Tori Autumn is our guest for the 317th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Tori is an email strategist and copywriter who helps coaches and course creators grow their businesses through fervent messaging. In this episode, she spills how she’s quickly grown her copywriting business and what she’s had to shed to make it happen.
Here’s what you’ll find:
- How Tori went from broadcast journalism to self-love coaching to copywriting.
- What to do when jobs don’t go the way you planned them to.
- The balance between nonprofit work and owning a copywriting business – practical tips for pursuing multiple passions.
- How she built her business to $20k months in a matter of a year.
- Why she invests her time in networking and the benefits it’s given her business.
- The REAL benefits of 5-figure months.
- How The Accelerator and Think Tank helped her business grow and flourish.
- How to shift your mindset as you’re growing your business.
- Copywriting vs. strategy – what’s the difference and how will it help you position yourself as the expert?
- How she went from writing email sequences in a couple of weeks to a couple of days.
- Why you need to let go of toxic clients for yourself and for their benefit.
- Choices and decisions. Which one is more powerful?
- Should we have seasons for connection calls?
- Referral systems – are they a good idea?
- The mistakes marketers are making today and how to solve them.
- How to begin building extra streams of income.
Tune into the episode by pressing play or reading the transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
Kira Hug: You know how most copywriters jump into copywriting as a side hustle while working their full-time job? And they can’t wait to build up the business enough to ditch their 9 to 5 and focus 100% on their copywriting business. While today’s guest for the 317th episode of the Copywriter Club Podcast isn’t the type of copywriter to follow the traditional path. That’s right. Tori Autumn, an email strategist and copywriter, has gone from zero to achieving the coveted 20K a month by shedding toxic clients, seasonal networking, launching new products, specifically templates, and balancing a full-time job with a growing copywriting business. And the best part, she’s done it all over the last year. Here’s Tori’s story and all the lessons learned along the way. You don’t want to miss this episode. But before we get into our interview, let me introduce my very, very special co-host this week. It’s me.
So you are stuck with me, just me. This week I decided to hijack the show and give Rob the boot. So here we are. Feels a little strange without a co-host, but we’ll make do. So first up, today’s episode is sponsored by the Copywriter Think Tank Mastermind. So why should you join this Mastermind this month? I mean, you could join any mastermind, and you could join any month, so why this one right now? Well, we have a team of coaches in this mastermind, so not only do you have access to Rob and me to provide feedback, strategic direction, private coaching as you move through your business and achieve your goals, but you also have access to a team of coaches. So you have access to a mindset coach, a systems and growth coach, and our newest coach that you have access to when you join the Think Tank is a visibility coach. Those are three core areas that we know copywriters struggle with the most, so we wanted to bring in coaches who have specialized in those areas to help the copywriters in our Mastermind.
So again, you don’t just have access to Rob, to me, although you’ll get more of us than you probably even want in your business, but you also have access to these incredible coaches that are going to help you scale your business, learn how to work with a team if you want to build a team, how to build your systems and processes, how to focus on your visibility, which we know can feel very uncomfortable, but how to actually show up in a big way. And, of course, you know how to do it all and shift your mindset, which is the trickiest part. So that’s a good reason to join this mastermind.
And why right now? Well, we are adding a couple of new members this month before the holiday craziness, and we’re inviting our newest members to join our Think Tank Mastermind this January in New Orleans for our in-person retreat. And we’re so excited that we can finally get back to in-person retreats and over a couple of days in January. So if you know that you are ready to be in an intimate room of brilliant writers, then this might be the right time to apply, jump on a call with us, learn a little bit more about the Think Tank, and see if it’s a good fit for you. You can find more information in our show notes. All right, that’s enough for me. Let’s jump into the interview with Tori.
Tori Autumn: So last year … Well, I’ll go back up to when I started my business in 2019. So I went to school for life coaching. After working in PR, losing my job, I read the book, You’re a Badass. And I said, “Maybe I should do life coaching.” So I went to school for that and then niched into self-love coaching. And then, over the pandemic, I found it really, really hard to get my group coaching program running for my self-love coaching business. But I’ve gotten so many compliments on my emails, like the newsletters and the promo emails, and people were asking me to write them for them, so I eventually just started doing that. And I said, “Wait, I can actually make money from doing this? I don’t have to do this as a gift or as a hobby.” So I started deep diving into copywriting last year, and I reached out into my network of copywriters that I’ve known that I’ve been in different email programs with and things like that. And from there, I niched down to email and website copy.
Rob Marsh: So before you got into copywriting, let’s dive into some of the stuff that you were doing before that because you’ve got some pretty deep experience in PR and marketing and that kind of stuff too. Talk a little bit about that.
Tori Autumn: Yeah, so before I did that, I actually went to school for broadcast journalism, so I worked in the news industry for almost five years, and then I transitioned into PR. So in the news industry, I was doing production work for C-Span. And so, that was cool, but I also felt like I was bored ,and I wanted more, and I just didn’t really want to be in a political environment. So I started doing public relations, and that didn’t go well, but I learned a lot of skills. I learned how to effectively be a PR strategist, but the actual job was really toxic. So I lost my job, got fired, and then I realized, you know what, I never want to be in a situation where that happens again. So that’s what kicked off my entrepreneurial journey. And now I do copywriting full-time along with a full-time position I have advocating for people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, and I really enjoy that.
Kira Hug: Okay, because you mentioned it, you got fired from your job. How do you rebound after that? Because I imagine that can be, even if it’s a toxic situation … well, especially if it’s a toxic situation, it can really feel like a blow to your ego. And so, what did you do to feel better and move forward after that situation?
Tori Autumn: Yeah, even though it was a very challenging job to have, I did feel a lot of grief. I felt more so annoyed that I was so excited about the pay with that job and the skills that I was learning, all the things that came with it. And I was just there for quite a really short time and just felt really rejected. But also, I knew that that wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing 10, 20 years from now. Aside from the skills I learned, I know that wasn’t … it was so fast-paced and so disorganized that there was just no way that I could keep up with that. So I really just started diving into reading books after that. I was unemployed, and I said, “Well, other than applying for jobs …” which took quite a while to find another position that I ended up just staying very shortly.
I had a stint in IT for a little bit. I’ve done quite a few things, and now I feel like, yes, this is where I want to stay.” But I just started reading a lot of books. And also, it helped when other people told me about their stories about getting laid off or getting fired. It also made me feel like rejection is redirection. Rejection is protection, all those things. I felt that way because sooner or later, that PR agency is no longer here. It dissolved. So it made me feel like, whoa, I’m a terrible employee. I got out of taking it super personally and saw that that was just not a place I was meant to be for the long term.
Rob Marsh: So before we get into what you do as a copywriter, I’m also interested in what you do to advocate for the mentally challenged. My own brother was mentally challenged before he passed away, and I’m just curious what you do there and just the impact that you’re having on those people.
Tori Autumn: Yeah, so I help with the criminal justice division of this nonprofit that I work with. And so there are many cases that we get where people in … the police workforce don’t necessarily know the signs or symptoms of someone who has intellectual developmental disabilities, and sometimes we often … people with IDD, they may agree to a crime that they didn’t even do because they’re afraid, or they may get pulled over by police and flee the scene because they have sensory overload with all the different lights and someone yelling. So there’s so many things. And so I handle the cases with providing parents of people with IDD’s siblings, relatives, caregivers. I provide resources to them for their specific state to get an attorney who specializes in advocating for people with IDD, so that’s one facet.
Another one is also giving them training that they may not receive at school. So this could be how to go through the airport if they’re autistic. And it’s so sensory overload in there. This can be providing them resources for sexual education classes because we get quite a few cases of people involved with child pornography. And part of the direction of that is they just really don’t have any idea with sexual education sometimes. So there’s so many different resources that I provide. And also, I do training. I go to conferences to speak out on the criminal justice thing. How can we do better with preventing them from committing any crimes but also being falsely accused of crimes they did not commit?
Kira Hug: So I imagine someone listening might wonder. Okay, well, that sounds amazing. How are you juggling that and a copywriting business? How do you fit the two together so that it works for you?
Tori Autumn: Yeah, it’s a great question. Specifically, what I really love about this job is the flexibility to work it and not necessarily just, “Oh, I can work anytime, and it’s remote,” but I don’t really feel like this is a job where I have to work hard at. And that’s something that I had to define for myself because a lot of people, and I’m not bashing either way, but a lot of entrepreneurs or business owners talk about they can’t wait to get to a place where they reach six figures in their job or where they reach that magic number, and then they quit their full-time, or they replace their full-time income. And a lot of the reasons are because they feel overwhelmed. They feel like it’s just another set of a bunch of meetings that they have on top of their business and all those different things.
But for me, I specifically went after a position where I can have ease financially and doesn’t require me to be fully working all the time. I work there, but I don’t feel like I’m working there all the time. I feel that it’s very supportive. I like the team. Actually, I really loved the team. I really love the organization itself. And at first, it was a little scary trying to manage both because, at the time that I started this position, I didn’t really have a lot of clients in my copyright business, so it wasn’t too overwhelming. And then, at the same time, when things started speeding up, that’s when my business started picking up. So I did, in all transparency, have stressful moments, but I’ve also been able to say, “Okay, in the morning, I’m going to work on my 9 to 5, and then in the afternoon/evenings, I’ll work on my business.”
And in some weeks, I don’t really even have to do too much if I work ahead of my 9 to 5. So it actually, I wouldn’t say balances itself out, but I would say it works itself out because I found a pattern that works even after trying different variations of balance. I just said, “Let me just figure out what works this week.” Instead of finding, okay, for the rest of my life, I’m going to work 9:00 to 1:00 and then 1:00 to 5:00 on my job.” Each week is different, but it just feels like I stopped looking at it as they’re so separate. I started looking at it as I’m just managing different projects.
Rob Marsh: That makes sense. So let’s talk a little bit about what your business, your copywriting business, looks like today, what kinds of clients you serve, and the work that you do. What does that look like?
Tori Autumn: Yeah, so I work with wellness coaches and course creators on email strategy, launch strategy, website copy. And currently, I also work with a small business resource center in Washington D.C., and so most of my projects are website copy, launch emails, nurture emails, and also social media caption writing.
Kira Hug: So when you shared your story, it sounds like you mentioned you just jumped into copywriting in 2021. Is that right?
Tori Autumn: Yes.
Kira Hug: Okay. So we’ve been lucky enough to work with you in the Think Tank, and we’ve been able to see your progress over the last year. I’m just curious. How did you grow and achieve your goals so quickly because your business has changed rapidly? And again, you’re juggling a full-time job, which you’ve made work for your business, not against your business. It’s working for you. But I’m just curious. What else have you been doing since you decided I want to go all in on copywriting?
Tori Autumn: Yeah. So about a year ago, I joined the accelerator program. And at the time, I was not charging enough to really run a business. It did feel like I was just taking orders and just taking things because I felt like I needed years of experience for copywriting, and I needed lots of different certifications. And so, when I realized that I just really needed to write and give feedback, and also, yes, step study copywriting. I still study copywriting. I love it. I don’t think I’ll ever stop, even if I reached the point that I want to get to. But I realized that it was just more about taking action moving forward, and it really helps so much to be in a network full of other copywriters. I still meet with the group of people in my accelerator group and people who were not in that group but who were in that cohort. I still meet with them up until this day. I’m actually going to New York to meet with someone who was an accelerator who I haven’t seen in person.
Kira Hug: What?
Tori Autumn: Yeah, Kristen. I’m going to see her in two weeks.
Kira Hug: Oh, no kidding?
Tori Autumn: Yeah. I really lean on those different networks/friendships that I have with them. It helps because we end up not really talking about copywriting, but we talk about business stuff, and we talk about how we’re handling burnout, how we’re handling all the different topics that come with these things. But it seems like once we get at a place to talk about them, it helps our business so much. So I’ve had a desire to join Think Tank since last summer, but I kept feeling like I wasn’t ready, which is so funny because when I joined Think Tank in June, I really wasn’t ready. It had to be the worst financial month I’ve ever had, but I knew that I’m the type of person where, under pressure … and I think this is different for everyone, but under pressure, I know that I can achieve something. So it felt like an investment, and it was happening at a time where I was throwing my mom a 70th birthday party, and oh, I just got this new full-time job. Oh, there were so many different things.
But I said, “Well, now that I’m going to create scary goals, I have to achieve them because not only do I want to get financially stable, but I also really …” there’s never going to be a right time to do these goals. Life is just not going to slow down right now. So I heavily leaned into … I asked all the people in the Think Tank what has really helped you grow your business. They all mentioned talking to one another just like Accelerator but on a different level of resources and commitment, and goals. Yeah, it’s just different types of support that is available in the Think Tank.
And I took the time to really go into each type of resource that was available. I really studied my goals. I really looked at my bills and everything that I had, which was super annoying. I don’t ever want to do that again. But no, I really had to look at what I was charging. And the biggest takeaway wasn’t even when I finally reached 10,000 because when I said it to Kira that I want to have 10K a month, she said, “Okay.” And I’m like, “Okay.” I wasn’t expecting that it would be so easy. When I actually made 20,000, it didn’t even feel like that was the biggest goal of my life, even though it was. It was actually letting go of toxic clients, which were questions that I asked other Think Tankers. How did they achieve that? How did they let go of these clients? It was actually the human questions and connections that I built that had given me so much confidence to then create digital products and then speak more and do. I do a lot of private trainings now, but it was just really those questions that I asked that have really helped me shape my business, but also just feel like I grow at a pace that I can keep up with.
Rob Marsh: That’s amazing, the goals that you’ve set and reached and exceeded even. And I wasn’t even thinking we were going to be talking about the Think Tank, at least at this point. But talk a little bit about your approach. I mean, you walked through some of the things that you’ve accomplished, but as you’ve thought about the goals that you set and then how your businesses evolved, how those goals have changed and what you’re looking to accomplish in the future.
Tori Autumn: Yeah. So what I’m looking to accomplish for 2023 and just beyond that is really figuring out how I can be as accessible as possible without burning out myself, without working with too many clients. And so I’m launching my copyright templates, which are also with my PR skills and also with different types of video trainings and inclusive guides to show people which type of language they can swap out. And so that’s one of the big things that I want to make a large part of my revenue, and then the other is just continue to work with clients on retainer. And yeah, also another big part of my business that I really want to dive into is speaking and talking about visibility, talking about accessibility, marketing, selling, all those types of things.
Kira Hug: I wonder what type of mindset shifts you’ve had to go through and what’s helped you shift your mindset to go from June and July when things are rough to where you are today in such a short period of time. What have you had to do along the way to just help yourself see that, “Oh, I can achieve a 20K month, and actually, I can set even larger goals and think bigger?” That’s quite a big shift in a short period of time. So what’s helped you?
Tori Autumn: It helped when I didn’t make all the goals money-related, and I am such a … I think it’s a great thing to have money-related goals, so I’m not trying to turn anybody off from that. But I think when I started thinking about how I didn’t want toxic clients, and then when I actually let go of them, as rough as that was, I started thinking about, how can I really expand my business. And it didn’t feel so heavy anymore. It didn’t feel emotionally like, “Oh, I don’t know if I can do that because I’m stuck with this person for six months because I told them I will be with them and give all these deliverables.” I think it helped with that. And also, June and July not only were rough financial months, but I’ve been going through a lot of personal stuff. My dog is blind, and I’m a caregiver at home and all of these things, and I just got tired of being super frustrated with so many stressors. And so I think ways of alleviating stress were my biggest motivator for reaching my goals.
And also, I would say that it helped to be around people who welcomed those goals and didn’t get silent or say, “20,000, that sounds like a lot.” It helped with people who were like, “Yeah, you can totally make $10,000 a month. You can totally have clients that are truly in alignment with where you want to be.” So I think that really helped. And committing to things, blocking off time of my calendar because one thing that I had done in an effort to grow my business, but it stopped my business at the same time, were too many connection calls on Zoom. I had to stop that stuff. I had to literally sit down with Cara and just screenshot my entire calendar to stop that.
Rob Marsh: So I would love to hear a little bit more about the work that you’re doing, going back to you were talking about how you’re today, an email strategist, launch strategist. I think a lot of people who come into copywriting think, “Oh, I’ll write emails, or I’ll write stuff,” but there’s a difference between just simply copywriting something, taking direction, and actually doing the strategy. Will you talk a little bit about the strategy that you do and how that impacts the writing, the relationship with the client, and all of that?
Tori Autumn: Yeah, actually that is one part I left out. I stopped looking at myself as just a copywriter, but I really started looking at what were the different ways that I helped the clients other than writing. And so, when I leaned into strategy a lot more, it actually made it easier to charge more. And so, one of the things that I do … for example, I have a client on retainer where I help write her nurture emails. I write all her newsletter emails weekly. I’ve been doing it for about four or five months now, and now she’s launching her book. It became a lot easier to help her with the strategy to help her with creating an actual promo calendar and different types of bonuses that she can add in that she can make content specifically for Black Friday. There are just so many ideas that she welcomed because she had seen my writing and also seen me provide different strategies on how she can increase her open rates.
So I felt like, at first, I was just looking at myself as a writer, a marketer where I just write copy and then pass it off. But when I realized this is an opportunity to have a client or retainer for long term, I looked at different ways that could benefit her business, help her make more money, and also help me step into a place of being an expert more, being a subject matter expert in copywriting, and also helping her feel more connected with her audience. Because a lot of it is strategy, but a lot of it is finding ways where we’re really studying how her audience is responding to her and what they need. And it also helps that I do social media caption writing. I don’t do it for all clients, but I do it for some of them. And it helps when I actually see in real-time what people are talking about. It helps with the research. It helps with all the different aspects of copywriting and content writing and strategy.
Kira Hug: Can you give another example or maybe even two specific examples of what advice you’ve given to a client recently, maybe it’s that client, related to email strategy, just because examples are helpful?
Tori Autumn: Yeah, so another example is seeing how a launch is going and clearing out some time on my schedule to just be available in case we want to add another email in. For example, one client, we had written a launch email, a promo email sequence, and at the same time, they had recently done a talk where they had a lead magnet, and then they got a lot more subscribers. And at that point, I didn’t want to throw them into a launch, of course, because they’re just now establishing a connection with that client. But I created a welcome sequence that can gear them into this launch since the launch was a semi-evergreen product. So I found ways to adjust my schedule in a way that would help make more sales, but it also helps when I am in a space where I know the client really well, and also, I know I knock out emails really fast.
So even though I like to do websites and I like to do social media captions, I know that emails is … if I could do one out of the three, that one, not only do I enjoy doing them and I see the most like ROI with them, but I also can do them quite quickly. So I think it helps to have a strategy where you can do something efficiently and do them pretty well and also have a quick process for how you do it. And that was another thing that I’m starting to lean on more is having processes which I did not have, and so everything took forever. But now actually getting into a flow that it does not take me that long to write five or six emails. I can knock them out in a day versus it used to take two weeks.
Rob Marsh: It’s interesting you mentioned that because that was going to be my next question is just to ask you about your process of getting the work done. Are you following a template flow as you go through so that you’re not reinventing the wheel every time? Do you have this idea that email number one does this thing, email number two does thing number two, and so forth? What does that look like?
Tori Autumn: Yeah. So for the most part, I would say I have a template in the different types of emails that I want to write for nurture sequences and promo sequences. And for the time that I do not want to create something from a template, instead create it from scratch, I lean on the research that I’ve done, and I incorporate that. For example, if I have a client who has just done a live, and they ask some questions that we didn’t even think about, pain points or benefits that we didn’t even think about, I’ll write some promo emails or a nurture sequence just off that. I like to start with story-driven stuff now that I’m learning more about how to write story-driven emails thanks to Jen Juko and Think Tank. She’s taught me a lot just in her workshop. But I like to start it with that.
And one of the ways that I can get a story a lot more efficient from a client is to state to them the different questions that their audience member has asked on a live or on a podcast, or whatever the situation is, and then ask them about a story that’s related to that. Ask them about the different factors throughout their day that we can incorporate. So even if it’s a very short story, we can tie it in somehow with the different parts of their personality, the different parts of the challenges, or any type of tension that comes up, and connect it back to that pain point. And I can almost spot a great story when people are really talking about their day or even a big pop culture moment that just happened, or even where they are in a business. Those things seem to bring out a lot of good stories or interesting stories.
Kira Hug: You mentioned that you have had to shed some toxic clients in order to get to where you are today. We’ve had private conversations about it. I think this is something that a lot of copywriters struggle with. Maybe they’re working with a toxic client now, but they’re depending on them for some income and stability, so they stick with them. I guess I’m asking you what worked for you to just finally let them go. What helped you work through that process, which can be difficult? Yeah, what were those steps for you?
Tori Autumn: I think that it was all around confidence. It was around the confidence of knowing that I’m stepping out on faith, even if I don’t necessarily replace their income right away. I have confidence that I’ll find another client. And when I worked at the PR agency, one thing that I learned that always sticks with me is there is a big difference between a choice and a decision. And a choice is like, okay, I’ll wear those black shoes today instead of those white shoes, or I wear those sneakers. Rob, I know you like to wear sneakers. But then a decision, the Latin root of it, decidere means to cut off. You don’t even have any other choice in mind. You’re just like, “I’m going to do this.” And I had to get to that point because every day for months, I was saying, “I’m going to cut these clients off because I’m stressed out. I’m working way too much. I’m under charging. My credit score is dropping. I’m losing my edge.” Oh, my goodness. It just felt overwhelming.
But then when I just made the decision, “I’m going to do a Friday when I have my monthly check-in with them, and there’s just no way I’m going to stay on a team.” When I felt that confidence about that, it made it so much easier. And then, at the same time, every time that I had done it, I had about three this year. Every time that I had made that decision, within a week, I would gain a new client. It was just the oddest thing, but it wasn’t an intentional thing where I’m looking for clients, but I think it was just feeling so ready that there was no other choice I was giving myself to carry out with just letting them go.
And I think also, when you cut off a client that doesn’t align with your values, you are helping them in a way as well. Because if you don’t really like the relationship that you all have, or you don’t like the projects that you all have, or maybe the process or system isn’t working, you’re doing them a favor as well. So I stopped looking at it as like, “They’re going to hate me if I cut them off.” I started looking at it as well, I don’t think that it’ll be a service to them. If they’re paying me and I truly don’t enjoy this work, or I don’t do that type of work anymore. I think that they will benefit from me not taking forever to get this copy back to them and all the things that I was doing that I wasn’t showing up as a great copywriter, if I’m being honest.
Kira Hug: All right. I’m going to take a minute or two to share a couple of takeaways from this part of the conversation. So first up, we talked a lot about balance, and I’m in awe of Tori for not only how she is balancing a full-time position in a large organization and her copywriting business, but I’m even more in awe of how she views the two, and how they work together, and how she’s really made it work for her, even though it can be overwhelming. And she wasn’t shy about the fact that figuring it out initially was not easy. And I think this is a really great example of us as copywriters feeling empowered to build businesses that work for us that aren’t necessarily traditional, that may not fit the typical business owner mold. And what I like the most and the advice I took away from Tori was how she figures out what works this week, and she doesn’t necessarily get as stressed out and overwhelmed thinking about, “Well, how am I going to juggle the business and my full-time job for the next five years?”
I’m sure that thought crosses her mind, but it isn’t what stresses her out on a regular basis. It’s more like, “Hey, what do I need to do to accomplish everything I need to accomplish this week? And that really helps me because I often get overwhelmed thinking about how is this all going to fit together. How is this going to fit over the next five years, over the next year? But if I just think about what’s right in front of me, what’s happening this week is so much easier to get through day-to-day.
Also, we talked a lot about achieving big goals and about Tori’s reason for jumping into the Think Tank. Even during a month where she was struggling. It might have felt like it wasn’t the right time to jump in and make such a big commitment and lean into achieving really big goals, especially when she was feeling a financial strain. And I love this idea and what she said about there’s never a right time to achieve these goals. There’s never going to be a perfect time to join the Think Tank or to do whatever it is you need to do to jump in fully. Maybe it’s to jump fully into your copywriting business. Maybe it’s to find the next copywriting job, whatever that is for you.
This relates to me right now because I’m thinking about the next big thing for me. And I’ve shared this recently with a bunch of copywriters, but I really want to compete in my first Ironman competition. And if you follow the Ironman, it’s a crazy endurance event. It’s insane. I think people who do it are insane, but of course, I naturally want to be one of those people. And so I’m saying it here and sharing that big, crazy, hairy goal for ultimate accountability because now that I share it on the podcast, I have to do it. But I really related to what Tori was saying about there never being a right time to achieve these big scary goals because even right now as I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I definitely want to do an Iron Man in the next 18 months or less,” there’s never going to be a better time to do it. And that’s why I’m saying yes to it now.
And even now, it feels like it’s the worst time to do it with young kids, with no time, extra time in my schedule with a husband who travels frequently. I mean, there’s so many reasons not to do the thing I want to do, but like Tori said, if I know there’s never going to be a better time or a more perfect time, then now is probably the best time. So I definitely feel inspired whenever I talk to Tori about her whole approach and the way she’s just leaning into her faith that she can accomplish big things. And she has over the last year.
We also leaned really hard into the idea of letting go of toxic clients. This is something that Tori and I have talked a lot about. I know that she mentioned she’s let go of at least three toxic clients over the last year, and that’s a big deal. I also appreciate that she mentioned it allowed her to create space for better clients. And I think this is something that we need to talk about more as copywriters because we have all dealt with these toxic clients. Sometimes they’re verbally abusive. Sometimes they don’t pay on time, or maybe they just don’t pay at all. Sometimes they just don’t believe in boundaries, and they make crazy demands of your time. Sometimes they just really are not stable people. I mean, we know there are a lot of unstable people out there. There’s a mental health crisis. We all can feel it.
Well, some of these people are running businesses, and you don’t have to work with them. And so, this is something that if you are working with a toxic client, maybe you can reach out to Tori and get some support from her and even some next steps so that you can create space in your business for more of the right clients. And when we’re talking about toxic clients, we’re not talking about the client that just doesn’t really excite you or can’t pay a really high amount. They’re paying the bills, but they can’t afford high ticket prices, or they’re just not your favorite. We’re talking about really toxic, abusive clients here. All right, so reach out to Tori if you need support, additional support there.
And then, finally, we talked about how to be a strategist and not just a copywriter. And there’s nothing wrong with just being a copywriter. That’s how most of us start out. And if you’re in the stage where you’re like, “I’m good with that. That’s actually a stretch for me. I just want to figure out this copywriting thing.” That’s great. That’s where I started too. But if you’re hitting the point where you’re like, “I’m ready to do more. I really want to lean into strategy.” I think Tori provided a lot of great examples of what you can do, and you’re probably already doing a lot of this anyway. But what you can maybe talk about more if you’re already doing it so that you’re showing up on sales calls and in your own marketing as a strategist and really owning that part of what you do. And so Tori gave some great examples of what she’s done to help her clients with strategy.
Part of it is building out a promo calendar for them, helping them create bonuses for their launch. I mean, creating bonuses is not easy. It’s a struggle for a lot of business owners, mostly because we’re just too close to the offer. And so, if you can help your client think of and find the bonuses that will connect with their audience based on the research that is so valuable. Tori also mentioned helping create content for Black Friday, thinking through new strategies to increase open rates, thinking long-term about her client’s businesses. I mean, really a lot of this is just asking questions and then getting in there and getting dirty, trying to answer those questions.
And a lot of what she’s doing is, like she said, studying how her clients’ audience responds to them. And I love that she does that through social media caption writing because you know quickly if a message is working and resonating or if it is not through social media because the algorithms will tell you very quickly if it resonates. And I know there are a lot of copywriters who don’t necessarily want to do social media content, but maybe, I don’t know, I’m thinking maybe it makes sense to add that to some of your packages because then you can get that the data that you need to write stronger messages in your emails and on your landing pages because you’ve tested it quickly on social media, in the social media content during pre-launch.
I know it’s not something that a lot of us want to lean into. And then there are other copywriters who do want to own social media, and they’re fully owning it, but I think there’s some shade of gray where you could just use it as a tool like Tori does to pull in the right data and strengthen the copy. And so, I think that’s really cool that she’s already doing that.
And then the last detail she added that, again, really stood out to me, and I’ve worked on plenty of launches, but I haven’t done this. Tori mentioned that she always clears time in her schedule during the launch for a client to potentially add another email into the sequence at the last minute, or to support the client during the cart open stage. And she has that flexibility built into her services so that she can help the launch be even more successful, but also just show up fully for the client and really get in there with the client during a launch, which can be very stressful. I know when I was working on launches, I often just sent the copy ahead of time and wished them luck, and then I checked out and would maybe check in a little bit later.
But I think now if you’re in the launch space, you can stand out, and your client will benefit from you being more available while they’re in cart open. And being more strategic while you’re in cart open period, and you can adjust messages as needed, adjust bonuses as needed. And so, there’s definitely a premium to that type of service, and it might be worth considering if you’re not doing that and you work in the launch space. All right, so let’s get back into the interview with Tori to hear how she built her network and how it’s helped her grow her business.
Rob Marsh: So let’s talk a little bit about that confidence. You said you have confidence that another client is going to come along. But I’m assuming they don’t just drop in your lap. Maybe they do. How do you find that next client when you’ve let somebody go? What are you doing to make sure that you’re filling that hole?
Tori Autumn: Okay, I know that I mentioned I had done so many connection calls that I wasn’t making money because that was my full-time job. I was just doing connection calls. But those connection calls actually started paying off. So now the way I view them is that I have a season of doing them, and that might be March to May or whatever. I don’t know the exact season, but I could just probably spill into that. But I had spent all spring and half of the summer meeting new people, so this would be new memberships or new groups that I joined. And I just wanted to learn about people’s business. I didn’t really have any motivation to send them a follow-up link. If you want to learn about copy, here you go. I just wanted to learn about people. And so, from there, I also started looking at … when I would talk to these people, I made myself a resource, even if I didn’t have other people to connect them to or other things that specifically connect to their business. If they wanted to know about different marketing stuff outside of the things I talked to them about, I would share the Copywriter Club podcast. I would share something I read in Forbes Magazine.
It made me feel wealthy to do that. It made me feel like, “Okay, if I don’t have other things to give or even ask them to be a client right now, then the best thing I can do is share a resource and help them.” So from there, I still had those connections. I would send them a DM on Instagram. I would engage with their content. And most importantly, I would show up to where they are. I think most of the relationships I have today that have helped me with creating a strong referral system is that I just try to show up. I may be off camera because I’m trying to take this dog up the steps because she can’t see. I may be doing so many other things, but I try to show up and generally be there for people. It’s just something that has worked well for me.
And for people who can’t necessarily show up to a lot of places where the ideal clients are, there are so many other different ways that you can support people. It can be offering a thought on their recent Instagram posts. It can be sharing another resource. It can be if they have an upcoming event coming up and you can’t attend it, you can re-share it. Those things really mean a lot to people, especially when they are putting out new products and services, and they have those feelings of, “Oh, no one is going to show up.” Just by you actually showing love without anything in return, people remember that when people are having conversations about, “I’m looking for a copywriter.” “I know someone.”
And then, from there, I started creating my own referral system where I work … If any clients that I currently work with or previously worked with refer me to someone else, they get 10% off the next project with that person. So if I gain a new client and they heard about me from a client I worked with, and our project is 5,000, that previous client would get $500.00.
Kira Hug: Yeah, I think your referral system is brilliant. What’s the impact of that been? Can you attach it to any metrics in your business since you launched it?
Tori Autumn: Yeah, I’ve had about six, or I think seven clients this year that were based from referrals, so that, I tracked. It was so like, “Duh, why didn’t I do that?” But one thing that I started doing on my discovery call intake forms is just asking people how did they hear about me, and I listed different places. And if they have another person, I would ask them to put their name there. That one little tweak actually helped a lot because some people forget that they referred me to someone, and I’m like, “Oh, I want to reward you. I want to say thank you in some type of way.” So that was really helpful.
Another thing with referrals is I looked at other clients that weren’t just solo entrepreneurs, which I really do enjoy working with solo business owners. But I looked at people who had a team because if I’m doing great work with an agency of four or five people, that’s potentially four or five people who can refer me to other people. So I started meeting with them and also finding ways where we can help the agencies grow businesses. Two of my clients have agencies, and so that has helped a lot.
And another thing is also finding ways to bring that strategy piece. If someone didn’t want copy but they just wanted someone to talk to about their next launch, their new website that they have in addition to their website that they have, and how can they make the two fit cohesively together into their brand, just having someone to talk to about those things … I started making myself more available for that. And I do that in a way where I have a season of me just doing a lot of more strategy calls so that I can then return back to connection calls. I don’t know the right timeframe yet for that. I’m still experimenting with that. But at least I’m giving myself grace to just rest from meeting new people, which I do love meeting them, but I know that with meetings and things, sometimes I’m not showing up as my best self. So it does feel good to take a break, and I can actually look forward to those things. And also with strategy, I love giving strategy about having breaks from that as well.
Rob Marsh: Tori, I’d love to ask you about other parts of your business. So as you’ve grown, you’ve tried to diversify your income just a little bit, and you’ve added some products, not just services, to your business. Talk about what you’ve been doing to build those and what they are, some of the things that you’re putting together there.
Tori Autumn: Yes. So I currently have a template library that’s launching. And so, in it, I have nurtured email templates, promo, website, social media caption, professional bio makeover, press release template. I feel like I’m missing something. Oh, different standards for … I’m sorry, different podcast outreach templates, co-outreach templates, and I think that’s all of them. I’m calling this full library, the template ship. And what I’m really excited about is that each of them have video training with them, and anyone who purchases a template or the bundle of the entire template ship library gets to get on an hour-long coworking call with me monthly, and everyone else on the call gets to be there. It’s called Writing Bob. So we write, and we talk, and we network, which is something that served me as a self-love coach.
I had run self-love events in D.C. live in person prior to the pandemic. And even though they had nothing to do with entrepreneurship, we’ve always had people … I noticed that people who were interested in being on their own self-care or self-love journey also had hobbies and interests, and they could have possibly been business owners too. So at the end of each event that I had, I would give people the opportunity to talk about their hobby, or their cool thing they want to get into, or their business. So this feels like even though I’m not doing a self-love thing anymore, this reminds me of how people can bring together their passion for what they’re doing, but also meet new people and potentially have new clients or just new business colleagues.
Kira Hug: Yeah, what I love about your templates is not only that you have so many different ones that we can use in different parts of our marketing and business but also that you’re focused on inclusive language in your marketing messages. Can you just share maybe a couple? I mean, there’s probably a lot in there, a lot of lessons learned in those templates and that training, but can you just share one or two mistakes that many marketers make today?
Tori Autumn: Yeah. Yes. Oh, I don’t know if I also mentioned websites and three-day and five-day challenge emails, but those are also in there. And some of the mistakes that I see have to do with people assuming that someone knows something, and one of the ways that I approach that is just changing up the language a little bit. You may or may not know this, but … instead of saying everyone knows this. Another thing that also helps with inclusivity, I have different ways you can use pronouns, different ways you can talk about race, different ways you can talk about people with IDD. Because sometimes, when people come across someone who does have it, they may not show any signs, they may be high functioning, or things like that.
Another thing is also talking about when it’s appropriate to specifically have things that are diversity driven versus not. So to break that down, what I mean by that is since 2020, since the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd and everything that happened, there has been a big shift that we all see in marketing where there are more people of different sizes and different ethnicities that are on sales pages. And there are some companies that still just have predominantly white clients or all white clients, and they want to be more approachable and accessible to people of color, but they haven’t yet done that work. And I talk about ways that you can do that before putting out false advertisements that you currently work with those types of people.
And the reason why that is important is because some people purchase a program and purchase something, and they are a person of color, and they don’t have anyone to really connect with, and so they just give up on those courses and programs. And these are conversations that I’ve heard time and time again, and it has left me as a marketer who has worked with black people, and white people, and other different ethnicities. Sometimes I have to call out, “Well, if you don’t have any people of color, I wouldn’t yet just keep putting a whole bunch of black people on sales pages.” I have to sometimes specifically say that, not necessarily as I’m trying to stand up for myself, but I hear the actual other side of that that people buy stuff, and they’re like, “I don’t even know what to do, how to relate to it.”
And also, another thing I talk about with the inclusive training that comes with the templates is how to talk about difficult conversations. And the main thing is, really, if you want to have a difficult conversation with someone who has a completely different background from you, religion, whatever, I don’t think that we have to overthink it. I don’t think we have to think for them. I think we should open up spaces for them to ask questions more.
A lot of times, when it comes to inclusivity, I think the piece that is missing is that people don’t ask enough questions of people they want to learn more from. For example, I’ve had a client that wanted to address … She felt like her program was lacking diversity, and she wanted to figure out a way to be more approachable and also not turn off her clients that are not really thinking about the diversity thing. But she came up with a lot of ways that didn’t really include diversity, or it didn’t really include people of diverse backgrounds. And I said, “Maybe you should just have an event where you just ask questions and you listen instead of feeling like you have to be the person that thinks everything through.” So a lot of my inclusivity training is coming from that background of actually letting people have the mic instead of taking the mic and speaking for them.
Rob Marsh: So yeah, I’d love to ask a follow-up question about that because you mentioned people putting people of color on a page or whatever to try to market, but maybe the programs are devoid of that. But what about somebody who is trying to make those opportunities available? What’s the appropriate way to do that, in your opinion? Obviously, you wouldn’t necessarily want to put all white people or represent that the program is not for a diverse audience, but at the same time, you don’t want to do it falsely. So how do you start to bridge that gap as people try to make their programs a little bit more diverse?
Tori Autumn: I think one way that people can do that is if they have any type of launch where they have a beta run of it, and they specifically say they are interested in getting results for people who they have not yet worked with, and they specifically include those type of different sections of nationalities or any of those things. I think that that’s a great idea to get people involved in it. Another thing is if someone … I think it also depends on the type of service that you are providing. If we’re talking about I don’t know-
Rob Marsh: Maybe a community or something like that.
Tori Autumn: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then also, if for some reason you try beta run, and there still aren’t people of color that have seen your service, another thing that you can do is create … after you create the sales page and do live calls, you can also … I think that it helps to tell people about your vision. I think that if you lead with having a diverse sales page and actually calling it out yet that we want to welcome people, we have not yet had it, and we want to welcome people. I think if anything that has come from the last couple of years of business is that people really value people who are imperfect, they can be transparent. And also, it feels like somebody’s a part of a movement when you share a goal or share a vision with them. It makes them feel like …
If you have a new logo or a title for your new program or an existing program, what do you think of this? What do you think of this? And asking different people about that. And I also think it helps to, in between launches, have some type of free events or a small paid offer event where you are specifically having something that has to do with diversity so that it just doesn’t come out of nowhere. And people of color are like, “Whoa, she never was talking about that. Why is she talking about this stuff now?” I think letting people know what you’re trying to do will help any type of tension or confusion.
Kira Hug: Okay. Tori, our time is wrapping up together. I want to know what you are most excited about. What’s coming up next for you that you want to share that you’re so excited about?
Tori Autumn: Yeah, I am excited about the template launch, and also I’m excited about being more visible and talking about visibility and inclusion and also sleep, a lot more sleep.
Rob Marsh: And specifically with the templates coming up, you are doing a workshop, or sorry, a challenge. And I know you’ve got a Black Friday offer that’s coming up with your templates. Just talk a little bit about what you’re going to be doing for those things.
Tori Autumn: Yes. So I’ll run a three-day challenge, and so the challenge will be around reaching out to potential clients and also making more sales in your business, which I’ll provide a template with at the end. And also, I have a Black Friday sale for the template bundle, so the actual 10 templates that I have, along with the trainings and the monthly calls, where if someone buys the template bundle, they will also have me personally critique one of the templates for them.
Kira Hug: Thank you, Tori, so much for being with us here today and sharing more about what you’re doing in your business. I mean, everything you’ve done in such a short period of time, it’s quite amazing, and how you’ve built a business that really works for you and isn’t a cookie-cutter business and is giving back to you. So thank you for being here and sharing with us. We appreciate it.
That’s the end of our interview with Tori Autumn. But before I wrap, I just want to highlight a few more ideas that stood out to me because why not? So we talked a lot about Tori spending time on connection calls. Right? I call them meet-and-greet calls. Rob and I have talked about how we met on a meet and greet call. This is a great way to build community. This is something that we … I mean, we don’t force people to do this in our communities, but we do encourage them to jump on as many connection calls as possible with their fellow members in any program, like the accelerator or a Think Tank Mastermind because it pays off. Just 10 minutes with someone can really help you feel a strong connection to them.
So anyway, I love that this helps Tori build her business. And the interesting thing about it is that it could be something you do on a seasonal basis because Tori also mentioned that sometimes she spent too much time on connection calls, and her business actually suffered because she was on too many calls with colleagues or potential prospects. But it actually was a distraction from the business, and she needed to free up that time during that season to do other things in her business. So I think maybe it’s something that we can think about seasonally. I mean, there are times of the year we know business is slower. Our clients in our space or in our industry just slow down depending on what industry you’re in. So maybe that is the best time when there’s not going to be as much work because the vertical you’re focused on isn’t quite ready to ask for more projects. The need is not there. During that time, maybe you could focus on connection calls to build your network.
And then there are other times of the year where your industry that you’re focused on could be much busier, and you don’t book connection calls. So I think it’s something that you could think of how Tori has and just leaning into it when you can, but not necessarily all the time because it can give back to you. It can help you land projects, but it can also deplete your time, and sometimes it’s not worth leaning into. So I think that’s just something that I’ve never thought about it as a seasonal activity, and I’m going to think about it that way moving forward.
One thing Tori talked about, and I’m so glad she did because it’s just something that I didn’t do. I didn’t do it today. I’m going to start doing it. It is building out a referral system, and she rewards her clients and past clients with 10% of the project that they refer to Tori. And I think it’s such a great way to just build a really strong referral system. Even though referrals happen organically for most of us, this is a way for you to design a system that you can rely on more consistently, and I think it’s brilliant. We can all do it. I’m going to start doing it, and we’re going to start doing it in the copywriter club too, but just making it really easy for people to share who referred them and also to make it really easy for clients who love you to get a reward for passing on your name to other people, so something that we can easily do. It’s not a hard adjustment to make in our businesses.
And we talked about templates. Tori mentioned she’s launching her template ship. And her templates, she’s put a lot of time into, and she’s already sold a bunch of them and has licensed them to different organizations. She’s already making money off of her templates. And I think it’s great that we talked about it because I know a lot of copywriters who are trying to sell their templates or they are successfully selling their templates. And so even the template product space is … I wouldn’t say it’s saturated because it depends on the niche that you’re focused on, but I do think that it helps if you are niched down with your templates. And as it does get more and more saturated, as more and more copywriters are selling their templates, it will help to position your templates so that they stand out from all the other templates out there. How are your templates different? How are they better?
And Tori has done a great job of leaning into how hers are different, especially because the messaging and the copy in her templates focuses on diversity and inclusivity, and so that is something that will allow her templates to stand out from all the other templates out there. And so that’s not to say that your templates, if you’re interested in creating that product, have to also focus on diversity and inclusivity. But it’s worth thinking about if you want to launch templates or if you already have launched templates, but you’re not quite happy with how they’re selling, maybe you can figure out your X factor for your templates. What is going to make them relevant, better for the audience you’re focused on? And making sure that you’ve niche down enough so your templates are designed specifically for your unique audience and not just for the general business owner audience.
Finally, as we wrapped up the conversation and we talked about what Tori is most excited about, she said she’s excited about more sleep, and I am with her. I am ready to hibernate this winter. I don’t know if it’s the move to Maine, or the cold, or what it is, but I have been needing at least nine hours of sleep every night, so I am with Tori. We all need more sleep. I am ready for it this winter.
All right, so we do want to thank Tori Autumn for joining us on the podcast today. If you want to connect with her or grab her templates, head to heytoriautumn.com, and we’ll link to that in our show notes. If you want to listen to more conversations like this one today, check out episode 184 with Rachel Greiman about creating additional streams of income, or you could listen to and/or episode 261 with Annabel Landaverde about being a multi-passionate entrepreneur. Both episodes are excellent, so check out both of them.
And if you are interested in joining our Think Tank Mastermind and potentially joining us at our in-person retreat in New Orleans this January, you can find out the details in our show notes. And that’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. The intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter Addison Rice. The outro is composed by copywriter and songwriter David Mutner. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, and I hope that you enjoyed it, please visit Apple Podcasts and leave your review of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.