On the 293rd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Marcella Allison comes back on the show. When she first joined the show, she was in the midst of building The Mentoress Collective, and now after 7 years, it’s time for her to pack it up and leave behind a legacy. In this episode, she talks about her decision to move on and the chance you have to get your hands on what she’s built for a steal.
Here’s how the conversation breaks down:
- What was The Mentoress Collective all about?
- The difficult decision that entrepreneurs are faced with when growing their brands and businesses.
- What’s changed in the marketing space since the beginning of The Mentoress Collective?
- Step by step tips to find a mentor – The do’s and don’ts.
- Is it possible to have too many mentors?
- The real difference between a copy chief and a business mentor – Which do YOU need?
- How the most successful copywriters use these two things to create high-converting copy, and how you can use them too.
- The attitude you need to take on when editing your copy.
- The three types of entrepreneurs – Which one are you?
- How are we supposed to balance learning, success, failure, and accomplishment all at the same time?
- Are you ready for an agency?
- The difficulties that come with being a solopreneur and entrepreneur – Are they the same?
- How to embody someone that would demand the rates you want to ask for.
- Practical advice on supporting yourself during an extreme transition or pivot in your business and life.
- Why it’s important to allow a time period of business grief and choosing possibility.
- How you can change the vehicle in which you give rather than give up what you love.
Be sure to tune into this episode all about change and rediscovering passions.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The Copywriter Think Tank
Copywriting Income Survey
Marcella – Bundle 1 Copy breakdowns
Marcella’s Legacy of Success – Bundle 2
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Free month of Brain.FM
Episode 48 with Marcella
Rob Marsh: We talk about success a lot on the podcast. We’ve interviewed lots of copywriters who have built thriving, six-figure businesses. We’ve even talked to a few people who have made more than seven and eight figures in their business. They’ve shared the habits and processes, and even the luck that they’ve had along the way, but we don’t talk a lot about failure or quitting. So today’s podcast is a little different. Our guest for this episode is our friend A-list copywriter, Marcella Allison. In addition to writing dozens of successful promotions in the financial industry over the past few years, Marcella has spent much of the last seven years building a community to help mentor and support women in marketing. Originally, it was called Titanides, and now it’s called the Mentoress Collective, but recently Marcella made the decision to close the doors on that venture, and this episode focuses on that decision. We also talked about mentoring, pay gaps, and what comes next. There’s a lot to learn from Marcella’s story and her decision, and we hope that you’ll stay to the end when Marcella makes an offer that we think is almost too good to be true.
Kira Hug: But it is true. It’s too good to be true, but it is true. And this is actually the last day before the price increases for the Think Tank, our mastermind. If you listen to the podcast, you’ve heard us talk a lot about the mastermind over the last few months. If you have any interest in it, today would be the best day to reach out to our team and find out if it’s a good fit for your business so that you can jump in there before our retreat, before our virtual retreat on June 9th and 10th, and before the price increases. You can find out more at the copywriterthinktank.com
Rob Marsh: And just a note about this episode, because we’ve recorded it just in the last couple of days, we are not adding any commentary throughout this interview this week. So let’s just listen to Marcella’s story and her decision to close her latest business.
Kira Hug: All right. So, Marcella, it’s been a while since we chatted with you on the podcast. And more recently, we did speak with you at TCCIRL back in April, but a lot has changed for you since we last saw you. Can you just give us a quick update on a couple of the small changes you’ve made in your business?
Marcella Allison: So I made the decision at the start of this month to close down the Mentoress Collective, which was formerly the Titanides, and to not be an entrepreneur in that way right now, and to go back to being more of a solopreneur, working on different projects and with different communities. But I made the very difficult decision to shut down the membership at the start of this month actually.
Rob Marsh: We should actually back up a little bit because I think the last time we actually talked, so anybody who is only familiar with you from our podcast is like, you were really just getting started on the Titanides, which then became Mentoress Collective. I think we should go back even farther. Let’s save the terrible news of closing it down, now that we’ve spoiled that already, but let’s talk about what the whole purpose of Mentoress Collective was and what you were doing and the things that you guys accomplished because I think there’s this massively encouraging story of just so much of the good stuff that was happening in that group. And yeah, maybe there are reasons that it’s not making financial sense, but there are so many other good things that came from that group, and I don’t want to skip over any of that.
Marcella Allison: Yeah. You know, it’s been… I was thinking about that because I think I was on the podcast your very first season, like within a couple of your first episodes. So it’s been a crazy journey. So the Mentoress Collective or Titanides began seven years ago, a little more than seven years ago now at an industry event where there just wasn’t a lot of representation, not only for women minorities, it was just a very white male-dominated panel and presenters. And it became obvious to me that we needed to really work harder and do better about lifting women up in this industry. And because it was a friend of mine who was hosting the event, I decided that the best way that I could do that was to hijack all the women at the event and invite them to dinner that night, which is what we did.
And we had a mentoring conversation where I started by saying to all the women there, some of whom had only been in the industry for a year, some of whom had been in the industry for 25 years at that point. And my question was, “What was your all is lost moment, and how did you come back from that?” And that led into a very deep discussion of how we actually overcome challenges and how we get back up when we think, “Oh my god, I don’t know what I’m going to do after this.” And it was all over the map from personal challenges to business challenges, and I was so struck by how much wisdom was there and that there were women who wanted the opportunity to share that wisdom as part of their legacy, and there really wasn’t a container that allowed them to do that.
Marcella Allison: So we started with just a very small private Facebook group, which grew from about, I think we started with somewhere between 15 and 18, and it’s 1,500 now of women co-mentoring each other within that private space where they can be upfront about any of the challenges they’re facing, ask for help, get mentoring. And from there, it just kept growing. We began to ask some of these women to come and do our version of a podcast, which is a literary salon where they read from maybe a book or a publication of theirs, take questions, share some of their thoughts and wisdom with us. We started to do trainings with some of the senior women in the industry and we created a more formalized structure where women could offer mentoring to each other, whether that was just an hour or 15 minutes or saying to someone, “Hey, can you jump on a call with me and just talk me through your lead magnet and how you do that? You know, I’m new to this. I don’t know how to do that. Can you talk me through this?”
Those kinds of things, really based on the principle of generosity, this idea of paying it forward to others and also the idea of resilience that you’re going to face challenges and you’re going to face what you think are endings, but really contained in those endings are new beginnings and a new opportunity, and you have to be willing to see those and to lean into that moment.
And so I think one of the things I’m the most proud of is how that ripple effect of that generosity of one woman mentoring another woman who then goes on to mentor another woman has had such a tremendous impact, not just on individual careers, but I feel like across the industry in terms of women recommending each other for jobs, or for speaking engagements, or encouraging each other to get up on stage, or to share what they know, or to own their expertise. And that is a legacy that makes me feel very proud and very happy to know that ripple effect will continue out there for, I hope, years to come.
Kira Hug: You mentioned that you started this seven years ago when you were at that event, and it was mostly white men on this panel. I’m just curious what changes you’ve seen in the marketing space over the last seven years, especially due to a lot of the work that you’ve done.
Marcella Allison: I think that… You know, it’s a challenge because progress never comes in a straight line. Progress comes in sort of we go forward, then we go back a little bit, then we go forward, then we go back. So in some ways, I feel like more and more women see this as a possible career for them, especially after we’ve gone through the great resignation that happened during COVID. I think more women than ever are looking at starting side hustles or a freelance career that gives them the flexibility that they need and the opportunity to sort of carve their own path and one that fits their life and the way that they want to live it. And at the same time, I think we still have a bit of what I would call a bro culture in the internet marketing world, and that can be off-putting sometimes for women.
And so having that kind of community where women can talk about that with each other in a safe space, I think helps us see that we do deserve a spot in the conversation and that we don’t have to do things the way that maybe it seems obvious or that we’re being marketed to, that there are choices about how we want to be in business and how we want to conduct our business.
I mean, just one example is I am often at a conference where the sole focus is on how much money you can make. I’m not disrespecting that. I think how much money you can make is very important to talk about. We know there’s a big wage gap here with women, that’s even larger for freelancers. In other words, we do it to ourselves worse than happens in corporate America. So we definitely need to talk about the pay gap and charging what you’re worth and how to make more money. But at the same time, for many women that I talk to, that is not their sole priority or their only priority. They want to have time to be with their children. During COVID, nobody could work 90 hours a week and take care of their kids at home. I mean, it was an impossible task.
And so I think women maybe, more so than ever, have that understanding of what they want for themselves, and money is only a piece of it. So I feel like the more that we speak up and the more that we engage in the conversation, and the more that we educate the market, then the more opportunities everyone is going to see for women. And I know that can sound sort of Pollyanna-ish, but I feel like until we start having these conversations, as long as we stay silent, we’re not going to move anything forward if that makes sense.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, it definitely makes sense. So Marcella, when you started out your career as a copywriter, there wasn’t a Mentoress Collective, there were very few resources like this, and yet you still were able to make it work. I think partly because you had some great mentors and on the last podcast we recorded with you, I think it’s episode 48, you talked about your mentors and how you were maybe the most mentored copywriter ever, but you were able to connect with good mentors who were supporting you. Talk a little bit about that process too, because I think a lot of people maybe didn’t realize the Mentoress Collective was there or now that it’s going away or it’s taking a different form, losing that resource, they’re like, “Okay, well, how do I do what Marcella did?” What did it take to go from where you started out to becoming one of the top copywriters in the country?
Marcella Allison: So a couple of things around that. One, I will say is that you have to not be afraid to ask, and there’s all kinds of ways to ask for mentoring. I often encourage women when they’re just starting out, look, just ask for a 15-minute phone call, be very specific, “Would you mind if we had a 15-minute phone call about this particular thing that I need mentoring on?” Because that feels like a very doable ask.
And one of the things that we know from the research is that, in general, women mentor less and are asked to be mentors less, but between 70% and 80% when asked said, “Of course, I would’ve been willing, but no one ever asked me.” So don’t be afraid to ask someone to mentor you, but don’t ask them to save your life. This isn’t some hero, Yoda, who’s going to sit on your shoulder and tell you everything that you need to know to do everything in your business. You need to think of it as a mentoring network where you’re going to ask one person for one specific ask, and then you might say to them, “Hey, is there anybody else I should call and talk to? Would you mind making that introduction for me?” Or, “Would it be okay if I reached out and used your name?”
So the first thing I would say is don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. And especially for women, we have a harder time asking. And again, if you just take that risk, the odds are actually in your favor. If you phrase it in the right way, and you’re not asking them to spend hours with you every day for free and save your life, if you’re asking for a specific mentoring conversation on a certain topic, you will be surprised how many times they will say yes.
The other thing that I learned when I was coming up was that you can have too many mentors, especially when you’re first starting out in copy. Because everyone that you work with is going to have sort of a different opinion, a different idea of how to write copy, how to teach copy. Someone’s going to say, “Oh, you should hand write control.” Someone else is going to say, “Oh, that’s a bunch of malarkey, I never wrote a hand control in … You know, hand wrote a control in my life.” Everybody’s going to have a different idea. Someone’s going to say, “You should always know your headline and lead before you begin so you know where you’re going.” Someone else is going to say, “Oh, I never know my headline until I’m done. I just put a placeholder that says, ‘big headline goes here,’ and I start writing.”
So if you get caught up into trying to please your mentor, or in some cases, your copy chief, sometimes they’re the same. Sometimes they’re different. What happens is if you have too many cooks in the kitchen, you can find yourself going around in circles. So for me, it was important to look at, what was I working on at that moment? Who was the mentor who was most likely to help me in that situation? To focus on their feedback and their input and not try to please all of my copy chiefs are all of my mentors, because you’re going to quickly find out that’s impossible. And there is no, as I said to someone the other day, there is no objective measure of perfect copy. Like we can all agree on some foundational principles like, it should be readable, it should grab your attention, there’s sort of some fundamentals, but once you move past that, you know, my mentors all had very different opinions about what would work.
And David Deutsch would have a very different opinion than Parris Lampropoulos, who would have a very different opinion than Clayton Makepeace. All of them are multimillion-dollar successful copywriters, but they didn’t all agree on the fundamentals either. They would all approach a project differently based on their own experience and strengths.
And I think the other thing that helped me as a woman starting out was that almost all of my mentors were men, pretty much all of them. And many of them had been trained in the very sort of old school way of, you know, you just tell your copy cub what’s wrong until they figure it out, and you don’t have time to tell them what’s working, and this isn’t kumbaya empowerment. There’s this sort of like attitude in our industry of: you’ve got to be tough, you’ve got to know how to take the feedback. And that is certainly true. If you’re a prima donna and you don’t want anyone to touch a word of your copy, you’re never going to succeed. You’ve got to be willing to edit your way to great copy. But at the same time, it can be really daunting when you’re starting out and you’re just overwhelmed with this negative input, and it can really start to shut down your self-confidence, your creativity, your faith in yourself.
And we know that for women, it can be particularly challenging just because of how we’re hardwired actually. And so, for some of us, having that kind of constant negative flow of feedback without something to balance that can often make us want to give up. And what really helped me was to be able to reach out to other women, to my peers who were going through this. I often jokingly say, those conversations would frequently take place in the restroom at events, where we would find each other in the women’s restroom and have time to sort of sit with each other and talk each other out of that negative spiral, remind each other, yes, you belong here, you have a place at this table, you deserve to have all the same kudos and awards and talent as anybody else in this room, and you deserve to be here. And sometimes it’s that simple of someone saying, “You are in the right room, don’t give up,” that keeps you going. It did for me. It really helped me.
One of the earliest mentors that I met was Ilise Benun through AWAI, and I met Monica Day also through AWAI. And in the beginning, it was those two who really kept me going in the face of some pretty daunting challenges because I knew I could just call them when I was losing it. And then I tried to become that for other women, the woman you can call when you’ve lost your mind and you need to just fall apart and then have someone help you get it back together and get back in the ring.
Kira Hug: I want to shift and talk about shutting down the membership and the reasons behind that. How did you come to that decision that was not an easy decision for you? What were the ingredients in that decision?
Marcella Allison: So it was interesting. I was talking to someone the other day about how when you become a copywriter and you’re looking at up-leveling your business, and we all get to the point of, okay, we can’t charge, we can’t exchange hours for dollars, so how else can we grow? Because if you’re writing, there are only so many hours in a day that you can write. And we talk about royalties and all kinds of other ways that you can use your copywriting skills to grow your business. And one of the ways that comes up often is to own your own offer. Launch a product, start a membership, sell a training. In other words, to start writing copy for your own business.
And I think that it still is a very valuable idea, it is a great path to take, but I will say there’s a couple of cautionary elements that I would throw out there. And one is, do you actually love growing businesses? So in our Closing the Success Gap event, Jessica Nolan, who’s the head of Agora International. So she’s over, lordy, I don’t know, there’s probably 45 at least international corporations that come under the Agora International umbrella. And she had this really great talk where she said, “Look, there’s… (in her experience) there’s sort of three kinds of people.” There’s the person who absolutely loves starting and growing businesses. That’s what gets them out of bed in the morning. They love the idea of launching and really growing and scaling businesses. She said other people love to be the tender of the business, the manager of the business. They like working with people, they like managing projects, they like making sure everything… You know, all the trains run on time. They like leading teams. And then there is a third category.
And I don’t remember what she called it, but I’ve come to call it the skilled artist. And that is someone who actually loves their craft, loves doing the thing that they are good at, whether that’s writing or dancing or painting or speaking, whatever that skill is. They love deploying their skill on individual projects, seeing that come to fruition. And that is actually more of my personality. And that’s something that I’ve come to understand that growing businesses drain me in a way. So all of the details and all of the team meetings, even though I am lucky enough to have an amazing team, but making all those decisions, you know, what’s the offer going to be? How should we price this? What’s the funnel going to be?
I don’t mind brainstorming those things. I love being in those creative meetings with my clients, but my true joy comes from sitting down and writing, or mentoring, or speaking on stage, or leading a mentoring exercise. It comes from the teaching and the training and creating, creating the thing, whether that’s the Closing the Success Gap symposium or creating a promotion for an entrepreneur. And so I came to dread the things that were taking up 90% of my day, which was business management and people management and growth strategies, and marketing strategies.
So before you decide that the best way that you can grow as a copywriter is to create your own offer or to start a membership or a training program, ask yourself, do those things get you excited? Do you love spending time doing those things? If not, you can find a partner who maybe wants to partner with you, but just understand what you’re committing to before you do that.
And I think the second thing that I am now more cautious of is a passion project. Sometimes you are going to see a need, and my god, how could you not in the world that we live in today, right? And I think also as women, we know from the research we are more drawn to social entrepreneurship for… What was it that… Paul Newman has a great book, Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, which I’ve always loved. But this idea of using our skills to change the world for the better, which is what I really believe that we have done with the Mentoress Collective, but at the same time, those ideas are not always business viable. And so being clear about that and looking at that.
And as I began to do more and more of the research into these women’s communities, some of the largest like, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s, which I could not recommend enough in terms of the work that they do, they’re a nonprofit. And then when I would even look at those that were for-profit, which were fewer and far between, they were often a much lower dollar amount even than I was charging at the time. And the ones that were at the top of the pyramid maybe they had a space like a coworking space in New York. So you’re basically paying to get both the space and the community, or they managed to charge high dollars because they limited the community to say, only CEOs of, or high-level executives at major corporations. So again, the more I came to understand it, it was like, okay, this can be work that I want to do in the world, but maybe I need to find a way to do it that doesn’t deplete me and my resources, that is more contained if you will.
So ask yourself, is this a passion project where it might be better suited to you to volunteer in some capacity or to put a gate around it, like, okay, every quarter, I will do one project pro bono for a dog shelter, or define what that contribution is going to be. And I think those two learnings have really contributed to me making this choice at this moment because I’m 99 months away from retirement if I chose to retire at 65, and I realized I’m incredibly proud of this legacy that we have created with the Mentoress Collective.
And so I’m doing things a little bit backwards. I’m like, okay, usually people create their legacy right as they are preparing to leave the industry. I’m like, okay, I’ve done my legacy, right? Seven years, I dedicated. I’ve put together an incredible archive of some of the brightest and most talented women in our industry, teaching badass skills, everything from self-care to copywriting to pricing to you name it, to leadership. Now, I am focused on using my skills to grow my own retirement, to sort of secure my own future, to focus more on my own spiritual and financial, and emotional self-care. And all of that factored into that choice to say it’s time for me to pivot and let this legacy stand and go on and ripple out. And now, turn to use those skills as a skilled artist in the way that can generate the most income for me in the next 99 months.
Rob Marsh: As I’m listening to you talk about this, I think a lot of people would look at the Mentoress Collective as a business and say, “Okay, well, it wasn’t financially viable, at least at the end, and therefore it was a failure.” But I also get a sense that in so many ways it was the farthest thing from a failure because of what you’re able to accomplish and the people that you connected with and the resources that you created. Talk a little bit about that balance between failure versus learning versus success and accomplishment.
Marcella Allison: It was funny, I was talking to our friend, Kevin Rogers the other day, and I had said to him at one point, “How do you know when it’s time to stop, right? And how do you know when you should keep going, like trying to just turn the corner into profitability?” And Kevin said, “It’s time to stop when you can’t go any further. Like, when you physically can’t go any further.” And I was like, “Okay.” Right? So it’s interesting to me, that when I reached that point, we were actually at cash flow break-even, which is a very positive line in the sand to get to. Many businesses don’t get to cash flow break-even for decades. Look at Uber. So we reached operating cash flow break-even, but I was still not taking any income for myself.
And so what I realized is that we have stories, patterns that we carry with us. I think that we see showing up over and over again. And for me, one of those is generosity at the expense of my own self-care. And so for me, that learning we’ll show up again, and then you go, “Oh, there’s that pattern again. Okay, I need to look at this. I need to address this. I need to find out what’s underneath that.” We had a wonderful guest on the Literary Salon, Julie Ann Cairns, The Abundance Code. And she is the financial, I don’t know, if consultant’s the right word, coach for Jeff Walker’s Platinum Group. And she talks about these recurring patterns and beliefs that we have about money. And so I think for me, failure and success sound like these black-and-white decisions, and no one is ever going to start out and have a series of successes with no setbacks, with no pivots, with no failures.
And in fact, as a venture capitalist, one of the things we used to want to see was someone who had more than one failure actually in their portfolio because we know they know how to learn from it and pivot and come back from it. So to me, I think that when we put all this pressure on ourselves, especially in a very public industry like we have because everything is public and everything is measured, “Oh, did you do that campaign? What did it bring in?” I remember being at Agora and getting the… You get the scorecard every morning from every promotion that went out all across Agora that night before, I’m like, “My god, talk about having your successor failure in neon lights.”
So for me, we need to shift that to choosing possibility, taking risks, and then seeing that as all learning. I know it sounds woo-woo, but I was reading this great book called Choose Possibility, Singh, I think is her last name. And one of the things she says is when you make these decisions, there’s two things to ask yourself. One is, is it truly an all-or-nothing decision? Like, is this truly a decision you can’t come back from? Like, I suppose choosing to have a child is an all-or-nothing decision. That child is going to be here, you’re going to have to deal with it. But she talks about; I think it’s the founder of Zappos who said, you know, actually very few decisions that you’re going to make as a business owner are completely all or nothing with no way to come back from it.
Then she says, the second thing is to ask yourself, what is the choice after the choice? So what if you take a risk and the worst thing happens, then what would be the next choice that you would make? And by doing that, you start to see this as not failure and success but as a series of choices and that any moment you can choose to make a different choice.
So there were many points during the seven-year journey when we were at cash flow break-even, when I was trying to scale, when I would say, “Okay, let’s try this next. Let’s try this next. Maybe we should try the membership. Maybe we should have an event. Maybe we should write where we’re testing different things.” You are just looking for what is the choice after the choice. What is the next step I’m going to take here? So even for me, in closing the collective, I’m like, “Okay, what’s the choice after the choice?” Well, I still have an email list. Will I still continue to email that list? Would I maybe make some affiliate offers to that list? Could I take some of these trainings and partner with someone? Are there places where my peers might want these trainings in their archives now? Would they want to start a sub-community for women within their community? Like, what is the choice after the choice where these assets then move into a new home or a new place?
So for me, thinking black and white about failure and success help makes you lose sight of the fact that it’s just a series of choices and that you’re always faced with the opportunity to make a new choice or a different choice and then you’re going to get different learning and different feedback. And I combine that with also saying, as I said before, look for the recurring patterns that keep coming up as you move from business to business and opportunity to opportunity. Every person is going to have a pattern that they start to see play out over and over again. And the thing that you want to do as an entrepreneur is to see that pattern and then go, “I want to change this one, so what can I do to change this pattern?” Maybe it’s a pattern of undercharging, right? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a pattern of not putting yourself out there at events. Like, whatever that thing is, you can look at it and say, “Okay, what are the things that I can do to start to change this pattern so that it doesn’t keep playing out in my business?”
Kira Hug: You mentioned early on that there’s a difference between an entrepreneur and a solopreneur. I’d love to hear more about that because I think it can be confusing, especially if we’re getting into the freelance world for the first time. Maybe we think we’re entrepreneurial, but we’re not. Or maybe we think we lean into being a solopreneur and we call ourselves a freelancer and we don’t actually see ourselves as entrepreneurs. It’s confusing. So what are some insights you’ve pulled from those two ways of identifying ourselves?
Marcella Allison: Yeah. So you know we talk a lot about how very often, as freelancers, we tend to be more introverted, we tend to be… Often, we like to just work on projects on our own in our writing cave. You can be a solopreneur and do that pretty well. Yes, you’re going to have to have some systems in place, you’re going to have to have bookkeeping, you may ask for a VA to help you organize some things. But in general, if you just want to do project work, you can do a pretty good job of that as a solopreneur, moving from project to project. Yes, you’re going to have to market yourself. There’s no way you’re going to be able to avoid that unless you work with an agency. Maybe they do the marketing for you, and you just do the projects.
When we think of going beyond that, the ways that I see people doing it are they often think of starting their own agency. So let’s say you’re fantastic at, I don’t know, YouTube ads, and pretty soon you have more clients than you could possibly fulfill. The next thing you think of is, all right, well maybe I could train some writers, and I could start an agency. But the thing is, it is an exponential jump. And it’s great if you want to do it. You just have to understand that it is not as simple as, “Oh, I’ll just get jobs in and farm them out and take a percentage.” You’re going to have to train your team; you’re going to have to now be the liaison between your client and the team member who’s working on the project. So that was sort of my first growth from being just a solopreneur to running a small agency with three or four writers that I would team up with on projects.
And the thing I learned there is it’s always going to take longer to get someone on board than you expect. No matter how well they know you and how well you work together, it’s going to take time for you to mesh their writing styles into what you are offering so that the client cannot tell the difference between whether you wrote it or someone on your team wrote it. And that involves skills of teaching and training someone in the copy that you’ve done. It also involves a little bit more advanced bookkeeping skills because now I’m issuing 1099 to subcontractors, and there’s rules around that, whether they can be a subcontractor or an employee and how you set that up.
Then when you look at owning your own offers, now you’re talking about courses, now you’re talking about a list, “Oh, now I have to know about list management. Oh, now I have to know these rules about emailing the list and opt-outs.” And like each has a whole body of knowledge that you have to gain. And what you have to ask yourself is you really need to look at the potential reward for stepping into those larger, more entrepreneurial roles and ask yourself, “Do I want to grow in that way?” Because there’s a lot of different ways that you can grow.
Marcella Allison: And so for me, a solopreneur is someone who really can make all those decisions and manage most of the work of the business by themselves without a lot of outside resources. When you look at becoming more entrepreneurial, whether that’s starting a mini agency or launching your own products, you are going to need more outside resources. Now you can still do a lot of it on your own in the beginning, but you’re going to have to be someone who loves learning things like active campaign and list management and how to do a podcast. I mean, I think of all the things that you guys had to learn starting out as you were growing The Copywriter Club community. From just this Facebook into multiple entities now, multiple offerings, multiple marketing channels. It just gets increasingly sophisticated. And so you need to be prepared for that. And too often, I think we aren’t, or we don’t think it through if that makes sense.
Rob Marsh: It definitely makes sense. Yeah, we’ve felt it in a very big way. Same thing. So Marcella, you also mentioned the wage gap, and I know there are a million different ways to cut this and look at it, and I don’t want to get political. But one of the things that we found when we have looked at our salary survey and the data that we found is that there is definitely a wage gap in copywriting between men and women. I know there are a lot of reasons for that. You mentioned that we often do this to ourselves, speaking about women. There are business practices that either we’re not doing the right things, or maybe women are doing the right things, but it’s not a fit for the industry. Will you talk a little bit about some of the ways that women and some men shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to pricing and making sure that we’re actually being paid for the value that we’re creating as opposed to maybe some of the men who have figured it out?
Marcella Allison: Yeah. I think for me, which is really what I can speak to the most. In the beginning, I think it was confidence. Like, “Oh my god, I can’t charge that much, can I?” And I started a very simple practice, which is, I would show my bids to a successful male peer before I sent them out. So nine times out of 10, I would show it to David and he would say, “Double it.” And I would go, “Oh my god, are you serious?” And he would say, “Yeah, double it.” And it took me a couple of times of sort of screwing my, what do they say? Screw your courage to the sticking point to just send it out, to double it and send it out with no commentary, and get back a yes. That gave me the confidence to keep doing it.
So part of it was knowing what other people were charging, which is something that you have helped with so much in your survey because it’s one thing to say to yourself in the abstract, “I should charge more.” It’s another to look at the survey you guys did and go, “Oh my god, I am charging a thousand less than all my peers.” Sometimes just the sheer embarrassment and frustration of that will get you to take a leap.
The other is definitely show it to someone. For me, I showed it to a man because I knew this was my challenge, right? And they helped me see where I was really cutting myself off at the knees. That is not to say that there isn’t also real discrimination in the industry that exists, where we just talked about this at our Audacity event, where if you are a young black woman in Kenya, the expectation is you’re going to charge 25% of what everybody else is or god, in some cases, 10%. That is a very different issue than just doubling your rates will not overcome. So I want to be really clear that I’m not suggesting that we can overcome systemic bias by just upping our rates.
What I do think is educate yourself on what the going rates are, make sure that you know. Your survey is great, several other groups have a survey that they use of what are the current prices. Google is a dangerous place because you’re going to find everything from a dollar to a million dollars for a project, but you can also go out and find out what other people are charging. So understanding what the market is worth, what you’re worth in the market.
And then I think the other thing that trips us up is we believe that unless we know 100% about everything, this is particularly true for women, that we can’t charge the full rate. “Well, but I’ve never done this before. I don’t know about this.” And keeping in mind that you’re never going to know 100% about everything, and you’re going to learn project to project as you go along. And no, I don’t think if this is your first day as a freelancer, you should be charging what David Deutsch charges. But you also shouldn’t be in your third year as a freelancer, still charging the same as someone who is in their first week as a freelancer.
So for me, it was shared information from my peers that helped me see the gap for the first time, and then coaching and confidence from some of my male colleagues who I just borrowed their swagger, frankly. When I first started writing copy, Mike Ward used to say to me, “Pick a personality, any personality, pick a personality from a movie and embody that in your copy.” Because he would say, “You need a little more testosterone and you need a little more swagger to write to these option traders.” So you need to kind of get in character.
And I picked Tom cruise in the Mission Impossible movies. And I would use that as my character when I was writing options copy. And sometimes you have to do that. It’s that alter ego effect that Todd Herman talks about. Sometimes you’re going to have to find that character who can ask for that price point. I know Chima says hers is a cocky 30-year-old bro. What would he charge? And she even names him. But doing that helps you embody that character and take on a few of those aspects for yourself. So it’s a little bit of the fake it till you make it in terms of putting your bids out there.
And having a posse like you guys have with The Copywriter Club at your back, being transparent, “Hey, I’m about to put this bid out here, can anyone take a look at it for me?” Sometimes I would just do it because, frankly, I was terrified to tell Monica that I hadn’t charged what she told me I should charge. She was like, “If you don’t up your rates, I’m going to come there and beat you.” So I was like, “Okay, okay, okay, I’ll try it.” And it worked, it worked.
Kira Hug: Marcella. I’m wondering how you have practiced self-care and maybe spiritual practices, anything mindset related over this transition so that you have been taking care of yourself and supporting yourself through this difficult business change.
Marcella Allison: Yeah, I wasn’t planning on having food poisoning and COVID at the same time when I decided to pivot my business. First of all, the team has been amazing. So when I made this decision, I asked my team, would they basically ride through to the sunset with me? Would they stay with me all the way through to the end? And was very clear about the date and what I was doing and how long each person would need to stay and to a person, they were willing to do it. So that was a huge help to know that as soon as I announced this, I wasn’t going to lose my team, and I’m incredibly grateful to them. And I just have to make a plug. They are amazing, and they all now have space in their calendars. So if you need anyone from copywriting to content writing to social media to project management, email me, and I will be more than happy to introduce you to our team members. So that was the first thing that they were there to support me.
The second thing was allowing some room for grief, which can be difficult, especially when it’s a different kind of grief. We don’t always talk about our business “failures”. We’re often very private about those things. We’d rather crow about our successes than be transparent about our challenges or our failures. So I decided deliberately that I was going to go out the way I came in, which was being honest and transparent about the challenges I faced, and to use this as an opportunity to share that wisdom with other women who might be going through this. It was interesting because Jenny Thompson made the very difficult decision to stop SafetyPIN this week. And she messaged me and I messaged her back to say, “I see you. I know how hard this is.” Again, another amazing opportunity for women who have not gotten the traction that I hoped she would get.
So one of the practices of self-care for me is to be transparent because it takes more energy to sort of hide what’s going on. And so I’m being transparent in my emails, being transparent talking with you all on this podcast, sharing. And I’m sure I will have more learning later, but at least sharing the learnings that I’m having in this moment behind this decision. I’m trying really hard to be gentle with myself, and that’s been a challenge because shutting down has a lot of work associated with it. Sometimes I know Bernie and I talk, she’s like, “Oh my god, this is almost as hard as scaling.” I’m like, “I know.” Because we have to think about each piece of the business and where does it go and is someone going to take over this asset, or are we going to shut this one down, who’s interested in…
Laura Stewart has been helping me a lot with that. God, love her. So trying to say, “All right, I’m going to have to go lay down and take a two-hour nap. This COVID is kicking my butt today, and I just have to trust that whatever I get done is going to be enough.” I take a lot of that from my 12-step community. I believe that there’s something bigger than me, that I am not in charge of the entire universe nor even my entire corner of it, and that I don’t control the world.
And so, in these moments, I remind myself, I’m doing the best I can. I have to turn it over to something bigger than myself. I have to take time to rest and trust that the world won’t fall apart if I take a two-hour nap, and that whatever I am able to get done is going to be enough today. And that not buying into that I must do everything all the time and not stop but instead saying I cannot do everything all the time. I’m doing the best I can. Giving myself a little grace is probably the most radical act of self-care that I am practicing lately. And it doesn’t always work, but as much as I’m able, I try to stay in that place of gratitude for what I am able to do and trust that it will be enough, that it will be enough.
Rob Marsh: Marcella, now that Mentoress Collective is going away, or at least the formal organization is, I’m going to put you on the spot just a little bit, but I would love, just off the top of your head, a list of the women in the marketing world, the copywriting world that somebody who’s listening to this might want to follow. Who are some of those experts that you’ve brought into the Mentoress Collective to teach? And I know there’s a little bit of risk here; you’re going to leave somebody out –
Marcella Allison: Oh, I know I am, and then I’m going to be mortified.
Rob Marsh: Right.
Marcella Allison: It could be you can’t have-
Rob Marsh: So this is my fault, this is my fault! Because I’m totally putting you on the spot and asking for this list, so you can blame me. But I would just love to know some of those women because even I would like to follow more of them if I’m not aware of who they are.
Marcella Allison: This is still COVID recovering brain, on top of menopause brain, on top of closing the business brain. But here’s the ones that are just bouncing into my head. I really enjoy Terri Trespicio’s Unfollow Your Passion. So she’s a great person to follow and I think she’s starting a community and a list. So I really enjoy Terri Trespicio. For challenges with money, I have really loved, as I said before, The Abundance Code, Julie Ann Cairns. She has a great email list. And I find if you’re someone who’s struggling with some of these money patterns, even as far back as childhood, I really love how she thinks about it. She’s a total left-brained person, which is really interesting, and yet she combines both what we might call more the psychology of money with the tangible. So I really like her work.
Marcella Allison: Obviously, I follow Brené Brown and really listen to her podcasts. I find so much wisdom and strength in what she teaches. I love Laura Gale’s Emails About Writing. They are just so beautiful. She was the editor of the book with us, Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me This Shit Before? But I think it’s Laura is Writing. So I really love following Laura Gale. And along those lines, I love Cindy Childress, who I know that you also know. She’s a poet turned ghostwriter, does lots of teaching and training on books, but I find her emails, the way she takes a story and weaves it into an email are great examples. I love following Angie Colee, Permission to Kickass. That woman cracks me up and does the wildest stuff. I love, love listening to her podcast, and then just following her Permission to Kickass emails on Monday are a great way to start your week.
I read Pauline Longdon. I know that you’re familiar with her also, our mutual friend. Oh, her new book coming out, Toughtities About Growing Up in New York. Laura Belgray, love reading Laura Belgray’s stuff. I follow Lean In a lot for issues that are very relevant to women in business today, whether that’s… It might lean a little more corporate America, but I find the resources on Lean In are just so impressive. And there’s another resource that I came across this year with Nicola Corzine, who’s the director of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center. And the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center has a wealth of resources. They also fund studies, they have circles. I could go on and on. So definitely check out the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center and Nicola Corzine. There’s just a whole bunch of free resources there that I had absolutely no idea existed. Oh, I’m sure I’m forgetting people. Is that enough of a start?
Rob Marsh: That’s a really good list.
Marcella Allison: Annie Hyman Pratt, Leading Edge Teams, for anyone who is working with people, her new book is called The People Part. She’s actually going to be our final literary salon guest tomorrow. You can still sign up for that if you like. But Annie Hyman Pratt is like the people whisperer. She started out at her company, she grew and then sold Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and now she runs Leading Edge Teams. And anything to do with people, I go to Annie. She is my first stop. So Annie Hyman Pratt at Leading Edge Teams, and they have a great email newsletter also with just sort of tips and scripts and things that you can use. Her new book is called The People Part. So Annie’s another one of my favorites. And Ilise Benun for sure with Marketing Mentor. Her marketing strategies, especially for introverts, I think are just fantastic. She’s been one of our most popular teachers inside the collective for sure, I would say.
Kira Hug: I’m just waiting for more names.
Marcella Allison: Oh my god, I know. I’m like, all right, I got to stop.
Kira Hug: Marcella, you did a great job.
Rob Marsh: That’s it.
Kira Hug: That was a lot.
Rob Marsh: Yes, it’s a great list.
Marcella Allison: 45 minutes from now, we’ll still be going.
Kira Hug: That was an incredible list to share. Thank you. And I know we were talking earlier; you were talking about choosing possibilities. I scribbled that down in my notes. How do we do that? How do we choose possibility? What does that look like?
Marcella Allison: For me, I think it begins with understanding that most things are not an all-or-nothing proposition. That’s one. The other side of that coin, which I love, I have always loved this quote from Einstein, which is, loosely paraphrased, “Either everything’s a miracle or nothing’s a miracle and you cannot pick and choose.” And we want to sort things into good decisions and bad decisions, into failures and successes. When instead, if you can see it all as choosing possibility and each step making a choice for a new thing that is possible, then we can get away from some of that fear of making the wrong choice, as if there is a right choice and a wrong choice in any given moment, and as if your entire permanent record depends upon that one choice because I think that fear is what stops us. And that’s a little bit about what she talks about in Choose Possibility.
And so, for me, making this choice right now is possible because I began to see, well, you don’t have to give up writing, you don’t have to give up speaking, you don’t have to give up teaching, you are just changing the vehicle through which you’ve been doing that. So for seven years, you did most of that or gave a great deal of your time doing those things to the Mentoress Collective, but there are still women in the world who want mentoring, and there are vehicles and ways in which you can mentor and teach and train both men and women. There’s certainly dozens and dozens of opportunities every day for me to use my writing skills.
So choosing possibility means I believe that there are new ways and new vehicles for me to do that, that perhaps support me more at this moment in my career and are more in alignment with where I’m going right now. And I can choose those and take with me the things that bring me joy and bring me value. And if I believe that every choice has that seed of Einstein’s miracle in it, and if I also remember to believe that I can change my mind at any point in time, then you can be a little freer with your choices and not so terrified. Walking through your day and making choices shouldn’t feel like you’re walking through a field of landmines. It should be a dance of potential and possibility where you’re excited to see what happens next.
Rob Marsh: So when we first started talking, Marcella, you said something to the effect that every ending brings a new beginning. And with the ending of the Mentoress Collective, you have an offer. You’ve got all of this stuff that you’ve been doing for the last seven years and rather than just close the doors and put it all in the closet and ignore it, you’re making this available in a couple of different ways. Talk a little bit about what you’re doing with this content and how anybody who might be interested in getting a hold of it right now can get it.
Marcella Allison: Yes. One of the pieces of my legacy I’m most proud of is the legacy of the Mentoress Collective. So we have seven years of trainings from some of the most successful women in business. And some of those trainings are really specifically geared to women, or they were built in a container of privacy with women, female, and female-adjacent entrepreneurs, and I want to honor and respect that. So we sort of carved our wisdom and our archive into two bundles, and one is all of the copy breakdowns that we have done. So sometimes it’s a piece of my copy, sometimes it’s a control that David wrote, sometimes it’s my friend, Molly Pearson writing for the Couples Institute, Theresa Waggott writing press releases. So we have one bundle that are 12 copy breakdowns, where you get me going through the copy with the writer, or if it’s me, me breaking down how I did it. We’re showing you before and afters, we give you the actual final promotion.
That is the Copy Breakdown Bundle, and that’s available to both men and women. And we threw in as a special bonus one of our most popular reports, which is how to beat back writer’s block and win. So 17 ways to beat back writer’s block with a whole bunch of experts in our industry giving their feedback and thoughts on how they overcome writer’s block. Then we took everything, and we made a very special bundle for women only, which is not only all of the copy breakdowns, which are for men and women, but then every single training, every literary salon, every success key training that we have done in the last seven years, and it really covers the main topics that the research shows causes this gap between male and female entrepreneurs and freelancers. So we have trainings around growth, trainings around leadership, trainings around marketing and branding and expert positioning, trainings around mentoring and what that looks like for women, specific trainings around money and negotiating, and finally around self-care, because we know that that has been, especially during the pandemic, a particular challenge for entrepreneurs.
And then we threw in our very special Closing the Success Gap symposium that we were very blessed to have Kira participate in with over 24 different trainings from leading women in everything from NASA, aerospace engineer to award-winning journalists to you name it.
So we put all that together in Legacy Bundle 2, and that is for female or female-adjacent entrepreneurs only. And we are offering it at a ridiculously low price, I will say. Because for me, right now, this is my final act of generosity of wanting to make sure that all of this wisdom and knowledge that we have acquired over the last seven years continues to promote and support female entrepreneurs and male and female copywriters in our industry to help them go, as we like to say in the collective, as fierce and as far as they desire in business and in life.
Kira Hug: And we will link to both of those offers in our show notes, those generous offers. There’s so much value in there, so thank you for sharing, Marcella.
Rob Marsh: Before you go on to Kira, we should mention that this offer expires, I think tomorrow. Hopefully, you’re listening to this today or on the day that the podcast comes out because it ends, I believe on June 1st. Is that right?
Marcella Allison: June 3rd. Actually, we end on June 3rd, which is a Friday at midnight. So because we have people who are interested in acquiring these assets, I said you have to let me offer them to our women one last time in the community. So this is a very special, limited time. You have until midnight on June 3rd. And then after that, you’ll have to be in different communities in order to access these resources. So it is my final gift to the community to thank everyone who has been on the journey with us, especially Rob, you and Kira have been there from the beginning, supporting the Collective and sharing so many of your amazing women with us. We’ve had many of your women speak and train and teach in our community. So this is like my final thank you. To offer all of this to everyone for less than $100.
Kira Hug: So, depending on when you listen to this episode, you may have a couple days to get in on this offer, or you may have two minutes. So just check it out. Jump on that. And-
Marcella Allison: So move quickly.
Kira Hug: Yes, move quickly. Marcella, I would love to hear what you’re most excited about, energized when you think about this over the next 99 months before you retire. I know you’re feeling drained, tired as you should from COVID and wrapping up the business, but what do you daydream about in a minute or two where you’re just so excited and it feels so light?
Marcella Allison: I think writing for sure my own writing. I have some memoir writing that I’m really excited about to share, not just my lessons as an entrepreneur, but as a mother and someone whose family has dealt with mental illness and addiction. There’s so much crossover, which you might not think, but actually, there’s a lot of crossover in these journeys for me. So I’m very excited to do journaling and writing. I’m going off to Portugal with Laura Gale for a week and Rachel Mazza and some other folks to write on the Algarve Coast at the end of June for my birthday, so I’m super excited about that.
I think I’m also excited to pivot a little bit. I’ve been talking with Yanik Silver about his engaged entrepreneurs and this idea of taking what I know about copy and how to profitably help businesses do social good, how can we help change the world profitably through businesses, and what would that kind of copywriting look like that really combines passion and profit and playfulness. And I’m excited to see where that takes me as the next step in my writing career.
And I am still excited about mentoring and teaching and looking to see what new form that takes for me. I think I’m always someone who’s going to love doing that and sharing what I’ve learned. So I’m excited about that. Thinking about new talks and new directions that I might go after this. But I’m trying really hard right now to not immediately fill the space, to let there be some empty space where I can really think about what’s next instead of just sort of panicking and jumping like, “Oh my god, I have to take another client, or what’ll happen? The world will end.”
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Now, you’ve got me wanting to go write for a week or two on the coast of Portugal.
Kira Hug: Same. That sounds wonderful.
Rob Marsh: And hang out with Laura and Rachel and you.
Marcella Allison: There may still be a room available.
Rob Marsh: There you go. There you go. This has been awesome, Marcella, just hearing about the journey and the wrapping up. We don’t talk about this kind of ending enough, I think. You were talking about how we don’t talk about this and it sort of spawned the idea like we ought to have business funerals, or celebrations of business lives, or wakes, or whatever that is. And so…
Marcella Allison: And we are actually doing that. So I didn’t mention this, but the Mentoress Collective is hosting our closing ceremony is June 3rd. And I’ve asked my mentor, Mary Pierce Brosmer from Women Writing for a Change To Lead, we call it Closing the Circle, and she’ll be leading it with me. So for anyone who has been part of this journey, an invitation is on our email list. It’s also in the Facebook group. And men and women are invited, and it’s from noon to 1:30 PM on June 3rd, and we would love to have everybody there.
Rob Marsh: There you go. Now, I’m glad I mentioned the business funeral or the business wake. So thanks, Marcella, for just sharing all of that, this part of the journey, and we are looking forward to what you do next and just appreciate the support that you’ve given to us, speaking at our events, hanging out with us. I can’t wait till we can get back together again.
Marcella Allison: Me too. Thank you so much for having me and for being willing to engage in this conversation today. I really appreciate it. This too is part of the thing that keeps me going, is being able to talk about these things, so thank you.
Kira Hug: If you want to check out the special offer Marcella has for the final chapter of the Mentoress Collective, you can find the link in the show notes with all the information you need to take advantage of that offer.
Rob Marsh: And if you’re looking for something else to listen to, be sure to tune into episode 48. That’s the very first time we talked to Marcella about her business and how she grew into the business owner that she is today. She talks about her experience with some of the best copywriters that she’s worked with. You can find that right now on your favorite podcast app.
Rob Marsh: And we got to review another review this week, Kira. This is a five-star review from Kristin at KML Collective. And she said, “I am a weekly listener. Every episode of The Copywriter Club podcast is filled to the brim with incredibly useful information, resources, and guidance. I love the variety of guests they feature, from newbie copywriters that are rocking it to financial experts and experienced agency owners.” And she goes on to say even more nice things about it.
Kira Hug: Yeah. We don’t get a lot of podcast reviews, so we do appreciate all of them. So we will read them out loud. If you submit it, we will read it. Unless it’s below four stars, then we will probably not read it. We’ll read it privately.
Rob Marsh: Maybe we should read like the one and two-star. Actually, we’ve never gotten the one or two-star, but we should read it because that might be kind of fun. So, yeah.
Kira Hug: Yeah, if it’s not insulting one of us personally, we can read it. But yeah, we really appreciate your reviews. So if you do that, we will read them moving forward. Thank you, Kristin, for that review.
That’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club podcast. The intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. The outro is composed by copywriter and songwriter, David Muntner. If you like what you’ve heard, please take a screenshot of the episode and then post on social media, on Instagram, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, or wherever you want to post. Just write a little takeaway, like a sentence or two about what you took away from this episode, and then tag us. Please tag us, so we know that you’ve done this. We appreciate it. We appreciate you sharing this episode.
Rob Marsh: And if we see it, we might even share it on the podcast like we did with Kristin. And of course, there’s the traditional way, just leave a review at Apple Podcasts.
Kira Hug: All right, we’ll see you next week.