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EPISODE 46: You’re Not a Magical Writing Unicorn

by Aug 10, 2021Copywriting, Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Writing isn’t all intuitive, it’s both an art and a science
  • Establishing a repeatable writing process
  • Using systems to preserve your creative energy
  • Getting your work out of your head to benefit your business
We’re just going to say it—you’re not a magical writing unicorn.

Now, that doesn’t mean you’re not a talented writer. What we mean is writing isn’t all intuitive, even if you feel like it is! Whether you realize it or not, when you’re writing you’re going through a specific process. And if you can break down that process into a repeatable system, you can save a ton of creative energy and ultimately grow your writing business.


In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why believing writing is simply intuitive is holding you back
  • How writing is both an art and a science
  • How defining your writing process helps preserve your creative energy
  • How creating a repeatable system allows you to grow your writing business {and your profits}

Remember, writing is both an art AND a science. You can have a process and still be creative. In fact, figuring out your formula actually helps you save time and make more money!

Want to figure out your process with other talented writers {even if none are magical writing unicorns}? 

Join the Polaris Writer Lounge today.



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 in 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. Hello and welcome to another episode. I have the Brand Your Voice Podcast. And today we're talking about something that is kind of near and dear to us, but also, maybe a little hard to hear, which is the fact that you, as a writer are not, I'm sorry to say a magical writing unicorn. But this is actually a good thing and it can help you. Jessi: Absolutely. And we're going to dive into exactly how it can help you today and how not acknowledging this hurt us for a little while. And I'm guessing probably if you're a writer out there listening, you may be struggling with some of those same things that we struggled with. If you still are sort of in that mindset of, yes, I'm a magical writing unicorn. Yes, I am the person who can hold all of the knowledge and voice and intuition around how to work with my clients in my head. And no one else can do it. And I just do it intuitively. And we're going to talk a little bit about how that may not necessarily be true and that's, that's going to be helpful to you. Marie: Yeah. So, yeah, so let's define what we're actually talking about here, and I think you've already done a good job of that, Jessi, but, I guess I'll share a little story. So I remember when I first got to college, I was like, I'm going to be an English major. And I, I had my first class, I think I was like, I think my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so I'm pretty sure I signed up for like a 300 level, like junior class, my freshman year. And I got back my first paper and the grade was not awesome, which, you know, grades don't necessarily determine like this isn't, you know, if you get a D at a class, it doesn't mean you're a terrible person or a terrible writer. But obviously I was, I was surprised because I'd really poured my heart into it. And I remember over time, you know, I stuck with it. I stuck with more classes and over time I was consistently only realized like one day I realized I'm consistently getting A's in all my English classes with all my professors. And I realized, you know, it's not because I'm a magical writing unicorn it's because I've kind of figured out the formula. I figured out how to write an academic paper in a way that most English faculty members at my university will like the format and, you know, I could present my arguments and be successful. And I think the same thing happens to us when we have clients, right? Like eventually you kind of figure out the formula for that client so that you're able to write something and they're like, oh, you just nailed my voice every time. And you're like, cause I'm so amazing. But we don't realize that that process that we're going through it, it feels very intuitive to us, but you can actually break it down into a system to help you repeat it more easily in the future and save your creative energy. So that's what we mean by this. It's not that you're not talented. It's not that you're not awesome at what you do, but it's that you don't have to rely on your intuition all the time. Jessi: Yeah. And I wanna, I wanna really like hone in on one thing that you said, Marie, which is creative energy, because that's really the consequence of trying to hold all of this in your head. The consequence of trying to figure it out without having some sort of system or formula in place to help you really is that that creative energy is all focused on holding it in your head, making sure that you are following those frameworks or those formulas that you sort of intuitively figured out, but have all in your head. So just like with Marie, with her professors in school, she figured that out, but it was still all up in her head. And every time she had an assignment, she had to go back into that like file cabinet, find the right formula and write, according to it. Same thing happens in business. You have a certain set of clients, you figure out how they work, you know, best practices. You figured out how to catch with their specific voices. And as you try to grow, you add more to the plate. And then all of a sudden you have this overflowing plate that is really kind of becomes hard to manage. Marie: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, this happened, I apparently, I didn't really learn the lesson from my time in college because when Jessi and I started this company, we were the only writers and we really loved what we did, but because we hadn't figured out that process so that we could lean into it, we were kind of on the road to burnout. We had very little at timer energy for our other projects, especially creative projects. Like for instance, the fact that we've at this point now, largely thanks to us figuring this out, wrote a novel we're really proud of, working on it, sequel. Like it's very hard, I'm sure, you know, to sit down and write for your clients all day and then say, okay, now I'm going to write for myself. And that is very exhausting because it kind of pulls from the same creative well. Jessi: Yeah. Marie: And so one of the strategies that we had was to bring on other team members, but I think even if we hadn't done that, just coming up with a process for how we lean into a client's voice would've made an enormous difference. It has made an enormous difference because there have been times when we've jumped back into the client work. Jessi: Yeah. I think even early on when we first started developing the brand voice process that we take all of our clients through and really refining our copyrighting characters, when all of that was happening, it was still largely the two of us. When we brought in our first few team members, it was for very specific projects. And so Marie and I were still in most of the client work and the work that we were doing to get it out of our head was not just helping our new team members to adapt and be able to produce the same type of work that we were producing. But it also just allowed us that freedom and that space to be like, oh, at the end of the day, I do have a little creative energy leftover. I can switch gears to something that's not related to client work. I can switch gears to my own, like our internal content or even to something that's not work-related at all like our novels. And that was something that for the longest time, we just literally did not have the energy for, because we wanted to grow the business. We were taking on more clients, which meant we were keeping more in our heads, which meant that we were burning out faster. So we realized very quick, well, maybe not very quickly, this was like eight years into business. So it took us a little while to learn the lesson. Marie: Look we tried. Jessi: We tried to be the Jessi and Marie show for a while. And I think part of the reason honestly, was because we didn't think we were magical writing unicorns. Like I remember some of our early clients, when we switched to the current audience we serve, which are, you know, small business owners and whatnot. The feedback we received over and over again was, oh my God, you nailed my voice. You sound more like me than me. And that feedback felt really good. It was affirming. It was, you know, oh yeah. I'm I, I've always known, I'm kind of good at this, but now I have someone else confirming the fact that we're really good at this. And so the idea of taking this thing that we were sort of just doing intuitively and putting it down on paper as a process, almost felt like, I don't know, it kind of felt like cheating. It kind of felt like she did. It's not the right word. It's like, it, it felt like it was ruining the magic. Marie: Yes, yes, yes. The sparkles were gone. Right. But if that allowed us to put those sparkles somewhere else, right. I'm not like a sparkly person, but like look, creative energy is... it probably is an infinite well, but there are a lot of things that can dam it up, right? Like stress that you're under or just life circumstances or being busy or doing too much of this thing, you know. And that was damning it up for us so that we had to, we had to make a choice basically. Like, do you want to continue putting these other creative dreams on hold so that you can keep making money doing your job? Or do you want to do both? Right. And we were like, both, please. Jessi: Absolutely. But then we kind of had a choice. We had, we had two options and you know, both this totally valid way to go. But the two big options, which we'll talk a little bit more about in a few minutes were, you know, outsource, like hire writers and teach them our process somehow. And that, that felt really big and scary at the time. Or find a way to streamline our process so the more we were in it and when we were doing it, it felt like it was a little less taxing on us. And I think one of the, one of the things that exacerbated our struggle around this time when we were trying to decide what to do so that we weren't exhausted all the time, we had community, but it wasn't a community of writers. We had peers, we had mentors, all of whom were other business owners who were fabulous and incredible human beings who were navigating their own businesses and had in some cases, similar struggles and challenges to us. But the vast majority of peer groups that we joined didn't have other writers in them. And so the challenges that were unique to what we were doing and what we were going through, there wasn't anyone to talk about that with. And I mean, luckily it's the Jessi and Marie show, so we can talk to each other about it. But sometimes that just put us in an echo chamber of like, what do we do? We don't know. Marie: Yeah. I would say like, it helps, but only so far because a lot of people would say to us, oh, it's so lucky you have a business partner. Yes. Yes it is. And also it doesn't solve all your problems, right. Sometimes. Yeah. You just kind of like egg each other on into like a panic spiral. This happens even now sometimes, which is why that community is so important. Right. And so that's something we really found ourselves wishing for was a community of specifically other writers. And I think part of the reason I suspect part of the reason that writers weren't in these communities, I mean, you know, we, we paid pretty good money to, you know, work with mentors and be in some groups. But I think part of that is writers because they come at it from a freelance angle a lot of the times sometimes struggle to think of themselves as a business owner. So that's one of those things we kind of tangential here, but I still think is important lesson. Jessi: Absolutely. Yeah. So we needed to find people and we needed to find a way to navigate this so that we weren't burning out. So, you know what we've come to believe is that a rising tide lifts all boats. We need to find our writer, people, we need to make connections with those people because they can help us support us. In our case at the time, because we didn't really know where to turn. You know, there were a few Facebook groups for writers or a few, but the alignment of what we were doing and how we were doing it and our values and the kinds of conversations we wanted to have, it didn't really connect. And so we created our own community by starting to hire writers. And we acknowledged the fact that writing as a career, first of all, you are a business owner. You don't have to think of yourself as a freelancer, which kind of shifts the mindset a little bit around money, but also that it's a science and an art. Yes, you absolutely bring your own unique flair to the profession. Like you are, you know, a one in a million writer, there are tons and tons of copywriters and content creators out there, but none is you, none creates like you, none, you know, produces in the way you do and none necessarily have the process that you have. But there's also just best practices. There's kind of the, the science-y side of copywriting and content creation, which is that formula Marie was talking about earlier, like those formulas exist. And sometimes they're specific to the type of content, like a sales page, and sometimes they're specific to the client and what the client is looking for in their specific industry or their specific world. So you don't have to be the one who is at the helm of the ship, tapping into your creativity all the time. We firmly believe that your creative energy, even if it is this unlimited well, because it gets stopped up by different things, needs to be protected. And that as a writer, you deserve to protect your creative energy so that yes, you can serve your clients, but also so that you can grow sustainably as a business owner and have time left over for any creative projects that you want to pursue personally and not have to choose. Marie: Exactly. Exactly. So how do we actually do this, right? I mean, for us, I think it's been a matter of a mindset shift, believing like, yes, I am maybe a magical unicorn in a way, right? Like maybe I am the only one who brings my flare, my experience. But, you know, there may be ways that I can systematize the process so that I don't lose quality. But I also preserve my own creative energy. So I think for me, you know, it was really helpful to step into that mindset and a little scary and a little non affirming, but ultimately extremely freeing. So that's, I think step number one. Jessi: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, full disclosure, when we first hired our first couple of writers to support us, we kind of freaked out a little, we were like, how are we going to do this and make sure that the quality is the same, because these are people who have shown that they're really good writers, but they're also not us, you know? So they have their own experiences, their own ideas of what writing looks like. And, you know, they may be learning completely new styles of writing. And so like, that was scary. And so we had to figure out how do we convey this to them while respecting what they already know and what they're already bringing to the table? We don't want to like, take all of our knowledge and supersede what they already have and be like, no, our way of writing is better because that's not true. Marie: Yeah. And I think the other, the flip side of this mindset shift is, some of the people, I mean, really all the people we've hired are stronger and better aspects of writing than we are. And this has allowed us to not feel threatened by that, right. Because like, yeah, we all still bring our own player. And also we're all still following these best practices and systems so that we can have steady quality across the board. And at the end of the day, it only strengthens us to have connections who Excel in areas that we don't. Because if you really believe that that idea of a rising tide lifts all boats, then that means there's sort of a home for everyone. Right. And there's a place for everyone at the table, including you. Jessi: Yeah, of course. If you don't want to grow your business by building a team, that's totally valid. But these same sort of principles apply because that doesn't mean that you just keep loading your plate with more and more and more and more. What it means is that once you figure out your system and framework, you can actually raise your prices because you have a system which we have found over the years, that when you are working with clients and they know that you have a system that you're not just kind of doing everything intuitively in your head, they actually really appreciate that. And it allows you to kind of showcase your expertise in a way that may otherwise be difficult to explain. So when we're talking about how to do this, we're talking about this for the writers out there who do want to grow their business through growing a team, but also the writers out there who are okay being kind of a solo show, but still want to preserve some of their energy. So how do you do this first thing? And this is going to sound real boring guys, but the first thing is to write down everything you do the next time you bring on a client from beginning to end of the client relationship, or at least a project, if it's an ongoing client. How do you onboard them? How do you get into their voice? How do you write the first draft of something? How do you manage the editing process? What is your process? What are the steps that you take? And are those steps the same from client to client? Where are their patterns and similarities? Marie: Absolutely. There was a moment I remember we were working with Todd Herman and he said an hour with you saves me 11 hours. And of course Mr. Metrics, I mean, he may have been hyperbolizing or just throwing that, pulling that number out of the air. But, this is the type of power and benefit that you can give to your clients when you go through this process, but also think about the benefit to yourself, right? Because if you realize, I mean, one of the things we realized at one point was woo, every time we're getting a quote, it takes me half the day. Right? And so like, even just finding a process for that was a win. It didn't help us capture our client's voice any faster, but it saved us like four hours every time there was a quote going out the door, right? Or like, are there parts of your process where you find yourself asking kind of similar questions of your clients each time, how much more of your creative brain space and critical thinking and critical listening brain space would it's safe for you. If you just were able to write down a list of like, these are among these 30 questions, I'm going to like start asking from these and you can just pick the questions off the list so that you don't have to think. Okay, now I'm interviewing this client for onboarding them now, what do I need to know? Okay. You just pull from your list of questions, right? Like how much creative energy will that save you so that you can put it towards the places where you're actually thinking about headlines or your, you know, what are the stuff that really does require the creative energy that you can't really get around? If you could save up all your energy for that, how much less tiring would your job be? Jessi: The whole idea here is to simplify without sacrificing quality so that you can conserve your energy, serve your clients better and serve your own business better. And also your own self personally. Like Marie said at the beginning, it's you don't have to choose, you know, you can have both, you can have all. But in order to make that happen, it really is about getting into the systems and making sure that you have a framework that works for you. For us personally, the big piece of that was the brand voice process. Because like I said earlier, that was the thing that people kept coming back and saying, oh my God, you did this so well. This was the thing that people were calling out is kind of our, you know, unique, magical writing unicorn sparkles. Like that was our, those were our sparkles where the was the brand voice was capturing the voice of our clients the first time, or close to the first time. And so we knew when we started tracking how we worked with clients that even though there wasn't an official process for capturing brand voice, that was the part that we needed to get out of our head. And so writing down, when I said writing down everything, you do, the next thing you bring on a client, I don't just mean the things that you're physically doing. It's also the things that are happening in your head. For us with brand voice process, we had to sit back and be like, okay, we're doing this thing intuitively, but something is happening in our brains. What is happening that is allowing us to capture the brand voice of our clients and how do we write it down so that other people can do it? Marie: Exactly. So I would say, write down everything you're doing and thinking the next time you bring on a client and then do it again for the next client. And again, for the next client, until you start seeing patterns emerging, these are the things that repeatable steps that you're doing unconsciously intuitively that show and reveal there actually is a system happening behind the scenes. And then once you write that down, a few things can happen. One is, yeah. If you did want to hire somebody, cool, you've already got the roadmap for them to follow so that they can learn from your years of experience and get started really well and quickly. The other thing you can do, if you don't want to do that, or really regardless if you do, or don't, this has no bearing on that, is see, are there ways that I can actually streamline some of this? Once you actually start looking at the processes that are in place, you're going to see, oh, here's a redundancy. Here's an opportunity for me to make this automated things like that. So you can take things off your plates and free up your time and energy. Again, just to give yourself more creative space, to become more efficient, to become more profitable, to become more invaluable for your clients. So, you know, we're, we're loyal members of the run like clockwork community. And they always talk about how important it is to time track and everybody groans when it's time tracking week, but it's so you get data. And if you don't have data, you cannot make decisions to make more efficiencies in your business. And it's the same with this. It's not about time-tracking so much as it's about tracking your process, but what if you being able to create more efficiencies actually allowed you to bring on another clients and increase your revenue. What if that allowed you to make the same amount of money, but work 10 fewer hours a week. So you could spend that time with your family or doing whatever you want to do. I mean, isn't that worth it? At this point, Jessi and I have been able to drastically reduce our work hours and maintain that quality for our clients. And it is so much of it is because we've gone through this process and we've released this belief that everything we do is fully intuitive. Jessi: Yeah, absolutely. I'm going to add one thing as you're going through this and writing down and thinking about your process and that's pay attention to what people are saying about your work. Pay attention to your sparkle, figure out what your sparkle is if you don't know what it is. You know, what do people repeatedly come back and say, oh, you did this really well. Like maybe you did the whole project really well, but this is the thing that they call out is what really blew them away. And that is the part that really probably, even if it's subconscious, takes a lot of creative energy, but it's also the part that if you want to ever outsource is going to be the most important part to outsource. Because that's what people know you for. That's what people will share. If your client goes off and talks to someone else about you that's what they're going to talk about, is that thing that they called out and so pay attention to the sparkle. Figure out how you can take the sparkle and put it in a jar so that you can pass it off to other people. If you decide to hire a team that way you can reduce your hours, grow your team, increase your rates, whatever you need to do in order to create a successful business without feeling like you are the magical writing unicorn and the whole weight of the business always rests on you. Marie: Exactly. And even if you don't want to expand your team, it's just helpful for those moments of self doubt when somebody, you know, you usually maybe get the feedback that maybe your sparkle is you really make your clients feel heard, and there's a client who's like, you're just not hearing me. And you're like, oh no, it's the one, the thing that like, I'm supposed to be really good at that all of a sudden I'm, I'm not being good at right now. It just allows you to kind of go back and say, did I skip a step? Right? Is there something I can do here? Because you know, maybe I was thinking about 500 things. And so I just forgot this one thing. And so it'll allow you to really lean into that thing that makes you special and keeps your clients loyal to you. Loving working with you and potentially even coming back for more content support. So we want to continue supporting you as you go through this process as Jesse and I talked about before, you know, we were really hungering for a community of other writers to support us in this process and more, just really who understand the struggles that writers are through professionally. Yeah. We love what we do. A lot of us probably wouldn't do anything else, but that doesn't mean that it's easy and it doesn't mean we don't need support. And it doesn't mean that we don't deserve support. So we have opened up a new community. It's a free community called the Polaris Writers Lounge. It's within slack. So that hopefully it's easy for you to jump in there during your workday. But we'd really love for you to come and join us. We're going to be having conversations in there, pretty candid conversations and, and be around to support each other. You can head to northstarmessaging.com/polaris, that's P O L A R I S like the North Star, haha get it? To learn more. Is there anything else that you want to say about the Polaris Writer's Lounge, Jessi? Jessi: Just that I'm really excited that we're finally opening this. We've been talking about a community like this for a long time, and I'm really excited to create a safe space to talk about the reality of being a writer and running a writing business and you know, the good, the bad, the ugly, the in-between, everything that happens- Marie: And the sparkles! Jessi: Yeah, the sparkles! And really, we wanted to create this space to take some of these conversations from the podcast into a new place as well, because you know, Maria and I sit here talking into a microphone and it's great to rip off of each other, but we know that you're out there listening and that you have thoughts and you have opinions and you have things to share and you have stories. And we want to hear those. And we want this to be a dialogue, not just between the two of us, but between the two of us and all of you. And so the Polaris Writer's Lounge is the place where that can happen. And we can discuss the podcast episodes. We can discuss anything else that comes up as you are navigating your own writing businesses and just be there to support one another. Marie: Exactly. So we invite you to join again. That's northstarmessaging.com/polaris and we hope to see you inside. Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.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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