I still remember the first time I performed standup comedy at a club’s open mic standup. I didn’t know enough to be scared. After many years as a college professor, I was used to speaking to all kinds of audiences.
Sure enough, my first performance went great, and the next few did, too. But as time went on, I got more nervous. Not all audiences were receptive. I was challenging myself to become edgier.
Writing for an online business works the same way.
Many of my clients begin (as I did) by writing easily. Early in the process, your ideas flow. You have no trouble imagining your target client sitting across the table from you, nodding appreciatively.
After a while, something changes. You used to knock out a blog post in nothing flat. You funneled your enthusiasm into sales letters and landing pages.
Sometimes you find yourself taking a little longer. Tasks you enjoyed become sources of frustration. I’ve met a few people who stopped completely. If you’ve been around a while, you’ve generated momentum and you’ll get some clients and buyers; if you’re fairly new, you wonder if you need a new job.
To make things worse, when you get frustrated, you’re more likely to make a mistake…like not hitting “save” before the computer decides to throw a temper tantrum. (How do they know?)
Bottom line: your productivity has gone way, way down.
Here are 3 reasons why this might be happening (and 3 things you can do differently).
(1) The stakes get higher.
You build up a reputation. Your business and your writing become more central to your identity. So, according to some authors (such as Steven Pressfield in The War of Art), you develop resistance. It shows up mostly when you start taking your work seriously.
This is why many people get frustrated when they turn a passion into a career. When you take art classes for fun, you’re thrilled when an occasional piece turns out really well. When it’s a business, every piece has to meet the standard.
(2) You’re more aware of what’s good.
My first comedy appearances went well. I got applause and congratulations. But the seasoned comics warned me: you’ll look back at your first videos and you’ll want to crawl under a table. I didn’t believe them, but they were right.
I also look at some of my early articles with horror. Sure, I could knock them out. I got lots of positive feedback and even requests to reprint. But I moved a lot of old blog posts into the trash with no regrets.
In the early days, you can share the wisdom that’s universally acknowledged in your field. As you continue growing your business, you’ll need to differentiate yourself from the competition. You’ll want to give your audience more inspiration and more “aha” moments.
.It helps to develop a foundation (like my emphasis on storytelling) and an underlying framework (like my five archetypes of branding).
(3) You get too close to your material…and too far.
Many of my clients have lived with their material for so long, they’ve forgotten how good it is! Their ideas are so original. They’ve explained the ideas so many times! They no longer can tell if their sales letter brilliantly explains what they offer or sows confusion in the minds of their readers.
Conversely, many business owners find themselves writing in an unfamiliar format. Most likely, you don’t write sales letters and landing pages every day, or even every week. Maybe you studied copywriting at one time.
Maybe you dipped into the art of storytelling. Or you took a class on “how to write a sales letter.” But you haven’t done it in a while. Sales letters and landing pages tend to have a particular rhythm. Copywriters live with that rhythm. So do some business owners. But others struggle.
How To Take Back Your Power and Increase Your Productivity
First, don’t over-think this. Do whatever works. Then try these tips:
(1) Establish a writing ritual.
Some writers put on their writing hats (literally), boots, and/or lucky socks. Some sing and dance around to get in the mood. Some turn on their special “writing music” that they associate with writing.
You might have prompts ready. Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones, continues to offer a way to get started. Begin with a prompt. Write as fast as you can for a certain amount of time. Don’t stop! Don’t worry about what you write. The idea is to get started.
(2) Find the best time of day and set a schedule.
Many writers find they struggle to write first thing in the morning; other writers find early morning hours “golden” and won’t let anything get in the way. Most (but not all) writers establish a schedule and a goal. That way writing becomes a habit and, for many business owners, gets easier.
The idea is to make writing less of a big deal and more of something you do every day…something you don’t have to stress about, like walking the dog.
(3) Know your style.
A lot of people find they do their best work under pressure. They’re the ones who pulled all-nighters in college. They get inspired when they start writing their sales letter the day before they need to get it out there.
I can’t do this. I never pulled an all-nighter. I have to start projects early. My first drafts are pathetic. I leave lots of time for breaks and especially lots of time for revision…and more revision.
When clients complain of writers’ block or feeling stuck, a lot of times they’re trying to follow someone else’s schedule.
What’s important is to know what works for you. And don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
And yes…sometimes it’s best to call for help.
I’ve worked with clients who spent an entire day drafting a sales letter. When they come to me with a draft (or sometimes a jumble of ideas), we knock out a high-quality product in just 90 minutes. I bring a fresh pair of eyes (and a lot of hands-on experience).
If you’ve got a successful business, there’s a lot you can do with six hours. You’ll certainly find more productive, fun things to do with your time.
The biggest surprise for many of my clients: When you work with me on the Strategic Intensive, you don’t just get a sales letter (or website or whatever project you’re working on). You get copy coaching so the next time it’ll be easier. You get free access to courses.
Or, more likely, as you grow your business, you’ll decide to call for help earlier in the process. Your time gains more value as you grow.