3 Questions that Can Haunt Creative Professionals

Sonia’s back on the podcast this week with suggestions on how to address three challenges that pop up often in our communities.

When we’re talking with creative professionals, and content marketers in particular, we’ve noticed certain challenges that come up again and again.

In this 22-minute episode, Sonia Simone is back on Copyblogger FM to talk about:

  • The “cobbler’s children have no shoes” syndrome, and finding the time to work on your own site
  • How to know when it’s time to raise your rates
  • Why it can be tough to get onto your own professional calendar
  • The often-overlooked social media marketing technique that gets new sites off the ground
  • The simplest (but not easiest) way to differentiate yourself in a crowded market
  • The content framework that supports success for any kind of project


The Show Notes


Sonia Simone: So glad to see you again, and welcome back to CopybloggerFM, the content marketing podcast.

CopybloggerFM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone, I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I hang out with the folks doing the real work over on the Copyblogger blog.

Note: See the show notes for all the links!

So nice to be back on the podcast! Big thanks to Pamela Wilson for filling in while I was moving continents — for the next 11 months or so, I’ll be in the Central European Time Zone. Brits and Europeans who want to invite me to speak, drop me a line. 🙂

I will, of course, be flying back to the states in mid-October for our live event, Digital Commerce Summit. I know some of you will be there — if you’re planning on it, leave me a note at Copyblogger.FM! I’d love to say hello. 🙂

Today I want to get into some of the questions we see over and over again in our Authority community, and also in our Q&A sessions that we conduct for our Certified Content Marketers.

As you probably know from your own life, you can have your act very together from the public-facing point of view, and still struggle with things behind the scenes. That’s just reality.

“Professionalism” involves a certain amount of sucking it up and figuring out your probems without involving someone else. That can be good, it can foster independence and make you stronger, it can also foster paralysis and make you neurotic and terrified. A little is good, a lot is not good.

I want you to know that I’m happy to answer questions like these, so if you have one you’d like me to address, please do go ahead and drop a comment at Copyblogger.FM. Helping people get through the stuck spots is one of the most enjoyable parts of what I do, so if I can help you see a solution or a new approach, I would love to do that.

We get so many interesting questions within the community that I thought I’d touch on some of the themes that come up again and again.

#1: The cobbler’s children have no shoes

This one is so, so common — content professionals, it could be a writer, it could be a design professional, aren’t giving their best work to their own sites.

You get so busy with client work, doing your best for the folks who are paying you, that you completely neglect your own site. It’s understandable, but you need to address it.

If you genuinely have so many clients right now that you can’t keep up with the work, the first thing I recommend is creating a waiting list to work with you. If you’re booked solid, your revenue should be in good shape. If it isn’t, you have to take a hard look at your client list. It’s time to raise your rates, and it’s time to prune clients who waste your time or who are getting you at below-bargain-basement rates.

If you’re busy, you need to be making a lot of money. If you’re busy and you’re not making a lot of money, you need to look at that structural problem and get it corrected … or you’ll go bust when the client work gets lighter. And it will always get lighter. Ebb and flow is just part of the natural flow of things.

The other thing, and this one is tricky psychologically, but you can do it, is you need to put your own project onto your professional calendar. In other words, you’re your own client.

You’ve probably identified your most productive hours, and you probably block those off for your client work. You need to do the same for your own site.

It can be really tricky to be objective about our own business — which is why I really recommend looking around and finding some people to form a small group together. You can call it a “mastermind,” or just a business group.

Some of the nicest business owners find it easy to stay accountable to clients and really hard to stay accountable to themselves. Those are the folks who are an especially good fit for a group.

You can find likely members in private professional groups like the Authority community. If you’re not a member of a group like that, see if you can make some connections on Twitter or LinkedIn — or even someplace like the comments of the RainmakerFM podcasts or on the Copyblogger blog.

#2: How do I know my audience when the site is still tiny?

We teach a specific process that includes empathy mapping and building out a buyer’s journey — but those are for businesses that already have customers and possibly an audience.

When you’re first starting out, you don’t have lots of existing customers you can interview yet. But you have a wonderful tool at your disposal — the social media platforms where your potential customers hang out. It could be Pinterest or LinkedIn or Facebook or Snapchat. The specific platform will depend on who you serve. But the principle remains the same.

A lot of what’s talked about with social media marketing is various ways to talk — to spread your message, to get your content more social shares, social advertising, all of that good stuff. And that’s all great.

But social media listening is often undervalued — in other words, good old-fashioned lurking.

The social platforms are wonderful places to find conversations about businesses and what they do. It doesn’t matter what that is — it might be copywriting, or web design, or you might be a fitness trainer, or a French tutor, or, I don’t know, a private butler. It could be anything.

Find the conversations about what you’re doing. In particular, find the complaints and frustrations. These will give you a rich collection of ways you can shape your offering, your business, and your communication to serve unmet needs.

Which leads us to the next question I see a lot:

#3: How do I stand out from the crowd?

There’s a great quote from the bank robber Willie Sutton, who, when asked why he robbed banks, said,

That’s where the money is.

That quote is actually apocryphal, a reporter made it up, but let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good story.

The point is — some topics are super crowded because there’s a lot of money there.

Why do so many content marketers specialize in finance and healthcare? Lots of clients, lots of content to create, and plenty of budget to pay for the work that’s needed.

Why are there so many fitness businesses on Facebook? Because there are so many fitness customers on Facebook.

But yes, it can be quite tricky to stand out when you have a crowded field like that.

The first tip might seem snarky, but I’m dead serious — stand out by knowing what you’re talking about. There’s something called “Sturgeon’s Law” — that 90% of everything is crap. If you look around, this Sturgeon guy was onto something.

Most copywriters aren’t great about meeting their deadlines. Most fitness professionals have a dim understanding at best of the science of fitness. Most home remodeling contractors under-communicate to the point where we have to use the word lie.

Again, your social media listening is ultra useful here. Listen in on what people gripe about. If you shape your business practices to address head-on the things that people hate about that kind of business, you’ll do well.

It’s smart to take some time to put processes in place to proactively address these problems — which tend to exist for very good reasons. It won’t just happen because you want it to. But you can tackle the issues in your business type and you can win — even if you win by clearly setting expectations.

For example, copywriters who aren’t making their deadlines are often trying to juggle last-minute scope changes and issues that weren’t covered in the original project. If you don’t have a process in place to manage scope and re-negotiate deadlines when clients throw curve balls, you won’t meet your deadlines.

So, weird as it may seem, executing really well on the fundamentals actually is a good differentiator a lot of the time. But you probably don’t want to market exclusively with that.

When you’re thinking about standing out, about making yourself the answer to that potential customer or client, in the face of all of their other options, you really want to think about your strategy.

It’s not just about having a particular positioning, or delivering a particular message with advertising. It’s about understanding how potential customers find you, and then how they get to trust you over time, so that when they’re ready to make a decision — and that can take five minutes or it can take five years, depending on the specifics — you’re the logical answer.

That’s where our friend Content Strategy comes in. We have some free ebooks that cover this in a lot more depth — go to Copyblogger.com and choose FREE MY COPYBLOGGER on the Education tab to get access to those. But essentially, it boils down to this:

Obviously, first you have to capture people’s attention. That’s why we put the best headlines we can onto posts. That’s why we use compelling images in content. It’s why businesses pay for advertising. If you can’t capture that spark of attention, obviously you can’t continue to deliver your message.

Then you have to fan that spark — you have to nurture that attention, helping people to understand who you are and how you can help within the context of your business topic.

Part of this is about your process or methodology, and part of it is about your values. If you talk about Peace, Love, and Understanding, you’ll attract a different audience than you will with with a message about Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

The nitty gritty of this — the specific hows and whys — are the topics we write about on Copyblogger, as well as our other venues like the Authority community and the podcast network here at Rainmaker.FM.

As I said, you can get pretty nearly instant access to an extensive content marketing that spells all of this out in more detail, over at MyCopyblogger. It’s a good resource, you should get it.

And the final phase, after all of this nurturing and trust-building, is the conversion of interest to a transaction. You caught their interest, you sustained that attention and let them know why you’re such a great choice — now you make it easy for them to act on that interest and move forward.

That’s where you get into things like landing pages, sales copy, and calls to action. That’s another big topic we cover on Copyblogger, as well as more detailed sessions inside Authority.

Speaking of Authority …

By the way, I mentioned Authority a few times — that’s our private community of content marketers. That’s the venue where we can dive really deep into issues — things like SEO, content strategy, improving the quality of your writing, how to identify and market to your perfect customer.

All of the pieces that work together to form a powerful content strategy, instead of “our blog posts aren’t working, let’s write twice as many and see if that helps.”

If you pick up the content library I mentioned, we’ll let you know when Authority re-opens. I think that’s planned for early September, so it’s coming up. We’re going to do that with a nice price break, and then after a short time we will be raising the price for the community. At this point we have more than 300 hours of reference content, as well as brand-new material almost every week of the year to keep you learning and growing.

You can also swing by Copyblogger dot FM to get a direct link to the interest list, or just to leave a question or a comment. I always enjoy hearing from you!

See you next week!