“Hillary, honest question: What the heck is this?!”
Truly? I was expecting a better response when the Voxer ping buzzed my back pocket that afternoon.
I’d hit play instantly, excitedly hoping to hear her coo about how much she loved it, how smart I was, and how I was going to sell eleventy billion dollars of the product. Obviously.
First of all, Erika never coos. But especially not this time.
“Look,” she continued. “It’s alright. It checks all the boxes of course. It’s just not… you.”
My heart tumbled to the soles of my Doc Martens.
Not only because I was disappointed in myself.
But because I had a feeling she was absolutely right.
Before I go into why though, let’s rewind the tape.
What’s the biggest, grandest, most agonizing conundrum of professional creative work? Doing the work we do for clients for ourselves… totally sucks.
When it comes to applying our sweet digital skillZ for the people who pay us? We do in minutes what would take them weeks to complete. And it feels great. And we flip our hair.
… Until we have to turn the spotlight on our own work and ideas.
In that moment, something very, very strange happens.
Suddenly, the magical well of experience, insight, and wisdom we’ve become known for imparting dries up with loud slurping noise.
We start to second, third, and tenth guess ourselves.
And then we start… looking around.
At industry heavyweights.
At “best practices articles” (despite ourselves).
At videos of cats with buckets on their heads while we procrastinate.
Hours, days, even weeks go by with our own deadline looming and suddenly, there we are: As Toothpaste for Dinner so accurately states, doing “all the work while crying”.
Just like the clients we clucked our tongues at, it’s all too easy for us to take a mashup of “best practices”, the angles we see taken most by our competitors, and what we feel we should be talking about, and use that to inform our sales conversations.
We cross check to make sure we’re hitting all the right points, to keep up with the copywriting/design/strategy Joneses.
And you know what happens then?
We get it all embarrassingly, horribly wrong.
And we get audio notes form our coaches asking us what the heck we were thinking.
So here’s what happened to me:
In my eagerness to create the most powerful, high-selling, awesomesaucity word bomb of a sales page?
I did something I rarely do.
I took my eyes off my own paper… and started to look around.
Overcome with the jarring self-doubt doing your job for yourself tends to spark, I made up a little checklist in my head of what other copywriters with successful copy courses were talking about.
I wanted to be like them. I wanted to sell stuff. I wanted to be smart and cool and polished too. Do you think they’d let me sit at their lunch table after? I’d bring my Bojack Horseman lunchbox.
And (here was my biggest error) after all that looking around, I assumed I knew the magic word to spark just the right conversations: Conversions.
Yep, everywhere you look on copywriting courses that’s the hot ticket.
Get more conversions, make more money!
Conversions: They’re sciency-sounding. They’re sexy. And they’re on copy-related pitches all over the effing internet.
And I thought: If I wanted to be seen as credible? I needed to use the fancy word too. In fact, it was the crux of the page.
I made sure it was in the headline, and sprinkled liberally throughout the content.
Which is why, when I got the voice note from my coach? I felt like the kid caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
“I see you’re Hillary in your buttoned up tailed suit on this page. You sound very official,” my coach continued. “And it is not you. Where’s the disco dress? Where’s the sparkle?”
At first I was defensive.
Wut. Um, it is me lady.
I wrote this, and I did my homework. Idk if you heard but I’m extremely fancy and good at my job and I —
“I see you’re talking a lot about conversions here. Um, that’s nice and all, but is that what your people told you they wanted?”
Ohhhh crap. Oh no no no no.
Dude. She was right.
See, when I say “Done my homework,” I’d in fact done two kinds of studying.
Beyond researching what my competitors were up to so I could make sure I was on the cutting edge of my market (at least that’s what I thought I was doing)…
Months earlier, before I wrote a word of my course, I’d talked to my audience in-depth. I’d spoken 1–1 with dozens of entrepreneurs, and even more over email. I’d run not one but TWO beta rounds. I’d sent the course in its entirety through an editor, and a course quality consultant.
And you know what?
Not a lick of those conversations were coming through in the sales page as it was.
Because instead of having the sales conversation about what my audience needed? I was having the conversation I thought I wassupposed to be sharing.
In my attempt to be savvy, and strategic, and ultra-smart, I’d accidentally given my power away by using the “hot” industry angles I saw everywhere… instead of my own.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized: You know what word basically 0 of the entrepreneurs I interviewed used?
Did they wanna make money and sell stuff? You betcha.
But they also wanted to know about things they felt only I could give them:
They wanted to know about style. They wanted to stop looking around at everyone else’s paper (ha!) for ideas about how to write their copy, and create their own brilliant content and sales conversations from the heart.
They wanted to learn how to make copywriting fun, enjoyable, and an exercise in creativity that also happened to make them some serious cash money.
That’s what I built, and that’s what I was gonna give them.
But when I looked back at the page I’d written? That wasn’t coming through at all.
I needed to walk my talk. I needed to stop having everyone else’s sales conversation, and focus on my own.
So back to the drawing board I went. I tore the whole thing down, refused to take another single peek at competing programs, and started from scratch…
And not long after?
I had The Wordshops sales page as you see it today. The sass, the humor, the style, and far, far fewer mentions of ultra-sexy “conversions”.
Look: When it comes to writing/creating our own stuff, we get into our own heads as much as our clients do. That’s OK. It’s normal.
But what we must be watchful of, in our moments of insecurity and scary-as-hell self-doubt, is whether we’re giving the best of ourselves away in our attempt to fit in and be seen as equals to our industry colleagues.
Should we respect smart people doing well? Totally.
Should we admire what works, and contemplate ways to replicate that for ourselves? Every good business owner does.
But if we spend too much time looking and comparing — we can lose touch with who we are, and what makes us and our skill sets unique, sexy, and sellable.
Our clients aren’t just buying our products and programs. They’re buying the experience; of us, our brands, our magic, and our talents they can’t get anywhere else.
Which is why when it comes to selling ourselves? Our customers should lead the conversation. Our competitors should never even touch the mic.
Our people tell us what they want and need from us — and it’s our job to listen, give it to ’em and (most importantly) explain exactly why we’ve got what they need; on our sales pages, in our content, and in every email, blog post, and insight we offer.
The only sales conversation you should ever have is the one your customers, clients, and readers want from you — and the one you’re eager to share.
Not the conversation that industry “it girl” is having.
Not the conversation that “CONVERTED AT ELEVENTY BILLION PERCENT” landing page is having.
It’s not just the best, most strategic way to do things.
It’s really the only way there ever was.