#17 – Sarah Greesonbach on the Qualifications for Becoming a Copywriter and Mindset Hacks for Beginners
In this episode with Sarah Greesonbach from The B2B Writing Insitute, we discuss...
- The qualifications needed to break into content writing
- How to get out of toxic cycles of self-doubt and just get started
- The top limiting mindsets that hold writers back from succeeding
- How writers can reframe money and rate conversations in their minds so that they can confidently negotiate their pay and not settle for less
- How to get comfortable singing your own praises without the cringe factor
Having experienced freelancers to look up to is critical when we're first starting, and Sarah Greensonbach is someone I luckily discovered early on in my freelance career. She's probably one of the most well-connected freelance writers in the B2B space. So whether it's a Google search or a podcast, or a Slack channel, I almost always stumble about a collaboration.
Sarah is doing with other freelance writers. But what always stood out to me about Sarah was that she wasn't your typical networker who just happened to know everyone. She's someone who's using her platform to shine a spotlight on other writers. And guys, this is pretty rare to pretty rare quality to have in the freelance space.
I've just noticed that many. People in the copywriting world can be guarded or have a scarcity mentality when getting to know other writers. And Sarah is the total opposite of that. She's extremely generous, and she aims to lift and empower other writers.
She is a thought leader on LinkedIn, and much of her content is around mindset, which in my opinion is absolutely critical to freelance success. And when you read her content, it is very clear that she herself has done the mental and emotional, personal development work that's necessary to succeed as a six-figure freelancer.
It's one of the main reasons I wanted to share her with you today. So Sarah has been freelancing in the B2B space since 2013. She has interviewed and written on behalf of hundreds of CEOs and leadership executives on a wide variety of topics, specializing in B2B technology products, whether it's marketing, HR, recruiting, Retail consumer packaged goods or higher education.
So she founded the B2B writing Institute to help freelance writers quickly understand the B2B marketing landscape and develop their B2B writing skills. So she leads writers in tapping into the 5.2 billion B2B companies that they are spending this much every year on white papers, articles, case studies, so that you can build a stable, exciting career in B2B writing.
So guys, as you know, or may not know, I'm Christine, a freelance copywriter and creator of paid copywriter.com, a place where I help writers land high paying freelance clients using LinkedIn. I'm going to get right into the interview. I'm so excited to talk to Sarah today. So, Hey Sarah, how you doing
so good, especially after an interview or an intro like that.
That's really cool. Thank you.
Amazing. You deserve every bit of it. Okay. Let's say Sarah, that someone is just starting to learn about freelancing, and they're wondering how viable this field is. And they're wondering if they can really pull off this whole full-time freelance thing. Talk to me about that.
What would you say the qualifications are to break into content writing and actually make this a full-time career?
I just love that. Even the question has the word qualifications in it, because a lot of the mindset stuff that's going to come up when we. It's about being qualified. So there are a million reasons I could tell you to go for it and freelance writing, but humans do tend to like three.
So I, I thought of three things that after working with more than a thousand writers at this point, these are the things that tell me you're going to be okay. If you go into freelance writing, the first is natural writing talent. And I'll explain a little bit more about what that means. The second is being curious about businesses and how they work, and then there's being willing to find out.
And so these aren't technical things, these aren't degree related things, or even graduating college related things, but these are the traits of like a human person that seems to thrive when they're feeling. So for that first one, natural writing talent, I do think you can get better at writing, but the effort that it takes to change your core personality, I'm not sure that you can really do that and be happy as a freelancer if you don't already have those natural writing skills in place.
So I don't think you have to be Hemingway, but I think you have to be like a toddler Hemingway. Who's like working on it and trying to train up. And just the idea of working with words and sentences that, that makes you happy to do that on a day-to-day basis. So if you don't like the building blocks of writing, uh, you probably won't like B to B writing or freelance writing.
Yeah, I think that's so key because I think what most new writers are so insecure about is, well, I don't know if my writing is good enough. And the concept that I try to drive home is, Hey, listen, you wouldn't be Googling how to become a freelance writer unless you, you know, unless you like. Writing that you, you clearly were drawn to this for a specific reason, because for some people out there, this is everyone's worst nightmare is writing.
That's so true. Yeah. So I researched scientists do not sit around wondering, am I a writer? Like, they just, it doesn't come up. So if that comes up for you, that's pretty much the first time that your writer,
right. And the way that I look at spreadsheets and my eyes glaze over and I get scared and want to just immediately click out.
Like some people feel that way about writing. So it's, it's interesting that writers who they know they want to do this and they. You know, they're there in this research process, but they're questioning, oh, well, I don't know if I'm a good enough writer, but really, I think it comes back to what you were saying, like that curiosity about how a business works like that.
That's something really key. And I don't say that a lot in my content, but that's something that's so important is like, do you want to understand how a business drives, leads, how they get in front of their audience, that, you know, you don't have to really be into the nitty gritty and be like, oh, okay.
What investors do they have? And all that stuff. But you need to be interested in how a company is going to use your writing to achieve their goal.
Because even, I think what we forget is that. Or maybe we assume we need to know what we're interested to make writing work and we go into it and we don't know anything.
So obviously we can't do this, but you can discover interests. You can always find new things that you had no idea existed even a month ago and then build a whole niche and a career around it. So it's, it's this sense of, can you be curious about how it works? If you talk to somebody who knows a lot about.
Can you be interested and ask interesting questions or figure out, like you said, how companies generate leads with marketing. If you, if you can listen to that without your eyes rolling back into your head. That's another good sign.
Totally. Okay. What would you say to writers who want to start, but they keep procrastinating and just getting stuck.
Maybe there's just something that always seems to come up that makes it seem like it's not a good time to pursue freelancing or they're just not ready yet. And what would you say to someone who's been stuck in this toxic cycle of self doubt that just isn't allowing them to jump in and just get
I would say welcome to the human experience because we're just wired to be comfortable and to find what works and stay there and make a little home there. And when you go freelance. We don't really think about it this way, but you're changing a fundamental belief about the world that you have, which is that the paycheck comes to you and you have one of them.
So as a freelancer, you have to put this energy into the paycheck and finding those clients, and it's going to be a bigger paycheck and your daily life will be more in your control, but it's just such a big change. That, of course we see it coming and we're going to hide. We're going to hide with cleaning, with Twitter, with fiddling, with our portfolio without actually writing anything.
These are just all the ways that we hide from a big change that's coming. Yeah.
It's, it's so true. Like the, we find so many distractions and things that we think are necessary. Like, well, if my website, then I'll be ready. If my portfolio is rock solid, then I'll be ready. And, and what you said about changing the mindset or changing.
That belief system about where money comes from. That's huge. You know, I was just writing a blog post last night, talking about how I went from making around like $90,000 a year as a sales rep. And then I transitioned to become a full-time freelancer, started from scratch with no experience just from cold pitching.
And I made $50,000 my first year. And. For many people that can be like, oh my God, really? You took a cut that deep. And yes, like it was not necessarily me living the dream, knowing that I had made almost six figures and now I was cutting my income in half. But the fact that I didn't have a paycheck coming from a boss, the fact that I was getting several different, you know, direct deposits from other companies and I wasn't answering to anybody.
That was enough. That was fascinating enough. Cause I had been a traditional employee my entire life up until this point. So seeing that for me, I wanted to keep going. I'm like, you know, if I can make 50 K with no experience, I must be, you know, I have to be able to figure out how to increase my income over time.
So I didn't let the pay cut discourage me. And I would say that to all freelancers is like, maybe you won't be making exactly what you made at your last full-time position, but think of how insane it will feel that you're not going to have a boss.
And I think you're just a wonderful example of the first year is just your proof of concept, because anything that can be done can be optimized.
So if you come out of the gate at 50 K that's, that's just an incredible accomplishment that shows you. If I, if I figure out who I'm writing for, what I'm writing and how well I do it and how fast I do it, you can just keep optimizing and move up the pay scale. Whereas everyone listening, who's a little too who isn't sure enough to make the leap yet.
They're going to be at 50 K for the next indefinite period of time for the next decade. Right. But you have the chance of doubling up the next year and the next time.
Yeah, wait, I need to quote that anything that can be done can be optimized. I think that's so critical because you know, in my course where I lead, my students had a cold pitch on LinkedIn.
They'll be like, this person said this, what do I say? And I'm like, dude, you got a response like you, and they saw your profile and they thought that you were good enough to respond to like, so if you can, if you can get that response, that means you're doing something right. And that means that we can build and you can keep pitching and keep the momentum going.
So, yeah, I love that. I love that quote. I have to steal that. Well,
the building, the building is so important because it's almost like you just have to take smaller steps in smaller tasks to get to where you want to go. I'm thinking of one member who wanted to go from zero to 10,000 a month and just drop into a successful freelance writing career.
And it's like, You have the skills and there's certainly work for that. And there's steps to do that. But if you just woke up one day and had $10,000 of writing work on your plate, like you might die. It's like that would, that would strain even a really seasoned writer. Like your brain would just freeze.
So we want the feeling of going from zero to 10,000, but that would actually feel like getting swept into, into a tornado. Like you, you just have to add like a hundred at a time, 500 at a time, one retainer to retainer and do that zero to a hundred part of the work so that you actually have the systems and you have the confidence to do the rest of it.
Yeah. That, that is so critical. And that's something that I always say too on my Kate don't ruin it for yourself. Like yet I might be able to get a ton of clients and B, but, but then, you know, you find yourself sitting there hour after hour glued to your computer and you could start to think to yourself, well, what's the difference between this and my last full-time position where I was really bogged down too.
So sometimes it's worth it to go slowly. And that's also a finance thing too. Like for me, going from 90 K to 50 K was doable for me because I didn't live a lifestyle of 90 K, even though I had gotten my income there, I actually was always still living off of 50,000 just because, you know, what's, you know, saving and focused on being debt free.
So. That's another thing too, is when you're first getting started and in order to not ruin it for yourself, it's almost worth it to, to pace yourself and say, you know, what? If it means making a little less at this moment, at least I get to enjoy what I'm
doing. Oh my gosh. Yes. Cause if, if you don't enjoy it on purpose, it's just not going to happen.
Especially if, if you're the personality type that's going to be successful at freelance writing, you have that go drive and kind of the type a got to get it done. You just have to stop and enjoy it as you. I love, I love that you're sharing real numbers. Let me dig into my mental brain. And I want to say I went from 50 K as an in-house B2B marketing content writer for about six months before I got laid off.
And then I just jumped in and I think that first year from October to the next October, maybe I made 35 K my first year, but I was really focused on hourly work at like $30 an hour. And then the second year, it just bumped right up, I think either 65 or 89. I can't remember. I can't remember if that was a two year leap or a one-year leap.
But then the process of doubling, I think that's why I went to systems and optimization because doubling it every year after that was not a problem.
Yeah. That that's, really inspiring for anybody who is just starting out. And I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. It, it sounds like, you know, for you, you kind of.
You made that leap a lot faster than maybe you thought you would've and that's, that's very possible. And there's a lot of hype in this space that you and I are in with, like become a six figure copywriter tomorrow. And so it's, it's important, I think, to put out the real numbers and be like, you know what?
Yeah, I made, I made $50,000 the first year. It was, it was good for me because I had never been employed by anyone in the right. Like I'd never professionally written anything. So it's important to you. And even like, in my course, I I'll share screenshots of conversations that I have with clients about pricing.
I share because I hire now. I hire writers now as a content lead. And I have a writer. You know that she was pushing back on me with pricing and I screenshot this conversation. I'm like, look at how she's pushing back on me. I don't care. It's normal. She is demanding her rate. And all I'm doing is going back to the chief marketing officer and saying, Hey, if it means.
Producing a little bit less content so that we can afford this woman's rate. I think we should go for it. Cause she's really talented. So like, I want to normalize the conversation around pricing and putting out your hourly rate and your per project rate, whatever it is, because that can be so terrifying if you've never had these pricing negotiations and you're so like lucky to, or you feel so honored to even be talking to a client and this is an opportunity you want, but then they put out a figure and you know, it's not enough.
And you know, you have to push back and it causes so much anxiety. It's like, oh, I don't want to rock the boat. Yes. I'll just accept whatever they, they send me. And I don't want writers to ever be in that
position. Yeah. Or I'll freeze and find distractions until it's too late to write back and then very, very common.
I love that. And I think the safest way I've found to talk about it is it's like, if you aren't an alpha male, if you weren't raised to be an alpha male, all of these conversations around pricing and worthiness and value, it's just a fog, this wild, random fog. And you feel like you're going to die with everything that comes into your inbox.
So I love that. Yeah. We need to normalize all of it. Totally.
, so Sarah, obviously you have spent years dieting new writers in their freelance career. What would you say are the top limiting mindsets that hold writers back from finding success?
Yeah. I picked three again, to make sure. Talk too much, but there's so many of these and sometimes it feels like we're just wired to suck at everything.
So it's really frustrating, but I think that's a mindset problem too. So a nice example of how practical all of this is. We have incredible potential, but some of the most common I've seen. And the first one I wanted to start with is the whole, I'm not qualified thing. Like I really probably get three to five emails a week.
And that's just, the vibe is having this feeling that if they were qualified, it would come easier to them. It would be easier to do it. Success would happen faster. All of these things that just aren't true, because like I said, when you aren't an alpha male, you, you just haven't. Been given the affirmation of how you contribute to things.
In some cases we've even had, you know, abuse in the workplace or been undervalued on purpose or treated poorly in toxic environments. So we just don't think we have anything to add. And I think that's because we don't know how the marketing world works. So like you said, once you do, once you plug in and you get an email from marketing manager and they go in and just negotiate the rate and it's just business, having those experiences starts to show you that your qualifications are just your intentions and your grit, and it's not, it has nothing to do with pedigree.
I think it also penalizes people who have been undervalued their whole lives. So just the example that is hovering in my mind, I literally had someone with 15 years experience in a certain field and a PhD, and they still felt unqualified to write about tech in that space. They have the sense that that.
That background doesn't count, I think is what was coming up. And so at some point we just have to realize that sometimes we're the ones on qualifying ourselves and it has nothing to do with the world or the clients that we're talking to.
Yeah, that's huge. And, you know, unfortunately with courses like obviously you and I both offer courses, but then I think, and I'm sure you've seen this too.
Some people have been taking a ton of courses instead of getting out there and pitching and just doing it imperfectly. So that perfectionism can really cause a lot of delays. And I guess I'm blessed in a way that I was unemployed when I jumped, when I like made them. Cause I, I was on unemployment and I said, okay, I see these checks dwindling.
I'm almost at the threshold of where I'm going to stop receiving unemployment checks. I need to get my ass out there and get these clients. So I think that kind of gave me the push that I needed. It was kind of life or death and it kind of stopped me from the perfectionism and the procrastination.
Well, okay. You were kind of alluding to this, but one of the topics that you post a lot of valuable content around on LinkedIn is this concept of worthiness and pricing. And I'm just going to read two of your updates because I mean, I've been following you on LinkedIn for a while now, for years now. And you always just post so many amazing tidbits about mindset.
It's not even about like, yeah. Not even about freelancing specifically. Sometimes they are, but it's just a lot of the mindset stuff really hits home. So one of your updates with. Charge, at least as much as the amount of time you are saving your clients. Talk to me about, I have two quotes that I pulled that.
Talk to me about that one, because what I believe you're doing there with that quote is really important. You're, you're kind of working backwards in a sense, and it really, it, it stops writers from, oh, I'm not, I'm not worthy. I don't think they'd pay me this much, but you want to give them this behind the scenes, look at like, wait, no, this is why you charge this much because this is what you're doing.
And this is what you are enabling. So sorry, I'm stealing your thunder, but charge at least as much as the amount of time you're saving your clients. Talk to me about that quote.
Let us storm the world. I so agree. And I don't think I even put it together until you said the word working backwards, but it's a principle in curriculum design called backwards design, where you start with where you want people to be, and then you work backwards to see how they get there.
And I think just naturally with a teaching background, that's what I've been doing because I want, I want the high priced work. And then I had to work backwards for how do you get that? And for so many people it starts with, I'm not qualified. I'm not worth the rate, but if you take yourself out of it, which we undervalue ourselves, take yourself out of it and just see the place that you're holding in a business and the space you're making for them to do their content marketing and do it really well.
That has value outside of anyone who's doing it. So it kind of lets you take this self-worth piece out of it and just plug into something that needs your help. And then you just work on the skills to let you.
Yeah. And the second quote was, they're not buying words, they're buying the potential for sales.
Totally. I think that just kind of snipped the reality in my head between writers and marketers. It's like, we're over here looking at our words and our word count and talking about how we know how to choose the right word. And that just does not matter marketer. That's just so outside the world of anything matters that I wonder why we still talk about that.
And I do it too. You know, we, we're proud of how well we can work with words, but to us it means something different to marketers. To marketers. It's about like what kind of action you can get out of words and what your words do for their business. And that's why we are the moneymakers. Like we can train to be at least.
But I don't know. I just think writers can happen to B, to B marketing and improve everything. So it's like, we need to take that value home with us and then be more powerful people in our communities.
Yes. And I mean, this, I feel like you kind of touched on this, but my next question was going to be how can writers reframe money and rates up?
And they reframe these conversations in their mind so that they can confidently negotiate their pay and not settle for less.
Yeah. Now there's a lot of stuff that I am an expert on. This might not be it. So I just wanted to share kind of what happened to me because it happened really slowly. And I don't know if someone could hack this process.
That would be really exciting. But when I broke it into a pattern for me, I had to go through a phase where I charged anybody for anything like literally a dollar, like just the process of asking someone I don't really know to pay me. Like that is a huge, emotional thing to push through. Eventually I started charging anyone for this one particular thing, because I realized I liked it.
I got good at it. I could do it really quickly and make more money. And then I started charging particular people for one particular thing. And I think that's what really helped things optimize and grow and move up the pricing ladder because you start to see how you're contributing and exactly what you're bringing to the table.
Um, you also got to see what skills were more important, so you could lean into. So that's, that's like the three steps I took towards it over time. I would love to hear if there's a faster way to do that, but I think those were the, the emotional wickets, like I had to go through. Yeah.
That's great. Like that that's so valuable because I think one of my blind spots as somebody who's guiding writers is that I was in sales for my entire career before this, where I was throwing out prices for products.
And they were really. You know, expensive products and I had to get comfortable repeating those numbers. Yeah. Assuming the sale and all this stuff. So I think it's sometimes I'd forget that like, Hey, not everyone is comfortable saying yes, a blog post costs $650 that sometimes people are thinking in their head, like what no one's ever going to pay.
Like, I can't ask for that number. It's very nerve wracking, but I was trained as a sales person where, because I was an inside rep, that's where I started my career in sales, where I had a headset on and my manager would actually tap into the call and feed me what to say. I'd have to listen and repeat and somehow not sound like I was listening and repeating.
So that's how a lot of sales people are trained. Right. I think that takes away any choice you have, like, you have to say the number, you have to say the price or else your manager's gonna be like, what the fuck? Like say what I told you to say,
um, was that like getting to sell like yourself, like to be able to not be kind of chamber.
Yeah. So I love that question because when I went to go update my LinkedIn profile to, you know, freelance optimize it, I had this overwhelming sense of imposter syndrome of like, oh my God, I've, I've done all this selling for these different companies. And for the first time I'm going to be selling myself and my services and something about that was absolutely terrifying because at least if I got turned down for a sale in the past, I could be like, well, they just didn't like my company and their product.
And now it was that they weren't liking me and my offering if they turned me down. So I just had so much fear for some reason around updating my LinkedIn profile. Embodying a brand. There was a lot of imposter syndrome I had to work through, but I, I just had to say like, you know, fuck it. That, you know, especially first of all, I'm somebody who had a near death experience a year before I began freelancing.
And that moment and that situation. Put a lot into perspective for me, where I was able to push past fear of what other people thought. Because prior to that event, I really was somebody who very much cared what everyone else saw. And, you know, I was always trying to kind of stay in the lines to make sure that I didn't, you know come off certain ways and appear certain ways to people.
But I just had to remind myself as I updated my LinkedIn profile. Like, Hey, those people, they're not going to be there in your last moment when you're about to die. When you're taking your last breath, they are not going to be there. So why would I let the fear of what they could be thinking impact what I'm going to do with my life and my career?
And the truth is no one's thinking about you anyway. Like that's really the craziest part is that nobody freaking cared that I was marketing myself as a freelance writer. Nobody cared. It was all in my head. So I hope that helps someone out there. Who's like, well, I don't know why you should be calling myself a writer when no one's ever paid me to write, because I felt that way too.
Well, the, I just learned on the Tim Ferriss podcast, that's called cognitive dissonance and I had no idea. It was such a common thing. And it keeps us from exactly what you said, embodying what we're doing so that everything we're doing and saying, and feeling just feels alien and other worldly. And those are signals that make us want to stop.
And it's like, You have to push through all of that, which is why, so few people jump into freelancing. I wonder if the pandemic is what's, you know, that's the, the last straw for so many people, right? It's just making it so uncomfortable that they're willing to push through all of that tension.
Yeah. I think, and I've read a lot of articles on that.
Like, Hey, why is everyone quitting? And it's like, well, when you are fearful for your survival, it starts to put certain things into perspective of like, Hey, if life is short, is this really how I want to go out? Is this really what I want to be doing? So that's, that's a good point.
Especially with, I wonder if we could hack that.
So let's say someone feels like they don't have enough pressure or tension to push through. It's almost like you could look for it in your life and like try to find things that make you really uncomfortable. Yeah. You've learned how to live with it, but just imagine if it wasn't like that and kind of focus on those things to help you build up that momentum.
you know what comes to mind? I'm not sure if you know of Donald Miller from he has a book called building a story brand. And would
you believe that's in my notes? Oh, my marketing made simple. That totally. Yeah. That changed everything for me with the survival thing.
So he, yeah, building a StoryBrand is one of the books that I always recommend to writers, just so they understand kind of like where they fit in with marketing, but he just came out with a book.
He has several books, but did you hear about his new book? It's called a hero on a mission. No. So he has this exercise that he does every day, where he like writes his own eulogy and it, yeah, it seems really morbid. But when you hear him talk about it, like he was very influenced by man's search for meaning by Viktor Frankl.
And he, I guess he goes to this exercise of like, what do I want to be known for in my life when I die, when people are talking at my funeral and as morbid as that sounds. And because I kind of have had an experience in my life where I don't think I need to go there, I probably won't be doing that eulogy exercise.
But if you haven't almost died, you might want to write your eulogy.
Yeah, no, I'm looking at the landing page. That is so cool. I love how just the better people do with business. They all gravitate to mindset and it's like, We need to learn from these people who are, who have already gone through and done all these things we want to do, and like, really understand how important this is.
So true in the Enneagram is one of the lessons in there. Do you know yours?
Yes. I have taken mine. Is that the one where the result is like seven w and I was like, I believe I might be a seven. W I, I forget it.
Interesting. Okay. I know everything about you now, now Graham has been a great tool for self development too.
Once you get typed, right. It was just like one mindblowing realization after another
brush up on what mine is. I know that I had my boyfriend do it to see what he was, and he was the exact same thing. And I was like, oh, that's why we like lightheaded so much by like this, or both like the same type of person.
Okay. So all of this is leading perfectly into my next question. So what I'm seeing with newer freelancers is that they're finding it difficult to put themselves out there, to market themselves in the beginning. And the issue is as new freelancers, we have to fill out our LinkedIn profiles. We have to create these websites and we have to talk about what we offer, what, what our services are.
That's a part of properly positioning yourself as a freelancer, but it can feel a little bit dishonest to create this web page, create this LinkedIn profile that says, Hey, I write blog posts that generate traffic for B2B companies. When in reality, no one has published us before. So how can writers properly market themselves without feeling this sense of dishonesty or imposter
Ah, I love it. And this has come up a lot recently and I love it because there's finally a clear answer to this, which is that when you haven't done the work, it is disingenuous to sell the work and say that you do that. But because we're in this really cool thing called B2B marketing, you can sell the outcome and you can lean on these B2B marketing statistics and studies and examples from other people to show how your work would help them accomplish that.
So when you first start, it's really just your time and your writing muscle that you're offering people. But the cool thing is that's all people need sometimes because they have so much more. Per, let me see. I had some stats. I think it's 186,000 per year is the average annual marketing budget for B2B content marketing.
And that turns out to be like 13 or 15,000 a month that they need to spend on writing that they can't do themselves. So it's kind of like that thing where you, you start with smaller steps and start with just selling your time and your writing muscle and how much you'd like to help someone. And then as you specialize and figure out what it is you really do and how you contribute to much bigger things.
Like if you go the copy angle or you specialize in white papers, stuff like that, then it becomes more clear what you're actually contributing.
Love that. Yeah. That's, that's huge. And I. If you have to have a solid way that doesn't feel dishonest for, for writers to really move forward confidently. So I love that you said that, and I want to read this quote from one of your LinkedIn posts.
One of the biggest barriers to access to online success is the fact that you have to start telling people how good you are. Many of us struggle to do that, even with years of experience and happy clients that hit home for me, what is your strategy for getting comfortable, a comfortable enough to sing your own praises without the cringe factor?
Yeah, I think it comes back to what you said earlier about people not paying attention or like no one is overthinking this as much as we are and that cognitive dissonance. So it's the sense that. I think I'm bragging, but in reality, I'm just informing my network of something that happened and they didn't know beforehand.
I don't know, marketing made simple with the StoryBrand guys was also really helpful with that because it had this sense that if you don't tell people what you're good at, people will think you aren't good at it, that you're hiding it or that it can't help them solve their problems. So it's kind of like getting back to that survival sense of if people don't know about this, nothing's ever going to happen with what I'm doing.
And then I'm just kind of spiraling into, you know, me and my laptop wondering why it's working for everybody else, but not for me. If that got windy, but it's something about that cognitive dissonance of realizing. It's not bragging to say that you've done a good job and it's important for people to know that you've done a good job,
And, you know, referencing back to StoryBrand and like build it. Cause I used StoryBrand and brand script to write homepage copy for my clients. And I was just working on a webpage where it's like, you know, I'm interviewing stakeholders and subject matter experts within the company. And I'm saying, Hey, what does our ideal customer's life look like once they have successfully implemented our product?
Like, don't assume that they are going to know. The, the life-changing benefits of this product. We need to paint it out for them, or like paint a picture for them. Not only that we need to spell out the consequences of them not doing business with us, what is light? You know, what are they vulnerable to if they don't move forward with our product.
So I know I'm getting into the weeds, but I geek out about StoryBrand and how you see it makes it to create a website. And it's so true. And we forget that we need to explicitly state for people what the benefits are and what the cost is of not moving forward.
Yeah, because just think about like tally all the hours we've spent thinking about ourselves and our website and freelancing.
And it's just like compared to a marketing prospect who stops on your site, you get about seven seconds. So if we use the first seven seconds of our website to kind of shyly explain that, we've just always been a good writer since childhood we've really wasted that time. We haven't hit them with what they need to know, which is that you're skilled at writing and you have time and you can help them.
So it's like, it's like recalibrating that sensitivity for what people actually want to hear from us. But that's the mindset part.
There's a huge what you just said with like, Hey, talking about like, Hey, this is my background. This is why I wanted to writing. That's a big thing I'm seeing with new answers is the about section on their website or their LinkedIn.
It's like, well, I've always loved writing. And then I took a fiction course and it's like, I don't want it to be rude when I say this. Nobody cares. They only care about how that impacts them. So for a marketer who scanning cars, right. We don't really read, we scan. And then if we see something that catches our interest, we start reading.
So we're scanning to see if somebody has the qualifications we need. And knowing that you started writing in a journal when you were eight and that you just loved writing, and it doesn't necessarily translate to these marketers. And that's a mistake. I see a lot of
people making. Yeah. And I think it's really dangerous for women to do that because it infantilizes us because the first image somebody has, and I say this, having done this myself, like this is what my first writing site looked like too.
I just know better now, but it's like the first image you want to prospect to have of you is not as a child with a Teddy bear. Like. You know, like we need to position ourselves as people who have an impact in business and that's how you show your worth. So I think, you know, maybe getting to know you and stuff, that's the brainstorming work you do in your private journal.
That's the intro. You send the clients once you onboard them, but that's not how you sell yourself or make a connection. Like you gotta make a connection. That's related to their topic. Like you wouldn't show up. At a funeral and start talking about your dog. So it's like, it just, it needs to be appropriate for the conversation you're having, which is about work in marketing.
Yeah. Yeah. Read the room. Right. Wait, so Sarah, one thing that I want to make sure that we get to is kind of what you offer other writers and how you guide freelancers to really become successful. , I know I asked you via email about a specific program that caught my eye because it is the number one request that I always get.
And it's something I do not offer writers. Tell me a little bit about, you know, how you're helping writers and how people can get involved with your work.
Cool. I'd love to. Yeah. So I help writers actually do the work so that you can charge for the work and feel like you are an accomplished, qualified professional.
But that's something that comes from insights. That's not something I grant to people. So the B2B writing career Kickstarter is an on-demand course. And then we go through it live three times a year where we actually write your first B2B clip, either a thought leadership article, a case study, or a white paper together.
And it's intense and lovely. And it's my favorite thing I've ever done. So with that, you also get 12 months in the community. And then that's where it's kind of professional development every month with office hours and just all really cutting edge fresh stuff. And I just really, I want the writer to be someone that happens to a business cause we.
Just every single thing that makes money in the world starts with writing. Because if it's a webinar, it's a script. If it's a commercial, it starts with, you know, strategy and themes and ad work. So it just seems like more of that money should come to writers. And I really that's what I'm passionate
Yeah. And if it's a sales conversation, it starts with a sales email, a prospect right now. So these like in-person, in-person selling, , experiences that are, that are, you know, needed most of the time in B2B. It starts with. An email that was written by a writer. It starts with positioning that was created by a marketer.
You know, I, it's just crazy the statistics about how many touches. It actually takes a prospect to become a paying customer and how much content they are waiting through before they make the decision to even talk to a sales rep. So I know this kind of goes back to what we were talking about before of like, where we, where we fit in into the overall company's revenue generation efforts.
Right. We are, we are really doing the heavy lifting a lot of the time,
I really liked that you take writers through the actual writing process. This is something that's really missing. I think in our industry in general is like, okay, how do I actually write a solid piece of B2B? , content. And tell me, just talk a little bit more about kind of like the challenges and what you see with writers and why you thought it was so important to start the kitchen.
I'd love to. Yeah. And I think it really started because of burnout because I, I wrote myself into two, 200 K years back to back and I just got so tired, so tired of writing and I realized there's only a certain pool of people I can refer work to because there's this specialized skillset of develop for seven to eight years.
So the idea of sharing that with someone and actually preparing them for careers, doing what idea w doing what I do, was really exciting. And it lets me go back to my roots as a teacher, to which. Just been thrilling. But the example that comes to mind is the live writing portion is six weeks of one to two hours every Friday, where we write through everything.
It's like part lecture, part writing time, and then Q and a. And I realized going through at the first time, we needed to do a half hour. Just on who the audience is for me to be, because you sit down and write you, you're saying to yourself, I'm going to write an article about recruiting. And then you're like, well, let me talk to recruiters or let me talk to customers or let me talk to recruiting companies who I went to hire me when in reality, it's, it's one, two and three degrees away of who you're actually talking to to make you the person they want to hire.
So it's so interesting. So when you sit down and have that assignment in front of you, your client is the first degree is a recruiting technology company, but the person they want to reach the second degree away, our companies hiring in the tech space. So the person you need to become an expert in is companies hiring in the tech space, not recruiting companies specifically, and just those little nuances and variations.
Like that's what lets people find work faster, actually nail it when they share their clips and then to see a lot of success. That's I don't know. It's just been a wonderful. As far as people getting jobs and stuff.
It's so crazy to think about. And this is kind of circling back to what we started the conversation with, where like the writing is a small portion, whereas the thinking and the preparing and the crafting is so much, it takes up so much more time in this process because I agree finding out who the target personas are and who you're writing to is half the battle.
And this is something that companies themselves are struggling with when I started. Yeah. I feel like this is the biggest gripe of a freelance writers. It's like, okay, you just want me to start writing, but you're not telling me the details of who your ideal customer is, who your buyer personas are, because it, it requires, , here's the thing.
It requires a company to become a highly empathetic. Fly on the wall, somebody who listens and, and picks up on what the trends are and has a full like view of the market and what people need. And many people who are creating products, they are very, you know, focused on, you know, their, their product, their product.
This is what our product does. This is what you know, this is why we're the best. So this is a huge blind spot for these companies. And as a writer, I tend to think that writers are pretty empathetic people in general. I think it's kind of like an innate skill. To some extent we have to be the ones that really empathize and say, no, no, no, what's going on first.
And then I'm going to write to that audience and tell and subtly plug our product versus shoving it in their face.
I feel like you just summarized, like all of the brand manager meetings I've had for like six months. Cause it's very much like how do we bring it back to how innovative our thing is? How do we talk about how this is the thing you need to buy to solve those problems?
And it's like just being the empathetic person who cares about those problems wins you customers with content. And it's so meta, but it's the same with B2B writers because just being a person who cares about them, reaching their content goals and getting content and copy done on time, you become a superhero to them.
And that's what fuels this long business that makes you feel good about what you're doing.
, tell my listeners where they can reach you, Sarah. I believe you're not on Instagram. Is that correct?
That's great. I've experimented a little bit with Instagram, but I'm mostly on B2B writing institute.com is where to find the newsletter, which is about twice a month.
And then Twitter and LinkedIn get some hot takes every once in a while.
Yeah, I, in PR in preparation for today's interview, I just shot a message on Instagram, like a story saying like, you know, definitely follow Sarah on LinkedIn. If you're not just to really be gaining those mindset, golden nuggets that you have, but more on your newsletter.
And this is like a marketing principle in general guys, nobody cares about a newsletter. Everyone cares about what they get from the newsletter and how it's going to enrich their lives. And Sarah's newsletter is fucking awesome. Like I literally, I just know, cause it's really difficult to write a newsletter that people actually care about.
I am one of those people that I, I rarely read the stuff that comes into it really has to be compelling. So that's why I try to take that into account. When I write to have like, Am I, the person that sits there and reads through all this stuff? No. So let me try to write it towards someone like me, who just is the ultimate skimmer, the ultimate deleter the ultimate unsubscribers.
And you really nail it with your newsletter. You can actually learn something from her newsletter. It is highly compelling. If you are not subscribed, you are missing out. I'm just, , I'm plugging you hard right there, but it's true. Cause that's a really important skill and it's really rare. Yeah. Thank
Yeah, it really helps to have. Yeah, just a formal outlet to try to come up with something that people need to know. So that's good.
That's how you can tell you have the, I think that's also why you're, why it kind of shines through and why it cuts through the noise. Because when you write in your newsletter, I'm like, yeah, I know that she's been there.
I know that she's worked with X, Y, and Z client, and I know that she's talking from experience. So I think that's also why it's it comes across as really compelling to
Oop. Sorry. Did I lose you?
No. Okay. I'm basking in the praise. Good smile.
Awesome. , yeah, that, and that's another thing we have to learn how to receive compliments. So I love that you were receiving in such a way where you were.
Yeah, no, that seriously is a mindset thing. And I, this came up with another leader I'd spoken with recently, but when you get into freelancing, like at a regular job, you get compliments.
If you had a good boss, but when you go into freelancing, like you need to keep track of those milestones. So you mentioned that client who had someone respond to their, their pitch, like print that frame, that that's the first person who responded to your pitch. So like sitting with compliments and then breathing it in, like I'm smoking something.
I totally do that. And it totally helps just make you, it makes you feel like progress is happening in that you're appreciating the good things that are happening.
That's really key. And I I just interviewed Scott stransky in a a past episode and that, that topic came up. Don't don't always expect in this industry with freelancing specifically feedback, even if you're doing great is kind of few and far between the biggest feedback we actually get is just, Hey yeah, let's sign this retainer again.
We're going to continue to work with you. Thanks. Yeah. Like that's the highest compliment. So it is important where once in a while somebody will say, Hey, that was a really good piece. Like you do have to pause and soak that in from clients. Unfortunately, it's not like they're not always going to sing your praises.
Yeah. And you know, this is just a loose idea, but what I've started to realize is that even praise can feel like an attack if you're not used to it. So when you get a compliment or when something good happens, someone responds to the email and you were expecting just your inbox to be quiet for a long time.
You get that buzz of adrenaline and you, you just have to direct it to something positive so that you don't have that fear response. So it really is like, it's physical, it's mental, it's all this cool stuff. Yeah. Well,
Sarah, thank you so much for all of your insight. I am super, super excited to post this episode and, yeah, I, I really encourage everybody to check out B2B writing Institute.
It has helped me tremendously on my freelance career, and I know that it's going to help so many others. So again, thank you for your time. It's my pleasure.