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Put Down Everything You’re Doing Right Now & Watch Arrival

As a copywriter, or a person to whom copywriting (and therefore language) is important, you must watch this movie.

Like, must.

Consider it your mandatory, you-don’t-pass-my-class-unless-you-do-it homework from Teacher Chelsea.

I’ll go ahead an tell you: this post contains some spoilers, but I don’t think they’ll ruin the movie for you.

I mean, even in the previews, you kind of get the sense that everything’s going to be okay in the end… so there’s the first spoiler of the day.

But seriously, there’s so many cathartic components about language and emotion in that film that I just can’t wait until I can buy it and watch it over and over and over again.

For example, I totally figured out why they named the aliens Abbott & Costello… and felt super damn smug about it, too.

But here’s what we learn from this movie that we can apply to our copywriting and our businesses… to make us better, to make our customers better, and to ultimately make the world a better place:

Language & Emotion Are Universal

As in, we all use language and we all feel emotion.

In this case, we see that they’re literally universal as the aliens are far more human-like than they are Spock-like with their appeal for help, sharing, and problem-solving.

But even in the realm of humanity: we all feel.

And to ignore that, as you see in the movie, is just silly.

So to get someone on the same page with you and to work with you to solve a problem or for a better future, you’ve got to drop the mask, show who you really are, and not be afraid to share some emotion back and forth.

Because as great as logic is… ain’t no good problem-solving going happen until you’ve got that warmth and trust factor to build upon.

We Are All The Same

There really is no “us” and “them.”

We see that in the end of the movie, when Costello (one of the aliens) is either dead or dying, there’s an exchange of sympathy from Louise and a general sense that we all know what it feels like to lose someone close to us, how much it genuinely sucks, and how much we hate that others have to go through it too.

So pretending that there’s some sort of line between me and you because I’m “the blogger” here and you’re “the reader” is just silly.

Sure, I’m the one that wrote this and you’re the one that’s reading it, but to pretend like we’re on different levels because of that is just atrocious.

Same goes for you and your audience.

Or dare I say, students and teachers in the education system.

Or, you know, politicians and the people they represent.

We’re all the same.

And only when we start treating each other like that will there be true progress.

So, in copywriting, talk to your readers like they’re your equals if you really want your words to matter for something.

We MUST Work Together

One of my favorite things about the movie actually didn’t have that much to do with language.

It was how it outlined so plainly how atrocious it is that we as humans on earth have borders that allow us to classify “us” and “them” and decide how we want to work together with others.

Or if we want to work with them at all… and who we should actively work against.

Omg, writers and directors of this work of art…. #PREACH.

But bringing it back to copywriting and running a business, I think it’s about making sure you have a WHY that’s greater than the actual work you do to show up and hack away at your goals everyday.

Because as much as I love copywriting, copywriting is not my why.

It took me a while to figure out how to put words to my why, to be honest with you, so if you’re still there… no worries. You’ll find it, I promise. Just keep following your heart.

But my “why” is this: To help myself and others retire early and live better, more meaningful lives.

Why else would I be so obsessed with price?

It sure isn’t to buy fancy nail polish or overly nice clothes.

I’m writing this post right now wearing 10 year-old yoga pants from Old Navy, a 5 year-old hoodie, and Pepto-Bismol-colored fuzzy socks. A fashionista I am not.

BUT I know what I’m working for and what I want to help others work for. It’s why I’m so obsessed with premium image and premium pricing, because those things equal more money.

And I’m not about making more money for the greed of it, I’m about making more money because you can use that stuff to do things like buy a house, pay it off in full, save for your child’s education, donate to worthy causes, and basically free up your time so you’re not working for the dollar anymore, but instead working for your heart.

Which I think we can all agree is EXACTLY what this world needs.

So find your why and use it to work TOGETHER with others, will you?

Oh, and… have you seen the movie? What did you think? 

Yes, Your Visitors Are Judging You. (But Not for What You Think.)

So I just started reading this book, The Human Brand, and apparently we judge people, companies and brands by TWO things and two things only: competence and warmth.

Basically, can I trust this person?

And… is this person not an idiot enough to mistakenly ruin my life?

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes total sense.

Why would you want to form bonds with someone that either treats you like an outcast or whose mistakes you have to constantly clean up after so neither of you end up freezing to death or being eaten by bears?

(You wouldn’t. So you don’t.)

But normally, as the book points out, we don’t approach a person thinking “Is this person warm enough for my taste?” or “Is he competent enough for my standards?”

(Unless you’re on a date, and you’re totally making in-depth judgements like that every split second.)

Instead, you think “Ehhh, I don’t know. He seemed nice but something just felt off.”

You know, like when you show up to a networking event and everyone’s super smart and friendly, but you dread the idea of having to actually set a date with any of the people you met.

That is usually because the warmth factor isn’t there.

Networking events suck, in my opinion, because everyone there is just trying to get something out of everyone else in the room… therefore the warmth just gets sucked right out of it all.

As the author of the book points out in the intro, “For as long as anyone reading this book has been alive, big companies and the people who work in them have been in the habit of shaping our expectations in the exact opposite direction of our natural desires for competence and warmth.”

So think about it for a minute… what companies do you prefer to buy from?

Why?

If you’re human, you prefer the companies that make you feel good about yourself, your decision-making, and your community.

For example, unless you’re stone-cold, you don’t like Coca-Cola because of their manufacturing prowess. Instead, you like them because of their global message of human love and kindness… even though that message literally has nothing to do with their product. Their marketing gets you to associate it with their product, so you feel those same emotions when you’re holding one of their cans.

It’s genius, really. Because as the book also points out:

“Humans were never mentally wired to trust and enjoy goods made by ‘unknown hands.’… Before 1880, there were hardly any packaged goods or ready-to-wear clothing.”

Which is crazy, if you think about it. 200 years really isn’t that long in the scope of history.

But when we get into doing business today, we’re just so concerned with proving that we’re more competent and smarter than our competition.

But in this day and age, honestly, I don’t think competency is our problem.

Sure, there’s always the wannabes out there, but they’re fewer and more far between than we realize.

It’s the warmth that we’re missing.

So how do you create this warmth within your brand?

There’s a million ways and approaches that I don’t have time to go into right now, but try these things:

  • Spell out specific scenarios. Even if it might not be the “exact” scenario your reader has been through, they’ll project themselves onto it and feel like you “get” them.
  • Tell your own story… and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself a little bit.
  • Write like you speak. Like, actually write like you speak. I know everyone gives that advice, but we still continue to write in those boring-as-hell middle school paragraphs, don’t we? STOP IT. (If you can’t imagine yourself saying the exact thing you’ve written to your BFF, it’s time to stop and re-write it so you can. Periods, italics, and bolds are your friend.)

One of my favorite concepts introduced by the book is instant karma, which basically means that the way a person acted in business used to immediately influence how well he or she did.

That went away for a little while after the industrial revolution, but with online social networks and search engines, it’s back and better than ever.

BUT when we take a moment to relate to people with warmth and understanding, it’s almost as if the disconnect created by physical distance doesn’t even matter anymore.

So some food for thought:

What are some other ways you’ve noticed brands—big or small—weave in a friendly feeling of warmth into their online marketing? And how could that apply to your business model?

My Ugly, Brown Spice Girls T-Shirt

I’m 11 years old, in sixth grade.

I’m starting to get my height, but haven’t hit puberty or the need for a bra quite yet.

That’ll all come next year.

But I’m at school, in line for the water fountain, and I’m SO PROUD to be wearing my new Spice Girls t-shirt to school that day.

It’s surprisingly simple… a muted brown color with a subtle “SPICE” written in small block letters at the top, with stars inside them.

And that’s when it happened.

A girl in my class asked me, with a smirk on her face, “Why are your wearing a Spice Girls t-shirt?”

Because last year Spice Girls were cool, but this year they weren’t.

We were one year away from being in middle school for goodness sake, and all the cool kids had parents who let them get away with Blink 182 t-shirts.

But I didn’t like Blink 182.

They were too “bad” and “dirty” for me.

They had a porn star on the cover of their CD, for goodness sake, and to an innocent 11-year-old girl, the mere thought of “sex” is terrifying.

Her question hurt.

I knew the instant she asked it that she wasn’t asking a matter-of-fact question, but that she was trying to shame me to make herself feel better.

My best friend had the exact same Spice Girls t-shirt, and because she was witness to the event, she didn’t ever wear it to school.

But I was just driving back from the laundromat, and Daya’s “Sit Still, Look Pretty” came on the radio.

And somehow, I imagined a bunch of little 11-year-old girls listening to this song and singing along—the kind of 11-year-old girl I was—and I wept.

Like literally guys, I wept along to a candy-coated pop song.

In case you’re unfamiliar, this is how it goes:

Could dress up to get love. But guess what? I’m never gonna be that girl who’s living in a Barbie world.

Could wake up in make up and play dumb pretending that I need a boy who’s gonna treat me like a toy.

And then…

Oh I don’t know what you’ve been told, but this girl right here’s gonna rule the world. Yeah, that’s where I’m gonna be because I wanna be. No, I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty.

And I think I cried because I still see a world where girls are being bred and conditioned that their looks are more important than who they are as a person. Even though I was one of the lucky ones with AMAZING role models and parents encouraging me to think and do for myself and no one else.

This song spoke so strongly to that 11-year old girl who ADORED The Spice Girls.

She didn’t adore them because they were beautiful and all the men in the world wanted to marry them.

No, she loved them for their power.

For their zero-shame in creating a movement all around “Girl Power” and self confidence.

She loved them because they were so visibly diverse… in their looks and their personalities. And she loved them because they were all best friends that actually embraced their diversity to make something awesome… music that young girls couldn’t stop singing along to.

Sure, she adored their fashion and wore ridiculous platform tennis shoes because of their influence. (But looking back, let’s just say that imitation is the best form of flatter… Because HOW are those shoes comfortable?!?)

But regardless of the uncomfortable shoes, she wanted to grow up to be just like The Spice Girls.

Probably not a singer, but definitely powerful. And definitely unafraid to be exactly who she was.

And while I’m pretty damn confident in myself these days, there’s still that lingering part of me that gets absolutely crushed every single time someone ever-so-smugly reminds me that I’m not “doing” what I should be doing for my “category.”

That nice white girls who wear Levi’s and scarves shouldn’t have a mouth like that.

That girls who are physically healthy and in their late 20s should be using their “blessed” body by now to bring new life into the world.

That I’m not old enough to make the kind of money I do… I have to “pay my dues” and struggle first.

That I grew up in a Christian home, so I should be in church listening to a preacher diss my gay friends every single Sunday and just accept it as “God’s will.”

But you know what all these things are?

Opinions.

Opinions of people afraid to think differently.

Opinions of people who are afraid that if they stray too far outside the status quo, society will reject them and they won’t be “safe” anymore.

Opinions of people who probably secretly wish they had your balls and audacity to unapologetically be who they are, but don’t have the courage or nerve to admit it to even themselves.

And depending on how much these people with these “opinions” love you, they may or may not feel like they’re voicing those opinions to protect you.

But it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Because even when it is done out of love, it still stings like hell.

And I don’t have a remedy for you to keep it from stinging.

Believe me, I wish I did.

But the best revenge is living well. So keep at it Sugar, because I believe in you… no matter how you’re different from me or the status quo.

And I know you can do this.

But when someone does say some comment like this to you… take a moment to talk yourself through it, will you?

Because I find that when I just let it go, it stews in the back of my mind and explodes on me in the most random moments.

Heck, that t-shirt memory’s been inside ready to bust out for 18 years now. You think it hasn’t done some damage to my self esteem over the years?

So do that, and together let’s keep creating a world where it’s okay for everyone to be exactly who they are.

Where 11-year-old girls don’t have to wear Blink 182 t-shirts to be cool if they don’t want to.

And where it’s okay to like The Spice Girls.

And where it’s okay to be a girl or a woman in power.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I know we can do it.

Generations of successful women (and non-conforming men) are depending on us.

On that note… anyone know where I can get a Spice Girls t-shirt?

High Pricing = The Ultimate Placebo Effect

Entertain me while I preach to the choir for a second.

Wait, I think that’s the wrong saying.

What I mean is, come alongside me while I preach to myself the *exact* thing I need to hear, as I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one having this issue at the moment and I think we can all benefit from a little group pep talk.

I’ve talked a lot about high pricing before, but mostly about how it benefits us to just go ahead and label our services with a big fat price tag.

It’s scary, but when we up the ante and have the balls to just do it, things change.

The universe rises to meet us halfway. God helps those who help themselves. (Choose your own philosophy, but you get the point. Show your intention, step out in it boldly, and you will be rewarded.)

I’ve seen it happen time and time again in my own business, yet when the time comes to up level again, I get scared shitless.

I just want to take the 14 steps from my living room office space, past the couch, down the tiny little hall, into my bedroom, and up to the side of my bed.

Then, I just want to collapse onto it, pull my pretty teal comforter of my head, and lay there reading my latest book on new-age spirituality or the French graphic novel my boyfriend lent me. (Side note: graphic novel = really long comic book – like Persepolis and Epileptic. Not a slutty romance story, you sickos.)

Because you know what? Putting myself out there is really hard.

And it scares me.

I’ve gained a lot of confidence over the years, but I’m still that really shy kid who’s afraid to speak up because she’ll get made fun of by the class bully again.

I still feel a restriction in my throat when I want to speak up. Sometimes I power through it, sometimes I don’t.

But when I know in my heart of hearts that the best thing for me will be to speak up and reinvent myself with an image and price tag I’ve never portrayed before?

Oh, god. Is it ever scary.

Sure, I’m 28, self-actualized, feel confident in my own opinions, live on my own, have climbed the corporate ladder, traveled the world by myself, and all that good stuff.

But it’s still so damn hard.

Which brings me to the placebo effect.

(Bear with me.)

I’m a huge believer in the placebo effect.

If I have a body ache, I might take an ibuprofen. Or leave the bottle of pills alone and just drink a chamomile tea.

And you know what?

Both work extremely well for me.

But you know what else?

I have friends who think tea is just bad-flavored water and the chamomile doesn’t work for them. And my off-brand ibuprofen won’t either. Only Tylenol (or Advil or Aleve) will suit them… even though these pills have the exact same ingredients as their Walgreens-brand counterparts.

It’s the placebo effect.

In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely talks about an experiment he did with the same exact pill… but by putting different prices on it.

One pain reliever was worth $0.10 per pill, and the other was $2.50 per pill.

The pills were actually the exact same pill, but (not) surprisingly, the $2.50 pill worked so much better for patients with pain issues than the $0.10 pill… of course, only when they were aware of the “price.”

Price = placebo.

So here’s how the placebo effect ties into our self-confidence issues.

When you learn to have confidence in the placebo effect, you learn to have more confidence in yourself.

You realize that nothing is perfect, not even you, not even your clients.

And rather than being pessimistic about it our being a total fraud who just wants to take advantage of people, you realize that the belief in the investment is almost always more important than the investment itself.

And when you get into a self-fulfilling prophecy circle (a positive, uplifting circle, mind you), things just get better and better.

You believe in your work more, and your clients believe in your work more.

And here’s the clincher: when you believe in something, it works.

And, just because we have human brains that are funny and irrational, the more something costs, the more we believe in it. (Within reason, of course. But you’d be surprised at how much people are willing to spend on things that are important to them.)

Think about it, how much do you believe in a $5 pair of jeans in comparison to a $50 pair of jeans?

Or a $20 brand design for your website in comparison to a $2,000 brand design?

A $100,000 house in comparison to a $400,000 house? 

Sure, the cheaper versions might get the job done. They’ll serve their purpose—no problem. But for how long? Will you feel good about yourself using them? Will they truly reflect who you are?

Here’s a hint: when it comes to things that matter, people will spend and they will spend pretty.

And yes, ^ that line is me preaching to myself.

I’m up-leveling for 2017 with some exciting new packages, but I’m constantly arguing with myself over price.

I know I need to (and can) charge more & offer better services. But I’m scared. But I don’t want to. But I’m afraid the class bully will swoop in, point her finger at me, and mock me with her gaping fat mouth full of spit and humiliate me in front of all my friends… again.

Slowly but surely though, I’m gaining confidence.

I’m getting my strength back.

I’m gearing up to not just fight the bully, but to bulldoze her over without a second glance. And before that bitch even knows what hit her.

You with me?

P.S. In case you missed the email last week, I’m doing a “Black Friday Sale” through December 15th or until “supplies” last. I’m booking my services at my 2016 rates for the first three months of 2017. Book before then (or before I book out completely for those three months), and you’ll save yourself a pretty penny and still get the same awesome level of service. 

In Which I Actually Defend Corporate Jargon

Five years ago, I started my first ever real website.

It was called Carolina Freelance Writer, and I thought I was being clever with SEO.

The thought of it makes me cringe, but the reality is that I used that site until one year ago last month when I officially started my LLC and could take this site live.

So for four years (and a couple years before that when I was freelancing without a website), because of the wording of my URL, the best I could ever hope to refer to myself was as a freelance writer.

Because there it was, written in pixels in front of anyone who ever thought about hiring me.

That site was a blessing at first, but it turned into a curse.

Read more

“Us” vs. “We” vs. “You”

You know what it feels like to be the odd ball out.

When you’re there in the room, but it’s clear you don’t belong.

Someone might be an asshole enough to point it out—but even if they don’t, the tension in the air speaks for itself.

You’re not a part of the “in” crowd and you don’t understand any of the inside jokes. And when they tell jokes, you can’t really tell if you’re the butt of them, but you very well might be.

You’re physically inside, but you’re definitely an outcast.

The moments can be so uncomfortable, you’d take yourself into exile given the opportunity—just to avoid one more embarrassing moment. 

None of us like to feel excluded. Read more

The Psychological Elements You Need to Earn More Money (Without Hustling Yourself Silly)

Yesterday, I did a little research on pricing.

Premium pricing, to be exact, since that’s where my fascination is these days.

And I saw a fellow copywriter charging $4,000 if you wanted to “rent” her for an entire day.

FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR ONE DAY, PEOPLE.

Like, the amount that loads and loads of Americans would be thrilled shitless with for a monthly salary.

It’s $500 for one hour. ONE HOUR. That’s only two Pomodoros and you’ve got half a thousand in your bank account. Insanity.

And just to make the situation even more ridiculous, she was sold out of that offer.

Of course she was.

Granted, that was the highest published price I found in all of my research. But at that point, why not just go ahead and charge $5,000 or $6,000 for the day?

I mean, you’re already at such a point of sheer ridiculon that you might as well just milk it for all it’s worth.

It’s Time to Rethink Your Assumptions on How the Human Brain Judges Value

Read more

Numbers Aren’t Gods. Stop Worshipping Them.

Today’s post is about relationships.

Possibly romantic ones if you’re a serial Tinderella, but not just romantic ones, either.

It’s about all the relationships we establish in our lives: friendships, family, in-person, or via the internet. (Because yes, goshdarnit, you CAN make friends on the internet.) And beyond that, we’re talking about the special, delicate balance you create in establishing a friendship—and yes, a relationship—with all the “faceless” people on your email list. Read more

Pro Tip: Annoyingly Cute Couples Almost Always Look Alike. (Use this in your business.)

I want you to think of the top three annoyingly cute couples in your social circles.

You know, the ones that are so into each other and never seem to have any issues or fights or trust issues.

The ones who make you want to gag at the mention of their names, but make you secretly wish you had a relationship that easy and trusting.

Got their names down?

Okay, open a new tab and look them up on Facebook.

Choose a picture where you’ve got a good view of both of their faces right next to each other.

A wedding picture, a selfie they took after they climbed to the top of a mountain in matching Chacos and North Face jackets, or even one of those godforsaken lying-on-a-pillow-next-to-each-other selfies.

Get over how obnoxious the picture is and look at their facial features.

Do they look alike?

No?

Look a little deeper: Read more

Why Speaking Up Beats Professionalism. Every Time.

So, there’s this thing called professionalism.

And occasionally, because of my sassiness and intermittent irreverence on this blog when I reveal embarrassing facts about myself, I’m accused of violating said professionalism.

Somebody got pissed off because I used a cuss word in a headline.

Somebody got pissed off because I shared a photo in a tweet of how my friend wrote my name in an address line because I was proud of her sassiness. (Warning: that one may be NSFW if your boss is a stick in the mud.)

But if I ran my business in fear that I might piss people off, I honestly wouldn’t be writing, doing, or producing anything that’s the least bit interesting.

I wouldn’t have written my last post about how hot beverages affect our brains, because my (and science’s) claim that we as humans aren’t 100% driven by rational data would infuriate that guy.

I wouldn’t be recording my YouTube videos because I wouldn’t want to be “found out” by the people whose websites I featured and scolded by them because, WTF, how dare I use their publicly available information?!?!

(For the record, that hasn’t happened yet.)

And I wouldn’t use cuss words ever because heaven forbid my sweet little grandma found out.

But the thing is…. fuck those people. (Except for grandma. I love her.)

I don’t run my business for them, and they’re certainly never going to be the ones buying from me. Read more