Copywriter Kirsty Fanton joins Kira and Rob to talk about psychology in copy in this episode off The Copywriter Club Podcast. Kirsty’s experience includes a degree in psychology and work as a counselor and what she learned in those roles has had a big impact on her work for her clients. She shares how you can use psychology to forge a better connection with your clients. We talked about:
• How a travel blog helped Kirsty discover copywriting and land her first clients
• The things she did to get started the right way
• How her work as a counselor makes her a better business owner
• The importance of reflective practice and her 3-pronged approach that she uses to improve
• How she conducts a debrief call
• The different lenses her psychology background gives her to find the “meaty” parts in her research
• How she uses “naming” to discover what prospects are really feeling
• How she builds rapport quickly with prospects when she’s interviewing
• Narrative therapy and how copywriters can use it effectively
• The one question everyone asks—knowing it will make your copy better
• The two kinds of persuasion techniques
• How she keeps it all together and gets things done
• The mistakes she sees other copywriters making (that she’s avoided)
There are a lot of great ideas and “psychological tricks” you can borrow to improve your own interviewing and copywriting. And, if you haven’t read her post about indirect hints in copy, you should click here. To hear the interview, click the play button below, or visit iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite podcast app. And if you’re the type that likes to read, scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:The Copywriter Accelerator
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
Kira: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits. Then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for episode 106 as we chat with copywriter Kirsty Fenton about how her background in psychology helps her write great copy for her clients, the narrative therapy techniques she uses to get prospects to take action, and the one question people regularly ask and how you can use it to your advantage in just about everything you write.
Kira: Kirsty, welcome.
Kirsty: Thanks guys. Great to be here.
Kira: Before we jumped in with Kirsty and started recording, we were telling her how we haven’t interviewed someone in at least two months because we both had been on vacation, so I’m sweating over here like I feel really anxious, Kirsty. A good place to start is with our basic question. Let’s start with your story and how did you end up as a copywriter?
Kirsty: Yeah, sure. So I got into copywriting and quite a roundabout way. As you said, I have a background in psychology, so when I finished high school I went to Uni, did an undergrad in psych and a post grad in counseling and then worked as a counselor for five years, and also lectured a couple of psych subjects at university here in Sydney. Anyway, all was going well and then in 2014 my partner and I decided we wanted to take a belated gap year. We packed up our lives and moved over to France for 12 months, which was amazing.
While we were over there I kept a blog of our adventures just as a way of keeping our friends and family in the loop on what we were actually getting up to. Anyway, by the time we got back to Australia at the end of 2015, a couple of my friends had started their own business and they liked the way I’d written about our travels on my blog and asked if I’d like to write their copy, so I said yes. Not that I had any idea what a copy was at that point, but I thought why not? I’ll give it a crack and I did that on the side of a counseling job. I think it was about six to 10 hours a week to start with, and then about six months later I decided to just take the leap and try out copywriting full time.
Rob: How did that work out? That first couple … that first leap? What did that look like?
Kirsty: People think I was brave. I think I was just a bit stupid in terms of what it would actually entail. I mean it worked out quite well, I think. For the first year I was doing quite well. I was just getting work via word of mouth referrals, although I wasn’t getting to spend my time working on projects that I really enjoyed. I was more just doing whatever came my way. It wasn’t until I joined your Accelerator actually in, I think it was November last year, that I actually sort of started putting myself in the driver’s seat a bit more and building something that today I’m really quite proud of and really enjoying. There have been some big changes definitely since I started.
Kira: All right, so I want to ask you about your gap year because that sounds fantastic. What triggered you and your partner to say, hey, we’re going to go away for 12 months, hang out in France? What was the catalyst for that decision?
Kirsty: A couple of things. I think in Australia gap years are almost like a rite of passage, I think because we’re so isolated and it takes so long to get anywhere. We almost figure that we might as well go for a big chunk of time and neither of us had actually ever done a gap year and we were getting close to the age where we couldn’t get long-term visas anymore, so we were like well, it’s kind of now or never. The work I was doing at that stage was with the big cancer charity here in Australia. Working with people that had advanced cancer so it was quite draining, quite full on, and my partner’s work was also quite full on. He was working very long hours, so we just figured why not take a break from it all and just spend a year doing everything that we wouldn’t ever do here in Australia. We spent time working on vineyards on a foie gras farm-
Kirsty: At a French restaurant. Yeah, we did all sorts of crazy stuff. It was really good.
Rob: Before we leave the whole travel thing, give us the top three takeaways from your year in France.
Kirsty: Oh, good question, Rob. Okay. Top three takeaways. Oh, God. Well, I mean learned a new language, but most of which I’ve forgotten now, but that was interesting I guess, and a pretty valuable skill to have. Also learned that I’m capable of doing a lot more than I thought I could when it comes to physical sort of farming skills because I’m certainly not by any means a practical farming type person, but yeah. I was getting up in there and butchering ducks, and pruning grapes, and bottling wine, and doing all those sorts of things. I don’t know, third biggest one I think was maybe just the real value of getting right outside your comfort zone.
Kira: Wow, I love all that. When you came out of that experience at that point you were ready to leave your previous career behind or were you still considering that as an option before he jumped into copywriting?
Kirsty: I actually came back and got a counseling job straight away and I don’t think I would have left that career if the opportunity hadn’t presented itself. I was quite happy counseling. I’m much happier now writing copy, but I don’t think it would have been an avenue I would have got to on my own. I think it was just great timing and also the fact that I came back quite poor because we didn’t actually earn any money for those 12 months. Any opportunity to earn some extra money on top of my counseling salary was definitely something I wanted to jump at. Yeah, just sort of right place, right time, right chance I guess.
Kira: You mentioned that you stepped into the driver’s seat in your business and that’s when things really changed and you feel proud of the business you’ve created since then. It seems like there is a stark contrast for so many copywriters where they’re kind of starting out taking gigs, whatever comes their way, and then there’s this moment or some changes they make so that they are finally in the driver’s seat and we all get there at a different time. Some people it takes a lot longer. What did you do to step into the driver’s seat? What did those changes look like for you?
Kirsty: I think a lot of it was just about giving myself permission to sort of forge my own path and make my own way because as someone who’s spent my whole working life being an employee, it was a huge change to wake up one day and realize that I was actually in control of what I was doing and where I was going and I didn’t know what to do with that until I did join The Accelerator and that obviously takes it through all those modules like niching, and pricing, and packaging, and processes.
The first thing I did with niche down into writing humorous emails, changed my website, and sort of I guess announced that change to my little corner of the Internet. Then from there I think it was just about not waiting. I think often as you say, new copywriters can spend a little time just waiting, sitting around for someone to tell them what to do, or for a prospect to find you, or for permission to just sort of go out and start doing stuff. It was just essentially saying what the hell, I’m just going to try and experiment and see what works and go with it what feels good.
Rob: I love it. We’ve been able to watch your business develop so we’ve seen a little bit of where you came from to where you are now, but talk about what you’re doing today, where your clients come from, the kind of work that you do mostly.
Kirsty: As I said, I’m mostly all about emails, although I have started doing long form sales pages this year and that’s actually thanks to Kira who sent a client my way who had a big launch project. I actually still get a lot of word of mouth referrals and again a lot of those come from Kira, so thank you Kira. I owe you lots.
Kira: It’s okay. You sent me Tim Tams so we’re even, we’re good.
Kirsty: We’re even. We’re done. I get other inquiries through Instagram. I did a podcast a few months ago that I got a few inquiries and actually one really good project through as well. I still, to be honest, I haven’t quite nailed the whole pipeline thing. I do need to get better at promoting myself, but I guess it’s easy to, when you are making good money and you have a relatively full calendar to just sort of lean into the referrals and use that as your base, but definitely something I need to work on more moving forward.
Rob: So, Kirsty, one of the things that I think really stands out about you is your background in psychology and you mentioned that, you mentioned the counseling that you’ve done. Tell us a little bit about how that impacts how you write, the way that you approach your assignments. Is it different for you because of the background that you have from how other copywriters maybe approached their work?
Kirsty: Yeah, definitely. I think. I mean, obviously I have no way of really knowing, but I mean counseling has certainly set me up with a whole lot of knowledge, and theory, and skills that are so helpful. Not only in writing copy but also I think in my business itself. When I’m talking about my business, I mention things like self-care, and boundaries, and self-awareness, and also reflective practice, which I don’t know might be a new concept for a lot of copywriters, but basically that’s a way of formalizing the process of taking stock of the work you’re doing, working out what you’re doing well, what you could be doing better, and how you can actually make those improvements. At the moment I sort of tackle that with a three pronged approach I guess. I try and get critiques on my copy whenever I can and I’m doing that at the moment mainly through The Think Tank, which is really great, and something that I was not sure how that would go actually given The Think Tank has so many different minds and approaches in it, but I’m actually finding it really valuable to get so many different perspectives on what I’m actually putting together.
That’s, I guess the first phase and that obviously comes before I deliver my first round of copy to my clients. The second phase of the reflective practice is journaling, which I do at the end of a big project and for me that’s all about sitting with the experience of the project. Thinking about what felt good, what didn’t feel good, what stressed me out, what I might do differently next time, or what sort of things I’ve learned that can help me change and improve moving forward. Then the third prong of that approach is a debrief call, which I always try and do with my clients after a project wraps up and in that we’re talking about all sorts of things including how the copy actually performed, so conversion rates, open rates, all those sorts of things, but also their experience of actually working with me and what that was like.
I always make sure that I’m very clear that it’s important that they know that the debrief process is not just about me collecting compliments about my work and giving myself high fives. It’s far more valuable to actually talk about the stuff that can be improved because then I can take that away, and then when I work with that client again, or when I work with another client, I can offer an improved service. I guess those are some examples of how counseling skills help in the actual business side of things. I also have lots of examples of how it helps in the actual writing of the copy too. I mean it depends what you want to talk about.
Kira: Let’s dig into this because there’s a lot there and I love all of this because I think it’s easy to stop doing some of these prongs, right? The journaling, I feel like that’s such a great idea yet how many of us actually do it, right? It’s just like full force moving to the next project and not really thinking about what worked, what didn’t work, and actually writing it out. From my experience working with you, I’ve seen how each project you do make changes. You continue to adjust your processes so they work for you. Then the debrief part is so smart and we’ve talked about it on the show before, but yet again, how many of us actually have those debrief calls? Oftentimes because it’s kind of awkward to ask, well how has your experience working with me? I feel really uncomfortable asking those questions so I try to outsource it and get other people that ask those questions for me.
Can you just talk more about that debrief call and some of the questions you’re asking your client or even how you set it up because it sounds like you’ve set it up in a really comfortable way where it feels positive, it’s really strengthening that relationship, and potentially booking more work and it’s not just, ‘Hey, how was it working with me? Give me compliments so I can write a testimonial.’ Yeah, I’d love to hear more about the debrief.
Kirsty: Yeah, sure. I always sort of flagged that that is part of my process when I sign a client on just so they’re aware from the start that it’s a thing that I always do. It’s almost like the wrap up and I think framing it as well in terms of how it can actually provide value for them because it gives them a chance to ask questions about things that they maybe weren’t sure of or things that they think might be better next time round. I guess it’s promoting those benefits so it’s not just a one sided thing. I always send a link to one of my type forms before the call, which just has about, I think it’s about 10 questions on it covering all sorts of things like the conversion rates and that side of things. Then also like how did you find me? What was your experience like of working with me? What concerns did you have about working with me, and how, or did I address those? Other questions like, would you recommend me to someone you know and care about? I think that qualifier at the end is often quite important.
I don’t know what else I actually ask, but I guess that gives me like a nice platform from which to jump into that call with some context. It almost helps negate any awkwardness that you might feel by starting that conversation because some of the facts are already out there. I think that’s about framing and I guess as well just to add by the time you’ve got through a big project with someone, you usually have pretty good rapport with them. Right? I think hopefully they respect you as a business owner and someone who is trying to find ways to constantly improve. I get that it can be scary, but I think there’s so much more value in it and I think that outweighs any sort of fear factor about what you might discover or about how awkward it might feel to sit with someone and essentially talk about yourself for half an hour.
Rob: Kirsty, you hinted at the fact that your background in psychology also helps with the copywriting side, not just how you approach your business. Talk a little bit about that as well. What does it do?
Kirsty: I guess it gives me a lot of different skills and lenses at which to look at a project and approach it. I guess for me that often starts right at the beginning when I’m speaking on the phone with a prospect and then when I’m maybe doing a kickoff call with them, or also doing research calls with some of their existing clients to get that voice of customer data because obviously counseling is all about having skilled conversation, right? There are so many skills that are really applicable to those situations. I think I have a sense that a lot of copywriters go into those sorts of calls with a list of questions that they want to ask and they move through those quite strictly. Ask a question, get a response, ask the next question, get the response, and just moved down like that without really tuning into what the other person is saying and following where that conversation is going.
In a way, if you are doing that, you’re sort of limiting the value or the meaty parts you can get from that call because you’re putting your own frame of reference on it from the outset and potentially devaluing their experience. If they tell you something that’s quite big and important, but then you move away from it straight away because it doesn’t fit in with your next question, it’s sort of shutting a door that you could have gone down to get some really valuable stuff.
Rob: From a practical standpoint, what do you do to follow that trail the right way? Are there follow up questions that are easy to slide in there or do you really have to listen to their answer and then go with what their language is, or to follow that? How could we get better at that without the training that you have?
Kirsty: I mean, there are two key skills that are relatively easy to learn and to pick up. They are reflection of feeling and meaning and also naming. I’ll explain those in a bit more detail. Perhaps if you’re at the next level of conversation and rather than just going through it questions sort of interrogation style. If you’re able to paraphrase what someone’s saying, that’s good, but you’re still stuck in the content so you’re not diving down deeper into the feelings, or the emotions, and the meaning, which is the really meaty stuff with the sticky copy comes from, so to dive down into that deeper level rather than reflecting the content, if you actually reflect the emotions or the meaning of someone’s experience, it’s sort of paving the way in for them to make bigger, deeper disclosures. I actually, I don’t know if you want me to read it, but I do have a little passage from a call that I did earlier this year that actually displays that skill and also naming, which I’ll explain soon quite well so I can, I’m happy to read through that. It’ll take about a minute if you want. Sort of like a concrete example of what that is.
Rob: Yeah, do it.
Kirsty: Okay. I’ll just quickly explain naming maybe just so you know what it is when we get to it. Naming is just a way of helping people put accurate words around their experience, which is really important because even though people obviously have lived their experience and know it quite well, often they haven’t put words around it before, or often, so it can be quite hard for them to make it really concrete, which as a copywriter looking for voice of customer data, you need that so that you can put that in front of other prospects, right?
You need it to be concrete. You need to really understand it, so if you’re helping them name stuff and you’re doing it really tentatively, it actually empowers them to correct you and also to connect with you on a deeper level so that you can get to the stage in your copy where you’re not just using voice of customer to put you in the head of your prospect, but you’re actually going one step further and having your prospects read the copy and at that moment realizing the thing you’ve written is true because you’ve done that on the calls. Maybe to help make that more concrete because that does sound a bit esoteric. Sorry. I’ll dive into this little snippet. I don’t think you need any context for this except to know that we’d already been talking for about 15 minutes, so we had some pretty good rapport going.
Anyway, the lady I was speaking with said, ‘Things started to go wrong. I started gaining weight even though I’ve been a personal trainer for a long time and know all about how the body works. I started gaining weight no matter what I did. I was really, really moody all the time. I started to experience depression, which is not my personality at all. I was like, okay, something’s really wrong here. I started getting a lot of lab work done, but every time the doctors would say, everything looks normal. Maybe you just need to exercise more. I felt completely alone. I felt embarrassed, and alone, and terrified.’
Then I responded with, ‘Would you say shame is too big of a word to fit what you were feeling?’ Which is an example of naming and as you can see it’s sort of quite tentative, so she could have corrected me if I was off base, but she responded with, ‘No, I think shame is a good word. I like to say embarrassed or disappointed because those words feel better to hear as opposed to saying shame out loud, but that was what it was for sure. I would have rather done almost anything then tell the world what I was dealing with. I didn’t want people to think of me as sick. I didn’t want people to think of me as weak. I didn’t want people to think of me as lazy or any of that stuff.’
Then I said in response to that, ‘You didn’t want to be defined by this thing you felt was already defining you.’ She said, ‘Exactly,’ and then gave me some really great sticky copy, but that’s an example of those two skills at play and just shows I guess how you can follow the conversation and swirl deeper down into someone’s experience.
Kira: Yeah. That’s really good to hear. Especially from you with your background, because I’ve done that on some calls. I think it just starts to come naturally where you start to reflect, but I’ve also had moments where I’m like, maybe I shouldn’t be doing that. Maybe I’m putting words into this customer’s mouth and I shouldn’t be doing it, it’s actually not helping. To hear from you that that actually helps the process by naming it, is just a really great confirmation for me to hear that that’s actually a good part of the process.
Rob: It seems like, Kirsty, the way you do it is that you frame it with the question so that you’re not saying, ‘Oh, that’s shame,’ or ‘Oh, that’s whatever,’ you’re saying, you’re asking them to confirm, which … That’s got to be an important part of that process.
Kirsty: Oh, it totally is because you want them to still feel like they know their story best and they want to feel empowered to correct you so that you can get the best understanding of what’s actually going on for them. That tentative factor is really very important.
Kira: And to be able to have asked that question, ‘Hey, are you feeling shame or did you feel shame?’ You would have had to develop that rapport, which you mentioned you’ve been chatting for 15 minutes.
Kira: What do you do to build that rapport fast? Because we don’t have a lot of time when we’re talking to these customers, usually have 30 minutes, so you have to move fast and build that intimacy and trust. What do you ask initially to build it?
Kirsty: I usually start off those calls, because you’re right, they’re really quick so it can be quite hard to get to that level where people feel comfortable making these disclosures. I usually start off the call just by framing what I’m going to do and what I’m hoping to get out of it just so they’re sort of onboard and they don’t feel like I’m going to blindside them at any point with something strange or weird. Then it’s really just about, I guess encouraging them along the way. Asking open questions, using all your minimal encouragers, which are just those little noises like, mm-hmm, yes, okay.
It sounds really basic, but it’s really effective because it shows that you’re actually tuning in and that you’re listening, and then at every chance you get to make a really accurate reflection, a paraphrase or reflection of meaning or feeling that really accelerates that rapport as well because they feel like they’re being heard, and seen, and understood. That in itself is a really valuable experience for anyone regardless of the situation or the context. I think just really focusing on tuning in as much as he can and obviously being empathic so not sort of making them feel uncomfortable or that you’re judging them or anything like that.
Rob: So is this narrative therapy, is that what this is called, or is narrative therapy something different?
Kirsty: Narrative therapy’s something different. It’s an approach therapy, so you know like CBT or like person centered. It’s sort of its own little thing. The way I use narrative therapy is actually in the writing of the copy. It has some really helpful techniques to propel readers into action. If you’re dealing with something where there’s a bit of resistance, narrative therapy techniques are actually really good to inject into your copy sort of from the outset. To give you a bit of background on what narrative therapy is so you know what I’m talking about.
Rob: Yeah, please.
Kirsty: Basically it just uses storytelling and it uses their love of stories as a way into people’s experiences, and it’s based on the idea that we all have a dominant narrative and that dominant narrative helps us make sense of the world and our experience in it. It also influences the way we think and behave. If you can change the narrative, you can often change someone’s thoughts and behavior. In the case of copy you can often help them take action or help them believe that change or improvement in their circumstances is possible. I guess that’s how it’s helpful. In terms of techniques that you can use quite easily in copy, there are two. The first one is externalizing and that’s all about separating the prospect from their problem. The reason you want to do that is because it’s so much easier to solve a problem or it become a challenge when you don’t see the problem is an integral part of who you are. If you flip that, if you believe you are the problem, it’s incredibly difficult to actually initiate any kind of change because it feels so much more insurmountable.
As an example, if you have someone who is saying, ‘Oh, I’m so tired, I’m so lazy,’ and you are able to flip that to you have fatigue, that is quite a powerful reframe because it puts it outside of the person and because of the way our language works, if you have something, I think it’s far easier to imagine not having something. Whereas, if you are something, it’s a bit of a bigger leap to imagine not being that thing, if that makes sense.
Rob: Yeah, totally.
Kirsty: It’s a great reframe for that reason alone, but also it allows you to unite with your prospect against a common enemy quite easily. There’s another sell for it.
Kira: Do you separate, and maybe this depends on the project, but do you separate the prospect from the problem early on in the sales copy or do you do that towards the end?
Kirsty: Usually early on, but usually more subtly early on because I think if you go in too hard too soon people will dismiss it as just, no, you’ve got that wrong, because a dominant narrative is usually quite close to us. We hold onto it quite tightly so you need to again build that rapport and build that trust and show that you have some insight over what they’re dealing with before you really go hard on this idea.
Kira: All, right, you had mentioned in a previous conversation that there’s one question people all over the world are asking themselves on the regular and how copywriters can use that to their advantage to write compelling copy. You didn’t tell me what the question was, so please, please tell me.
Kirsty: I mean, people spend so much time wondering and worrying whether they’re normal and it can be about anything and it’s amazing having witnessed it in therapy so many times. When you have a client, maybe two or three sessions in that makes this disclosure that you can see is really scary for them or they’re almost ashamed about it and you’re able to say to them like, ‘No, that’s totally normal. You’re not weird at all. If I was in your shoes, I’d be feeling, or thinking, or reacting the same way.’ The immediate relief that creates for the client is just so powerful. Again, it also has repercussions for the connection between the two of you. They feel closer to you, they trust you more, they like you more. Again, triggering that same reaction through your copy is a great way to really accelerate the process of someone trusting and buying in to whatever it is you’re selling.
Rob: What I really like about your approach to copy, Kirsty, is that you’re doing a lot of the things that copywriters have been teaching for 30, 40 years, but you’re sort of explaining the science behind them, so other copywriters talk about how you need to use stories, but maybe we don’t always understand how stories can be used to reframe our belief, or copywriters will say you need to be able to forgive a prospect or help them forgive themselves for failures in the past and the way you’re explaining it just really helps me understand why these things are all such powerful tools in the copywriter’s toolbox.
Kirsty: Yeah, totally, and I’ve had, I guess the reverse experience where I’ve come from that world of psychology and then I moved into copy and I’m like, oh, this is another word for this thing, or this is another word for this theory. It’s yeah, it’s really interesting. There are so many parallels to be drawn I think.
Kira: Is it weird that I really want you to be my therapist? Are you taking clients? I’ve actually been distracted and responding to these questions. I was like, I just really want to work with you. You’re so good. If you’re taking clients, we’ll chat. Can you talk a little bit more about pushing and pulling? When should you push and pull in your copy?
Kirsty: I have this idea that good copy starts by pulling your prospect in and then at some point the momentum switches and you start pushing them towards taking an action, so towards whatever your CTA is, and I’m sure everyone knows the ways in which you can pull and push, so you pull people in with headlines, or hooks, or open loops, or even good use of customer voice and then with pushing, you can use techniques like future pacing, or social proof, or scarcity or any of those things that we all know a whole lot about, but the key I think is knowing when to actually make that switch because if you start pushing too early your prospects won’t be ready and they’ll almost be put off by that, or come across as a strange hard sell.
On the other hand, if you go too late, chances are your prospect has lost the momentum or maybe disengaged a bit, so it’s the timing is really quite important. While I can’t give a blanket rule for when this switch should happen because every project is different. There are definitely some questions you can ask yourself to work out whether the time is sort of ripe to make that switch. Things like, does your prospect feel sane? Does your prospect like you? Does your prospect trust you? Do they feel motivated, and do they know what’s at stake if they don’t take action? I think if you can satisfy those conditions, it’s time to start making that switch and I think when you wait for that point, you’re going to get quite good results. You’re going to convert quite highly.
Obviously keeping in mind that once you do make the switch towards pushing the prospect somewhere, there are going to be points of resistance. You need to be mindful of those and try and preempt those in your copy so you’re constantly sort of one step ahead of where your prospect’s thinking and you’re smoothing out any road bumps in their journey.
Rob: Okay, and I really like what you’re seeing here because I recently read a research paper where the researcher categorized persuasion into different groups. One is the Alpha and one is they called Omega. Alpha persuasion techniques were those things like what Robert Cialdini writes about, so liking and the various things that he’s outlined in his book that get a person to, like you said, it’s attractive. Then Omega techniques are those things that reduce the friction towards a decision. Things like reducing risk, or two for one deals, those kinds of things that make it a no brainer to make the decision, and you’re basically talking about the same kinds of things. It’s the switch between how much of the persuasion are you doing on the front end? Then how do you make it easy for the person to say, yeah, sign me up or I want what you have?
Kirsty: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Rob: I love that.
Kirsty: I don’t really have anything to add to that because I think you nailed it.
Rob: That’s the first time I’ve ever nailed anything.
Kira: I want to talk more about the business side because I’ve had the privilege of working with you on multiple projects and seen how you operate from afar, but you seem so organized. Coming from a disorganized person. I want to hear about how you plan your week because I feel like you’ve got it down, you figured it out. Can you talk us through your organization system and how you get stuff done, and make sure that you block time for your own business, and then for projects?
Kirsty: I love that you think I’ve got it all sorted because truth be told, I really don’t, but I guess I’m relatively organized but I still definitely have improvements to make. I guess some of the tricks or tools that I use, I’m a massive fan of to do lists, old school pen and paper, writing things down at the style of the week and trying to slot them all into certain days. I think one of the joys of doing that is that once you finish something you get to actually physically cross it off and it’s so satisfying. Also another benefit is if I’m writing it down on my planner, which is next to my laptop at my desk, I can’t get away from it. Whereas if it’s on my phone or something I can just not open my notes, not open my calendar.
Having it there as a constant reminder is quite effective for me. I’m also really aware of my peak productivity times and try to plan my work and my tasks around that. I think like a lot of people I find that I’m freshest in the morning. Usually when I wake up, first thing I do is jump into some project work, start punching out some copy, and then I find that sort of in the few hours after lunch I’m a bit more like a sloth than not so sharp and productive, so I usually spend that time focusing on business admin or professional development sort of stuff. Stuff where I can just passively absorb it rather than actively create, and then I have another little buzz of productivity sort of in the afternoon or early evening, which I then use to jump back into projects. I think those are my main things really. It’s nothing groundbreaking.
Kira: It’s groundbreaking to me, and for some reason the checklist, nothing new but I struggle just to do the to do list. Rob, probably realizes.
Rob: I think we all struggle with it, but it sounds like … I mean, you were talking about reflective practice earlier, Kirsty in it sounds like you’re doing a little bit of that just in your own personal life as well.
Kirsty: Oh totally. Yes. I think it’s so useful for all the things and I think it feeds really well into self-awareness.
Rob: It’s the kind of stuff that I’ve been trying to do myself, with better morning routines and trying to get more things done early when I have energy, and then I start to slack off as well. I love how you’ve been tackling that as well. Kirsty, I want to ask a question about the different mistakes that you’ve seen other people making in their business or in their copywriting as you’ve grown, because you’ve had a fair amount of success, you maybe struggle a little bit, but you’re not looking for clients constantly or you’re not feeling the dearth of work and so what have you done that maybe other people are making mistakes? The things that they’re failing out that you’ve maybe have avoided?
Kirsty: Oh, good question. God, what have I done that’s been done well? I mean, I think, I guess all the reflective practice stuff and being really mindful of what I’m doing, and being really focused on continually improving. I think that also helps me when it comes to getting referrals and getting repeat clients because they can see that I’m really invested in that and that I’m really focused on giving them the best service and experience possible, so I think that’s a good one to focus on because a lot of my business actually does come from repeat clients. I think maybe some copywriters approach each product as a standalone sort of thing, even though we all know that it’s hardest to convert someone for the first time than it is to convert them again down the track. I don’t know, maybe that’s something I’ve done well just sort of by circumstance. I’m not really sure. That’s a very good question. Rob. I’ll have to go away and think about that.
Kira: I think you nailed it. I mean having the reflective practice and even just the debrief call. It’s a simple concept but yet doing that allows you to book more projects and continue that relationship, and that’s something that we could all start doing it if we’re not doing that already, but just again from working with you firsthand. You deliver incredible copy and you are very professional, and deliver on time and, they’re simple things that a lot of copywriters struggle with and that I struggle with too. I think it’s more like getting down to the basics that if you do that well people continue to come back. But let’s talk about the flip side Kirsty. What do you struggle with today? Again, you’re growing and you have this momentum yet we know there’s always something to work on. What are you currently struggling with and then focused on improving over the next few months?
Kirsty: I think one thing I’m struggling with at the moment is my positioning a little bit because as I said, I mainly do emails but also sales pages have come into the picture recently and I love writing them, and they’re quite lucrative. It’s hard to market myself as an email and sales page launch copy writer. I feel like I have to sort of almost choose one. That’s something that’s definitely coming up on the horizon for me. Another thing I do struggle with is promoting myself, probably partially because I haven’t had to do it that much because I do have a good referral base to work from, but I think there’s also, I don’t know, I have to sit with that a bit more I think because there’s almost some internal blockage where I think how cool it would be to put myself out there and go on more podcasts or maybe even speak on a stage somewhere, but then I just never get around to pitching or doing it, so that’s maybe a mindset thing that I need to sit with and try and unpack.
I mean, like you said, I have had quite a successful path so far, but there’s definitely stuff I can work on and I think there always will be.
Kira: Well and just stepping into this podcast interview is a good step forward. Right? As far as putting yourself out there in a big way.
Kirsty: Yeah. Hopefully.
Kira: My last question for you, because we haven’t asked it in a while. We haven’t had any podcast interviews in a while and I miss it. What does the future of copywriting look like to you?
Kirsty: I think copywriting is a really interesting and quite influential space to be in as the world around us is changing in quite big, big ways. Particularly in the way we communicate with each other. Given loneliness is on the rise and we’re more susceptible, both intellectually and emotionally to information that’s coming to us on a screen. I think copywriters who have the ability to genuinely connect with their audience, will do very well for themselves and for their clients. I see that as a key puzzle piece, that ability to really connect and help people feel seen and feel heard. I think copywriting can help sort of fill that gap that might be falling out of society and other places.
Rob: We haven’t talked a lot about humor in this interview and I know you write some humorous copy, but anybody who goes to your website is immediately going to see the banana pug on the front page.
Kirsty: Yes they are.
Rob: They tell us why the banana pug? What is that all about?
Kirsty: It’s funny because people think I own a pug, I don’t own a pug, I would love to. It was really just a random thought that came into my mind and I googled it and there was a photo available so I was like, sure, let’s just run with this. I think actually the idea came from … I think Kira and I were working together on a project and I’d written some weird line about buying pirate costumes for your cat or something like that. Then I re-write my website copy later that week, and the idea was still fresh there because I think from memory the client didn’t like it or something and I was like, oh, but I like this idea.
Kira: The client probably did not like it, but we liked it.
Kirsty: We liked it. We had fun with it. Yeah, so that’s how banana pug got born.
Kira: All right, Kirsty, so if anyone listening is just really into what you’re sharing, wants to learn more about the psychology behind copywriting and humor, where can they go to hear more from you?
Kirsty: They can go to my website, which is KirstyFanton.com and join my mailing list, my lead magnet is a little five email sequence on using humor copy and obviously that draws a lot on my psychology background too. If you’ve liked what I babbled on about here, you’ll probably enjoy that. You can also find me on Instagram too, which is just, I’m just Kirsty.Fanton on Instagram and I share random insights, and funny stories, and lots of pictures of the beach here in Sydney on there.
Rob: Those emails are fantastic. When you get on your list they’re great. It is a really good illustration of humor in copy. Yes, definitely sign up for that.
Kirsty: Oh, thanks Rob.
Kira: Kirsty, we’ll see you at TCC In Real Life in March, right?
Kira: If anyone’s just dying to meet you, you will be there, right?
Kirsty: I will be there with bells on.
Kira: Even though we don’t know the dates yet, you’ll be there.
Kirsty: I’ll be there.
Kira: Okay, perfect. Thank you, Kirsty. This has been really interesting. I’ve learned a lot just in this interview and it’s always a pleasure working with you on projects and just learning from you. Thank you so much.
Rob: You got lots of good stuff. Thanks.
Kirsty: Likewise, guys. Thanks so much.
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