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This weekend, I got real with strangers.

Bunny Standing in the SunI was lucky enough to attend a Brené Brown Daring Way Intensive. There were four of us participants, four women including myself, plus one man. We sat around an oval-shaped wooden table, at one end of which sat our facilitator, a rosy-cheeked therapist with a kind and motherly affect.

If you know anything about Brené Brown’s groundbreaking work around shame, vulnerability, empathy, and authenticity, you already know what I was in for. I was looking for a breakthrough in a specific area of my life. And I got it, or definitely started anew with a fresh perspective on myself.

As I went through the weekend, I found myself so inspired by some of the concepts that I kept scribbling things on blue post-its and sticking them inside my Daring Way binder. One of the ideas I came up with was this: I need to explain to you why Authenticity is NOT a Voice Value.

I’ve got 16 Voice Values but authenticity ain’t one. And here’s why.

Authenticity is assumed. It’s rightful. It’s omnipresent.

You may not always be feeling as authentic as you’d like to feel as you tweet or respond to a client email or write a blog post, but there’s an authentic part of you showing up in every area of your brand, from your web copy to your color palette.

Here’s some inside scoop on how I built my Voice Values methodology: part of the process involved listing out ALL of the qualities of ‘voice’ I could possibly detect, discern, and describe, and then crystallizing several related qualities into ONE emblematic word, like ‘Accuracy,’ or ‘Depth’ or ‘Excellence,’ or ‘Love’ (just 4 of the 16 there).

In my head, it sounded a little bit like this: “Well, there are some brands that lead with passion. They are all lit up-like. They feel spirited and joyful, even if they’re elegant and sophisticated rather than childlike or funny. So how would I describe that quality? Ah, Enthusiasm!”

But when it came to being real, to showing up, to being willing to be seen, I just couldn’t reduce that practice to one word.

Neither could I propose that some brands get to be more authentic than others. Because in my Discover Your Voice Values assessment, you come out with a ‘Top Mix’ of Voice Values — 3 to 5 that you naturally reach for and rely on more than the others. Who was I to suggest that someone’s “low” Authenticity value meant that they weren’t being as authentic as another? Nope. Couldn’t do it, wouldn’t do it.

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.

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Every brand has the same opportunity to be authentic. And authenticity looks different on each of us.

Authenticity is a personal art, a practice, a permission slip you give yourself. And we are ALL on that journey.

If you could stand to step into a little more authenticity in your own brand, why not start with one of the most important pages on your site — your About page? The About page (usually the highest trafficked page on any solopreneur’s website) is where an authentic connection between your Right People potential clients and customers is forged, or forfeited. Let’s go for forged, you and me.

Don’t think that I’m teaching this course because I’ve got authenticity in my brand down.

My own authentic expression is a work in progress, too, and my Voice Values are only a part of what’s helping me get there.

Over 4 weeks in June and July, I’ll be modeling and demonstrating my own About page-re-writing process inside Write Your Authentic About Page. If you could use some solid, strategic teaching around the art of the About page, some quality support, and tons of real world examples to inspire you, please check out the course. It all starts Monday, June 15th.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What are you already doing on your About page that feels authentic to you and your brand?

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This is an installment of The Voice Bureau’s blog post series on Writing Your Smart, Empathetic Website. This series is written with active and aspiring brand creators in mind — those of you who know that your website should be your business’s hardest working “salesperson” — and want to make that more of a reality. Click here to visit the intro to this series, and to find links to all the other installments.

I’ve been writing business websites for over 5 years now — not a lifetime, but I’m no newbie, either — & I can tell you without hesitation which site page is the most angst-inducing for clients.

Write Your Authentic About PageIt’s the About page. (In case you’re curious, the second most angst-inducing site page for clients is the sales page. But that’s another blog post.)

As you sit down to start writing (or rewriting) your About page, this all-important letter to potential clients and customers about who you are and why you do what you do, chances are your feelings run the gamut from mildly flummoxed to rather mortified. For most of us, it can be a bit weird to write a page that will be cached on the web forevermore that’s supposed to be totally (but not totally) personal AND expressive of what makes you wildly hireable or buyable.

How do you distill a professional life’s worth of meaning, achievements, and perspectives into roughly 500 words of compelling clarity and connection?

Each copywriter you could hire will bring a different approach. Each business coach you could work with will tell you that different things are important to highlight.

For the DIY’ers, those of us writing our own website copy, we muddle through, filtering best practices through our own lens on what is important. And we hope our Right People site visitors will agree with us about what’s important!

The variety of viewpoints out there on what makes an effective About page are . . . numerous. This is why we see About pages that read like slightly amputated versions of War and Peace, and About pages that top out at 200 words and actually tell the reader nothing about the brand’s story or the creator behind it.

As you go to write your About page, any one or more of these questions may be tumbling through your mind:

  • What’s supposed to go on an About page, anyway?
  • What do my Right People — my target buyers or clients — really want to hear about me?
  • I’m supposed to have a story. WHAT’S MY STORY?!?
  • How long is too long? How short is too short?
  • How do I not sound narcissistic when I’m waxing on about myself?
  • What should get more emphasis — my professional accomplishments or my personal journey? Is there a golden proportion of personal to professional?
  • Do I really need to talk about my hobbies, my kids, my pets? Will my industry not take me seriously if I mention that I take the Polar Bear Plunge every Winter?

The bottom line is this: you, sensitive, thinking business owner, want to write an authentic About page.

You know that depending on who you are and the work you do, this could look and feel quite different from one page to the next. One size does NOT fit all — though there is a flexible structure you can learn, a philosophy you can embody as you write, and a narrative flow you can tap into.

As you may know if you’ve followed me and The Voice Bureau for a while is that we offer copywriting services to solo and small business owners. But paying a premium for a deluxe copywriting experience is not the right choice for all business owners in our readership — yet MOST of our readership needs web copy.

I want to empower you to write your own site copy when that’s what you want to do, specifically the all-important About page.

That’s why I’m bringing back the second live-running round of Write Your Authentic About Page, our do-it-together, 4-week online course for solo and small business owners. You can learn more about it here.

Even if you don’t take the course, which starts in June 2015 and finishes in July, here’s an acronym for you to consider that could blow open your own approach to writing your authentic About page.

ABOUT PAGE PHILOSOPHY, IN A 5-LETTER ACRONYM

A is for ALIGNED

Your About page should be an apt reflection of who you are, how you show up, and why your work is meaningful to you and your Right People. You don’t need to put on airs or strive to be the next version of yourself, but a true reflection of how you deliver today. Note: Your About page is not the place for false modesty, but neither is it the place to paint yourself as the second coming of Beyonce 3.0.

B is for BALANCED

A well-balanced About page focuses on your business’s point of view, your personality as creator or leader, and your Right People’s interests, and finds a healthy ratio between the three. The three stories are very much related, you see, and your job as writer is to find the best entry point to tell that story.

O is for ORGANIZED

Like any well-constructed piece of writing, a good About page has a dynamic sense of narrative flow. First comes this, then comes that. You take readers on a journey that makes intellectual and emotional sense — whether they’re your Right People or not. And the Right people? They’ll opt-in for even more.

U is for UNIVERSAL

Your About page gives you an opportunity to tap into undeniable truths about human nature that your Right People will connect with. Yes, we’re all special snowflakes, but we’re all shockingly alike, too. Your About page should tell the story of how you’re both alike and different from others — so that people can feel the particularity of your universality. (We all love and recognize a good paradox.)

T is for TALK-WORTHY

The best About pages are memorable, engaging the reader’s attention with specific, concrete details that make them marvel at how you see the world a lot like they do, but a way they might never have thought to say it. Simply. True. (See Universal, above.)

I’d like to declare this the Year of the Authentic About Page. If you’d like some support in getting yours started and finished, please check out the course.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What makes an About page land with you as authentic, versus not particularly authentic? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

(Image credit.)

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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.

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