In this first episode of The Copywriter Club podcast, Kira and Rob interview Kaleigh Moore about her business, choosing a niche, switching from a “brand” name to using her own name, and her newsletter.
One idea that really stands out is Kaleigh’s method for reaching out to people she wants to write for—which has landed her gigs with several big publications. Check it out by clicking the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Paul Jarvis’ Creative Class
Kaleigh’s articles at Inc, Entrepreneur, SumoMe, and Copyhackers
Kaleigh on Twitter
Cup of Copy Newsletter
Intro: Content (for now)
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
RM: What if you could hang out with really 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 Kira and I try to do every week at The Copywriter Club podcast.
KH: You’re invited to join the club for episode one as we chat with copywriter, Kaleigh Moore, about personal branding, growing her list and writing for popular websites like Copy Hackers, SumoMe and Inc Magazine.
RM: Hey Kira and Kaleigh.
KM: Hey, good morning.
RM: It’s great to have you here.
KM: Thanks for having me.
KH: Thanks for being here Kaleigh, and we appreciate your time. I think always a good place to start is with how you make your money as a copywriter, because so many of us do so many different things and have different niches, and they think it will help give some context to the questions that will follow.
KM: That sounds great with me.
KH: How do you make your money Kaleigh? What type of work do you focus on as a copywriter?
KM: My niche is kind of in the world of SaaS and eCommerce. It didn’t always start that way. When I got started as a freelance writer about three years ago I was doing the typically thing and taking any job that came my way. Over the past year and a half especially, I’ve really focused on only taking jobs and working with clients that fall within those two pretty similar worlds of sass and eCommerce. It’s been really, really wonderful. I think it’s helped my business grow quite a bit to really have that focus and really weed out the jobs that I enjoy doing and [resist 00:01:50] the ones that I don’t enjoy doing so much.
KM: It’s really allowed me to grow my business too. Just kind of committing to working with a very specific set of clients has been a really wise choice. While it was difficult many times to say, “No” to … Well, and it still is, to say, “No” to opportunities that come my way, it just really helps me not be burnt out like I was in the past when I was taking any job. It also helps me become a better subject matter expert and not have to do as much research if I was learning something for the very first time.
RM: Kaleigh, lately you’ve written on your blog and I think in your newsletter a lot about your journey from working with a brand name, like a company brand name to working only under your own name now. Would you tell us a little bit about that, and the transition and your thinking behind the shift that you’ve made over the last little while?
KM: Absolutely. When I started I was using a brand name called Lumen, and I was offering a lot of different services. I was offering writing, social media management and consulting, and then my husband was doing the graphic design site of the business. It was all kind of under this umbrella of the Lumen brand name. With that I didn’t really have a focus on the type of client that I was targeting either, it was really just, “Hey, this is me, these are all the services I offer. If you wanna work with me let’s talk.”
KM: I did that for about a year, and what I found was that it was kind of the master of none thing because you was operating as this faceless brand who’s offering a lot of different services, nobody was really coming to me as an expert for any particular thing. I hadn’t really positioned myself in that way. About two years ago now I guess, I switched over to marketing with my name, Kaleigh Moore, as just kind of an individual copywriter specifically, getting rid of some of those extra services and really honing in my focus first on just the copywriting service. That was the phase one.
KM: As I got going with that and started getting some traction from using my name and my face, people came to know me, and who I was and what I could do well. Phase two of that was really transitioning into these are specialties, this is my subject matter. Over time, more and more people have come to know, “Okay, this is Kaleigh Moore, she’s a freelance writer, she writes about sass and eCommerce related topics.” It’s really been phases transitioning into that personal brand, and I found that it’s so much more effective because like I said, people come to know me as an individual, they know my name, my face across social channels.
KM: My online presence is much more recognizable because instead of just being a faceless brand, I am me, people can come to talk to me instead of trying to go back and forth with the Lumen brand, or who even is this behind this brand. There’s just much more of a personal connection that I think has been really helpful at building relationships and opening doors for new opportunities in using my real name and my personal branding.
RM: That’s awesome. Would you say that it’s also had a financial impact on your business?
KM: I would say so, yes, because like I touched on before, I wasn’t getting the flow of work as a brand that I started getting once I switched to using my name. I think, again, that’s because I become a subject matter expert and I really tried to position myself to a very specific set of clients. I could then target my marketing to that specific niche and do all the things that you’re supposed to do when it comes to marketing, not targeting a mass audience or trying to be everything to everyone.
KM: Once I transitioned into the personal brand, the expert on this very specific group of customers and subject matter, people came to know that. Their referrals started coming, I started getting more specific inquiries, more relevant job opportunities. Over the past three years, I have grown my revenue by about 40% every single year. Pretty significant growth I think and a pretty steady track record for success.
KH: That’s impressive. Kaleigh, I think copywriters that are listening probably are not in their head as you are saying you’re taking on all projects, anything that was presented to you, you’re a master of none, and then you made that switch and really started to niche and focused on sass and eCommerce. What we don’t hear about as often is how you actually do that and what that looked like behind the scenes. I’m just interested in hearing more about how you knew it was a good time. Was it just so painful at that point that you just had to make that change? How you took those steps to make sure you have the work for your new specialty.
KM: It was a little scary going into the transition. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, you’re never sure how it’s going to go when you make a switch from going from the norm, going from the status quo to trying something new. I took Paul Jarvis’ creative class and that really opened my eyes to a lot of missed opportunities as far as targeting a specific group of customers, and really fine tuning what do I enjoy doing as a freelance writer, what are the topics that I like. Once I took that class, then my husband helped create a new website for me, the kaleighmoore.com. That was kind of the first step into transition from the we are Lumen site to the Kaleigh Moore site.
KM: I actually had like a marketing asset that I could say, “Hey, I’m repositioning myself, this is who I am, please check this out.” From there that kind of was a nice home base for people who were trying to figure out who I was and what type of services I offered. The creative class was really helpful in conducting market research, really fine tuning the things that I wanted to do moving forward and the things that I didn’t want to do, really being concrete about that. Just making the switch and saying, “Okay, well if I’m gonna this I kinda need to rebrand, I need to take a new look at things.”
KM: Creating that new website and then getting rid off some of the older channels that I had used through Lumen, I had some social media accounts, I had a blog for the Lumen site, I just let those fall to the wayside. I really poured my energy into concentrating on the personal efforts that I had. The blog on the new Kaleigh Moore site and using my social channels to not only participate online but to go to places where my target customers were spending time and being an active participant there whether it was forums, or Reddit groups, or writing for publications like Inc and Entrepreneur.
KM: Those were the places that I knew my target customers were reading and were looking for pieces of authority-driven content. Just really putting a focus on what can I do to get in front of this new audience to communicate what I’m doing differently now.
RM: You mentioned writing for some of these popular blogs, SumoMe, I think you’ve written for Copy Hackers. How does that impacted your business? For the writers who might be interested in doing the same thing, how did you go about reaching out to these sites and either pitching ideas or making the contacts required to be able to use that as a way to grow your business?
KM: I think Twitter for me has been a really valuable tool as far as building relationships with editors and content managers. I’m just kind of going back and forth with them for extended periods of time, and getting to know them and having them come to know me through the back and forth that we have especially on Twitter. That’s been a huge door opener for me as far as landing those great opportunities that have helped launch my business forward.
KM: Joanna from Copy Hackers, she and I went back and forth over Twitter, we emailed a few times. That relationship started organically. Same thing with the connection that I had with an editor on Entrepreneur, he and I were just going back and forth on Twitter for a long time. When I finally did make the ask, “Hey, you know, I’d like to send over some pitches to you. Would that be okay?” He was very receptive to it because we kind of had that existing relationship and it wasn’t just a cold ask.
KM: Twitter has been extremely beneficial for my business and in my experience. Also just making the ask, I think so many people are intimated by the process of reaching out to people and putting themselves out there and saying, “Hey, I have something interesting that I think might be relevant for your audience.” Just doing that as well is a great door opener. Sometimes with the volume of content that these types of publications are putting out, they’re looking for guest posts, and they’re looking for interesting perspectives and voices.
KM: If you can go to them with some ideas that make for great content on their sites, why would they say, “No”? I think that that’s something that I found to be true a lot of times, just making the ask and putting yourself out there to say, “What do you think about this? Is this something that I could offer to your audience?” can really pan out and be a huge opportunity to grow your business and to grow your reach.
KH: Kaleigh, if I know that you write for Inc Magazine and that caught my attention. I was like, “Oh, I would love to do something like that.” What advice would you give to someone who has not written for them in the past, and maybe is on Twitter but not super active, what is that going back and forth actually look like? I feel like they know what I’m trying to get and so it feels kind of sleazy to me even though I know there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. Clearly you’re doing it the right way. How do I do that?
KM: I think it’s all coming down to just being a nice person and being genuine in your interactions with people, and not making that ask right off the bat. The specific editor on Entrepreneur that I had reached out to was on a podcast, that’s how I came to find him. He was talking about how so many people on Twitter just immediately reach out and try to say, “Hey, I have some ideas, can I pitch them to you?” It’s very aggressive and it’s very unfriendly.
KM: Nobody ever really takes the approach of just being nice and having a really general back and forth about any kind of topic on Twitter before making that ask, and kind of building that rapport with the editor or the contact that you’re trying to make. Just going back and forth with them. If they post silly stuff or they post stuff that’s interesting to you, just commenting on it, and sharing it, and being a social person on social media. It’s so easy to hide in the shadows, but when you participate and you don’t take that very aggressive approach, you’re just organically having a nice, general back and forth, that really sets the stage for other conversations.
KM: If you’re consistent in that, if you’re consistent in going back and forth, they’re very quickly come to know, “Oh yeah, that’s such and such that I talked to on Twitter all the time.” It seems so common sense to just, “Oh well, I really just have to go back and forth.” Yes, in my experience, it’s a really, really easy way to make some important contacts.
KH: Do you dedicate a certain amount of time to doing that each day, or does it just come organically where you just are naturally jumping in there and spending some time each day and then cutting out to do your work? Like you said, it’s easy for us to hide as writers and to get deep into our client work and go into a cave, like I will go into a cave and just disappear from social media. Clearly that’s not a good thing.
KM: Yes. For me, unless I’m really head down working on a long piece of content where I have to work distraction-free, Twitter is the place I go to break up the day and to get that interaction that I’m missing from not having coworkers. I take lots of short little breaks throughout the day, I keep the tab open and I pop over there and try to participate throughout the day. At night too, I think there probably should be [inaudible 00:14:11] when you put down social media but I’m not very good about that. I don’t know, it’s just kind of a dialog that I have going on a day to day basis.
KM: I don’t have a set amount of time that I invest in it, but I just try to check in throughout the day and go back and forth with people. If I’m going to spend the time to open the tab and check out Twitter I feel like I should participate while I’m there, that’s my theory.
RM: Interesting. Kaleigh, so I have some questions about your newsletter. You have a weekly newsletter that you send out and you’d seem to focus it on writing, and mostly for writers or other freelancers, not necessarily for your clients. I’m curious about the thinking behind that, and also your process for creating content on a weekly basis for a newsletter which for a lot of us is sort of this arduous task. Whenever the deadline comes you’re like, “Ugh, I’ve got to put this stuff together.” What’s your process for that and what’s your thinking behind what you do there?
KM: When I was marketing myself as Lumen I did have a newsletter that was aimed at my client base, and I was writing a lot of client-based topics. What I found from that was that the people who I had on that list and my past clients and things like that, they just weren’t that interested in the subject matter that I was covering. I feel like they were going to other places for that type of information, it’s just wasn’t that useful.
KM: When I launched the Kaleigh Moore newsletter, the cup of coffee newsletter, I knew that I wanted to use it as a way to share what I had learned as a freelance writer for other writers who were just getting started even if that wasn’t a good fit for my client base. Just because I feel like you should teach what you know, I’ve heard that from a lot of people like Nathan Berry, from a lot of people who are out there sharing their processes and what they’re learning along the way. I wanted to share what I had learned from freelance writing and from three years of transitioning, and day in day out doing this type of work.
KM: I experimented a little bit with freelancer-oriented content, stuff about processes and being a better writer for your clients, just being a better business person in general, and then also some writing tips too. It’s kind of a mix between the two. I’ve done surveys along the way to see what my subscribers really look for in a newsletter, what they liked, what they don’t like. A lot of the liked the freelance-oriented content. More and more I’m writing about processes and tips for invoicing, and stuff like the ins and outs of being a freelancer day to day.
KM: My process for that, I really go to the audience a lot for suggestions. I’ve experimented with different tools for, “Hey, help me pick a topic for this week’s newsletter.” I spend a lot of time in different forums like InBound and Reddit to see what are the questions that are being asked most frequently. That gets me a lot of ideas for what to cover in my newsletter. It’s only twice a month so I feel like because it’s kind of low frequency I have a bit more time to dedicate to development, and thought process, and the actual writing of it.
KM: They’re fairly short. These aren’t long think pieces or anything like that, it’s just really nice, short, distilled bits of information that I am seeing pop up pretty frequently in these places that I’m visiting. That’s my process, that’s how I figured out what works best for my specific audience that’s subscribed now. I think I have a little over 400 subscribers, so it’s slowly growing. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from it from people saying, “I’ve learned so much from this” or, “Wow, I’m not finding this content elsewhere on the internet.”
KM: I’ve had a lot of questions about, “Well how can I do this better?” kind of as a follow up to those newsletters. It’s been a great learning process and I’m still learning every time I send one out.
RM: Do you do anything specific to grow your list, or have you just let that happen organically as people find you?
KM: It’s been pretty organic so far. I have several opt-ins on my website, I use Welcome Mat. I have an opt-in on my Twitter account, and I always include a link to opt-in to my list when I post my blog content both on site and through medium where I syndicate that content as well. I haven’t invested in anything into growing it beyond what I pay for the Welcome Mat. That’s something that I’m thinking about moving forward is maybe how do I more aggressively grow that list and where can I get this valuable content in front of people who need to read it.
KH: Kaleigh, I read one of your articles, I think it was Entrepreneur about using Slack to build a referral network. I loved it because I think the whole concept behind this podcast and the club is to really help copywriters step out of their silos and partner and collaborate, and really it could help your business with referrals. I’ve seen it, it helped my business massively. My question for you is just how do copywriters take that first step to start building that network without necessarily [pain 00:19:30] in the arm and leg to join a community to find those referrals, and also just build that supportive community?
KM: Like you said, Slack has been a huge, huge place to get in touch with fellow writers, and content marketers, and people who can refer work. Those have come up through Twitter, through connections with writing for places like SumoMe. I found that there are a lot of existing Slack channels out there, and so if you can get an invite to those, you can come in to those groups of existing communities where there are already a lot of people there, you don’t have to start from scratch.
KM: It’s just finding the right connections, and again, making the ask. If there is a group that you find that you’d like to be a part of, it’s often just a matter of making that ask and saying, “Hey, I’d love to get in on that. Can I get an invite to your group?” Slack definitely is a big one. Facebook groups are also helpful, sometimes there are several that I use for not only finding sources for the pieces that I’m writing, but for kind of a sounding board for other fellow writers and content marketers.
KM: Again, it’s just reaching out to people who are doing what you’re doing and asking those questions and saying, “Hey, you know, I’m looking for ways to grow my kind of bubble as a freelance writer. Are there any introductions that you can make for me or are there places that I may be missing that I should be participating?” Just asking around to the people who are doing what you’re doing, and seeing what is out there that you’re missing is a great way to find those opportunities.
RM: Are there other things that you do to prospect Kaleigh? Specifically, outreach to clients that you might be interested in, or have you reached the point in your business where enough clients come to you that you don’t have to worry about that anymore?
KM: Yes, I’m at the point now where I have a steady flow of work coming my way so I’m not actively prospecting and I haven’t for about eight or nine months now. I have pretty steady flow that comes through my website, or for the most part, they are referral base. I have a list of clients who do similar things to the other clients that I have and they pass my name along if they hear of a relevant opportunity that comes up.
KM: I did just recently experiment. I reached out at some Slack groups and I posted a thing on Twitter where I said, “Hey, I’d like to do some more specific eCommerce work” just to see what feedback I would get from asking in that way. It was huge response. Again, I think that that might be partially because I have built up a body of work, I have a fairly large, well, for me, a group of contacts who know what I do and have seen the work that I can produce.
KM: The response from that was really surprising to me. I think I got six new inquiries for jobs that were…
KM: Yes, people who were like ready to get started right away. I got to choose from those which ones were the best fit for me. I mean they were all eCommerce clients, they were all really relevant to the work I was looking to do. Again, I think once you build up that body of work and you make those connections, people are happy to pass your name along and say, “Hey, oh yeah, I know of something that would be a perfect fit for you.”
KM: I know the stat out there somewhere is that 81% of freelancers refer other work to fellow freelancers, or they collaborate on projects, things like that. I think that that’s 100% sure. I’ve seen that to be true so many times in my own business is that a lot of work has come from fellow freelancers or people within my niche who are happy to just pass a name along once they know that the work is good.
KH: It’s so true too, I wish I would have known that when I started. The key is really building relationships with other freelancers, especially freelancers who are busy and have lots of who and can’t handle all of it, and they want that help. They want to be able to send their potential clients in community to people they know can handle the projects. It’s so important.
KH: Kaleigh, I’m interested to know if you have retainer clients or you’re just project-based, the reasoning behind that.
KM: I have two clients that I have had on retainer basically since I started freelancing full-time. I do a lot of different things for those clients, they’re kind of grandfathered in from when I got started. Fairly low maintenance but I really enjoy working with them. I do a lot of different types of work for them which is a whole other story. That’s a very small percentage of what I do, the bulk of my time is spent creating mostly blog content for the freelance clients that I work with.
KM: Those two retainer clients, I mean, it is a nice security, amount of income that I get every month, it’s built on a monthly basis. It’s something I really value in my business because with freelancing it’s so up and down. You never know what your income is going to be, and you have a certain goal that you set for yourself. Having that guaranteed income on a month to month basis is just a nice … At least I’m always going to have this amount that you can keep in your mind. I think there is definitely a value to having those types of clients.
KM: If there’s a freelancer writer out there who gets an opportunity to have a retainer with different clients or different people who are interested in that, it’s definitely worth exploring. It’s a nice security blanket.
RM: Very cool. What’s next for you and your business? Is it just more of the same? Are you thinking about building any products? If we were interviewing you two years from now, what’s different?
KM: That’s a good question, that’s something I wrestle with all the time. I’m just finally at that sweet spot of doing work that I really enjoy and having a nice balance between free time and work time, and keeping busy. I struggle because I’m so happy right now, I’m so happy with the place that I’m at.
KH: That’s good to hear.
KM: Yes. I always feel like it can’t get any better than this. I hope more of the same, I hope that I continue at this pace, I hope that I am able to help more freelancers in the future who are maybe just getting started. I don’t have any plans right now for physical products, it’s something I’ve thought about a lot but I don’t have anything in the works right now.
KM: I really would just like to focus on teaching more and helping people who are just getting started, because I think that there are so much opportunity in the freelance writing world, it’s just a matter of getting people to commit to it, and really give it a try, and going about it the right way. There are a lot of things I wish I knew when I got started, I don’t really have anybody to ask about all of the things that I was curious about or scared about. If I can be that person for somebody else that’s something I’m interested in.
KH: It’s so good to hear that you say that you’re happy with what you’re doing. It’s such a positive note especially since sometimes it could be really hard to be a freelancer, so it’s good to hear a positive story because I can go down my own rabbit hole of negativity at times. Kaleigh, I would like to know how you really stay up on the game, and your skills, and learning the latest, because I know that’s something that you mentioned on your website, it’s really important to you.
KM: I think my clients do a really nice job of keeping me on my toes and having me stay up-to-date on the latest trends especially with a lot of the email marketing type of work that I do, I’m learning about automation which is really interesting to me. A lot of the assignments that I get require me to keep learning. I’m building off of an existing knowledge base, I feel like I’m getting more and more expertise in the specific world that I write for which is sass and eCommerce.
KM: I’m getting paid to learn more which is great news. Just in researching the topics that I write about or on the assignments that I’m given, I am actively learning all the time. I enjoy it, it doesn’t feel like work. Reading and learning these new things, and staying up to date on what’s happening in this world, it’s not a hassle, it’s not something that feel like, “Ugh, I have to keep doing this.” It’s just coming naturally I guess.
RM: If you could go back three years to when you’re just starting out as a freelancer, what’s the best advice you’d give yourself to start out with?
KM: Build relationships with people, make that a huge priority. Plan for retirement. Work with an accountant, because if you’re somebody like me who is scared of taxes and that’s all very intimidating, outsourcing all that to an expert who knows what they’re doing just makes your life so much easier. I think participate, participate often and participate in relevant places where fellow writers and clients and people you want to work with are spending time, because those connections are so valuable. When you’re working alone you get kind of lonely sometimes, so it’s nice to have those connections.
KM: When I was first starting out there were a lot of times that I’m down and missed having coworkers, missed having that face to face connection with people. I wish I would have joined groups and participated and worked really hard at building up connection earlier in my career because it’s something that I enjoy a lot now and I could’ve used in those times when I was feeling isolated. Especially during winter months, it’s so hard. I live in central Illinois so there are some months where I’m inside all the time and I don’t see a lot of other people. It’s really valuable to have those outlets.
KH: Kaleigh, thank you so much for being a part of our show, and our first guest and our guinea pig. I took a lot away from our conversation, really thinking about building relationships especially through Twitter, and also just the power of finding your niche and really focusing on that, it just really stood out to me. Thank you for your time.
RM: Absolutely Kaleigh.
KM: Thank you.
RM: If people want to find out more about you, or join your list or hire you, where would they go?
KM: It’s kaleighmoore.com. I’m hoping that there will be notes somewhere because my name is kind of hard to spell. Yes, kaleighmoore.com…
KH: We will have notes.
KM: Great. In Twitter I’m @kaleighf. Again, that first name is hard to spell, but I’m @kaleighf on Twitter, on Instagram. Those are the two places I spend a lot of time so please connect with me there.
RM: If only our parents could have seen how hard names are to spell on social media back when they named us all, right? This has been great. Thanks Kaleigh, we appreciate you taking the time.
KH: With that we’ll wrap the show.
RM: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by The Whitest Boy Alive available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.