Steph Trovato is our guest on the 329th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Steph is a copywriter who has been able to scale her business to $300k a year in just 3 years. In this episode, she shares the tools, strategies, support, and systems she’s put in place along the way to make it happen.
Here’s a breakdown of the conversation:
- How Steph went from marketer for dental practices to freelancer and copywriter.
- Why she had to make the jump to full-time in her business and how she earned her first clients.
- Her pitching method – 100 pitches a week?!
- The most important step in the pitching process.
- How long she had to pitch before her business was sustainable.
- Her mindset and perspective shifts as she went full-time in her business.
- The transition from one-off projects to robust retainers.
- Can you be profitable and NOT be a launch copywriter?
- The power of being upfront about your pricing.
- How to set up a profitable retainer for your business.
- The reality of finding the perfect work schedule for your business and lifestyle.
- Steph’s mamba mentality – her approach to business, resilience, and dedication.
- Is it a sacrifice forever or just for a season?
- Here come those boundaries again… Why are they so vital for business growth and success?
- What really is a CEO retreat and how does affect business?
- How Steph breaks down her CEO retreats and how she stays productive.
- Why you need to find a supportive group of people who understand what you do.
- Creating goals that aren’t monetarily based.
- Creating truth to your purpose and the power you give to those around you.
Tune into the episode by hitting play or reading the transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
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The Copywriter Think Tank
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
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Rob Marsh: Is it really possible to make six figures writing copy? How about three times that much. You might be thinking, “yeah, it’s a possibility, but only after decades or longer of cultivating the right clients and developing your sales skills.” That’s certainly one pathway there. But our guest for today’s episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast did it in just two years while primarily writing websites and content, not sales copy. Copywriter, Stephanie Trovato shares how she launched her business as a side hustle during COVID, then went full-time to avoid going back to the office. Two years later, she just cleared over $300,000 in her business. Steph told us how she did it and she filled us in on her CEO retreats, how she manages her time and family, and how the Copywriter Think Tank helped her do it.
Kira Hug: But before we get into our interview with Steph, we want to talk about our sponsor for this episode, The Copywriter Think Tank. So I have all this promotional copy in front of me that I should read about the Think Tank and how amazing it is. But I think it’s better just to listen to the episode because Steph is a Think Tank member. She’s in year two of the Think Tank, and I think she is one of the best examples of what the Think Tank is all about. It’s about figuring out what else is possible for your business beyond the basics and beyond what you ever thought was possible for yourself and for your family, and for your own business and for your revenue.
And so if you resonate with anything Steph is sharing in this episode, consider a Think Tank mastermind and apply. We’ll jump on a call and discuss whether or not it’s a good fit for you. But I think the best way to sum it up is like the Think Tank attracts people like Steph who want to challenge themselves and think differently about what they’re building and explore what’s possible for you. So, hope you can check that out if you’re interested and we’ll talk to you about it soon. You can learn more by visiting copywriterthinktank.com.
Rob Marsh: Okay. As we usually do, let’s kick off this episode with some details about how Stephanie built a business that honestly earned $300,000 last year.
Stephanie Trovato: I ended up as a copywriter because of COVID. I always did copywriting because I’m a marketer and I used to do dental marketing and wrote the website copy and social media and all that stuff. And I always liked it. And as a kid, I always liked writing in general. So I thought freelance writing would be a good way to earn some extra money because I was tired of waitressing to pay for daycare in addition to my full-time job. And so right before 2020, I started freelancing for Huffington Post. I made 150 an article and it was like so much money, like I have made 700 in one month and I was like, “oh my God, I could pay for daycare. This is so great. This is so much money.”
And I decided to do it right from the beginning, so I made myself into a little LLC on December 30th, 2019, and I opened a business account and did all that. And then we all know what happened in March of 2020. And from there I just went full force because I didn’t have a job because no one was allowed to go to the dentist. I had nothing else to do. So I was like, “well, I’ll see what this is.” And in the beginning it was interesting because it was a lot of messaging because people didn’t know how to talk about COVID or how to approach their customers or the take they were supposed to have. And from there I just blew up.
Rob Marsh: So let’s dive into that a bit because going from writing content for Huffington Post for 150 a post to blowing up, it feels like there’s a piece missing there. So what did you do in order to leverage those first few content things that you had done into additional clients? How did you use that to find that next client and then to keep laddering up? Because clearly, and we’ll get to this, your business is not made up of writing content for $150 a post anymore.
Stephanie Trovato: Correct. So what was really great about Huffington Post is it had a byline, which has this proof, it’s social proof, it shows that you know how to write and it shows that you really did it. And so I had, by the end of December, I had seven bylines. So from there I took a pitching course, like a cold pitching course and learned what pitching is, how to do it, who to target, how to target, like research, what to write, all of that.
And I had a big Google sheet of a million people that I wanted to pitch and I sent 20 pitches a day and I started with lifestyle brands because that’s where my bylines were. And I also reached out to someone I used to work with at a previous company, and she was an editor at Apartment Therapy and they had a bunch of articles like that also. So she gave me a continuous one and I had a byline there too. So every time I sent a pitch email, I had my proof. I was like, “here’s where I wrote for this person and here’s where I wrote for this.” And that is what slowly gave me the courage to keep writing.
Kira Hug: So can we break it down for anyone who’s not familiar, like what is a byline? How did you get the first seven? I mean, I know they start to build and it’s like, “well, look what I’ve done here.” But at the beginning, how did you start to get the first few?
Stephanie Trovato: So byline is when you’re the author of the article and your name is listed. It’s great. A lot of companies don’t do it, but a lot do. And the first article I wrote was for holiday content. And a friend of mine had posted on her Instagram story, like a friend needs help writing articles. I didn’t know who it was for, what it was for. And I was like, sure, why not? I found out it was the Huffington Post. The editor gave me the first topic and then she was like, “if you have any ideas, let me know.”
So a lot of editors in those types of publications except pitches and ideas. So I had a few ideas for gift lists like if someone just lost somebody and gift list for new parents and things like that. And she was pretty open to it and said yes to everything. And that’s how I got so many, because she had like, like those kinds of publications, they just have a budget for the month. So they’re like, here I have, you can write five articles. And I think I just got lucky in that way, and that’s the only time I’ll say I was lucky because after that it was hard work. But at the beginning it was luck.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Speaking of hard work, 20 pitches a week is a ton.
Stephanie Trovato: No a day.
Rob Marsh: Oh, sorry. 20 pitches a day. So-
Kira Hug: That’s intense.
Rob Marsh: 100 pitches a week. That sounds nuts, I think to almost, even if you’ve got a system. So let’s talk about that pitch. How much of each of those pitches was original? What were you doing? How did you identify the clients? Let’s really go deep on this system that you used to get yourself out in front of the clients you wanted to work with.
Stephanie Trovato: Sure. So I made some buckets. So I had my lifestyle content bucket, dental marketing and healthcare in general. And then my previous experience in marketing operations and startups and digital marketing in general, like more agency side. So I had those little buckets and I literally would just sit there and Google digital marketing agency near me, digital marketing agency in this town, in that town, use different search terms and see what came up. There’s millions. And then from there I would go see if they had a blog, if they did, great. Because in the beginning I just pitched blogs. So I would see if they had a blog or not. If they did, I would see how often they updated it. You could kind of tell, like a lot of people put the dates so you could see if all of a sudden it just totally dropped and you’re like, “oh, well they must need help.”
Or if they were authoring something every week or every two weeks, maybe they want to go every week. And just finding that little gap. So you can mention it in the email. So I would have a column for their name, like what they needed, what I thought I would pitch. And then I would go, I used Hunter, that little IO extension and found their email addresses. You can also do it on LinkedIn. You can kind of figure out, there’s only so many cadences that people use for emails, so it’s kind of easy to figure out. And when you do Gmail, I feel like now it’s better. It lets you, like when you start to type in an email, if it’s actually a person, their picture will pop up, their email for real will pop up and you’re like, “oh, got it.” And then I would be like, “hi, I’m Stephanie. I’m a freelance writer. I noticed your blog articles. I’ve dropped off lately. I’ve really enjoyed reading them, especially checking that one.” And you would pick one and actually talk about it and try not to sound generic.
And then I would usually pitch a few ideas, like not two in depth, but just be like, “I’d love to help you with some new ideas.” And put a little bullet list of three or four ideas and then follow up three days later if I didn’t hear, then follow up another week later after that. And people for the most part responded. It was, some were no, some were not right now. Some were great. Some were; we don’t work with freelance writers and that’s totally fine. But I found from the beginning that following up was the only way to really get an answer because people are busy and you know how fast emails drop to the bottom of the inbox. So most people were appreciative and were like, “thank you for reminding me. Oh yes, I’d love to have a conversation.” And that’s how it all began.
Kira Hug: Let’s talk more about the follow-up because this is like, you’re right, the follow-up is key here. And it trips up a lot of copywriters, they’re like, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to share with them. It feels invasive.” Do you have any tips for the follow-up series especially, “okay, I sent the first one, they still haven’t responded, what about second, third, fourth?” How do you view those?
Stephanie Trovato: Simple is better. I literally write, I still do it to this day. Even if I’m in the middle of talking to someone and I’m like all of a sudden I disappear, I’ll be like, “hi, not sure if you saw my last email. Just wanted to follow up with my pitch ideas, hoping we can chat about your content needs soon.” That’s it. And the next one, I would like, depending on the company and my feelings of the week, how many times I would follow up. Sometimes I’d follow up two times, three times. So then the next one would be similar language just as short. And then my final one I would always say, just wanted to follow up one last time and to see if you had any content needs or would like to have a conversation about in the future. And I would leave it at that and someone would be like, “can you please email me again in three months? Can you do this? Or, yes, we’ll keep you on the list.” Or things like that. Everyone’s different, but that’s the only way I got answers.
Rob Marsh: And what was the hit rate? About what percent did you connect with to get an answer? And then I guess what percent actually hired you to do work for them?
Stephanie Trovato: I would say 80% of people answered. Most people didn’t ignore, especially if you follow up and out of people who said yes, maybe like 25 to 40% of those people.
Rob Marsh: Nice. And then how long did you have to do this? Because it feels like 20 a day is not sustainable for years and years. So how long did you have to do this process in order to basically get your business to the point where it was closer to self-sustaining?
Stephanie Trovato: I would say three months. Three months was good, because then I had consistent clients. Or in the beginning I wasn’t sure of my workload, like how much can I actually do? And I was also working around my husband being home, my daughter taking naps. It was COVID life. It was like a free for all. So I didn’t have a set schedule. So I didn’t know when enough was enough. As long as I made more than I was making in the beginning, that was all I cared about.
Kira Hug: Okay. So when were you like, okay, this is working, but now I need to figure out the next steps to get to the next stage of my business? Like parts of it are working, parts of it not working. What does the next level look like? When did that happen for you?
Stephanie Trovato: So I started pitching in February of 2020. And by the summer of that year, I was like, “oh, okay, this is a real thing. I can make real money. I don’t need to go back to work.” I was still going to work because it was supposed to be remote. So I was like, whatever, I could do both. And then in August of that year, I was asked to come back full-time into the office and I was like, “no way. I’m never going back again.” So then I decided, like “okay, well, it’s like now or never, I’m just going to do this full time.” So I quit and just like my mindset changed and I was like, “okay, this is my business now. This is not fun. This is not side money.” And I think that’s when I really shifted.
Rob Marsh: And how did your pricing change over that time? So you started at 150 an article, but by the summer when you quit your job, were you still charging that rate or had your prices increased? What were you doing differently?
Stephanie Trovato: They increased, I would say, to like 250 an article. And I also got more jobs on like an hourly rate, so more agency work, which tends to be an hourly rate and things like that.
Kira Hug: Okay. So it’s funny that you’re saying in August when you quit your job, your mindset changed and you were like, “I’m really serious about this. Now I’m going to go all in.” Because sending 20 pitches a day sounds pretty serious and that was happening previously. So then what happened when you decided this is it, I left my job, I’m going to go all in. What were some of those changes in your focus and attention? What were you focused on at that point?
Stephanie Trovato: I was focused on having less one-off jobs and like an article and a this, and a that. And I wanted a more consistent full marketing campaign. So I focused much more on copywriting. And one of my biggest breaks, I guess you could call it, is I started working with Travel and Leisure, which was Wyndham Destinations at the time. And I did full marketing campaigns like ads, website copy, landing pages, email, literally everything. And then I even got to dabble into the magazine, which was cool.
Rob Marsh: Okay. So today you’re not doing blog posts anymore, your business has changed pretty considerably. Tell us about what kinds of projects you typically take on today and how they’re different from what you were doing for that first year.
Stephanie Trovato: So I do not work with lifestyle brands at all anymore. I do strictly B2B SaaS like MarTech, Adtech, EdTech and workplace productivity type products. I don’t do B2C and I do e-commerce because it ties in a lot with SaaS and I still do blog articles, but they’re just totally different now. Like those were listicles of best gifts and these Airbnbs you should stay at and like check out this friends’ coffee set, things like that. And now it’s more bottom of the funnel, middle of the funnel, like a sales driven blog post if I’m going to do blog posts and then website copy and email copy and social copy.
Rob Marsh: So why did you move away from the lifestyle and choose SaaS tech? Why the switch, and how did you go, what was the thinking process on that?
Stephanie Trovato: So lifestyle doesn’t pay that well, but I also, I wanted to be more challenged, so I felt like it was too easy. It wasn’t interesting enough for me. I’m a much more marketing and business and analytical person, so I wanted to be in that field. But I also enjoyed making words more human, like making them more valuable to the reader and able to connect. And I felt like the B2B audience is a place to do that, where like B2C, everything’s like that. So I wanted more of a challenge by doing it in B2B.
Kira Hug: I need some of those listicles for holiday gifts, like right about now.
Stephanie Trovato: They probably still apply. I should find them. I think-
Kira Hug: Yeah, please send all of those to me because I need to do all of my holiday shopping. I would like to hear more about your transition from content to copywriting and thinking more about the funnel strategically, because that’s a jump that a lot of content writers want to make and oftentimes we get in our own way or we don’t know how to make that jump. What helped you make that transition?
Stephanie Trovato: So in the beginning, I didn’t realize I was a copywriter because I thought of copywriting as very sales, like salesy stuff. And that’s not what I was used to writing. But then I learned, “oh, I’ve already written a bunch of websites and all this other stuff. I do write copy.” And so that’s what I enjoy writing because I enjoy the less is more, like taking on the brand voice and really transforming. I enjoy revamping something instead of net new when it comes to website copy. Because for me, it’s easier to read something and be like, “oh no, no, no, like that’s not good. It should be this instead.” I feel like it gets my creative juices flowing better. But that stint that I had at Travel and Leisure, I was there with them for a year and a half is when I really fell in love with copy because that’s when you couldn’t travel.
But we still had to write about traveling and how amazing it is. So I was able to romanticize it and that’s what was so fun. This is such bs! Like, what am I writing about? You can’t even go to any of these places, but I’m going to talk about them anyways. So that’s when I really started enjoying it and I was like, “oh, I could do this.” And it’s so much of a mind game I feel like with copywriting because a lot of people I feel like think that their copy has to be proven by sales or some measurable statistic. And if they don’t have it and, or if they have no proof of it, then they can’t do it. That’s not true.
Your words are on a website to represent a brand and what they do depends on what page you’re writing for, who you’re writing for. Not everything is completely reliant on sales. I don’t write sales pages. I’m not good at those. I don’t, I’m not persuasive enough. I don’t know what it is. I feel like an infomercial when I write them, like they feel funny for me. Other people are fantastic at them, but don’t like social copy or email copy at all. So there’s so many different buckets of copy that I feel like just using the term copywriter in general scares people. But you can be good at one and you don’t have to do the rest. It’s okay.
Rob Marsh: It’s interesting that you say that because there are a lot of people who argue that in order to make really good money as a copywriter, you have to write sales copy, you have to write sales pages, you have to be close to the sale, but you’re writing a lot of content, you’re writing a lot of top and middle funnel content for your clients. And if you’re willing to share, you’re making a lot of money as a copywriter, you’re not doing, it’s not $700 a month anymore as big money. I have a feeling that would be super disappointing. So talk a little bit about that shift as well. How do you get clients to buy into paying good money for content and how, I mean, what are you making in your business today writing that top and middle of funnel content?
Stephanie Trovato: Yeah. So I have never written a sales page and I don’t think I ever will. Maybe I will one day. I can’t say never, but I have never done it. So you can make money without writing an official sales copy. I don’t do launches or any of those things. So when I started my business, my goal, my first year was 30k because that was enough to pay for daycare, which is crazy to think about now. Because I’m like, “oh my God, that’s how much I would pay for daycare.” I think that’s kindergarten now. So when I was like, that summer that I started copywriting, like the summer of 2020, I had already made 30k. So I was like, “oh, I need to re-look at this.” So I didn’t really have any goals, but I was like, I can make more money than this. So my first year I ended up like 120, 140, somewhere around there and I was like, “holy crap, you can make so much money.”
So then I was like, “okay, I need to charge more.” Because I was working a lot, I had a ton of clients and I was like, “I need to redo my rates” or something like I should be making more, doing less. So that was my focus for 2021 was to get better paying clients. So there are plenty of clients who will not pay you, and don’t want to pay you. That was another reason I also wanted to shift my writing like where I did it because I was tired of having to prove my worth all the time and argue my rates because there’s plenty of people out there that want the best deal. And I get that. I’m like that as a consumer, but I would never do that just like a service business ever! So I was like, “okay, I’m tired of defending myself and having to negotiate my rates, that are, I felt were low enough.”
So I started using LinkedIn more and focusing more on the B2B. And I would find people who were already looking for a freelance writer, already in need, had a content need of some sort. And I would have the budget conversation from the beginning. And some people are pretty upfront about it and they’ll be like, they’ll ask you what your rates are, or you can say, “can you share your budget with me?” And what’s the worst they’re going to say to you? No. And then like, all right. So we have to have another conversation. But they usually do, and it helps because then you could be, “my blog rate is $500” and they’re like, “oh, we only have 150, so thank you. We appreciate it, but obviously we’re really far apart.” And then you save everyone time. So I just became more upfront about talking about pricing in general and finding people who had a brand already.
So the bigger the client, usually the more marketing budget they have. Not always. And sometimes the biggest brands pay terribly, so it’s not a one for all thing, but looking for those brands that you could tell when you were on their websites, had good website copy, had good pages, had a blog, sent out emails, knew what content was and why it was important. And the more I focused on that, the more money I started making with more retainer clients. So it might be 30 hours a month at, I don’t know, $3,000 or something like that. And that would cover email copy, website copy, things like that. So then as I focused on that more, then I saw my income literally double. So last year I made 230 and my goal for this year was 250. And as of yesterday I hit 295. So I’ll probably end the year at 315, 320, which is like, I don’t even know what that means. Like what is, I don’t know what that means?!
Rob Marsh: That’s game changing money.
Kira Hug: That’s a big number.
Rob Marsh: That’s a really big number, yeah.
Kira Hug: Yeah.
Stephanie Trovato: It’s crazy.
Kira Hug: It’s incredible. Congratulations.
Stephanie Trovato: Thank you.
Kira Hug: I think it would be easy to hear some of these numbers and say, “well, Steph must work all the time. She must be working with 20 clients. And I couldn’t do that. I don’t want to do that.” But we know that you’ve figured it out and you’ve been working on simplifying and I know it’s an ongoing process, but can you talk a little bit about how you’ve been able to take on and grow the business without necessarily overstressing yourself or working a crazy schedule that doesn’t work for you and your family?
Stephanie Trovato: Yes. So there is a huge learning curve. You’re not just going to make 300k and be a pro overnight. So I’m three years into my business now, and I finally, I think in June of this year is where I finally started feeling like, “okay, I know what I’m doing.” Everything just felt more consistent and more comfortable and I learned my schedule. So obviously this is dependent on a lot of things. My daughter is five now, so she’s into kindergarten. So her schedule’s pretty set unless COVID starts hitting again and then the world’s going to end. And then I have also learned when I work best, when I don’t work best, that all takes time. I used to work on weekends. I used to work at night whenever I could because I would overload myself and try to get a million things done. And I didn’t know my limit.
I don’t think I have a limit, but I know when I’m bored. If I get too overwhelmed, then I get bored. I’m like, forget I’m not doing any of it. So I’ve learned that threshold, but that takes time. So now I’ve learned, I wake up early, everyone thinks I’m nuts. We’ve had this conversation before. So usually two or three days a week I wake up and I start working at 4:30 in the morning because that’s when I’m creative. If I could just work at that time till 10:00 AM that would be great. But my daughter goes to school, so that doesn’t work. So I usually work from 4:30 to 6:30 and then she wakes up. But I get a lot done in those two hours. That’s when I write the best. And then I work again from 9:00 AM and then on and off all day because I have a dog and I’ll go do other things until around 4:00 PM and I do that pretty much every day.
Sometimes I’ll just wake up early and work because I want to go do something during the day. I want to go to a bar class or I want to go get a massage. So I’ve learned to balance my time, but that took me two and a half years to learn. So what I’ve been doing that’s working is paying attention. It’s hard because you think you know yourself, but you don’t, like unless you start really taking note of what you feel when you feel it. So I just thought I woke up early because I had to, and I was like, “no, I actually really like this.” I hate working at night. I don’t do well. I can invoice. That’s about as good as it’s going to get.
I can’t do anything at night. My brain is much, and I don’t like working on weekends because it gives me anxiety, because I feel like I’m missing something. But you don’t know that until you do it and you start really being like, “Hey, why do I feel this way? Or Oh, I feel really great right now. What am I doing?” Like I have a treadmill right next to me because I have to walk every day or I lose my mind. But these are all things you learn as you go. So it’s okay if you don’t know. It’s okay if you don’t know how much you should make, how much you should work, when you can work. And things will change, life changes. When I worked two years ago, my daughter was three and I was not working a full-time schedule. I was just working whenever I could. And now it feels more like a full-time job. But I would say I really work 30 hours a week.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, that’s not bad given the money that you’re bringing in. So you have been called the Kobe Bryant of copywriting by us, I think.
Kira Hug: Yes, by us.
Rob Marsh: I am curious if you would tell us just a little bit about the mindset that goes into that mamba approach to your business and the resilience, the dedication, the hard work that goes into it. And how you, I mean, you’ve kind of told us a bit about that already, but are there specific things that you’re doing to make sure that that’s happening every single day, every single week that you’re bringing that discipline in order to help you succeed?
Stephanie Trovato: Yes. So I thought what I was doing was what everybody was doing because you don’t know until you actually start talking to people like The Copywriter Club and in the Think Tank that like, “oh, not everybody does everything you think.” So my husband is a huge basketball fan and he’s the one who was like, you should talk about your mamba mentality. And I was like, “what?” Because we had watched the documentary, I knew what he was talking about, but he was like, “that’s who you are. That’s what you have.” So I started thinking about it more and I was like, “oh, F yeah, that is who I’m.” So I would say what sets me apart and what makes me different as the Kobe Bryant of copywriting is I am super persistent. I understand that not everyone’s going to say yes to me, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
And it’s okay if it doesn’t happen on the first try. So I am always persistent with my follow-ups like I talked about with literally everything in life. I just don’t usually take no for an answer. I wake up early. So Kobe Bryant used to wake up early every day and work out before his team workouts because he didn’t want to sacrifice time with his family at night. So he sacrificed his sleep. And I’m the same way. I could function on less sleep because I’d rather that than miss out on something that’s actually important. I’ll get sleep, it’s fine, I’ll make it up. I don’t do it every single day.
Boundaries are a huge thing. So the more I’ve done research into the mamba mentality, Kobe was so much about boundaries. I’m only doing what matters to him, and I’ve learned so much from you guys about boundaries. And so now I have a mindset coach and I talk about boundaries with her all the time, and I’ve figured out what my boundaries are and they’ve made me a better business owner because if you don’t have boundaries, you run yourself to the ground because you’re essentially just being everyone’s employee, then you’re not a business owner.
So the boundaries have helped me not work weekends, not work on vacations, make sure I’m there at the bus stop every morning and every afternoon. I also ask for help because you can’t do everything alone as much as you want to. I’m a supermom, I know that my husband does that, but I have no problem asking him for help, and he is very supportive and voices it. And that has helped so much because I have a hard time asking sometimes. So he will call me out on it and it does feel so much better. I think I can get it all done and I probably could, but I’ll feel like crap by the end of the day. So it’s a lot more important to balance my mindset and my time and my mental health and just keep myself and my family as a priority.
Rob Marsh: So let’s break in here to talk a little bit about a few of the things that Steph has been sharing. I’ve got a whole bunch of notes that I was listening to that I want to hit on. But Kira, again, I’m going to let you go first. What really jumped out to you?
Kira Hug: Well, I mean, COVID copywriters are blowing me away, Steph and then others that we’ve interviewed on the show and that we just know in the Copywriter Club community who started during COVID and have just taken off over the last few years and are now generating 300k a year in their businesses. I’m just kind of blown away because to me, it still feels like that was just yesterday. I know it wasn’t, but still that’s still recent and it just blows my mind to think about what is possible in a short period of time if you’re focused and persistent and you don’t take no for an answer like Steph. So I think it’s just a realization from this conversation and many others that we’ve had that so much is possible in a short period of time. And Steph is such a great example of that.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I wonder what’s going on with that because you’re right, there, we’ve talked to a bunch of people and many outside of the podcast as well where people started their business in COVID and they’ve had remarkable success. And I wonder if it’s because these were people who were very successful in whatever they were doing before, but because they couldn’t do it. Now they could shift that mindset or those good habits into another business and they’re succeeding anyway. Or if there’s just something about the economy that changed during COVID where people realized, “Hey, we need more content, we need more copy, we need to be able to sell more through the words because we don’t have people walking into our stores or we don’t have some of the things that we had three years ago that helped us promote.” I’m not sure what it is, but you’re exactly right. COVID has produced a lot of copywriters who are doing really well.
Kira Hug: Yeah, I mean it’s #covidcopywriter, that’s the group. And if you are one of those COVID copywriters, please reach out to us. I’d love to hear from you because I have more questions for you about what happened, what was working, what helped you take off, so please reach out to us.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, one of the things that really helped Steph take off, and again, this number just blows me away, but sending out 20 pitches a day, she got answers on 80% of them. So that’s 16 answers a day, and 40% of those 20 are saying yes. So somewhere around four to eight people every single day doing that, having that kind of a success rate doesn’t take very long to fill up your business with clients who need the thing that you’re offering. And so we teach the P7 landing clients now, of course that’s all about pitching and we share all kinds of templates in that, but the things that Steph did are really smart. Lots of pitches, lots of follow up, and if you do that, you are going to succeed assuming that your pitch solves a real problem for your client.
Kira Hug: Yeah, I remember when we first sat down with Steph, when she just joined the Think Tank, and I didn’t know her well yet, and I was just trying to figure her out on our first hour-long call, and I remember when we started talking about her follow-up game and her persistence, that’s when I was like, “oh, this is it.” This is what separates Steph from so many other people is that she does not take no for an answer. She is one of the most persistent people I know, and I mean that in such a good way.
She follows up with everyone she reaches out to, as she shared, she follows up with us too. If we have a conversation with Steph on a Think Tank call and we’re like, “Hey, here’s an idea you could do this.” Most people will just kind of let it go. It’ll fade. But Steph jumps in, she does the thing, and then she follows up with us until we move forward with the idea. And that’s just, we can all do that, right? It’s not like an innate gift that only Steph has. We can all get better at that. I know I can get better at that, and I think that’s been such a huge part of her success.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I agree. Follow up is key. And there’s so many people who just drop things after a first contact or a second contact or even thinking about your existing clients, clients that you’ve worked with in the past. And we don’t ask them for additional work. We don’t reach out to them once we’re done. I’m assuming that most of those experiences for people are good experiences. They might want to work with them again, and yet we just don’t. We just assume that person’s done with us and they need to move on, which is interesting for two reasons. One, in our own personal businesses we should be doing more of it. It would help us to grow without so much outreach and pitching. But also it’s an opportunity if you are one of those who will pitch and follow-up knowing that the last copywriter that this client you’re pitching to probably isn’t following up. And so when your name appears in the inbox, there’s an opportunity for you to start working with them now.
Kira Hug: Yeah. So Rob, what else stood out to you when we started talking about money? Were there any lessons related to how Steph was able to bring in over 300k?
Rob Marsh: There were a couple of things. Number one, Steph is not afraid to talk about money. She mentioned that she talks about it right up front and the money thing is part of the conversation. This is another place where so many copywriters are afraid to talk about the money, where we want to make sure that we’re throwing out a price that the client’s going to accept. And so if we know something’s worth, say $5,000, we say, “oh, I can do it for $3,500,” because we know that offering that kind of a bargain for a client is an easy yes, but that’s really not true.
Oftentimes that shows that we’re not confident in what we do, and Steph obviously shows up on her calls very confident saying, this is the value that I bring to the table. This is what it costs. She also structured her work so that it’s more about retainers, so it’s not one-offs, but she switched to doing more campaigns, helping people with larger projects, doing more retainers so that she doesn’t have to continually go out looking for new clients. I think those two are kind of a one-two punch about being smarter about making more money.
Kira Hug: So also, we should note that Steph was talking about money, but also how she’s making really great money without writing sales pages or working on launch copy or working in direct response. And so she’s doing it her way. And I think it’s just such a great example of there is money to be made in so many different areas, and it’s not just one traditional path for copywriters only. And so I appreciate that she shared that with us too.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I agree. One other thing that she threw out there that to me, it was kind of a throwaway line as she was talking, and it didn’t really register with me the first time we were talking, but I noticed it the second time is when she was talking about how there’s this idea that you need proof that you can do something and that that’s not really true. And I know this comes up a lot when we’re talking to our students in the accelerator in the underground, but so many of us feel like we need to be able to prove that we can do this thing that we say that we can do with numbers, with previous projects and Steph’s approach to that is…
Again, that’s not really true. What you need to do is build trust, show them there’s this opportunity here. Talk about the value you can bring to the table. There’s so many ways to do that without needing that proof. And I know because we talk about this a lot in our programs, we maybe have mentioned it a few times in the podcast before, but it’s a really important point. Just because you haven’t got the proof that you delivered X number of sales or a 20% increase on whatever does not mean that you can’t still do the thing.
Kira Hug: Yeah. And I think it’s just your mindset and Steph’s mentality is just about learning as you go. And so she did mention that, and it just, when you think about everything that way, it’s like, “well, yeah, I can take on this project I’ve never actually jumped into before because I’ll learn as I go and then it’ll be easier next time. And I can always ask for help and I can figure it out with the resources I have or I’ve already invested in and just figure it out rather than pulling myself out of the ring and not doing it,” which is what many of us do, we get in our own way.
And just being comfortable knowing that along the way things can get uncomfortable or even painful and we’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay because we’ll continue to learn as we go. And so she’s clearly done a lot of mindset work. Even just being part of the Think Tank, you expose yourself to so many different perspectives that change how you operate and think. Steph also mentioned investing in her own mindset coach. We talk about mindset all the time. I have a mindset coach also, we have Linda Perry, who’s one of our favorite mindset coaches in the Think Tank. So it’s like this stuff really makes a difference. Mindset is no joke, and Steph is proof that investing in your mindset can go such a long way.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, definitely. And last thing that I want to mention from this half of the interview, as Steph is talking about her schedule and things like getting up early, working when her daughter’s taking a nap or is away from the house, whatever. She’s very deliberate in building a schedule that works around her life rather than the other way around. And I think I often do this, and I know lots of other people do. We try to balance our life around work instead of work around life. And I admire that she’s been able to do that. And it’s something that as I’m thinking about it, I’m like, I’m going to do more of that where I’m making work work for me instead of moving everything else around to fit it in.
Kira Hug: I’m going to reach out to you tomorrow and you won’t be available. You’ll be,
Rob Marsh: That’s right. I’m going to be on an airplane, but I’ll be traveling away. You won’t be able to get me.
Kira Hug: Yeah, no, I think about that often. And I have weeks where I’m really good at it and I’m prioritizing my life, and then I fit work in and work always gets done. And then there are a couple weeks where work just does get more intense and that can happen. And I think the trick is, and work can take over, so you’re doing more working than living. And I think it’s okay in my mind if that happens for a short period of time and there’s an end date. And the hardest part is then getting back on track so that you’re living more and fitting work into your life. And that’s hard because there’s a whole struggle there where once you get off track, it feels so hard to get back on track. But if you can do that and make those switches and realize that some days I actually will need to put in more hours, I will need to hit that deadline or finish that project, and then the next day I can jump back into my schedule where I’m prioritizing my workout or my health or my relationships that…
It’s tricky, it’s a tricky balance and we’re all figuring it out. But I do like that we touched on the 4:30 AM mornings, and especially because what I caught from her that stood out to me is that she doesn’t do a 4:30 AM morning every day. And that’s also how I approach it. I’ll do a couple early mornings, but I still like to sleep in. So I’ll do it earlier in the week, get a lot of stuff done, and then by Friday, Saturday, if I can sleep in until 7:00 or 8:00, that’s a great week. And so that flexibility is pretty cool because usually people just set the time and it’s hard to kind of shift throughout the week. So I thought that was interesting.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I’m going to say I sleep in longer on the weekends, 5:00 AM through the week. But I know the experts say you should always get up and go to bed at the exact same times but-
Kira Hug: That’s not fun.
Rob Marsh: And it’s not realistic. With weekends, you want to spend some time with a partner or with your family. Sometimes there are other things to do. So weekends at least I’ll sleep in. But during the week, I’m not up as early as Steph, but close.
Kira Hug: And I love that sleeping in for me at least, I’m like, “can I sleep in until 7:30?”
Rob Marsh: Yeah, exactly. That’s not sleeping in.
Kira Hug: Yeah. All right. Well, let’s go back to our interview with Steph and get into the details about how she manages her time. Okay. A couple clarifying questions before a real question. So you mentioned getting up early a couple days a week. And I’m asking, because I also like to do the same, but do you just do it three or four days a week and then you sleep in a little bit more the other days? I know this is very specific, but it will help me.
Stephanie Trovato: So I usually do it Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday because I don’t start my week that way. So I’ll just be tired. And then I go to sleep, I’ll be laying in bed by 8:00. My daughter falls asleep at 7:30, so that helps. And then my husband and I have a deal as long as we don’t have to get up early for something, we each get a weekend morning to sleep in. So that’s usually when I’ll make it up.
Kira Hug: Okay, got it. Okay, that helps. And then, can you just talk through what your typical month looks like? Because again, we’re talking about some big numbers, so it helps to picture… Okay, does that mean you have five retainers? Does that mean you have two retainers and then two website projects? What is an average month that has helped you get to this financial level?
Stephanie Trovato: So I would say the majority of my clients now are retainer clients. So they can be priced differently, like the structure of them. Like some of them are hourly, like 10 hours a month for whatever, or some of them are deliverables. So like three articles a month, $1,200, things like that. So my workload has become much more consistent and predictable, which is helpful. Even December is a slow month for everybody. There’s just less work to do. So I had a bunch of clients who were like, “oh, I’m not going to have anything, but I’ll have it in January.” So then I was like, initially I was like, “oh shit, it’s going to be a lot less money.” And then I just put it in my spreadsheet really quickly and I was like, “oh, actually it’s not.” So I would say my last five months have averaged around 30k and December will be 24k.
So yes, it’s a lot less, but it’s still a lot of money. If so, my, I’ve also learned to, like my perspective, just pay attention to that because it’s really easy to fall into the “woe is me” or like oh no, and like to go into panic. I’m someone who like, if a client canceled, I used to be like, “oh my God, what am I going to do?” And I’d have that anxiety and have to go find something and I wouldn’t feel better until I did. Where now I’m like, “okay, it’s fine.” And that took a lot of work and a lot of mindset work, and that’s why I’ve been working with the mindset coach, but I’ve noticed how different I feel and I feel like I have more control now.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. I want to go back to your agreement with your husband on the weekend morning things because… Well, I actually think this is pretty important. So my wife and I do not necessarily have the same sleep schedules. I get up early like you do. I go for a run by, about 5:15 I’m usually out on the roads, whatever. And my wife tends to take the evenings, which she likes because our kids get chatty or whatever and teenagers like to talk at night. So I miss out on some of that stuff, which is maybe not a great thing, but it works for us having that support. And I know that’s a privilege. Not everybody has that. Maybe they don’t have a supportive partner, maybe they have a partner who isn’t supporting, like those things happen. And I’m not sure really what my question is here, other than, are there other places where you get support from your partner or you’re offering them support that makes that trade off work for you guys that maybe we can borrow some into our own lives and experiences as well.
Stephanie Trovato: Yeah. So I had no idea that you woke up early every day and ran? See? You’re part of the early morning club.
Rob Marsh: I am. I’m definitely, I’m there every morning. Yeah.
Stephanie Trovato: It took us, I don’t know why it took us so long to figure out that one of us should just sleep all the time. We both don’t need to be awake at the same time in the morning, but we only learned that in the last year. And I would say yes, it’s a privilege. We only have one kid. It helps. She’s easy. We don’t have a baby, we don’t have all these different things. She’s in that age now, we’re like, now she has more activities and all that stuff. So as a mom, I feel like I do more of those. And he likes to go sometimes because he wants to watch, but I go because there’s another mom there and her friend is there. And it’s easier for me to have the soccer mom talk than for him to do it. But I would say you have to voice it.
It’s really easy to snap at each other, just be like, “oh my God, I’m so tired. How do you not see how much work I’m doing?” And that’s what I used to do. I used to be like, “oh, are you kidding me? How do you not see all this?” Where we learned how to communicate better and both of us have voiced what works and what doesn’t. So last year around this time, I was waking up early every day because I had a lot of work to do and he hated it because I was not fun. And he was like, “I can’t, you can’t do this. This is too much and you’re not fun to be around and you’re not enjoying life and you’re not really here.” And he was right, but I just needed to be called out on it. And that’s how I kind of figured out more of my balance.
So I feel like sometimes you don’t figure things out until something bad happens or it just is too much and that’s okay. Usually the way people learn, you have to learn the hard way. I am a big example of that, my whole life. But also he has gotten better at asking for help or being like, “I need a minute to myself or I’m going to go here. Is that okay?” We also have a huge calendar that’s like I don’t know, it’s like 24 by 24. It’s in the kitchen and it’s acrylic and I fill it out every month with all the details so that he knows what’s coming up and I know what’s coming up. And he doesn’t have to ask me, even though he’s still does.
But it’s more like he can kind of see like, oh, you have a lot to do this month. And it’s not work stuff, it’s just life. But he knows that’s on top of work. So he’ll be like, “oh, I could do this or I can do that.” And just talk, like even if it’s for 10 minutes. So I’ve learned that he is not an early morning person and never will be. And that’s okay. He’s cranky in the morning. I’m like [makes noise]. And so I talk to my daughter instead of him that much in the morning because she’s like me. And then at night she falls asleep at 7:30 and we usually watch Wheel of Fortune.
And then I go upstairs and he goes and works out. And that’s our routine right now. I always make dinner. There’s certain things that both of us always do and that takes time. And I definitely miss out on stuff and he definitely misses out on stuff. But instead of focusing on that, like you said, you miss out on your kids’ conversations. Like that stinks because I’m sure they’re, like when teenagers are actually you, you’re like you want to talk to them. So maybe finding a different moment like, “oh, I’ll drive you here or let’s go here.” And just being more aware to make that time so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out because then it’s going to make you resent your business.
Kira Hug: All right. I want to make sure we have time to talk about the retreat. So I’m going to pivot and dig in. I know we’ve talked a lot about hosting retreats, business retreats on the podcast. I do one once a month. Love it. I’d like to hear about your retreat and one, how it’s helped you since you’ve started doing it, and then two, what you do during that time. Because I think it’s also really confusing. It’s like, okay, so you book time for yourself to focus on your business, but what do you actually do for that day or for the three days?
Stephanie Trovato: Sure. So I always feel funny talking about it to people who don’t have their own business because you get a face, like “you’re going on a trip by yourself. Oh, lucky you! You’re not going to sleep.” So I always explain it as just companies take their employees on a retreat to focus on big picture business. You can do the same thing for your own business. And I don’t know where this idea was when I started because I didn’t know about it and I only learned about it last, this past year. And when I first read it, I was like, “oh, I don’t think I’m there yet.” But then I was in, I’m in Think Tank and we’ve had conversations about it and you were like, “yeah, CEO day.” And I was like, “yeah, that’s so smart.” But I also know that I can’t do that at home.
Some people do it every week at home. I will go do laundry, I will go do anything else but do something I’m supposed to do. So I started reading more about it and really researching how different entrepreneurs took a retreat for their own business to focus on their goals and their big picture ideas and things that you think you’ll have time for when you’re home and working, but you will never have time for because it requires you to disconnect from everything else. So in May of this year, I did my first one and it was two nights.
I rented an Airbnb and, like 40 minutes from my house in this cute little town, I could walk everywhere. And I made an agenda before I went and I had my goals and my actions that I wanted to do. So it could be like figuring out my recurring expenses, figuring out my offers and packages, take a course that I had been meaning to take, read a few articles that I had been meaning to read, but they were so long that I was like, “yeah, next time, next time.”
And taking notes from it. Listening to certain podcasts, I had it all listed out and I divided it by day. I didn’t put in the time or anything because I didn’t want to make it rigid. And I also built in where I was going to eat and when I was going to go for a walk or go do something else besides work, I prepared for it ahead of time. So I did not do any client work on it. I closed all of my tabs, which if you know me before I learned about one tab, I had 50 of them open all the time. So I closed everything so I wouldn’t be distracted. I kept Slack off. I turned off on my notifications, I deleted my apps on my phone, so I wouldn’t look at work. I only looked at big picture stuff. And then I had one main focus a day.
So I spent one whole day with websites that I had already marked that I really liked their copy or their services page or something like that. And I dove deep into them and figured out what I liked and didn’t like and started a huge Google doc and then just slowly figured out what I wanted to say, who I wanted to be. I also picked some clients that I wanted to pitch, some new clients. I did a lot. But when I was done, I can’t even explain to you how good it felt. It was my first day of my business, I was like, “oh my God, I’m so excited. I’m going to go do all these things.” And I just felt so revived and it was so necessary. I can’t believe I had never done it before. So I was like, “oh my God, when’s my next one going to be?”
But then finding more days to do it is not easy all the time. So my next one starts today, and this time it’s three nights because I learned I needed one more day because I just felt a little rushed. And this time my focus is totally different and I didn’t even realize it until I looked at the agenda from last time versus this time. So last time it was much more, if you look at it sounded like I was a beginner and I was trying to figure all my stuff out in the moment. And this time it’s very much the big picture and future and what I want to do next. So some of those things are like, I’m actually going to brand myself and get some typography in some colors and redo my site and I’m going to start posting on LinkedIn like as me.
I am active on LinkedIn and I join conversations and all that, but I’ve never really posted because I’ve always been like, “eh, I don’t know what I want to write.” But now I want to and I’m also going to build out or start to build out and figure out. I want to be more of a, I don’t even want to call it a coach because I’m calling it a helper for now, but I really have learned from Think Tank that I just helping people and giving advice and I am an open book when it comes to anything business and personal life too, I don’t care.
And it fills my bucket. It always feels good to help people, whether it’s a donation or giving back or whatever. But I’ve learned in my business it feels really good to give back to other people so it doesn’t have to be copywriters. I have learned, and I’ve also learned from my mindset coach because she’s the one who pointed it out and said, “do you know how many small business owners and entrepreneurs I talk to that would pay someone to teach them how to write copy because they want to write their own, they just don’t know how or just how to be a better copywriter.” And I was like, “really?” She’s like, “yeah.” She’s like “people don’t know what they’re not good at, but they, and they don’t know how to find help.” So I started thinking about it more. And so I want to build out some kind of membership, like on Boxer or something like that where I can be a sounding board and people can ask me questions and just kind of learn to do it themselves.
Because most of these people that I would be targeting may not have the budget for a huge website revamp and all those things, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to write good copy. And maybe taking a course is not what they need. Maybe they just need someone to tell them like it is, which I like to do and just make it easier to understand. So that’s my focus this time. So when I look back I was like, “oh my God, I look like a completely different business owner now. This is fun.” It felt good to compare and be like, “oh, I’m really thinking about the future now, which I had never done before.”
Kira Hug: And as a quick follow up, what, do you have any tips for what maybe to watch out for to avoid if you want to get the most out of that type of retreat? I mean there are many different types of retreats. There could be ones where you just relax and zone out too. But for yours, what would help people stay on task and focus on the agenda?
Stephanie Trovato: So definitely don’t wait till the last second to figure out what you want to focus on. You should always have a running list, whether it’s in your head, on a Post-it, whatever about, things you wish you had time to do for your business. And then take an hour and don’t look at anything else and really sit there and be like, “if I had 24 hours, what would I want to do?” And write that out. And then it depends on what kind of person you are, but I am easily distracted. So literally delete everything, close everything. Don’t look at it. And also build in time for yourself. You can’t just sit there and focus on the big picture, you’ll get overwhelmed. You won’t know what to do next. So it’s okay if you only do a few things because you took the time to actually focus on that.
But do whatever makes you feel good, whether it’s going for a hike, going to get a massage, spend most of your time doing that, go fly somewhere warm, whatever works for your lifestyle. If I could just get up and go to Spain for a week, bye, I would go, like that doesn’t work for my life right now. Maybe one day, sure, great. So I would say you know yourself best. So if what’s distracting you at home is for you not to be able to do these things, you have to do everything in your power to not let yourself do that on your retreat and book somewhere that doesn’t have things that will distract you in that way. Don’t book a place that’s in your hometown where you’re just going to go to Rite Aid and go pick up your prescription and things like that. Don’t do that. You can go somewhere you know and somewhere comfortable, but not somewhere that you can go do your regular life errands.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. You kind of answered my question. I was curious about the balance because spending all that time doing work, I can imagine being in the hotel room or wherever you’re doing this retreat, 8:00 to 5:00, but that much brain work is exhausting. So having time to get a massage or maybe watch a movie or maybe a marathon of episodes of your favorite series or whatever feels like a, that’s a part of it, but it would be really tempting I think to show up and want to do that personal part before the business part. So there’s definitely some discipline around making it work for you.
Stephanie Trovato: Yeah, I feel like I structure mine. My agenda is written out as morning, afternoon, evening, and I have learned just when I focus the best. So in the morning is when I really need my brain and then the afternoon is more, like one of my action items is to clean up my Google Drive because it just has way too many things. So I’m going to do that in the evening because what else am I doing? But if you’ve ever been to a conference for three days and you were on that whole time from 8:00 to 5:00 and you go back to your hotel room and you’re like, “oh my god, I’m so exhausted.” That’s what it will feel like if you do not build in breaks, like you have to give yourself the break, otherwise your brain is overloaded. So don’t go into it thinking I’m going to get a 100 things done. I mean if you do great but you don’t need to. It’s okay to have five things max that you would want to focus on I would say.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, that seems like really good advice. And this seems, again, this is something we talk a bit about, Kira and I do, doing this in your business, whether you go away, whether you are able to do it at home, but taking that time to really think through your business is a total game changer. So I love hearing about your approach to this, which is maybe a little more extreme than taking the Friday every week or whatever, but it’s really enlightening. Okay, so my last question for you, Steph, is a little selfish. I’m curious about your experience in the Think Tank. You’ve mentioned a couple times that you’re a member of the Think Tank. What has your experience been, and how has it changed your business?
Stephanie Trovato: So just like anything, when you’re in something, you don’t really realize it until you reflect. As corny as that sounds, I’m not one who normally sits and reflects on anything, but when you start investing money, you forced yourself to reflect. So when I first thought about Think Tank, I actually was considering the Accelerator the year before and I was like, “no, I’m not there.” And then I messaged Kira and I was like, “I don’t know which one’s right for me. This is how much I make, this is what I do.” And she’s like, “no, no, no, you need the Think Tank, you’re ready.” So when I first joined, I will be honest and say I felt like a rookie just because I wasn’t used to talking about my business. So everyone in it was more open and I was like, “oh, we talk about these things like, oh this is so weird.”
But then it was like, “oh my God, this is so great.” Because there’s someone there for everyone and you don’t realize how valuable it is to have people who understand what you do day in and day out. If you’re like most people and you’re a copywriter and you try to explain your job to anyone, they’re like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” My daughter thinks I’m an author. Fine, yep, I’m an author because I’m not going to explain it to her. But I feel like my family members are the same way. So I usually just say, “when you log on a website and you see stuff on the homepage, a copywriter wrote that.” And they’re like, “oh cool.” But you can’t ever have a more extensive conversation than that. So Think Tank gives you, like my mindset coach put it really well because she was like, “your family can be supportive and you can have supportive people in your life that will listen to you,” but who’s going to actually be able to give you feedback.
And she’s in the same kind of thing for her business. And it is invaluable to have people who you could be like, you’re really mad at a client or you didn’t get paid or you think your copy sucks. Or someone right now is writing a book and they’re so hard on themselves, like you’re so hard on yourself. So just being able to go right into that page and being like, “I don’t know what I’m doing. This is crazy.” And then you have eight people respond to you with all different advice. Some people like being, I’m more cut to the chase, this is what you need to do. Other people are more heartfelt and there’s all those different personalities, but they all understand exactly what you’re going through. Even if you don’t have the same clients, you don’t write the same kind of copy. They’re all in their own business and they’re all in the business of writing.
So they know what it’s like to fight for your worth and try to make people understand how important content is and why you should be paid what you should be paid and why you are the business owner you are. Like it’s such a confidence builder and it’s really a mirror. It’s into your business and there’s people in it that will be like, “oh, have you ever thought of this? Have you ever done this? Why don’t you try this?” And then you sit there and you’re like, “why didn’t I think of that? How come I didn’t even realize that about myself?” But it’s really hard to do that because you’re in a tunnel, probably in your office, by yourself at home with no one to tell you otherwise. So the Think Tank gives you those 10 other brains that you wish you had to be like, ding, you should be doing this, idea, idea, idea and give you also the advice on how to do it because some people have done it or they know people who’ve done it.
So it’s not like, here’s this great idea, good luck. It’s like, here’s this great idea, here’s what I use to do it. Here’s what you should try. I know someone who knows how to do that. Here’s another recommendation. It’s just looking back now, I started, wait, I’m almost at a year. I am a completely different person with my business, personal, thinking about my business. Like I am a business owner now, I will tell you, when I started Think Tank, I was a freelance writer. That is how my brain worked and I wouldn’t call myself that now. Like I am a CEO of a big age. That is who I am. And that’s because of the Think Tank.
Kira Hug: Wow. Thank you for sharing all of that. And it’s been so fun to see how you’ve grown into that business owner over the last year. I’m just curious to hear what you’re most excited about right now because I know you’re going to sit down and figure out the goals. So I’m not going to force you to share that before you’ve actually worked through it over the retreat. But what just lights you up when you’re thinking about next year and something that you really want to make happen?
Stephanie Trovato: So when I started Think Tank, I was like, “I’m not a brand. I’m not ever going to…” I will tell you now, I’m not going to be on my Instagram story like, “hi, it’s Stephanie.” I’m not going to do that. That’s not-
Kira Hug: I do remember you told us a lot of things that you were not going to do. In that first conversation, you’re like, I’m not going to create courses, I’m not going to create products. I’m not going to do this.
Stephanie Trovato: I am excited. So I know this sounds like a broad thing to say, but I feel like in the past my goals were always monetarily based and you can only make so much money. Money doesn’t make a difference once you get to a certain point. And I know it’s easier to say once you have it, and I totally appreciate that. And everyone has a different amount of money they need. I still don’t know. Like I can’t tell you I need to make this much money. I think I’d be happy between 2 and 250, but I’m not projected to go there. I’m going higher, so okay, I’ll take it. But I don’t plan on growing more in 2022 in a financial setting, which actually feels good. Because when I started Think Tank, that was one of my biggest questions. I’m like, “what am I supposed to focus on next? What else is there besides a number goal?”
I’m numbers oriented. So I’ve learned that milestones and feeling good is way more important to me. And so I’m really excited to be in a place in my business where I don’t have to do something like it’s not, no longer reactive. And I have the ability to build something new and be creative and not be so worried about it from a financial standpoint and being like, “oh my God, but is it going to make this much money? Is it going to do this?” I don’t care. Like Grace Fortune, who’s in Think Tank, she’s the number one cheerleader. And I’ve talked to her a bunch about this and she is always like, “you’re not any other copywriter I know, like you’re ready. You need to do more.” And I thought I would’ve been happy just doing what I’m doing.
But as it’s finally nice to look into the future, because I feel like starting in COVID, it made me a very reactive person. Like okay, well I have to do this because of this and now this and now this and now this and now it’s like, “oh, I can look out into the future because this is the future. This is how we will work.” So being able to plan, because I’m a planner and have the creativity and the flexibility to do it without worrying how much money it makes and just more how it makes me feel and just be bigger than I thought. My whole purpose of starting my business was to show my daughter like you could do whatever you want because I have always hated being stuck in this box. And I used to make 55k at my marketing job, but I justified it because I was like, “well, it’s in my town and it’s this and it’s that.”
Like, “no, you can do whatever you want whenever you want. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, whatever.” So I have always preached that to her. And so it feels good to now be able to grow my business enough that I have more than just pieces of writing to show her and be like, “look, I did all this,” like one day when she understands it and you could do it too. She asked me now, “can I be a writer one day? Can I be an artist one day?” I’m like, “you can be whatever you want.” And it feels good to not be BS-ing her because you literally can. And it feels good to know that going into 2023, which is so crazy that I can bring truth to that.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I love that. That’s maybe a good place to end. Steph, we really appreciate you sharing so much detail about your business and an amazing journey that I think should give a lot of copywriters a goal to aim for or maybe hope that in three years you can create a business that not only makes a lot of money, but serves your interests and do it in a way that actually works in the time that you have to support your family and all of that. So if somebody wants to connect with you and follow you, see what you’re up to next, where would they go to find out more?
Stephanie Trovato: They can go to LinkedIn. I have, I’m Stephanie Trovato and I am an open book on LinkedIn. You can message me whatever. My goal is to one day in the next few months, have a newsletter and be there, be more present and approachable. But for now, LinkedIn is great and literally feel free to ask me any question anytime. I know it’s always like a, “oh, she must be this, she must be that. She must be so lucky.” I will tell you, I am just like everyone else. There’s no secret. There is no, it depends on who you know. There’s none of that. You just have to work hard and not take no for an answer because there are millions of businesses out there and they all need copy. So if one says no, just go to another. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. So don’t get hurt.
Rob Marsh: That’s great advice. We will link to your LinkedIn in the show notes, so people can connect to you and yeah, hopefully they will.
Kira Hug: Yeah, I was just going to say, it’s not luck. It’s you sending 20 pitches a day-
Rob Marsh: For three months.
Kira Hug: That’s what it is-
Rob Marsh: For three months.
Kira Hug: It’s not luck. It’s hard work. All right. Thank you so much, Steph, we appreciate it.
Stephanie Trovato: Thank you.
Kira Hug: So that’s the end of our interview with Steph Trovato. Before we go, of course there were a couple things that stood out to us. So Rob, what grabbed your attention?
Rob Marsh: Well, let’s talk about CEO retreats because this is a big deal and I think it’s something… Obviously we’ve talked about this before, but it’s something that more people really should be doing. Even if it’s just for one day or for one afternoon, getting out of the office, getting out of the kitchen, getting, wherever you do your writing, getting into a new place with the intention of really thinking deeply about your business and putting on that CEO hat and thinking through, what am I building? What are my priorities? What are the goals? How am I going to achieve this? What are the things that I need to build in my business to make that happen? Whether it’s processes, products, services, do I need a team? Thinking through all of those business questions that you don’t learn in a copywriting course is huge.
And a CEO retreat could take a couple of days or you can break it up into a few hours. But getting into the practice of using some of your business time to do business owner things is a critical practice if you want to hit a level like what Steph has hit.
Kira Hug: Yeah, we actually talked about it on last week’s episode, which is number,
Rob Marsh: 328.
Kira Hug: With Andre, all about how he moved through a period where he was stuck in his business. And he mentioned that the way for him to get unstuck was to start focusing on the 18-hour days because he was working a lot, but to get unstuck, he had to start focusing on working on the business, not being stuck in the business. And so the retreats, any type of retreat you can create for yourself allows you to get out of the business to not, to have a day where you’re not on client phone calls or answering your emails all day or writing, copy your content for your clients and to focus on the business. And to me, that is the biggest win from a retreat. There are many types of retreats you could schedule. Steph books quarterly retreats I believe so hers are a little bit longer. So when you hear her talking about two to three days, that’s why it’s not necessarily happening every month.
I try to do a monthly one and that’s one night. But you and I also are part of a mastermind where we go to retreats with the mastermind group, which is another type of retreat where you can go with a group of business owners. We host retreats in our Think Tank group where we now are able to travel with them. We just got back from New Orleans with our Think Tank group. So there’s a benefit to the group mastermind retreat. There are benefits to having solo retreats where you have an agenda and you’re focusing on your business or you’re just giving yourself a break, whatever you need. Or maybe it’s even with a collaborative partner or like Rob and I would go on a retreat together so we can work on the Copywriter Club together. So I think just thinking about what you need right now, what type of retreat would serve you best? Maybe it’s actually just a night off from your life to take a break and get some space and that would be the most refreshing thing you need in your business and in your life to feel better.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. I also like that Steph mentioned that it’s part of the retreat doesn’t, it’s not all business. She does take some time to indulge herself just a little bit with a massage or maybe you should go shopping or something like that. So business stuff first as we talked about, but there is an opportunity to basically say, “okay, I’ve been doing pretty good in my business. I should reward myself.” Or maybe I’ve been struggling with my business and so I deserve a massage and as I get this stuff straightened out, but just using that time wisely, the whole time. Yeah, don’t hop into a hotel room and scroll through Twitter or Instagram or whatever and waste your day. That’s not a retreat and it’s not helpful for anything.
Kira Hug: Yeah, I mean she closes all of her tabs. She deletes, she’s intent, like Steph does this well. She deletes the apps off her phone. I have not gone that far, but I respect it and I might do that at some point. I usually am just so happy to be on the retreat that I’m pretty focused on what I need to do and accomplish. And I know the time, especially if it’s only 24 hours, I feel that clock ticking down. So that helps with focus. But most of all, you’re right. Make it fun. This is, to me, the best part of building a business is the entrepreneurial part where you don’t have to solve problems or put out fires. You get to think really big and explore and play with ideas and think strategically and creatively about your business and your life. This is why many of us sign up to do this thing, so give yourself time to do it, even if it’s just an hour and you can’t spend a night at a hotel yet, give yourself an hour a month to do it. And it could go a long way.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Along with that, Steph was talking a bit about how to make things work with your partner. She had that period where it was not exactly fun or where her husband basically said, “you are not fun because of all of the time going down your business.” Which I don’t know if anybody’s ever said that to you, Kira-
Kira Hug: Oh, are you kidding me?
Rob Marsh: Yeah. So I mean that communication, that check-in with your partner, with your spouse, with whoever it is that’s running the household with you, if somebody is there, is critical. And sometimes we get so focused on business and what’s going on there and we rely on somebody else to take that stuff off of our plate, or maybe it’s going undone, which is even in a lot of ways worse. Check-ins are critical. I’m curious about how you do those in your own partnership.
Kira Hug: Yeah, I mean, I have been told I’m not fun many times. And I think this is the challenge with early morning wake-ups. We all can brag about our 5:00 AM wake-ups, 4:30 AM, but the challenge is if you do those, you can be, for me at least, I can become a zombie by evening or even by 4:00 PM when kids come home and you have family time, I’m ready to go to bed. And so it is a struggle. I think part of what Steph shared about learning along the way, figuring out where you can hit your limit, what do you need to really live your life while I guess being more robotic. Like I can become a robot and I can get into a routine where I’m really happy in my routine, but I’m not actually living my life and having fun. And so for me, I have to be careful and I have to go out of my way to create fun.
Otherwise, it will disappear from my life. So even today, I was booking a date night with Ezra when I get back from my next trip because I’ve been traveling a little bit more than normal, and we want to have fun together. We want to spend time together. And so if I don’t do that, I can easily just lose touch with the people in my life with my kids. And so with Harper, I was, we’re going to do something fun together when I get back. With Henry, we’re going to go find a guinea pig, we’re going to get a guinea pig. That’s what we’re going to do for fun.
Rob Marsh: Whoa, big commitment there.
Kira Hug: So we’re getting guinea pigs for fun, but I have to be really intentional about creating those fun moments with them. Otherwise, I will be the robot mom who no one wants to hang out with. So what do you do, Rob?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, well, I am lucky that my kids are grown up, so it’s a little bit less of, Hey, you need to be up to do this thing, or I need to be at this school thing, that kind of thing. My wife works full-time now and I do a lot of the driving in the mornings as she’s, because I’m working at home, so I do some of the Mr. Dad things or Mr. Mom things, I guess. I do a lot of laundry throughout the day. Some of that stuff actually happens here. And so there’s that.
I’ve not ever had the check-in where it’s like, wow, this is really getting bad. I think I’ve been pretty good about making sure that I’m out with my family during family time, that kind of a thing. But I’m always conscious that if my wife comes home tired, then I’ve got to do a little bit more, right? And I’m guessing that she does the same for me, and I maybe don’t even notice it just because I’m not that sensitive to what’s going on around me sometimes. But it is crucial that we make sure that we are doing those check-ins, even if it’s little things like what Steph mentioned, we agreed, on Saturday, I sleep in, on Sunday, he sleeps in. And those kinds of little things are what it takes to make it work.
Kira Hug: Yeah, there’s so much communication needed. It can be exhausting, but you need to do it. Like you just need to do it right. It’s so important because if you don’t do it, things fall apart. And I am curious, how are you good at folding laundry, Rob?
Rob Marsh: I am pretty good at folding laundry. There are some things that are really hard to fold. Women’s underwear is really hard to fold.
Kira Hug: You don’t have to fold it.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. So yeah, I’m actually pretty good. There’s a system for the towels that I have been taught three or four times, and I think I finally got it down. So yeah, I’m actually pretty good at it.
Kira Hug: Yes. All right, good. Well, I am awful at folding laundry, so maybe you can teach me and help me.
Rob Marsh: We want to thank Stephanie Trovato for sharing so many details about her business and how she makes it all work. If you want to connect with Steph, like she said on the podcast, the best way to do that is on LinkedIn. She’s there quite a bit, so just reach out to her there. Before we go, we wanted to share a review of the show that was recently posted on iTunes by Elizabeth in the Netherlands. She gave us five stars. Thanks for that, Elizabeth. And she wrote, “while transitioning from employment into being a full-time business owner, this podcast served as an amazing inspiration. I listen to it almost every week and find the stories inspiring, informative and fascinating. Well done Kira and Rob, and I hope someday I’ll be featured on your show too.”
Kira Hug: That’s so nice. Thank you, Elizabeth. That really makes my day. I don’t know if it makes your day, Rob, but it makes-
Rob Marsh: It makes my day, my only question is why is it almost every week? Why isn’t it every week?
Kira Hug: I knew, I had a feeling you were going to say that. We are grateful, Elizabeth, for your review. If anyone is listening, if you are listening and you liked this show, please leave a review. I know it’s a pain to leave reviews, but please leave a review and we’ll read it next time on the next show. That’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. The intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. The outro was composed by copywriter and songwriter, David Muntner. If you’ve enjoyed your show, I’ve already asked you, but I’ll ask you a second time, please visit Apple Podcast to leave your review of the show. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.