Emma has a project management and copywriting business, and she is a sales funnel expert. She’s been an entrepreneur friend for three years, and she has grown and shifted a lot in those three years.
We’re going to dive into her story, and I want her to be able to share some of her copywriting tips with you guys. We’re also going talk about how she’s grown and evolved as an entrepreneur since I’ve known her. So with that, Emma, I would love for you to give a little more thorough of an introduction about yourself, and then I’m going to ask you one million questions.
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Sure. I started out as a blogger and became a virtual assistant, and got really into copywriting. And I’ve been part of a few agencies as both a co-owner and a project manager or a copywriter. So I’ve sort of run the gamut, I guess you’d say, as to online business.
You became a VA, and then a blogger. I think I met you blogging. We had purchased the same course, and I remember seeing your branding and what you were doing, and I thought you were interesting. Then I was in a summit that you organized; after that summit, I knew we definitely should work together. We’ve been friends ever since.
A Different Approach to Entrepreneurship
A lot of people in entrepreneurship think that the only way forward to making their own money is to be the CEO and grow a big business, and you had a different approach to how you want to grow your business.
Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, absolutely. So I’m just getting out of being co-owner of an agency. I’ve run that agency, and then I had started my own before I joined up with my friend. So I’ve been doing agency work for what, two and a half, three years now?
And I enjoy the work, but I had really gotten to a point where I didn’t want to be the person in front.
I didn’t want to be running a TikTok and Instagram and Facebook, so that my face was out there all the time. What I enjoy most is helping other people succeed. So, I like being in the background, doing that support work that people need done. It’s not glamorous, but it’s really the thing I love best.
So as hard as it has been to transition out of this agency, I’ve really come to the realization that I think I’m going to be a lot happier doing the backend work that nobody else really seems to want to do.
This is an interesting shift. As entrepreneurs, we’re CEOs and leaders – visible by default, almost. So this mentality you have of, “I want to build my business around doing the thing that I love,” which is kind of like the unpopular work other people don’t want to do.
How do you still build and grow a business?
I think one of the benefits of enjoying this type of work and having been in online business for five or six years now, is that word of mouth is really strong.
Once it got out that I wasn’t going to be doing the agency anymore and I was looking to fill my calendar with ongoing work, I literally had four jobs within two weeks. One of them is copywriting, three of them are project management.
It was just saying to people, “Hey, I’m looking for some stuff to fill my calendar. These are the things that I really want to be doing.” Clients practically showed up overnight.
I don’t want to be putting myself out there, bringing on subcontractors, or having to move to an agency model or anything like that. Really, I just want to do the work.
I can’t work quite all full-time because I have three kids. They’re all going in a million different directions. But you know, 30 hours a week, I can pretty easily fill that with people who only want five or 10 hours per week of work.
That’s really important. I have a contractor that’s worked for me for a couple years and she does the bulk of the contract work that I need, and she gave a testimonial for me on one of my programs. She still makes money with her blog in the background, but somebody asked her like, “Well, why work for Alison if you have success on your blog?”
She said she likes having that stable foundation, and not everybody’s mission or desire is to grow a personal brand.
Right? So I love that distinction: not everybody needs to be a front face or highly visible in order to reach their income goals online.
From Blogger to Agency Work
You were a blogger, and then you moved more into the agency work. What made you move back from content creation to the agency work?
I had some success as a blogger and I enjoyed it, but once again, it was sort of building around my personality, myself, and I honestly enjoy the behind the scenes work more.
It’s hard to find a good virtual assistant or a good copywriter that you can really trust. So once I started doing some of that work, the word of mouth really just kept bringing me jobs. I didn’t want to give that up. It’s good, steady income. It’s doing stuff for people that I enjoy. I get to work with people like you and bloggers that I’ve read for a long time and agency owners that I’ve seen grow, and I find that really fun. I really like working with other people and being part of their team.
When you made this change, you got four clients in a short period of time.
One of the ways you’ve gotten clients in the past is by using social media for sales, or some people would call it social selling.
Sometimes when people start posting online to get clients, or they start using social media to get clients, they get frustrated about not having overnight success. What you’ve done over time with consistency, and then good work and good delivery, is social sales becomes this machine that kind of grows for you.
It accumulates over time, and then the trust is built up, so then when you put out the feelers, it gets easier and easier. This is not the first time where you were like, “Oh, crap, I need clients,” and then you posted, and then you got a bunch of clients in a short period of time.
So that’s such a good reminder for people: the clients are always there and they always come, but consistency on using social media for getting clients and then having really good delivery and asking for referrals is so important.
Doing good work is really key.
I think if you make what you deliver, if you really put your heart and soul into it and you do good work, then the work will come because people want to recommend you. You know?
I’m not saying you have to go above and beyond in such a way that you’re not making money. Just taking the time to make sure the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. Helping people out with questions that they have that might not necessarily have been in the contract, but you can give five minutes of your time and do that. Just making it so that what you deliver is something you could be really proud of, I think, is key to getting those referrals and to bringing in clients on a consistent basis.
From full time job to entrepreneur
Yeah, definitely. So did you have a full-time job at one point, and then left to do entrepreneurship full-time?
I have had kind of a strange journey here. Yes, I’ve had full-time jobs in the past, but I had a lot of different health issues throughout my life, and so I haven’t stayed at a full-time job for more than three years.
I did a lot of administrative type work. I worked at a small computer company, worked for a law office. So I’ve done kind of various positions. And then I had kids, and boy, does that throw everything for a loop. So I actually had started a small gluten-free and vegan granola business, and that was what I did for quite a while, while my kids were little.
I started selling stuff at my local farmer’s market, and then I had a ton of farmer’s markets I went to, and I got my product in stores. I had to start baking out of a commercial kitchen, which was an hour away. Things were going really well – in such a way that I was like, “I can’t do this and be a stay-at-home mom.”
It wasn’t going to be feasible, time wise, to just continue to do that. I was baking until two in the morning, because I couldn’t leave until my husband got home from work. So, I actually sold that business, and it’s still going strong, which is awesome to see. They just celebrated their 10th anniversary of when they bought it from me
That’s when I moved to the online world, with everything I’d learned in running that business. I built my own website. I did all my own social media and marketing. And so that’s when I started to go online and offer virtual assistant services.
Brick and Mortar vs. Online Business
What are some of the biggest differences between having that brick and mortar in-person business compared to what you’re doing now online?
Obviously time and being digital is one thing, but I mean more from the business development and marketing side of things. What are some of the biggest differences?
Well, marketing a brick and mortar business is really different than marketing an online business.
It’s less about the personal relationship and more about name recognition. You have to have people recognize your logo and your name so that, when they see it other places, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I’ve had that before,” or, “I’ve used that service before.”
Whereas, with online business, there’s definitely a really big need to develop relationships. It’s harder for people to just run across you online, I think. You have to have those relationships where people are recommending you or where you’re doing summits or bundles and stuff like that and people are recognizing your name. In a lot of ways, online business is much more about who you are and who you know than a brick and mortar, in my experience.
Opportunities for Growth Online
Is there anything notable online that’s led to one of your biggest growth spurts in your income?
Any of the things that connect you with a new audience – doing summits or product bundles or guest coaching, or doing a presentation in somebody’s Facebook group. Those types of things that really expose you to people that you haven’t been exposed to before. I always think those are sort of always a jump in subscribers and people who reach out to talk to you and that type of thing.
Organizing a summit just takes so much work. When do you think somebody would be ready to organize a summit versus just finding summits to speak at?
If you have a lot of time you’re not sure what to do with, then you’re ready to organize a summit. It takes a lot of time and a lot of organizational skills. If you don’t feel that you have organizational skills, then wait until you can hire somebody to help you, because there is so much to keep track of.
Would you help somebody run their summit?
Oh yeah, of course. That’s the type of stuff I love, is that organization.
Emma, you’re hired. You’re hired right now. I want to do a summit. That’s so funny. Awesome.
Hiring a Copywriting Coach
Are there any mentors you’ve had that have been particularly notable in your entrepreneur journey?
I hired a copywriting coach quite a few years ago.
I don’t even know if he’s still doing it, but I would say that was a huge turning point for me. Writing in school I was great at. I always got good grades, but copywriting is such a different beast. Investing in a copywriting coach was probably one of the best things I ever did.
At that time, were you already monetizing your copywriting business?
I was doing the VA thing and I just wanted to get better – for services I offered and for my own blog. I had tried to launch and it just did not work, and my copy was not helping me. So it was personal and professional.
How did you find and choose a coach?
Man, that’s a good question. I think I came across him in a Facebook group. We got on a call; I remember our call just felt like we really clicked and he really knew his stuff, and it was a pretty easy decision to decide to work with him.
Do you remember any of the biggest aha copy moments when you started working with him and working on your own copy?
Yes: really learning how to use people’s emotions to help them make a decision whether or not they’re going to buy. And I look at it that way. I don’t look at it as trying to convince people to buy. It’s trying to help people make the decision whether this is for them or not. Emotion is such a huge part of that.
What is it that they really want? What are they afraid of? What’s keeping them up?
Figuring out where they are, and where they want to go, emotionally. That was a big lesson, and I think it’s something that I use daily at this point.
I love that mindset. I think it’s such a good reminder: you don’t want to be in the energy of just convincing people to buy. You want to be in the energy of helping people make an aligned decision for them, and you can’t do that without knowing their motivation and communicating very clearly what the program is or what the offer is.
Right. Yeah, absolutely.
Biggest Copywriting Mistakes
What are the biggest mistakes you see people making when you’re reviewing sales copy?
My biggest pet peeve is when people talk about themselves.
Yes, there should be a bio section so people know who you are, but everything else should be about the buyer. It should be about what they want, what they’re looking for, and the word I should not be used in any part of your sales copy.
What’s an example of that, like somebody using too many I statements or making it about them?
Well, jumping in with their story from the beginning, you know? I did this and I learned that. Nobody cares. They want to know why this service or product will help them, and your journey can be part of your bio, but it should be a paragraph, and the rest of it should be about the reader and what they need.
So, what’s your plan now? I would say you are growing your own business, but you’re not growing a brand.
You’re not focused on growing a brand. You’re focused on just filling your client roster. How close are you to filling that roster?
I’m full as of yesterday.
I got the last two spots filled, and I don’t think I can fit in anything else more than an hour or two a week here or there.
I was working yesterday on just making my calendar make sense.
So I’ve just divided my days. I have a client who wants 10 hours a week, I have two clients who want five hours a week, and a client who wants three hours a week. Then I have a couple of ongoing copywriting things that I have to fit in, not hour based, but number of items per month that I have to make. So it really was sort of dividing my day into, okay, here’s two hours for this client, an hour for this client, and just stretching it out so that my week is very full now.
Advice to Get New Clients
I’ve got a client who was doing contract work, and she had one company convince her to become a W2. They were a little bit dishonest about the deal, and so she ended up getting her pay knocked in half. She was working a lot more hours, and she justified it for the stability. But now she’s releasing this opportunity.
What advice do you have for people who are agency workers who lose a lot of work really suddenly?
Let other people know that you have openings on your calendar.
A lot of times, people that you’re already doing work for have been thinking, “Oh, maybe I should get another hour or two a week from them,” or something. So my first step would be email your other clients and say, “Hey, got openings on my calendar. Do you need to increase your time at all?”
And then make a post or two on social media, or reach out to people who you know have a lot of contacts and just say, “Hey, I’ve got openings. You know what my work is like. If you have somebody who you know is looking, would you recommend me?” I think those are probably the easiest, quickest ways to get stuff on the calendar.
How is your business different today than how you thought it would be, 5 or 10 years ago?
Man, 10 years ago, I never would’ve seen this.
You know, it’s funny, sometimes I think about sort of what my original goals were. I wanted to purchase a house, which we did four years ago, and I wanted to have my husband work from home with me, and he has been doing that since right before the pandemic started. I have to remind myself: those are my two biggest goals, and we’ve achieved them.
Yeah, it is. And I think sometimes you get lost in the day to day and the stress and stuff, and it’s hard to step back and really see, “This is where I wanted to be,” but it is.
Having a home and having my husband around were always the things I wanted most. So I think, looking back, I’m probably pretty much where I wanted to be. I think I probably was thinking I’d be more of an agency owner, but you know, it doesn’t really fit with my personality. I’m just, I’m much more behind the scenes. So, I think this is a really good place to be. I’m really excited about where we’re going.
Yeah, that is so exciting. A lot of times, we’re so used to moving the goal post. It’s so important to just sit in this: I reached the goal.
You can make new goals, but that’s still beautiful, those two huge life-changing things you have truly accomplished.
Becoming the Breadwinner
One thing you just kind of touched on that I’d love to ask about, if you feel comfortable talking about it.
I know that once the shift happened where Emma is the breadwinner now, there was some mindset stuff that you had to deal with then.
I’m kind of anticipating this for myself, too, because that’s my goal also. I want to make enough money to where my husband can stop doing oil and gas projects and focus on just creative things, and that means that I will eventually have to be the main breadwinner, which is a very uncomfortable idea.
How did you get over that or deal with those complicated feelings when they came up?
There was a long transition period.
In December of 2019, my husband was let go from his position, and that was originally when I started an agency, going from blogging and virtual assistant copywriting work to an actual agency.
And so he stayed home, the pandemic started, and he stopped even looking for another position because we had three children and suddenly they were home all day, every day, and somebody needed to help them with school work because everything was online.
Suddenly I went from being the stay-at-home mom who worked part-time hours and took care of the kids, to being full-time breadwinner. My husband took over almost all of the housework.
And I felt like I lost my entire identity.
Honestly, it was really, it was a struggle for like the first six months. Who am I? How do I relate to people?
All of my friends are also moms. Suddenly I don’t have much to talk about with them because I’m not in the day-to-day of childcare anymore. You know, I am in my office all day. Suddenly it was like, yeah, I don’t know what’s happening with school. You know, I don’t know what I’m supposed to send in to the classroom or anything like that.
So it was definitely hard to find my identity again.
It felt like my husband and I completely switched roles. And he also went through a transition time with, “So, am I Mr. Mom?” And you know, “Do I reach out to other moms to arrange play dates?” And getting strange looks when he’s the one who bring the kids to the park or the playground.
Even the other day, he brought one of our kids to the doctor’s office. They asked what the kid’s birthdate was, and he gave it, and they congratulated him on knowing. And he’s like, “Of course I know. They’re my children, I’m not babysitting,” you know?
So it was definitely, it was hard for both of us. I think we both still struggle in some ways. Society is so set in its ways of stay-at-home mom and full-time working dad.
There’s more and more people who are flipping. We have multiple friends who have a stay-at-home dad and a full-time working mom. It can be really hard, and make you feel pretty isolated among other people.
Any advice for other people who are navigating that, or know that they will?
Give yourself some time.
It’s not going to be an easy transition overnight. Look for other people who are also in a similar situation so that you have some people to talk to. Keep the communication open with your partner. My husband and have always had really good communication. We talked a lot about how we felt having flipped roles.
And then, you know what? Also it’s like saying to society: “Eff you. You can’t keep me in a role that no longer fits my family.”
Ooh, very good. Love that so much. So you’re booked up, but you have some hours here and there. Go ahead and tell us where we can find you online, and what you’re working on now.
Yeah. So I’ve actually, I’m starting to sort of get my old blog updated, so that’s EmmaLeeBates.com.
Love it. Very cool. I’m going to go look at it.