Episode 30 - Sarah TownsendAre you using your real voice online? If not, maybe you need help in using it? We're making conversations about freelancing count!
Sarah Townsend, Copywriter & Best-Selling Author
Making Conversations about Freelancing Count!
The way you hold your conversations says a lot about you.
But what if you can’t use your own voice for your conversations?
What if it’s the written word, on your website or on your social media.
Can you be confident that the people who are reading your blog or your marketing messaging on your Linkedin or Facebook pages are actually hearing your voice in their head?
Someone who knows all about the importance of getting the right tone on your content is Sarah Townsend.
In this episode, Wendy and Sarah deep-dive the need for understanding and appreciating the value of outsourcing.
This episode also features some exciting Making Conversations Count book related news.
Yet more emails into the show this week, and Wendy reads them.
Listen to other episodes on your favourite platform…
Full Episode Transcript
Making Conversations Count – Episode Thirty
13th May 2021
Wendy Harris & Sarah Townsend
00:01:26: Email reviews
00:03:29: When Sarah met Wendy
00:04:18: “Survival Skills for Freelancers”
00:05:38: Outsourcing is the way
00:07:32: Standing out from the crowd
00:08:47: Having an authentic voice on all platforms
00:09:33: Wendy’s in my head!
00:11:15: Sarah’s pivotal moment
00:15:12: Wendy’s chance encounter
00:17:46: Networking opportunities
00:19:18: Final thoughts
Wendy Harris: What sort of voice do you have when you can’t physically use it? You’re thinking I’ve gone completely mad, but in actual fact you know how I sound on this podcast. But, if you were to read my website, would you hear my voice as you are reading it? What about your website? Does your site sound like you; and if it doesn’t, is it time to bring someone in who can make it so? In this episode, we’re making conversations about freelancing count.
What’s new, Wendy Woo? Well, thanks to you guys, I am seeing my Making Conversations Count book flying off the Amazon shelves and I have already had some feedback about how it’s been great to have a starting point to reach out to those customers that they have always wanted to talk to. Thanks for your feedback. It’s really important to share these episodes on social media. Do let your friends, family, colleagues know. We try to bring you something of interest in every show. You can find them all on our brand, spanking new and growing website, makingconversationscount.com.
This week, we’ve had a couple of email reviews come in, so I’m going to read them out to you. If you send yours, I promise to do my best to give you a shoutout.
“Wendy, I connected with you on LinkedIn last week after my friend, Don, mentioned what a great powerup session he had with you. Then I saw you had a podcast, and I knew I had to listen. I’ve listened to a few episodes already and I love them. Thanks so much for all you’re doing to keep the conversation going; I hope to be a guest at some point in the near future, Jason”. Well, thank you, Jason, it was great to be connected with you. I will take a look and let’s have a conversation about getting you as a guest on the show.
“Dear Wendy Woo”, that really has stuck, hasn’t it, “just clicked the link in your episode to drop you an email because I found you on Spotify and I absolutely love your accent. I’m listening in Dunedin”, I hope I’ve said that right, “in Florida here in the US. I’m also really enjoying the chats you’re having with your many insightful guests. Keep up the good work, John”. Well, John, I’m just chuffed to bits that you’re listening all the way over the pond in the US; do stay tuned.
Here’s the last one, “To the conversation lady, your podcast is pure, dead brilliant. Thanks to James Daniel, he’s got me thinking of new ways to get me off my bahookie and reach new customers, Brynne in Aberdeen”. Well, thank you, Brynne; I’m glad you’re off your bahookie. I’m off to Google what that actually means!
Now then, let’s get this conversation going today about freelancing. I am joined in the studio by Sarah Townsend, number one bestseller, as seen in Forbes, Survival Skills for Freelancers. Let’s get on with the show.
We met, I think, through one of the podcast guests that’s been on in the past?
Sarah Townsend: Yeah, well we met, I think, through Henny on LinkedIn and she had just put a post out about two of her favourite podcasts, one of which was yours, and I think I just messaged you from there and said, “I’d love to chat sometime, I love doing podcast interviews; they’re one of my favourite things”, and, yeah, it just went from there.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, and it’s been interesting, because before we came on air, you were talking about some of the past episodes and what you loved. So, it’s great when guests can give me that sort of feedback as well, because that’s really what helps us make it a better show for the listeners as well and telling the right sort of stories, so that’s really good. Thank you; you’ve kind of given me a chest blush.
So, Sarah, tell me a little bit more about your book and the journey that has taken you on?
Sarah Townsend: Long story short, I have 20-plus years of freelance experience and when I first started, I was juggling two things that I knew nothing about, which was being a mum and starting a business. I found it really hard, and I thought I was actually the perfect candidate for freelance life; I knew I was good at the writing and the editing, that was the thing that I wanted to do to make money, and I’m also naturally very driven, very focussed, very organised. So, I thought it was going to be a bit of a breeze, if I’m honest.
Wendy Harris: A walk in the park.
Sarah Townsend: It really wasn’t. Part of the reason it wasn’t was because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So, there are a lot of things that trip freelancers up: the isolation of working on your own, the self-doubt, imposter syndrome, fear of failure; a lot of it is mindset stuff. So, I wanted to write a book that would share, in a very personal way, it’s a very heart on your sleeve, very realistic, tell it like it is, kind of book. I wanted to share the mistakes I’d made and the lessons I’d learned so that other people can accelerate their own freelance journey; so, they can get there a lot quicker and with a lot fewer mistakes.
Wendy Harris: I think that’s important, certainly I was seeing something on the feed which was about how to manage teams and I thought, “Goodness, this is just aimed at people who can afford to employ”. Yet, the same principles apply to solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, owner-managed businesses, still need to have experts in their own business external to them. So, using freelancers, for example we can choose the best in our budget. We still want a great team around us, because we can’t do everything ourselves, can we?
Sarah Townsend: Precisely that, and that’s one of the chapters. So, the book busts the eight myths of freelance life as I see them and the things that certainly I came up against time and time again; and one of those is that feeling of, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to do everything for my business. I’ve got to do my own sales, marketing, admin, social media, accounts, IT, you name it”. And even from the perspective of a freelancer or small business owner, as you rightly say, we want to surround ourselves with this kind of cheerleading team of people who are all experts at what they do, and they are all doing their own little expert bits for our own business. So, that’s kind of the dream; outsourcing is the way!
Wendy Harris: Absolutely, because otherwise, you’re so busy trying to run a business that you’re not actually doing any activity or making any money!
Sarah Townsend: Exactly, yeah, exactly. And what’s worse, you get to the end of the week and you look back and you realise you’ve spent half your time doing things not only you don’t enjoy, but you know you’re not good at and they’re not making you money. So, at the end of the week, you actually feel a bit rubbish about yourself and a bit down on yourself, because you get your sense of self-worth often, particularly if you’re a creative person, from doing the thing that you love and the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, passion has got to be at the heart of everything you do, so I can see why you called it Survival Skills. The world has changed, and copy is leading the way in lots of instances. Have you seen a new trend in what you do?
Sarah Townsend: In terms of the copywriting side of things, I would say I’m busier. I mean, if there’s a trend, I think it’s just that people are really waking up to the value of professionally-written copy. I am busier than I’ve ever been and that’s saying something. I mean, 21 years down the line, I’ve been busy. The highs and lows have been pretty much long gone, but every copywriter I know who is good at what they do and experienced and has their business set up as a business, they’re all busy.
So, I don’t know whether it’s people are starting to realise the value of outsourcing, or starting to realise the value of marketing to make their business stand out from the crowd? The thing that I call my superpower in my business is really identifying and articulating the things that make businesses special and all businesses seem to have woken up to the need for that, and they all want a piece of the pie.
Wendy Harris: Yeah. It’s about having the same voice on paper and online, isn’t it, as it is in real life and I think that’s really important. So, people are realising that they’re not being found, so how are they going to get found; and what is it that’s going to connect with people on that level?
Sarah Townsend: Absolutely. I think that authentic voice that you just mentioned, that’s so important to a business and that’s something that actually kind of comes across in the book. People will say that they’ve read the book and it’s like having a conversation with me, because of the way I write.
So, in an ideal world, businesses would write about their own services in the same way, and it feels like you’re getting the heart of the business owner in everything you read about that business, all the touchpoints, all the platforms; yeah, really important.
Wendy Harris: Yeah. I’ve had some feedback on my own book, as a lot of people that have bought it that do know me and know me quite well have come back and gone, “Wendy, you’re in my head! You’re literally talking to me as I’m reading off the page”.
Sarah Townsend: Oh, how lovely. That’s so lovely! You’re obviously great at writing yourself; that’s brilliant.
Wendy Harris: I’ll just say sorry to everybody that can hear me in their head; it can’t be a pleasant experience!
Sarah Townsend: That’s a win though, isn’t it; that’s fantastic.
Wendy Harris: What I must do in the next edit is put some telling off in there, so that will be a little bit more truer to personality.
Everybody that comes on the show has got a story, they’ve got a conversation that’s really resonated with them, to the point that they can go back and say, “That particular conversation really did make a difference to where I am now”, and I think those conversations are really important, because it’s not all rose-tinted glasses. We, as business owners, do get our knees grazed from time to time but the thing is, we keep going and we keep going, and it’s those conversations that really do help hold us up.
Sarah Townsend: Yeah. So I, having listened to a lot of your other episodes, I was thinking, “God, pressures on to come up with a pivotal moment”, and for me, the obvious one was the conversation that led to me going freelance, but I’ve talked about that a lot on podcasts, so I thought I’d come up with something a little bit different.
So, this particular conversation is kind of representative to me of the need for small business owners and freelancers to always keep an open mind, because it’s really easy for us to judge the people we meet as not being our dream client, or the perfect potential customer for us. But the thing is, you never know who the person you’re having a conversation with is connected to. You don’t know who they’re married to, or who they’re related to, or who their best friend is, or their closest business peer.
So, this conversation, it took place at a bus stop just up the road from where I live.
Wendy Harris: Oh, I love it!
Sarah Townsend: I’m setting the scene for you! I was heading into Cheltenham to meet a client in the afternoon on a sunny Wednesday and I’m naturally a curious person and I’m naturally quite chatty and quite extrovert; I love hearing people’s stories. So, there was a lady at the bus stop, we got chatting about whether we’d missed the bus or not. She was telling me about where she worked and it turned out she was a receptionist at the doctor’s surgery at Cirencester, which is where I was born, and it was the doctor’s surgery where my mum goes, just up the road from where I used to live.
Wendy Harris: The world was getting smaller as you were speaking?
Sarah Townsend: Yeah, absolutely, with every conversation. So, I was asking her a little bit more about how she came to the area and she said to me, “What do you do?” and I said, “I’m a freelance marketing copywriter. That means I provide the words for businesses to promote themselves”. And I said, “I work with designers and photographers and this sort of thing to help them market their business”.
She said, “Oh, my son’s a graphic designer. He’s just moved to the area and he doesn’t know anyone”. So, I dug out a business card from my purse. I said, “Oh, you should give him this because I work a lot with graphic designers. You never know, if he needs a copywriter, tell him to get in touch”. We had sat together on the bus, I got off the bus, went off to my meeting, didn’t really give it a second thought.
It was one of those serendipitous sort of chance moments that can happen to anyone at any time. And I think, because I’d kept an open mind and thought, “Well, every opportunity is an opportunity to share a business card”, well, when we’re not in lockdown, at least!
Wendy Harris: Yeah.
Sarah Townsend: About three to four months later, I got an email from this guy. I thought, “I don’t know this guy’s name” and I read through to the end of the email and it turned out that this was the son, the graphic designer, of the lady at the bus stop. He said, “I’d love to be in touch and I’m actually working with a client at the moment, an e-learning business, and I’m doing the graphic design and they’re looking for a copywriter. Would you be interested?”
I would say that was now four or five years ago. He has become a good friend of mine. He is somebody that I co-work with on a regular basis when we’re not in lockdown. We both work at the gym in the lounge bar together and pass the time of day and put the world to rights about difficult clients and the joys of freelancing.
Wendy Harris: You’re strategizing?
Sarah Townsend: Absolutely, yes, let’s call it that! Since then, he has introduced me to, I would say, three major clients who I would never have had the opportunity to work with had I not had that conversation with a random lady at a bus stop in Hucclecote. So, yeah, pivotal.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, because so many things have come just from that chance encounter, which I absolutely love. And I can say that it does happen; it’s happened to me. I have been at the supermarket unloading my trolley onto the conveyor belt and the person in front of me has been very apologetic because they’d got what seemed like two trolleys’ worth into one trolley; it was heaped high. And I was like, “Don’t worry, I’m not in any rush. Actually, it’s quite nice to get a break from unloading the trolley to then have to load it again the other side”, and I was joking about how I normally get my shopping delivered, so it was a bit of a treat to go shopping.
We got to chatting and it was like, “So, how come you don’t come in –“, “Well, because I work from home”. “What do you do?” And it was like, “Oh, I’ve just been putting an advert together looking for somebody that does just what you do”.
Sarah Townsend: Oh, wow!
Wendy Harris: And, “Have you got a business card?” I was like, it was one of those, you go shopping, I don’t have a handbag normally; 25 years ago, I used to get the mickey taken out of me for having one of those bum bags, just enough. At the time, it was one of those checks that you’d say, phone, keys, fags, dough. I don’t do the smoking anymore. But, yeah, so it was kind of, I had got one in my phone case that I could pass over and said, “By all means, get in touch”.
It’s because now, something that I adopt a lot of the time is you never know where a conversation will lead.
Sarah Townsend: Exactly, and it’s those endless ripples, isn’t it; that’s what I love. It’s that unknown potential of every chat you have with someone. You just think it could be a chance meeting and they could know someone who could be the next person who’s going to get you the biggest opportunity of your career. You just never known; I love that.
Wendy Harris: Exactly, bus stops, shopping checkouts.
Sarah Townsend: I met a client in the sauna, just chatting to a guy in the sauna, “Oh, isn’t it great when you work for yourself and you can come to the gym in the middle of the day, break up the day, get your productivity back on track”. “Oh, what do you do?” “Oh, I do this”. “Oh, well I do this”. You know, connected; three, four years later, he became a client.
Wendy Harris: This is the thing, isn’t it? Those conversations can start, and like you said with your friend that you work with now, that took a few months, and the sauna took a few years. There is no telling on the timing that these things will come to fruition, but certainly sowing those seeds will. And there’s something else that came to mind as well, when you were saying about, you never know who knows who.
I’m part of a ladies’ networking group. I’m not as active as I should be, because I’m just everywhere else, so there’s only so much time in the day. But I have to give credit where credit is due and it’s that, when I go to those meetings, and it’s been nearly a year since I’ve been able to physically do that, I love the women that are there. They’re business owners, they’re carving their own craft and journey, so I applaud them for that.
They’re not going to be the people that I will work with, but because we’re all in the same boat, if you like, doing similar things, that is what connects us. However, what has happened is that those relationships with those women has led to, “My husband does…” “Oh, and my husband does…” and, “We go drinking with…” and it’s because you’ve become down from the business sort of stance, you know, and speaking all posh and professional. And because you’re yourself and that authenticity of who you are, that’s what people can recommend.
Sarah Townsend: Yes. It’s the “know, like and trust”, isn’t it, at the most basic level? People don’t choose to work with you because you’re the best at what you do; they choose to work with you because you’re likable and you make work fun. You’ve got to be reliable, of course, you’ve got to deliver on time, and you’ve got to deliver on budget but ultimately, the clients who come back, they come back because they enjoyed working with you.
Wendy Harris: Well, Sarah, what a brilliant, brilliant story to share and I thought it was just me that got told off by the family for talking to strangers!
Sarah Townsend: I make my kids embarrassed because they’re like, “Oh, mum, why do you have to talk to everyone?” like, “Oh, no, it’s a good thing!”
Wendy Harris: I do it for a living. I pick up the phone and I talk to strangers and I train people to pick up the phone and speak to strangers. But, doing it just in your relaxed, this-is-me kind of mode, magic can happen anywhere. Sarah, I’m so glad that we met, that we’ve had this conversation, that we’ve been able to share this story with the listeners.
If anybody wants to pick up the conversation with you, if they’ve had a serendipitous moment, where do they find you?
Sarah Townsend: Well, certainly connect with me on LinkedIn, but if you do drop me a little personalised note so I know that you found me through Wendy’s podcast, that would be lovely. But probably the easiest way to find me is, survivalskillsforfreelancers.com. That landing page for the book has a link through to my copywriting website, it has links to my email address, my social media and also, you can click the link to find my book on Amazon. That’s survivalskillsforfreelancers.com.
Wendy Harris: So, there’s no escape; they can get you from all directions.
Do follow the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. You can do so on Apple by clicking the ellipsis at the top right of my podcast page, and you can click “follow” and then click “settings”. Make sure all the notifications are enabled as well as the automatic downloads, so you definitely get told about future episodes as they’re released. On Spotify, well they’ve got a big, green button that you can’t miss!
If you’re new to the podcast, don’t forget to go to makingconversationscount.com and listen to the episodes you’ve missed. We’ve had guests talking about marketing, personal branding, social selling, traditional selling and even mindset.
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Hear what people are saying about the show
I love this podcast. The guests you have on all bring something new to the conversation and definitely thought-provoking.
Sometimes this means I change something I do, or something I would say, and other times it’s a real opportunity for reflection.
Thanks for sharing your guests with us Wendy, the podcasts are brilliant.
I always enjoy listening to Wendy’s Making Conversations Count podcast and admire her talent for drawing out people’s stories and getting to the heart of things for finding out what makes them tick.
We all have pivotal moments and Wendy manages to find the right parts, showcasing the reasons why someone is who they are.
It’s those details that we connect to and come to more understanding of why people do what they do.
Love this podcast series. It’s a great idea to have a theme of ‘pivotal conversations’ and the variety of guests from massively different backgrounds keeps it fresh and interesting.
Wendy is a natural host and makes people feel at ease to share their stories.