TCC Podcast #393: Becoming a Strategist (not Copywriter) with Eman Ismail - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #393: Becoming a Strategist (not Copywriter) with Eman Ismail

What is the difference between showing up as a copywriter and showing up as a strategist? In the 393rd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Kira and Rob talk with Eman Ismail about how she changed her title and the work she does to reflect a new and more satisfying role of “email strategist”. Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.

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Full Transcript:

Rob Marsh:  When we coach the copywriters inside the copywriter think tank or in our group coaching groups—which by the way are open now and if you’re interested you can learn more at—sorry didn’t really mean to take that tangent… but when we coach copywriters one idea that comes up a lot is the need to not just show up as a writer… an order taker… or as a vendor, but rather you need to be a problem solver. And often that means taking on the role of a strategist in addition to the work you do as a writer. But how do you do that? It’s one thing to say, I’m a strategist and quite another to actually do the work that strategy requires.

Hi, I’m Rob Marsh, one of the founders of The Copywriter Club. And on today’s episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, my co-founder, Kira Hug, and I interviewed email strategist—not copywriter—Eman Ismail. Eman share why she rejects the title of copywriter today and what it really means to show up as a strategist. This might not be the kind of thing a beginner can do, but if you’ve got some experience creating copy and serving your clients, you may be picking up the expertise you need to show up as a strategist for your clients. Be sure to stick around to hear how Eman does it.  

Now before we get to the interview… you’ve heard me talk about The Copywriter Underground and what it includes. If you’ve been thinking about joining this amazing community, I want to give you two reasons to jump in now. The first is a limited time Client Emails Masterclass with copywriter Michal Eisik. Michal launched her business after completing the copywriter accelerator and think tank. What she’s built is amazing. We asked Michal if she would share her masterclass with The Underground. But because Michal actually sells this to her own email list, she asked us to limit access to just a couple of day in May.  Which means if you want to get the Client Emails Masterclass for free, you’ve got to jump into The Underground now.

We also have a second bonus… it’s the strategic plan that copywriter Daniel Throssell used to make his client’s book a best seller in Australia. Daniel has only shared this plan one time… to subscribers who paid to recieve his newsletter. It’s not currently available anywhere. Even new subscribers to his newsletter don’t have access. But he offered to give this strategy—completely free of charge—to members of The Copywriter Undergound. And like the Client Emails Masterclass, this member exclusive is only available for one week during the month of May—and only for members of The Underground. 

If you were to purchase these bonuses sepearately, you’d pay more than what you pay to join The Underground for a single month. Plus you get all the other training, coaching, and community stuff that comes along with your membership in The Underground. There’s never been a better time to visit to claim your free bonuses now.

And with that, let’s go to our interview with Eman.

Kira Hug: Let’s start with recent moves you’ve made to level up in your business. Because when you were here last, we talked about your origin story in your business and how you were leveling up at the time. And what I love about you and just watching you and, and, um, hearing from you is you’re like constantly leveling up in big ways. And so why don’t you just describe maybe the most recent changes that have helped you get to that next level?

Eman Ismail: You know, I’m going to say really thinking of myself as a strategist and positioning myself as a strategist. So I have always loved the copywriting aspect. Obviously, I am an email strategist and copywriter, so I do a lot of emails. But, you know, it took me a while to get out of the idea of, only I can do this. You know, this is why I can’t hire anyone else, because only I can do it, how my clients want me to do it. It took me a while to realize this, but finally realized that’s not true. There are plenty of amazing email copywriters in the world who can do what I do and who can support me and help me help my clients. 

So I’ve I’ve actually leaned into the strategy role even more and got um help and hired writers to help me with the execution so um that means I get to do more of what I enjoy which is the like the putting the pieces of the puzzle together and figuring out what the sequence needs um and then I get to hand over my email strategy to someone I work with or someone that I hire and let them know okay this is what we’re going to do and then they do it and it’s just it’s amazing it’s amazing because well yeah I get to focus on what I enjoy most and then also I get to hire another copywriter which is fun and I enjoy doing that and then I get to come back in and copy chief at the end which is something I really enjoy doing as well.

Rob Marsh: Eman, let’s go deeper on that idea of being a strategist. Could you walk us through a sample project, or maybe even make one up as you go along? We often talk about how, as copywriters, we need to take more of a strategy role. I think with the emergence of AI, that’s becoming a really common theme to hear in the copywriting world. But a lot of people may think, okay, but how does that differ from just being a copywriter? So walk us through a project and how you see it, how you approach the strategy, the kinds of things that you’re thinking about as you put the pieces of the puzzle together, as you said, so that we can see what that really means.

Eman Ismail: Yes. Before I do that, can I tell you what I used to do and then tell you what I do now? Because I think the difference is just so stark. So what I used to do was, my clients would come to me and say, I need five emails on you know whatever it is that we’re trying to sell. And I would say okay, great five emails cost x amount and then I would do that and they’d pay that and then they tell me exactly what they want me to write in each email and I remember at one point a client giving me what they wanted me to write and thinking this is terrible. But I was so early on in my career as a copywriter that I didn’t have the confidence to say to them, this is terrible. We probably shouldn’t do this. 

But I realized that was really to my own detriment because not having the confidence to tell the client this isn’t a good idea meant that. They put the emails out there. They were happy with my work, but then they put emails out there and then, it didn’t get the great results that we wanted. And that was no shock to me because I knew the strategy wasn’t great. 

And I realized that actually what my clients need from me is they need me to be a leader. They need me to be able to give them kind of constructive criticism and let them know when something’s not working. That’s what they pay me for. That’s what they prefer. So I ended up just finding a bit of confidence somewhere in me and telling clients that the strategy piece was no longer an option like they they cannot come to me and say oh we don’t want you to work on the strategy we just want to pay you for the copywriting which was what was happening a lot of the time like in their minds they’d separate this the strategy and the copy so that they could pay me less basically and so I stopped I stopped doing that I told them that’s not an option anymore in order to work with me so that I can help you get the results that we want I need to do the strategy and I need to do the copy and um initially well that meant my prices went up and so I did lose some clients. But I gained better clients which was very exciting. So that was the change. 

What happens now is well my clients come to me and they know that they’re getting the strategy and the copy and if anything My clients probably value the strategy side more because they can convince themselves that they can go and write a sequence. And they do. Before they’ve hired me, I know that all my clients have tried writing their own sequences and they’ve probably done okay. Like I’m working with a client right now who can write pretty well. I was reading over some of the emails that she’d written for a previous launch and the emails are pretty good. But she has no idea why she’s done what and you know, the strategy piece is really what’s missing for her. And so I know that my clients really value that the idea of hiring an expert to figure it out to do all the like the brain work. And so that’s, that’s what I do now. 

And I’ve been able to charge so much more because of it and also get really high quality clients who appreciate the work that goes into the strategy side of the email. Now, I mean, I always start off with audience research. So I have two different packages. Generally, all my packages come with customer surveys. So at the very least, the client will get customer surveys. I’ll also pitch them on a bigger research project with customers, with voice of customer interviews, so we can do like the whole thing. And so we either way, we always start off with research. And then my job then is to is to either go through the research myself, if we’re doing surveys, if we’ve done interviews, I hire someone else to come in and do all the interviews. So they actually present to me the findings, which is amazing. So all I then need to do is read through their, their report, their messaging report and understand what’s going on with all the, with all the voice of customer data. And then I need to map out how we get the subscriber from point A to Z in this case. 

So I want to start off at the end. I usually start at the end and figure out, well, okay, what’s the goal and then work backwards. So what do we need to say? in order for the subscriber to say yes to this offer. And so I really kind of break that down email by email. And, um, and then it becomes really simple and it’s about hitting those specific points. So I know in order for the subscriber to say yes to this, uh, you know, they have the objection of, well, right now I’m working with, um, a money mindset coach. And I know that a lot of the, one of the objections that came up quite a bit was, well, I don’t know if I want to join a group coaching program. I think I would prefer one-to-one coaching. And so of course, one of the emails is going to be, is going to be about that. So another one is investment as always. People are worried about spending their money. In this case it’s a 15k mastermind so you know they are concerned. So we want a whole email based on money objections and why it’s worth them spending their money on this mastermind. And so I feel like that’s the easy part. The easy part is figuring out what goes into the email sequence. I think the hardest part is probably, what do we not need to put in there? Because you can just put so much in there. So we also need to figure out like, okay, this objection came up, but it didn’t come up enough for us to put it into the email sequence. Or this pain came up, but actually, this pain, if we talk about this, will attract the wrong ideal, ideal client. We don’t want to attract those people who are having that pain. So let’s remove that and not even think about that, discuss that. We don’t want to bring that to people’s attention, you know? So often when you have the research, I feel like the research is the biggest part of this. It’s really about piecing it together and figuring out what needs to go inside. That part I feel is the easier part. The harder part is like cutting it and figuring out what doesn’t need to be in there.

Kira Hug: Maybe we can get even more granular. When you’re sitting down to map out the strategy, what else is happening? Are you using any AI tools? Are you just really starting from scratch each time? Are you using previous templates where you’re like, OK, typically this is the flow of a seven email sequence, but I’m going to also make sure that it works for this sequence, but I have a starting point. And then what does the communication with the client look like? Are you getting any type of approval on strategy or are you just like, this is a strategy we’re moving forward. You won’t see it until the end.

Eman Ismail: Oh, good question. So, in terms of the second question I used to have a part in my process where I would present my strategy outline to the client and get their approval. But then I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. Because honestly, first of all, I work with clients who are very, very busy, they’re generally kind of mid six figure, seven figure plus clients, like they don’t have time for extra steps that maybe aren’t totally necessary. And I feel like when I did do that, it was often because I was a little worried, my confidence wasn’t where it is now. And so I just I wanted that like extra reassurance that the client was really happy about it. I don’t feel like the clients felt like they needed that extra step. And so I actually decided to cut that step. So for the past few years, I have not been getting approval from my clients at the strategy outline part. 

And instead, what I do is, I write up the sequence, and then I will send them a loom video walk through and actually just kind of defend my decisions and explain my decisions so that they really understand why I decided to do what. And I generally already know what their objections are going to be. That’s the great thing about being a copywriter, right? We already can see the objections. So my goal in that kind of handover is to really handle the objections that I know they’re going to have. I had that with a client recently. I knew which part that she would feel iffy about, so I walked her through it, explained why we did it, and then also gave her a couple of other options for, you know, if she was truly against it. And then we have a round of revision, so anything that needs editing, which usually isn’t a lot, gets edited. 

Again, one round of revision, because I found three rounds for me was just, it was unnecessary, and gave clients just, a lot of extra time to tinker around with the document and they don’t need all that extra time. Let’s just do it one time. I tell them you have a week to go through it. Give me all your edits in one go and then I will go back, do those edits and we are done. We’re done. And so that’s how it works now and it works really well and I think it works so well because my briefing process is so kind of nailed down. And because that part goes so well, I can really have confidence in the end result. I think if my briefing process wasn’t the way that it is, I wouldn’t be able to do that. Because I’d be worried that I’m doing the wrong thing, but I’m not worried because I know what my client needs. 

And then also, again, if there’s something that they might not like or they might disagree with, I know to handle that before it even becomes a conversation. Um, and then they feel really kind of, I guess, eased by the fact that I already know what they’re thinking. I already know what they’re worrying about. And so, and I’ve already considered that and they know I’ve already considered that. So they can kind of trust me with that moving forward. Um, my, I, the kind of clients I’m working with now, they just need somebody to just take, just take it over, just do it. Um, and you know, they don’t want to be, They don’t be doing extra steps, getting on extra calls, doing all that stuff if they really don’t need to be. And then your other question, which was. How do I map out? Oh yeah, do I have any templates or anything like that? Do I use anything?

Kira Hug: Yeah, like when you sit down, are you starting from scratch? Are you starting with a template? Are you using different tools to figure it out?

Eman Ismail: Yes. OK, so I’m actually really big on not using detailed templates, because I really, truly believe that sequences need to be customized for the client. So when people are selling, welcome sequence templates and, you know, fill in the blanks kind of stuff. I passionately, I’m just like, I don’t love it. But what I do have is an idea of what needs to go in a welcome sequence, for example. And so I know that there are going to be emails and well, I know that the first email is always going to be the lead magnet delivery, whatever that is. And then I know there’s going to be an intro email or like, you know, meet the founder kind of email. 

I know that there’s going to be an almost like a values or philosophy kind of email. Sometimes that will just go in the intro email, but sometimes if it’s super strong, like with one of the clients that I currently work with, it needs its own email because it’s just that important. And then there are going to be the value emails where we’re trying to prove the client’s expertise and authority. So I have an idea of what’s going to go in it but I’m really make sure that I don’t I don’t limit myself to that and there’s always the there’s always flexibility in there and that if something needs to be changed or something needs to be added or if it doesn’t need anything if it doesn’t need a certain thing then I’ll take it away. 

So again I go into it with a with an idea of what’s going to go into it. But again, I do have an open mind in terms of, um, in terms of AI, I don’t use AI too much. I’m still figuring out how to use it. I’m really using it for, um, things like subject lines or, um, I work on a few sales pages, um, every now and then. So things like, um, you know, hero headlines or crossheads, that kind of thing. So I’m still figuring out how to bring AI into the process. I really need to listen to your podcast on it. So I’m not using it as much as I would like to. But I do have one template that actually Kirsty Fanton showed me in her BrainCamp course. and essentially it’s just an outline. 

It’s an outline of the information that I need going into a project. So it’s literally just like fill this in for each client and it goes into all like there’s like general notes at the top then all the usual stuff that you can imagine, panes, you know, a big idea or promise, objections, hesitations, sticky VOC. It’s just like a blank template that I know, okay, fill this in. And the great thing about this is that Kirsty Fanton actually told me that and told us that she gives this document to her clients. And I was a little bit unsure about doing that at first, because it’s very, very much a note kind of format. It’s just my notes. And I was a bit worried about it not being, you know, perfect. But I did start giving clients access to it. One of the clients I worked with two years ago just did a VOC interview for me because I’ve got a new website coming out. So we had VOC interviews for that. And she mentioned in the interview that that doc, that note stock that had my ideas and stuff in it, she still uses it two years later. That was amazing to me. So those are the kinds of things I use to go into creating a sequence.

Rob Marsh: So while we’re still talking about this, I have two questions. One, when you pulled back on the strategy and stopped getting client buy-in early on, was there any pushback at all, or did clients even notice, or was it smooth?

Eman Ismail: No, it was totally smooth because the majority of clients that I work with, they’ve never worked with an email strategist before. They’ve likely hired a copywriter, probably a generalist who does kind of a bit of everything for them. But I’m usually the first person there they’re hiring for that email specifically. So they come into it with a very open mind and kind of very much like just guide me, tell me what needs to be done, tell me what your process is. And they are totally, totally fine with that. So no pushback.

Rob Marsh: That’s what I would expect, too. I think a lot of us would think, oh, wait, I need to have this step or this part of my process. And yet when you implement it, when you make it better, when you make it work for however you want to run your business, clients don’t even notice that. So a lot of times I think internally we think we need to do X, Y and Z. And really, maybe we only need X and Z or Z and not all of the other stuff. So, yeah, I love just being able to simplify the way that we work with our clients.

Eman Ismail: Let me just add to that because the one part that I really thought I would get pushback on that I was a little bit worried about going into was the revision cycle. So for my VIP week, which I don’t offer any revisions for the VIP week. And that’s a $6,000 VIP week. And then for generally like custom projects, I only offer one round of revision. And we all know that the general kind of consensus in the creative world is that you will get multiple rounds of revision. So I’ve really expected there to be some pushback there or to be some frustration or annoyance, but there hasn’t been. And I do think one of the reasons for that is probably the fact that well, I explain the process in detail before they hire me, they know what’s coming. And so I’m very clear about the fact that they get one round of revision. So it’s not a surprise to them. They know that before they choose to hire me. And I’ve had absolutely no pushback on that, which has been amazing. And I was totally expecting to. So that’s one thing that did surprise me. And yeah, I feel like I’m an advocate for not necessarily having three rounds of revisions. I actually think that it’s, it’s just, What is the law? Is it Parkinson’s law, the time one? Well, you know, the task that you have expands for the amount of time that you give it. I feel like that’s the same for revision cycles. Like the revision cycle will take as long as you give the client, you know, the opportunity to tinker around in the document for. If you tell them like you’ve got one round of revision, they’ll get serious and they’ll make sure the revisions are done for that one round.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, that’s 100% right. There’s a psychological thing that’s happening here is when you tell the client that their job is to do revisions, they go looking for things to revise. And if you tell them to do it two or three times, yeah, I mean, it just makes sense that of course, they’re going to keep changing a document.

Kira Hug: Exactly. Well, they invested in this project, right? And they’re investing a lot of money. So they’re like, well, if I hired you, and you’re the strategist, and you’re telling me to critique this, I better do it. And I better do it well. And I better spend a lot of time on it because I put $6,000 into this. So yes.

Eman Ismail: Yeah exactly and then there’s also the fact that I give guidance around, I know a lot of corporates do this, but just giving guidance around like the type of feedback to give and I actually tell them to limit their feedback to like tone of voice issues or things like inaccurate messaging or things that are just wrong because actually, and I say this to them, you know, a lot of, a lot of strategy has gone into this. A lot of work has gone into this from the VOC, um, research to just the persuasion and sales and marketing. And so, you know, everything that I’ve done is super intentional. 

And so we don’t want to be messing around with things and playing around with things, but I do want to make sure that everything I’ve said is accurate, that it sounds like you and that you are happy for this to have your name on it and go out into the world.

Rob Marsh: Okay, my other follow up question here is when you first mentioned the switch from just writing emails to adding strategy, your pricing changed. Could you give us like a before and after look at what prices look like, even if it’s just estimates?

Email Ismail: It was 2020 that I became an email strategist. Going into it, I was charging anything between kind of $75 an email to $100 an email. And when I decided to niche down truly into email and become a strategist and give clients this whole package, strategy and copy, I was then charging between $400 to $450 per email. Yeah, big jump. Big jump.

Kira Hug: Before we move away from strategy, although I actually do have a couple more questions, can we just break it down and give someone listening maybe two Maybe three, maybe it’s just two actionable concrete steps they could take today, tomorrow, if they want to move into this strategy role. I mean, you’ve already given a lot of advice around leading your client, but what else could they do that’s maybe a baby step?

Eman Ismail: Sign up to as many newsletters as possible and study the emails that are coming through to your inbox. Like I for fun have an entirely separate email address that’s just dedicated to me signing up to newsletters because I just enjoy reading newsletters and reading emails and following sequences and following launches and really kind of reverse engineering what’s going on and seeing what maybe the trends are, what’s working, what you like, what you don’t like So that’s the first thing, study emails and really love them. Maybe the second thing I’m going to say is join an email course. There are quite a few different ones from like Laura Belgray to Samar Owais to Joanna Wiebe over at Copyhackers. And I mean, all of them are slightly different and serve different purposes, but I think all of them help you get into the mindset of strategizing email and not just writing emails.

Rob Marsh: As you think about that, so again, this is a conversation that I think we’ve had in a few places where we talk about hand copying or studying. What is the process that you go through as you study them? What are you looking for so that you’re learning from them? Because I imagine that just signing up for a bunch of emails, at least half of the emails that are going to show up or the sequences that you’re in there, there’s not a lot of strategy. And so figuring out which emails to learn from versus which ones not. So talk through that thought process as well.

Email Ismail: OK, the first one is: sign up to as many email copywriters or email strategists as you can. So I have a lot of email copywriters on my list who tell me that they’re on my list because they are watching how I do email which is amazing because I’m on like Tarzan Kay‘s email list for the same reason, I’m on Laura Belgray’s email for this email list for the same reason, Samar Owais’, even Joe Wiebe’s, I mean Gosh, Jo’s emails is just so clever and she’s always going against the grain as well. So that’s something really interesting about Jo’s email strategy. And I also like to join the list of people who are making lots of money because, or who say they’re making lots of money because you know, you never really know, but people who say they’re making lots of money because they seem to be doing something right. So I’ll sign up to their emails as well and see what’s happening there.

Kira Hug: So how have you changed your marketing since you moved into strategist role? You know, you need different clients now, clients who can pay more, clients who are looking for a strategist. What does that look like for you?

Eman Ismail: I love this question because there are so many different parts to it. The first thing was I actually changed what I call myself, like my title. I used to refer to myself as a copywriter. And then initially I was struggling between email copywriter and email conversion copywriter. And then I realized, well, actually, I want to be known as an email strategist and copywriter. So the strategist always comes first. It’s always email strategist and copywriter. And I always correct people if they refer to me as an email copywriter. I would prefer, I would rather they refer to me as an email strategist and drop the copywriter than just email copywriter. And so that’s the first thing. And I made sure that, you know, people are referring to me. using that title. 

So I’m always instructing people on how to introduce me. And even now I still call myself an email strategist and copywriter, but you know, the copywriter might go at some point. Um, that’s what I’ve been kind of thinking recently. I think a big change, one big change was my website. I had a website rebranded completely. I had a completely new website done. and that changed the game for me. Really investing in my website and investing it in like my brand photos and that kind of thing really changed the game because you go on my website and you immediately know that this person is going to be kind of expensive. This is not, this is not a cheap copywriter. So, um, the great thing about my website is that some people will go on it and then leave because they’ll know that this, this budget isn’t going to work for me. And I’m actually going to be, again, I’m in the middle of upgrading my website. Again, I’ve got an entirely new website coming because the website that I have now, I wrote all the copy for it and created it when I just become an email strategist and copywriter. So I was really guessing at you know, what my clients need, what they think, what they want. Um, I think something really subtle is, you know, back then I thought my clients would hire me because they didn’t have time to write their own emails because I knew that they do, they do write their own emails and often they enjoy writing their own emails, like their weekly newsletter, that kind of thing. But it’s not that at all. Now that I’ve been working with these clients for four years, I know that it’s not about time at all. They just really value hiring an expert and they want to pay more for an expert to do it and to do it properly. 

So it has nothing to do with time or lack of time or anything like that. So really like subtle changes in messaging that are actually really important. Those kinds of things have changed and are going to change. Again I just upgraded my brand photos again which I think you know, a lot of people say you don’t need a website to, um, to be a copyright or do what you’re doing and to get clients, which I think is the case for some people. I will say that someone who has made the really good point on threads recently that I don’t think applies to people who look like me. I don’t think I get afforded the—I am black cause you can’t see me. I’m a black Muslim woman. I wear a headscarf—I don’t think that applies to me. I have to work extra hard to gain people’s trust in terms of my authority and expertise. So I have to have a website. And when I upgraded the website and put, you know, just investment and thought and a lot of time into the copy, the messaging, the design, the photos, the, the types of clients who are coming to me completely changed. completely changed. And so often the budget isn’t much of a conversation. It’s really, are we the right fit to work together?

Rob Marsh: And as you made the switch to strategist, you also mentioned that you focus on the strategy and sometimes hire a writer or work with another writer to do the copy. So I’m curious, what do you look for in that person in order to deliver on your strategy for your client?

Eman Ismail: Yes. Okay, so the people that I work with now are people who have their own niches so I work with one sales page copywriter and she just she just does sales pages and she’s amazing at them and I work with someone else who just does email and she’s great at email and so knowing that they have their own specialisms and their own interests and that’s what they spend the majority of their time doing um I love that because I really value a good niche and I know the power of having a niche and specializing, so that’s the first thing. 

The second thing is being open to feedback, which is something I guess you don’t really know until you’ve worked with a person, but being open to feedback and not being offended by feedback. I recently, just a few days ago, was working with one of these copywriters and she tried something in an email and I said oh actually I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work out too well and here’s why it doesn’t work too well and she just responded so graciously and she said you know thanks so much for sharing your experience that’s really great to know I’ve never done this before so it’s good to know what your experience of this is and I’m gonna get on changing that and it was just so refreshing and it was so nice and it was just she was open to feedback and just really positive and also they all deliver on time which is great and if they don’t they communicate it they communicate that something’s going on and so I think more than anything else it’s having people who are good communicators who care as much as I do about um about the clients and delivering great work to clients and of course they’ve got to be good copywriters as well.

Kira Hug: And how do you structure it with them currently? Are they employees? Are they contractors and they actually have their other clients in their own business? What does that look like right now?

Eman Ismail: Yes. So, actually the arrangement that we’ve had so far has kind of been just like, whenever I have work available, I’ll get in touch with them and their contractors, they have their own businesses and then we’ll, we’ll, you know, see if the timelines kind of work out. I’m actually, relaunching as a micro agency in the next couple of months, which is why my website is being redone. And so it’s going to be the same, the same, I think, process. They’re still going to be contractors. They still got their own businesses, but they’re going to be a bigger part of my business. They’re going to be on my website. They’re going to be part of the team kind of thing. And so right now, yeah that’s how it works. 

When I have projects available I’ll get in touch with them. I know who to get in touch with for what and yeah we’ve been chatting more recently about bringing them onto my team but as contractors I think when it’s if I ever do get employees or hire employees I think they’ll have to be someone people in my country because the laws are so strict. So I feel like I’m restricted in that sense. And having them be contractors just keeps everything flexible. And also, I really value freedom and flexibility. And so I love the fact that I can give them a project and I don’t have to, like, I’m not on their backs. They know when it’s due. If they have any questions, they know they can always get in touch with me and contact me. We’re always in contact via Boxer. We’re chatting, you know, in Asana as well. And they work when it suits them. And I don’t tell them what to do. I just give them the assignment and they do it. I like that freedom. And also, almost a bit of, it’s less responsibility for me, right? Than to have an employee. It works for all of us.

Kira Hug: Yeah. And I mean, if you have these team members, um, you must obviously have enough work to give them to have this team and shift into this phase confidently with the micro agency. Um, and a lot of writers, as you know, have struggled over the last year, year and a half. And so what are you doing to, track these clients beyond what you’ve shared about new brand, updating websites, like kind of leveling up that way? What are the marketing tactics that you focus on to keep the clients rolling in?

Eman Ismail: Yeah, great question. And actually, I’ve been really open about the fact that last year was a bit of a crazy year for me. And in the first four months of 2023, I hit six figures in the first four months. And then within another two months, I had surpassed my 2022 revenue. And then the middle of Q3 in 2023 was just like a ghost town. It was crazy. And then things picked up again in Q4, which is fantastic. but definitely yes to those ups and down periods. I think something that’s really helped me is to expect them instead of hope they don’t happen and just prepare for them. So you know in that time I was still able to hire the people that I was hiring, I was still able to pay the small team that I do have, I was still able to pay myself, nothing changed in that sense and so I was prepared for the dips rather than it just come in and then me panicking and having to fire everyone and you know not having a great a very great time um but in terms of your question which i forgot okay how do i get clients um i do a lot of i’ll do a lot of marketing i market myself every single day. 

So my main two social media platforms that I use are Instagram and LinkedIn. And it’s interesting because I used to think that LinkedIn got me a lot of clients, but when I actually started tracking it, I realized LinkedIn gets me a lot of leads, but those leads don’t often convert to clients. So, when I tracked Instagram… What do you think that is? I think that they’re just, they’re not my ideal clients. These people who are interested in working with me, but we’re not a great fit. Whereas on Instagram, we have the coaches, membership makers, the course creators, we are a really great fit. And they’ll also be attracted to my style of marketing and the way that I talk and you know, the, the posts that I’m posting. But I did find that what LinkedIn is great for and is, which is why I’m still kind of trying on LinkedIn. It’s great at getting me speaker opportunities. I get a lot of speaking opportunities there and speaking opportunities are a great way for me to to get clients. So that’s that’s another thing. 

So first thing is Instagram, LinkedIn, social media, speaking opportunities, whether it’s guesting on podcasts or doing, you know, workshops in masterminds and communities and that kind of thing. I’ve realized I need to be picky about the places that I go in and do workshops in. I find it often very hard to say no, and I realized recently, still working on this because I’m a people pleaser, as a mother of two kids who’s running a business, it’s not helpful for me to say yes to doing workshops in communities that are not going to be fruitful for my business, even if I just want to be nice to the host, because, you know, I don’t want to say no, because I have a problem saying no. But now I’m getting really strict with myself. And I’m asking a lot more questions about, well, who’s inside? Who’s it for? Thinking about, you know, is it going to really serve me? 

I have I have a query in my inbox waiting for me to respond to right now. And it’s someone who hosts the community for e-commerce brands. And while I used to work with a lot of e-commerce businesses, I don’t really anymore. So it’s also just protecting my time and saying yes to the right speaking opportunities. And then also my podcast. So I have a podcast now, which is another big change since the last time we talked. It’s called Mistakes that Made Me and I interview extraordinary business owners and ask them to share their biggest business mistake. It just interviewed Kira on it. And what’s interesting, I think about my podcasting strategy is that the people who listen to my podcast are generally people who are going to buy my digital products. They’re generally not going to hire me as a client. They’re not going to become my client. They’re not going to hire me because they want me to do their emails. My ideal clients are my guests. So I use my podcast to basically speak to my ideal clients and to get to know them and create relationships with my ideal clients. 

And so a lot of the people who I’ve invited onto my podcast, or as we didn’t have a relationship before, after speaking to them for an hour and a half and getting what is usually like the most amazing, you know, hour and a half coaching session for me, we, you know, we build a relationship and they’re my ideal client. And then, you know, the goal is for them to know who I am and what I do. And then, you know, hopefully the relationship builds from there. And even if they don’t hire me, they know who I am. And so when their friends who are usually just like them are talking about needing someone to help with their emails, hopefully I’m the first person they think of. And this actually just happened as well. I interviewed D.L. Sharon on season one, which was, I think it was two years ago now. And a friend of hers, who’s super successful, sent me a message and said, hey, I’m looking for someone to do my emails. D.L. told me that you do email. And I was amazed that she remembered from two years ago. But I think that’s the power of those conversations. So my podcast is helpful for that as well.

Rob Marsh: So you’ve shared a lot about where you’re showing up and some of the activities you’re doing. Talk a little bit about the messaging that you’re sharing there so that you are connecting with the audience that you’re sharing stuff with. What are you talking about?

Eman Ismail: Good question. And you know, I actually just got a brand voice and messaging guide done to get this down on paper, the things that I am talking about, my specific points of views. So here are a few things. The first thing is the fact that I’m an email expert. I’m not a generalist. My love, passion and expertise is email strategy and copy. And so even if I’m working on other projects behind the scenes, which I often am, like I do a lot of sales pages for my clients, I’m never talking about sales pages on my socials or anywhere else. You won’t ever hear me talk about that because I don’t want people to think of me as a sales page copywriter. That’s just a secret add on service that I’ll do for clients who need it. I want people to think of me as an email expert. So that’s the first thing. And I often talk about the benefit of you know, hiring an email expert specifically. I talk about my prices that working with me as an investment, but it’s a worthy investment. I share a lot of social proof. I like to call it organic social proof as well. So often in conversations with clients, you know, the little comments that they’ll make in the Google doc, any like really positive comments or emails when they, you just finished reading the sequence and they’re like, Oh my gosh, I loved it. That was amazing. Take a lot of screenshots of, of that. So it feels super natural and exciting. So there’s that. I talk a lot about how important customer experience is to me, because honestly, I think so much of what we do is about just creating a great customer experience and making sure our clients are happy. I’ve hired a lot of service providers over the past year and I feel like a lot of service providers just get it really wrong. I think a lot of people don’t understand that. 50% of what we do is the work we deliver and the other 50% is the experience we deliver and how we make our clients feel. I talk a lot about the fact that I am conversion focused so a lot of my clients will come to me and say I’m looking for a conversion copywriter I need someone who can help me convert people and that’s perfect because I don’t help people grow their email lists that’s not what I do I help them convert existing their existing audience. 

I talk a lot about the fact that we’re research driven as well. And so we were never winging it or just making up your sequence or your strategy. We’re using the information that we get from customer interviews and surveys and polls and review mind and that kind of thing. And that’s something actually that a lot of my clients say was a reason to work with me. A lot of people are surprised, like happily surprised in the sales core because they’ve hired copywriters before but they’ve never had anyone do any research. And I think for the people that do research, like when us as copywriters do research, it’s just totally normal to us. It’s just what we do. But I don’t think we realize how many people don’t do that. And so it’s still a really big deal for clients. So that’s something that wins over a lot of the people that I talk to. And then finally, actually, I am now officially a ConvertKit paid partner. I’m in a partnership with ConvertKit. And so I think that’s helped with some of my authority building. I love ConvertKit’s brand. So when they approached me to work with them as an influencer, basically, they send me a brief every month. And then I create three reels for them on Instagram. That’s been really exciting. I’ve really enjoyed working with them, building that relationship with them. But then also, it’s great for me, for people to see ConvertKit working with me.

Kira Hug: You mentioned service providers you’ve worked with don’t necessarily nail the experience and they get it wrong. Can you just speak more specifically to what are many of us, not all of us, getting wrong that could be easily corrected?

Eman Ismail:  Oh, OK. I mean, where to start? I recently hired someone to do something for me. I’m not going to say what or out the person, but I recently hired them to do something for me. And then they sent an off-boarding report, right? Only I didn’t know that they sent an off-boarding report because I never received it. It didn’t, it didn’t land in my inbox. I did not get this off-boarding report. So as far as I was concerned, they kind of did the project and then I just kind of didn’t hear from them. And I was like, are we, are we done? Is this finished? Like, are we good to, you know, say bye? I don’t, what’s happening? And she got immediately defensive, really started stressing out. I have so many other clients to work with. I’m really busy with other projects. I can’t answer these questions for you. If you want me to answer these questions, you’re going to need to hire me for a strategy session. And so. 

Rob Marsh: What? 

Eman Ismail: Yeah. And so I think that’s an extreme example. But I think the thing here is to Assume the best of your clients, of the people that you’re working with, because had she thought like, oh, like Eman should know this already. Like she should have got the report in her inbox. Maybe something happened. Maybe she didn’t see it. Maybe it went into her spam. Not even, you know, maybe it didn’t deliver, but maybe it went into spam. Maybe she didn’t see it. Let me just check and just make sure that everything’s OK. Instead of stressing out and thinking that I’m a terrible client, I’m being annoying, I’m being frustrating, I’m asking for more than I’m paying for. And that relationship didn’t end very well. But it turned out she thought she’d sent the report. I mean she still maintains she sent it—that’s great—but I didn’t receive it, so that’s unhelpful to me right. 

I think a good example of this is the time that one of my clients didn’t show up for a call and just kind of completely ghosted me. And so instead of me being frustrated and bear in mind, I was heavily pregnant at the time. So the last thing I wanted to do was to sit around waiting for a client who didn’t turn up on a call. But instead of being frustrated and annoyed, you just assume the best of the person and you think, you know what, maybe they forgot. It happens to all of us. Maybe something happened. 

So I actually sent her an email and said, hey, you missed our call. I just wanted to check if everything was OK. And she replied the next day and said she’d fainted and she’d been rushed to hospital. So imagine if I’d gone in there with a bad attitude or I was frustrated, which I think a lot of us do and feel, um, and we, we communicate, imagine if I’d gone into it like that, instead of just, you know, giving her the benefit of the doubt, maybe something happened, you know, just being a bit more patient with our clients. I think another example is poor communication. 

I hired someone recently that actually things turned out really well with this person. I absolutely loved working with them in the end. I was really happy with what they delivered, but initially there was an issue where there was like, there was a communication issue. And then she sent me an email talking about how if I didn’t do X, she just wanted to remind me that this was all non-refundable. And it was, I was like, first of all, nothing is non refundable because I can go to like, I can go to my bank now and get the money back. So let’s not go there. Second of all, that you really escalated this it didn’t even need to go there you went so far beyond the point that we needed to go to so it’s really about um communication just communication and um I think things your communication being in proportion and in line with what the situation is a little bit yeah exactly because then what happened was I saw the word non-refundable and was not very pleased so the next few emails that we had the exchanges that we had didn’t go didn’t go very well um and so you know all of that could have been avoided by her just not using not just just not saying that like we didn’t need to talk about refunds like I was excited about working with you keep me excited about working with you like I’m I’m excited to get started um let’s let’s just be mindful of like what we say to clients and when we say to them as well is very important. So I used to think that some of this customer service stuff was common sense, honestly, but I realized it’s really not. And it’s something that you need to, I think, learn. It’s a skill. And I think I’m just really passionate and realized I always have been because I did. I’ve worked a lot in retail as a teen in my early 20s. I’m just passionate about customer service and creating a great customer experience. And so I think that’s been really great and being able to move that into my business with me.

Rob Marsh: Okay, so as we wrap up or get towards the end, I’m wondering, aside from the new website, the agency, what else are you working on in your business, Eman, that is new for 2024, maybe 2025?

Eman Ismail: I’m actually making a bit of a shift. I have, I sell digital products and digital courses. I have a 12 week self-study DIY course called Like a Boss that takes you from, or to take a freelancer to boss, business owner, someone who’s like, you know, lead in, you’re leading your clients, leading your projects. You really become that leader and strategist that your client needs. Uh, but since I started the podcast, I found that my audience isn’t just copywriters anymore. And so it was kind of weird to go on the podcast and say, okay, this thing is available, but it’s only for the copywriters. And if you’re interested in working with me, you’re not a copywriter, sorry, I can’t help you. So I’m working on shifting all of my digital products so that they’re not just for copywriters, but that they’re for service providers more generally. And so I have the big job of kind of going through my existing, my existing digital products, which is mostly just, it’s like a boss. I have designer VIP day, which is a, like a prerecorded two hour masterclass. I’m actually going to shift that as well. So I’m going to change the name probably to Design Your VIP Week and make it available to not just copywriters, make it available to all service providers. And so I think what’s happened is as I’ve just really got to know who I’m serving, who I enjoy serving as well, and really what makes the most sense for the way my business is going, I’m kind of going back and kind of course correcting and just making a few changes here and there. It’s great that, you know, the content is already there. I’ve already created these things. Now I just kind of need to refine them and make them available to a wider set of people. All right.

Kira Hug: I’m going to shift into a kind of lightning round as much as we can do lightning round. I want to fit in a handful of questions before we wrap and also be mindful of the time. So first is, you know, Instagram, you’re using Instagram. How are you using it? What’s working right now on Instagram?

Eman Ismail: Stories. Stories are working. I use stories a lot to show a lot of the behind the scenes of my business. But I think it’s really easy to fall into behind the scenes. the behind the scenes kind of stuff. And so it’s important to mix that great behind the scenes content and interesting stuff that people can’t really find anywhere else about you. But you also need to mix it with what you do and how to hire you and how to buy this and how to buy that you know. So definitely stories. I think that’s where the relationship building happens.

Kira Hug: Great. And what are you struggling with right now. I mean there’s so many things going well that you’ve shared with us but like at this level what is a struggle.

Eman Ismail:  What am I struggling with? I think probably systems and processes. So I’ve always been really proud of the fact that my systems and processes have been good and I think work really well. But every time you kind of change one thing in the business, your systems and processes have to change with it. So I think just really understanding that a business and certain systems and processes in a business is never something that is truly done it’s always evolving and you kind of really need to be open to the idea of constantly evolving things and changing things you know um so as I as I work towards becoming a micro-agency um all my systems and processes are changing all over again so I’m working really hard on on getting that back into into place. I think I feel like I have it down for when it’s just me, just me in the business. But now it’s like, OK, how do I make sure that I’m making this really easy and smooth for the other copywriters that I’m working with and also my assistant as well? How can I make this as easy as possible and almost as templated as possible for everyone involved?

Kira Hug: A couple more. We talked about VIP week briefly. We’ve talked about VIP days, VIP intensives on this show many times, but is there something new that you’re doing or something different that you think it’s worth us considering in our own businesses?

Email Ismail: I mean, I don’t know if this is helpful, but I think one thing I’m good at is doing the prep before the VIP week. So I make sure that everything is prepped before the VIP week. And that includes customer surveys as well. My clients get customer surveys in their VIP weeks, which I think is something that a lot of people don’t provide because you just don’t have enough time to do it all. And so what I do is I make sure that the research aspect has actually finished before we do the briefing call. So by the time we get on the briefing call, I have the briefing questionnaire. I have all the survey responses. And now I have a week to go through it and write it. So that prep part, knowing that that doesn’t have to be part of the actual VIP week was just game changing.

Kira Hug: And my last one, you have some great partnerships. You mentioned ConvertKit, HubSpot, right? You’re part of the HubSpot podcast network. You have other partnerships as well. Like, what do you think? What is the question here? How could we look at partnerships in a way that you have to level up in our businesses? How can we approach it or think differently, think bigger about partnerships?

Eman Ismail: Yeah, I think a lot of the time people look to like brand deals and partnerships and are looking for the instant kind of monetary return. And I think often it’s so much more than that. I think if you can think about it in a kind of like long term, I like ConvertKit pay me, HubSpot doesn’t pay me, ConvertKit pay me, but you know it’s not like I don’t know what Charli D’Amelio is being paid you know, but it’s really a long term, a long game right so I’m not just thinking about the money and the invoicing that the invoicing that’s happening I’m thinking about well how does this help me in the long term like the authority, the authority that I get to borrow from ConvertKit, the way that it helps me look like even more of an email expert, a trusted email expert, I feel like that’s even more valuable than the money they pay me. It’s so much more valuable than the money they pay me and it’s much more, you know, it’s much more long lasting as well.

And also, again, it’s not just about what they’re paying me now, it’s also about building those relationships. You know, I spoke to ConvertKit about potentially sponsoring my podcast and they were like, you know, we don’t, we don’t sponsor podcasts right now. Um, we’re not doing that right now. I was like, okay, great. And then they sent me another email that was like, well, actually, can we just ask your rates? And so it just goes to show that again, they’ve not, they’re not sponsoring my podcast. They’ve not said they’re going to sponsor my podcast just to be clear, but it just goes to show that like building those relationships and sowing the seeds and, and getting in the right rooms with the right people. Um, all that stuff really, really matters. It’s really important. Even like with the HubSpot podcast network, They don’t pay me, but one of the things we have is a Slack group for all the creators. Amy Porterfield’s team were in there up until recently. They just left the Hopes Power Podcast Network, but they were in there up until recently. Like Jay Clouse and like other amazing creators that I usually would never get the opportunity to talk to or be around or learn from are in there asking questions and answering questions. And it’s just so, so valuable. It’s more valuable than being paid, you know? So don’t just think about how much they pay me? Or will they pay me? How much money will I get? Some things are just worth so much more than money.

Rob Marsh: That feels like a pretty good place to stop. Even if people want to connect with you, see the new website when it comes out, where should they go?

Eman Ismail: You can find me at You can find me on Instagram at imancopico. Or head over to my podcast Mistakes That Made Me. I have interviewed Keira, I have interviewed Laura Belgrave, Tarzan Kay, Belinda Weaver, Amy Posner, Kirstie Phampton, a whole bunch of amazing copywriters who are all sharing their biggest business mistake.

Rob Marsh: Awesome. Thank you.

Kira Hug: Thank you.

Eman Ismail: Thank you.

Rob Marsh: That’s the end of our interview with Iman Ismail. I want to add just a little bit more color to some of the ideas that we talked about. We’ve already gone pretty long with Iman, so I’m not going to add a ton here, but I want to go back to the idea of positioning yourself as a strategist. That’s what I mentioned in the intro. It’s a big part of what we talked about and what exactly strategy is. So as you think about strategy, it’s not the same thing as tactics. It’s not trying to think through how do we get somebody to respond? Really, strategy is about thinking about the goals, the end points, the things that we want to happen. And so as Iman was sharing, before she moved into strategy, she would be asked for five emails, rely on the client to determine what those emails needed to say, and she would write the emails and turn them over. But afterwards, You spend time doing research, possibly doing voice of customer research or surveys, but trying to understand the goal, trying to understand where the person who’s reading the email, or if you’re doing sales page strategy or website strategy, whatever, the person that is engaging with your copy, where they need to go, what is the result? And not just the result, but the transformation, the thing that they need to experience. And as you start thinking about that, there’s thinking that needs to happen around what beliefs need to change. How do we shift them from where they are today to where they need to be in order to make the right decisions? All of that is strategy and goes way beyond tactics or the actual creation of copy. 

Another piece of that is objections, you know, trying to figure out why people are going to respond in certain ways and how to overcome those objections, or at least help them overcome the objections themselves. So the end result, of course, of being a strategist as opposed to just a copywriter is that you can charge higher prices, you can work with better clients who understand the value of what you’re bringing to the table. And so as we talk about this, showing up as a strategist, not just showing up as an order taker, showing up as a copywriter who solves bigger business problems and doesn’t just say, yes, I can write that for you. That’s what this means, and it can make a massive change to your business. So I just wanted to draw a line into that. 

One other thing, we talked a little bit about building your authority. This is a theme, of course, we come back to over and over on the podcast and in so many of the different training groups that we do. But you need to be marketing yourself every day. You need to be putting yourself in front of your clients wherever they are. That’s not necessarily on social media. It’s wherever your clients are. And if you’ve got a niche that doesn’t live on Instagram, figure out where they are. But you need to be in front of them every day. That might be with email. That might be with a printed newsletter of some kind. It might be showing up at conferences and events. wherever they are, you need to be appearing in front of them so that you’re seen, you’re recognized as an authority, as an expert in the thing that you do. And it helps if your message is focused. In Eamon’s case, she only does emails or she only does email strategy. In my case, I usually, not always, but usually focus on sales pages and the impact that that has for my client’s business. But you figure out what it is that you want to be known for, and it can go way beyond a niche. and focus on that. You need to be showing up, sharing things like your social proof, your customer experiences, the research that you come across, the work that you do, building your authority every single day. That’s how you start attracting clients so that you don’t need to be cold pitching or on this constant treadmill of fighting clients every single day or every single week. 

Okay. We want to thank Eman for joining us to talk about showing up as a strategist, about building authority, working with other writers. You can find Eman at and be sure to check out her podcast, Mistakes That Made Me. And she mentioned Kira’s a recent guest on that podcast. So you’ll want to check out that episode in particular. And I’m hoping someday that I might be on that podcast too. We’ll see. 

That’s the end of The Copywriter Club podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend or an associate who might also get something from it. Maybe learn something that you learned. You can always leave a review wherever it is that you listen to podcasts.


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