made the biggest difference for you?
Nikita: Yes, 100%, it’s The Copywriter Club Think Tank, honestly. So I think I joined that, it would’ve been a year ago now, and that has been the biggest game changer. And I’m not saying this to make you guys feel good.
Rob: Yeah, I was going to say, that question now makes me sound like I was begging for that answer, which I wasn’t.
Kira: It does, Rob.
Nikita: Rob no. No, honestly, it really has, and for those of you that don’t know much about the Think Tank, it’s just full of brilliant minds and we’re, it just gives you that support system. So often I can go a whole day without talking to anyone, it feels quite isolating. I work from home, and we just recently, with my growing family, moved to the bush, or you know it’s not really that bad, the city, but lots of green, and yeah that Think Tank, you have a question, or you have a concern and it’s immediately answered by someone, and everyone in there is so generous with their knowledge. And they do, we all push each other, I guess, to take that next step, or to do that next thing. And without that, I think, yeah I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. So, yeah, thank you.
Kira: So you mentioned sub-contractors. Again, I would just love to hear your advice for working with sub-contractors. I’ve worked with many sub-contractors, it’s not always easy, I’ve kind of figured it out, but can you give us advice as far as what works, what doesn’t work; for someone who might be new to that process and is trying for the first time.
Nikita: Sure, so it really is about, even before they start writing for you, it’s about onboarding them just as you would with a client. So, it’s about training them, just at the end of the day it’s communication. So even, for example, with this latest sub-contractor that’s come on board, I spent an hour or two on Skype just running her through my business. I got the why behind it, why I’m doing it, because again, you really just want them to get invested in what you’re doing. You don’t want it to be just another job that they’re just ticking off for a bit of cash. You just want them to be like, okay this is why I’m doing it. And I gave her the story of my business, and how I came about, and I think that emotional investment goes a long, long way. And then in terms of the nuts and bolts of things, with every kind of google doc, I’ll always create a little video just to talk her through. When I’m giving feedback I’ll just say this is where you need to change, and I think the more feedback, sometimes the comments can be misread or misinterpreted, so I think a good, well it’s worked for me, is combining feedback both with comments and a video. I’m a big fan of video, as you can see. But it does help, and it’s just that regular touching base, and setting expectations as well.
And I am quite flexible with them. I let them define their own boundaries, and then with mine, so it’s compromising as well.
Kira: Okay, thank you. And you have created a really beautiful framework. Everything you create is so beautiful. Can you share a little bit more about why you create a framework, and how it’s helped your business and helped you sell your service?
Nikita: Sure. Well firstly I’d like to note that I think sometimes with your audience, having pretty things does help. I know that my audience is very quite discerning with what they see, so I’ve made it a point to make sure that all, and everything I put out there, is nicely designed. But, back to the framework, I first fell in love with frameworks after listening to Mel Abraham’s TCC Podcast, as well as we had a Think Tank master class with him. Everything about frameworks just resonated with me, and it has been a complete game changer. I really highly, highly recommend just looking in to frameworks because for me it gave me structure, and it appealed to I guess that logical side and the emotional side of my audience. So what it did was, it allowed me to, for example my framework is called The Architects Blueprint to Brand Strategy and it just gave me a visual way to create mental picture in my prospective clients mind to take them through my process.
So I’ve got about maybe five frameworks going at the moment, but this specific one was talking to them about the how, so how I work. So rather than me just on a sales call, or even in the discovery sessions saying, well this is the process, this is how I work, just in words; it gave them something to look at and it stepped them through the journey. Stage one, we’ll do the discovery session, stage two, these are your deliverables, stage three is the feedback and revision process. It just invested them in my process a little bit more, and at the end of the day just provides structure.
So, in all honestly, when I first heard about frameworks, I think I had to watch the video four or five times to get my head around it, I just didn’t really know. But then when it clicked, I thought, okay, it’s a really great way of organizing your information in a visual way as well.
Rob: And the reaction that you get from your clients to the framework? Is it, I assume it’s positive?
Nikita: Yeah it’s positive, and I think the reason for that is you’re taking them through something step, by step, by step. So you’re showing them the value of each step and you’re building it up into the bigger picture and the bigger idea. So rather than starting with that big idea and saying I’m going to deliver this, this, and this, you’re just saying, okay, well it’s like that idea about little yeses. So yeah, we’ll do this, is that okay, yup, okay, well then we’ll move to this, and then, yeah it’s just that building, the building blocks, and architects love buildings, so it just works out.
Rob: I like it. So I want to shift the conversation just a little bit. You are also a weaver. You mentioned that when we first started talking. And you do these beautiful, I don’t know if they’re cotton or they’re wool, but these wall hangings, and these tapestries I guess for lack of a better work, tell us about that and what that gives you as far as your business and what satisfaction do you get?
Nikita: Yeah, so, I started weaving after a really bad break up in my early 20’s, I just needed a positive place to put my emotions and energy, so I directed it towards yarn and textiles, and the funny thing is, it is the perfect medium. I’ve always been quite creative but paints and that, you need good light and it can be quite messy, whereas textiles you can just pick up and put down, so over time by weaving practice has progressed and now I’ve got a big Japanese floor loom. But for me, it just offers a quite time. You know we’re always tapping, or texting, or swiping, and for me, this idea of just sitting down at my loom, usually I don’t put music on or I don’t listen to anything, it’s just silence. And just touching and using my sense of touch, like tactile I guess, to really create something, it gives me a creative outlet and it does help, I think it helps my copywriting and my business because it allows me to, I guess, explore my creativity without any expectations, and it reminds me just not to keep judging myself.
Nikita: `You know, I just sit on the loom and I weave, and I think when I sometimes have a mental writing block or that I can sit down, weave for a few, whether it’s in five minutes and then come back to it, so adopt as a creative outlet I guess. I think it’s quite valuable, and it’s a big part of my life as well.
Kira: So if I want to get started weaving, what do I need to do or get? Do I need a big break up, or like is there a weaving class, or what would you recommend to a newbie weaver?
Rob: You probably have to give up the violin.
Kira: I have to give up the violin? Oh wow, okay. All right. I’m not giving up the violin yet. I probably will in about six months. But I do want to, it sounds lovely, so I’d like to start weaving.
Nikita: Oh, okay, I would definitely teach you. I could do a little weaving workshop. Yeah, so, I actually, the way I stumbled into it, I didn’t even know what weaving was. I just was heartbroken and went on the Etsy and just saw these looms, and they’re so cheap, I think it was like $15 or something, and I had no idea how to use it, what to do, but you know, the beauty of YouTube I just, and this is back probably when weaving hadn’t really taken off. But there was one or two videos out there and I just taught myself. But actually a funny story, or kind of a weird story, is that I only just recently found out, this is after seven years of weaving, that all my ancestors back in India were weavers.
Kira: No way.
Nikita: So it’s kind of a … It’s a bit … My grandfather told me, he knew all this stuff about weaving and I just thought, what? And he was like, yeah, and then so kind of about weaving sari’s and that
Kira: That’s cool. All right, so I’ll get on that. My other question is, this is more for me. So, you, again, you have a young family, you have a baby on the way, you’ve got a lot, and you’ve got a growing business, a lot of momentum. Do you have any advice for other parents who are in a similar situation? How do you manage it all and stay healthy and sane, other than weaving. Weaving is definitely a factor here, so I’m looking in to that. But other than that, what else are you doing?
Nikita: Yeah, so I’ll be honest. So I’ve got another baby due in June, so I’m on a bit of a hard deadline to get my business baby proofed, but it definitely had been a bit of a, it’s been hard and it’s been a bit of a struggle to adapt. You know before I had my babies I was very routined and scheduled and structured, but I think in one word it really take flexibility, and I just had to become more flexible. Babies aren’t robots, they’re not going to nap when you want them to and that, so it’s been that flexibility as well as I found, to me I found it quite difficult really drawing the line between work and being a mom.
And with that I work two and a half days, so when I’m on at work, I’m on now, but I actually on my days off with her and try and be really present, because I think in the beginning when I was adapting to this whole motherhood thing I would have one eye on my inbox when I was at the playground, and I was thinking about client issues or dramas while I was with her, and I just thought I’m doing either one justice so it’s just … I read, I think it was Chet Holmes, The Ultimate Sales Machine, and he mentions one of his little tips is, if you can’t reply to an email right then and there, then you shouldn’t be looking at it. Otherwise you’re just wasting time re-reading, re-addressing emails. So now on those days off, I turn off all my notifications and it’s literally, that’s it, I don’t look at anything work related. And then when I’m at work I shift into that gear.
But I think it’s a muscle too. It’s like when you put your joggers on and you go for a run, it’s just when I sit down now, there’s no time to procrastinate. That muscle needs to be switched on, and I’m there, I’m working. So, it has been a juggle, and a bit of adapting, but I’m slowly getting there. And I am a bit nervous that I’m going to lose momentum once this baby comes, but Kira you’ve, and Rob as well, you both have told me that it’s possible, and both of you’ve successfully done it, so. I’m looking to you guys to help me through it.
Kira: It is possible. It is possible. You might get a little crazy along the way, but it’s totally possible. With weaving, and the violin.
Kira: Okay, so, and you also said, you mentioned it here, we haven’t talked about this, but you’re working two days a week, is that right?
Nikita: Two and a half with a little extra half. Yes.
Kira: Two and a half days a week. But that’s a really, that’s incredible to bring in the projects that you’re bringing in and the amount that you’re bringing in per month with these projects, with two and a half days of work. So it’s really encouraging to see that you really can set your own schedule and land these big projects, and build your authority, and it’s really possible so that’s really cool.
My last question for you is just, what is ahead for you other than the baby, no big deal. I guess it’s pretty big. What else, business-wise, is ahead for you? What else are you building over the next few years.
Nikita: Yeah, so I think, well number one, I definitely want to keep building my authority, so I’ve been pitching a lot of speaking gigs. I’m talking next week at Sidney Design Festival on a panel, which will be really good, just to get in front of architects. And I do that a lot, I’ve done a lot of industry architect events, and most of the time I don’t know what they’re talking about, but I’m the only copywriter in the room so it does help. But also another thing I really want to build in to my business is I’d love to explore the idea of creative some products. Perhaps some product description templates, or something that, if an architect doesn’t have the budget or the time to do a big project, they can just do it themselves and I can guide them and help them that way. So as I’ve said, I really want to help architects. I think they’re brilliant so I want to do whatever I can, and I guess my business will keep evolving as their needs keep evolving.
Rob: I have to say, I admire so much about your business Nikita, the way that you’ve focused in on a niche, the kinds of projects that you take on, the way that you’ve structured it so you get the help that you need. I just think there’s so much that you’re doing right, and you deserve a ton of credit in the way you’ve really thought through how you approach your market and the way that you serve them. And so congratulations on that.
If people want to connect with you, learn more about you, follow what you’re doing and try to maybe do it in their own niches, where would they go to connect with you?
Nikita: Sure, so probably the best place is to find me on LinkedIn, I’m always on there. So yeah, just look up Nikita Morell and you’ll see me standing up against a building. That’s my profile pic, so, I can’t be missed.
Kira: All right, great. Thank you so much, I continue to learn from you, and this has been really enjoyable, so thank you so much for spending time with us.
Rob: Thanks Nikita.
Nikita: Thank you, thank you so much.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is clip from Gravity, by Whitest Boy Alive, available on iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and my leaving a review. For show notes and full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
Like what you've seen so far?
There's plenty more where that came from. Sign up for The Copywriter Club email newsletter today and we'll send you the unpublished Doberman Dan interview (plus several other awesome resources) in addition to regular updates about what's going on in the club.The only way to get these resources is to drop your email in the box and hit "gimme!".