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Now LIVE: Secret Kai Davis Podcast Project #1

Over the past months, a Super Friends-esq team-up of indie consultants/agency owners came together to launch a new podcast. Get your earholes ready, it’s live now!

Welcome To ‘The Business of Freelancing’

You can check out the first 6 episodes here: https://businessoffreelancing.com

What’s the podcast about?

The business of freelancing. Our goal is to help you level up and become a better freelancer, indie consultant, and business owner.

Joe Ciskey, a listener, has this to share about the podcast:

The Business of Freelancing podcast is a solid source for practical advice on running your business as a freelancer. Each episode is packed with good material that will engage your brain and help you fine-tune your business into a well-oiled machine. — Joe Ciskey

Who are the hosts? The guests?

BoF is a panel podcast with six awesome folks (Kai Davis, Reuven Lerner, Erik Dietrich, Marg Reffell, Jeremy Green, and Meg Cumby).

Each episode features a selection of panelists talking on a topic or talking with a guest on a topic.

We regularly invite guests onto the show who can teach or share something new for our listeners.

Here’s us talking with Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s Planet Money and author of The Passion Economy. We talked with Adam about why it’s an opportune time to succeed in business by combining your unique passion and your abilities and about how to do it successfully.

How do I subscribe?

You can find us wherever you find your podcasts, just search for ‘The Business of Freelancing’ or use one of these links:

You can also sign up for our email newsletter: https://businessoffreelancing.com/subscribe/

Excelsior!

Kai

Practice Writing Great Copy

In my 10+ years of doing this (waves hands and gestures wildly at indie consulting, the internet, and digital marketing), the best way I’ve ever found to learn how to write better is an old tip from expert copywriter Gary Halbert:

In his book, The Boron Letters, Gary Halbert taught his son, Bond, how to become a skilled copywriter fast.

Gary didn’t tell Bond to buy a book, take a writing course, or attend a seminar. Instead, he said this:

“The best way to become a good writer is by…writing good writing!”

Gary Halbert told his son to copy proven ads by hand. Every single day. 

Hand-copying proven copy (e.g., ads, email, sales pages, articles, emails) works very well. If you want to get better at writing copy, the process you should follow is pretty simple:

  1. Schedule a time (30-60 minutes 3-7 times/week) to practice writing copy by hand
  2. Sign up for email lists/newsletters to see the text your colleagues and competitors are sending out
  3. Copy well-performing ads/copy/whatever (from your competitors or a swipe file) by hand during your scheduled time

Here’s a starter swipe file of 7 pieces of copy you can start copying by hand (pay what you want).

From my experience (and from reading more about the value of hand-copying), I believe that a combination of:

  • Slow, deliberate practice
  • Reading well-performing copy
  • Writing by hand to copy well-performing copywriting

All together, help your brain and mind better understand how copy fits together and flows and what well-performing copy looks and sounds like.

Just like practicing songs on a piano helps you build a musical ear, hand-copying excellent copy helps you develop your ability to write great copy.

Why does this help? How does this work?

The magic is in copying the ads by hand. As Loren Sarner says in this Inverse article:

This is, in a sense, the cheapest and most readily available writing instruction available in the world, second, perhaps, only to reading itself.

The idea of hand-copying something to better internalize it and build your skills isn’t unique to copywriting.

Joan Didion retyped Hemingway’s stories, and that taught her how sentences worked:

That Hemingway influenced Didion’s writing is a well-established fact. Didion has claimed that she taught herself to write in part by retyping the stories of Hemingway. In a 1978 interview with The Paris Review, Didion explained Hemingway’s role in her life and work:

“He taught me how sentences worked. When I was fifteen or sixteen I would type out his stories to learn how the sentences worked. I taught myself to type at the same time. A few years ago when I was teaching a course at Berkeley I reread A Farewell to Arms and fell right back into those sentences. I mean they’re perfect sentences. Very direct sentences, smooth rivers, clear water over granite, no sinkholes.”

Hunter S. Thompson typed out The Great Gatsby & A Farewell to Arms word for word

“You know Hunter typed The Great Gatsby,” an awestruck Johnny Depp told The Guardian in 2011, after he’d played Thompson himself in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and a fictionalized version of him in an adaptation of Thompson’s lost novel The Rum Diaries. “He’d look at each page Fitzgerald wrote, and he copied it. The entire book. And more than once. Because he wanted to know what it felt like to write a masterpiece.”

And as an unexpected example that came up in my research, in Deuteronomy 17:18-20, God required the king to hand copy the scripture, the first five books of the Bible and there’s a long history of this practice in Christian and Jewish history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sefer_Torah).

Could it be that reading text and copying it by hand somehow works to our advantage because of neuroscience?

It might be.

In 2012, James and Engelhardt published a paper on “The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children”

[A] study of 15 children in Indiana (James & Engelhardt, 2012) who were asked to write, trace, or type letters while having their brains scanned found that writing letters activated more regions of the brain than typing letters–in particular, visual processing centers at the heart of perceiving letters (link)

In 2014, Mueller and Oppenheimer published an article on the advantages of writing notes longhand compared to using a laptop.

In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

Putting this practice into practice

If you want to get started writing better copy, you’ll want to:

  1. Schedule a time (30-60 minutes 3-7 times/week) to practice writing copy by hand
  2. Sign up for email lists/newsletters to see the text your colleagues and competitors are sending out
  3. Copy well-performing ads/copy/whatever (from your competitors or a swipe file) by hand during your scheduled time

Here’s a starter swipe file of 7 pieces of copy you can start copying by hand (pay what you want).

Excelsior!

Kai

Chop Wood, Carry Water, Write Copy

As an indie consultant (or freelancer), how do you get better at writing copy? (e.g., proposals, marketing emails, marketing pages, sales pages, web copy)

You get better at writing copy by falling in love with the process of writing copy.

As with everything in life, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. In the end, the only thing that makes you better at writing copy is practicing writing copy.  Full stop.

Just like when you’re learning a musical instrument, you need to set aside intentional time to practice. Make your practice time a regular, recurring time, ~30-60 minutes long, a few times a week. If you can make this a daily time, even better.

But! There’s another tip here that’s simple, obvious, and often goes unsaid: if you want to get better at writing a specific type of copy, you want to focus most of your efforts on practicing writing that kind of copy, not all types of copy:

  • If you want to write better marketing or outreach emails, you need to practice writing emails
  • If you want to write better articles/blog posts, you need to practice writing articles/blog posts.
  • If you want to write better sales pages for your productized services, you need to practice writing sales pages

Most likely, you don’t need to get better at writing all types of copy today.

In the short/medium-term, there might be one or two copywriting skills at the top of your mind that you want to improve.

How should you practice writing copy? More on that in tomorrow’s letter. But in short:

  • Set aside time to write
  • Sign up for competitors and read their copy
  • Write out proven pieces of copy in your handwriting (this one is an old tip, but my personal favorite)

Excelsior!

Kai

How this small resource can get your clients primed for repeat projects

What steps can you take to get your client to think, “Ah! I’ve got to get set up with this person’s other services”?

Zooming out for a moment, there are only three ways to grow your business and increase your revenue:

  1. Get more clients (By getting more leads! kaidavis.com/leads)
  2. Sell higher-priced services to those clients (By charging more! https://kaidavis.com/charge-more/)
  3. Do repeat business with those clients

Loyal fans and long-term readers will know that I am a fan of repeat projects with clients (https://kaidavis.com/getting-clients-repeat-projects/). Why? Because:

  • There’s only a minimal cost to you to acquire a repeat client
  • You and your client already know that you’re a fit for working together
  • You’ve already ‘seen inside their business,’ so you have a good idea where you can help create the most value

For these reasons (and more!), repeat client projects are among my favorite ways to grow a business.

I’ve started to include a small piece of sales collateral with all of my project reports and wrap-ups: a service menu. (It’s like a dessert menu, but for consulting services.)

This short one-pager lists ~2-4 of my additional services that the client has yet to purchase. I include a few sentences of context for each service to highlight the client’s potential benefits (e.g., this one will help you get more traffic, this one will help you build relationships with journalists).

Including this type of collateral makes it easy for your client to decide to work with you again. Instead of your client needing to guess what other services you might offer or how else you can help them, you’re pointing them in the right direction and priming them for that future conversation.

Looking to get more repeat projects? I encourage you to swipe this approach:

  • Type up a one-pager that lists your services and their related benefits
  • Include your one-pager with your project wrap-up emails or project reports
  • Lightly customize the one-pager before you send it off (e.g., delete services they’ve already purchased, customize the benefits to reflect their current situation)

For a small upfront and tiny ongoing time investment (~30 minutes upfront to write, ~5 minutes each time to customize), this piece of collateral could result in a few or a dozen repeat projects with clients over the coming year.

Excelsior!

Kai

The connective tissue around productized services

When we talk about productized services, we often touch on how they help you increase your effective hourly rate. When you can optimize your processes over time, you can get faster at delivery, and your effective hourly rate ($ earned per hour worked) will increase.

The secret weapon? Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) let you write down and capture your process so you can remember it later and improve it over time.

When you document the steps you take to do a thing as a standard operating procedure, you can start to optimize that process over time. Each time you finish that process, you can ask yourself ‘What could I change to make this take less time or use fewer resources?’ Then, as you implement those changes, you’ll be improving your process.

But SOPs aren’t just for your revenue-generating services. What about when you onboard clients? Or have an initial call with a lead? Or off-board a client after a project? Or do that marketing thing to generate more leads?

All of these are essential, valuable processes in your business. If you write them down, you’ll make it easier on future you the next time you need to do that thing (like, onboard a new client or have an initial call). Then, as you do that thing more often, you can optimize that process bit by bit to take less time, effort, and attention and produce better results.

Here’s your homework:

  • Sit down for ~15-20 minutes this week and think through the repeating processes/procedures you tackle in your business week to week (e.g., initial calls, client onboarding, marketing, delivering that service, off-boarding)
  • Pick one or two processes to document. To start, I recommend picking shorter/smaller procedures to document.
  • Set another time on your calendar ~1-3 weeks out to come back to repeat this homework and document another ~1-2 processes.

And here are a few resources to help you in your SOP crafting and process documenting:

Excelsior!

Kai

What can cybercriminals teach you about specialization?

This article on How Cybercriminals Recruit and Look for Skilled Developers (https://insights.dice.com/2020/02/10/how-cybercriminals-recruit-skilled-developers/) gives an interesting perspective into specialization in a very unique niche.

Quoting from the article:

A deeper look into these underground forums, whether originating in Russia or elsewhere, shows that, much like mainstream programming, certain skills are a must among cybercriminals.

For instance, Guirakhoo and his fellow researchers at Digital Shadows found that underground developers who are proficient with Python and C/C++ are currently in demand.

And

Many threat actors choose to specialize in one area of cybercrime, such as carding or hacking. Often threat actors become experts in one or two programming languages, dependent on the language that most suits the projects they are involved in….

Even in this out-there example, the core concepts of specialization still apply.

By specializing in a particular problem or project, you better communicate to prospective clients, “This is something I can help you solve. This is a problem I’m experienced in solving.” That benefit applies to you even if your specialization is only marketing-deep (on your website, collateral, and marketing you say “We specialize in A,” even if you also do B, C, and D).

If you want to be the more trusted option within any target market, you need to specialize in what your market cares about.

  • Step 1 is figuring out what your market cares about. That could look like having a few informational conversations with other service providers or potential clients, doing a deep-read of a forum that focuses on your target market, or following another market research path.
  • Step 2 is figuring out what problem/project you’re going to specialize in. Of the things that your market cares about and outcomes they want to achieve, is there a particular problem or project that appeals to you (or that you could learn to love)? Focus on that.
  • Step 3 is figuring out your sub-specializations. For your problem or project of choice, what tools or resources do you need to develop a specialization in to succeed (e.g., tools, languages, methodologies, apps)?

No matter if you’re selling cybercrime-as-a-service or helping Shopify stores get found online and get more traffic, the same core steps and principles apply.

Your turn. Send back a short reply with your answers to these three questions:

  • What’s your target market? Who do you help?
  • What project/problem do you specialize in?
  • What sub-specializations do you have that serve the projects/problems you specialize in?

Excelsior!

Kai

Activity-Based Lead Generation

Let’s end the week with a (great) reader question:

What are some leading indicators to measure progress in habits that should generate leads?

I have a lot of thoughts on this.

First, this is similar to the concept of Activity-Based Selling (more here: https://kaidavis.com/videos/activity-based-selling/). That is, you’re identifying the leading indicators that correlate with “doing the work to sell more things” and then tracking them overtime to make sure you’re taking the right actions.

How does this differ when it comes to lead generation (or as I’ll call it, Activity-Based Lead Generation)?

The first difference is your actions aren’t as clear out of the gate as with Activity-Based Selling. Because Activity-Based Selling is based on moving someone forward through the stages in your sales pipeline (e.g., https://share.getcloudapp.com/DOuA1GE5), it’s easier to identify activities that move someone forward (like ‘send a follow-up email’ or ‘schedule a meeting to discuss proposal’).

With Activity-Based Lead Generation, it’s a bit more… squishy. You want to focus your time and attention on the habits that bring you more leads, but what should you focus on?

As I say in my book Get More Leads! (https://kaidavis.com/leads/), if you want to get more leads, you need to do two things:

  1. Make things (e.g., content, sales pages, marketing assets, interviews, offers)
  2. Tell people about them (e.g., outreach, podcast tours, write guest articles, webinars, have conversations)

So, reader, if you’re wondering what to track, the answer is that it depends.

You and your personality, your available time, the marketing habits you want to build, your target market and niche, and your overall marketing strategy all affect what you could be tracking as leading marketing indicators.

These are a few excellent starting points to consider as you work on building your lead generation habits:

  1. How much time have you scheduled this week to work on your marketing and lead generation?
  2. How much time have you planned this week to research your target market? (e.g., read articles, listen to interviews, watch talks, read books)
  3. How much time have you scheduled this month to try and stimulate conversations with people in your market? (e.g., informational interviews, market research conversations, conversations with leads, marketing outreach, sales outreach, informal conversations)
  4. How much time have you scheduled this month to write content? (e.g., blogs, articles, guides, ebooks, social content, email templates)

And a few lagging indicators that I enjoy. These can be at the ‘quarter’ or ‘month’ view.

  1. How many pieces of content have you published so far this month/quarter? (e.g., times you’ve hit the publish button)
  2. How many outreach emails have you sent to colleagues, cooperative competitors, audience owners, or new contacts this month/quarter?
  3. How many conversations have you had with people in your target market so far this month/quarter?

Excelsior!

Kai