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Mia PryputniewiczOver the past couple of years, as I expanded The Voice Bureau from one-woman show (me) to boutique specialty agency, I found myself at a point where I needed to hire! staff! I was the most surprised of anyone, really. I didn’t see the day coming until it had already arrived.

Then one day, after months of over-busyness, I realized, Ohmygah. I need a couple other people to help me out with this business so I can continue to do what I love most and do best – which is, by the way, develop brand voices, bring creative direction and finessing to client copywriting projects, and create and teach courses for values-based business owners.

The first person I hired was Melissa Black, a truly wonderful individual who is now focusing on web design and creative support for small businesses. Melissa was The Voice Bureau‘s first Virtual Concierge. She was the first person to read emails from readers and subscribers, and my go-to woman (along with her charming husband, Bob) for all projects requiring tech support and implementation of creative touches, like photo editing and audio mixing. With Melissa now focusing full-time on her design clientele, there were some empty shoes to fill . . . and big shoes they were!

Enter Mia. Together with Katie Mehas (my Doyenne of Operations), she keeps The Voice Bureau‘s systems and processes running snag-free, ensuring a great customer experience from start to finish. In short, I couldn’t do what I love to do without Mia.

It’s time you met her, the most recent addition to our interior coterie. If you’re a current client or thinking of becoming one, it won’t be long before you have your first conversation with this woman.

Mia Pryputniewicz, Virtual Concierge at The Voice Bureau

MY TOP 3-5 VOICE VALUES ARE:

Clarity – Clarity is something that people always strive for, but never know how to ask for it. It requires creating boundaries and enforcing them, being okay with asking for help, and respecting that others may need more information.

Depth – I have a natural intellectual curiosity that drives me to find out more about subjects that interest me. I cannot give a quick and dirty answer; I want to make sure that all options are examined in order to make the best decision to move forward.

Intimacy – Similar to clarity, intimacy requires respect for others’ needs and boundaries. People want to be heard and acknowledged, and it’s important to respect that and tailor solutions to their needs without self-elimination.

[Abby’s Note: Discover your own Voice Values when you subscribe to The Voice Bureau’s Insider Stuff e-letter.

Enter your best email address below and click Go to get started.]









PERSONAL DETAILS

Mia PryputniewiczI live in the San Francisco Bay area with my husband Peter and a very silly Blue Heeler. I’m half-Filipina, born in Indiana, but grew up in New Mexico before defecting to California. I went to college with Katie [Mehas]. She and I have been friends since freshman year, and we were maid of honor at each other’s weddings.

PROFESH

I grew up in the restaurant business. I worked in the comic book industry both as a journalist/editor writing for Sequential Tart webzine and as an administrative/accounting manager at Image Comics. I’ve been working for nonprofits the last 7 years as an office manager and bookkeeper. Lately I’ve been taking on freelance clients, helping them set up the financial side of their businesses and helping workflow by doing customer service or project management.

I DO THE WORK I DO BECAUSE:

I think people struggle with things like the day-to-day boring admin stuff. It’s so valuable to help people by answering their questions, giving them guidance about solutions that work best for them, and in some cases doing the parts that don’t come naturally like looking at financials. It’s not an easy skill set to learn or enjoy, but I do.

I’m very proud of being a self-taught accountant. I used to have to explain financial numbers to artists and writers who would call me in tears asking why their books hadn’t made money yet, which taught me how to be compassionate while being factual. I’ve had CPAs be very impressed with my level of work, and a controller I work with says my work is the most accurate and best organized she’s ever seen.

FAVORITE THING I NOTICE ABOUT OUR VOICE BUREAU CLIENTS IS:

They are all really passionate about their work, especially if their work involves helping others realize their potential.

20 YEARS FROM NOW, I WANT TO BE ABLE TO SAY I’VE:

Traveled the world with my wonderful partner, written stories that people like, and helped my friends and loved ones be happy and healthy.

THE iPHONE/ANDROID APP I WOULDN’T WANT TO LIVE WITHOUT IS:

Oh, I can’t pick just one! Asana is my newest love, as it’s so useful to work with teams of people. Untappd, as I’m a huge beer nerd, and a social media app just for beer-drinking is pretty fun. Evernote is pretty darn important to me too; I have a huge Fitness notebook I share with my husband and some friends tracking workouts and physical therapy/training modalities. I also cannot live without Paprika, which is my favorite recipe box app.

FAVORITE BOOKS/MOVIES/MUSIC/ARTISTS:

I’m a huge comic book fan, particularly of more indie titles published by Image Comics. I’m in love with THE WICKED + THE DIVINE lately, which is the most recent comic series by the excellent team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie and is an excellent examination of the price of creativity as viewed in the milieu of pop star godhood. Other excellent comics titles I love: BITCH PLANET, ODY-C, SAGA, VELVET, PROMETHEA, HAWKEYE and MS. MARVEL. I also re-read CROSS GAME by Mitsuru Adachi every year when I’m waiting for baseball to start up again.

I’ve recently become obsessed with K-pop, which started because of the girl group 2NE1. It’s fun music, and because I don’t know Korean I don’t get annoyed by the lyrics. Otherwise, I love the classics: David Bowie, Queen, Paul Simon, The Runaways. I also have a love for DJ-focused hip-hop, like RJD2, DJ Shadow, or Dan the Automator. I’m also pretty sure Mos Def’s BLACK ON BOTH SIDES is one of the greatest albums ever made.

I have a love of Hong Kong cinema, especially for Johnnie To movies. He has such an offbeat style that really balances well with his tendency to do crime thrillers. However, my favorite of his films is THROW DOWN, which is about a down-and-out former judo champion who runs a nightclub. Not so much crime, very much slice-of-life.

It may sound snobbish, but I honestly love Shakespeare. [Abby’s Note: Me, too!] I fell in love with MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING when I was 14, and it’s still one of my favorite classic romantic comedies. HAMLET with David Tennant and Sir Patrick Stewart is so compelling, I watched it 5 times in two weeks. I also love Sir Patrick Stewart’s version of MACBETH, which has a setting inspired by Stalin’s rise to power, but ShakespeaRE-told did a fantastic adaptation of MACBETH starring James McEvoy that updated the language and the setting to a modern-day Michelin-starred restaurant. [Abby’s Note: That I must see.]

FAVORITE PLACES YOU’VE TRAVELED OR COOL PLACES YOU’VE SEEN

So far, Istanbul is my favorite place of all time. It was the center of world for a long time (there are ruins dating back to the Bronze Age), and has this incredible feeling of history. It was the seat of power for both the late Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire because it controlled a huge amount of the trade in the Mediterranean. Istanbul is dynamic and strange and a bubbling cauldron of thousands of years of religious, ethnic, and political influences while at the same time feeling young and vibrant. You can walk down the street past a Top Shop, then turn a corner and run into an 800 year old hammam. The food is amazing, there’s a huge music culture and the people are lovely. There is a very intense current of political tension right now, so I keep track of what’s going on there pretty regularly.

I’m about to go to Europe again at the end of April, this time seeing the Netherlands, Belgium, and Paris. I plan on drinking many excellent beers and eating a lot of waffles.

I also grew up in New Mexico, so I have a love of wide open spaces and stark landscapes. There is something about the desert that is a revelation, that cuts you open and lets the world pour in.

PERSONALITY TYPING? WHY, YES. I’M:

Enneagram Type 6 (The Loyalist) with a 5-wing (The Investigator) [Abby’s Note: This combo is called The Defender]. My Myers-Briggs is INFP (The Counselor) or INFJ (The Protector), depending on the test/day. I’m also a double metal Capricorn Monkey.

MOST PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW THAT I:

Have a good ear for languages. I don’t speak other languages fluently, but I can identify what language people are speaking and I pick up phrases quickly. [Abby’s Note: Noticing how well this trait melds with our focus on voice at The Voice Bureau]. It also means I mimic accents far too easily which embarrasses me from time to time (someone once assumed I was Irish because I was hanging out with a bunch of British boys during San Diego Comic-Con and picked up a terrible version of their accents). I should really focus more on learning other languages, but it’s really hard for me to learn grammar context.

I’m a huge San Francisco Giants fan, and try to make it to at least 3 games every year. I even score the games in a book when I go.

My tattoo on my back was designed by Katie. [Abby’s Note: Photos, please!].

I once drove 3½ hours from Las Cruces to Albuquerque to see DJ Shadow and the Quannum Records crew and drove back home at 2am after the show.

I used to train in Krav Maga and San Quan Dao. That’s actually how I met my husband — he was an instructor at the school where I trained.

I have a 22 year old stepdaughter whom I love dearly.

I actually learned to love working out, to the point where if I don’t get any exercise for a week I fall apart mentally. I even have a TRX suspension training certification, and lately I’ve been really into kettlebells and learning how to power lift.

SECRET FANTASY CAREER/OCCUPATION:

Super spy in the 1960s. I’m pretty sure that’s never going to happen. Basically I just want to be the awesome feminist version of James Bond. Or be Agent Peggy Carter, because she punched the patriarchy in the face every week in her tv show.

I’M FAIRLY INSATIABLE WHEN IT COMES TO:

Knowledge. If I become interested in an activity or subject I always want to know everything about it and I pride myself in being self-taught. I went to Istanbul in 2012 and fell in love with the Haghia Sophia, so I immediately started reading everything I could about Byzantine history and the Justinian era. When I learned how to knit, I would look up any technique online that I didn’t know in order to try new patterns. My friends used to refer to me as Mia-pedia, and my stepdaughter’s friends would call her to ask me a question about some subject instead of looking it up on Google.

In the comments, we’d love for you to:

Say hello to Mia and welcome her to The Voice Bureau!

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Katie Mehas is The Voice Bureau's Doyenne of OperationsIf you’ve been a Voice Bureau copywriting client within the last two years, you’ve already had the pleasure of meeting Katie Mehas, the subject of this piece. As Project Curator, she has managed our project workflows, been our clients’ go-to person, and has generally kept our excellence meter bouncing at the high end.

The other night I realized that I’ve reached the point in my business when I can truly say, I could not do what I’m doing without my team. Katie has been an integral part of making The Voice Bureau the business it is.

It is my HUGE pleasure to re-introduce her to you as our first ever Doyenne of Operations.

In her new capacity, Katie will still be in charge of creating and maintaining workflows for our client projects and being the point person for all project communications. She’s the person who will help you decide whether and how to become our client (with input from me, of course!), which means if you email us about a potential copywriting or content creation project, you’ll be hearing from her. She’s also the overseer and project manager for all internal Voice Bureau machinations, and will be my collaborative partner in creating new products and programs for The Voice Bureau in 2015 and beyond.

In short, right now, I wouldn’t want to be running this business without her. Without further ado, here she is . . .

Katie Mehas, Doyenne of Operations at The Voice Bureau

Katie Mehas is Doyenne of Operations at The Voice BureauMY TOP 3-5 VOICE VALUES ARE:

They were: Clarity, Enthusiasm, Excellence, & Helpfulness.

I just re-took the assessment and got a four-way tie for Accuracy, Clarity, Excellence, and Power.

[Abby’s Note: Discover your own Voice Values when you subscribe to The Voice Bureau’s Insider Stuff e-letter.

Enter your best email address below and click Go to get started.]









This surprised me a little, but I think this was after you reworked the assessment, and – probably more importantly — post-Avery, which I know has changed a lot of my values in general. [Abby’s Note: Avery is Katie’s toddler daughter.]

How would you describe your relationship with our clients at The Voice Bureau?

I partner with our clients to find the best way we can support them — and make sure we’re the right team for their needs — and ensure the process runs smoothly, from the first email to the Final Drafts. I’m on-hand throughout the process to answer any questions, and I work with our fabulous coterie of writers to ensure each client’s particular voice and vision comes through in the copy we write.

PERSONAL DETAILS

I live in St. Petersburg, Florida with my husband and our totally awesome daughter, Avery. We have three totally out of control cats and a grouchy old chihuahua who is (mostly) very tolerant of being chased around by a toddler.

PROFESH

I’ve worked in some form of media for about 10 years now, starting in radio and then moving into magazines. I was editor of a series of classic car magazines for three years — and still don’t have a driver’s license. [Abby’s Note: I keep forgetting that!] When the magazines shut down to go to an online-only model, I spent a year as editor-in-chief of Jack Move Magazine, an online arts and culture magazine. Around this time, I decided to start my own business, using my editorial experience to offer copywriting, editing, and project management to small businesses.

I DO THE WORK I DO BECAUSE:

I love everything about the work I do — the people I get to work with, the way this type of work fits into my life, and the actual work I get to do. I get to learn about so many different subjects, “meet” a lot of really interesting people, and apply my strengths to help other businesses. I’d be organizing and planning anyway — I’m unbelievably lucky to do it every day and get paid for it.

COOLEST/BEST/MOST SATISFYING THING ABOUT WORKING WITH THE VOICE BUREAU (SO FAR) IS:

The coolest thing about the work I do is the variety — I get to learn so many interesting things about so many different businesses, and no two days are the same for me!

A typical work session (if there could be a “typical” one) might involve planning out a project, emailing with a few clients or potential clients, communicating with our awesome team of copywriters, doing some writing myself, or working on some of the exciting big-picture projects we have ahead of us for The Voice Bureau.

I get to shift gears so many times a day — it keeps everything fresh and interesting and lets me make use of a lot of random knowledge I’ve collected. (Who knew that my Modern Occult Philosophy class in college would be so useful — or at all useful?)

FAVORITE THING I NOTICE ABOUT OUR VOICE BUREAU CLIENTS IS:

It’s hard to choose just one thing! I love the passion they have for their businesses. I love their enthusiasm for our process and the partnerships we have with them. And I love that there’s so much variety in what they do, and yet so many similarities in their personalities — it’s really interesting to see those common threads among people who seem so different on the surface.

20 YEARS FROM NOW, I WANT TO BE ABLE TO SAY I’VE:

Written my novel. Traveled. Raised a family who are happy, healthy, and aware of the world around us.

THE iPHONE/ANDROID APP I WOULDN’T WANT TO LIVE WITHOUT IS:

Asana! It lets me keep up with work, even if I’m at the park with a toddler climbing my leg.

FAVORITE BOOKS/MOVIES/MUSIC/ARTISTS:

(Gosh, this is hard. This list will probably have changed by tomorrow.)

BOOKS: Anathem – Neal Stephenson; Pattern Recognition – William Gibson; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series – Douglas Adams; Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell; Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal – Christopher Moore

MOVIES: The City of Lost ChildrenThe Princess BrideThe GameVelvet GoldmineThe Princess Bride, The Fall

MUSIC: Gogol Bordello, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, The Decemberists, Warren Zevon, Die Antwoord, Balkan Beat Box

ARTISTS: James Turrell, Eleanor Antin, Picasso, Dali, Eero Saarinen

FAVORITE PLACES YOU’VE TRAVELED OR COOL PLACES YOU’VE SEEN

My absolute favorite trip would have to be to Dubrovnik, Croatia on my honeymoon. We rented an amazing apartment in a building that was seven or eight centuries old and just had the time of our lives. The food, the people, the history — it was spectacular. One night, we found ourselves in a pub, dancing with a group of Irish tourists while a Macedonian man who spoke not a word of English sang flawlessly accented covers of The Pogues.

I’ve had a few other really memorable trips — hiking most of the national parks in Utah with my dad as a kid, touring England as a high school graduation gift with my aunt and uncle, getting into trouble on our annual family vacations to New Jersey with my cousins, wine tasting our way through northern California with my husband (slightly different from my last trip there, for a pirate crust punk festival when I was 19!) — but Dubrovnik takes the prize. So far, at least — I have high hopes for much more traveling to come!

PERSONALITY TYPING? WHY, YES. I’M:

Enneagram Type 1 (The Reformer) with a 2-Wing [Abby’s Note: This combo is called The Advocate]. My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ (“The Scientist” or “The Conceptualizer Director”). I have a Cancer sun, Leo moon, and Aquarius rising.

MOST PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW THAT I:

Do most of my work between 2 and 7 AM. I’ve always been a night owl, and this lets me spend my day finger painting and reading books with my daughter.

Was an art major, and had a parental warning put on my senior thesis show.

Was a Sunday School teacher, age 3 and under, for 4 years.

Have been kicked in the head at a punk show, host a mean 10-course dinner, and can sing along with every song in probably a dozen Disney movies.

SECRET FANTASY CAREER/OCCUPATION:

Novelist, though it may not be all that secret! I’m slowly working my way through my YA (let’s go with) Urban Fantasy novel, planned as the first in a series. I just need to get it out of my head and onto the computer.

I’M FAIRLY INSATIABLE WHEN IT COMES TO:

Consuming media — from video games to books, great TV to bad movies, and music in just about every genre. Also, olives. I can not get enough olives. It’s seriously an obsession.

MY BRAND IS ALL ABOUT:

Really spectacular, intuitive, flexible systems. Blending left-brain organization and right-brain creativity to help passionate creatives produce prolifically. Serving as a translator between writers, artists, and planners. [Abby’s Note: I can vouch for all of this SO HARD.]

This year, you’ll be blogging for The Voice Bureau around project management and content creation for creative businesses. What are some of the common pitfalls you’ve seen creative clients encounter when it comes to systems of support? What’s your favorite way to approach starting to fix these?

I think the most common pitfall I’ve seen when it comes to systems of support is flat-out not having any! And, even worse, waiting until you desperately need them before starting to put them in place. It takes time to set up systems that will save you time, and you have to be willing to put in some extra-long hours for a little while to get them into place if you’re already feeling the crunch. My favorite way to start fixing these issues is to keep it simple. You can easily spend a week (or a month!) comparing slick systems and mobile apps, but it’s hard to tell what’s going to work for you until you’re already somewhat organized. Sometimes, a simple spreadsheet is the way to go to get started, and once you see how you’re using it, you can find the perfect system for your needs.

In the comments, we’d love to know:

What aspects of Katie’s experience with magazine editorial, prolific content creation, and organization and project management for creative businesses are YOU most curious about? We’ll note all your questions for future blog posts, products, and programs. Thanks in advance for sharing your curiosity.

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Blue misty sky at Seattle beach with trainI’ve been away from this blog for oh so long — almost 6 months. And also away from my e-letter. I can’t believe it either.

“Didn’t you just blog the other month?” my friend asked today, as we were co-working at Volunteer Park Café on Capitol Hill in Seattle. By that point, I’d just about finished my third 12 oz. paper cup of Stumptown drip and I surely didn’t need more. But the ‘free refills’ carafe was calling.

“That was October,” I said. “And that was just to say, hey, I know I haven’t blogged in a while.” Time goes quickly.

I am now so caffeinated, I may not sleep for two days (sike — I will) and I’ve avoided writing this post long enough. Bacon/fontina/chive quiche and brown butter brownie chaser consumed. Washroom used and items on upcycled farm implement shelf in bathroom admired — three times. The bright noon light blew up the window I sat facing and continued its course to the west, while the Michael Jackson-and-Prince soundtrack the café had been spinning all morning segued into The xx, Courtney Barnett (possibly my new musical fixation — notice how the lyrics in this song read like a stream of consciousness freewrite or an overheard coffee shop conversation), The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

It’s time to show back up. Time for re-entry. Time to let ‘er rip.

Lettin’ ‘er rip is something I’ve never been good at.

I am planful. Contemplative. Composed.

I tend to overthink. Overwrite. Overwork.

But then sometimes, there’s an opening in the cloud cover and I see the shaft of light and it’s just time to go. Then I pretty much throw caution to the wind, intuitively lunge toward whatever is up next.

During all this time away from the public-facing side of my business, I’ve been actively in engaged in change and exploration.

New house. My partner and I left our 1930 Craftsman-wannabe bungalow (I say that with endearment) in Walla Walla, a dusty gem of a small town east of the Cascades, and moved five hours west. I can breathe again. My skin likes this place. So do my words.

New city, the Emerald City. If I believed in past lives, I would believe that I had had at least one really good one here. Everything about this place feels like it’s made of the same DNA I am.

New hair. I traded my long, romantic curls for a long, curly pixie, not quite like this but this was the inspiration. What. I know. Still getting used to even how much less time my always low maintenance hair now takes me. Jury’s still out on whether I’m staying short or growing it back.

New friendships. Women whose work I’ve watched from afar these past few years, but am now having the chance to get to know in a deeper way. I feel lucky. I feel especially lucky for old friendships, too.

New way of eating that makes me feels glorious, when I do it.

New relationship with my fiction writing, the secret work that walks me through days and nights, whispering lines of dialogue in my ear, turns of phrase, character details.

Over the past several months, I’ve taken courses (and am signed up to take more) at Hugo House, the hub of Seattle’s literary arts scene. I’ve rejoined a couple-times-a-week practice of writing, just seeing what is there, following the drift. I’ve been working through this amazing ecosystem for fiction writers* on a weekly basis. I’ve been slowly building a story to submit to this contest*.

I sent out a few job applications for positions that had amazing benefits, thinking, what if a business isn’t actually what I wantWhat if, after nine years of creative self-employment, I’m done here? (Response from myself and the Universe: NOT EVEN.)

I’ve hiked in new terrain, I’ve smelled the forest floor, I’ve drunk in the salty air at the edge of the Puget Sound from five different beaches. I’ve recouped a sore hip and a wonky knee (old ballet injuries) with proper alignment, with the help of this friend and this yoga channel.

I’ve seen my sweet baby-with-an-old-soul Cooper (our oldest dog, who is just six) through a health scare. He is so good.

I’ve taken a bath almost every single day or night since we moved.

I saw these guys perform their Pin Drop (acoustic) tour at Benaroya Hall.

I’ve cooked and baked. I’ve eaten and drank.

I was lucky enough to write this feature column for Laura Simms’ Create As Folk for several months. And then my lovely successor turned around and profiled me and my brand! (I have to say, it’s one of the best write-ups I’ve ever seen on what The Voice Bureau does and how we do it.)

I gave this interview to the unstoppable Miki Strong about branding with your Voice Values — my signature methodology — and even my mom says it’s the best audio interview I’ve ever given. (I had to put that in there.)

I talked with my sister-in-ink Elisa Doucette about making my life as a writer who writes for love and for pay over here at Writers’ Rough Drafts.

Andrea Lewicki has interviewed me twice this year as one of her Creativity Case Studies. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 (and my short list of favorite inspiring books for writers at the end).

Sarah Selecky, one of my fiction mentors-from-afar, featured me in a series called The Business Of Writing. Here’s our Q&A, in which I talk about my definition of marketing, whether writerly types should study business, and the themes that come up in my own stories.

I’ve made an important internal promotion in my biz (soon to be announced on the blog) and hired an awesome new team member (also soon to be introduced). I’ve grown our coterie of copywriters, bringing on some truly amazing talent.

I’ve continued to support exciting copywriting projects big and small behind the scenes, connecting daily with my Project Manager and our clients and clients-to-be, providing creative direction and brand voice development support. I’ve been a little astonished how even going quiet for six months hasn’t dried up our referral well. I am so grateful.

I’ve started a half dozen or more blog posts and never hit publish. I’ve outlined a few new offers and then abandoned the outlines partway through. I’ve collected new ideas and concepts in Docs and Asana and in the Notes function of my iPhone.

I’ve trusted the composting process, hopeful that recycling my raw organic materials will create a rich soil for something.

Here’s what I’ve learned: creative chaos often precedes a remarkable regroup.

And the only way back in, after shutting yourself out or off or keeping yourself away, is through.

It’ll never be as neat and tidy as I want. I don’t like rough and raucous. But that’s what life is sometimes. That’s where the heat is. The friction of present moment brushing up against coming to be.

The hardest thing to do, when you love your work, is to keep yourself away from it.

Have you ever found yourself doing that?

I struggle so much with self-disclosing on the internet. I love privacy — anonymity, even. It’s part of the reason I went to undergrad at a place with 57,000 students on campus. I wanted to be anyone I wanted to be every time I walked outside my door. A shape-shifter.

The idea of evolving within my brand and showing that evolution as it’s happening has always seemed anathema to me. You wait until you’ve got it all figured out. You wait until the message is clear.

I still believe that. But I also believe that sometimes you just can’t wait. And progress doesn’t equal perfection.

It’s never perfect. But somehow, it’s always ready. Always there.

Gosh, I’m back.

It feels good to feel my voice here again. 

There’s new stuff on the way. Old stuff being reprised.

There’s a brand regroup on the rising.

And it’s coming soon.

If you’re ready to start listening to yourself again, and to dip back into the innateness that’s always been driving your brand from the beginning, please stick around. Sometimes back to center is the way forward.

*affiliate link

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I guess I’ve become an unintentional expert on the theme of rebounding after an intentional brand hiatus. A dormancy. A fallow period.

RainyMugWhy? Because I’ve taken so many unintentional hiatuses (see: Fall 2011) since starting The Voice Bureau, and my freelance copywriting biz before that, almost five years ago.

Here’s where I’m at today: I haven’t blogged or sent an e-letter to my list of remarkable business owners since my last course started. If you’re a subscriber, you might’ve noticed that. I’ve also been a little quieter than usual on Twitter and Facebook.

Behind the scenes: I’ve been delivering my latest course and supporting our clients’ copywriting projects. I’ve been taking a couple of enrichment courses, one from the wonderful Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder, and the other from former Voice Bureau collaborative partner Tami Dawn Smith (newly of The Dawning Point). I’ve also been doing one of these terrific little yoga videos every day, falling asleep to this every night, and enjoying exploring Seattle and environs (our new mossy, rainy digs) with my partner and our dogs.

Oh, and also behind the scenes: I’ve been fretting, freaking out, soul-searching, all but scratching-and-clawing to figure out what the heck I want to do with my business in 2015.

I share this today, a very self-focused post, because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with it. It helps to hear what others are going through. Overworking, creative addiction, message obsession, perfectionism — these are struggles I talk with peers, colleagues, and clients about in the backchannels, but we rarely bring them to light.

Here’s the thing: I’ve got a solid business. I’ve got a beautiful website (thanks, Allie). I’ve got a crackerjack team that most likely will be expanding next year. Most of the systems and structures I need for running sustainably are in place. Sales have been better in 2014 than they’ve ever been (with two months yet to go). (Note: I wrote this paragraph to remind myself, not to inform you.)

And yet, I can’t help feeling like something is ‘off,’ and obsessing over how to set it aright.

What I’ve noticed about myself is that I have a torturously beautiful struggle with structure and flow.

I know that one can — and should — support the other.

Create structure so that you can feel free to flow. Flow toward a flexible structure that makes sense from the inside out.

I adore both the hardness, the fixedness, the container that is structure. The hard stuff.

I also adore the visceral, the ephemeral, the abstract, the instinctual and intuitive. The soft stuff.

I built a business that could contain both energies and named it in kind: The Voice (soft) Bureau (hard).

But what I’ve noticed is that I like to build elaborate, fully-realized structures and frameworks, and then implode them with my own questions and wonderings and creative, water-y wanderings. Such as, should I shut it all down and go get an MFA in Fiction and supplement the school loan I will take out with a mindless day job, one that doesn’t require the best of me creatively? Or, how about this one: Is working B2B (supporting other business owners) actually helping anyone, or is it just perpetuating the self-aggrandizing myth of sustainable solo-entrepreneurship? Because let’s not forget it is HARD to be in business for ourselves.

The good news is, after a couple months of really freakin’ hard soul pummeling (inner critic-driven, not intentional), I have come back around to what feels like center. I believe it is center. It is as center as it’s going to get right now.

And I’m ready to renew all the things that need renewed — but not heroically. Just humanely. I’m ready to see if I can take this business journey a little more gently. I’ve got the support I need. I’ve got wonderful clients, course participants, and readers that I really love to serve. The ‘how’ I serve is going to be changing a bit, and all that will unfold in time. I’ve got plans — in a Moleskine, in a Google Doc, in an art paper tablet with colored markers (SO not me, and SO freeing and interesting).

I got inspired today and made this little video.

It’s my way of touching base (can we call it a ‘touch base’?) and saying, Hey, there. I’m still here. I’ve been quiet. And I’m coming back. If you’ve ever let your business brand sit dormant for a while, you can start back up with a ‘touch base’ — a simple gesture to reconnect with your Right People and let them know you’re still here, just going through some stuff or changing some things.

Thanks for watching.

In the comments, I’d love to know:

Do you struggle with going dormant in your business brand? When you have or when you do, what’s usually going on behind the scenes?

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Since I teach a course teaching you how to write a better sales page, I’d thought I’d model some transparency and give you the inside track on what I think about when I write my own sales pages.

I love teaching via screencast and it’s something I do as a part of nearly all of The Voice Bureau‘s courses. And yet, this’ll be the first time I’ve ever made one for the blog! Enjoy, and after watching, be sure to let me know what questions you have in the comments.

  • The most important consideration is that this page is exactly optimized for my Right Person buyer. If you want to find out more about who my brand is speaking to you, please visit my Is This You page.
  • I like my sales pages to have full-width columns (wherein the copy spans the entire available content area), with no sidebar.
  • Use a balance of headlines, sub-headlines, bold text, italicized text, and regular paragraph text all throughout page — to give variety. Ample, appropriate use of white space breaks up the page for the eye. Choose a couple of different text styles that you consistently use throughout the page (but don’t let it be a carnival!).
  • Choose a couple of fonts that are already at play in your brand or that complement your brand’s font family.
  • Choose a couple of colors; these can be your brand’s signature colors (as I have on my sales page) or colors that are complementary to your brand’s signature palette that give the offer a palette of its own. If doing the latter, you would then carry these colors throughout all images and graphics associated with the course.
  • Every great sales page has a balance of (1) your personal story, (2) description of where the Right Person potential buyer is at, and (3) treats the page as a resource or a teaching tool, to raise buyer awareness and provide client education. These three aims dance and waltz together throughout the page.
  • Photos should help to set the mood and create the ‘world’ of this offer for site visitors — they should tie in to themes of the offer, feelings conjured, etc.
  • More than just being section headers, headlines should be written to pull reader through the page (psychologically, emotionally) and signal transitions to another idea or pathway of consideration.
  • Length: as long as it needs to be, and for most business owners I encounter, LONGER than you think. Studies show that long form sales pages convert better than short form ones, when everything else is equal: quality of copy, use of images, strength of the offer, price being right, etc.

Learn more about the course Writing the Conversational Sales Page.

UPDATE as of October 30th, 2014: The course is currently closed while I retool between sessions. Subscribe to the site for updates on when it’ll be re-released.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What’s your favorite new sales page-writing awareness from this video? What landed as a fresh insight or a-ha for you?

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