It was late, and I was still finishing up an email sequence for a client. I should have been nodding off, in danger of falling asleep at the keyboard. Instead, I was giggling quietly to myself as I wrote email subject lines. #easilyamused
I love writing email subject lines. It’s my version of saving the best for last.
Not only is it my favorite part of the whole email-writing process, but I like to think of it as a personal challenge. I spend a lot of time mulling over what will be so irresistible the recipient can’t NOT click.
Average email open rates hang out in the 20–30% range. But the more people who open your emails and take action, the better, right?
So how do I do it? How do I create email subject lines that stop the inbox scroll and get people to click?
I have two favorite strategies I use when writing email subject lines. Hang on, because I’m going to tell you what they are and how you can use them for yourself.
But first, let’s talk about what most people do and why it doesn’t work.
The first thing a recipient sees is the email subject line. If that doesn’t catch their attention right away, the reader will just keep scrolling by.
But if no one opens my emails and reads them, how will they know what I want to tell them.
I get it. It’s a scary thought.
The temptation is to spill exactly what the email contains in the subject line. Give them the facts, just the facts, and nothing but the facts.
Yeah … when it comes to email marketing, I hardly ever use summary statements as email subject lines. In fact, there are only two conditions under which I use the “just the facts” approach in email subject lines.
The Unexpected Truth Bomb
The client I was writing for last night markets to med spas that offer Botox as a treatment. The objective of the emails I was working on is to encourage people to call and book an appointment for a free consultation.
Botox tends to get a bad rap, and a common misconception about Botox is that if you get Botox, you won’t be able to move your forehead and your face will look frozen.
The reality is, that’s not true, and the email I was working on broke down all the reasons why.
But before the audience will ever read those reasons, we needed to get them to click and open the email. Enter the power of the Unexpected Truth Bomb subject line:
Some things should be immovable. Your face isn’t one of them.
Unexpected Truth Bomb for the WIN!
Let’s go there, right? Let’s just let the elephant in the room speak up. This is a common misconception about Botox, and the subject line calls it out. When the reader sees it, it will resonate. It’s going to strike them as funny — and brave.
The Open Loop
My other favorite strategy for getting recipients to open emails subject line is The Open Loop.
What’s an open loop? Well, first let’s talk about what a closed loop is. A closed loop is where you give the whole farm away in the subject line of the email — question raised and answered all in one fell swoop. In the case of my med spa client’s email, a closed loop subject line might look something like this:
Botox done right looks completely natural.
No mystery there, right? Why even click — I just told the recipient the entire point of the email. Why would they read it if they already know what I’m going to tell them?
If you leave the loop open, however, it creates the desire to know more. What if instead, my subject line was this:
Your face should never look like this.
Immediately the reader gets curious. Look like what? What shouldn’t my face look like? Does my face look like that right now? They’re compelled to click to find out the answer to their questions, which you can give them in the body of the email.
Just remember, if there’s one thing people DON’T like, it’s not being able to close the loop. If you DON’T close the loop in the body of the email, they will lose trust in you. Once trust is lost, you’ll have to work twice as hard to restore it.
But Does It Work?
You tell me. Go to your inbox and read subjects lines. Notice which emails you opened and which you didn’t. I’m willing to guess you opened:
And these two strategies don’t just apply to email subject lines. You can try these strategies to hook readers in the first couple lines of Facebook ad copy, blog articles, social media posts, and more.
So remember if you’re struggling to know what subject lines to use for your emails, don’t fall back on the old standard “tell them what the email says” strategy.
Try using an Unexpected Truth Bomb or Open Loop subject line, then drop value like crazy in the body of the email.
Want to learn how to optimize all your copy? Grab my free worksheet on the 8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Converts. https://go.christanicholsmessaging.com/lead
“I don’t know how to promote myself. I feel like I’d just be saying the same old stuff everybody else out there says. Pick me! Hire me! Choose me! How can I stand out in the crowd when there are tons of other people who do the same things I do?”
Have you ever heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as “new” information”? Sometimes it seems like everyone is selling the same old stuff in different packaging. It’s easy to start feeling like it’s impossible to stand out.
It might seem like you’re waging a losing battle when it comes to creating original, engaging content that communicates with your audience, but there’s one thing you have that NO ONE else does.
Learning to communicate with your ideal clients and customers in your own unique voice can be the differentiating factor that sets you apart from the masses. The question is, how?
In this article, I’m going to walk you through the 7 steps you can take to identify your unique voice and put it to use in your content.
I’ve created a printable fill-in resource that’s hands-on in helping you dial in on your unique voice fast. Want it? Click here to download the Personality Booster Pack now.
Step 1: Become a Detective of Yourself
This is going to sound super basic, but here goes. You can’t discover your voice if you never listen to it #truthbomb. So the first step to finding your voice is to dig in and start studying yourself, Sherlock.
Don’t just limit yourself to studying only your social content though. You’d be missing some pretty big opportunities to really dial in on what makes your content more “you”. People follow people, so no content is off limits, so make sure you consider personal content as well.
I know it can be cringe-y to have to watch and listen to yourself. I used to HATE the sound of my own voice, but the more I made it part of my process, the less it bothered me. So it’s now your job to go back and review:
Another way to research yourself is to interview the people closest to you. Your family, friends, and team listen to and watch you every day. They have a third-party, objective view of how you really communicate. Ask them things like:
Step 2: Take Notes On Yourself Like It’s Your Job
As you go through your existing content, look for things that make it uniquely “you”. Pay attention to the small details so you can be purposeful and consistent in your communication.
Write down phrases and words you use often in speech. These words and phrases will be obvious in unscripted video and audio content because it just comes automatically.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always automatically translate in your written content. Personally, my brain gets in my own way. I tend to write more formally than I speak, which takes away from the fun, personal feel my unscripted audio and video content has.
One thing that helps me stay consistent with my written content is reading it out loud to myself. I notice right away when my written is creeping more towards English teacher than my own voice. Your written work will be a bit tighter and cleaner than how you speak, and that’s okay. The important part is that it still sounds like you.
Finally, make sure you take note of your tone and the level of energy you bring when you speak. Are you super animated? Do you wave your hands around? Or are you more soft-spoken and reserved? There’s no wrong answer here. The goal is simply to be aware.
Step 3: Lock Down Your Voice Non-Negotiables
Your audience doesn’t want a carbon copy of someone else. Don’t be afraid to be YOU. There are certain things about the way you communicate that might be different from the popular influencers in your industry. Never apologize for what makes you YOU.
You’ve done the research and taken notes on how you communicate. Step 3 is to declare your non-negotiables. What do you want to be known for when it comes to your content? What do you want to make sure you always include when you communicate? Don’t be afraid to be different. If you use a lot of pop culture references, great! Tend to turn everything into a song when you’re talking? Do it! Remember, this is what attracts the RIGHT people to you.
Step 4: Decide On Your Voice No-Gos
You won’t appeal to everyone, and that’s a GOOD thing. Are there certain things you don’t ever want to include in your communication? Great! Don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not. It’s okay to draw a line and refuse to cross it.
Your audience NEEDS you to stand for some things and not for others. If they get consistent messaging from you, they feel safe and solid. If you’re up and down and try to appeal to everyone, they get confused. For example, imagine Russell Brunson dropping the F-bomb on a Facebook Live.
My no-gos include profanity and opening calling out specific people. My momma taught me if I can’t say anything nice, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. It’s just ingrained in who I am, and I’m totally okay with that.
Step 5: Utilize Free Tools
Still stuck? No worries! There are lots of free ways to get insight on your voice. Here are some of my favorites:
Step 6: Know Your Audience Well
I’ll say it until the cows come home - your audience is SO important. They’re the whole reason you’re here, right? You want your unique voice to attract the ideal clients and customers you want to serve. In order to serve them well, you have to know them well.
Your audience is the barometer of your content. Their response helps you gauge how well your offers will do. If your audience doesn’t respond to something, even if you’re SURE it was just what they needed, pay attention. Your audience won’t always want what you think they want, and that’s okay.
Let your audience guide the content you provide. Follow their lead. They may be more or less problem/solution aware than you think. Meeting them with what they need right where they’re at is very effective.
Step 7: Gauge Your Audience’s Response
When you’re getting good engagement, that means your audience is warm. Keep it up! But if all you’re hearing is crickets, it’s time to try something else. This process of testing content can take some time. You won’t automatically get super great engagement at first. If you show up consistently, it will build.
One great way to accelerate this process is just asking your audience what they want. Find out what they WANT to hear about, then give it to them.
Think of your audience like a thermometer that shows the effectiveness of your content. Content that gets a lot of engagement means the audience likes it. You’ll know you’ve hit your voice on the head when your audience comments, response, clicks, and buys.
The ultimate indicator that you’ve discovered and are thriving in your voice, of course, are purchases. Don’t expect your audience to read your mind though - make an offer! Keep listening to your audience and making offers until something works. You’ve got this!
And hey, I have a FREE workbook that walks you through how to use your voice to boost your copy's effectiveness. It's called the Personality Booster Pack. Click HERE to download it for FREE!
Step One: Put your offer out there.
Step Two: Start running traffic.
Step Three: Wait ... and wait ... and wait ... for people to buy.
Yeah, that's fun.
There are three things entrepreneurs tell themselves when things don't go the way they hoped when their offers hit the market. Understanding these three things can help keep things in perspective so you know exactly what to do to get things back on track.
The Offer Is The Problem
"My offer isn't any good. There's something wrong with what I'm putting out there. There's a missing some feature or bonus or the content isn't good enough. I need to change my ads or have a professional video."
What what if people have bought and tested your offer already, and they give it rave reviews. They're getting the result they want from it. If that's the case, we can safely assume it's not your offer.
The Audience Is The Problem
"I don't have the right audience. I'm targeting the wrong people. I need to go back and test some different audiences because the people I thought would want this, don't."
It's always good to test audiences, but if everyone who has tested and loved your offer were from that audience, then audience isn't your problem either.
I Am The Problem
"It's my fault. I'm not the right person to be the face of this offer. I don't have what it takes. I'm not smart enough. I am not a good enough speaker. I'm not pretty enough or handsome enough. I don't have enough money."
You and only you can reach the people who need what you have. When you start believing that you're just believing a lie. They need you - your audience needs you. Trust me, it's something else. Something else is going on behind the scenes that's keeping your offer from converting.
And that something is most likely an issue with your messaging.
You need a solid messaging framework for everything you're going to say about your offer. Not only will it help you dial in on the exact people who need it, but it will save you time and energy trying to figure out what to say.
Get started building yours today with my tried-and-true quick guide on the 8 Must-Ask Questions Entrepreneurs Need To Answer For Copy That Connects & Converts.
I write for entrepreneurs who offer amazing services and products - services and products that change lives and make the world a better place - and every single one has the same pain point. They all have the same question.
"Why is writing for my own offers so hard?"
I tell you what, I can so relate! I'm a messaging expert and high-ticket sales copywriter, and writing for my own offers is harder for me, too. Why? It takes a massive amount of effort to disconnect yourself from your offer.
Think about it. You've spent the last few weeks, months, even years creating, testing, and perfecting your offer. It's something you've put your heart and soul into. You've spent hours and hours (probably quite a bit of money) into putting together the perfect offer for your target audience.
You've focused on getting testimonials.
You've focused on describing the modules and the features.
You've focused on building in lots of value.
You're so deep into your offer that by the time you get to the part where you have to actually write the sales copy, it's a struggle to unplug yourself from the offer and put yourself back into the mind of your target audience.
And that's a problem. If you can't find a way to disconnect from the offer long enough to put yourself into the mind of your target audience, you will lose the audience. Without connecting with what they want, need, feel, think, desire ... you get the idea ... all you're doing is giving a rundown of things they could read about on the order form page.
Your offer is nothing without your target audience. They are who the offer is for, and I can't overemphasize the importance of knowing your target audience like the back of your hand. Lack of connection with the target audience is a major factor in sales copy that falls flat.
That's why the first thing I do when I work with clients is walk them through exactly how to figure out what their audience is thinking and feeling. When they know what their audience is thinking and feeling, they will know exactly what to say in order to make it crystal clear that their offer is the solution.
My clients are amazing. It's awesome to see the light bulb go on and watch them have that moment of, "Yes, this is why I do this! I remember the person that I'm serving. I remember why this is so important to them."
If you're an entrepreneur and you're in that place right now ...
... staring at everything in your offer, trying to decide the exact words to say to help your audience see how valuable it is and how much it's going to help them ...
... disconnect from the offer for a little bit.
Time to take your brain outside of the offer and look at the person behind it. Look at the person that you're serving. Your sales copy will be so much better when it specifically addresses the needs, wants, and desires they have and bring it around full circle to point to how your offer is the solution.
Not sure how to start? Grab my FREE guide, 8 Must-Ask Questions To Sale Copy That Connects and Converts. I use these eight questions with every client I write for, and they give you amazing clarity and focus around how to connect your offer with your audience.
Entrepreneurs usually choose one of three routes when it comes to creating sales copy for their offers: hire a copywriter, use a script, or write it themselves. Which one is the most effective ... or is it something else entirely?
Option #1: Hire a copywriter. As a copywriter myself, I think this is a great idea. Ha! I'm just kidding. Hiring a copywriter can be very effective way to have excellent sales copy created, but it's not a bulletproof option. It may not work out exactly as you hoped because there are so many factors still out of your control.
First of all, the quality of your copy will depend on how skilled the copywriter is and what types of copy they specialize in. The quality of your copy will also depend on the information you give the copywriter. If you aren't super clear on who your target audience is, what they want and need, and what you need to say, it can be really hard for the copywriter to turn that into something that's really going to appeal to your audience.
Option #2: Use a script. Using a purchased script can be a cost effective way to create sales copy. Many people enjoy the plug-and-play ease of taking something that's been proven to work and putting their own information in.
Scripts can be helpful to use as an outline. The problem lies in the way many try scripts without knowing how to optimize them for their own content. Sales scripts can come off as cold and impersonal, and it's hard to let your voice come through a plug-and-play format.
Option #3: Write It Yourself. Many entrepreneurs also choose to write their own sales copy. They'll sit down and brain dump everything they think might be effective. While a brain dump can be super helpful too when it comes to processing and working through information, it's will need a lot of work before it's optimized for sales.
Writing the sales copy itself can be a time-consuming, frustrating undertaking, especially if writing doesn't come easily.
There's something missing from all three of these common options. None of them include a solid foundation or framework for your messaging. A messaging framework is vital to creating high-converting sales copy that's dialed in on exactly what you need in order to connect with your audience right where they're at and lead them on a journey straight to the Buy Now button. After all ...
... If you don't yet know what you need to say and what your audience needs to hear, how can you tell a copywriter what they need to know in order to create your copy?
... If you're not sure what your target audience is thinking or what they want and need, how can you put that into a script? You run the risk of copying and pasting someone else's audiences wants and needs into your marketing, and that's NOT good.
... If you're not clear on exactly what questions or objections your audience might have, your brain dump copy is going to fall short. You'll end up having to answer a lot of questions later when they could have been answered already.
Think about the framework of your messaging BEFORE you write copy, because that's going to be the foundation that all of it will be built on.
If you want to learn more about the foundational things you need to address for high-converting sales copy, download my free guide with 8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Converts.
I got upsold yesterday, and I liked it.
Our dishwasher has been broken for a couple of weeks. Not BROKEN broken, just broken ENOUGH that it doesn't get things clean the first time, so we're forced to re-wash every load. 🍽 Yes, we're too lazy to just wash the dishes by hand #aintnobodygottimeforthat.
But I digress.
The dishwasher was broken, and it's still under warranty (past experience with dishwashers has taught us to always get the extended warranty. - ALWAYS) so we called the appliance repair company.
It only took them two weeks to send a repair tech 😑 so we were pretty dang excited when said repair tech arrived at our door yesterday. He did his thing, fixed the dishwasher 😇🙌 and just as I thought he was getting ready to leave ...
"You know ma'am, we have a special going on right now. Because I'm here on site right now, I can clean any other appliances you may have for just $50, or any two for $80."
Now, there's something you need to know about me. In general, I don't really like being sold to. As a sales copywriter, I know all the lines. I've heard all the pitches. I recognize all the pre-frames and emotional appeals. So I immediately started to shut down and mentally prepared my "Thanks for coming, but no thanks" farewell line.
And that's when he whipped out his cell phone and showed me my refrigerator coils. 😱
He had done his homework. Before he even pitched the extra service to me, he had taken the time to actually get down on my kitchen floor and take a photo of my refrigerator coils. And trust me, if anything ever needed to be cleaned, it was those coils.
As I stared in disgust 😬 at the fuzzy dust bunnies frolicking in the underbelly of the appliance that keeps our food from salmonella and e-coli, he explained that clean appliances not only protect the life of the appliance, but run longer and prevent house 🔥 fires.
He had me. I told him, "GO FOR IT!" and ended up with a very clean under-fridge AND clothes dryer.
I was happy to pay him for this extra service because A) I hate appliance shopping, so the longer what I have lasts, the happier I am, B) I don't want my house to catch on fire, and C) I didn't have the time or desire to do it myself.
Yep, he upsold this sales wise, skeptical consumer quite easily, and I was GLAD. Why?
He did his homework. He wasn't just throwing out his sales script and rattling it off. He knew I needed and would benefit from this service because he'd done his market research - aka looked at the back/underside of my fridge. He also knew that as someone who purchases a warranty, I was interested in preserving the appliances I have. Oh, and also the whole house-catching-on-fire thing - nobody likes that. 😂
Here's the point: selling doesn't have to be sales-y! I believe this with all my heart because I help my clients do it every day. When you know and understand who your audience is and truly desire to help them, selling is SERVICE.
This is the type of messaging I help my clients with every day, and it WORKS. Just ask my client who, with the help of the amazing Facebook ads teams I work with ...
🔥 Sold $1M in product in the five months helping people sleep better.
🔥 Is on target to sell $1M per MONTH in Q2 because their products help allergy sufferers and people with chemical sensitivities find relief in their own homes.
🔥 Reached 5.5 ROAS with a training program that effectively helps people get into real estate investing.
If you're having trouble selling, ask yourself:
"Am I presenting my offer in a way that's SERVING MY AUDIENCE - not myself?"
"Am I putting my offer in front of the RIGHT people?"
"Have I done my homework to know that this is what my audience REALLY needs?"
"Is my offer addressing the concerns and objections my audience has BEFORE they even realize them?"
Selling can be SERVICE. ❤️
How To Save Your Sanity - BEFORE Signing a New Client Who Will Try to Steal It - by Identifying RED FLAGS Early On
Nightmare clients. We've all had 'em.
Needy and demanding or demeaning and dismissive, these special 🦄unicorns should come with a warning label and a disclaimer.
Ask anyone in a service-based business, and they can tell you STORIES!
Middle of the night calls
Demanding tons of work for little $$
I had one once who didn't talk to you for a week, then blasted you with criticism and disdain, leaving you feeling like a failure who didn't know what you were doing. Every. Week.
Yep, fired that one.
I've gotten better at spotting them ahead of time by now though, and you can too! Here are some tips on red flags to look for . . . but first, let's get something straight . . .
You DESERVE good clients who appreciate your skills and knowledge.
You DESERVE to get paid well for the work you do.
You ARE an expert with a back up tribe of experts in your back pocket. Never forget that!
Now that we have that straight, let us begin.
RED FLAG #1 - Tone
If you're married, or in a relationship, or have a kid, or talk to the mailman on occasion, you know that tone can make or break an interaction. It's a little more subtle online, so if you can see and sense it upon first interaction, RUN!
I recently had someone reach out to me for my services in a post in a Facebook group. I immediately PM'ed them, as they requested. A couple days went by with crickets (no big deal, happens all the time), then suddenly they showed up again in the post, asking me where I was and if I was really interested and to stop wasting their time if I wasn't.
Hold. My. Earrings. Exsqueeze me, what?
You'd be proud of me. I simply screenshotted the PM and politely suggested that they should maybe check their Message Requests folder.
RED FLAG #2 - Expectations
Do they want the moon with a side of cheese? Expect (re: demand) that you show immediately that you can get conversions - before you even start?
Yeah, that'll be a fun one.
Listen, not everyone with unrealistic expectations will be a bad client. Sometimes it's just ignorance - or they've been reading too many testimonials from "gurus" and ads without doing their own research on it.
Feel them out with a couple well-placed questions, like:
If they seem amenable, give them a shot. If not, 'bye Felicia.
RED FLAG #3 - Pricing
Are they looking for champagne on a beer - or tap water - budget? Skedaddle. Yes, I just said skedaddle.
This is someone who will fight you and nickel and dime you for everything. DO NOT go into a working relationship with someone who doesn't understand the value of what you do and doesn't appreciate the investment they're making.
I went against my best judgment (and Red Flag #1) with Mr. PM me and continued the conversation about their needs. They were looking for an experienced copywriter with at least 7-8 years of writing experience.
Okay, no problem. But he asked for my prices . . . BIG problem. I'm WAAAAAY out of his budget. #sorrynotsorry
No problem. I get it - no hard feelings. I suggested some other avenues where he might find copywriters more in his price range, but cautioned that it would not be an easy search due to his budget.
"But do those writers have 8 years of experience? Because I really need an experienced writer."
Good. Luck. With. That.
Just . . . just . . . just . . . save yourselves the headache. Look for these three RED FLAGS in your initial interactions with prospects, and you'll save yourself a lot of frustration.
I'm an entrepreneur. I know a lot of people throw that term around loosely, but I don't.
In fact, there was a time when I didn't throw it around at all. Why?
Because I never wanted to be one.
The truth is, I tend to be a scaredy-cat. I'm resistant to change. When things get stressful or tough, I definitely lean more towards the "flight", not "fight" camp. The thought of starting my own business - the kind that made real money and therefore had the potential for real risk - was enough to make me swear I'd rather just work for someone else for the rest of my life.
After all, that meant they took all the risk, right? They're the ones who'd have to make all the tough choices, worry about taxes and business accounts, and handle employees and business expenses.
Turns out risk can find you anyway. Tough choices will show up at your door regardless or how much you hide. And you end up trading freedom and choice for limited earning potential and someone else's dreams.
I spent 16 years playing at business. I said I had my own business, but I didn't. Not really. Eighty percent of my contracts were from the same company, and I didn't actively pursue growth and development. For all intents and purposes, I was an employee of one company. I was at their beck and call 24/7. Their deadlines became my deadlines. Their stress became my stress. I was never, ever going to be anything more than their contractor.
I was meant for more than that, but I refused to acknowledge it. I stayed the same, played small, and hid. Until finally one day God said, "Enough. If you won't grow where you're at, then I'll move you." And He did.
The bottom dropped out of my business literally overnight. Things HAD to change because there was no other choice. Guess how much I liked that?
That time in my business was intense. Read a couple blog posts back to see what I mean. I gutted it out because I had no choice, but inside I was bitter and resentful. I never wanted this, I thought. All these other people around me and thriving as "entrepreneurs". They think it's great. Why can't I love it like they do? Why do I feel like a sinking ship? And I began to refer to myself as an anti-preneur as a joke. I wasn't against entrepreneurism. It's just how I felt - I was an entrepreneur by necessity, not choice.
God had a lot of work to do on me. He took me through a time of fiery refinement that altered many things about me as a person and EVERYTHING about my business. And during that time, I began to write again as a way to process change and communicate with God and with myself. Writing became my saving grace, which was His intention all along.
Little by little, slivers of light began to pierce through. I started to realize there were certain things about what I was doing that I was really good at. When I focused in on only those things, everything changed. Suddenly, my work was FUN again.
And then one day there it was. I was no longer an anti-preneur. I was a full-on entrepreneur and loving it. I began to really thrive.
I've learned a new level of trust in God. Every step of my journey was designed for my growth, even the hard parts. Especially the hard parts. Things are as He designed, and it's SO much better than anything I'd have ever come up with on my own.
If you're sitting in the hard place right now, trust. I don't mean that flippantly. Sometimes trust is the only thing you can do and the only thing you have left. It's WORK. But He knows what you need.
Oh, He knows what you want, too. Thank goodness He doesn't always give us what we want. I am SO thankful He didn't just let me have what I thought I wanted. If He had:
He KNOWS what you NEED.
I was a graphic designer for 16 years until one day I heard through the grapevine that the company that held 80% of my contracts was shutting down.
That was so fun. Not.
What should I do? Should I go get a job? Sell a kidney? Lay down and cry? Yeah, no. I didn't do any of that. I've always had my own business, I kind of need both my kidneys, just in case, and I'm not really a crier.
I decided to build a better business - one that didn't have all its eggs in one sad little basket - and I realized I was going to needed a way to market my services. I joined a digital marketing group on Facebook, and it changed everything for me.
I decided to launch a digital marketing business. Because that's how I do things - I see the potential, I take the leap, and then I learn on the way down. #YOLO or some such. Naturally, when I started out, I went hard. I offered every service under the sun. You need social media platform management? Sure! Facebook ads? Okay! A sales funnel? Whatever you want! Video editing, email marketing, web design - I did everything.
Everything, that is, except sleep, take care of myself, or have any semblance of a balanced life. You see what's coming, right? I did that for six months, day and night, night and day, and I completely burned out. I couldn't keep going like that, and everyone around me could see it but me.
The boiling point came one morning when my husband made an innocent comment about something business-related. It was so no big deal that I can't even remember what it was, probably something like, "Why are we out of printer paper again?" but it just hit me the wrong way. I got up from my desk in tears and went downstairs to hide. I am an expert hider.
Of course, my husband lives here too, so he found me right away. Then he literally scooped his sleep-deprived, incoherently-sobbing mess of a wife off the floor, set me on his lap, and looked straight into my face to be sure I would hear him. This is what he said:
"You have to stop. This is not why you're doing this. Why would you build something that's killing you?" He was right, and I knew it. In that moment I decided that I was only going to offer services I loved. The problem was, I was so burned out, I had no idea what that was. Because I'm crazy like that, I did the only thing that presented itself to me at that time.
I completely stopped working with private clients and took positions with two agencies as a white labeler - one for copy writing and one for Facebook ads management. I know. I know what you're thinking. Why would you do that? Why would someone who's always run her own business go work for someone else? It doesn't make sense!
You are completely correct. It did not make sense. But it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Taking everything else off my plate allowed me to really lean in and invest in what I was doing while absorbing massive amounts of training in skills from people who had been there and done that and were a few steps ahead of me. The things I was really good at had a chance to come out and make themselves known. Suddenly, everything about my business was FUN again.
I discovered that even though I hadn't written much of anything since my stint as a writer for my university's daily newspaper, I still enjoyed writing and had a natural knack for writing effective sales copy. I also got very good at Facebook ad lead generation and came to understand the inner workings and strategies behind the Ads Manager platform like never before.
Could a person learn all this without having to go through all the hard stuff? Gosh, I sure hope so. But this is me we're talking about, and I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I'm a #hotmess, okay? I'm going to do everything I can to avoid a challenge or a breakdown, but it's going to find me anyway. It seems like I have to go through all the hard stuff, the stuff that WON'T work for my business, before I can get to the good stuff.
I had to go through the emergency crash landing experience - you know, the kind where three engines are on fire, the pilot's yelling, "MAYDAY! MAYDAY!" into the radio, flight attendants are passing out in the aisles, oxygen masks dropping like pinatas, and the landing gear won't engage. Without living through that experience, I wouldn't have experienced the strengthening, learning and growth needed to be doing what I'm doing today.
And what I'm doing today is more fulfilling, fun, and "me" than anything I could have dreamed up. Today I write high-level Facebook ads, sales funnel and email marketing copy for six-, seven-, and eight-figure coaches, consultants, and membership and course creators. I also ghostwrite non-fiction business books for entrepreneurs and influencers who have an important message they want to share with the world.
Maybe the section of the journey you're in right now feels more like a dumpster fire than a dream. Somewhere along the line you lit a match with good intentions, but it got out of control, and now you're sitting in the rubble with smoke stinging your eyes and flames inching ever closer. What do you do?
You look up.
You will not make it out by sitting there staring at the flames. Period. This sounds harsh, but in a real fire, that is how people die. They get scared, and instead of looking for a way out or asking for help, they hide, and the smoke inhalation kills them.
It's hard to focus on anything else when it feels like the world is on fire. Believe me, I know. I worked so hard every waking moment of every day on my business during that six-month period. Literally the only time I ever gave myself a chance to relax and think about anything other than work was in church on Sunday mornings, and that's because it's generally frowned upon to bring your laptop to the sanctuary and work during the sermon.
And every Sunday morning for two months straight, I cried during the sermon. I'm sure people thought, "Oh, she's so moved. That's just precious. What a tender heart." I wish I could say that's what it was. I love a good dose of the Word, but in this case, it was a total cry for help. This was the only time I allowed myself to step out of my business and evaluate how things were going, and it wasn't good. When I was forced to face the truth, it broke me. Yet after lunch on Sunday, I'd push it away, hop back on the laptop, and go again. Next Sunday, same thing. This happened every Sunday for two months.
I finally admitted to myself that I'd done it. I'd build the digital marketing agency ... and I completely, utterly miserable. I realized that for the first time in my professional life, I was doing something that I had absolutely no desire to keep doing for the next 20-30 years of my life. AND I HAD DONE IT TO MYSELF!
I knew a one-stop shop agency wasn't for me, and that put me in another conundrum. I'd joined a mastermind group focused on helping people grow digital marketing agencies. If I no longer ran a digital marketing agency, then I wouldn't belong in the mastermind group anymore, right? I convinced myself I was taking a valuable spot away from someone else by staying, and that the best, most selfless thing I could do was quietly leave. This group was my business family, and I was devastated.
Yes, that's right. I was sitting right smack in the middle of my very own business dumpster fire, unable to take my eyes off the flames, dangerously close to spontaneously combusting. And I did the one thing that changed everything. I looked up.
I sent an incoherent, middle-of-the-night message to my mentor, an amazing woman named Rachel Pedersen, founder of The Social Clique, SMU Elite, and Social Media United. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I admitted to her that I knew a digital marketing agency wasn't the path I was going to take. I told her I felt selfish for taking a spot that could go to someone who did want that, and that I was going to step down from The Clique.
She was awake and immediately received the message. And let me tell you, she was not having it. "Christa, the Clique isn't just about growing a digital agency. It's about growing a business of any kind and encouraging and nurturing each other to success. You cannot leave the Clique, because the spot you're in can only be filled by you. You belong here."
It was as if a little bit of the smoke cleared, and I could see a way forward. In that moment, my thinking changed. I didn't have to build what everyone else was building. In fact, I SHOULDN'T build any kind of business except the one that fit me. I just needed to figure out what kind of business that would be. It was as if I'd just been given permission in a way that I hadn't even realized I needed.
I began to be more open about my struggles with the safe people in my life I knew I could trust, especially those who were ahead of me in their entrepreneurial journeys. I learned that what I was going through was completely normal, and in fact part of the process of growth.
I got up and walked out of those flames, and you know what happened when I did? I left part of the woman I was behind. Yeah, that fearful girl unwilling to risk or change didn't make it out, and that NEEDED to happen. Did it hurt? Heck yes! But I couldn't bring her with me. She could not have walked where I'm walking now, and I'd have died trying to save us both.
Look up! There are people just ahead of you who want to support you, encourage you, and cheer you on. You're not alone. Find another entrepreneur who's a bit further along in the process to connect with. Join a mentorship or mastermind. Hit up a Facebook group in the industry you work in. Look for the ones who still smell a little bit like smoke. They're the ones who know EXACTLY what you've been through and can point you in the right direction as you KEEP GOING.
It wasn't pretty. It wasn't eloquent. There were no hearts or Cupid's bows, no cutesy sayings, no X's and O's. But my husband sent me a love note this morning. And today? Today, it's everything.
This week has been tough so far. If anyone tries to tell you being an entrepreneur is easy, just assume they're lying. Being an entrepreneur is like riding a rollercoaster - with no seatbelt. The highs are high, the lows are low, and you're never quite sure whether you're strapped in and ready to go.
At one point in this rollercoaster ride today, I found myself pulling out my phone and texting my husband, "I'm so sorry. I wanted this all to be success and smooth sailing. Ugh, I feel like such a failure!"
The phone was silent for a long moment.
And then he sent me this:
I burst into tears. It may not have made sense to anyone else, but I knew what he was saying to me.
Earlier this spring year I had a conversation with a very successful businessman. In the course of our conversation, he told me a story about a young man who worked for him. They had met for lunch, and the young man was venting to him about how he had all of these ideas but was too afraid to start. He didn't know if they would work. He didn't know if he could make a go of it. He didn't know if he was brave enough to try.
The businessman said he grabbed one of the cocktail napkins off the table and in bold ink letters wrote "permission to fail" on it. He signed his name and dated it and silently slid it back across the table to his employee.
Not long after, the young man gave his notice and left his job. A year later, the two men met again for lunch. As they sat down, the former employee took a small white square out of his pocket. He unfolded it, then set it down and slid it across the table between them.
It was the same cocktail napkin with "permission to fail" written on it.
The young man had carried his "permission to fail" with him every day for the past year, and he had looked at it every time he was afraid or uncertain. Now he could look across the table at his former mentor and say "I did it. I made $1 million this year."
I had told my husband that story because it really impacted me as an entrepreneur. We hadn't spoken of it since. Until now.
Keep going. If you need permission to fail, then consider it given. Just don't let fear stop you from doing what you're called to do.
Hi, I'm Christa, an Iowa-based messaging expert specializing in targeted messaging, copywriting, and ghostwriting services. I have one handsome hubby who's my partner in crime (not literally) and two great kids who keep us busy (Track and field! Volleyball! Basketball! All the sports!) Using words to help people promote what they love is my favorite!