As soon as I got the email, I knew.
Call it intuition, call it years of experience —but it was bad. I could feel it.
As soon as I got the email, I knew.
Call it intuition, call it years of experience —but it was bad. I could feel it.
We need to talk about sameness on the internet.
Everywhere I look, I see near-identical articles with the same points echoed over and over.
Welp, it happened again.
Another year has passed and suddenly: IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!
This year, the world has been kind to me. So I want to be kind to it right back.
That’s why I’m ringing this next trip around the sun with a fundraising campaign for charity: water, which you can check out right here.
100% of the proceeds go to projects that give at-risk populations access to clean, safe drinking water. When the projects are complete, charity: water will send us photos and GPS coordinates so we can see the exact community we helped.
How cool is that?
So, if you feel called, please click here to donate! Let’s change the world together. :)
As you can probably tell, birthdays are always a time of self-reflection for me.
Looking back on my (relatively brief) stretch of life, taking stock of what works and what doesn’t, what made me happy, and what made me sad helps me feel like I’m not wasting my time.
This year, I just happened to write down some of those lessons. So now, I also wanted to take today to share a silly little list with you.
Read. Enjoy. Giggle. Ignore. Whatever you like – because I’m away from my desk and chillaxin’, baby!
Real talk though, I’d love to hear if you have anything to add to the list below. I may have my lessons, but I’m always open to learning more. ;)
May I present:
1) If someone prefers the cookie part of the Oreo over the creamy bit, they are clearly an alien and should be treated with suspicion at all times.
2) Cats are nicer than you think. Also, weirder.
3) If you’ve done something to be proud of, don’t stress yourself out about toning it down, or offending anyone by shining your light. The good people will cheer right along with you – and anyone who suggests shutting up is projecting insecurity, and also may need a hug.
4) Buy a slow cooker. It will change your damn life.
5) Don’t be afraid to let the music you listen to/art you love/nightlife you’re into/stuff you do for fun change with the seasons. No one says you have to dedicate your life to one genre or style. The world is rife with every flavor and color you can imagine. Go sample as many as possible.
6) There’s always more to the situation than you read in that clickbait article.
7) Don’t worry if you embarrass yourself at karaoke. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. Besides, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” ain’t gonna sing itself.
8) Clients are like bears. If they’re showing their showing their teeth, growling, and standing up on their hind legs, it just means they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. Stay calm, and find a way to neutralize the fear with communication and compassion. Or play dead. I dunno, I’m struggling with this metaphor.
9) Aeropresses > Keurig cups. Forever.
10) Personal branding should be a celebration of what makes you awesome. So shower yourself with a little self-reflective love, pop the champagne, and let it fly.
11) If you need to, just fart. Honestly.
12) If someone’s trying to step out of your life by doing repeatedly terrible things, sending mixed messages, or just ignoring you altogether: let them go. Your life will be so much happier for it.
13) You’re never too old to suck the helium out of a balloon and cackle in an insanely high voice.
14) Sushi is not just raw fish. Most of it is cooked. Do yourself a favor and at least try it.
15) Invest in a good bathrobe. Or 3.
16) There will always be more recycling to take down.
17) Don’t have enemies, it takes too much energy. Just aim for neutrality at worst.You can never hate someone as much as they hate themselves.
18) If you’re gonna make a crazy/ugly face, GO ALL OUT. No one likes a little bitch ass tongue-halfway-out pout. GO IN ON IT.
19) There will be stretches of time when you’ll feel like you do nothing but work. That’s OK. Just make sure that’s a means to an end – and there’s an end in sight.
20) Don’t be too impressed by someone who has a lot of “stuff”, very quickly – in business or life. Chances are, they’re in more trouble than they’re letting on.
21) If you can, try running, even if you’re convinced you hate it. Give it a go, 3 days a week for 3 weeks. See what happens.
22) No quality will serve you quite as well as being difficult to overwhelm. The ability to sift through a lot of information quickly will help you every day. Work on developing it.
23) Change your hair up. A lot. There’s nothing like walking out of the salon (or your bathroom at home) with completely new locks. The world looks at you in an entirely different way.
24) Hold yourself to a simple standard: do what you say you’re going to do.
25) Invest in your friends (and not just monetarily). Listen to their dreams and give them feedback and support. Care about them. Nurture them if they need it. When they talk, really listen. Surprise them. Let them know you love being around them. They are sign posts on your road of life, reminding you who you are and where you came from. That is precious. Treat them only with care.
26) A good boyfriend will laugh at your silly hip thrust dance. A great boyfriend will immediately start to do the dance himself, even more enthusiastically, and start doing it with you at every opportunity.
27) Hold yourself to a simple standard: do what you say you’re going to do.
28) Devotion and mastery go hand in hand. Hours are never wasted practicing your craft.
29) Remember: while most people are worthy of forgiveness, not everyone is worthy of your time. Namely mean people.
30) Read poetry. And lots of it. If you haven’t in a while, read some right now.
31) Be with someone who makes you coffee and waffles in the morning. Then, bake them cookies at night.
32) Remember: the beauty of embarrassing yourself with your crazy dancing/terrible singing voice/loud proclamations of enthusiasm for pretty much everything in a crowd is that you’ll probably never see those people again.
33) Take the things you enjoy seriously. You never know when your well-loved hobby might come in handy.
And that’s it for me folks. Cheers, hugs, and thanks for being with me on this journey. It sure is an honor to have you around.
And just so you don’t have to scroll up again, here’s that charity: water link again!
Much love to you all.
It’s pretty nerdy of me to say this: but I love answering questions about my job.
I love digging into my brain to give people the best I can offer.
I love sharing my story.
I love finding out what’s scaring people about their own entrepreneurial ventures – and (hopefully) talking them through whatever stuff stands in their way.
But unfortunately, it’s impossible to answer everyone all the time.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is, over the stretches of years and conversations, I find certain questions repeat themselves.
So, while I can’t accept every invitation for coffee or drinks or lunches (at least, not until my clones come in) I figured: why not consolidate, and put all of those answers in one place – no espresso necessaro?
Now, without further ado, I present: every single thing I’d tell you if you were picking my brain at Starbucks.
Let’s get into it.
WHEW. There’s a long answer to that, along with some tips to get you started. You can read all about it right here.
But, here’s what I don’t mention in the article:
Around my senior year of college I was introduced to a copywriter by the name of Alexandra Franzen. After following her for some months I approached her about a job via Twitter, and by crazy coincidental luck, she was on the hunt for some support.
I worked as her transcriptionist for a spell, and from there, she gave me my first client. 6 months later, I started picking up more and more paying clients, and took things full-time.
Public Relations (dislike.)
Anthropology (very like.)
English Literature (easy like.)
Before there was the Youngblood Sourcery landing page and website.
Before there was the badass HillaryWeiss.com
There was… MY ABOUT.ME PAGE.
Real talk: I can’t believe it’s still up after all these years. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it worked.
HA! Aw, that’s not very nice. Who told you that?
Wealth is relative, but I did break 6 figures last year. That means I’m doing “OK” by NYC standards, and “pretty well” anywhere else.
Except maybe San Francisco. Sorry ’bout the even crazier taxes, West Coast.
I lived in a $500/month apartment in Coral Gables, FL.
I cooked almost all of my meals.
I didn’t socialize a lot.
I didn’t drink much.
I shopped at Goodwill.
I also pulled out all the stops, all the time, for all my clients. Midnight email for edits and I’m awake? You’ll get ’em by 2 AM. Emergency project over a holiday? Sure, I mean what even is Christmas Eve really, anyway?
I was ready to pour my blood, sweat, and tears into my business – and it was either succeed, or move back home. Turns out, I had an inner workaholic ready to be unleashed. So, out she came.
Yes, it sounds like a lot. And I don’t necessarily advocate that absolutely everyone should work their fingers to the bone the way I did — I definitely worked myself sick, quite literally, more than once. But I knew above all that it was crucial for me to lay the foundation as an indispensable asset, and I don’t regret a second of it.
Easy. I didn’t tell them.
Amazing how that works!
I refused to lie about it though, and would always tell people honestly when they asked my age. The few that did were surprised, but usually (mercifully) in too deep and too familiar with my work to write me off.
Plus, I kind of enjoyed the “wunderkind” staple. What can I say?
Why not? Next question!
Wanting to do my job well, and enjoying what I do. Also money.
The second part sounds superficial, but consider how terrible it would feel to drop a ball drop for a client who’d put thousands of dollars into my hand. That’s just rude, y’all.
For all intents and purposes, no. I’ve never had a mentor.
To be completely honest, I once wished I had a mentor. I even kicked around the idea with a few of my clients who wound up just being a bit too busy to make it happen.
Looking back, I wanted a mentor because I was afraid of what would happen without one. I assumed I’d fall off the rails, or lose my motivation, or make some seriously stupid business decisions that would cost me my career.
And yet… that mentor never materialized.
So, to supplement, I kept a close eye on the stories and people who had gone ahead of me, and succeeded in creative and interesting ways. I read up on their success and failure stories. I took notes.
Today, my business is the product of a number of well-researched decisions and goals. I guess you could say a fair few internet personalities have been my mentors, unbeknownst to them. But either way, here I am, overall mentor-free.
That’s the fascinating thing about the world of digital business. It’s really still such a fresh platform (relatively speaking) with so many resources out there, you really can make your own way without stumbling into too many glaring errors.
Start finding examples of people in your line of work (or similar) who you really admire.
While I’ve gotten through most of my career without a proper mentor, that doesn’t mean I don’t constantly ask for and receive advice from my long-term clients and friends in the digital space.
All you really need is one person to hold open the door for you and invite you to walk through it. So start asking.
Yes, it’s up to you how you keep up your momentum, and keep people coming in and finding you, but it all starts with connection.
I don’t give myself the choice not to be.
Also I ask a lot of questions, often and with relish.
Not as much as I like, but it’s as much as I make time for. So if a book or blog post of mine is gathering dust, I’ve got no one to blame but myself.
It’s a perpetual disciplinary work in progress. I’m doing aight.
I’m nice to them, and I genuinely care about them and their businesses.
No, really. That’s about all it takes.
Be friendly, do your work, and get your shit in on time. Put your ego away and focus on service. Then, watch folks come back like magic.
I send all my clients a testimonial questionnaire. (If you shoot me an email at email@example.com, I’ll send it to you, too.)
Many of my clients just aren’t crazy confident writers – after all, they wouldn’t need me if they were. So, giving them prompts, like “What did you enjoy most about working together?” and “If you could change anything about your experience, what would it be?” offers them an easy way to dish honest answers, and seriously useful feedback that you can turn into paragraph testimonials.
Pro tip: One thing I do recommend including in your feedback form is asking your clients how the process of working with you feels.
What jumped out at them? How did they feel at the beginning/middle/end of the experience with you? What freaked them out? What impressed them?
Hands down, the best way to get the gems and sound bites during the interview process is to ask “why” a lot, and take. obsessive. notes.
This is where my transcriptionist history came in handy, as I can type extremely quickly while also listening. It’s a skill I fully recommend building.
Don’t mind the typos or shorthand sentences, just write down everything you’re hearing, then go back and read through it, highlighting the most important bits. Pay attention to what repeats, and where you remember your client getting excited. It will AMAZE you what you’re able to find when you review.
If I’m being really real: I probably don’t use SEO or analytics as often as I should.
I know copywriters who’ll sit down and comb through every little piece of their content to optimize it, paragraph by paragraph. That’s fantastic for technical writing; for the health or tech or legal industries, etc.
However (and this is where I get a little hippie as a content creator on ya) I like to do things the natural way.
For starters, I’m completely clear on my audience: I write for creative professionals and creative-minded humans interested or invested in the world of digital business, who are sick of jargon-y bullshit and enjoy reading different perspectives. They’re intellectually up to speed on the basics, but worn out by the same ol’ snoozefest of the online world, and prefer to join a conversation… instead of being marketed to/sold to constantly.
As of now, building my list up to thousands of people isn’t my priority. Delivering value is.
So I write in the way I’d like to be written to, about stuff I think will be really valuable for the people I’m talking to. Then, it’s up to the people to deciiiide maaaan.
Of course I pay attention to who’s reading/sharing what, and which posts get the most attention. If what I share ain’t landing, what’s the point? But it’s more of a check-in tool than the end-all-be-all of my creative process.
That’s actually a little from column A and a little from column B.
Yes, there are certain topics I feel like I’ve written myself into an early grave over. However, it’s not usually the subject matter that keeps me from moving forward. It’s more the state of the client.
I can write 50 sales pages on, say, the power of green smoothies for 50 different people if they’re all prepared and know their angle. Otherwise, if the client needs a little extra clarity, or isn’t sure what makes them different after all – I’m open & honest about the fact I may not be the right fit for the project.
Signs and symptoms include:
– Not being able to answer a direct question like “What are your specific needs for this project?
– Repeated asking of “What do YOU think?”
– A desire to imitate in order to stay safe.
Don’t get me wrong. These particular clients are GOOD people, who are GREAT at what they do, and there are copywriters out there who will be able to walk them through those clarity processes.
However, due to the nature and speed of my work, I just can’t offer them that same support — though I always try to recommend them to someone who can.
Annnnnd this quote:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
(Antoine de Saint Exupéry)
Pro tip: Overall I find books like this are great ways to lay your knowledge foundations, but don’t hesitate to break rules in the pursuit of your own style!
There are certainly wrong ways to do things, but no official “right” way to do things in this field.
I have a seriously fantastic support system, who I’m grateful for every day. My family, friends, and partner who love me deeply, and are always there to lend a listening ear — even if they aren’t quite sure what’s going on.
A huge part of that support also includes a tight-knit, private writers group I’ve been a part of for the last 3 years. They’re incredible – and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
That’s another part of this digital entrepreneurship puzzle. You’ve gotta find your people. It’s too big of an ocean to cross all on your own.
I come from a long line of people who love to hear themselves talk. So I just… listened in a little closer.
To give you a more technical answer though: I feel like my voice has only really come into its own in the past year or so, and only because I became very clear about what I didn’t want to be or sound like. That wide preferential net spans just about anything I wouldn’t say IRL.
So, for example, you’re never going to see me repost the quote “FEARLESSLY PURSUE THE THINGS THAT SET YOUR SOUL ON FIRE”.
You will not hear me talking about “living my best life”.
You will not see me talk about “manifestation” or “mindset” over practical tweaks and tips.
I also like to fiddle with words. Synonyms and metaphors are my loaf and spread.
I hired my crazy talented photographer friend Jeff.
Then, I found a BALLER designer named Vanessa, told her I wanted a Nastygal-goes-to-Brooklyn vibe.
Then, I hired a kickass developer named Lindsay who brought the whole thang to life, seamlessly.
Again, just like with my voice, as I prepared for the rebrand I began to think about the things that genuinely interested me, and caught my eye. I thought a lot about what I loved about other websites. I also thought a lot about what I hated.
I didn’t want “girly” – no pinks, glitters, or loopy fonts. I’m proud to be a woman, and I’m extremely feminine, but I wanted my site to represent who I was without blaring from the rooftops “DID YOU NOTICE I’M A LADY?”
I’m not targeting a specific gender or age group. I’m just here to be a lighthouse for the people who want to know more, do more, and write more. Because those are my goals, too.
I pay attention to the things that catch my attention.
Music, especially hip hop is a big influencer for word play.
Comedy is also something I play close attention to, especially the way it leans on pacing.
New York City subway ads are endless inspiration for ways to engage, amuse, and inspire thought while stuck in a space for long stretches.
I read quite a bit.
And I do my best to write it all down.
I also ask myself WHY things inspire me, when they do.
WHY did I sit up and listen to that lyric again?
WHY did I giggle at that NYC apartment rental quip?
WHY does this storyline engage me, and what makes it different?
Over time, I start to see patterns. And when I can see patterns, I can play, and find new and interesting ways to express my ideas.
All of that matters, and is part of the process of learning to trust my instincts and taste, even if it seems a little too weird at the outset.
There’s not much included here that isn’t general business smarts (a.k.a. work hard, stay alert, and be nice to people.)
Plus, if someone managed to read this post, catch up to me in record time, and steal all my clients? Frankly, I’d just be impressed. Not because what I do is so mysterious, but because I just can’t do all the things you do. I’m not actually good at all the things you’re good at. And vice versa.
So these notes form me are more like building blocks than cheat sheet guidelines. Take the advice you like, and ignore the advice you don’t.
Then, go on ahead and make stuff.
Take your time, think it through.
And make it yours.
There are two words that can make any freelancers’ heart skip a beat:
(Did you feel that little flutter? Me too.)