TCC Podcast #305: Sustainable and Cruelty Free Copywriting with Topaz Hooper - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #305: Sustainable and Cruelty Free Copywriting with Topaz Hooper

Our guest for the 305th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast is sustainable and cruelty-free copywriter, Topaz Hooper. Topaz focuses on working with eco-friendly brands whose values align with her own. The slow fashion, environmentally conscious niche is growing rapidly, and Topaz spills all the details for those who are keen to join in on the movement to help the planet.

Here’s how the conversation goes:

  • How Topaz became a vegetarian and transitioned to veganism.
  • Her beginning in the vegan coaching industry and how it was the catalyst for her copywriting career.
  • What are the benefits of going vegan? Is Rob going to give it a go?
  • How she tuned into her audience’s needs and wants, so she could speak directly to them and shape their transformation.
  • What mistakes copywriters are making in their sales copy – and how to fix it.
  • How can you get paid to make mistakes?
  • How she quickly became known as the cruelty free copywriter in 2022 and scaled her income to $10k months.
  • Her method for working less hours, earning more, and achieving what she’s only heard about on podcasts.
  • What mistakes do copywriters need to avoid to scale their businesses?
  • The simplest way to go about getting testimonials – and something to absolutely avoid.
  • Is there room for copywriters to enter the cruelty free industry? (you’re not going to believe how much it’s worth).
  • How to find clients in the sustainable and cruelty-free industry.
  • What is she doing differently as a strategist and how it helped her land a huge tech client.
  • How The Copywriter Accelerator helped grow and scale her business.

The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:

Join the Accelerator 
Join the Flip the Switch Workshop
The Copywriter Think Tank
Kira’s website
Rob’s website
Topaz’s website
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Free month of Brain.FM
Episode 253


Full Transcript:

Kira Hug:  Could this be the TCC episode that turns Rob Marsh into a vegan? Possibly, or maybe this conversation simply highlights a gigantic opportunity for our community of copywriters and content writers and marketing strategists. We’re talking about a fast-growing industry that is estimated to be worth $7 billion and growing. We’re talking about the plant-based food space and cruelty-free products.


And today, we’re talking with content strategist, cruelty-free copywriter, and our guest on The Copywriter Club podcast today, Topaz Hooper. Topaz chose her niche based on her morals and values. And she’s built a six-figure business out of it.

She’s also managed to snag a huge client that we don’t actually mention in this episode. We never actually name the client. But if you do a quick Google or a quick LinkedIn search of Topaz, you’ll quickly figure out the client that we’re talking about in this conversation. You won’t want to miss everything Topaz is about to share with us.

But first, I have a special guest as my co-host today. So I am so lucky to be here with my co-host, Mike Garner. Mike is an Accelerator alumni member, and a current member of the Think Tank Mastermind. Mike is finishing, about to finish a book, his first book, or did you just finish it, Mike?

Mike Garner:  I’m just finishing the first draft. I’m editing.

Kira Hug:  It’s in editing mode. Mike is also an incredible email copywriter, and we just figured that out after working together on an email sequence recently, with so much talent and so much experience to share with us. So I feel grateful that you’re here, Mike. Is there anything else you want to share that’s really important to know about you before we continue?

Mike Garner:  I feel slightly embarrassed at an introduction like that. I’ve been a copywriter for far too many years than I care to remember. I was a translator before that. And like you said, I fell out of the Accelerator into the think tank because I wanted to build more than just an okay business. And that’s actually happening at the moment.

Kira Hug:  And I’m sure we’re going to talk more about that as we reflect on this conversation with Topaz. First, we like to sponsor our episodes. So this podcast is sponsored by the Copywriter Accelerator program. You’re going to hear a little bit about it in today’s episode. Topaz was a member of the program, Mike as well, like we just mentioned. It’s a business builder that we’re about to kick off in September. It’s an intensive where we work closely with copywriters who want to focus on the business-building aspect of launching or pivoting their copywriting career. And Mike, maybe you can just share one or two sentences about the key benefit from your perspective after having been through the program.

Mike Garner:  I think the main benefit is apart from what you learn and the ability to put everything all in one place, because you could do this on your own, to be quite Frank. It would take you much longer to do. And you’re benefiting from the previous experience of other people. But I think the major, major, major, major benefit is the community. It’s just being able to talk to other people every time things go well or not so well. You’ve always got a large community of people that you can just draw from and give to.

Kira Hug:  Yes. And people, it’s people like Mike, people like Topaz, who you will soon meet. So if you have any interest in the Copywriter Accelerator, don’t wait because we only launch it and run it twice a year. And again, we’re about to start in September. So you can check out a link to explore this opportunity in our show notes and on our website.

Mike Garner:  So let’s get into the interview with Topaz.

Kira Hug:  So Topaz, we’re going to kick this off with your story. How did you end up as a copywriter?

Topaz Hooper:  So first thing, I started writing when I was 11. I knew that writing was my communication of choice since then. I was writing poetry and processing all those 11-year-old feelings that people have. And I realized that I wanted to be a writer. Of course, family, parents, “Oh, aren’t you going to be a doctor or politician or something more useful?” That conversation happened. So it was sort of a windy journey after that.

I decided to go vegan in 2015, and started a plant-based coaching program in 2018 to get more people to go vegan or plant-based. And what happened was I started writing my own copy. I was sort of teaching myself how to write copy. I didn’t have the word for it then. But I did know that I wanted people to enroll in my coaching program. I wanted them to feel comfortable with me. I wanted them to be engaged in my email, and I was just figuring it out.

So in 2018, when my coaching program was starting to get leads, starting to get enrollments, I’m like, “Oh! This writing thing can be more than just poetry.” So after that, when 2020 hit, we all know what happened in 2019-2020, I had that sort of mid-pandemic crisis where I thought, “I think I’m ready to pivot from weird, odd jobs and different avenues to being a full-time writer.”

So I decided at that point to take three months of courses. I really was not knowledgeable about copywriting back in 2020. But I took a bunch of courses, read a bunch of books, joined the Copywriter Club Facebook group, and listened to the podcast. And after three months, I landed my first full-time copywriting role at a supplement company in my city of Boulder, Colorado. So that’s how it all happened. And then I learned on the job, and now I’m here with my own business.

Rob Marsh:  I don’t want to skip over the vegan thing, but you’re sitting here with a pretty decent meat eater. Give me the two-minute pitch on why I need to be eating more veggies, even if I can’t give up meat altogether, what helps me be healthier.

Topaz Hooper:  Here’s my one-sentence pitch. If you want to save the world, go vegan.

Rob Marsh:  There you go.

Topaz Hooper:  I say that because the environmental impacts are tremendous with going vegan. You reduce the amount of animals that are eaten, which means you reduce the amount of methane that’s produced, which means you reduce the amount of water that’s used, which means that you reduce the amount of forests that are cut down. And so there’s environmental impacts to going vegan. That can be really as simple as just having a salad once a day, or choosing to have one meat-free meal. And that simple change can change some of our climate.

You also can change your health. Eating more vegetables and fruits can help you feel better and maybe be nicer like me. I’m nicer with more fruits and vegetables day to day. And that alone might change your relationships, might change how you show up in the world or on podcasts or with friends or family. And that can change how you feel and how other people feel about you, which can change the world. So there’s all kinds of benefits in that way. But for me, it was mostly the lazy environmentalist perspective that got me into it, and a little bit of the health perspective that helps me show up and feel better every day.

Rob Marsh:  I like that. So while I’m thinking about this, if I were to experiment with it and say, “Okay, I want to try it out.” I’m not committed yet, but how long until I start to feel some pretty good effects to say, “Oh yeah. Okay, this is a good thing.” Or if after three weeks I’m still craving bacon, I go back to the old me and destroy the world.

Topaz Hooper: Fortunately, we have bacon alternatives that you may or may not be satisfied with at first. But I think after about a month, you’ll start to feel like, “Okay, I’m feeling a little lighter. My mood’s a little better. That weird ache that I keep having in my back kind of went away.” It starts to have those impacts, I would say, about a month in. But maybe after the first week you might start feeling a little bit lighter. So I would say give it a month, a meat-free month.

Rob Marsh:  I might give it a try. You got me thinking. I’m not ready to commit, but I might do it. We’ll see

Kira Hug:  There’re baby steps. I’m not all the way, but I’m definitely moving in that direction. I think they’re really great chicken alternatives now, which is really cool, beef alternatives, but I haven’t found the bacon alternative that is even … I mean, it doesn’t have to be the same, but even in the same ballpark. So I’m open to your list and your resources and suggestions for that.

Before we move on from this, I guess I’m just curious, in 2015, when you did go vegan? How was that experience for you? What’s it just like, “I’m in, I’m motivated, I’m ripping the bandaid off. This is it.”? Or did you have to ease into it? I feel like I’m easing into it. It’s not just night and day difference for me.

Topaz Hooper:  Totally. I don’t recommend ripping the bandaid off. I was a vegetarian for three years prior to that. So I was already sort of meat-free by pure accident. I live in Colorado. So there’s a lot of beautiful mountains around. You can go hiking. And I decided to go on a 10-day backpacking trip in the mountains.

And of course, when you’re backpacking, you can’t carry anything that needs a refrigerator like cheese, milk, eggs. So I just packed my macaroni and cheese in a box, and kind of dry goods. What that did was it weaned me off of meat for 10 days. And after that trip, I was like, “I kind of feel better.” So that was around 2011, 2012. I became a vegetarian at that point. So I was a vegetarian most of this time, I was still eating cheese and milk and all that stuff later, but no meat.

So in 2015, when I went to VegFest in my then city of Tampa, I’d moved to Tampa at that point, I just saw a really gnarly animal cruelty video. I would definitely say, if you like meat, don’t watch any of those videos. They will really change your mind. And after that I said, “I think I can let go of the rest.”

So my body was already sort of accustomed to no meat. And then in 2015, that’s when I went cold Turkey and said no cheese, no milk, and decided to teach myself how to make almond milk, and teach myself how to make burgers out of black beans, and bacon out of eggplant and all kinds of different things. So that’s how it happened for me. And so this October will be my seventh anniversary as a vegan. How I’m still alive and well, my family does not know. But I still feel like there’s still so much fun to have with eating plant-based.

Rob Marsh:  So I wasn’t intending to turn our podcast interview into the vegan show, but I am curious. As you were coaching and doing that, what did you learn from the coaching experience that applies to what you do as a copywriter today?

Topaz Hooper:  I was learning about the transformation. So I know, as copywriters, many of us are conversion copywriting friends know that you have to show the before and after. What was somebody going through prior to your product or service, and what will they experience after your product or service?

Listening to the coaching calls with my clients at that time, hearing them say, “Listen, I am a working mother. I don’t have time to do all this cooking, or I’ve only eaten meat my whole life. How am I supposed to learn how to make a burger out of black beans?” Learning those struggles helped me shape my copy, helped me understand that saying that you’ll be a healthier vegan is one thing, but showing the transformation of maybe you’ll feel less stressed after you go vegan, maybe your child will also teach you something interesting about vegetables that you may not know.

And so listening to their struggles helped me understand that the transformation is key in almost every copywriting project that I work with now. What is the impact of their struggles? And how can this product or service change them? I think that fundamentally didn’t really hit me at the time until I started my copywriting business, and started really getting into this in 2020. But prior to that, it was becoming clear to me that people want change, and we have to prove it with our copy and with our services, products and actions.

Kira Hug:  Where do you think copywriters or just business owners, in general, go wrong with the transformation and illustrating the transformation? Because sometimes I think we overthink it when it really is simple. It’s before, after.

Topaz Hooper:  I think people promise too much upfront. And that’s what I made the total mistake of too in my business prior to having more clients when I was just writing the copy. I was promising these overnight successes like, “Oh! If you go vegan tomorrow, you’ll feel better on Friday.”

I think that was a mistake. I think some coaches, especially if they’re new, don’t have any case studies about the length of time it would take to show that transformation. So they promise a lot upfront. And if it doesn’t turn out that way, customers, and clients who opted in are a little confused and kind of, I guess, disappointed by the result. And I think it’s important for copywriters, if they’re writing for particularly the coaching niche, but any niche, to just be very clear about what is going to happen. Be pragmatic and honest about what is going to happen, what’s out of our control and what’s in our control.

And so if I were looking back now at my old, former coaching self, I would say don’t promise that someone’s going to lose 50 pounds tomorrow. Promise that they will feel better in some way that they haven’t before. I think that’s more realistic than the numeric. And some people may lose the weight and some people may not. And just not falling into the pit of promising too much upfront.

And then also letting those one on one calls with your clients shine too because sometimes you get information from those one on ones or from those post-program coaching calls that actually improve your copy for the next time, and show you benefits and results that you never thought were possible. So I think being realistic, but also using those testimonials after the program to make your copy more honest.

Rob Marsh:  I like that. So let’s jump to, you got a full-time job as a copywriter working in-house. Tell us about that experience, the kinds of things that you were able to work on, the kinds of feedback that you got. I’m a big proponent of copywriters taking in-house positions because it’s a great way to learn copy. Was that your experience? And tell us how that all came about.

Topaz Hooper:  Yes. I felt so lucky to get paid by someone to teach me. I was learning totally on the job. I’d never written copy officially before. And in that role, I was the first copywriter they had ever hired in-house. They were usually doing contract work with freelancers prior to that, or their marketing manager was doing it all.

They were a bootstrap startup. This might sound familiar to some of the people listening here. That’s the startup scene. People do everything. They have eight hats. There is no delineation between roles. But this was their first investment in a copywriter. So they were really banking on me, and they were really invested in making sure that whatever courses I needed to take, whatever seminars I needed to go to, that I would go to them, they would pay for it, and I could just absorb. That was a treat because I went to some podcasts, some webinars, some sessions that really changed my life, and I was able to take what I learned there home.

So the structure of that company was that there was a brand marketing manager above me, a social media person to my right and a blog writer to my left. We all had totally different roles, but we collaborated very closely with each other’s work. And I found that my copywriting experience really lifted up the social media person and lifted up the blog writer, and gave some sense to our larger funnel.

So I found that being an in-person copywriter was an asset to almost everyone on the team. They were like, “How do I word this better to increase conversions? What’s wrong with my blog post? How come no one is clicking through to the CTA? Or why isn’t this social post engaging people?” And I was able to use my skills in that way to just be a really helpful team member.

I think copywriters who are considering going into full-time roles in their beginning stages of their business have a big advantage in that, using that time to learn, to get paid to learn, to make mistakes, to not get fired from making those mistakes, because usually, it’s more forgiving than starting out freelance and not really having any experience and then having some bad client testimonials.

And so letting that space be your incubator for growth, for development, it was one of the most transformational parts of my journey. And I really have to thank that brand for taking a chance on me because if I were them, I don’t know if I would’ve taken a chance on a three-month copywriter. But that’s just me.

Kira Hug:  And maybe I’m losing track, but that was the first gig that you mentioned that after three months you got the first client. So it was in-house at that point.

Topaz Hooper:  Exactly, yes.

Kira Hug:  And can you fast forward then to today, kind of how your business has grown over the last few years?

Topaz Hooper:  So I was with that brand for almost two years. And I started to see on LinkedIn in December 2021, that there was a crazy amount of copywriter roles on LinkedIn. I realized that the demand for copywriting just soared after the pandemic took off. I think people just realized there was a lot of online presence that they were missing in their business since the pandemic put everyone online. And they were like, “We need to hire copywriters right now.”

So after two years with this brand, I realized that I could do more. But deep in my heart, I knew that I didn’t want to work for another company. I just wanted to run my own thing. I think I’m a solo printer at heart anyway. And so having all my experience, having a great portfolio with this company, and having all the demand for freelance copywriting made me say, “Okay. I think I’m ready to start my LLC.”

So in 2021, I started an LLC and started using my former clients’ work, with permission, to generate my portfolio. And at first, I started out with health and wellness because the company I was working for at that time was a supplement brand, and it made sense to do health and wellness. And then I said, “This isn’t feeling right. I don’t want to sell pills or magic bullets. I want to help people grow their coaching business, or help plant-based providers get more people to drink almond milk, or get more people to buy a cruelty-free beauty product.”

So I branded myself in 2022 as the cruelty-free copywriter. We’re recording this in August. And even after just six months in business, starting everything from scratch, the logo, the colors, the branding, everything, I’ve already hit several 10K per month income wins. And I’m on track to make six figures by the end of the year. All of that while totally taking a leap on my business, not being totally sure it was all going to work out, being a solo entrepreneur with almost no help, and not burning myself out at the end. Interestingly enough, I work less hours than I did before, I sleep more, and I have so much more free time than I thought I would as a solo printer.

So at this point in my business, I’m just serving plant-based, cruelty-free vegan businesses who are looking to make an impact. And that’s clean beauty, sustainable fashion, and plant-based consumer packaged goods. So it’s been a dream. I feel like I get to work with the clients I love, and I get to make the kind of money that I’ve only heard of on podcasts like this one.

Rob Marsh:  Like this one, like you’re talking about. So let’s dig into the money bit just a little bit. If you’re willing to share, how much were you making roughly working in-house?

Topaz Hooper:  In-house, I started with 36,000. After one year, I negotiated 48,000. And then I was like, “I think I can make more.” And now I’m on track to make six figures this year.

Rob Marsh:  So in two years, you’ve gone from 36,000 to being on track for six figures, which is … I mean, that’s life-changing.

Topaz Hooper:  Totally. I mean, I’m one of the many millennials that went to school and got student loan debt and felt that I couldn’t buy a house and I couldn’t do certain things. And now having a business that works for me and makes me this amount of money really allows me to manifest all the things that I want to do. And just the level of freedom with that is immeasurable, even if it doesn’t have the safety net of a full-time business.

Rob Marsh:  So I imagine a lot of people are listening and thinking, “Okay, I want to do that.” Walk us through, at least … I mean, I’m guessing you’ve probably identified two or three things that you’ve done in your business that have allowed you to go from 36 to a hundred thousand plus in a two-year period. What are those things?

Topaz Hooper:  Oh boy! I think running a lean and mean machine is the best way to do it for me. I liked the idea of being a solo printer because if there wasn’t any money coming in, I was the only one that was affected. I liked that part of it. I didn’t want to be an employer to anybody. So I didn’t want to go the agency route. I think when you start a business, I think being lean and mean at the beginning is really, really great.

And so for me, I started by just investing in my skills. All of my income either went to savings, or to investing in courses, or going to the Copywriter Club in real life, or investing in masterminds. They were just personal development because those were going to increase my income more than really almost any other investment at that time.

So I would say for copywriters, who were just getting started, they’re like, “I want to hit that six-figure mark.” I would say, starting with yourself, investing in yourself is going to be the biggest payoff at the very beginning, even if it’s just $100 a month or $200 a month on courses. Whatever you can do to make yourself competitive in the market, I think is going to really help you. It helped me. Also, if you’re broke like I was at the beginning, all those free Skillshare courses and Coursera and all the kind of sleazy lead magnet opt-ins on Facebook that I went into were great sources of knowledge for free that helped me build the skills to become a good copywriter.

I would also say one thing that most people don’t think about at the beginning is building relationships. I would say at the beginning, my priority wasn’t to make money. It was to build friendships with clients that I would love to work with. I was like going to all their events, introducing myself to the CEOs, being super, super kind, super giving, buying their products, if I was able to, vouching for them on social media.

And that level of fandom really helped them say, “This person’s serious about me. I think I want to return the favor. Are you a copywriter? I heard you were.” And even if you were a super new person, just building that relationship can pay off in the long run if you’re brand brand new. And so that was another investment that I made that wasn’t financial. It was just a business development piece.

And one final thing, I would say, I’m not a huge fan of doing work for free, but I am a fan of offering to do work for brands you really, really love, and letting them know that if they like what you did, you’re available for more. I think building a portfolio is really important when you’re first starting out, because if you can’t get some examples under your belt, it’s going to be hard to pitch the bigger businesses or the bigger brands that you really, really want to work with.

And so there were a couple of times that I offered to help a friend update their website or an artist make their art descriptions, or help my former teacher write a letter to her colleagues, something very simple. But it really helps to build the portfolio so that when you’re ready to start pitching higher clients, you have something to show for it. And so I would say those don’t cost too much money, those three steps, but they are what helped me scale to six figures. That portfolio, those relationships and investing in my education and skill set.

Kira Hug:  Well, let’s talk about the flip side of it. What are some mistakes you made along the way if you’re open to sharing? What would you warn others who are trying to build a six-figure business not to do, maybe? I’m curious.

Topaz Hooper:  Don’t undercharge. I know it sounds so simple, but when you’re new, you don’t have, or at least I didn’t have the confidence to say, “No. That blog post is $400 a piece.” I was so scared of even the $50 no that I sold myself short early. I think new copywriters if they have a portfolio and something to show, they should look at the competitive prices of their coworkers or their fellow copywriters and see what other people are charging for their work.

I think selling yourself short can cause you to burn out early. And that’s what I did. I was writing a bunch of things for $50 each. I was burning out because I couldn’t write enough 600-word articles, or enough website copy to make ends meet. And I think the confidence to raise my rates to something that was competitive with other copywriters but also spoke to the value of what I was providing, helped me have one or two clients and pay my bills for the entire month, with excess savings.

And so I think that’s the real secret in that way, is to find somewhere deep inside, the confidence or the mentorship or the friends or the colleagues or the coworkers, that’ll affirm for you that your rates are worthy or that you should raise them. I have a copywriter friend recently who said that she does social media captions, and she charges $1,200 a month for a retainer. And an agency she was pitching really low-balled here. And she was feeling like, “Oh my gosh! Am I charging too much?” And I really had to be that copywriter friend for her and said, “No, you’re not charging too much. You’ve been doing this for five years. You show results for your clients. They love your work. You’re not. Don’t let them guess at you.”

And so I think copywriters, like myself, early on need to just have that confidence to say it hurts, but I’m going to raise my rates $100 this month, or I’m going to raise my rate $400 this year, and just face that. Face the urge to not do it. That was one thing that took me forever to do.

And then another thing I would make the mistake of doing is I pleased a lot of clients, but I never got testimonials. Yikes. Testimonials are so important, I now realize. Now my page is full of a bunch of testimonials. I’m like, “Write them all on my LinkedIn. I want everyone to see them.” Collect testimonials if you can, because once the client is gone, it’s been two years, three years, especially if they were a one-time client, they don’t really remember how they felt about the work. They don’t really remember you, maybe. And it’s going to be hard to get that testimonial later. So get them as soon as you can, when they’re hot, when the client’s happy, when they’re in the mood and store them up.

Rob Marsh:  Do you have secrets, Topaz, for gathering up the testimonials? What’s that pitch to your client look like?

Topaz Hooper:  Oh boy! It’s not as original. I would just say, I had one client who I’ve worked with many of their marketing managers prior and they had a lot of turnover. So I felt like I was asking different managers for the same testimonial. But I said, “I’ve written X amount for you all, or I’ve done this amount of copy for you. I hope it’s converting. I’m just wondering if you would be able to take a few moments to write a LinkedIn testimonial for me. It would really help me out.”

I don’t think you have to be creative or clever to get those testimonials. I just think we have to remember to not forget. And so even though I worked with many marketing managers from this company, I was able to get four really glowing reviews from four of them. And so I think it’s important just to not forget.

And I would send an email. I wouldn’t do it on social media. I think it’s better if you collect the testimonial in text versus video, that’s my opinion. But I know many copywriters prefer video testimonials. I think they’re powerful. But I think texts can be really great too. So however you get it, get it. But I think it’s lower hanging fruit for businesses to write you a written one than to get on a call with you and do a video one. They would have to really, really love you to do that. And if you can get them, great. So I would just say, don’t forget. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Just be sure to follow up.

Kira Hug:  Let’s break in here. Mike, what stood out the most to you as we worked through this first part of the interview?

Mike Garner:  I think lots of people that I’ve known in the past have become copywriters and specialized, but Topaz did it other way around really. Was a coach who became a vegan, and then … Or war plant-based and then started writing her own copy and thought, started getting results and thought, “Well, I’m quite good at this. Let’s do it a bit more and a bit more.” And eventually just segued into being a copywriter in her own right. And then finding kind of a wonderful niche that is very profitable at the moment.

Kira Hug:  And I think her niche is based on her values, and principles, morals. And we talk a lot about niching on the podcast and in all of our programs. And there are so many different ways you can do it. I think it’s actually a creative process, which is probably why I like talking about it because there’s no one way to do it. And you don’t have to just simply niche down based on the deliverable or even on an industry. A lot of copywriters say, “Well, I like variety. I don’t just want to work with one industry.” And you don’t have to.

And so it’s also great to start to see more examples because we don’t see quite as many, but I think this will change, examples of copywriters who are niching down based primarily on their values. There are other ways they’re niching down. It still could be the problem they’re solving, and maybe a deliverable that they’re creating. But this is part of the conversation, which I think is … Tony has a great example of this other way that you can niche down.

Mike Garner:  And I can’t help feeling as well when you do niche down in terms of your values and what you know, it’s much easier to do rather than choosing a random sector that you know a little bit perhaps, or you may or may not believe in that much. If it comes from the inside, that makes it more genuine and easier to do.

Kira Hug:  And it’s easier to do that because you are already a customer in that space. So it’s so much easier for Topaz to attend these conferences and be part of these different communities because she’s already in, she already is a community member. She already would attend those events anyway. And now she can just integrate it into business. And it makes it feel more natural and seamless. And so I think, especially for anyone who’s trying to figure out the next niche that is worth exploring, starting with what are you already purchasing on a regular basis? Starting there is an easier way of looking at it.

Mike Garner:  It’s the best way of understanding the mindset of your potential customers, really, getting into their heads, because if you are already there anyway, then there’s no jump to make.

Kira Hug:  And Mike, because we’re talking about niching, how have you approached it? What’s worked for you> what hasn’t worked for you?

Mike Garner:  To be honest, I’m still in that process. I’m on values as well. I haven’t entirely worked out. I mean, I know kind of the value is I want to base my issue at the moment, which I’m working through, I’ve worked through in Think Tank and then … Sorry, in the Accelerator and in Think Tank as well, getting there, slowly is actually identifying the clients, which is part of the process.

Kira Hug:  But you have also niched down based on some of the deliverables and the problems that you’re solving. Even more recently, it’s been clear.

Mike Garner:  Oh! I see what you mean. Yes, certainly. It’s in terms of voice. And because I found a lot of people, when they get down to writing things, I have no idea what they want to say, and they’ve no idea how to be genuine. So they kind of trot out the standard cookie-cutter type copy. And it kind of works, but it’s not genuine. And what I’m really interested in is people that look at their stories and use them as a starting point, because sometimes people think, “Why would anybody be interested in what I’ve got to say?” And actually, people are.

Kira Hug:  And going back even to Topaz’s story of just going vegan, I really appreciated the quote she shared when Rob was like, “Okay. Pitch me on why I should go vegan.” And Topaz said, “If you want to save the world, go vegan.” And to me, I mean, it’s hard to argue. It’s hard to argue with that. And-

Mike Garner:  It’s a good one-liner.

Kira Hug:  It’s a great one-liner. And so I know we talked a little bit about the process, and how I’m trying to go in that direction, but I’m not fully there. And I just appreciate those conversations when we can be open about wanting to make changes, and wanting transformations in our lives. But it’s not just easy. You can’t just flip a switch and make that, for most people. Some people can. But flip a switch. One day, you’re eating meat, and the next day you’re full-on vegan. So I appreciate that Topaz was able to share her story of how she got there, but it wasn’t overnight.

Mike Garner:  No. These things never are, I don’t think. Like you said, it’s a process.

Kira Hug:  And Mike, what else stood out for you in this part of the conversation?

Mike Garner:  The mistakes that copywriters make, that we all make, in terms of the writing that we do is promising too much upfront because there’s a tendency among copywriters to say, “Do this, and this will happen immediately, and all your problems will be solved and everything.” But we know the world isn’t like that.

A lot of copy has to manage expectations in many ways. And people these days, I think, appreciate when you are honest. You’re not going to have a miracle cure if you take this magic pill. The miracle cure might take a while. You might get the cure, but it might not happen straight away, if you’re super to me.

So in terms of the actual promises you make, just be realistic about them. And I think that’s the major mistake that a lot of, not even just beginner copywriters, make. I think marketing and copywriting is changing over the last few years. And you can’t do this kind of pile high, sell cheap type everything anymore. It doesn’t work. And customers will appreciate honesty from whatever thing they’re looking to purchase. That’s not to say you should do it down. You are making your promises, but you’re making your promises honestly.

Kira Hug:  And that was a really good reframe for me in that part of the conversation with Topaz, because as a marketer, like all of us, I’m all about the big promise. And oftentimes, we’re talking to other copywriters. It’s like, “Well, what is your promise?” Because oftentimes it’s not specific enough, it’s not big enough. And I do think there’s something to this where, “Okay, what is the smallest, what is the tiniest promise you could make that you know you can stand behind, and it’s believable, and it’ll help your customer gain that momentum?” And then more as possible after that. So I think it’ll help to think about it in terms of tinier promises that are more believable and feel better all around, rather than always feeling like we have to go so big.

Mike Garner:  Then you can make a little promise, incremental promises almost, especially if you’re doing it over a sequence of emails, for example. You can break your promises down because sometimes the promises just sound too big to be credible.

Kira Hug:  And while we’re talking about mistakes, another mistake that top has mentioned, and I think many of us struggle with this, is charging too little. And so she mentioned that she has some copywriter buddies, and you mentioned community and the importance of community and the Copywriter Accelerator. This is where having a community can really help, whether it’s a couple people, whether it’s more than that, but a couple of other copywriters, content creators, who understand our space well enough to be able to advise.

It doesn’t mean they have to have all the answers, but they’re in our world. It’s not necessarily our best friend who’s working in a different industry. It’s not necessarily our partner who does not understand marketing. But having those people you can go to and say, “Hey, I’m about to send this proposal. Can you take a quick look? I need a gut check on what I’m about to charge.”

Especially if you feel like you consistently undercharge, it’s so important to share your proposal with someone before you hit send, because that one step can increase your return on investment, and increase that return dramatically. And so I think that’s something that Topaz is doing. It’s working well. I’ve seen it work well behind the scenes with other copywriters that have asked me to look at proposals. But it’s worth doing that if you know this is a consistent problem in your business.

Mike Garner:  I do think if there’s one thing that trips copywriters up almost the most is pricing. And having somebody to be able to talk about it too is just invaluable because whatever the reasons are, we don’t want to upset clients or something, but we have great trouble understanding our value. And one of the big advantages of community is kind brushing your ego almost. It’s saying, “Yes, I am good at this. And yes, I am worth this.” So having a community of people to talk to is just invaluable as well on that particular, particularly on pricing because none of us price enough.

Kira Hug:  And the last point I want to hit on before we wrap is we talked a little bit about how Topaz has been able to build her network and find clients. And she mentioned attending events, attending industry events. And now that events are back, this is such a great way to find clients in a way that feels natural. And it’s clearly working for Topaz. So I think it’s just another reminder of how important it is to find an event where your customers, your clients are hanging out, and your industry is there or they’re people who share similar values and that they could be potential clients.

And so that’s different for everyone. And sometimes it’s hard to travel. There’s not always a budget for travel. It’s hard to take time away. But it might be worth just looking at one event per year where it’s the right people in the right room, and you can show up and build five relationships that could turn into future work.

Mike Garner:  Completely, because it is a long game, networking. You’d be very lucky to come out of it … I mean, I’ve done an awful lot of networking over the years. And you’d be very lucky to come out of an event with a job in your hand. There’s going to be the first conversation, the second conversation, the third conversation. And it could take months, even years sometimes. But doing the groundwork, going to events, meeting people, just sitting down and having a cup of coffee with them, just talking about nothing in particular, it’s all about getting to know people on a human level.

Kira Hug:  And make sure if you have coffee with Mike that you do not put milk in it. This is what I have learned. This is what I have learned about you, Mike. No milk.

Mike Garner:  No milk. Sorry.

Kira Hug:  All well. Let’s get back into our interview to hear a lot more about what’s happening in the cruelty-free industry. I would love updates, just kind of what’s happening in the trends that are happening in the cruelty-free space. I know especially in beauty and sustainable fashion, just share with us where marketing is in that space? Where do you see opportunities for other copywriters?

Topaz Hooper:  Amazing. So plant-based foods are selling for billions this year. As of 2020, it was an industry that was estimated to be $7 billion worth of revenue. That’s almond milk, vegan meat, vegan bacon in there, plant-based cheeses and so on. And it turns out it’s not as niche as we might think. Some 35% of Americans are looking for plant-based alternatives. And that includes my meat-eating boyfriend, who loves all things prosciutto, and parmesan and salmon, but loves to drink almond milk from time to time.

So this is a big indicator for copywriters that this is a highly profitable industry. But there’s not that many people that are niched in it. So a lot of these brands hire in-house copywriters and sort of form them into copywriters for their brand. But if you were a freelancer and you were the vegan copywriter, or like me, the cruelty-free copywriter, you’re kind of at a competitive advantage in this billion-dollar industry.

So I decided, with my morals and my values, that this was the best niche for me. I would also say too that outside of food, some 73% of people are looking to support cruelty-free brands, even if their parent company isn’t cruelty-free. If a beauty brand is launching a brand new plant baseline that’s cruelty-free, consumers would likely be interested even if the parent company has had some controversial history in their previous beauty formulations.

And so at this point, consumerism is moving in the direction of clean beauty, plant-based foods, fashion that doesn’t pollute the environment or is made of natural, plant-based materials like cactus leather, or apple or mango leather. These are the kinds of things that are growing and there’s not enough copywriters to fill those roles. I see it all the time on LinkedIn. Clean beauty copywriter or copywriter for plant-based CPG brands. And of course, I’m one person. There’s no way I could do all of that. But if there were more copywriters in this niche, there’s definitely enough for everybody.

So that’s what I’m seeing. As far as the copy goes, I think it’s beneficial to know who buys these things. Yes, my boyfriend is a millennial. But the gen Z generation is taking over the plant-based cruelty-free market. They’ve sort of inherited a lot of environmental issues from previous generations. And this gen Z group is looking to use consumerism and activism and work with conscious brands to sort write the wrongs of previous gen or previous groups.

And so it’s a great opportunity that if you’re a copywriter who speaking to gen Z, you like TikTok, you like the channels that gen Z are on, you understand maybe their gripes with the environment, or their gripes with the economy, or their gripes with the food system, then you might be able to speak to their needs really well in this niche.

And so I find it fun for me. The cruelty-free niche has a lot of memes. It has a lot of humor. It has a lot of activism involved and that really keeps me connected to this generation as a millennial. So I think there’s a great opportunity here for copywriters who want to work with brands that make an impact that are environmentally friendly, sustainable, against animal cruelty, people really making an impact and step into a copywriting role that’s ever-changing and exciting.

Rob Marsh:  So while we’re talking about the opportunities for this industry, how do you connect with clients in the industry? Are you pitching? Are you going to events? Are you reaching out online? How do you identify the clients in your niche?

Topaz Hooper:  Oh, that’s such a great question. I have a few ways of generating leads, primarily through relationship building. I know that’s a long way of doing it, but it seems to pay off more. So for me, I like to go to conferences. For example, this October, there’s the vegan fashion summit happening in Los Angeles. That’s where all my vegan, plant-based, sustainable fashion brands will be. And I bought the most expensive VIP ticket so that I could be in the rooms with these people, build relationships, get my card out there and show them that I understand and care about their niche. That’s what I like to do.

Also sometimes I like to pay these people a visit. So I was in Mexico City a few months ago. And I realized that there’s a bunch of sustainable fashion brands in Mexico City. Cactus leather is a really big thing. A lot of brands are making it. And I looked up a brand near me on Instagram that makes cactus leather. And it just so happened they were in Mexico City. So I reached out to them on Instagram and said, “Hey, I’ve been a fan. I follow you guys. I love your work. Any chance I can visit your studio?” They’re like, “Absolutely, come over.” They’re eCommerce brands. So of course they don’t engage with people face-to-face very often. So it’s kind of exciting.

I walk into their small studio, it’s a two-person operation, but they feel like they’re a big brand. And they’re so honored to have me in their room that they give me a great bag for a discount. They’re like, “Just share this with people.” After that session, I took home the bag. I shared it on social media. They really engaged with me. And now the founder wants to have an Instagram live with me.

That’s a really small accomplishment. But what I’m doing is building trust with the brands, because a lot of the time, in my personal experience, when I pitch, it falls hollow. Brands know that I’m just there for the money, or I’m just there to tell them what they want to hear. Maybe my values aren’t really there. But when I show up at their fashion show, at their studio, I connect with the CEO, I build a relationship, I’m more like a friend and someone that they can come to when they need me versus someone just looking for work. And so that’s a long-term strategy. But it’s paid off dividends. At this point, I’ve had clients now, retainers for years, that I’ve built a relationship with and they know me and trust me. And that’s how I like to do it.

If it’s a brand new business that I’m kind of Facebook stalking, I’ll use my social media as a way to promote them. So I’ll follow them, I’ll purchase one of their products with my business card, and I’ll put a photo and say, “This is the best cruelty-free sunscreen I’ve ever had.” The brand notices. They get interested. They notice that I’m a copywriter. They just put it into their back pocket at this point. They don’t really know they need one yet. And two months later, when their copywriter decides to leave, I’m the first one that they think of.

So things like that are not so aggressive, but I find that they produce longer-term, trustworthy retainer clients that don’t want to low-ball you because they understand that you’re more like a colleague or a friend, and not quite someone just to provide the service and throw away. So that’s been my success tip. Part of my 10K months are retainer. Actually, 90% of them are retainer clients and only a few are one-offs. And I think as copywriters, that’s how we can build our businesses long term is to maintain those relationships, keep the retainer clients happy, and help them grow their brands and be there along the way.

Kira Hug:  I was actually going to ask you about the 10K, how do you get there every month? So can you talk more about your retainers, how you structure them? We’ve had many conversations on this podcast about different ways to structure retainers. How do you do it so that you don’t burn out and that you maintain your boundaries?

Topaz Hooper:  Most of my retainers have the same deliverable every month. They need a certain amount of emails every month. They need a certain amount of articles every month. They need a certain amount of social media content every month. They need something every single month. And so how I structure it is they know every 17th of the month I have their deliverable. But every first Tuesday, we have our meeting and it’s scheduled. It’s scheduled all throughout. They know the dates in which I will have drafts, they know the dates in which things will be finalized, they know that they know how many revisions we will have and I stick to their deadlines. That’s typically how I do it. I keep everything scheduled.

So all of my retainer clients have time on my calendar until the end of the year. And it’s just theirs and they know it. And I know how long it takes me to write a new web page, or a new landing page that’s coming up, or a new sales page. And because I’m familiar with these brands, I know their voice, their tone, their products in and out. I know who they speak to, who their audience is. And so the learning curve is reduced when they’re a retainer. You don’t have to learn a new audience every month. You know exactly who you’re talking to, and it can make the time to do that work efficiently.

So for me, I used to work with a client that asked me to produce a couple of things a month, and that took me three hours a piece. Now it takes me one hour a piece. And my rates have only gone up. So while my rates have gone up, the time it’s taken me to learn the brand, to write the copy, to do the work, to edit has decreased, which has allowed me to save my time and increase my income.

But again, I think that’s partially because I don’t have the learning curve of having a brand new client every month that I have to talk to, and learn, and figure out and all that. We all know each other very, very well and we can make it efficient.

So at this point, I have three or four retainer clients every month, and maybe a new person sprinkled in once in a while. And those retainer clients keep me on their payroll. They pay me every month at the same time, and we meet every month at the same time. So that’s how I maintain that 10 K consistently. And of course, it fluctuates if a random job comes in. But most of the time it stays the same.

Rob Marsh:  So while we’re talking about these, I know one of your retainer clients is a large technology company. I don’t know if you’re allowed to say their name or not. But I’m curious how you made that connection and scored yourself a year-long contract with literally one of the largest tech companies in the world a lot of us would dream of working with. How did you go about scoring that kind of a contract?

Topaz Hooper:  Awesome. I won’t reveal the big tech company, but we all know of this company and we all have used this company’s services in some way, shape or form. I scored this brand purely by having a great LinkedIn profile. I used my time on LinkedIn to update my profile, and used the correct words that brands are looking for.

I changed my title from copywriter to copywriter and content strategist. People are looking for strategists. And I know that strategy was a skill that I had, but I didn’t own it before. So when I updated my profile on LinkedIn to include the word strategist, that’s when a lot of tech companies, not just this one, we’re like, “We’re looking for a strategist. We’re looking for a strategist.” This one had a recruitment officer come and approach me. They looked through my profile and said, “This company’s looking for someone like you. Would you be interested in doing a contract?

At this point, I didn’t have any expectations for getting it. I’m like, “This is a very competitive company. A lot of people wait years, months, and perhaps never get an opportunity to even see the inside of this company. Let’s see.” I had low expectations. But I went through the process. It took about a month, five interviews, and I scored a six-month contract as a strategist.

This was a big deal because as we all know, and I think Rob, you work with a lot of tech companies too, the pay for tech companies is really high. And if you’re a freelancer and you’re doing things on this side, it can really make your other work feel less stressful when you have one big tech client to pay most of your bills. So that’s how that happened. And I went from working 40 hours a week for 36K to working much less hours with my contract tech company and doubling that, or nearly tripling that, just with the contract client alone.

And so it’s been amazing. This client is so dedicated to people. I know it sounds strange because most of the time we think tech companies are kind of evil and not really interested in humans, and they just kind of want to make money. But this tech company really wants users to feel like they’re useful. They really want to be helpful. And that was really nice for me to go into a company thinking, “Oh, it’s probably just for money.” And it was so much more genuine than that.

So that surprised me and humbled me as a copywriter who is kind of focused on the sales. I’m focused on the sales. I need to get the sales. But to work with a company that said, “Listen, we’re going to make sales anyway. What we really want you to do is make sure that our customers feel really seen here, really supported, really acknowledged, really cared for in our space.” And so that was a really great experience.

And this company just so happens to be really great at SEO. And so I’ve learned the secrets of SEO that have given me a competitive advantage in my copywriting business too. So this is another great example of how contracts or full-time roles can teach you something that you can get paid to learn something that makes you more competitive. So I’ve been with this company for eight months. My contract ends very soon, in December. But trust me, I would love to renew.

Kira Hug:  Well, so many questions about this. I’m paying attention to the time though. So as a strategist, what are you doing as a strategist that may be different from what other copywriters are doing who are not showing up as a strategist?

Topaz Hooper:  I would say strategists are looking at the bigger picture. They’re almost in a content or copy manager role, almost like a brand marketing manager role. They have to see the bigger picture of sales, but also analytics, the funnel. Why a customer may or may not want to engage with a product or service. They have to think about what a VP of marketing might … What might keep a VP of marketing up at night? They also have to keep those pieces into their brain as well as execute them.

I think copywriters can sometimes get stuck in the execution phase. And I’m totally guilty of this, where someone else has thought about the angle, someone else has given you the pitch, someone else has given you the brief with what you should say and what you shouldn’t say. And you don’t really have to think about it. You can just execute on the copy. You can just write what they ask you to write.

But a strategist has to go above and beyond and think a little bit harder about it. And I think the consequences are harsher too. If your strategy doesn’t work, clients aren’t super happy with you. But if you’re a copywriter and your copy doesn’t work, you can tweak it, edit it. It’s not as intense.

And so I would say even though a strategist role might be a little bit more competitive, intense, difficult, more brain heavy. I think it’s a really valuable asset to bring with your copywriting skill set because you become a knowledge house. You begin to know the full funnel of how a customer might be introduced to a brand, all the way down to the checkout. And I think that can make any copywriter more competitive.

And if you’re already doing strategy as a copywriter, put that on your LinkedIn profile. Say that you’ve helped a client think through a campaign that they were struggling with, and had amazing sales from, or that you’ve done some email strategy. Definitely put that S-word there because that’s what many businesses and brands are looking for. They’re looking for you to be an executor, but also a mastermind of their brand.

Kira Hug:  I’m going to go do that right now. Y’all stay tight. I’m going to go on LinkedIn and add strategists to my title.

Rob Marsh:  That’s right. As soon as you mention that, Topaz, I envisioned half of our listening audience jumping on to LinkedIn to update their titles, and what they do. So I know we’re going to run out of time here, and I really would love to hear a little bit of … I mean, you mentioned, when we first started talking, that you did all these courses, as you started to launch your business. And one of those courses was the Copywriter Accelerator. And obviously, we like talking about it because it’s one of the things that we do. But talk specifically about the impact that had on your business. What are the things that you took away from that have helped you?

Topaz Hooper:  Awesome question. The Accelerator changed my life. For a while, I was so scared to invest because I’m looking at the price. I’m a new copywriter. I’m nervous. I don’t know if it’ll pay off. But something in my gut kept bringing me back to the landing page of the Accelerator. And I’m like, “If I really want to do this business thing, I just need to go for it. I just need to go for it.”

So I found the money somewhere and enrolled. And for me, it was so powerful to have Rob and Kira to be live to answer those questions. All of us, all the people in our cohort, had so many questions. And some of them, I thought, “These are silly questions.” But then the answers were so articulate and helpful that I’m like, “Wow! I can ask these two people anything.” So having access to you two as experts was so awesome for me. It changed my understanding of what I know and don’t know. And I think that’s helpful for a new copywriter.

Another thing that helped me and transform me was the niching conversation. I know some people like to be generalists. Some people like to niche. I am definitely in the niching camp. I think doing the Accelerator and learning, walking through with Kira and Rob, my unique voice, my unique interest, my unique skill set, and tailoring that into a niche that I really wanted to do, empowered me to seek those clients that I wanted to work with, and also get the reward for my expertise that I really needed. That was powerful financially, personally, morally, economically, in all the ways.

We also had that conversation about raising rates. I shared that earlier, but definitely that conversation happens in the Accelerator. Raise your rates today. That’s a transformational thing to tell to a new copywriter who’s nervous, and scared, and doesn’t have a portfolio, and isn’t sure if they deserve a certain rate for their work. And so the accelerator gave me the confidence to raise my rates, to be honest about my value and my worth, and to be in a group of people who also were clapping for me that I did something that was really scary, but good for my business.

And the accelerator also had a session on processes. Changed my life as well. Getting my processes together, onboarding customer service, invoice protocols, getting my project management software nailed down, all those things are fundamentals that we may not know as a new copywriter that the Accelerator really helped me shape my brain around, and has made my customer service onboarding process with clients so much smoother than it was before. I think the Accelerator gives you the boundaries, the know-how, the skills, the honesty to not make those silly mistakes and to catapult a business into a really professional place.

And so for me, I wouldn’t have made my first 10K month, or be on track to be six figures this year without the Accelerator. It was super crucial to my growth and development. And I would definitely recommend to any copywriter who is kind in that middle phase, they’ve already started their business, they know they have the skillset, they just haven’t professionalized yet, to consider the Accelerator. It’s such a great value for what you get in the long run.

Kira Hug:  Thank you for all of that. I’m going to pull it in as voice of customer and add it to the sales page. It was just beautiful, elegant, well said. And it’s been incredible just to see you take off in your business in this niche in this growing industry that’s so exciting and world-changing. So it’s been so cool. I’m curious what’s next for you? What are you excited about? It feels like there’s so many opportunities. What are you most excited about?

Topaz Hooper:  I am most excited about really getting deep into sustainable fashion. I’m so obsessed with apple leather boots and cactus leather purses, and-

Kira Hug:  I love them.

Topaz Hooper:  They’re so fabulous. They’re so fabulous. And I’ve always been interested in fashion, but I’ve never been a copywriter for a fashion brand. And so for me, having a lot more expertise in that area is the next step for me getting really deep into sustainable fashion, building relationships with brands who are really trying to make sustainable footwear or sustainable clothing, and really getting those goods into the hands of people and reducing the amount of waste we have with our current fashion industry. I would love to do that, and just really get more people in touch with the benefits of sustainable fashion.

And I would also love to get my first full-time social media manager. Not full-time, let me say part-time contract social media manager and free myself up to write more. That is the short-term goal in the next six months to one year.

Kira Hug:  You might have some social media managers that reach out to you after this episode.

Rob Marsh:  That’s right. I might have to track myself … I don’t wear a lot of leather, but an apple leather belt or something like that, I might have to track that down.

Kira Hug:  You can’t eat it. You can’t eat it.

Topaz Hooper:  It’s not very tasty, no.

Rob Marsh:  Nevermind then. Nevermind. So Topaz, if somebody wants to connect with you, hang out with you, find out more about the cruelty-free niche, where should they go? What can they do?

Topaz Hooper:  So anyone that’s interested can visit me on my website. That’s, all one word, or you can find me on Instagram @crueltyfreecopywriter, and LinkedIn at The Cruelty Free Copywriter too.

Rob Marsh:  It’s like you own the niche. You’re the person there.

Topaz Hooper:  Yeah, I own it. I was surprised to see that nobody had stolen that word or those three words, cruelty-free copywriter. I was like, “I need to get this right now.” It’s such a great name. And so I own that. And you can find me anywhere on those platforms at cruelty-free copywriter.

Rob Marsh:  Awesome. Thank you.

Kira Hug:  Thank you so much Topaz. We appreciate you. And thank you. And that’s the end of our interview with Topaz Hooper. Before we jump into LinkedIn and add a new title, add strategist to our LinkedIn profiles, thank you Topaz, there are a couple of things worth noting, worth highlighting. So Mike, why don’t you kick it off? What resonated with you from this?

Mike Garner:  The cruelty-free industry has really ballooned in the last five or 10 years. It’s now, in the US at least, a $7 billion industry, which is quite difficult to conceive in terms of the actual numbers. And it’s a room where a lot of the copywriters can just jump right in because there’s not many in the space even now. Where is this niche moving? It can only get bigger really now because, and it’s not just in the food sector, which is moving beyond all recognition. But it’s non-food. And we were talking about Apple-derived products or cactus, or I mean, there’s all kinds of other things that the technology is just, I find it, mind-blowing. It’s science fiction as far as I’m concerned. And who knows where it’s going to go in the next five years?

Kira Hug:  I mean, it seems like part of this is paying attention, I mean, not only to your own purchasing habits, which we mentioned earlier. What am I purchasing? And again, even though I’m not vegan, we end up purchasing a lot of plant-based foods, just because I’m curious. And most of the time I’m curious. I’m like, “How could this possibly taste like chicken? I’m going to order it and see what it takes like.” And then I get it. I’m like, “This is really good. And so-

Mike Garner:  Never tried it.

Kira Hug:  It’s paying attention to your own purchasing history and those patterns. And not to say that one person represents every single customer in that space, but also having conversations with friends, family members, paying attention to what’s happening outside of your bubble to understand the trends and what’s happening outside of it. And I think even just listening to this conversation with Topaz is such a great reminder that this is going to continue to grow as there’s more and more demand, and there’s more education in this space around the benefits to our planet and to our health.

And so it’s worth paying attention to these industries that are booming and taking off. And we talked about blockchain with Joel a couple of episodes ago. That’s one that is exciting because it’s taking off. And this is another one that I think it’s worth paying attention to, especially if it calls to you because Topaz is one of the few copywriters that has really niched down in this space, and is really owning it. So there’s so much room for so many of us to start working in this space too.

Mike Garner:  I’m not sure. Even that understates the importance of it, because it’s not just millennials and gen Zs. It’s kind of old boomers like me that are certainly far more aware of what we’re consuming, the plastic that we use. Right across the spectrum, the world is changing and the market is responding to that, I think. It’s people led rather than market-led.

Kira Hug:  And I think that’s so exciting. I can get really depressed. I mean, we can have a whole episode about existential crisis and where we’re all going. But I think the exciting part that pulls me out of complete depression is all these solutions that are coming to the forefront. And these are solutions … I mean, because we’re talking about plant-based products today, this is so exciting and gives me hope. And also as a copywriter and marketer, it’s such a great opportunity. Selfishly, it’s like, “This is a great opportunity for all of us.”

When people say, “Well, what’s going to happen to copywriting? Are the robots taking over?” No. We can pay attention to this space and the way that the market’s changing so that we can jump in as copywriters and serve these audiences and these brands that need help with their messaging. So I think this is an exciting opportunity.

Mike Garner:  You’re right. I mean, certainly, someone of my age would be very kind of easy for me to think, “Oh, woe is me. What’s the world coming to?” But to be quite Frank, I’d love to be 30 years younger than I am now, apart from for the obvious reasons, just because of everything that’s going on, because I’d love to see where it’s going to be in 30 years if I make it. It’s a wonderful time to be alive.

Kira Hug:  I’m going to give a book shout-out because I feel like it fits in here. But I’m currently reading William MacAskill’s What We Owe the Future, which is also a helpful way of looking at future generations to come and thinking … And it’s helpful for people, again, like me who can feel very depressed about many things that are happening. And it gives a more positive reframe about what we can do to make a change and affect generations to come.

Mike Garner:  I think we as writers, we are in a position of responsibility as well. It’s almost our duty to carry this message to the world.

Kira Hug:  I think about that a lot because I’m like, “Am I doing enough with what I’ve got? And is it copywriting? Is it what I’m currently doing?” And I often come back to I do believe that copywriters are so important as we change and evolve because we are the messengers. We can communicate better than anyone. And that’s what we need now is communication because the change is happening so rapidly. And so I do think that our role as copywriters and communicators is a huge part of this process. So I think responsibility is the right word. I’m glad that you mentioned that.

Mike Garner:  Yeah. And we are just catching the moving train at the moment. And I don’t know about you, but I’m hanging onto it for dear life because it’s the way to go.

Kira Hug:  I think that’s a great way, yes. I’m hanging on too. So before we do wrap, Mike, selfishly, because again, the Copywriter Accelerator is open for a short period of time. Topaz was able to share her experience. I’m curious, Mike. We talked a little bit about transformation today. What was the transformation? Even though you’re still transforming, what was the transformation that came out of the Copywriter Accelerator?

Mike Garner:  I think what really struck me was that I’d been at … I can’t remember how long I’ve been a translator for because I … Sorry, not a translator. A copywriter because I was a translator 25 years ago, and I morphed into being a copywriter. So there was a period 6, 7, 8 years ago. I can’t remember. But I was doing okay. I was bobbing along. I was paying the bills, but I wasn’t setting the world on fire as a copywriter because I think I was a generalist, and I had no real plan.

What the Accelerator gave me was a plan. And I felt a lot better about my own business, about my own self-esteem really, about my confidence in what I could do, and what I wanted to do, and what I didn’t want to do. Years ago when I was a translator, someone said to me, “There are two types of translators, the specialist and the hungry.”

And it’s so important to get … Not necessarily. You don’t necessarily need to niche down as much as Topaz has. But at least work out what you want to do and what you don’t want to do to give yourself a sense of purpose. And that’s what the accelerator forced me to do really, because it put me in front of some difficult choices. Some of the workbooks were difficult to complete. But if it’s not difficult, it’s not worth doing, as I say.

Kira Hug:  Thank you, Mike, for sharing that. And I teased your book earlier, but I didn’t actually, or we didn’t mention what your book is about. So can you just tease that real quick before we wrap up?

Mike Garner:  Very much a teaser. It’s about our stories, our little stories, our little everyday stories. Well, I’ve called it Stories That Matter, and the subtitle, at least for now, is The Everyday Stories of Extraordinary Business People because they are the ones that are important. If you want the next riches, go and read Elon Musk, go and read Richard Branson. They’re very nice, they’re very good books. You’ll probably learn something from them. But we can’t relate to that kind of success. What’s important, I don’t want to be a gazillionaire, to be honest. What’s important is that people like us trying to earn an honest living in our own little way, and in our own little way, trying to make the world a better place. Topaz as well.

Kira Hug:  And we want to thank Topaz for joining us on the podcast today. If you want to connect with Topaz, you can find her @crueltyfreecopywriter. And we’ll also link to Topaz’s website in the show note so you can connect directly with her. If you want to check out other episodes, you could check out episode 253, not that long ago, with Laura Briggs about successful freelancing. And this was one of our most listened-to episodes in 2021.

Mike Garner:  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 was composed by copywriter and songwriter, David Muntner. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, please visit Apple Podcasts to leave a review for the show.

Kira Hug:  This is where Mike you need to just beg for reviews. That’s what we usually do.

Mike Garner:  Okay, I’ll beg for reviews. Please visit Apple Podcasts and leave-

Kira Hug:  We are desperate for podcast reviews. We will read your review out loud. If you are able to give us a review, we appreciate it. And if you are interested in the Copywriter Accelerator, again, you can check out the links to explore that program in the show notes. Thank you again, Mike, for co-hosting with me today.

Mike Garner:  You’re welcome.

Kira Hug:  I appreciate you giving me your time and sharing your perspective and thoughts on this episode. And thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week. 




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