One of the things we love about The Copywriter Club Facebook group is that we have members all over the world… in just the last 60 days, members from 99 different countries on every continent except Antartica—places like Bulgaria, Colombia, Lithuania, Nigeria, India, and of course the UK, US, Australia, and Canada—have stopped in to read posts, ask questions, comment or just learn from the advice and wisdom shared in the group. Our guest for the 225th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast is SEO copywriter and content strategist, Chima Mmeje, who like so many others, joined the group and used the information she found there to hone her business as she started looking for clients. And now, she’s paying it all forward.
She talks about:
• articulating her process in order to raise her prices
Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe with your favorite podcast app to make sure you never miss an episode.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Chima’s webpage
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Kira: One of the things we love about The Copywriter Club Facebook group is that we have members all over the world. In just the last 60 days, members from 99 different countries on every continent except Antarctica… Places like Bulgaria, Columbia, Lithuania, Nigeria, India and of course, the UK, U.S., Australia and Canada, they’ve all stopped to repost, ask questions, show up in the group, comment or just learn from the advice and wisdom shared in the group. Our guest for the 225th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast is Chima Mmeje, who like so many others, joined the group and used the information she found there to hone her business as she started looking for clients. And now, she’s paying it all forward.
Rob: We’ll share Chima’s story and how she’s paying her experience forward in just a minute but first, this podcast episode is brought to you by The Copywriter Underground, that’s the incredibly valuable membership for copywriters who are ready to start investing in their business, improving their sales skills, their proposals and building a network that supports them with ideas, leads and more. As a member of the Underground, you have access to a full sales training course, our proposal training course, the persuasion training course plus dozens of other trainings to improve your copywriting, your mindset and marketing your own business. To learn more, visit the thecopywriterunderground.com.
Kira: As we like to do, we started off by asking Chima how she ended up as an SEO copywriter and content strategist.
Chima Mmeje: I used to work for a company that are based in the UK. I worked with them remotely from 2017 until April 2019 and while I was working with them, most of the content we’re creating was for these big SEO agents in the UK, they were the biggest SEO agents in the UK at the time. And I realized that I always had the most fun when I was writing content for them, as against writing content for clients in other industries. And my boss used to have a background working with Google, so he was always very helpful in answering questions and my interest kept growing. So by the time I left, I played around with several industries, landing pages, printer’s copy and other stuff but it just felt natural going towards the route of SEO than anything else I’d ever done, it just felt easy. So that was decision made for me or rather, SEO finding me and not me finding SEO.
Rob: So Chima, tell us a little bit about how you decided to become a copywriter and how you got that first gig.
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, that first gig, it was by chance to be honest because I was just scrolling through… I was looking for a job and I was just scrolling through a job board and then I found this gig saying they are looking for a remote copywriter. I applied, I got it and that was it. There was no moment where I decided that I wanted to be a copywriter. I was blogging for a few years, I think five years. My own blog where I was writing… So it was a way for me to express myself about the issues we have in Nigeria and I was doing that for five years, just like a hobby blog. So I already had a background in writing but this was the first time that I was going to use that skill to earn money. So I just found a gig, applied for it and the rest, as they say, is history.
Kira: And because I always like to know the timing, when did you get that gig?
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, 2017, 2017.
Kira: 2017, okay.
Chima Mmeje: I got it.
Kira: And when did you leave that gig, or do you still work with them on occasion?
Chima Mmeje: No. I left that gig in April 2019, it wasn’t the best paying gig. It was like, get your experience, get a few works for your portfolio, learn what you have to learn and then get out. Because what people don’t understand is that when companies hire writers from Africa, they are not hiring us because we are good, they are hiring us because we are cheap. So I was writing around 5000 words a day, it was crazy work. I only did it till, yeah, I could get the skills I needed and once I got the skills I needed, I got out.
Kira: Okay. Yeah, I was going to ask you, how did you know when it was the right time to leave and move on to the next opportunity?
Chima Mmeje: That’s an interesting question, I joined TCC in September 2018, yes. And I would see some of the work that people were doing and I would hear how much they were charging for the work and I was like, that’s crazy. I write better copy than these guys and I’m getting paid less than one cent per word. And that was when I started thinking about leaving because I realized that I could be making 100 times more money working on my own than working for that guy, where I was writing 100,000 words a month and earning $500. And I was comparing my work with other people and I was seeing I was better than them, so I started looking at how people were getting clients, reading about how people were sending pitches. I followed TCC for three months to prepare myself to leave and then once I felt like I had enough information about getting started as a freelance copywriter, then I left.
Rob: So, can we talk about that a little bit more in depth? What were the steps that you took? And what was it that you did in order to find the clients as you went out on your own?
Chima Mmeje: Okay, so before I left that gig, I made sure I had two clients because I did not want to leave the gig and then be empty like that, without a job or without many clients. So what I did was I joined LinkedIn. While I was studying how freelancers worked in TCC, I was also doing the same thing on LinkedIn. So I was looking at how people were posting content on LinkedIn. The kind of content that got the most likes, the kind of content that people did not engage with. And I followed LinkedIn for six months to see how I could use it as a lead generator and then I joined LinkedIn in February 2019, made my first post. I got lucky because the day after I made my first post, I landed my first client. The next day, I landed another client and then in one month later, I landed my first U.S. based client and then two weeks later, I landed my first Australian client. So I already had a lot of traction in the early days, enough traction for me to say I could leave this gig and I will still be okay.
Kira: Okay, so I want to hear about what you were doing on LinkedIn because you took the time to really observe and see what’s working and what’s not working and then you did it and you just landed client after client. So what were you doing that was better or different than the average LinkedIn user or LinkedIn copywriter user?
Chima Mmeje: Okay, so the first thing I did was optimize the heck out of my profile. People don’t understand but your profile is like your CV. When you’re asking a girl or a guy out and then you go online to go and do a little bit of background digging on them, to see if the face matches what is behind the brain and that’s what LinkedIn is about. People are going to start by looking at your profile. So my profile is really optimized, the headline, the about section, the future section. Every part of my LinkedIn profile, a lot of thought went into it. And then when I optimized my profile, I reached out to several experts, people who have been on LinkedIn for a few years, then I asked them to review my profile, they gave me some feedback and I used that feedback to make sure that my profile was really good.
Chima Mmeje: And then the most important thing I do on LinkedIn I think really, really helps me generate leads is content. I don’t just post educational content, content about SEO because people find SEO boring. So I have a mix of content, I talk about everything from poop to not wearing clothes during LinkedIn calls. Sorry, during Zoom calls. To my nephew jumping in on a LinkedIn call, again, sorry, Zoom call. And a lot of funny stuff. And the truth is, it was a funny post I made about watching my dad grow his business that landed me my first clients and then landed me a gig with a nonprofit in the U.S. it’s all of these posts that humanizes you, that make people connect to you. Not really the educational stuff that you think is viewed in authority. So I think it’s important to have a mix of both, so that people can connect with you as a person and you as an expert.
Rob: Yeah, I almost want to go deeper on this too because we hear and in fact, I’ve said this, I’ve written this myself, that because LinkedIn is a business platform and it’s focused so much on business, that really, your content should be focused on business insights. In fact, LinkedIn themselves say that people go there to look and find business insights but where you’re finding traction is actually departing from that just a little bit. So how do you make that balance between what you post that’s business focused and the stuff that you put in there that is personal and maybe even personal and also weird, if you’re posting about, say poop?
Chima Mmeje: Okay. So that’s a very good question because I think the important thing is finding that delicate balance between building authority and being personal. LinkedIn is changing, it’s not LinkedIn of 2010 when everything was boring and you had to really dig deep to find content to create that would please them. Right now, LinkedIn is like any other social media platform and people have to understand it that people are going on LinkedIn now the same way they go on Facebook. So you have to match that level of interest that they will be looking for on Facebook and Twitter with LinkedIn. So what I usually do is that Monday to Friday, I post… How will I put this? I post business… Well, I say SEO contents or stuff that helps me build authority as an SEO contents writer and content strategy, but I tie those into stories.
So for example, rather than just talking about SEO content, I once told this story about how I cook chicken and how I have to leave chicken overnight to marinate, so that all of the spices and the pepper and everything can get in there. And then importance of letting your content breathe for a day or two before submitting it to the clients. So by tying my posts on educational contents to things that people can connect with that they see in their daily life, it makes the content easier to digest. So it’s not just educational and boring, it’s educational and fun. And then on weekends, they know that oh, Chima is going to post something really fun and funny, I’m going to look out for that. So they’re coming on to LinkedIn and they’re looking out for my content subconsciously. So that’s the important thing, you have a shadow for posting all of that educational stuff but finding a way to tie it into things that people can relate to and then having a time for posting purely fun content that’s just going to make them laugh, so that they can see you as a human being. And I do that on weekends.
Kira: What else could we be doing on LinkedIn better? So you mentioned adding more personal stories, posting consistently. If you’re posting Monday through Friday and the weekends, that’s really impressive. What else could we be doing in LinkedIn now to help gain more visibility and connect with the right clients?
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, I’m very, very intentional about LinkedIn, both with the content I create and the people I engage with. So I always tell people I’m selfish with LinkedIn, I’m talking to people that are going to be potential clients or that are peers in my niche. So I’m mostly having conversations in comment sections of content marketers, CMOs and other people who I think could hire me. Same thing with my peers, copywriters like myself, SEO copywriters, people in other verticals. So I think it’s very important that you’re having conversations with the right people, you’re engaging with content of the right people. Everything you show on LinkedIn, every moment, every minute you invest in LinkedIn, has to really matter, has to go towards an intention. So I think it’s important to be having conversations. When I say conversations, I don’t mean cold pitching, I mean commencing and engaging on content right there on the platform, on the newsfeed there. With the right people, people you want to be reaching out to you or people you want to impress.
Rob: Yeah, I think that’s important. Chima, can I also ask your approach to building your network on LinkedIn? Do you accept requests from anybody or how do you find the people that you want to connect with? And then what do you do in order to make sure that they say yes to a connection request?
Chima Mmeje: Okay, so I don’t accept requests from everybody. Again, selfish me. I don’t accept requests from people who have student written in their profile, people who are engineers. So people who I feel like we would never have anything together, that in 10 years time, there would be no working opportunities for us. For instance, I get requests from someone who is a drilling engineer, how does that relate to what I do? There’s no relationship there, so I’m not going to accept the request. I accept request from people who do what I do, that’s copywriters and then from people who are in verticals of what I do, marketers and the rest of that. And then when I’m building my network, I’ll try to add a personalized connection request when I have the time and it’s very, very simple.
Hi, we have mutual connections with so and so person, I’m hoping you accept my request. Really, it’s that simple. Also, what I really do to connect with people and build my network is use keywords. So for instance, I would use the keyword content strategist and I would narrow the result down to contents and one week. And then I would look for interesting post, drop a comment under it, put a like on that comment and send a request to the person. So I’m not just coming across as a stranger. They’ve already seen the comments I made on their post, so they have an idea of who I am, probably looked at my profile. And then when they see that connection request, there’s a very, very high chance that they are going to accept that connection request. I think that’s what I really do to build up my network. I use engagement, commenting on people’s stuff and then after commenting on their stuff, I send the connection request.
Kira: What else have you done since April 2019 when you left your gig? What else have you been doing to grow your business and to get clients in addition to LinkedIn?
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, the other thing I did was blogging. Blogging was the second thing I really wanted to invest time in, apart from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is my big mission but blogging is the second thing that I do because when people reach out to me, it’s usually because they like my content on LinkedIn. And then the next thing they did, they go to my blog to have an idea of my writing skills. And when they like what they see on my blog, then they reach out. So I’m really, really big on blogging as a form of organic regeneration.
Rob: Can we talk a little bit more about that? Are you writing to a specific audience and how are you sharing your content once you write something, so that it gets consumed? Because I think the biggest challenge for a lot of us when we think about our own blogs is for, at least many copywriters, we may only get a handful of people on our own websites in a given week or month maybe. And so if we post there, it doesn’t actually get seen. So what are you doing to make sure that your content is getting shared in the scene?
Chima Mmeje: Okay so first thing is, I’m creating content for two people. I’m creating content for… I get a lot of questions on LinkedIn form African freelance copywriters or people from India and other developing countries who are trying to get ahead. And for some reason, they see me as someone who is successful, even though I’m still trying to hit the mark. So I create content for them, I create content around freelance writing, around SEO copywriting and then when they ask me questions, I just send them there. And then I also create content for my target audience. For instance, one of the biggest questions I get during Zoom calls is, “What’s your process for writing SEO copy?” So I have a content on my website called SEO Copywriting Checklist. I’m always encouraging small businesses to invest in local SEO and when they ask me why, I have a copy on my website that talks about local SEO for small businesses.
I use my blog to answer questions that people ask me because if two or three people ask me that question, there’s a good chance that it’s going to come up again. So those are the people I’m creating content for. So after the call, I’m sending them a link to that blog post to answer that question comprehensively. And to get traction for my blog, what I always do is that, I’m a big fan of repurposing content. So I create the blog post, I let it be. I’m always creating content on my blog at least once a month and after a few months, I pick that content and then I republish it on Hacker Noon, Medium and LinkedIn. Then I tear that blog post up into tiny bits, turn it into infographics, share it on as many infographic sites as I can and Pinterest. Then I also turn it into tidbits and share it on LinkedIn.
That is where it always has the biggest number of people, largest number of people who are looking at the content. And when I’m sharing those tidbits, I’m putting a link in the comments section to that blog post, so that when they see that tidbit and they want get more information, then they’re going to click that link and still come back to my blog. But what has brought the most traction recently was getting those many copywriters to bring in contributions for blog posts. The reach was insane, insane. Roundup post, yeah, that’s the word I was looking for. Doing those roundup posts. That’s the biggest way for copywriters to get the kind of reach they are looking for.
Kira: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that because I noticed on your blog, you do such a great job of featuring other experts. A lot of copywriters that we’ve heard of or that we know. So it seems like yeah, that would make a huge impact. Can you talk more about the process of what it really takes to write an article and feature 15 or more experts? Your process for doing that well and the impact that it’s had. It sounds like it’s working really well for drawing more attention to your website.
Chima Mmeje: Yeah. So I think the fear most people have with doing roundup posts is hearing people tell them no. That’s the biggest fear they have but what I told myself was yeah, so what? People are going to say no but the people who say yes are going to be more than those who say no. I just realized that I had a lot of copywriter friends in my network, both on Facebook and on LinkedIn and it would be easy for me to just leverage them to create content. So what I did was, for the first piece on SEO copywriting tips, I reached out to a ton of people on my LinkedIn network and Twitter. I think I reached out to at least 40 people and then I heard back from 23 SEO experts and editors and other folks who gave me contributions, including Heineken and a few other people, really big people. And then once I created the post, I sent them a message telling them the post was up with a link to read and most of them shared it on Twitter. And once they were sharing it on Twitter, their followers were also sharing. So there was this big ricochet effect and the copy was getting seen by a ton of people. We had, I think, 240 shares, which is the most shares I’ve ever had for any content I’ve created.
And then for the second copy, I went a different route. I put out the word on Facebook and LinkedIn and asked people who wants to get in on this and I got a lot of people who were telling me they wanted to contribute. So what I did was, I created the outline for the post and then I looked at each person’s strong suits or area of each specialty and then I sent them a question asking them to provide an answer. So for instance, someone like Hillary Presswood, I hope I’m pronouncing that name correctly, I could already figure out what she was good at and then I sent her a question in regards to that part. Same thing with Josh and with everybody else I featured. I would look at what area is this person really good at and the question that they’d be answering would crystallize their skill sets into the question, so that it would have a very, very massive impact when I was writing that content.
So it’s just having the courage to ask people, “Hey, do you want to contribute a quote to this blog post I’m writing?” And almost everybody’s going to say yes, making sure that that at least is diverse. I think that’s very important, we talk at beginning about diversity but most of the roundup posts you see online just seem to feature only white men who are old and don’t have anything else to offer. So diversity was really important for me, I tried to get more Black people in the first one, surprisingly, they said no. Second time around, Joel Klettke advised me to go for people who were up and coming and were looking to get their name out there, that worked, so I was happy about that. Got more Black people in there, more women in there and we had this nice diverse set of people that made the post really awesome.
Kira: And obviously you’re an SEO expert and so what is the SEO strategy here or are you seeing results from SEO on these posts that then bring clients into your business?
Chima Mmeje: My SEO strong suit. No, not a lot of SEO optimization for this kind of post because if I have to do SEO optimization on roundup post, then I’ll have to be changing people’s words and I wanted to try as much as possible not to do that. I wanted to publish the award as it was, so I couldn’t really do it on SEO optimization. The whole idea was to get as many people as possible to read it, to increase my network of copywriters. Because once they read that post, I had more copywriters who were talking to their clients about me and referring me to their clients for SEO content because most of them don’t do SEO content. So I had a bigger network because they’re impressed with my writing skill, I had more people who knew about my business. I had more subscribers, I had more everything but SEO was not the center point for doing those roundup posts.
Rob: Okay but lots of good things came from that.
Chima Mmeje: Yes.
Rob: So that’s a reason enough to do it right there. Okay, let’s jump in here and talk about one or two things that maybe stood out to me and to you, Kira. One of the things and I know we’ve talked about this before but I was really impressed with how Chima went through and really thought out what she needed to do, to have in place, in order to go out on her own. And we’ve heard this from other guests on the podcast, things like making sure that you’ve got a couple months’ salary in the bank, so that you can just focus on your business if you’re leaving a corporate job. Or you’re making sure that you have clients lined up, that kind of thing. But I loved that she had really thought that through and maybe it’s worth revisiting just what a couple of those steps might be for somebody who might want to do something like Chima.
Kira: Yeah. For me, what stood out in that part of the conversation was just how not only did she know what she needed before she would walk away from the job but she also knew when it was time to walk away and when she would have the skills in place to walk away and go out on her own. I think that’s really important for us to note and to be intentional about because it’s really easy for many of us to get stuck in either jobs or even working with a certain type of client or even in a retainer situation or even with projects with a client we’ve worked with for years and end up feeling stuck and not being able to move froward in our business. So I think the fact that she was so intentional about it and knew, I need to get these skills and once I get these skills, I’m moving on, is really important for all of us at whatever stage of business we’re in, to just realize that point and realize when we’re past that point and be aware of it.
Rob: Yeah, I like that you call that out, that being stuck moment. Because a lot of people, when they want to move out, the thing that gets them stuck is money. Where we’ve gotten used to a particular salary level and we can’t move out until we’re able to replace that. There are some people who are maybe making six figures or whatever, where it’s really, really difficult to replace a full salary before you go out on your own. So you’ve almost got those golden handcuffs that are holding you to your job and you’re stuck and you know it. And sometimes, in order to break out, you actually have to take a step backwards when it comes to things like salary. Maybe you have all the skills in place but for everything to come together, it does take sometimes, a step backwards as well.
Kira: What else stood out to you, Rob?
Rob: So obviously we’ve talked a lot about LinkedIn with previous guests and we have some LinkedIn training in the Underground, we focused on that quite a bit. But I really like Chima’s focus on being a human in that business setting. Even talking about things that are very unbusinesslike in order to have conversations and she also focuses on connecting with the right people, not just accepting connection requests from anyone who comes along. And so I think that combination of being connected to the right people and actually being a human being and not so business focused, is just a smart way to make LinkedIn work where so many other people are moving in a different direction.
Kira: Yeah, it’s really about a mixture of building the authority and then also being personal and it sounds like she’s really figured out that balance. And I also love that she seems like such a great observer of the online marketing space and I love that she brings such intention to everything she does. Like we just shared with leaving her job and going out on her own but also with LinkedIn, what she shared. She mentioned that she observed what was happening on LinkedIn for six months or so before fully figuring out, well, here’s how I’ll approach it, here’s what I’m going to test, after observing. And I think that observation time is so important because it’s so easy to feel the shiny object syndrome and feel like we have to just jump in and just start posting and just start doing. But she’s proof that it makes just a little bit of observation and awareness to do it right and to see what’s working, to see what’s not working and to figure out how you can fit into a platform and stand out and clearly, it’s working really well for her.
And I also like that she mentioned how important it is to optimize your LinkedIn profile and how that’s really your CV. And even for people who aren’t active on LinkedIn, which I fit into that camp, it’s not a channel I am showing up on regularly as of right now but my profile is optimized enough. Because I realize the importance of that and even if you are not active on that platform, people are still checking you out and they’re still going to look you up and so it’s worth optimizing your profile, even if you’re not using that as a primary marketing channel.
Rob: Yeah, for sure. And taking Chima’s wait and see, observe before you jump and combining that with what we talked about last week with Bree and the brainstorming idea, I think if you combine those two things in your business… Really taking the time to think it through and then getting all the ideas down on paper, whether you’re writing copy, whether you’re thinking about what you’re going to do with say, social media or your marketing or what clients you want to reach out to and contact. I think that’s just a one, two punch powerful combination that could help a lot of people as they focus on their business. What else stood out to you?
Kira: Well, I love her approach, her blogging approach with expert roundups and that stood out to me even before our interview as I was just checking out her content. I love roundups, I love contribution posts, I feel like we should be doing more of that for The Copywriter Club. But I think every copywriter that’s focused on building content and blogging regularly or even podcast and any form on content, could benefit from expert roundups because you can create content that’s even more valuable from sharing multiple perspectives. And then you have multiple people who you can build a relationship with for the first time, so it’s great for networking and showing up on someone’s radar because you’re asking them to participate in your roundup. And then it’s also great for getting more shares because people are more likely to share posts if they have a quote in it and they look good and you make them look good. So I think anyone who’s struggling to get out there and to build content and to build relationships and to get more shares could do something similar to Chima’s roundup post.
Rob: Yeah, I agree. It’s an old idea, it’s something that people used to do four or five years ago and because it’s an older idea, I think a lot of people have moved away from it. But it may not be the best thing for SEO anymore and Chima pointed out, she doesn’t do it for SEO but it’s still a great thing for building relationships, contacting people, getting shares, like you were just saying. So it’s something that as I heard her talking about it too, I thought yeah, why have we moved away from doing that kind of content? At least when it’s valuable. Obviously, you could do a post where it’s just a bunch of stuff thrown together, it’s not very valuable. But the way she approaches it, really thinking through, really being intentional about the experts that she invites on to her posts, I think is really smart and maybe we don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time, we can just go back to some older ideas, dust them off and make them work for us.
Kira: Yes. Well, let’s get back to our interview with Chima and talk about how her business has changed over the past year or two.
Rob: I’m really curious about how your business has changed since you’ve gone freelance, what kinds of projects are you working on now? How do you put those packages together and what are you charging today?
Chima Mmeje: When I started out as a freelance copywriter, I think the biggest problem most African copywriters have, like myself, is knowing our value and then knowing what to charge for that value. Because we’re living in a part of the world where you have people who are constantly telling you that you’re not worth much. For instance, the first person I tried to work with or who reached out to me, back then I charged $50 for copy and he was like, “Whoa, that’s too much. I can pay you $15 and no more.” So when you hear people telling you that a lot of times, it’s hard for you to really understand the value of what you’re going to bring to a client’s business and it took time. It took to getting to no more copywriters listening to them, understanding what they were charging, for me to keep increasing my rates and getting to where I am today. So, I started out charging, I think $50 for copy, then 100, then 150 and now, I charge 600 as a base price for copy boards.
Definitely, I’m still going to keep increasing that price as I get better copywriting clients. Then I think the big issue for me was niching down, it was also scary but it was something I needed to do. I always had this mindset that if you are niching down, then what about everything else you’re leaving on the table? Call it perverted mentality but I always wanted to just grab it all. Then someone told me that I had to niche it down if I wanted to be getting better clients. So I niched it down in SEO copywriting and then I niched it down to only work with or mostly work with SaaS and tech brands. And then it took three months after doing that for me to start getting traction from businesses in this niche who needed content. And those referrals are mostly coming from other copywriters and folks on LinkedIn who had seen my work and were referring me to the clients in the SaaS and tech industry. And today, I’m working with, yeah, mostly SaaS companies, the kind of companies I was working with, like Remicade, Skillshare and a few other brands and a few mission driven brands that are in the black nonprofit space, which is also MORC, those are the kind of companies I want to be working with.
Kira: What advice do you give on a regular basis or would you give to any listeners, other African freelancers, who are struggling with their value because they’ve thrown out numbers and been told no repeatedly? What advice do you give them?
Chima Mmeje: I always tell them not to listen to white people who don’t understand what it’s like to be African, first thing’s first. Because you have a lot of white people telling you, “Yeah, raise your rates. Yeah, charge 1000 bucks. Yeah, charge $1500.” It’s not that easy when you’re African because you have to show more value than someone who lives in the West. You have to show that you are bringing more to the table and that is not easy to do when you have tons of people depending on you for their next meal because that’s how most African families are. You have one person who’s bringing in all the income for the immediate family and extended family and all of that. It’s not that easy when you’re coming from a poverty mindset of lack and you’re trying to evolve from that mindset into a mindset of wealth.
So I always tell them, first of all, kill off that advice from white people and then concentrate on yourself as a Black African business owner, that is your value. You want to be working with people who don’t see color and how can you do that? Position yourself as an African writer, not a European writer, not someone who works with Western businesses, as an African writer. That was when I started getting traction. When I started talking about my experiences as an African, when I started sharing more about myself as an African. I think for some reason, that was what attracted people to me. So I always tell them that, position yourself as an African, write copy that is better than what people in the West are doing. So that people can see your value and then pay you what your worth.
Because you can’t just ask for 500, 600, $1000 for copy and then your copy’s just pure shit, your copy has to better. Because I had someone who asked me this question, “Why should I hire an African writer when it would be easier to hire a writer in the U.S. or Canada?” And that was a really good question. And I told him, “Hire African writers because they’re just as good.” But for the most part, saying we’re just as good is not going to cut it, you have to be better for you to get in there and get those clients that pay top dollar. And top dollar for you might not be what U.S. writers charge and that’s the hard truth. I’m not saying to charge less, I’m saying to think about where you’re coming from, where you’re charging and not charging because someone who lives in the West is telling you to charge a certain amount of money.
Rob: So, when you do this, demonstrating your value, are you simply just sharing your copy or are you talking about results? How do you frame that for a Western client? So they look at you and say, “Absolutely, I need to hire Chima because she is going to do something better than my other alternatives in the West.”
Chima Mmeje: Contents. Contents, contents, contents. Everything is contents. Everything I do is just content. I think I realized this year that contents is the big issue when you want to position yourself as someone who is not cheap. So the kind of content I create, social media, blog contents, everything is to position me as an authority for SEO copywriting. And by creating that kind of contents, I’m sharing the results and the results I’m sharing, I’m explaining the problem. I’m like, okay, this is the client I just worked with recently, this was the problem they had, this was what I did to fix it, this was what happened after I fixed it. So, they can visualize the problem because most clients generally have a similar problem when they come to me for SEO contents.
The reality was they’re not ranking, pages are poly-optimized and all of that. So by sharing those results, they can see themselves enjoying something similar because they have a similar problem. And then I’m also looking at, what problems are clients in my target audience facing? What can I solve for them with contents? By creating that kind of contents, they’re going to be so happy most of the time, that they reach out to me and they’re like, “Hey, Chima. I was having this issue and then your content was so good that I was able to immediately apply what you said. And I imagine that if you are giving so much information away for free, that means what you’re going to give away when I’m paying you to do work for me, it’s going to be even better.” And that is the whole position, it is content, content based on authority, content based on problems your target audience is facing.
I’d love to hear more about the initiative that you’ve created to support and help copywriters in developing countries. I know I’m involved in it, many other copywriters are involved in it. Can you just talk about not only the catalyst but what it is, how other copywriters can get involved?
Yeah, I set up that initiative because I have been lucky, I’ve had copywriter friends from TCC, from LinkedIn, from everywhere, that have helped out. For instance, my first rate sheets… Oh, sorry, my first quote came from someone in TCC, I think that was Tyler Koenig who shared his quotes. My first freelance contracts came from someone in TCC. My first rate sheets, my first client’s questionnaire, everything I’ve used to organize my business as a freelance writer came from someone in TCC. And when I was ready to scale and I needed help positioning myself, it was someone in TCC that gave me advice. So I realized that if I did not have this support, I would not be the copywriter I am. And then it hit me that there are tons of African freelancers who don’t have access to this support, who can’t pay for support because even $50 down here is a lot of money. That’s someone’s salary for a whole month to feed a family of four, $50. So, they can’t even afford to pay for this stuff to grow, they don’t have the necessary…
So they spend years doing trial and error and trying to grow. And I realized that if I could set up something where freelancers who had figure it out, freelancers in the West and even in developing countries, but have excelled, could provide support for freelancers in developing countries to help them scale, to help them close that bridge that was blocking them from accessing those clients. That would be awesome. And I wasn’t sure how people were going to receive it but I did it anyway and the response was incredible. We’ve had, I think, 80 copywriters who have signed up to provide support and yeah, we’ve had around 150 copywriters who have signed up to receive support. So this is the third week and I’m already getting messages from people, copywriters from developing countries who have been gushing about how incredible their mentors have been, how much support they have received, how patient they’ve been and it just warms my heart to see that, yeah, the initiative is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, which is helping people improve their copywriting skills and understand the business side of freelancing.
Rob: So, let’s shift our discussion just a little bit, Chima and let’s talk about some of the things that you’ve done in your business that have really changed the game for you. We’ve talked about a few things like making the shift mentally in mindset, charging more, moving away from the low paying clients. But what else have you done to improve your craft and to really up your game?
Chima Mmeje: I would say building relationships, it takes time but boy, when it pays off, it really does come together. For instance, my first SaaS client came from someone who referred me and that was a relationship I’d been building for about two years and I have… Well, I call him a mentor, he’s been really awesome helping me out. He helped me figure out my pricing, helped me figure out my position, helped me figure out a lot of stuff to be honest and that was also a relationship I cultivated when I started freelancing. So the thing that has really, really helped me from day one was focusing on building relationships rather than cold pitching and that’s something I really want to keep doing. Building relationships that could lead to long-term work, rather than sending 1000 cold pitches that end up not going anywhere.
Kira: Let’s talk about what you’ve struggled with on the flip side. You’ve done so many things well as you’ve jumped into freelance. What has been a struggle or what are the struggles that you’ve dealt with over the last year or anything that pops up?
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, I think the first thing I really struggled with was imposter syndrome and that was imposter syndrome as a Black African copywriter wanting to work with a foreign audience. So I would jump on a call with a client and instead of just showing my value, I’ll be concerned about how my accent sounded. I was very, very conscious about my Nigerian accent, very conscious. And then it took a little bit of time for me to get comfortable with the sound of my own voice and stop worrying about it. And I would be seeing all of these copywriters who are doing massive numbers and I was like, wow, how long is that going to take to happen? Are you just playing around here or do you actually know what you’re doing, Chima? So, I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome, and it has only gotten better because I have more people now telling me that I’m good than when I just started out.
And then something else I was struggling with, but I think it’s getting better now, was finding those consistent clients that were going to pay well for work. Because earlier this year, around March, when COVID-19 really hit and started having this impact, I lost all of my clients, every single one of them. And I was depressed for a month, wondering how did this happen? How did I get to a stage where I’ve made all these great efforts and then I’m losing all of my clients in the space of two months? And then it hit me that I don’t work with clients who are going to lose their business because of COVID-19 or because of any pandemic, I want to be working with clients that are big enough to keep going, even in a pandemic. And that was when I raised my rates, that was when I took the risk to raise my rates. Although it took me a couple of months but yeah, it’s getting better, really getting better now. So those are two things I really struggled with, imposter syndrome and finding the kind of clients who would pay what I wanted them to pay for my services.
Rob: As you’ve raised your rates, has it just been a matter of okay, I’m going to increase my prices or have you added value to your packages? What has the thinking process been behind all of that?
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, I realized the value was always there, I just wasn’t articulating it properly. So what I did differently was that I switched it up in my rates sheets. So beside the service I was offering, I would put what I was going to be doing when I was writing their copy. So for instance, I would tell the client that it’ll come with a phrase document, it will come with stuff for SEO optimization, it’ll come with keyword research from SEMrush. So I was showing them everything I was going to do for them, all of the tools I was using and how I was going to track the results beside the rate sheets. So that as they’re looking at the prices, they’re also looking at the value and then it was easier to justify what I was asking for.
Kira: Chima, what have you done or what works well for you when you’re thinking about self care and taking care of your own mental health and staying focused on the business during 2020 and during the pandemic when you’ve lost your clients? How do you stay grounded and stay in it when things are really hard?
Chima Mmeje: Oh man, this year has been… I use the wording a total (beep) shitstorm, if that’s allowed.
Kira: I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair for this year.
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, I think I’ve been through everything. I’ve been through everything this year and okay, just as soon as I was starting to get my bearing after losing all of my clients, we had an attack in my building and then there was trauma that came with all of that and then I had to crowdfund money to move houses. And then just as I was settling in, then there was an uprising in Nigeria.
Kira: Oh my gosh.
Chima Mmeje: Yes, it’s just been a crazy year. So at every turn, just as I think I’m getting my head right, something else is happening. But what has really helped me through all of it, I watched this movie called Three Idiots and there’s something the guy used to do, he would beat his chest. He would beat his chest, tap it three times and he would say, “It’s all right, it’s all right.” So when I’m almost getting close to having anxiety, then I’ll beat my chest and breathe and I’ll tell myself, “It’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right.” And then I’ll listen to Kenny G’s music for an hour, staring at nothing, then watch a couple of baby videos on YouTube and then I’ll feel better. So I was doing that a lot throughout this year and that has helped me stay sane.
Rob: More baby videos for everyone.
Chima Mmeje: Yes.
Kira: Kenny G, more Kenny G. I need more Kenny G, I like that.
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, I can’t sleep without Kenny G’s music, that’s the first one. Every night, I put Kenny G on middle volume and then I’m playing one song on repeat. What’s that song? I think it’s G-Bop. (music plays)
Rob: So Chima, one of the things that I like about your story is that in spite of a lot of things that people would see as disadvantages… You’re working from Africa, which isn’t in the same time zones as most of the companies that you want to work with, you’ve mentioned some of the other struggles that you’ve had with people valuing your content and yet, you’ve still been able to succeed. And I know that there are a few copywriters out there that, they face their own troubles. Some of them maybe as significant as yours, maybe some of them are not but they give up or they feel like they can’t make it and I just wonder, what is the secret to you succeeding in spite of these things that people might see as disadvantages, where other people are giving up?
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, I’m just going to be honest here, I also considered quitting copywriting last year. I had all of this early success and then I got to a point and I stalled and I did not know how to get past that and find my momentum again and I considered going back in-house. So what really helped me to stay focused was patience. You just have to be patient with yourself. A lot of copywriters, we compare ourselves to those people who are hitting 100,000 a year, 200,000 a year and there’s this pressure, this insane pressure to hit six figures. It’s like, if you don’t hit six figures, then whatever you’re doing is just crap and it’s not working and you need to hit that six figure no matter what happens. And I think that’s what really makes a lot of copywriters to get depressed, not hitting six figures.
So you just need to deal with all of that, you’re not in competition with anybody. You’re just alone, running your own race, nobody else. No one is chasing you, you’re not chasing anybody. The moment you understand this, you will be more at peace with yourself. You will begin to enjoy your success instead of comparing yourself to someone else and wondering, when am I going to hit 20K a month and all of that. So that’s just what I’m going to advise you to do, focus on yourself, your own race, run that race for yourself. Not for anybody, not to impress anybody or not to show anybody that you can do 100Ks a year. 100Ks a year is awesome. Yeah, it’s awesome, it’s doable but it shouldn’t be the goal for turning to freelance copywriting.
Kira: Chima, I want to ask a question unrelated to that but you mentioned that you have a wow factor, your discovery call wows your clients and blows them away. Okay, I want to hear more about that, what you’re doing in your discovery call that wows your clients and how we can do something like that or maybe pull an idea or two from what you’re doing.
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, so first of all, the whole discovery call that I learned came from last year. Just a bit of story, towards the end of last year, I was trying to find a way to improve my Zoom calls and then I saw this thing from Joel… Okay, okay, I saw something from him and I was like, “Hey, Joel. Okay, I can’t afford to pay you at once so can we split this $100 in two payments?” And Joel was like, “Hey, no. I know you from Africa and I know that $200 is a lot of money for you guys, so I’m going to give it to you for free.” And then he gave me his stuff for free and that was the game changer, that was the game changer. And the biggest takeaway for me was three things. First, prepare for the call. So before I do the call, I’m going to look at the client’s back end of SEMrush, it’s a tool that lets me see their keywords, their positioning and then I find quick wins, do they have a page on Google’s page two that I can bring to page one with a few tweaks?
So I make note of those tweaks. Then I look at their blog, if I notice that most of the times, the blog doesn’t have a strategy, so I note that down. And then I just give them a tidbit of information on what they can do to make their blog better. And then once I suggest that during the call, they are always like, “Wow. Yeah, this is amazing. This is amazing.” And they want it immediately. Then I show them another client’s back end through screen share, that I’ve done something similar for and I show them where the client is on page one. So if they can see the result has worked for somebody else, they’re going to want it even more. So that’s what I usually do for the call. First thing, prepare, get to know their business, look at the back end on SEMrush to see where I can find quick wins from. Look at their blog post to see what’s they are doing wrong and could be better. Show them what they can do to make it right and then listen, just listen to what they’re going to say.
Kira: And that’s made a huge impact on your discovery calls? Has it increased your close rate?
Chima Mmeje: Yes, definitely, definitely. Most of the times, I jump on Zoom calls, it’s 90% close rate with Zoom calls because I don’t think I’ve had a Zoom call this year where the client was not impressed with what I was saying. It’s usually a budget issue that leads to us not working together, not because of my skill set or the services I’m going to provide for them.
Kira: All right, Chima, so I know we’re at the end of the hour together. I’d love to hear about what’s next for you, what are any projects that are coming up or that you’re really excited about over the next few months or year?
Chima Mmeje: Yeah, at least every month, I get a few people who are asking me when am I going to create a SEO copywriting course? Because I have people telling me that most of the stuff I share on LinkedIn are things that they’re already paying for in courses and I’m sharing all of this for free, then if I do a course, it’s going to be way more valuable than what they’re already paying for. So that’s something I want to get into, creating an SEO copywriting course that is affordable for African writers who want to niche down in SEO copy. Then it’s not just the writing part, I also want to cover the business side of it. Feature a few experts who have had eternal success in the course.
So that rather than just doing guess work and trial by error and taking a ton of time to scale up, they can have a framework that is ready to go from the onset. That’s something I really want to look into for next year. And on the other side of giving back, I want to grow the support for African… Sorry, for developing countries initiative. I want to make it bigger, the idea is to have designers, marketers, everybody who freelances from developing countries in there, not just copywriters. And then they view the websites, they write the copy and we have a section where people can show off their skill sets, have a portfolio, put their prices. So that when people are looking for copywriters from this side of the world, they have somewhere to go to and then these copywriters have somewhere to show their skills. Maybe from a blog post and other stuff.
Kira: That wraps up our interview with Chima. Before we sign off, I just want to go back to one or two things that she mentioned. So I think the first part that really stood out to me was just the power of knowing the results you can deliver for your clients. And so I love the way that Chima has shared her results and explained the problem and the solution and how she provides a solution through the content she’s sharing. So more than just sharing how-tos and basic content, she’s really sharing case studies that demonstrate her problem solving abilities and so again, I think that’s something that we could all do more of to get clients, especially if you’re struggling to get clients, to demonstrate and build your authority. Just show it, prove it by sharing your thought process and sharing current projects and past projects and how you’re approaching it. Beyond just a testimonial that speaks to results, show how you actually thought about the problem.
Rob: Yeah, I thought the same thing and when Chima mentioned that sometimes because of her situation, being in Africa, that she’s got to actually try harder, work harder, demonstrate extra value. The fact that she’s using her successes in order to prove that she’s just as good as another copywriter that somebody might hire, I think is really smart. And something that more of us could probably do, even if we don’t have that same situation where we feel like, maybe we do need to work a little harder or prove our worth. So that’s definitely something that caught my ear as well. And really impressed by how she’s doing that. And she’s also been really intentional about choosing her niche and making sure that it was the kind of thing where she can raise her prices and just the whole way that she went through that process in her own business and going from where she started at very low rates, working with clients that she didn’t love, to a new niche this year where it’s a little bit more recession proof, she’s able to charge more money. Again, giving her those kind of successes that she can then use to grow her business even more.
Kira: Yes, and we did talk about the initiative that she started to help copywriters in developing countries. So I think it’s just a reminder again that she’s looking for volunteers, she’s looking for copywriters who can provide not only business coaching but also copy coaching and so if that’s something that is of interest to you, I’ve done it, I’m doing it now, it’s been a really positive experience. I think especially, selfishly, if you’re looking to get more coaching experience and you’re interested in that, this is a really great way to mentor and learn what works, what doesn’t work as far as giving copy critiques and business feedback. And it’s also a great way to support fellow copywriters. So we encourage you to apply if that’s something that is a good fit for you.
Rob: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point that you just mentioned. Oftentimes, we look at these kind of things and it’s like, oh, I’ve got to give back. We can even be doing it out of a really good place and we’re trying to help or maybe it’s just a feeling of an obligation but the fact of the matter is, that the person you’re giving to isn’t the only person that’s getting something from this relationship. And just having that relationship can be positive for both of you, it’s not necessarily a one way street here. You both gain something from it, so yeah, I encourage anybody who’s interested in doing that kind of a thing to pay it forward, just like Chima did with the things that she had learned. Pay it forward and see if you can help somebody else out as well.
And then before we wrap up, I just want to focus in on what she was talking about, making the discovery call a wow and really doing the homework before the discovery call in order to give one or two of those free nuggets, immediate things that they can change, quick wins. So that again, she’s demonstrating her value to the client and making her client see that she’s somebody who’s done the homework, is willing to work, is full of ideas and ready to go and really help you succeed. Another idea worth stealing from how she conducts her business.
Kira: Yeah, and then the last note I scribbled down is just I loved that she mentioned how important it is to realize that there really isn’t competition out there. Yes there is but as copywriters and business owners, we can’t think about the competition day in and day out. It could really hold you back and so I loved her message just about running your own race and really, putting blinders up so that you aren’t focused every day on what other copywriters are doing or how far along they are. And it’s important to share because that happens to all of us at all stages, I fall into that trap frequently and I have to pull myself out of it. And then we work with copywriters at all levels in our business, in our Mastermind groups in the membership. And so we know this comes up so frequently and so I think it’s just really important to keep that in mind, that we all struggle with it and that Chima’s really right, we can be more at peace in our business and be more successful and feel better about it and feel really good about the work we’re doing when we’re not constantly comparing ourselves to every other copywriter out there. So it was just a great message to wrap up in the interview.
Rob: Very true. So we want to thank Chima Mmeje for joining us to talk at her business and what she’s been doing, both in her business and in helping other copywriters to get the training and support that they need to grow. If you want to contribute to her developing country initiative, go to her website, zenithcopy.com or find her on LinkedIn by searching for Chima Mmeje and that’s C-H-I-M-A M-M-E-J-E.
Kira: That’s the end of this depside of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Our interim music was composed by copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. The outro was composed by a copywriter and songwriter, David Muntner. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, please visit iTunes to leave review of the show. Or better yet, think of one person who could benefit from what you’ve heard and email them a link to this episode. To learn more about The Copywriter Underground, our private membership, you can go to thecopywriterunderground.com. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week. (singing)