If I know anything about life, it’s that it’ll throw you curveballs just for fun.
However, learning to catch is never a waste of time.
In fact, when COVID-19 hit I, like many other people living with chronic illnesses and disability, felt altogether terrified but also weirdly completely prepared.
If there’s anything living with a disability will teach you, it’s how to cope with isolation, loneliness, and fear-tinged desperation. Sudden onset grief? Normal. Waves of anger and random days of denial? The usual. Being forced to try to live a life suddenly impeded by strict rules and regulations, otherwise risking life-threatening illness? All part of the bundle.
I realised I’ve been practicing for COVID-19 life for some 20 years.
And while I totally understand that some disabled and chronically ill people (disability first language here is purposeful, because #pride) are at a much greater risk than I find myself in because of illness gravity, or the sheer luck of the draw of location, from my own lived experience, I can promise you’re far more adaptable than you think.
This blog isn’t purely a personal one. My audience are people who identify as women with businesses and so I’m talking to you fine folk right now, because not only do you find yourself in a terrain you may not have ever wanted to visit, with passengers needing crisis schooling you would dearly love to send to school, perhaps a partner who is currently trying to work from home for the first time, and you may even have employees or staff or subcontractors who relied on the work you gave them. Perhaps you have a bricks and mortar you’re now wondering how you’ll pay the rent on, maybe you’ve spent the last couple of months trying to traverse the quagmire that is Centrelink and Job Keeper or Seeker (that’s what we’ve got happening in Australia, overseas readers), or maybe your client list just dried up like a delicate flower left in the hot Australian sun.
This advice is for you.
It’s OK to feel out of control.
It’s OK to feel resentful at all the ‘business coaches’ that have come out of the woodwork to scream at you to pivot.
And it’s OK to wallow for a moment. But then. What then?
If I know anything about business, it’s the show must go on.
Only for so many of us, that show’s going to look drastically different from before.
But that’s OK, perhaps in our panic we’ve forgotten one of the reasons we chose to be freelancers, solo entrepreneurs, or micro businesses is because it keeps us lean, it keeps us light on our feet, it means we can pivot and innovate. Fast.
Now’s the time to remember.
Because it’s time to get your sweet self online.
Take your in-person education, creative tuition, or workshops and events into the virtual space.
Because now, more than ever, your online presence has to be incredible. And your people need you.
I started my business officially in 2015 with a very poorly managed chronic illness, utterly exhausted from a part-time job that was never part-time, pooped from being a single mother for 6 years and then meeting my husband and having a baby, with $0 in the bank.
I didn’t even own a laptop.
Again, if you want to learn to build something amazing with little resources and multiple challenges, ask a chronically ill person who has done it. One year I had pneumonia for a month, that was the winter of my third year of business and I officially made enough income to have to register for GST, and the following financial year I hit six figures.
This isn’t a brag fest. This is just proof that if I can do it – creative brain extraordinaire with little business strategy knowledge and no flipping capital only capable of working 20 hours a week at most without completely falling apart, you can certainly take what you’ve built and make it work for the current situation.
My choice to be pretty much completely online wasn’t just to suit my health situation, there was another reason. I always knew I wanted a diverse range of clients. I wanted to be able to work with people all around the globe and distance not be an issue. A lot of my US and UK clients have no flipping idea where I live, nor do they care. And so if you’re in a serviced based industry that can do that, it means you’ve just multiplied your possible clients and customers.
Currently, there are a lot of people offering a lot of things. And some of them out of desperation.
Sure, there are newly fledged copywriters coming out of the woodwork offering to write copy for what is fundamentally an hourly wage, rather than an amount that means they’re building their business.
It’s probably the same for your business. Suddenly, everyone who has been stood down is looking at what they can possibly utilise in their skill set to create another income stream.
Which is a brilliant thing!
But recently I saw a Facebook conversation where a loyal patron was asking a yoga studio if they’d be running online classes and they said no, because they felt like that market was saturated and they’d just wait out until in person classes could start happening again. And the patron replied she knew there were loads of new yoga classes online BUT this particular teacher and studio was her favourite and she only wanted to learn from them.
That’s a missed opportunity I reckon, and if the owner didn’t want to because she just felt she needed a break – that’s AOK, but if she wasn’t doing it because she felt like she wouldn’t be able to compete – that’s where changing your thinking is going to make a huge difference.
Because there’s never been a better time to build your brand voice than right now, PLUS I can bet a roll of loo paper that the minute the world goes back to the new normal, a whole lot of those new people who are flooding your industry in the online space will go back to whatever they did before they were in a crisis.
I can honestly report, that regardless of the multitudes who have founded their own copywriting business during the last quarter, my client list hasn’t taken a hit at all. In fact, July 2020 was the best year of business I’ve ever had.
Again, that sounds totally braggy pants, but it’s really just incentive to show you when you’ve done the work to be super visible, with a brand voice that folks remember, and you offer something incredible – people will still hire you and buy your thing.
It’s not really enough for me to tell you “build your brand voice now” because you might be feeling a touch more emotional than usual, or you might be juggling kids and isolation and future guesstimating at cash flow issues or a bundle of other things that take up your brain space, so I will tell you this:
You need less creativity to build your brand voice than you think you do.
To do it, it’s simply a series of steps and then a practice of testing and tweaking – all over the place.
I’ve written a tonne on this and I have a 30 page workbook you can snaffle on my website, but here’s the gist:
- Figure out who is your person
- Find the sweet spot between what you believe in and how your brand speaks AND what that person needs to hear
- Write the benefits of working with you, not just the features of whatever you sell
- Make sure your brand stands for something and makes promises
- Don’t sound like every bloody one else, and
- Be a little bit bolder than usual for you – that’s not me telling you to be bold, that’s me telling you to acknowledge this isn’t the way you wish you were tackling your online presence but you’re going to take just one step further than your usual box of comfort zone
Right before lockdown started in WA, when we were watching what was happening in Italy and the US, I got together with my business mate, Lauren.
It was to be our last in-person get together “for at least 6 weeks” we kept telling each other, but it turned out to be much longer than that. Lauren, kindly, as a friend who is well versed with being mates with someone with a chronic illness, did everything she could to keep me at home, locked up, and away from people. Including bringing me sanitised chocolate and coffee on the days I needed it and reassuring me I wasn’t breaking my daughter’s life keeping her home during her precious Year 11 ATAR year. May you all have a Lauren in your lives.
We were already running much of our work online so we managed to pivot (I know, that word!) quickly in response to the awful COVID happenings, but it got us thinking. What if our fellow businesswomen weren’t so fortunate?
We started The Double Act out of our own needs. We had workshops lined up and booked out, and then… this happened *gestures vaguely to everything*. But it became more than that.
It became our way to streamline – fast – what we know women need to be in the position we were in.
Whether you want to work from home (or have to), start your own business (and finally put your brilliant stuff out there), diversify (because putting all your eggs in one basket can be a little risky during uncertain times), or just boost your online presence (and stand out from the crowd), you are who The Double Act is for. It’s a fun name, given to us by a workshop participant, but it’s serious stuff. Things you need to know before you get yourself online, and then everything you need from a strategy and copywriting and branding perspective to actually do it well.
To keep your wheels turning and your bank account boosted.
Unfortunately, COVID isn’t going away any time soon. So don’t let it take your business while it’s here.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that connections and community can be built online just as well as in person.
We can reach out to every corner of the world, communicate via text or video or audio, and send our wonderful stuff straight into the hands and hearts of our clients.
Getting online can be a bit daunting, but you’ve got this. Maybe you just need a mate like Lauren. Or me. Here’s where you can find us.
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