TCC Podcast 7: Content Writing in the Tech Niche with Jessica Mehring | The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast 7: Content Writing in the Tech Niche with Jessica Mehring

In the 7th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Kira and Rob talk with freelance copywriter Jessica Mehring about her experience leaving Hewlett-Packard for the world of freelance. Jessica also shares her experience niching down her business and writing the book on white papers—as well as the effect that book had on her business. Be sure to listen to the end when Jessica talks about the difference between content and copy.

Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.

The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:

Jessica’s book on White Papers
Jessica’s Copyhackers Post
The Content Lab
Content Chemistry
ConvertKit
The Ry Schwartz Episode
Fascination Advantage
Fascinate by Sally Hogshead
Content Lab Twitter
Horizon Peak Twitter
Kira’s website
Rob’s website
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
Outro: Gravity

BONUS: Jessica has created a free 4-part email course on how to build a copywriter portfolio that impresses prospective clients. Register here to get the first lesson right away.

Full Transcript:

Copywriter Jessica MehringRM: So what if you could hang out with really talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work. That’s what Kira and I try to do every week on The Copywriter Club podcast.

KH: You’re invited to join the club for episode seven as we chat with freelance copywriter Jessica Mehring about writing for technology companies, moving from a full-time position to freelance, building a course and the power of choosing a niche.

RM: Kira, Jessica, how’s it going?

JM: Great! I’m so happy to be here with you guys.

KH: I’m happy too.

RM: Yeah, we’re stoked. This is going to be, I think, a fun conversation.

JM: Absolutely.

KH: I feel like it could be a beast of a conversation. I know we only requested a certain amount of time from you but after doing some research, I feel like we could talk to you for a couple of hours.

JM: Research? Oooh! Okay. Let’s start, what did you find out? What juicy details do you have about me?

KH: I think, you know what I learned is that you can do just about everything that even … we’ll get into that. Even though you specialize in white papers, reports, blog posts, long form content that sells, you can write a killer email and you can write a killer sales page, it makes me jealous to be honest.

RM: Yeah, woman of all trades.

JM: Thank you, thank you.

KH: I think a good place to start is to start with how you transitioned to the freelance world from your career at a top creative agency.

JM: Yeah. I actually had a couple of careers, if you call them careers, a couple of different roles before I went full-time with my main business, Horizon Peak Consulting. I did work for a top creative agency for years as a consultant who also did project management and copywriting and all that fun stuff. I also worked for a large computer corporation, again, as a communication specialist, copywriter, online merchandising specialist, all that fun stuff.

The last real full-time role that I had was at, the computer corporation was Hewlett-Packard actually. I’ve worked with Hewlett-Packard in various capacities for many, many years. I was a full-time employee for them at that time. I had a good team, it was good work, but I was just ready to get control over my time and get control over the projects that I worked on. I got tired of being told what to write. Really, that’s what it boiled down to for me, in addition to wanting more control over my time and being able to take a vacation without clearing it with my boss first. The real big motivator for me was just being able to pick and choose the writing projects that I was doing.

I had been building my freelance portfolio and building Horizon Peak Consulting on the side of my full-time job for a few years. This is not like a big leap for me. It was a slow burn. Lunch hours, after work hours, sometimes before work hours, those were all spent working on my freelance projects. Those were all spent building Horizon Peak Consulting.

When the last round of layoffs came through Hewlett-Packard, and I said, I told my manager, “You know what? If you need somebody to layoff, I’m raising my hand.” It wasn’t horribly terrifying to me because I knew I could do this freelance thing. I knew I had a soft place to land. Sure enough, I got laid off. It was the greatest thing because I could just move smoothly into Horizon Peak Consulting.

RM: Jessica, when that happened for you, did you already have enough clients to support you full-time? Were those first several months a struggle for you? How did that whole process sort out? Leaving HP was a good thing ultimately, but were those first couple of months scary at all?

JM: Yes and no. I think any kind of transition like that is scary for everybody. I had worked really hard on building relationships outside of HP. More than just getting projects, I was building relationships. I had people who were excited for me to leave HP. I had people that were waiting to give me more work because up till then I hadn’t had time to take on more than a handful of projects for them but they had so much more they needed me to do. Leaving HP, all it did was trigger those people to give me more work.

RM: That’s a great lesson.

JM: It was all about the relationships. I can … maybe, I’m an unusual case here but it was a really smooth transition for me. I really didn’t have a big dip in income. I had people waiting in the wings to give me work to do. It was all because I had worked very hard on building those relationships before I got laid off.

KH: I’m interested in the evolution of the content that you’ve created for clients. When you started and you were juggling on the side and then when you first launched and went out on your own, what type of content were you writing for clients? How has that evolved over the years? Now, I know that you have really niched down and people know you as the tech copywriter, but I’m sure that didn’t happen overnight so I just love to hear that story.

JM: Yeah, that definitely did not happen overnight. As you said, I was a jack of all trades. I studied copywriting. I’m very academic in that way. I love studying things I’m passionate about. I would study all the different types of copywriting, website copywriting and sales pages and emails and content, all that stuff. I loved it all, it was super fun.

When clients would come to me with all these various projects, I was excited to do it all. I had no interest in specializing. I had no interest in choosing a niche at that point when I had first left HP. Over time, I’ve realized the benefit of mastering something. I was getting this advice from all the gurus. I was getting this advice from all the books and all the experts. Choose a niche, choose a specialty, that’s how you really build a career, that’s how you really become known for something.

I’m one of those people, I got to make the mistakes. I have to learn the hard way. I certainly learned the hard way where I was really good at writing all these different types of copy. I was really good at working with all these different industries. But there was a plateau there. I knew to get over that, to get to the next level, i really had to become a master at something. If I wanted to get known, I had to become a master at something. There’s only one way to that, you have to specialize.

That actually ended up being really easy for me because I had come from this tech background. I’m not a techie myself, let me clarify, but working at Hewlett-Packard and previously, COMPAQ for all those years, being around that technology got me really inspired to and really passionate about technology. When I say I have a tech background, I worked alongside people who were techie. I was not a techie myself. I was writing for the techies.

Choosing my niche was very easy. It was technology. Then, it was a matter of coming up with the right phrasing to attract the exact, right clients for me. There’s a lot of different types of technology out there. there’s software as a services, SaaS, there’s marketing automation, there’s financial technology, FinTech, there’s something tech about almost everything. Coming up with the right phrasing was super important when I first decided to niche down into technology. By talking to my best technology clients, I came up with the phrase that I use today which is, “IT Software and Tech”. That really resonates with the type of people that I really enjoy working with.

I moved into this IT Software and Tech niche, that was the first step. Then, the second step was choosing what type of copywriting I really wanted to specialize in. Like I said, I loved all this different type of work but I found where I got really excited and what really kept me motivated was content. That’s blog posts, white papers, eBooks, the odd infographic, marketing content.

RM: Jessica, you mentioned content. You actually even have a book on Amazon about writing white papers which is a really good example of the content that you’ve created to create a funnel for yourself, to attract client. Tell us a little bit about the process of writing that and getting a book on Amazon and the impact that that’s had on your business.

JM: Yeah. Very early on when I decided content was going to be a specialty of mine, I needed to learn more about white papers because I was being asked to write them and I didn’t really understand the difference between a white paper and an ebook. A lot of that book actually came out of the research that I was doing and the practice that I was doing at that time, being asked to write these white papers. I was learning so much and I realized that a lot of people were just as confused as I was about what a white paper was, why it was different, and how to go about putting one together.

It was really a consolidation of my thoughts, my research, and the experience that I was having with these white papers. I went ahead and published that book on Amazon. It really did well. At first, I did a really good job of promoting it. I had a plan in place, I’d talked to friends who made their living writing Amazon Kindle books so I had a good plan kn place for promoting that. It really took off. I was at the top of a couple of categories there for the first few weeks.

Over time though, more than anything, that book has built my credibility. I can’t say it was the greatest list builder for me but I can say that it really does boost my credibility. When I can tell a client I wrote the book on white papers, that means something.

RM: You want to hire that person, right?

JM: Exactly, exactly.

RM: Can I, let me ask a follow up question because white papers are all over the board, anything from say a page and a half to 20 or 30 pages. How do you price a project, a white paper project?

JM: That varies of course. Every project is a little bit different. This is why I cringe when I hear the advice to create packages and product ties to your services because in the copywriting world, more often than not, every project is a little bit different, every client is a little bit different. The first thing I do is talk to the client and ask a lot of questions, not just about the type of content that they want me to write but who their audience is, and how this white paper is going to be used, how they’re planning to promote it.

I really get nitty gritty with the client. That also helps me understand how much time outside of writing I’m going to be spending on this project. Is there going to be meeting time involved? Am I going to have to interview people? It gives me a sense of how much revision and editing there might be for the project. That’s hard to tell to be completely honest. Talking to a client long enough, you can get a sense for the stuff.

Once I have an idea in mind of how much time, energy, and expertise it’s going to require, I also consider the complexity of the topic especially in the world of IT Software and Tech. A lot of those white papers can really be complex. The topics can be really complex. Like I said, I’m not a techie myself so I need to really understand technical phrases and technical jargon and technical situations in order to write white papers that work for my clients.

That takes time for me, not just research but thinking time, making sure I completely understand the topic. The more complex the topic is, the more I’m going to charge for that. That comes into play. I create a scope of work and from that I’m able to give accurate pricing.

KH: Is your scope of work, is this like a super professional proposal? What does it look like? I know some copywriters handle all of this via conversation and then email and they never even prepare a proposal, and other ones create really elaborate proposals. I’m always torn, “Okay, what do I do?”

JM: I run the gamut there too. That depends on the client too. Some clients I get on the phone and it’s just a very casual conversation, we get along great and it’s just really easy. Really, they’re just looking for a baseline budget to work with. With those conversations, I can say, “Hey, I’m going to send you an email. Once I’ve thought through this and really put together a scope of work, I’m going to send you an email.” Outlining that scope of work and giving you a quote, that works for a lot of people. That’s a much faster way of doing things for me.

Some clients, and I find this especially with the bigger companies, it needs to beautiful much more formal process in order to make them feel comfortable like they’re hiring a real pro and in order for me to stand out from the other copywriters. Let’s face it, we’re more often than not, the prospective clients we’re talking to are talking to other copywriters.

RM: Yeah.

JM: In that case, I will spend more time and put together a longer proposal which does include the scope of work and the quote, but it also includes more notes from the call and more background from the company so they understand that I know who they are and what they’re about. Sometimes I’ll include a section about how I understand this project will serve them, how they’re going to use it, what results they can expect from it. I go in more detail with those proposals. Again, it depends on the client. It all starts with that initial conversation and me getting to know who they are, what they’re about, and what they need.

KH: Because we’re talking about rates and money, which is always fun, this is the first part of a two-part question. You recently wrote an article for Copyhackers entitled, “Quote Higher Rates, If You Close More Than 50% of Your Leads, You’re Not Charging Enough”, which is a great headline because I was like, “Oh crap! I’m not charging enough.” I want to know, you could write an ebook on that and publish that shortly because this is something that you’ve talked a lot about. For any copywriter that’s listening and knows that they aren’t charging enough for their projects, is there a piece of advice you could give them that’s actionable so they can move to that next bracket? Of course, they can read your blog posts and we’ll link to that but I love a really juicy nugget here.

JM: Sure yeah. Obviously read that blog post because there is a lot of really good actionable advice in there that I have … I’m not just spouting here. I do that stuff. I’ve done those actions that I write in that post. Definitely start by reading that post.

One thing a lot of copywriters don’t think about in terms of upping their game and building a credibility and establishing a platform that people are willing to pay more for is their portfolio. A lot of copywriters, and I fell into this for years too, when they talk to prospective client and that client asks them for examples of their work, the copywriter will send them a couple of links to a blog post or webpages that they’ve written. They might send them a link or two.

KH: Is that bad?

JM: It’s not bad but it…

RM: We might be shattering some dreams here.

KH: I’m like, “Oh no, what am I doing?”

JM: When you can create a portfolio that showcases your best work, maybe some big names, the work you’re most proud of and that you want to do more of, that totally changes the conversation. Your portfolio represents who you are as a copywriter. If you can do it in a visual format too, I really encourage putting your portfolio in a visual format with at least some thumbnail images. It’s very compelling for a prospective client.

RM: Jessica, is your portfolio online? Do you actually send it to your clients?

JM: I send it to my clients. I have an online portfolio and I send a link to my prospective clients. That’s out of respect for my clients. This is a decision I made a long time ago that most of what I do is ghost-writing. I’ll write a blog post for a client and my client puts their name on it.

I don’t feel comfortable advertising that on my website. I don’t feel like that’s fair to my clients to put that out there in the world that, “hey, they’re not writing their own stuff.” I have verbiage in my contract that says I can use the copy that I write in my marketing materials. There’s not really NDAs involved in the items that I put in my portfolio but it’s still a respect thing for me. I do ask people to request the portfolio from me rather than putting it up on my website.

RM: Interesting. One of the things that, I think, you’ve started doing over the last year is coaching and working with other writers and building a course to help people develop content. How did you come to decide that that’s something that you wanted to do in your business? How has that changed what you’ve been working on over the last year?

JM: It’s changed a lot. I think once you shift gears and you start to, like I said, become a master at something, most of us hit a point at which we want to start teaching what we know. That’s the point that I hit. I came to a point where I had people asking me questions about what I was doing because they wanted to learn how to do what I was doing. I realized that I really enjoy talking to people about what I do. I really enjoy teaching. It made sense to me to create some king of product, something where people could learn what I have learned over the years. It made more sense to me to create an online training program than any other possible product out there.

I started the Content Lab, that’s thecontentlab.co, which is a separate branch. I’ve got Horizon Peak Consulting, that’s my one-to-one services business. Now, I’ve got the Content Lab. The Content Lab is where I’m putting all of my training materials, my programs, my coaching offerings. That, it’s been so interesting to build the Content Lab. After working one-to-one with clients for so long, to shift gears into more a one-to-many model, it’s been so interesting in so many ways. I’m really loving it.

I’m also seeing the value of doing both. Call me a workaholic here but when I’m teaching people how to engage with content clients or how to engage with tech clients, knowing that I’m actually doing this myself still, I haven’t abandoned my one-to-one work at all, I’m still working with clients, I’m still writing for clients, I can speak from a position of authority. A lot of trainers really can’t anymore, because I’m in there, I’m doing it. I can talk to my students about situations and conversations that I’m in right now with real live clients. My students are just loving. They’re getting so much value out of it. They’re able to take these lessons and apply it to their own businesses and their own clients right away in real ways.

RM: That seems really important. You see so many people that they create a course and then it’s successful so then their next course is how to create a course and they stop doing the thing that they started their course on and they become marketing experts instead of actually a skill set expert.

JM: I believe in remaining a practitioner. That might mean that I continue working crazy hours because I am still doing the one-to-one work in addition to creating training programs and doing coaching and that thing. I do believe that it’s so important to remain a practitioner to be able to teach from a position of authority.

KH: I’m in this place now where I feel like I want to start teaching as well. I’m trying to figure out the next thing, right product, program, whatever. I’m really interested in how you have kept up with running two businesses. You’re writing two different blog posts, you have two different lists. Do you have a team? I’m interested in what’s happening behind the scenes and how you made this transition as far as cutting down on one-to-one clients so you have that time, if you saved up for it. How does someone go from the point where I’m at right now to the point where you’re at where you have these programs created and live?

JM: Yeah. It definitely started for me with increasing my prices and all that entails. That means working with a different type of client. I’m working with fewer people at a higher rate but I’m also producing much higher quality work for them. Then, the second part of that was drawing a firm line between Horizon Peak Consulting and the Content Lab. They are two very different audiences.

When I started thinking about creating training programs and offering coaching, I already had an email list going. I already had a website, I already had a brand, I already had this credibility, authority in my space. All the advice I was getting was just add it to the Horizon Peak offerings, add it to the Horizon Peak website, put it under the Horizon Peak brand.

When I really sat and thought about it, the people that hire me through Horizon Peak, these technology companies, these startups, they’re not the same people that are going to be taking my training programs and getting coaching from me. The people that are taking my training programs and getting coaching from me, these are copywriters, these are business owners, these are marketers who are writing content for themselves. They’re not hiring people to write for them. They’re doing the writing themselves.

I knew very quickly that I had two very distinct audience and so I had to create two very distinct brands. I started by building the Content Lab website, figuring out what that brand was going to be to support that specific audience. It was hard because I’ve been so entrenched in Horizon Peak Consulting and that brand for so long. Really pulling out and looking at my new brand with fresh eyes, it was a challenge. Luckily, I was in a mastermind group at that time so I was able to get some outside perspective that really helped.

Now, if you look at the two sites, HorizonPeakConsulting.com and TheContentLab.co, you can see two very distinct brands, two very distinct offerings. That also, like you said, creates a challenge with the content. Once again, I had to really, really consider the audience. The people that are looking at Horizon Peak Consulting who want to hire me for one-to-one services, they want to see what I’m capable of. They want to know I know what I’m talking about. They’re not necessarily looking for a daily blog post from me. They just want to know I know my stuff.

Really, I backed off on the Horizon Peak Consulting content and put a lot more focus on the Content Lab content which made it a little bit easier, but it also made a lot of sense.

RM: I’m really impressed how you’ve thought through the different audience that each of the brands have. How does that play on your list? How do you segment your list? In fact, what tools do you use in talking to the different audiences? How do you segment the two so that you’re not sending one type of content to the wrong customer that you have appealing to one of your two brands?

JM: Yeah. Interestingly, when I started the Content Lab, I said I had an email list already, it was very small. What I did is I send out an email to my lists asking who they were, simple enough. I asked them who they were. It turns out, the bulk of the people on my email list, which up to that point was all Horizon Peak Consulting, were copywriters.

RM: Isn’t that funny?

JM: It worked out right.

RM: It seems like we watch each other, right?

JM: We do. I use convert kit. I use tagging heavily in convert kit. When I sent out that email asking who the people on my list were, I tagged them accordingly and discovered that, like I said, the bulk of the people on my list were already copywriters. The people that I was wanting to serve through the Content Lab. Shifting gears and sending out more Content Lab-related content to my list was pretty easy.

I’ve tagged people according to the actions that they’re taking in my emails, the content that they’re downloading so I know I’ve got my copywriters and I’ve got a bucket of marketers and business owners. When I send out an email that’s really for copywriters, I make sure to keep the marketers and the business owners off of that email sent. That really helps. Not that I don’t get unsubscribed, technically, all get unsubscribes. Using that tagging, I’m able to not send unrelated content to certain people.

I also have a link at the bottom of all my copywriter-related emails that encourages people to opt out of copywriter-related content if they are not a copywriter. Again, just constantly looking to tag people so I know who they are so I can send them content that actually works for them.

KH: Jessica, since you have been working with copywriters intimately in your lab, I know you had mentioned months ago when we were chatting online that you have this list of mistakes that copywriters make that you had found out to which having with your own clients. I knew it was a secret list at that time when we’re chatting about it. I’m not sure he released it to the public yet, but I would like to know and hopefully just a couple of those big mistakes that you know we are all making because our clients have told you that maybe we can avoid if you share them with us.

JM: Yeah, sure. Let me pull up that piece of content so I can speak to it with…

KH: Have you shared it publicly?

JM: No, I have not.

KH: Okay.

JM: I’m pulling up the file so I can speak to it with…

RM: This is a Copywriter Club podcast exclusive.

KH: We’re so on it.

RM: Breaking News from Boulder, Colorado.

KH: Breaking News.

JM: Yeah. I interviewed my best tech clients to find out what they really thought about working with copywriters in general, but then also, what they loved about working with me. I’ve got really good relationships with my clients. I wanted to understand more about the relationship from their side and what really works for them.

KH: I got to say, this makes me really nervous to even hear this list.

JM: Really?

KH: Yes, I’m actually sweating.

RM: I’m looking forward to this.

JM: Many of the points that came up surrounded understanding, understanding the company, understanding the client, and understanding the audience. So many copywriters don’t take the time to understand these things which involved … it is time-consuming. You have to talk to the client. You have to read through customer surveys. You have to really sit up and pay attention to what’s going on in the company, how their band is doing in the market, what the competitors are doing. Understanding these things on a deeper level puts you in a different playing field.

You’re no longer just a copywriter. You’re no longer just a commodity. You’re a partner in the business. That’s really a big shift in relationship once you get to the point where you want to become known for something. Again, you want to become a master. You want to build these strong relationships. You have to get a deeper understanding of who you’re working with and the audience that’s going to be consuming the content or the copy that’s you’re writing.

Too many copywriters will take a job and start the writing and not do any of that deeper research, not spent anytime talking to the client. I actually spend a lot of time talking to my clients and not asking about the content that they want me to write but asking what was going on in their business. I do this initially of course to get a deeper understanding of the company and the client and the audience, but I do it ongoing. The type of work that I do, writing content, it’s not a one time gig. Typically, people hire me for retainers or at least ongoing work.

Once a moth or at least once a quarter, I’ll get on the phone with them and I’ll ask them what’s going on in your business today. Sometimes that has to do with marketing, sometimes that has to do with content and copy, but more often that not, I get insights into what they’re doing in their business outside of what I do for them.

RM: It’s really interesting that you’re saying this. In episode three, we interviewed Ryan Short and he said something very similar that’s all about learning who the customer is even before he starts working on the business problems.

JM: Yeah. It’s so important. For example, one of my clients right now, he’s a startup founder. He has found himself having to do a lot of the sales work recently because he lost his main sales person. He’s really loving it actually. He’s engaging with his customers one-to-one like he hasn’t in years. He’s re-learning how to sell his product which has not been his focus in years. He’s very focused on sales right now, which influences that content that I’m writing for him. Because I know what his focus is right now, I know how he’s going to be using this content and it’s different than how he was using this content when we first started working together.

He’s much more focused on sales right now. The content that I’m writing for him helps him with those sales. I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t get on the phone with him and say, “Hey, what’s going on in your business right now?”

This is something I encourage all of my copywriter students to do, is to not just touch base with clients but actually get on the phone with them and find out what they’re doing, find out what’s going on in their business and how their goals have, maybe, changed since the last time they talked. Believe it or not, that’s going to impact how you write.

KH: It’s funny too because I think that we often feel intimidated to ask that question. It feels almost like we’re prying into a territory that we really should stay out of but it’s actually the opposite. Like you’re saying that, you cannot do a good job if you don’t understand what’s happening in the business and you should have built that rapport so they feel comfortable sharing that information and build that trust. It feels easy even though sometimes it’s hard to ask that question. What challenges are you dealing with in your bus today?

JM: I’ll tell you, the best clients hire you because you are the expert, not because you’re a copywriter, not because you can write pretty words on a page, a lot of people out there who can write pretty words on a page. The best client is the ones who respect you and pay you what you’re worth. Those clients hire you because you are an expert. If you don’t step up as an expert, if you don’t engage with them as the expert that you are, number one, those people probably aren’t going to hire. Number two, they’re not going to continue to respect you if you don’t act like that expert. You have to come to the table as an expert in order to really level up as a copywriter.

If you want to keep being a commodity, fine, keep getting gigs of upwork. If you want a real career, if you want to make real money and wok with really great people, you have to own your expertise.

RM: That’s a great tagline.

JM: This is something I talk to my students about a lot. Once they … when they’re listening to this podcast, I know they’re going to be cracking up because this is something I just drill into them.

KH: To back you up though, it’s true. I just gave a copywriting workshop, a small one, to about 15 entrepreneurs a couple of weeks ago and I landed two clients out of it. I know I would never have been able to really work with these clients unless they had heard me speak about copywriting and share my expertise with them, much is new to me, I just started doing that. It actually works. I remember thinking like, “Wow! This stuff does work. It’s a real thing.”

I want to pivot away from this and ask you a question about your brand. You have branded yourself as the scholar which I love because it’s so spot on and accurate. I think anyone who engages with your brand engages with you personally or even listens to this show, you exude scholar. How did you find that as part of your brand? Have you just known since you were five that you are the scholar? How does that play a role in everything you do?

JM: Yeah. This is an interesting story actually. I’ve always known I’m a geek. I was that kid with her nose always buried in a book.

RM: First one in line at Star Wars.

JM: You know it. Absolutely. I loved reading science fiction and fantasy, and all that stuff, I loved it. Then I married a guy who’s an avid comic collector. Then I was introduced to the world of comic books, and soon after that, comic book related movies and all that. That opened up a whole new world of geekery for me. I never really understood how that worked for my brand. I really never understood how being a geek could be a good thing and how to represent that to the type of clients that I wanted to work with who were, typically, very seriously people.

What I did is … this is how this all came about. I took the fascination advantage test. It’s from Sally Hog’s head. Let me double-check the URL here. I think it’s just fascinationadvantage.com.

RM: Her book, Fascination is a great book. [Ed. note: actually the book is called Fascinate.]

JM: Yeah. Anyway, I took this fascination advantage test and I’m sure you can pull up the URL and link to it for the podcast. It came up with the scholar archetype for me. In the fascination advantage system, you have an archetype but the archetype is made up of your top two advantages. My first advantage is prestige. My second advantage is alert, which really is detail orientation. Those two combined, prestige and alert, create the scholar.

I went ahead and paid for the additional reports to tell me what this all meant. It just grow so true for me. It was so spot on for how I felt inside and how I believed other people saw me. It was so easy to embrace. It was so easy to say, “Yes, that’s me. That’s exactly it. This is what I’ve been missing. This is how all of these various pieces of me come together.” I embraced it really, really fast.

Using the information that I got from that report including adjectives about who I am, which are intellectual, disciplined, systematic, relentless, standard bearer, taking that list of words and creating a brand around it was very simple. I definitely encourage you to take that fascination advantage test because it could really open up your eyes to a whole new brand for you. Or, it could what it did for me, which is just solidify everything in a really neat and clean way.

RM: I took that test a couple of years ago and now I’m racking my brain trying to remember what I am.

KH: I know, me too. I need to take it again.

RM: My personality might be the forgetful person or something like that. Jessica, we’re running low on time. You mentioned at the very beginning of the podcast that you do content more than copy and I know content is copy. What’s the difference? How do you see copywriting being different from content as, ultimately, they’re both moving towards the same goal. What’s the difference?

JM: Yeah. This is a really good question and one that not a lot of people ask. I’m happy to answer it. Copy provides information that customers, buyers, need to know in order to make a purchase. Content builds the relationship between the business and the buyer. Content is more of a long game but it does end up in the same place that copy does which is, hopefully, in a sale. The content is so much more about relationship than I believe copy is.

RM: How are the skill sets different?

JM: They’re very, very similar. I feel like on the content side of the house, more journalism skills are involved. I don’t have a background in journalism and I’m not going to claim that. I believe that the skills are very similar when you’re writing content. You’re understanding your audience deeply in order to create a story for them that resonates and that they want to finish.

KH: Jessica, I’ve that one last question for you. I know that as a scholar, certifications are important to you, training, learning, all important. I know on your website you have a a certification from Copyblogger and Inbound, I believe. Has that made an impact in your business? Is that worth it for people that are listening and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t have any certifications.” Do we need those? Are they worth the time and the money?”

JM: I don’t think you need them but I think they’re very helpful especially if you have a brand built on a platform of like my scholar or prestige or anything that really where authority comes in very, very strong. I think certifications can really support your brand in that way. But also, when you get those certifications, it reassures clients that you know what you’re talking about, that you’ve studies your craft. Additionally, a lot of these certifications, Copybloggers is one of them. Once you get the certification, you’re added to a webpage for certified writers. A lot of people have come to me through my little bio blurb on the Copyblogger certified content marketer’s page.

I tell, initially, the leads I was getting from that were not great but recently, and I don’t know what’s changed other than I know Copyblogger put the link more prominently on their website, the leads I’ve been getting from there had been really good. My bio is very specific, content for IT Software and tech. You know exactly who I am when you come to me. Having that, that very specific, very niched down bio certainly helps.

RM: That’s sounds cool. It seems like there might be one other advantage for writers getting certifications and that is that if we get one, we give ourselves permission now to be an expert in that area. Even if we were already an expert, it’s like that stamp of approval. I don’t know that any of us necessarily says we should wait for that stamp of approval, in fact, none of us should. But for those that really value somebody saying, “Hey yes, you can do this”, maybe a certification is worth what you aply for there.

JM: Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

RM: Depending on who it is that’s certifying because I am sure there are plenty of certifications that are not worth the money or the paper that you get in the end.

JM: I know. I just received my first certification from Copyhackers. That bad is going to go everywhere, as it should. That’s not a easy certification to get.

RM: Jessica, this has been awesome, some really good takeaways from me personally. I’ve got some thinking to do around my brand and how I reach out to different segments of my customer list. This has been a great conversation. We really appreciate you taking the time. You’ve mentioned of, already a few times, if people are looking for you, where do they go to find you?

JM: If you’re looking to learn more from me as a copywriter, definitely go to the Contentlab.co. If you’re looking to learn more about my one-to-one services, so you might be interested in maybe hiring or checking out that brand at least, that would be HorizonPeakConsulting.com.

RM: Awesome, and Twitter?

JM: Twitter, you can find me @TheContentLabCo or @HorizonPeak.

KH: Awesome.

RM: Fantastic. Thanks for the taking the time.

KH: Thank you Jessica.

JM: Thank you so much. This is such a great conversation.

RM: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by the Whitest Boy Alive available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.

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