The original conversion copywriter, Joanna Wiebe is the Founder of CopyHackers and Airstory. She’s optimized copy for Wistia, Buffer, Crazy Egg, Neil Patel, Shopify, Rainmaker, and countless others.
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3 Key Points:
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- Believe in your own abilities. Believe that you know about your area of expertise, and that you’re the right person to teach others about it.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously.
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Time Stamped Show Notes:
- [03:05] – Joanna has two cats that she walks on leashes
- [04:30] – Joanna generates revenue through copywriting courses, a mastermind, and a small amount of client work
- [05:40] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Accidentally quitting her job at Intuit and having to rely on her own entrepreneurial skills to pay her bills
- [10:04] – “I had the smallest possible side hustle… I turned my experience into an eBook and it turned into the book series that launched CopyHackers
- [12:07] – “If you’ve ever written an ‘I Quit’ email… hit Send on it.”
- [13:15] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Writing a post that flew to the top of Hacker News and making $20k in 3 days
- [14:55] – “We just assume that other people have the same knowledge as us… they don’t”
- [15:30] – Listen to the reactions of the people around you. When the world tells you you’re doing something right, listen!
- [16:10] – Biggest weakness? – “Failing to set extraordinarily high goals”
- [17:20] – What has Joanna most fired up today? – “Airstory – we’ve combined the best of Evernote with the best of Google Docs to make a collaborative writing environment that I am so excited about”
- [20:55] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “The idea that if you’re not working for someone, you’re not really working”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Don’t take yourself too seriously”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “If you can’t do it now, don’t start it now”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – OneTab
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – The Art of Language Invention
- [20:50] – Parting piece of guidance: “Believe in your own abilities. My failure to believe in my own abilities has been a real problem for me”
- [21:43] – Connect with Joanna via email or at CopyHackers
Joanna: Yes, I am prepared to ignite.
JLD: The original conversion copyrighter, Joanna is the founder of Copyhackers and Air Story. She’s optimized copy for Wistia, Buffer, Crazy Eight, Neil Patel, Shopified, Rain Maker, and countless others. Joanna, take a minute and fill in some gaps in that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Joanna: My personal life, I am a crazy cat lady. That’s my personal life, and I own it completely. I have two amazing cats. I’m not joking. I actually am a cat lady because I’m still talking about it. And I walk them on leashes, so if you are in my neighborhood, you have had the pleasure of driving by and slowing your car down to see the crazy lady walking her two cats.
JLD: It’s a fine pleasure.
Joanna: It’s always pleasurable for me, because I like to stare right back at them, like, “What? Like it’s so crazy?” Who was the first person to walk a dog? That must have been crazy. I’m not walking a lobster here, it’s a cat. Domestic thing.
JLD: Oh, I love it. That’s great.
Joanna: That’s the core. I love that that’s the thing I go to. “What’s your persona life like?” “Oh, I have two cats.”
JLD: Crazy cats, and what else you got going on, girl?
Joanna: I got my usual, my wonderful family life.
JLD: Oh, cool.
Joanna: Yeah, yeah. My partner is also my partner at Copyhackers, so we’re always, always, always working together, and we’re just about to change offices, and decorate, so that should be a fun job, decorating the new office. I’m excited about that.
JLD: Do you know Feng Shui?
Joanna: No I know as much as you can pick up on HGTV watching them do this. Do you?
JLD: No, although my real estate license did say I was certified back in 2009. But it’s been too long. I lost it all. It’s like a language. You lose it. It’s either you feel it, or you don’t. But, Joanna, what I am curious about, I mean, you’ve crushed it, copywise. I mean Wistia, Buffer, Crazy Eight, Shopify, Rainmaker, you got stuff going on. Today, how do you, Joanna, generate revenue for your business?
Joanna: Very powerfully? No, I’m just kidding.
Joanna: We generate it – you gotta find a word, but that wasn’t the right word there.
JLD: Says the copy woman.
Joanna: Right, right? Exactly. I should have had the right word. With courses, primarily, a copyrighting course. We also have a copyrighter mastermind, and every so often, we do take on client work, like you mentioned, right? So we still have client work, but it’s really, yeah, that’s what we’re about, is this core mastermind that we run, and then courses, and a little bit of client work here and there. That’s how we’re generating revenue.
JLD: Well, generating revenue is an important thing to actually be running a business that can move and that can decorate, and that can potentially nail Fung Shui when it makes sense. I’m glad to hear you’re doing that. But what I wanna talk about next is what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. So you’ve had your ups, Joanna, you’ve had your downs. But what is the worst of the worst? What is that worst moments in time for your entrepreneurial business thus far? Take us there.
Joanna: Yeah, and it’s really back to the beginning of it. What I guess most people would identify as the beginning, but right, every entrepreneur knows that you’ve always been an entrepreneur. It was just like getting to the point where you’re a self-employed entrepreneur, actually making money as one. So I’d been dabbling in side projects and hobby projects while holding down a full-time job, like a lot of us do. And my worst moment was the moment in which I was kind of kicked headfirst into the life on an entrepreneur. I fell headfirst in, and that was because I accidentally quit my job at Intuit and then found myself unemployed and forced at that point to rely on my own skills as an entrepreneur. To not just be a hobby entrepreneur, which is a fine thing to be –
Joanna: but to do the thing where you’re actually now in charge of generating revenue for your life to pay your bills. So that was when I quit my job accidentally at Intuit. And this was a pretty solid position to have, right? It had lots of money coming in, everything that you would want from a position that’s in-house somewhere. And I did the thing where you – I didn’t like my manager, I should have quit long before but I didn’t. And so I had done the thing where I wrote the I quit email a bunch of times. Every time I got off a call or meeting with my manager –
JLD: I quit!
Joanna: it wasn’t particularly pleasant, right? You do the thing. Yeah, where I would then go and I’d hammer out this email that said everything I wanted to say to him but never dared to. And then finally six months of that went by, and it was getting pretty bad. And so I wrote that email. And I had so much experience writing this email by this point, I could have written a book on how to write the I quit email.
JLD: Not a bad idea, by the way. Just saying.
Joanna: And just the fact that you should do it, pure and simple, right? Just go do it. Don’t even worry about how to write it. Just if you think you should, maybe you just should if you’re an entrepreneur. So I’d written this and I’d gotten it to this point, refined after months, this point where it was actually a pretty pleasant email, but it put a full stop on my job there. It laid out everything you would want an I quit email to lay out, why you’re leaving, what your end date is, all of those sorts of things. And I wrote this email on a Friday afternoon, and I worked from home, and so did my partner. He was also at Intuit at the time. He worked from home, it was Friday at 5:00, and we had our Friday at 5:00 glass of wine –
Joanna: and my office, yeah, was right off the kitchen. So I wrote this I quit email, we had our little toast or little glass of wine, and then I was intending to send a different email, to hit send on a different one, and I just turned back to my computer and just quickly hit send on the one that was open at that moment. And later that night it occurred to me that I had just sent the I quit email, and so I went to retrieve it. I did that moment of desperation where I’m like, “Well, maybe it’s Friday afternoon and they’re out East. They might not have got it yet.” But, indeed, I could not retrieve it, and I had quit my job. And now, now, although that might sound like that was the lowest moment for me as an entrepreneur, because it actually has gone all much better since, that was that panicked moment that lasted for six weeks of trying to figure out what I’m going to do.
JLD: Yeah, did you have anything that you were even thinking about? I mean, did you have any side hustle going on?
Joanna: I had the smallest possible side hustle going on. Some people keep – copyrighters, often, and designers, right? – They keep freelance clients on the side. But I had none of that. None whatsoever. I had a little fiction novel I was working on, and had a very modest book deal for, so that wasn’t gonna do it. But what I’ve been doing is I’d been working a little bit with start-ups over the year leading up to that, just start-ups that I’d met at Hacker News. Like, “Oh, can you help us with this copy?” And I wasn’t getting paid for it. I was just doing it for fun, because I had a full-time job, and I just like start-ups.
So I had these little bits of not clients – I couldn’t turn them into paying clients. They were brand new start-ups. They had no money. But what I did have was the experience of working with them. And so I mailed out this ebook, and it turned into a very big ebook, but I’m a writer, so I wrote it really quickly. It was 200 pages, and I fired it off to a couple beta testers, beta readers at just start-ups that I knew and asked them to give me some feedback. And that turned into my four book series that kicked off Copyhackers. But I had to haul butt to get that stuff in shape because I had just given up my salary.
JLD: But guess what? I mean, that’s the reality Fire Nation. When your back is against the wall, when you click into survival mode, stuff gets done. And kind of a little bit of a side note here, my favorite feature in Gmail is a little undo tab that you can have. So I have mine set for five seconds. So whenever I send an email, because I wanna get the email out. I don’t re-read my email, but I know when I send it, that I just quickly skim over my email real quick, and I’m like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I wrote that,” and then I’ll click undo. And then it’ll like undo the send so that I can kind of make a couple of changes. And that has saved, literally, some huge, huge mistakes from going out of my Inbox before.
Joanna: Me too.
JLD: That little undo within Google Gmail. So I do love that with a lot of heart. Now what do you, Joanna, in just one sentence – wanna make sure that Fire Nation gets from your worst moment, that click of that button?
Joanna: Click the button. Don’t make it an accident. So for me that was like – there were forces greater than me clicking that button. I had built up this idea that I couldn’t leave my job, I wasn’t capable of doing anything on my own if I decided I wanted to be a freelance copyrighter, well, where would the work come from? How could I possibly do that? So I’d built it up to be this big, scary thing, to leave your job. It wasn’t the world’s greatest – it was a great employer. Intuit was an incredible employer. But it’s not like the job was the world’s greatest. But I built it up, and I shouldn’t have. I should have written the email, and sent that email the first time I wrote it. Because I hadn’t had that sense prior to that. Before I switched managers, I’d never written an I quit email at Intuit. I was happy the whole way. And then I had a really bad change at the organization, and I started writing these I quit emails, and I should have hit send the first time. And if you’ve written an I quit email, hit send on it.
JLD: Joanna, let’s talk about an aha moment. Let’s talk about an epiphany that you’ve had. Let’s talk about a light bulb that’s gone off at some point in your journey. Now you’ve had a lot of these. So talk about one of the greatest aha moments that you’ve had to date, and tell us that story.
Joanna: The aha moment that sticks with me most, and there are two of them that really stick with me, but the one that sticks most happened just after the worst moment. It was the best moment that followed, and that was once I got those initial ebooks together to launch this Copyhackers business, once I had done that, I wrote a post and I posted on Hacker News, and it flew to the top of Hacker News. And at the end of this post was a call to action to buy my brand new ebook series. And I made $20,000 in three days, which I know for a lot, once you’re in the world of selling courses and ebooks and things like that, that might not sound like that much. But for me that was a moment where I really realized I can do this.
JLD: Yeah, and the reality is, Joanna, for 99 percent of people, even that are selling courses, that’s a lot.
Joanna: And I still feel really good about that.
Joanna: Right? $20,000 and all you had to do was –
JLD: That’s a car.
Joanna: It is! Right? It’s a couple of mortgage payments. It meant that I didn’t have to worry about going and rushing to find some job that I didn’t even want, that I was now basically self-funded, that if I lived modestly, I was self-funded to build out Copyhackers into whatever that might be, for at least five months, if I just kept living modestly, and if my partner didn’t quit his job. Right? I could just be self-employed. So that was this aha moment of having people pay you for the thing that you thought was really not worth that much at all. Because it seemed to me, it seemed like, “Well, everybody knows how to write copy.”
JLD: Well, Joanna, let me break in here, because that is the definition of the curse of knowledge. And Fire Nation, we all carry this around. We have skills. We have passions. We have skills that are co-mingled with our passions. And guess what? We just assume that other people think that that’s just normal, or that they know that too, or that they just intrinsically have gained that knowledge some how, some way. Uh-hum. That’s just not how it works Fire Nation. Joanna had this massive curse of knowledge, and she just assumed wrong. And, hey, you know what they say about assuming. It makes an ass out of you and me. Never assume. Joanna, what’s the big take away you wanna make sure Fire Nation gets from this story?
Joanna: That you should listen to the reactions of those people that you were so scared of in the first place. Listen – when the world tells you you’re doing something right, listen to it, and just go with it. Don’t get in your own way. Just take that from me. I took that $20,000 in three days, and I said, “Okay, world. I’m gonna do this, and hopefully you stick with me on it.” And so far they have.
JLD: Joanna, what is your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Joanna: Failing to set extraordinarily high goals, I would say. I actually depend on Lance, my partner, to set those really high goals. I don’t like to be disappointed, and I don’t like to disappoint others or myself, so I tend to set realistic, attainable goals. And we’ve only grown when Lance has swooped in and said, “No, no. That’s not the goal. This is the goal.” And then we have that to go for. But that’s been my biggest weakness is fear of setting goals that might be too big.
JLD: Yeah, I mean Joanna, you’re talking to the guy that set a $25,000 goal for the Freedom Journal that did that in 33 hours, and then ended up doing $453,000 in the 33 day campaign. So it’s not just you, it’s not just you Joanna, it’s not just you Fire Nation, it’s me, it’s a lot of people. We just set these goals because, hey, it’s, “Oh, we can celebrate if we hit these little tiny goals, but oh no, we’re big failures if we don’t hit this really big goal.” It’s really the opposite. You need to shoot for the moon, because if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars. It’s corny as all get up, but it’s so true.
Joanna: It’s so true.
JLD: What is the one thing, Joanna, of everything that you have going on that you are most fired up about right now?
Joanna: The one thing that I am is the thing that is my passion project, and it’s called Air Story. It is extraordinarily exciting to me. I’m a big content creator, and almost everybody I know is on a content team at an organization, or working on a book, or something. And so we’ve basically combined the best of Ever Note with the best of Google Docs to make this collaborative writing environment where you drag and drop your notes onto the documents and it magically becomes part of the document. So people who do a lot of research, this gonna be killer for them. We’re already using it internally, and loving it. There’s stuff to work out, of course, but it’s got me – it keeps me getting up in the morning, and it’s the thing I work on up until midnight every night once the rest of the business is properly run for the day. That’s got me fired up.
JLD: And where can Fire Nation find out more?
Joanna: At AirStory.co.
JLD: AirStory.co, Fire Nation. Get up in that story. And speaking of stories, we’ve got some killer things coming up in the lightning round, so don’t you go anywhere, Fire Nation. Don’t you go anywhere, Joanna. We’re gonna take a quick minute to thank our sponsors.
Joanna, are you prepared for the lightning round?
Joanna: I think so. It’s very scary, but I’m ready, I’m ready!
JLD: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Joanna: I was always, I think, an entrepreneur, but what held me back from actually making a living as an entrepreneur for me was this kind of baked in idea that if you’re not working for someone, you’re not really working. And that’s crazy, and that held me back.
JLD: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Joanna: Don’t take yourself too seriously.
JLD: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Joanna: If you can’t do it now, don’t start it now. And that goes for everything. If you can’t reply to an email right now, don’t open the email right now.
JLD: Can you share an internet resource, like Ever Note, with Fire Nation?
Joanna: It’s one that I just love using. It’s One Tab for Chrome. I have a ton of tabs open all the time. I hit my little One Tab and they all go into a neat little box.
JLD: Ooh. One Tab, never even heard of that. That sounds great.
Joanna: Yeah, love it.
JLD: If you could recommend just one book for our listeners, Joanna, what would it be, and why?
Joanna: I am reading and loving The Art of Language Invention. It’s by the guy that created the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones.
JLD: Ooh, yeah.
Joanna: I know, right? He created it, and it’s so cool, because well one, I’m a word nerd, but it’s always great to know the core of how language works, because language is our number one tool in any of our toolkits. It’s the one thing we can do the most with for very, very cheap. So it’s a good book to read if you’re a word nerd, and if you’re a Game of Thrones fan as well.
JLD: Joanna, let’s end this interview on fire, just like we started, with a parting piece of guidance from you, the best way we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Joanna: My parting piece of guidance is to believe, obviously, in yourself. I know that that’s something that we hear a lot of, but my failure to believe in my ability to leave my job and succeed, and my ability to really move on and make more money and set higher goals has been a problem for me. And once I push myself past that, and make myself uncomfortable in doing that, which has been definitely a big part of my success is pushing myself to do things that make me uncomfortable, including believing that I might be the right person to lead this, I might be the right person to tell people other things, that’s been a big life sort of changing realization for me. So that’s what I would say is my parting piece of guidance for you.
JLD: Love it. And what’s the best way that we can connect with you.
Joanna: Online at copyhackers.com. We have a blog, so you can engage there, and on Twitter at Copyhackers, or you can email me, Joanna@copyhackers.com, and we can talk.
JLD: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with J Dubs and JLD today, so keep up the heat, and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Joanna in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. Of course you can check out copyhackers.com, AirStory.co, or Joanna@copyhackers.com, email her, say hello. She wants to chat. And Joanna, I wanna say thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, girl, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Joanna: Ooh. Thank you, and thank you Fire Nation.
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