The Story of My Business (So Far) – Part 2

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If you haven’t yet, be sure to read Part 1 of My Business Story

When we last left off, I was working full-time for an online publisher in Seattle and had recently taken another job for a health and wellness blog on the side. I was starting to get the entrepreneurial itch and the notion that people would pay me to do this kind of work outside of the traditional employment model was starting to sink in.

I took my first solo trip abroad in 2015.

As you may have read on my About page or Instagram profile, I’m a devoted traveler. This is the point in the story where I began making moves that allowed me to make travel a huge and sustainable part of my life. 

The more I work I did for the health blog, the stronger the pull to begin freelancing became. Seeing how they ran their business inspired me to take the tools I was learning and apply them to my own content and offerings. 

About 6 months after I began working for Autoimmune Wellness, my number of working hours per month had increased to the point where I had the financial flexibility to go part-time at my office job and free up the rest of my schedule to work on freelance projects. I started putting out feelers to my mom’s colleagues (I had built a website for her the year prior, which proved to be a great source of referrals) and I ended up cobbling together another few web design projects. I was overjoyed!

Traveling abroad had been on my mind ever since my life-changing study abroad trip in college, so I quickly took advantage of my newfound schedule freedom and registered for a month long yoga teacher training course in India. To do this, I was able to cash in on my vacation hours at my office job and continue running my freelance projects from India.

It was an amazing month, and of course, all I wanted to do when I got home was travel again! My dream of running a location independent business had officially taken root. 

Then I took my biggest leap of faith yet.

Six more months of my part-time freelancing setup passed before I finally felt ready to take the leap into full-time freelance work. To be honest, my decision to quit my office job wasn’t a 100% confident one. It truly was a leap of faith. I moved forward with the belief that in order to take on more personal clients, I needed to make space for them. Once the space was there, I would fill it. And that has proven true again and again ever since. 

By this point, I had completed a handful of website design projects, to the point where I was confident in marketing myself as a web designer as well as a writer. I was continuing to receive referrals via former clients and I felt optimistic about my ability to grow. That’s when I decided to take my next leap.

In August 2016, I sold all my furniture, packed all my belongings into storage and moved out of my house in Seattle to take my show on the road. I didn’t have return ticket or a timeline in mind, but I knew I wanted to experiment with the idea of living and working abroad. I flew to Italy to spend 6 weeks backpacking around with my best friend, and later flew to Southeast Asia where I would spend another 6 months traveling and working. 

On this trip, I wasn’t focused on business growth. I was spending about 60% of my time working and 40% exploring, so my business was in maintenance mode. But once I had determined my budget and realized that I didn’t need to work a full schedule to support myself, my intention became to try on the location independent lifestyle to see if it was something I’d want to do long term. 

In 2017, I moved from “freelancer” to “business owner”.

Today, I type this to you from Chiang Mai, Thailand where I am currently enjoying my second extended trip abroad. This time, my focus is less on adventuring and more on business growth. While I am still hopping around a bit, I’m largely visiting countries that I’ve already been to, where I know my way around and I can comfortably post-up to do my work. 

I’m keeping up a full-time work schedule, though my hours rarely fit the typical 9-5 schedule. I’m very fortunate that my clients are flexible and my projects don’t require much verbal communication. 

Along with this latest move abroad has come a renewed mindset around my business as well. I’m settling into calling myself a business owner, as opposed to a freelancer, which has not only enabled me to more securely devote energy to my business growth, but also interact more confidently with clients. This has been huge!

I’ve been in Thailand since late December 2017 and I expect I’ll be here for 4-5 months. If there’s one thing I’ve gotten good at with all this travel, it’s tuning into my needs, so my plan is to remain in Southeast Asia until I feel the pull to come home, which I always do eventually! Then, 4 or 5 months later when the travel itch inevitably sets in, I’ll probably do it all again.

So there you have it! My business story, so far at least. It’s certainly been an unconventional ride. I wanted to take the time to explain each step so that I could not only give you a glimpse behind the scenes, but also illustrate the way a location independent online business comes together. (Sometimes it seems like a magic – or a scam!)

Like anything else, it’s just been a series of small but intentional steps, guided by a clear commitment. Mine has always been to freedom in work and life, and at this moment, I’m happy to say I’m embodying it. 

So, did I leave anything out? What questions do you have about how I have built my business? Leave them in the comments below! 

Cheers to freedom (in work and life).

The Story of My Business (So Far) – Part 1

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Most people I meet on the road are awestruck when I tell them I have my own writing and web design business. I get it. It’s an unbelievable setup – I explore the world and get paid to do creative work that excites me. I’m super lucky!

And I also worked hard and made some very intentional choices to make this my reality. 

I thought it would be fun to dive into my career story today, both to give you a better picture of my background, and to show you the steps I took to realize my dream of location independence. 

First, I learned to write and coach.

College is a good place to start. I majored in English at the University of Puget Sound and while there, I got my first few jobs that made me realize that I wanted writing to be a big part of my career.

I worked as a writer and an editor of our campus newspaper, but even more influential was my job as a writing advisor. This is where I learned how to embody the role of a coach in the writing process, and also that I loved doing so. I loved the collaboration and partnership, and I got such joy out of helping someone make their creative vision come alive on the page.

In college, I also participated in a 9-month study abroad program that took me and 24 other students to 9 different countries in Asia. To say that this changed my life is an understatement! This is obviously where my wanderlust was born, and it was here that I gained the confidence and skills to travel on my own. (More on that later!)

Then I got my dream job, or so I thought.

After college, I pretty quickly got hired as an editor of a cake decorating magazine. It was my absolute dream, and it’s here that I learned about how to write for online audiences. The magazine ended up going under 6 months after I started, which left me with a lot of unwanted time on my hands.

I knew that online media was where I wanted to be, so I decided to take the opportunity to build my own website on Wordpress. My mom soon requested that I build a site for her as well, and not long after that I started my food/wellness blog, Gracefully Primal. 
 
These few months of unemployment were highly stressful and angst-ridden, but they proved to be a time of great creative freedom and learning. By building my blog, I learned how to grow my own audience online and how to transfer my writing skills to social media. It also helped me realize that I could find work outside the traditional employment model.

A few months after I lost my first full-time job, I got my second one at an online publishing company in Seattle where I was hired as a Content Coordinator. This company published a lot of content related to charity, human rights and other delicate topics, so it’s here that I learned how to garner attention and support around a topic while still infusing my writing with soul and human connection. These are important lessons that have served me well. 

I hopped around a bit at this company, eventually being promoted to a more strategic and editing role. It was in this position that I began to understand how to skillfully use content as a vehicle for business growth, something that is central to my client work today.

My mind never stopped wandering.

Even though I was writing every day at my dayjob and building my beloved blog by night, the dream in my heart at the time was to turn my blog into an income stream. I kept my eye out for other job opportunities that could open up my schedule and give me more experience with the blogging world. Lucky for me, in early 2015 the health website Autoimmune Wellness posted an ad for a part-time social media assistant and I got the job! 

I began working about 10 hours/week for them, in addition to my regular dayjob hours, so I was definitely busy. But this period was hugely informative for me. For one thing, it gave me the confidence that rather than stick to the full-time, 40-hour-per-week employment model, I could instead organize my life around freelance-style work. There were people out there who needed my skills!

It also gave me HUGE experience in the more mundane yet crucial aspects of running a business, like invoicing, making my own schedule, communicating via email, choosing my rates, writing contracts, etc. It’s here that I got my first taste of career autonomy and freedom, and I savored it. 

I still work for Autoimmune Wellness today (though my role has evolved) and it’s been the most fruitful and rewarding working experience I’ve ever had.

So, you may be wondering where all the travel fits into my story, and how I went from full-time work (plus an extra job!) to the self-owned business I’m running how. Excellent questions! And I’ll answer all of them in Part 2 of My Business Story (So Far).

Do You Know Your Ideal Client?

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Most of us are familiar with the terms “target audience” and “ideal client”, and chances are you have at least some idea of what these people look like for your business. 

You’ve probably given some thought to their age, location, income and wants/needs. I’d like to push you on this a little bit today, though, and ask whether you really know them. 

Do you know what their core values are?
Do you know their strengths? Weaknesses?
What motivates them? 
What kind of social media they consume?

You might be thinking, “Um, how could I know those things without tracking them down and asking?”

Well, I’m here to tell you that getting a well-rounded picture of your audience does not require stalking or interrogating. All you need is 30 minutes and the right journaling prompts.

Why is an ideal client profile important?

Before I share the journaling technique, I want to stress how powerful it is to deeply understand your business’s ideal client. 

In the simplest terms, writing copy, whether its for social media, your newsletter, your blog or your sales pages, will become 100 times easier and maybe even – dare I say it? – FUN to do! When you can direct your work to an image of an actual person, the words flow almost effortlessly onto the page.

More importantly, knowing who this person is will start to guide your business decisions like a beacon. Choices you used to mull over will become easy to make. Your “why” will fall right into place, followed by your “what” and “how”. And best of all, you’ll start to attract dreamier (and often higher-paying) clients when they can tell that you really understand them.

I tell you, it’s almost magical how a little creative visualization can yield such fruitful results.

The Exercise

So, how do we pin down this magical being that is our ideal client? Carve out 20-30 solid minutes and grab your journal. (I always find hand-writing things like this works best.) 

Answer the following questions. (This might feel silly at first since you’re devising these answers yourself, but try envisioning a former client to get yourself going.)

  • What is my client’s name? 
  • What is their gender identity?
  • How do they spend their days?
  • What is their biggest dream?
  • What is their greatest fear?
  • Before I came along, where did they turn to for advice?
  • After walking away from a session with me, how do they feel?
  • Where do they hang out on social media?

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to illustrating your target audience, but it will give you a framework for understanding how you as a business owner can start to impact this person’s life and dreams. 

I encourage you to save this piece of notebook paper and pin it somewhere in your workspace where you can always see it. The next time you're feeling blocked or uninspired, remember this profile and visualize the person you are here to serve. Not only will you feel more grounded, but you'll probably also feel a few new ideas come to the surface.

Want to dig deeper into your ideal client profile? My Message Clarity Workbook includes two pages of Mad-Libs-style prompts for you to quickly and easily create a fully fleshed-out client avatar. It’s also got tons of targeted writing prompts to get your unique purpose, offerings, calls to action, and writing style dialed-in. This is the process I go through with all my new clients! Click here to check it out.

4 Elements of a Powerful Homepage (+ a Free Worksheet!)

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Your homepage is your chance to make a great impression. It’s the first thing new readers and potential clients will see when they start learning about who you are, so it’s important that it not only looks clean and polished (the same way you’d want to look in an interview), but also says what you want it to say – and nothing more!

I’m a big believer in keeping things simple and minimal here. On your homepage, your goal is to make people feel welcome and inspire them to learn more. Don’t worry about packing everything in. This is just a tasting menu.

This might sound daunting, but with the right template and big-picture goals in mind, you can easily plug your story into a format that connects with readers and entices them to learn more. 

After years of building websites, I’ve developed a formula that I go back to again and again to create powerful homepages that convert readers into clients. Here’s my list of the four elements every homepage needs.

#1: Dynamic Headline (5-15 words)

Just like in a newspaper or magazine, a headline is a great opportunity to catch your reader’s attention. Think of it as a welcome message to your reader, a space for you to help them feel comfortable and let them know you understand who they are and what they need. 

Your headline can be a suggestion (Heal your gut and start living your best life), a descriptive statement about yourself, (Seeking wellness and building community), a question (What would you be doing today if your health was a no-brainer?), or simply an introduction (Hi, I’m Grace, your content coach). 

Regardless, this statement will tell your readers that this is the place where they can get help accomplishing a specific goal. 

#2: Statement of Purpose (20-50 words)

Next, you want to clearly and succinctly explain the problem that you are here to solve for your readers. Another way to think of this piece is a “brand offering”. This isn’t the place to dive into your background or qualifications – you can save that for your About page. Your statement of purpose should be a concise sentence (or maybe two) that describes, broadly, what you’re here to do. 

It can include some allusions to what makes you unique, but it shouldn’t be too wordy. A good place to start is to finish this sentence: “I’m here to…”

#3: Description of Offerings

Now that you’ve explained the problem you’re here to solve, tell them how you do it. This can come in the form of a few short sentences, or it can simply be a descriptive button with a link to your Offerings/Services page. Or both! 

On my homepage, you’ll notice I have a one-sentence paragraph explaining the web design and writing work I do, followed by links to both of my individual Offerings pages. Nothing too wordy, which makes it easy for them to figure out what to do next.

#4: Call to Action

Now this is where the rubber meets the road! As we’ve discussed, your purpose on this page is to inspire your visitors to take the next step in their relationship with you. Now, it’s up to you to ask them to do it! In the marketing world, we call this a “call to action” or CTA. 

Your call to action can ask folks to do a whole host of things: read a blog post, book a call with you, sign up for your newsletter, check out your Offerings page, join your Facebook group – the list goes on. What I want you to focus on for now, though, is choosing just one action for them to take. 

Sure, your homepage can have multiple calls to action (and they can fluctuate depending on your business goals), but before you start designing the page, you should have one primary action in mind that will most effectively move your business forward.

Having a clear intention here is crucial. We all know how overwhelming it is to land on a website, even when we know we want to hire someone, and feel confused about how to do it. Don’t be that website! Make it obvious what you want your readers to do, and easy for them to do it.

And there you have it! This is the formula I use when I’m building websites, both for clients and for myself. You’ll find a LOT of guides online that list a LOT more elements that go into a powerful homepage, but in my experience, there’s no need to over complicate things. Keep it simple, keep it clean, and make your message shine!

Need some more guidance? Download my free Clean + Compelling Homepage Worksheet for the just the right writing prompts to get your homepage message dialed-in.

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Send me the free worksheet!

What is a Copywriter and Why Would I Need One?

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When I was searching for my first job out of college, I kept running into listings for “copywriters”. I remember thinking, “How on earth did I make it through an English degree without learning what a copywriter does?!”

It’s not a term that gets thrown around a lot in the liberal arts, and probably not in the coaching world either. Nevertheless, copywriting is a skill and a service that absolutely every business can benefit from, which is why I wanted to take some time to explain it today.

What is copy?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Copy is text. It’s a collection of words that fill up space on a page (like the one you're reading right now). But it’s not just any page.

Copywriting usually shows up in marketing materials, advertisements, blogs, periodicals, and social media. The term is used to distinguish these types of writing from other forms like literary, creative, research or academic. 

And one thing all copywriting has in common is that it’s persuasive. It’s written with a purpose – to get you to care about it and (usually) to do or buy something. 

For this reason, copywriting can often have a sleazy, sales-y connotation – but its persuasiveness is also what makes it so valuable. 

Strong copy is what compels people to take action. It’s what turns your audience into a client base. Without it, you’re just a person with a website.

What makes good copywriting?

Strong copywriting is persuasive without being pushy. It tells a story and includes the reader in the action. It has a beginning, middle and end, and it leaves the reader motivated to take the next step.

Writing it requires skills in sales and marketing, but more importantly, it requires emotional intelligence. It demands a deep understanding of your intended audience since its goal is to ultimately create an emotional connection strong enough to inspire an action – leaving a comment, clicking to a sales page, registering, purchasing, etc.

Good copywriters spend plenty of time up front getting to know you, your offerings and your audience. They observe and they do market research to understand the context around what you do. They’re good listeners.

Why would I need a copywriter?

Are you using a website or social media to find clients online? Then copywriting is something you’ll need somewhere along the line. It will show up on every page of your website, on the materials you give your clients, on your promotional emails, and of course, on your sales pages.

But you might not need to hire someone to create it. It’s a wonderful skill to have in your back pocket and it’s definitely something that can be learned. (My Message Clarity Workbook can be really helpful here. It’s free!)

But it’s also possible that you:

  • don’t have the time to write your own copy.
  • don’t have the creative energy to come up with what to say.
  • can’t seem to write your story the way you hear it in your head.

If any of these are the case, hiring a copywriter could be a huge help! Consider partnering with someone who understands the world of online marketing and can help you craft your offering into a story that will resonate with your readers. 

Your relationship with your copywriter is an important one – not all copywriters are skilled in the same areas, so finding someone who understands what you do and who is familiar with your audience can be a great asset. 

It’s also, of course, an important investment, so you want to be sure you and your copywriter are on the same page (pardon the pun).

This is why I have a discovery call with every potential client. I want to be positive that we both have the same goals and that we understand and appreciate the other’s skill areas.

If you’re reading this thinking “Yep, that’s exactly what I need,” then step right this way! I’d love to talk to you about where your business is headed and how I can help you craft the right story. 

Feeling inspired to get to work on your own copy? That’s great! This blog post will help, and my Message Clarity Workbook was made for you. 

Cheers to good copy!

How to Write a Killer Bio (+ a Template to Write One in 5 Minutes!)

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Regardless of how passionate we are about our careers, as entrepreneurs, explaining what we do in writing can be daunting.

In my personal experience, the task of writing about myself brings on that dreaded keyboard paralysis quicker that almost any other type of writing. Why is that?

I have a few theories. For one thing, the stakes always feel really high. (I only have 8 seconds to make them like me so this better be gold!)

Also, it’s a really tough balance to strike between flattering and relatable. We want to:

  • clearly explain what we do, without sounding generic. 
  • stand out, without becoming unrelatable.
  • be engaging and cool, but also professional.
  • talk ourselves up, without being inauthentic.

Shwoo! Not easy! But I can make it a little easier.

A few of my clients have come to me for advice about how to craft a strong, succinct and authentic bio and I’ve used this formula with them to great success. (It’s also the same formula I used on my own About page!)

It’s designed to check all the boxes of a dynamic and authentic bio. It captures:

  1. Your big-picture approach.
  2. How you will help your reader.
  3. Why you’re great at what you do.
  4. And most importantly, what makes you unique.

The Formula

What is my core belief? (30-50 words)
I believe that...

Why am I great at what I do? (40-60 words)
I know how to _____ because...

What makes me different from other coaches in my field? (40-60 words)
My favorite part of my job is…
I’m here to help you...

OPTIONAL:
Education, Behind the Scenes, etc. (100-200 words)

That’s it! Quick, simple and effective. If these answers come quickly to you, you could probably have this done in 5 minutes.

But wait! You might be thinking, “But what about my degrees / professional background / credentials? Why did I spend all that money on school if no one will ever know about it?!” 

Well, here’s the thing. I’m a firm believer in the power of storytelling, and in my experience, it’s your story, not your degree, that turns a reader into a client. That’s why I prioritize these elements.

However, if you are in a profession in which training and education make a big difference to your potential clients, feel free to add your credentials in the optional section at the end. But like I said, I'd only include this after the rest of your story.

There you have it! I hope you found this template helpful.

Do writing prompts like this work well for you? You might want to check out my Message Clarity Workbook. It’s got 13 pages of sharp questions designed to help you articulate who you are and what you’re here to do.