The secret to building a business based on sharing what you know

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance copywriter who works with clients like AT&T and SumoMe and has been featured in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur and CopyHackers. Since beginning her freelancing career in 2013, she has doubled her income every year. In this interview, Kaleigh lets us in on her personal philosophy of building a business based on being kind and sharing what you know.

I think people hire people. That’s what it comes down to. They want to come to your website and get a feel for who you are as a person – a person who they might potentially hire. If you have stale photos and a formal website, it’s hard to get that feeling from it. You can’t read between the lines. There’s nothing there. You have to provide that sense of who you are for the reader through words and visuals so they can understand who you are before speaking with you.”

The moment you land on Kaleigh Moore’s site, you begin to have a good feeling about who she is – as a writer, a potential team member, and as a person. In that order. It’s deliberate and strategic, but also manages to be incredibly personal.

And it’s simple.

In fact, the way she does business – a business that has doubled every year since she started – is nearly as simple, clean, and uncluttered as her website. Kaleigh is one of those entrepreneurs that seems to have mastered la vita bella – the beautiful life. It’s about being true to who you are, being good to other people, and reaping those rewards.

With just a little strategy and a handful of metrics.

In this interview, we talk about how she uses her website, blog and newsletter to support her business, along with some of her best tips for aspiring freelance copywriters.

Creating a personal ‘feel’ with your website copy and images

Usually when we think of a personality-infused website, we think of a big personality. One that says ‘Look how FUNNY I am,’ ‘Look how CRAZY I am,’ ‘Look how SMART I am.’ Kaleigh is all of those things, but she’s also quiet, thoughtful, utterly professional and highly capable. Her website does its job to give prospective clients “a feel for who I am, what I do, and why they should hire me.”

The strategy behind Kaleigh’s web design and copy choices is very much based on creating a specific emotional experience for visitors: a feeling of calm and clarity, and an implicit promise that calm and clarity is what she’ll deliver. You see this in the layout, the color scheme, and the clean, uncluttered design of the words on the page.

“The look and feel of everything is very simple. That was deliberate. Simple, clean, uncluttered. Professional, but also kind of cool feeling; the color scheme is very cool, as in relaxed and laid back while being professional and polished.”

When 90% of your business comes through referrals, like Kaleigh’s does, the people who come to your website are already pretty sure they’re going to hire you. And that makes the website’s job very different. It’s not there to claim the #1 spot on search engine results pages and bring in leads. Its purpose is more to confirm the good things referred clients have already heard and, if they need it, give them some additional incentive to make the investment.

On Kaleigh’s website, all of this happens on the home page. Kaleigh has an impressive list of results she’s achieved for previous clients followed by testimonials from past clients, and even one from Joanna Wiebe, founder of CopyHackers.

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The rest of her website is devoted to another audience entirely.

Other writers.

And this is where Kaleigh as a blogger walks into the spotlight.

Blogging: where good karma = good strategy

Her personal blog and newsletter, A Cup of Copy, is written like half of a conversation among friends.

“The way I write on my own website is very conversational. It sounds like if I were speaking face to face with you. I do some of that in my client work but it’s dialed back to sound more professional.”

If you want to know the secrets behind becoming a professional freelance copywriter, Kaleigh will tell them to you, one by one, with clear and actionable steps.

I use my website mostly for teaching other people how to do this awesome job. That’s something I’m really passionate about.

“Twice a month I send out my newsletter with tips on freelancing and writing, and it’s 500 words of what I think would be helpful for someone else to know.

“If someone wants to check my website and quickly evaluate whether they want to hire me, they can do that on the home page. But if they’re coming wondering how to become a freelance writer, the website has something for them too.”

One of those secrets is to share your secrets, because aspiring copywriters aren’t the only ones reading her blog and newsletter.

“It’s helpful to the clients who hire me as well, they can see in the lessons I’m sharing that I’ve learned a lot of important lessons from freelancing.”

Sharing what you know and being helpful – it’s not only good karma, but good strategy.

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Fine-tuning your content calendar with user feedback

When you’re writing a blog to serve a specific audience, you can either assume you know what they need and see who shows up (which is how most blogs start out), or you can take a more targeted approach and… ask.

It’s so simple, but so effective. Because asking your audience what they want not only helps you give it to them, but it also fosters a feeling that this relationship is two-sided, reciprocal, a conversation rather than a monologue.

“A lot of the work I do is for software companies doing email marketing and survey questions, so I know how important it is to give subscribers a voice and ask them what they want.”

For my own content, I don’t want to just send out the same boring information they already know; I want to provide them with things that are valuable and make the email worth opening. The only way I know what those things are is to ask.

“I don’t ever want to have to assume or guess anything.”

There is an art to making an email worth opening. And it’s not easy. Email open rates are notoriously low across all industries (for small to mid-sized businesses, they average around 20%). Of course, it’s the copywriter’s job to increase open rates, which requires keeping a close watch on the evolving interests of your audience.

“Some people want to know how to be a better writer, others want the nuts and bolts of freelancing business. I’ve had a greater volume of feedback towards writing tips in recent months, so that’s where I’ve been leaning. The subscribers tell me exactly what they want to read about, which is awesome, I don’t think about that part, I just have to write it.

“If everyone just collected feedback from their target audience, they’d be so much better off.”

Here are some of Kaleigh’s best tips on how to get people to open your emails and read them.

5 tips to get readers to open, connect with, and love your content

  1. Don’t guess, ask. “Ask your audience (or people within your niche) what burning questions they have, what the most valuable post they’ve read recently was, and which topics they read about most often. Use email, social media, relevant forums – places where your peeps spend time.”
  2. Make a list of the questions people ask you most, and then categorize them into the broad topics they fall under. Then see how many questions you get in each category, and that can act as a guide to how much of each topic to write about in your content.
  3. Lead with a compelling, conversational, funny intro. “One of the hallmarks of the top sites I write for is that they’re known for having interesting intros with a conversational tone that naturally lure the reader in. This usually means the intro is a little snarky, it poses an important question (that it will later answer), and it lures the reader in through what reads as a very natural speaking voice.”
  4. Be original. “Don’t simply restate what’s already been said a million times – give it a new angle and draw original (and research-backed) conclusions.”
  5. Ask for more questions. Kaleigh ends each post with a call for more questions: “Have other questions you want me to answer in the future? Email me and let me know what topic you want me to cover next. I’ll do my best to give a solid answer over the coming weeks.”

Why writing about writing for writers is an effective client-acquisition strategy

Kaleigh’s topics are very much about the day-to-day survival of freelance copywriting, with posts like ‘Where to Work When You’re Tired of Working from Home,’ and ‘How to Combat Scope Creep in Freelance Writing Jobs.’

“My main objective with the content I’m producing is just to help people. Smart people say teach everything you know. Maybe there’s someone out there who wants to become a better writer, or a freelance writer, and if I can share the lessons I learned and it helps them, that’s awesome. I’m not trying to become a mentor or speaker – that makes me nervous. I just want to sit here in my pajamas and help people that way.”

But a funny thing happens when you post genuinely helpful, insightful content on a regular basis. People start coming to you for advice. For Kaleigh, it came to a tipping point in January and she finally introduced her own, limited, coaching program.

“I’ve had 8-10 mentoring students so far, and most are doing really well in their businesses. Which is awesome. That’s what I was hoping for when I launched it.”

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4 tips from Kaleigh on building a stronger freelance business

1. Forget hustling – pair down

“I don’t hustle. I tried hustling and it made me physically sick!

“I say no a lot. When I said yes all the time, I wasn’t sleeping, I was miserable all the time, and I was doing work I didn’t really want to do. I was writing about all types of different topics and writing work, and it was so stressful. So I narrowed down to ecommerce and SaaS, blog content and maybe consulting work. That’s it. I don’t like emails and sales pages. I narrowed it down to only taking on jobs I like and that I’m really good at. People respect that.”

2. Make SMART(er) goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based – and Kaleigh uses this structure to make sure her content strategies for clients and herself are actually working. Yes, writing is creative, but copywriting also has a job to do.

“Maybe your high level goal is to educate your customers with blog content. And your immediate goal is to increase email signups by 100 every 30 days. Is what we’re doing working or not working? If you don’t have those SMART goals in place, you don’t know. They show you if you’re hitting the mark, or doing worse or better than you thought. It’s a great way to get a handle on what success looks like for each content format.

“And so many people forget to set those goals. They’re just putting stuff out there, but with no metrics tied to it. When they come back to report to the team or to themselves, they don’t know what they should do more or less of.”

Time is a limited resource, you have to invest it where it’s making the most impact, especially as a small business.

3. Ask for referrals at the end of every project

Around 90 percent of Kaleigh’s new business comes to her through referrals – and that’s no accident.

“Any time I wrap up a project with a new client, I ask for a quick testimonial of what I did well, and what they wish I’d done differently, and ask for an introduction to someone else if they liked my work. It’s even a template email I use for each client. If people are happy with the work, they’re happy to pass my name along right away or when it comes up down the road.”

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4. Need Something? Ask.

If business is ever slow, all of the work Kaleigh does to form relationships with clients and other copywriters really pays off – because all she has to do is ask.

“If I have a time where it’s slow, I go on Twitter or a specific Slack group I’m part of, and say ‘I’d love to do ecommerce writing this month, if you know anyone, please send them my way.’ Other writers have been great for making introductions, and I thank them with a small gift when they do. It’s about being nice.

“I send out my fair share of referrals too, I make those introductions. It used to terrify me to turn down work, but I’ve found that by saying no more often and passing those clients onto someone with more bandwidth, that’s reciprocity.”

SaaS Consultant & Customer Success Evangelist. Founder at Authentic Curation. Moderator at @ProductHunt & @GrowthHackers. Previously: Growth at @Inboundorg. INFJ.