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This post contains a link to a complimentary 1-hour audio recording — no opt-in required. UPDATE: Here’s the link to the course we launched in response to this post!

I love rules, guidelines, processes, and templates as much as — no, probably more than — the next guy.

Photo by Kevin Gessner courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0At the same time, I’m intensely creative and like having the freedom to do my thing any which way I choose.

And if a process isn’t working well — you better believe I’m gonna drop it in favor of something that allows my strengths to shine and saves my sanity.

If you’re the same way, you’re going to LOVE the next online course out of The Voice Bureau. And if you started your small, values-based business with absolutely no clue as to how you were going to manage the day-to-day processes that keep your business running, you’re going to LOVE this course.

It’s called Branded Business Structures & Systems.

Co-created with my collaborative partner Tami Smith, we’re going to take 40 values-based business owners and teach them how to integrate their solo work behind the scenes using our favorite suite of free or nearly free online tools.

With Tami’s background at Google, developing teaching materials for their Enterprise-level business apps, and my work with solo and small business owners around their holistic brand, we believe this course will deliver a fresh approach to integrating your business’s insides with its outsides. Every brand with a voice and a vision needs to deliver a rich and seamless customer experience — and that’s exactly what Branded Business Structures & Systems will teach you do to.

The new course is launching soon. Meanwhile, we invite you to do TWO things.

(1) LISTEN TO OUR 48-MINUTE CONVERSATION. We’re chatting about why solo business owners set up shop before knowing exactly how their business should look like on the back end — and we talk about when it’s the perfect time to start addressing systems and structures.

CLICK BELOW TO PLAY

Download the call here.

(2) TELL US WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN ABOUT IN BRANDED BUSINESS STRUCTURES & SYSTEMS. What do you really need to know about integrating your solo work behind the scenes? What would be most helpful? Lay your specific spenario on us, then click Submit. We’ll take your input into consideration as we finalize our course curriculum.

We’re so grateful for your input and we look forward to sharing more about this new course with you soon!

UPDATE: Here are the details are Branded Business Structures & Systems. We begin in late February 2014!

 

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At the risk of sounding fancy pants, I will admit to loving the word ‘atelier.’

Maybe it’s because I used to own a French-inspired boutique.

Desktop menagerie in my About page atelierMaybe it’s because I’m part French, through my great-grandfather of mysterious patrimony.

And while my Write Your Authentic About Page course isn’t exactly an atelier (it’s neither a writing workshop in the classic sense, or a studio), I can’t think of a more delightful way for you to luxuriate in your course experience than by creating your own at-home About page-writing atelier.

Picture this:

Four weeks in February.

Your home studio/kitchen table/couch/bed/back porch.

Your mobile device of choice to stream the Mp3s and read the transcripts.

Your option to submit your work-in-progress (or your currently published About page) for critique in a screencast that I’ll share with the whole group — or not. Remain totally private. Let your About page atelier be your own little sacred hour or two in your workday.

Light your candles.

Ready your tea/coffee/Kombucha/green smoothie/lavender soda.

Don your best writing wear — your favorite yoga pants and wool socks, your kicky dress and leather boots, your worn-in jeans and sweater with elbow patches. (Preferably not all at once.)

Make this About page course about YOU.

Do it your way.

No fast-moving Facebook banter to keep up with.

No clunky back-and-forth of peer workshopping with someone whose skills and judgement you’re not sure about, anyway.

Just lightweight, flexible learning you can keep pace with — two lessons per week, in your Inbox, for four weeks — or save for one fell swoop at a later date.

I’m certainly not saying that writing your own About page is easy. There ‘s always some getting-over-yourself to be done anytime you’re writing about yourself. For me, too.

But writing ABOUT yourself, like most things, is a learned skill. An embodied mindset and a practiced skill set.

You can’t embody these mindsets and master these skill sets overnight. I’d be lying if I told you that crafting the all-important About page is as easy as one, two, three.

But learning to write better copy doesn’t have to be HARD. There’s no mystery to good, compelling copy that has the potential to make your Right People take action — but (just as you suspected) there IS some magic. And lots of practice.

I’ve designed Write Your Authentic About Page to serve up all three: de-mystification, that unnameable magic, and practice.

Course registration is now open, so join us today.

Teachers and authors, coaches and healers, artists and advocates, course creators and an ethics consultant are already enrolled, and I’d love to have YOU.

In the comments, please share:

What does your version of an at-home (or out in the world) writing atelier look like? Where, when, and how do you create the conditions to get your best writing done?

 

 

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As a brand voice specialist and professional copywriter for solo and small businesses, I write a LOT of copy.

Why I'm rewriting my About page in semi-publicLess these days than ever, as I entrust my coterie of talented Voice Bureau copywriters to produce shining drafts from the Creative Briefs I craft for client projects. But the point here is — I see a lot of copy, a lot of copy comes under my inspection, and when I read copy online, I’m unconsciously scanning for what is working, why it’s working, and how the writer made that happen, through the power of language and other signals on the page.

Most of us, when we read business website copy — say, the About page for a health coach we just discovered whose content we can’t get enough of, or a jewelry designer with a fabulous and fanciful online boutique of indie goods — we’re scanning for a connection. Do I like this person’s voice? Vibe? Personality? Persona? Worldview? With-it-ness?

What we’re looking for in an About page depends on us — who WE are, what WE want, how WE like to feel when we’re wanting to trust a brand, to think it’s great stuff, to recommend it to others.

Writing — or re-writing — your authentic About page starts with knowing who YOU are in relationship to your business and your Right People. How much intimacy do you want with the subscribers to your membership site? How transparent does it feel good to be with the people who buy your ceramics? How much personal info do you feel like sharing with your potential accounting and tax prep clients?

Empathy in marketing is about having the capacity to delay (or forgo) ego gratification in order to stand in the shoes of another, surveying YOUR offerings and brand from THEIR point of view.

But no business brand with a personal feel can overlook the importance of understanding how YOU want to show up in the online conversation. After all, your brand starts and ends with you. Not in a self-focused, self-centered way, but in a ‘there is room for me, too’ way — because you’re the one at the helm. You’re a whole person and you get to have a whole life and a whole experience in business. 

This is the perspective I’m coming from in my new 4-week course, Write Your Authentic About Page.

Many Voice Bureau readers are aspiring or new-ish business owners without the budgets for full-scale web copy. Or they’re people who just really enjoy DIY’ing most parts of their business, and the copy is one of those parts. A DIY copywriting course is a natural next move for our Classroom, and the About page is the perfect place to start.

I recently announced that we’re in development for Voice Bureau 2.0, which will feature a color palette and mood shift and a clearer user experience in our navigation and  throughout our site. To accompany the visual and UX retooling, I’ll be rewriting EVERY main page of our site.

What better timing, then, to share my own About page-rewriting process with participants of this course?

Inside the course, I’ll be sharing the philosophy of an authentic About page for solo and small business owners, four flexible About page templates you can adapt for your own business goals and brand objectives, and a passel of powerful copywriting techniques you’ll “get” instantly.

Along the way, I’ll share snippets of my own new About page-in-progress. As a teacher who is always looking to improve, I know the power of modeling and self-disclosure to participants’ learning.

And did I mention the three screencasts? I’ll be touring participants through successful About pages from different types of businesses, pointing out what works well and, more importantly, why it works. Participants will have the opportunity to have their own published or in-progress About pages critiqued and discussed on screencasts that’ll be shared with all course buyers.

Click here for more details on Write Your Authentic About page.

Course registration is now OPEN and closes Monday, February 3rd, 2014, at midnight PST.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What’s the biggest question you have about writing or rewriting your About page?

 

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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.

Photo by Marty Hadding courtesy of Flickr Creative CommonsIt’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 a future 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’ve created Write Your Authentic About Page, a NEW 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 and finishes in February, 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 new 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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Voice Bureau Faves for 2013

December 30, 2013

I’ve been feeling self-imposed pressure to write the quintessential End of the Year Blog Post — astute and moving, witty and full of realness.

Abby KerrBut I haven’t yet fully processed the depth and breadth of this past year and all it taught me. I’m waiting on alchemy to turn up what it will. Meanwhile, I’m returning to my original idea for this post, which is a catalogue of stuff that made my business and life a more excellent experience this year.

Software & Apps

  • Asana for individual and team To Dos and project management. Simple, lightweight, flexible — love.
  • PandoraOne plus Jambox turns my living room into a café where the playlist is always of my choosing. My (very different) go-to stations: Brandi Carlile and Gotan Project
  • InstaGram with Aviary and Over — lots of lighting options and color effects, plus typography for days; PicMonkey Royale for online photo editing
  • Goodreads for sharing book ratings and reviews with friends

Goodies

  • Story is a State of Mind with Sarah Selecky — incredibly elegant ecosystem for short story writing [affiliate link]
  • For gifts, home decor sundries, and inspired browsing, Free People, Terrain, and Mothology (a vendor I used to buy a lot from when I owned my boutique).
  • The best paper planner ever, by Laurel Denise. I swear it’s set up to work with the INFJ brain.

Books

  • Liz Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things is about following our passions and obsessions and creating legacy, all wrapped in a rollicking ride through history. Incredible. Breathtaking.
  • Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, about a group of talented teens who find fervent friendship at a summer camp for artistically gifted kids, and what happens to them over time, as stars rise and fortunes take shape
  • Susan Choi’s My Education, about a precocious graduate student who falls for her charismatic professor and his temperamental, alluring wife
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, about a beautiful and manipulative married couple with . . . problems
  • Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, part of the 99U Book Series — essays on getting your best creative work done, efficiently and elegantly

 Ideas

  • Everything happens from the inside out. This is not new news, to me or to you, but this year I’ve really lived into the concept of transformation originating from the base up, from the core outward. Just like we wouldn’t slap together a visual brand identity for you out of pet fonts and a “good enough” color palette, true reinvention starts with recognizing why something matters.
  • Mastery is important, but not at the expense of experimentation. I used to be all ‘mastery first’ — actually getting pissed at people with the gall to launch business coaching brands without themselves ever having run a successful business. (I still don’t like this idea.) But this year, I’ve seen the beauty in experimentation, innovation, and boldly going where YOU have never gone before.
  • Priorities create pressure; beloved work deserves equal weight. For many years, I’ve suppressed my desire to write and publish fiction because it wasn’t imminently for-pay. So I prioritized my business growth and development over everything else — self-care, relationships, even sleep. But just in the past couple months, I’ve started treating my fiction writing practice as equally important as working on and in my for-pay business. My fiction pursuits are currently private and thrilling: there’s no blog, no social media presence, etc. I’m not interested in going there anytime soon. For now, it’s just me and a black-covered Mead Five Star spiral bound notebook (the kind with perforated pages for clean tear-outs) and a good pen. Heaven. Suddenly, my for-pay work is getting done better and easier, too.
  • As you (I) niche in to any passion/interest/pursuit/obsession, everything opens up. I don’t why this is so, but it’s so. This is one of the guiding philosophies for The Voice Bureau‘s work in 2014. Likely, you’ll see less scope on our website, more clarity and depth, and more accessibility for everyone who’s eager to come with us on this journey into Voice Values, brand voice, and the mindsets and skillsets needed to develop an emotionally competent business brand with a personal feel in the digital age. Wow. Here we go.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What’s your favorite find, in any category, for 2013?

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