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I have a dear friend who recently learned she & her family will have to pull up stakes, leave their house forever, & find a new place to live.

Their living situation is quite unique and so are the terms under which they’ve been privileged to live in the house. I won’t go into those. The important part of this story is that my friend is a capital ‘h’ Homemaker. I know no one more gifted than she at turning a house of any kind into pretty much the most imaginative, orderly, delightful, joyful, interesting, warm, and welcoming home you’ve ever visited. And you feel this way even as a guest. The feeling she creates is palpable, energetic, and yet relaxing. I’m sad that I won’t get to be a guest under her roof one more time before they have to move. But I have amazing memories of spending time with her there. I’ll never forget the way it felt to be there, the way it smelled, the way it looked while it was hers.

But I know that wherever my friend and her family land, she’s going to make the new place into the Best Place Ever. Different from the first place, but amazing in its own right. She has everything she needs to do just that. It all comes from within her, as the best stuff always does.

Branding is like that, too. The best stuff comes from within. It’s the stuff that’s inherent, that comes naturally, that makes us look like magic. Our Right People are drawn to the innate qualities with which we can’t help but present and connect, when we’re taking a strong stance in a realm we’re defining for ourselves.

To me, branding is so much more than choosing a color palette, curating a font family, & selecting a tagline.


Here’s what branding-as-creating-a-world feels like to me, as a brand voice specialist and content creation expert:

I love the imaginative work of feeling for the essential energies of what’s trying to come through in a written piece, in a visual mock-up (I draw these by hand, badly, in a spiral-bound college-ruled notebook, turning the paper to landscape and ignoring the lines), in the positioning of a product.

I loll around in the backstream, the undercurrent, of the thing that’s coming to be, and I see if I can feel the different nuances of it flow through my fingers, one at at time.

I dig the deep intuitively-driven process of sensing into the next forward lunge (or the 45-degree pivot or the hairpin turn) a brand needs to make to get closer to the next desired result.

I feel into the future of the brands I work with, and I articulate what that future looks like, or could like.

People change and so do our businesses. I myself am on my third or maybe third-and-a-half iteration of my work in the world, that is, the creative work that gets me paid. (It’s important to note that I also am pursuing a relationship with creativity that is NOT imminently for pay and I hope you are, too. If this feels like a convo you need to have, go here for more.)

Changing your business is a bit like moving houses. You were all situated, and suddenly, here you are pole-vaulting off the head of a thumbtack into a part of the map you never thought you’d visit. You’re straddling new coordinates and hoping your leg muscles and core can keep you balanced. You’re using the same ingredients but combining them in new bowls with strange new utensils and spices you’ve never tasted before.

How will things turn out? Will others like what you’re creating?

Never fear. Your innate, inherent brand energy is a through-thread that connects these new and ever-changing pursuits of yours.

You can leave the house of your business ten times in a decade but you always keep returning to creating a world.

And the worlds you create have one thing in common that is completely inextricable from them: the essence of you.

This is why I’m so drawn to American writer Ann Patchett’s quote about creating a universe. [See post image above.] While Patchett’s addressing her modality of writing fiction, I take this quote for myself into the realm of branding.

In designing and developing a brand and all its components, we create an order for the universe: that universe. In writing and sharing beautiful content that connects with our Right People’s needs, desires, and interests (and, of course, ours), we set that universe in motion.

I have left the house of my business many times through the years — mentally, emotionally, evne physically to an extent. I’m a person, just like you. I flag, I falter, I flail. Sometimes I have even wanted to say, eff it.

But I keep coming back.

What brings me back is creating a world. (It just so happens that this is my business’s value proposition, too: Make a world of your brand. Start with your voice.)

Make of your brand a world that other people can participate in if they wish to.

Looking for support with this? Check out THE VOICERY, our new, deep, personalized service combining brand voice with content strategy. I’ve co-created and co-deliver this alongside Katie Mehas, Doyenne of Operations at The Voice Bureau and content creation extraordinaire.

This is why I’m so drawn to Anthropologie, to anything Sarah Selecky teaches, to the dark and velvety worlds of Sarah Waters’ books, to my high school friend Tom’s debut novel, to the podcast Working, to Tatine Candles, and to certain dark and stormy Netflix series (like The Killing) — because they create a world and invite me in to it.

It’s why I love to read short stories and novels because every time I want to, I can just turn the page and step into another fully-feathered world. There something’s irrefutably magic about connecting with another perspective, seeing the world through other people’s eyes, hearing dialogue and dialect we may never hear in our day to day life yet somehow we feel like we’ve heard it one million times underneath your skin. Because it’s authentic and innate to those characters in that milieu. Just as your brand voice is authentic and innate to you.

Imagine what YOUR brand can be to your Right People. Are you creating a universe and setting it in motion?

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

Talk about the world you’re creating through your brand. Describe it for us and tell us how you’re setting it in motion through content.


What’s the connection between your brand voice & your ideal client? It’s pretty major & you’ve been probably been overlooking it.

Right People RulesHere’s what you already have figured out:

Certain people are drawn to you.

You are drawn to certain people.

As it is in your personal life/friendships/romances, so it is in your client roster and subscriber list.

Here’s what you haven’t yet parsed: the particular alchemy of those seemingly-destined connections. The recipe for that subtle mysterious magic. You’re highly self-aware, but you know you haven’t yet put your finger on all of the insights that will make the client connection thing make sense.

Divining and describing the patterns (and the outliers) that can be found in connection with our Right People is one of my very favorite things to do in my work at The Voice Bureau.  I call it Right People Profiling.

Back in seventh grade, I wrote an innocent, ‘wanted ads’-style matchmaking column for the Valentine’s Day issue of the student newspaper. (What was the paper even called? The Lehman Ledger, maybe?) Anyhow, I wrote about how Kelley W. was obsessed with Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block and was looking for a “fine, sensitive guy” who resembled him, and how Marcus L. was in search of a special “fly lady” who was looking for appreciation from “a true gentleman.” Keep in mind, I was not quite 13 at the time and the oldest classmate I was writing about was 15.

While I’ve long had an eye for chemistry, I never thought this skill would show up in my work. (Nope, being a professional matchmaker — a less brash Patti Stanger — was never on my radar.)

But being obsessed with the particularities of what makes two humans magnetize each other . . . and then describing the texture of what that is and why it’s works . . . that’s my sweet spot.

At The Voice Bureau, describing the chemistry between you and your ideal client is at the heart of our work.

It shows up in our copywriting projects with clients, in our evergreen courses, and in our signature Voice Values methodology. Truly, your Right People Rules are all encoded in your brand voice.

The 16 Voice Values help brand creators understand what their innate brand voice sounds like (and looks like) in action, and understand why certain people are drawn to that voice and why others are ambivalent or repelled.

Haven’t taken it yet? 48 questions, about 10 minutes of your time, and you’ll self-score your way to clarity on what’s naturally powerful about the way you tweet, Facebook, write blog posts, and email your list.

You’ll also learn a bit about why certain people are drawn to you and what you should watch out for as you grow your brand.

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


I created this paradigm for branding to help brand creators and business owners — especially small, creatively-oriented brands (writers, authors, web and graphic designers, artists and illustrators, singers, dancers, and performers), helping-focused brands (healers, teachers, trainers, coaches, consultants, wellness practitioners), or aesthetically-inclined brands (fashion designers, floral designers, food stylists, interior designers, product designers) — own how they naturally and powerfully communicate when they’re at their best, standing in their strengths. So they can do more of it, consciously and intentionally.

The Voice Values give name & substance to what is already there.

But your top mix of Voice Values don’t stop at describing what you are and how you do it. Your top mix of Voice Values also tells you a LOT about the reader, client, customer, or buyer who is going to be drawn to you, when you’re owning what’s uniquely potent about you in your brand. When you’re owning your voice.

After all, when we speak/write/teach, we don’t do so in a vacuum. We are part of a conversation. Yes, even before we’ve grown our readership to a certain size of audience.

Our voices matter. Because voices inherently do.

If you believe this, too, you’re in the right place.

So what is the connection between your Voice Values and the people who will be innately motivated to learn from you, buy from you, do business with you, read you?

I have some conclusions and some insights to share, and I’m putting them together into The Voice Bureau’s first fully digital, downloadable product. It’s called Right People Rules: Define Your Brand Voice & Your Ideal Client. It’s a digital inquiry kit, which means it goes beyond basic e-book-ness and takes you into self-assessment, self-reflection, and immediate applications of what you learn.

I’m taking what I know to be a big, complex subject and distilling it down to the pith. Well, the pith plus. You know I have a high Depth value.

Noteworthy: Right People Rules is the first of several fully digital, highly affordable products we’ll be releasing . . . and we’re pricing it to SELL. We want to get this into the hands of as many of our potential clients and longtime readers as possible. This work is designed for accessibility. While it’s currently one of our lowest-priced products EVER, it packs so much value. 

Remember what you already know:

Certain people are drawn to you.

You are drawn to certain people.

The why behind that magic isn’t always as easily discernible in our client rosters and subscribers lists as it is in our personal lives/friendships/romances.

If you’d love for ideal client understanding to become a much richer discovery process than it’s been until now, or if you’re turning a corner in your business and need to bring your brand and your audience along with it, Right People Rules is for you in mind.

$95 Pre-Sale happening now, until Tuesday, September 1st when the price goes up to $125.


“Whoa,” I wrote to my friends inside a private Facebook group.

“Back from hiatus and TOTALLY BLOCKED when it comes to blogging. WTF to write about?”

Photo of a cafe patio“Your hiatus, natch,” replied Angela.

I got up from my computer and left the room, huffing. Nobody wants to read about the same old things, I thought. I don’t want to add another “I Took a Social Media Hiatus & Here’s What I Learned” post to the internet pile. After all, I’d already written that post here.

The truth is, I took my (short lived) social media hiatus last week because blah-blah-blah-struggling-with-comparison-yadda-yadda-yadda-clearing-mental-space-blah-blah-blah-entering-a-season-of-heightened-creative-production. All true. All great reasons to go off of social media for an undetermined length of time. But blog post-worthy? Mmmmm. Maybe not. Maybe I’m not the only person who’s tired of my SAME OLD THEMES.

And then lightning struck.

(Thank you, Angela.)

THE SAME OLD THEMES. We’ve all got them.

You know them when you see them. The latest post from your favorite blogger lands in your inbox and before you’ve even read through the first paragraph, you know where this is going.

Be a rebel. Call bull*it on what irks you. F*ck the status quo. [High Audacity value talking.]

Become real. Let the true you shine through. Show up as you. [High Transparency value talking.]

Overcome obstacles. Push through. Champion yourself. [High Power value talking.]

Now, granted, these sentiments don’t have to be rendered in cliches for them to feel familiar. (In fact, they shouldn’t be.)

“Voice is the embodiment in language of the contents of your unconscious.” — Robert Olen Butler

We use language unconsciously, we reach for metaphors unthinkingly, and the ones we choose reflect what we believe to be important about the world. (This is why my Voice Values paradigm for branding and copywriting is mapped not only to personality types but to the Enneagram, to astrology, and to buyer types. And, to your personal choice about how to steer your brand in any given moment.)

As writer Pamela Druckerman puts it, “More about you is universal than not universal. My unscientific assessment is that we are 95 percent cohort, 5 percent unique. Knowing this is a bit of a disappointment, and a bit of a relief.”

Those same old themes you’re tired of hearing yourself wax on about are the very themes your Right People yearn to hear from you.

When I want to feel wrapped in beauty and in touch with what’s realest about myself and my point of view and creatively stimulated, I look to Susannah Conway.

When I want to feel challenged and (righteously) disillusioned and cheered on in getting back to the basics in a creative process, I read Paul Jarvis.

When I want to feel resourceful and delighted and visually gratified, I read Design Sponge.

When I’m craving depth and intellectual rigor and cultural analysis, I look to Justine Musk.

Your same old themes are wanted, anticipated, and hugely helpful to your Right People. And there are a million ways you can repackage and repurpose your best-beloved ideas to fit new modes.

So this is in favor of revisiting your same old themes, as often as you need to. Your people don’t get tired of them — they depend on them.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What are YOUR same old themes? What topics and issues do you keep returning to again and again?


I meet a lot of new clients with this dilemma: which comes first, the design of my new website, new copy for my site, or “branding” (whatever that is).

Design_Copywriting_BrandingIt’s the classic chicken-or-the-egg debate: which comes first? What’s the best strategic place to start? And if you start with the “wrong” element first, will it mess up everything else?

I love it when people ask these questions with an open mind. Because, truly, there is a best place to start.

Assuming you’re working with experienced creative professionals who understand content strategy, truly want your project to succeed, and don’t have too much ego on the line (because your creative project is not a p*ssing match to see which creative has the best idea), there is a best flow for bringing a business brand online.

First, understand the business you’re in (or want to be in).

Who are your customers/clients, what value are you offering to them, and how do you deliver that value? Get clear on your Brand Proposition (also called a Value Proposition) and your Unique Selling Position (USP). And yes — no matter what you do and who you are, you do have competitors (other alternatives in the market your customers could choose instead of you). Have a premise of what makes you different from your competitors.

Contrary to what commonly happens when solopreneurs and microbusinesses approach creative service professionals, it’s NOT the job of your copywriter, your web designer, or even your branding specialist to help you figure out what your business is really about. It’s your job, as the business owner, to be clear about your business before you approach. As creatives, we take our clues from you, the client. If you give us insufficient or off the mark input, what we create for you won’t serve your goals (or help you make money) six months or a year from now, and then you’ll want to (and need to) reinvest in “branding” all over again, from scratch.

Second, have an idea of what your Right Person — your Most Likely to Buy client — would respond to in a brand.

Your brand is not all about you — even if you’re a “personality brand.” Your visual brand identity, and the way you message your brand conversation, has to appeal to your Ideal Client.

I’ll use an extreme example to illustrate this.

Say you’re a well-to-do 47 year-old man living in Bali who prefers minimalist design, likes to garden, and is particularly partial to the colors walnut and green. You self-identify as a Thinker. Your Top 3-5 Voice Values are Depth, Intimacy, and Accuracy. But you’re in the organic, sustainable baby clothing business and your Ideal Client is a young American mom with limited disposable income who self-identifies as a Healer. So who do you design the brand for? Yourself, or your very-different-from-you Ideal Client? (Note: the answer is NOT always to change your business so you’re serving people just like yourself, as discussed toward the end of and in the comments on this post.)

Third, put your branding insights down on paper. And/or hire a branding specialist.

You don’t have to be “right” about your first instincts about your brand. You do have to have some ideas, and get them out of your head and into some sort of order before you approach a creative professional. Then be prepared to have them re-explored, finessed, and re-worked in service of your business goals and brand objectives.

Put your Brand Proposition, your USP, what you know about your Right Person, and your hunches as to color palette and other design ideas into an outline or a summary you can give to a copywriter for guidance and inspiration, or use your outline or summary to complete the intake questionnaire your copywriter gives you.

If you’re really stuck on this part, this is the time to work with a branding specialist. (In case you’re curious about The Voice Bureau, this is the type of person we work with best.)

Make sure you vet your specialist. What credentials or (more importantly) experience does this person have that earns him that title? What other projects has he worked on? Do you like the looks of the sites she’s worked on?

A branding specialist will help you get clear on what your brand is about, who it’s for, and why it will be meaningful to them. Most likely, you’ll walk away from your work with a branding specialist with some kind of Creative Brief, PDF, or other written document that can guide your decision-making about copy and visual brand identity.

Fourth, find and hire the right copywriter.

Don’t just hire the first copywriter you follow on Twitter. Take your time to get some referrals from people you know (whose judgment you trust), to follow up with clients featured on the copywriters’ praise page, to read those copywriters’ sales pages and get a feel for their process and rates (if published), and to check out their portfolios or samples. It may sound obvious, but if you don’t like the writer’s writing style on their own blog, sales page, or in their samples, chances are you won’t like what they write for you. Yes, a good copywriter will write your content in a way that will appeal to your audience, not necessarily hers, but if you doubt the talent or the chops of the writer at first blush, that’s a red flag.

Many microbusiness owners choose to write their own copy. That’s a great choice for some people. Others will choose to work with a copywriter to make the process feel surer, smoother, and easier — and of course, so they can take advantage of the copywriters’ experience with helping many other business owners launch their brand online.

Here’s how to know if you’re ready to hire a copywriter to write your website or other marketing collateral:

  • the thought of writing your own web copy makes you gag, cry, or fall asleep;
  • you really struggle with putting your thoughts into words on the page;
  • you have lots of ideas but struggle with organizing them;
  • you’re willing to invest time, energy, and thought into the intake and revision process, but are willing to take your hands off the actual writing and let the copywriter do her thing;
  • you have the money to hire one (figure that experienced professional copywriters charge at least $250 for a single page of copy, and up to $1000 or more for specialty pages such as sales pages).

As stated before, the copywriter’s job is to organize, structure, and express the ideas your website needs to convey. His job is not to help you figure out what your business really does or who you really serve. The copywriter can only work with the clarity you give her. If you don’t have clarity, neither will she. Copy written without adequate clarity results in low conversion (i.e. people won’t buy what you’re selling, no matter how great the sales page ‘sounds’).

The copywriter will do her own intake based on her internal process. Usually this will take the form of a questionnaire or an interview. It’s helpful to give her the Creative Brief or outline of branding points you already have, but be prepared for her to ask you a few questions you may not have thought of already.

Now, you’ve heard the saying form follows function? This is entirely true with a business website. The web designer generally follows the lead of the branding specialist and/or the copywriter in creating a visual design that will support what the content needs to do to help your offers convert.

Most Voice Bureau clients are in the process of bringing a new brand online, or reiterating an existing brand. We suggest that once the copywriting project is underway, the client then begins to approach web designers, or lets us matchmake her with one we know, like, and trust.

Fifth, find and hire the right web designer.

In this day and age, there’s no need to go to a web designer and a web developer separately. Web designers should also develop (i.e. build and code) your site, or should seamlessly outsource the development so that you’re none the wiser.

As with vetting copywriters (see above), vet your web designer. When you contact her, tell her you’ve already worked with a branding specialist or are currently working with a copywriter and you do have a content plan for the site to share. (Content plan = what pages make up the site, which pages appear in the main navigation menu as opposed to being linked to from other pages, and what’s the most important thing for the site visitor to do on each page.)

The web designer’s job is to create a visually pleasing, user-friendly virtual home for your content to live. She has the ability to see what layout(s) would best support your content and your buyer’s journey through your site. She’s essentially a problem-solver. If you hire a great web designer, you can trust her to see things you can’t see about the way your site needs to look and function.

Her equally important job is to make your brand memorable through telling your brand story visually.

So the best process flow for bringing a business brand online is: 1st —  branding, 2nd — copywriting, and 3rd — web design.

If you put design before branding and copywriting, you run the risk of building a visual design that doesn’t support your business goals and brand objectives, doesn’t appeal to your Right Person, and isn’t the right ‘house’ to support the goals of your content.

If you put copywriting before branding and design, you leave the most important elements of your business in the hands of a copywriter, who may or may not have the business development skill set to support you in designing a brand conversation that works.

If you put ‘branding’ last, you run the risk of building your entire business on an unstable foundation — one that’ll cost a pretty penny to redo a year down the road after your first ‘brand’ isn’t connecting or converting. (I put ‘brand/ing’ in quotes here, because every time I’m approached by a prospect needing help with ‘branding’ immediately following the launch of a new website, I know that somewhere along the line there’s been a profound misunderstanding of what branding is and where it comes into the picture.)

At The Voice Bureau, we offer all three services under one astute roof — so you can relax and let the process unfold all around you.

No need for a siloed approach, where you as the client have to toggle between different creative pros, making sure all the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed. That’s our job.

Need help with a project of your own? Learn more about how we work.

In the comments, would you share with us:

Your experiences with the chicken-or-the-egg debate when it comes to branding, copywriting, and web design. Did you start with the wrong piece and end up with a jumbled mess? (Trust me: most of us have been there!) How did you find your way back to brand clarity?

(Image credit.)


I gasped when I saw the title of a certain blog post flit through my Tweetstream that morning.

“Bag your boundaries,” says the super successful business owner.

WHY? was my first thought. Designing and keeping clear boundaries is one of the things that’s helped and is helping me grow, professionally and personally.

A photo of a busy city street at sunrise, full of traffic, with the words "Do you actually need boundaries in your creative business?"

Boundaries in creative business: what are they good for?

Boundaries help me sleep better at night (no reading email in bed, no responding to important client emails from my iPhone, no work on the weekends unless it’s my idea). They make client relationships run more smoothly. They enable good projects to get done more efficiently. And I’ve noticed that when my peers, colleagues, and clients step up to enforce their own thoughtful boundaries — business gets better, blood pressure goes down, and those Wrong-Fitting clients show themselves the door.

You can read the super successful business owner’s take on boundaries here.

Here’s my thoughtful alternate take on why boundaries are so important for values-based microbusiness owners:

She writes:

“You know what’s a major turn on for potential clients and collaborators? This: ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to makes this awesome.’ Hellohhh, beautiful.”

Well, now.

As someone who works every day on creative projects with small business owners, both 1:1 and as the leader of a team, I appreciate the spirit behind this perspective. It’s gorgeously open, enthusiastic, and in the big picture, it seems ‘right.’ However, I think it’s irresponsible advice, especially in light of an audience comprised of many newly minted coaches, creatives, and solo business owners. Let me tell you why.

I completely agree that as service providers, it’s necessary to do our best work.

We owe our openness to the creative process to our clients. Even if, occasionally, that somehow takes us past the promised number of revisions, or if we go 15 minutes over the hour on an intake call. I would rather deliver my best work and feel inspired doing so than stick to my contract to the letter but deliver work that I don’t believe is my best effort, and that I doubt has an optimal likelihood of satisfying the client’s business goals and brand objectives.

But, I think newbie practitioners and those who have a hard time with boundaries anyway will take this business owner’s post as a license to consistently overdeliver (to the detriment of their business and their craft) and a credo to bend over backwards, because “DLP says it’s good business.”

As creatives, most of us have had clients who would have gladly run us ragged requesting endless re-works and revisions if we’d let them. Not because the work we deliver isn’t good or great, but because the clients are not actually ready for the process we deliver. Thus, they feel perpetually dissatisfied, confused, and unclear as to what they want.

As Creative Director of a boutique copywriting, branding, and marketing agency, it’s important to me as I build out systems and processes for The Voice Bureau that we don’t sacrifice the human touch in favor of a more scalable and sustainable business. There’s a balance between boundaries that work to support client relationships, and boundaries that simply keep everyone from feeling seen, heard, and satisfied.

In the comments, I really want to know:

What are your thoughts and experiences around boundaries in your creative business life? Good? Bad? Do yours need tightening up or loosening up?

***Please know — I do NOT see this conversation as about the writer of the original blog post, so please keep that in mind as you craft your response. This is about a topic that is VERY important to business owners and I welcome all points of view.

(Photo credit.)