2020 was quite the year. It presented no shortage of challenges globally in personal and professional settings. The pandemic did something very interesting for Ross. COVID-19 brought Ross closer to the important people in his life. Nothing can be truer than the Tricycle Creative mantra during these interesting times; keep pedaling through the tough times.
Ross sought out his friends, clients, and other creative business owners to have them talk about the good, the bad, and the lessons they can share with his listeners. Rewind is a monthly series, bringing marketing stories you need to know every end of the month, but this time we will bring to you stories from this challenging year of 2020.
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In today’s episode of 2020 Rewind, Ross talks to Matt Murphy. Matt is a new friend and creative entrepreneur whom Ross met this 2020. Ross had no idea that when he met Matt, he was at the beginning of starting his business. His story is relatable and one you can learn from as well. Matt talks to us today about leaving the comfort of his career. He also changed his services this year and he explains why. He also explains how he brought the skills and knowledge of his prior career to his own business venture.
Behind The Thing
Matt is a copywriter and his business is Behind the Thing. Matt describes what he does as using words to promote businesses. People don’t buy those words, they DO buy the things behind the words, the product or service. His words back the products and entice people to go out and buy that product.
Experimenting with Writing
You should always try to read about your industry and tips on how to work better. Matt read about how the rhythm of the music you listen to as you write can leak into your writing. He finds it easier to write with music and he reveals that he writes for Ross listening to Lofi.
Positives of 2020
Many positives happened to Matt. Buying a 5 bedroom house was definitely a plus, having been 6 people living in a 3 bedroom before. And, of course, he started his own business. In January he “started” his business, having decided to be a copywriter. He started by writing blogs for people, which is actually what he finds out later to be content writing, and noticed this wasn’t exactly it. Around the time he and his family were moving was when he started understanding what he wanted to do. He wanted to help people sell products and market their services in a very direct way.. In the last 2 months, he’s researching more of the psychology of copywriting.
Identifying What You DON'T want to do
Usually, it takes a while to figure out what you do and don’t want to do. When starting your business you may know what you want to do or have a general idea of what you want to do, but once you do it, might have a slight change of heart. Or you can be like Matt, who ended up at first doing content writing, thinking he was doing copywriting. Ross himself took some time before realizing what services he was willing to offer and which he’d prefer not to. (Sometimes you are an entrepreneur with a wide skill set to offer, but you don’t have to offer all your skills if you don’t particularly enjoy them.)
Challenges of this year
Starting a business during a pandemic is a story many can identify with. Not being able to meet with clients in person is slowing the process down. With his wife and him working full time from home and 4 kids doing school online, the number of distractions in the home has increased tenfold. Keeping a consistent schedule is not possible.
A challenge that Matt thinks is more unique to him is that this is his second career. Matt used to be a pastor for the last 20 years. As a 38-year-old jumping into a different career in a digital space where some of his colleagues are younger than him, making more money than he’s made in his life, is an interesting transition. Seeing this does make him feel weary of his career path at times.
In digital marketing, there are ways to pay less for a logo or graphic, but the quality goes down with the price. You have to measure the quality of your work and be explicit about the value you add. Paying a person on Fiver who doesn’t care about your company $10 for a logo that represents your company is risky. The months or years of dreaming and hard work it took you to build that company, may not match that $10 logo.
Skills of a Pastor that "transfer"
Sometimes, when you are changing careers, you may start thinking, “was the last XX years a waste of time?”. Matt explains how that’s not the case. There will always be a skill that transfers no matter how unrelating the two careers are. For Matt, it was his “people” skills. In his time as a pastor, he spent a lot of time listening to people, talking to them, and helping them through all sorts of situations. In a sale, you can appeal to logic all day long, but if you can tug at the audience’s heartstrings, you will move the needle. 20 years of empathy, 20 years of identifying people’s struggles, have prepared his writing to appeal to people’s emotions.
Ross explains how he noticed that he wasn’t aware that certain skills would be helpful. For example, he had never worked in sales or retail. He had 10 years in media and did worry, when starting Tricycle Creative, how he would sell his services. What he didn’t realize was that he had 10 years of being the “squeaky wheel” – he had to pitch a lot of ideas and most required funding. Skills and experience in your prior careers can fill in skill gaps in your current plans.
Changes for 2021
Like most freelancers, most of the projects Matt receives are one time projects. They are projects with an end-date and though they are fun, Matt aims to move onto having more stability and knowing what he will be doing from month to month instead of constantly being on the “client train”. Having a few long-term clients where he is constantly tweaking their website and writing their emails since this also helps the client long-term. Having a new person developing a voice and researching constantly to develop that voice is not going to reduce the quality, but won’t allow growth in your company voice. When you have a designated person who develops your company’s voice, they become invaluable. Consistency is almost as valuable as the quality of the content.
Something Matt has noticed is that a lot of new businesses because they’re new and can do it themselves, do a lot of their own writing. They may have everything else up to par, but their writing is off just enough that they aren’t making as much of a profit as they can be. Sometimes the ads they release don’t even have a call to action.
Recommendations by Matt
Two things that have helped Matt in his business. One of these is the Hemingway App, which analyzes whatever you write to help you simplify your writing. The second recommendation that has helped his business doesn’t feel like a business recommendation. Matt watched documentaries. They are another form of storytelling that exists out of his own experience.
Some TV/Movie/Book recommendations include the following: