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EPISODE 23: Get Your Process Out of Your Head

by Mar 2, 2021Podcast, Writers

In this episode we will cover:

  • Content creation isn’t an abstract concept
  • How to find and define your content creation process
  • How having a process benefits you
  • How having a process benefits your clients

What’s your process for content creation?

A lot of creatives struggle to answer, because they feel like writing is intuitive. 

But when you’re trying to land a new client and they ask about your process, you can’t just say, “I don’t know how I do it. I just do it.” That doesn’t help them understand what you do, and it definitely doesn’t convince them to hire you.

Labelling your writing as purely intuitive is a mindset block. Try thinking of it this way: you’re not just good at writing. You’re good at the process of writing.

 

In this week’s episode, we’re discussing the importance of getting your creative process out of your head. You’ll learn:

  • How to find and develop your content creation process
  • How having a process benefits you
  • How having a process benefits your clients

 

Having a process doesn’t mean producing cookie-cutter results. It’s about building a structure that actually allows you more time, energy, and creative freedom.

Ready to get your process out of your head? Tag us on Instagram @northstarmessaging to practice describing your process to someone else.

 

Additional content referenced in this episode includes:

Run Like Clockwork 

Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz

Brand Your Voice podcast episode 5: Core Stories Every Brand Needs

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we're digging into how you can create personality driven content that connects and converts. I'm Jessi...

Marie:
...and I'm Marie. We're the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy where we support business owners and outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.
Okay, welcome to another episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Today is all about getting your process out of your head. And two caveats, I guess, as we go into this episode, one is we're not systems and process experts. Although we have spent a lot of time talking about it. So if you want to go dive deeper into this, we can make some recommendations on that. Of course, our first choice is always going to be the Run Like Clockwork crew. You can check them out, and we highly recommend does them in their programs. You could even start with the book Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz, which we'll link in the show notes.
And the second piece of this is this is part of our ongoing series. That is a love letter to content creators from content creators, where we talk about the things that have helped Jessi and me and in North star really succeed in a business that isn't an industry where it's not really expected, you know, that there's going to be a lot of success and that we didn't at least expect there was going to be a lot of success because we'd always been taught that writers don't do well, don't make much money and really need a plan B. However, if you are a CEO who does not own any kind of content creation company, I promise that this episode like the others will still be useful to you on a high level in terms of concepts. So please stick around, regardless of whether the business you own is a content creation firm or not, just know that as we dive in, we'll be speaking to the content creators. So fill in the blank with whatever it is you do as we proceed.

Jessi:
Absolutely. And when we're talking about getting your process out of your head, I think it's great that Marie mentioned that we're not process people because honestly, the processes that we developed, we developed really organically. Because we were not process people. And I think this is such an important topic for content creators to talk about as content creators, rather than process people, because there tends to be an impression I think a lot of content creators take on, that I certainly took on early on. And I think we both did as a business early on where there's this idea that content creation, that writing, that capturing people's voice, that creating copy and content, that the client loves and adores and also gets results... It's kind of abstract. It's just something, you know, how to do. And in our early days, we kind of believed this.
We would, you know, get a new client. We would sit down and we would talk to them about what they wanted and we would produce it and go through our rounds of revisions. And what ended up happening is eventually everyone was happy and we would move on to the next project. And that lead to this belief of, we don't really know how we're doing this, we're just doing it. And it's working, which was good for a while until we started accumulating more clients and running into a problem that I think all service providers run up against eventually, which is a delivery problem.
Going back to Clockwork terms and that Marie mentioned, Run Like Clockwork. This is a delivery bottleneck. Essentially we have the problem where we were stuck in a feast and famine cycle where, where we had a ton of clients that we were focused on delivering because we were essentially creating the process out of our own intuition every single time and sort of adjusting it based on the client Every single time. We were stuck in the work, we were stuck creating the content and delivering the content and doing the sales and essentially everything for our business. And so we had a cap, we had a capacity. And once we reached that capacity, we couldn't take on any more work. We would get stuck in the work, doing it all the time, trying to get all these projects done. And then, because we were so in the work, we wouldn't be in the sales. So then there would be a drop-off and the cycle would repeat itself indefinitely. And so we added new options. We could have started saying no to work, which we did during the super busy periods. We put people on a wait list. We could continue to live in this sort of frantic cycle of getting all the work done and then shifting to sales and then shifting to delivery and the shifting to sales, or we could grow our team and hire.
But I think in order to do that, what we realized when we made our first hires, I think that was in 2018 where we really decided we're going to hire people and not just hire them for a couple of one-off projects, but hire them to be a part of our team and to reflect the same sort of delivery that we produce. We had to face the fact that in order to do that, we had to train them. Which meant we had to get the process that we were using and had been using for up to almost eight years at that point out of our heads and into theirs.

Marie:
And it's not as easy as Jessi makes it sound. Actually, no, it wasn't so bad. I think honestly, the biggest hurdle for us was some mindset blocks, right? This belief that it was intuitive for us. This belief that this is just something that we know how to do. And we just have so much experience that, now we just kind of, like, look at something or have a conversation with a client. And we just sort of magically wave our arms and know where to go from here. And so we had to sort of disband that belief. This is something we no longer believe. There is a process that our brain was going through and then we were taking our clients through, but we just had so much practice with it and we'd become so good at it that we really thought it was intuitive. And we were moving through that process without thinking about it. So that was a big mindset hurdle.
Another one that I don't think we face so much, but you might be facing if you've kind of face the same feast and famine delivery bottleneck problem that we were talking about is the fact that it's really tempting to believe that if you run everybody through the same framework, that then you're going to have cookie cutter results. And that's not what you're here for, because you know that all of your clients have a different voice and have a different message and deserve their own treatment. And so it's really tempting, I think to believe that this is going to go against your values having a framework, but it's not. You can still get the unique, special, one of a kind results from a framework that you can from this intuitive process. The difference is now your creative energy is actually being spent supporting the client as opposed to coming up with a process from scratch every single time.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I would argue that the spark that makes your product, your delivery of content special is even more special. Once you have the process, because it becomes more easy to replicate. I can't count the number of times I've had a conversation with people who are in the writing space, whether they are a freelance writer or a copywriter with their own, you know, fully fledged business are, you know, anywhere on the spectrum who have said things like, I don't know how I do it, I just do it. And that mindset is it's helpful to a point because it allows you to produce. And then there is a point at which it stops being so helpful because it's not always reliable until you have it out of your head and down, and it certainly isn't transferable.
So what I think when we talk about process, we can sometimes mean two different things. So you're probably familiar with business processes like client workflow and things like that. What we're specifically talking about today is the process that impacts the creative parts of what you do. So in our case, the big process that we've become known for, even though we have many processes within our business is our brand voice process. Because brand voice is one of those things that people tend to think of as being very abstract. It isn't. What we've developed over the years first, at first, just intuitively and through practice. And then by actually writing it down and creating a step-by-step framework that we walk people through. We've developed a way to take that abstract concept and actually ground it in something that not only us, not only we, and not only our team, but our clients can look at and understand easily.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. Our job here is not necessarily to convince you to do this. If you are really holding fast to that belief that, you know, this is an intuitive process for you and that's all it'll ever be like, that's fine. We're, you know, we're not here to wrestle you into sort of our way- a new way of thinking about things. But, we felt we would be remiss if we didn't talk through the benefits of process sizing or like creating a framework around the creative portion of what you do. So the benefit that obviously was really important to us initially, is that it did allow us to outsource our work or to share the work with other creative writers like us. This allowed us then to take on more work, support more clients. And, it actually also allowed us to develop deeper relationships with our clients because then what we were able to do once our team had been trained was to say, Hey, this is your dedicated team, and we'll be here kind of behind the scenes supporting and retraining them. And we're making sure that, you know, if they have, if there's issues with quality or, you know, somebody's suddenly ill, you know, there's a backup, all that kind of stuff. But the good news is now we're not scattered between 20 clients, which ultimately meant that we would give them poorer service. Instead they were able to have a dedicated team that they were able to grow with, have a relationship with and really get to know better, which also means better quality work. So that was great. And also it allowed Jessi and me to step out of parts of the work that we didn't love and really focus on the parts of the work that we do love. So when you run a business, no matter how much you love your business and your clients and what it is you do, there's always going to be some tasks that you dread a little bit more than others. Um, and that was really helpful for us to be able to carve out our time for the parts that we love and could really bring our full selves to.

Jessi:
Yeah. I want to recognize too, that not every writer out there, not every content creator out there is looking to build a team. Not everyone wants to create a situation where they're taking all of their work that they're doing for their clients and handing it off to other people. That said, it's still really valuable to have a process in place.
One of the most frequent questions that we get asked on sales calls is what is your process? And they don't usually mean, what is your process for onboarding a client through off-boarding a client that's part of what they're asking, but what they really want to know is how are you going to deliver top notch, copy top-notch content that fully reflects my voice that hits my goals. What is your process for the creative part of this? The other pieces are important and add an additional sense of security around, okay. Yes, they use contracts or they have an onboarding process. So I know what that means. My next step is this, but I think even more valuable to them is knowing that the writing itself has a process. And this is, I think, what sets a lot of content creators apart from their competition or collaborators, because we don't necessarily believe that there's competition out there,

Marie:
Peers.

Jessi:
Peers, colleagues. I think it's this idea that when a potential client comes to you and says, okay, what's your process? When you can answer that definitively and say, well, when I am representing you and your business through content, this is how I do it to make sure it's done authentically. And this is how I do it to make sure that your goals stay top of mind. That is an invaluable offering that you can make to them before they even hire you.

Marie:
Yeah. In fact, I remember a conversation after, one of our, I never know specific favorite clients, but one of my favorite clients that we have hired us, he said, you know, I interviewed, I can't remember how many people he interviewed. I mean, it was like seven, eight, nine different content creators and firms. And he said, "You know why I picked you?" And I said, no. And he said, "Because you had a process." And I was like, Oh, okay, great. So this really sticks with people. And it really sets you apart as a content creator. You're not just the grunt, you know, behind the scenes, who's churning out content, but you also are the creative, a successful framework. You are, if you want to position yourself as a thought leader, you can do so. And even if it's a really quiet type of thought leadership, it's something you can have a conversation around with your clients in those sales conversations, or, you know, let's say we've all had that happen. And we're like, the first round of revisions did not go well. And just to reassure them that you're here for them and that you're going to help them see it through and this is how. I think also kind of speaking to that another time when this is really beneficial for you as a content creator is on those tougher projects. Maybe, you know, it's just one of those where you're getting stumped a bit, or you don't have access to the context that you would usually like to have access to. Or maybe there's a bit of disagreement among the client's stakeholders as to what direction things need to go. There's a lot of different reasons why some client projects are difficult. But when you have this framework in place, you can actually just focus on the work as opposed to spending so much time trying to navigate all of that.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I think that this is also a really important piece to removing the idea that some times shows up in the industry that content creators are there to just churn out content. Marie and I believe very strongly that people who are in the position of creating content, copywriters and content creators of the world, you are not just- you don't exist just to churn out content, constantly. Content for content's sake is meaningless and just adds to the noise. Content needs a purpose, and it needs a voice. And in order to do that, it needs a process behind it. And in creating these processes for yourself and for your own business, you are able to better show the value of the service that you provide, and step out of that churn environment that I think is so prevalent, especially amongst freelancers and is not necessarily where we as an industry want to be. So I think that this is such an important piece of that conversation.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. Totally agree. And the other final benefit that I want to touch on is just your life becomes a little easier, which also means your client's life becomes a little bit easier because I think the part of content creation that is sort of the hidden dragon that, you know, it kind of makes profit margins go down, client satisfaction go down, your job satisfaction go down is endless revisions. And so if you're able to create this framework on the front end and it is a successful framework, and you kind of take the pieces that have worked the best for you over time and really sort of create a code of process going forward, you're going to see those revisions go down. At least they're not going to go up. This is what we saw, right. We used to say, you know, we'll just work with you until it's right. And then we were able to, and have been able to create a boundary of two rounds of revisions on all pieces of content. Our boundaries- we're comfortable with setting boundaries at this point. But B, we're able to actually uphold that and deliver the promised, you know, quality by the end of that 99% of the time. I think we've had like one client where that wasn't able to happen in the last 10 years because of this process.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. So the question then becomes, how do you do that? How do you start creating these processes within your own business so that you can have that easier relationship with your client and more easily replicated relationship, whether you want to hire or not. And I think the very first thing to do is to just start paying attention. The things that we can do intuitively, that we are doing intuitively, are happening because we've done a process so many times that it's become intuitive. So some of this is just taking a step back and breaking that thing down that feels like it happens like that into what does actually happen inside your head at that time. What allows you to get from a blank page to a finished piece of copy? What happens and does it happen in the same way with all of your clients? And if not, are there pieces of it that are common threads?
So paying attention is the first step. And then the second step is getting feedback. One of the things that Marie and I heard nonstop from our clients, even before we had an official process in place was how well we were able to nail the voice of our clients. We knew we had something there that was our spark. That was the thing that set us apart. It hadn't been turned into a process yet we hadn't systematized it, but we could see that seed of something that allowed us to be innovators in our field and to reassure our clients. When we brought them on that, we were able to hit the mark and particularly hit the mark in this one area. And once we started getting that feedback and we got more and more and more of it and could see the pattern, we realized one, this is our innovation story. We've done an episode on how you have different stories in your business. And innovation is one of them we'll link to that in the show notes, but also because this is our innovative angle, this is where we can start building a process. So start thinking about the feedback that you're getting.

Marie:
Yeah. So homework, two things. Keep a notepad by your desk or an open text document on your computer or wherever you're sort of working. And jot down every time you notice a repeatable step occurring within your process and start jotting down that feedback from your clients to see if you can capture a pattern. Because a lot of this is going to be listening to them, and it's going to be taking sort of a meta step back, look at your process from a 10,000 foot view. And I know this is a little hard if you're in the weeds, but this is your homework. And please do this for the next 30 to 90 days. And I'm really interested to hear what you come up with.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the brand, your voice podcast, make sure to visit our website North star messaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content, creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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