How can a pair of white shoes help someone land a new client?
Jude Charles is an expert in visual storytelling – and specifically, using video to tell stories that build trust with potential clients. Because Jude had SO much brilliant advice to share, this episode is split into two parts.
In this first part, Jude explains how to harness the power of storytelling to connect with clients. As well as telling a few of his own inspirational stories, Jude also shares:
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Mentioned in this episode:
Story Bank Journal: http://storybankjournal.com
Say hi to Louise:
Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in regular snack-sized bites.
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Hello, Louise here just popping in with a very quick message. In this episode, I speak to Jude Charles, who's an expert in visual storytelling and specifically using video to tell stories. Well, we had quite a bit to talk about so I decided to make this a twofer. It was just a wee bit long for one 15-minute episode. So we've got a part one and a part two. What you're about to hear is part one where Jude talks us through the power of storytelling to build trust with clients so they open up, how to create a story bank so you always have something to say, and prompts for what to write when you're stuck. In the next episode, you'll hear part two where we talk about using video to market your business so stay tuned for that. And a brief content warning before this episode, it does include some discussion of bereavement so please bear that in mind. Okay, on to the episode.
Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-size guide to being your own boss and building a business that works for you. I'm your host, Louise Shanahan. I'm a freelance health copywriter and on this podcast, I take you behind the scenes, so you can borrow from what's worked and what hasn't as you grow your own freelance business. We'll also have some practical tips and tactics from special guests along the way, so you can skip a few steps on your own freelancing journey. So without further ado, let's get started with today's episode. If you enjoy it, hit follow so you don't miss the next one.
Louise: Hi everyone. Now Edinburgh is extremely windy today so I apologise if you hear any trees falling in the background, or wheelie bins flying past the window. If that does happen, though, it will make an excellent hook for a story that I might decide to use to talk about some business insight in future. And this is my somewhat awkward attempt to segue seamlessly into introducing today's guest, Jude Charles, who many of you will know as an expert in video storytelling for personal brands. Jude is also the author of Dramatic Demonstration - How to attract premium clients and scale your business with visual storytelling. Hi, Jude, thank you so much for joining me.
Jude: Louise, thank you for having me.
L: As I mentioned, you specialise in video storytelling for personal brands. I'm curious about what this might look like for freelancers, could we maybe start with you telling us a bit about your approach?
J: I help entrepreneurs tell their story, right. That's the simplest form. That happens to be for me, in a documentary form, I create documentaries for entrepreneurs. And what that means, first of all, is if you think of a book, a biography, right, like maybe Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger. I will take that book, and then transform it into video form where I'm following Bob Iger around as he's telling his story, as he's showing what he's talking about. It allows Bob Iger if he's going for bigger opportunities, or if he is wanting to just connect with more of his audience, that connects his story with who he is and then it allows other people to be connected to him. I like to call it a three strand cord, a three strand cord is not easily broken. But it takes being able to tell your story, showing people who you are, what you're really about, in order for them to believe that you are who you say you are.
L: So it's kind of showing people behind the scenes in your business and the kind of work that you do, the kind of clients you work with, that sort of thing?
J: Yes. It's important because there's so much noise out there. There are so many other people doing, theoretically the same thing that you do, so how do you stand out. And in my opinion, the way that you stand out, is by getting very, very clear on your core values, and then communicating those core values. Now those core values should turn into stories, which is why I talk about getting very, very clear on your core values. Who are you? What are you about? Why are you about that? And that is, in my opinion, what connects on a deeper level that helps you go from just, “oh, I'm thinking about hiring you but I'm also looking at a few other people”, to “I have to hire you”, you become the only option, the only person that they're thinking about working with.
L: At this point, I want to ask you to tell us about the white shoes?
J: I went to Spokane, Washington in 2014. And I went to a leadership conference in Spokane, Washington specifically. Leadership has always been important to me and I knew that, but I didn't really understand what it meant to be a leader. I've mentioned to you, Louise that I am living in Florida, and Washington State is in the furthest north west point of the United States, Florida is the furthest south east point of the United States. And I had this crazy idea that I would take a Greyhound bus from northwest to southeast going cross country, this would be a three-day trip. I was like, I'm gonna take this all in, I'm gonna sit and just digest this conference that I've been at. I turn off my phone, I'm on this bus, by day two I was miserable because this is the dumbest idea I've ever had. And I turn back on my phone and I get this text message from my sister and it says “call me back, it's urgent”. Now Louise, I'm bracing myself because in 2014 my mother was diagnosed with depression and had attempted suicide before and then my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. So I'm bracing myself, I call my sister back, unfortunately, it's my dad, they say they found him unresponsive in the home.
I immediately take the first flight back home and my brother comes to pick me up. He comes with his daughter, my niece Ayana, and I sit in the backseat with Ayana. I'm staring off because I'm 25 years old at this point, I'm the youngest of 10 children and I never imagined that I would lose my father at such an early age, he would never see me get married or have kids. Ayana, she's nine years old, and she looks at me and says uncle, why did grandpa have to die? And I stared at her because I hadn’t known when they told me they found him unresponsive in the home, I hadn’t known that it meant that he passed away, they just didn't want to tell me while I was out on the road. And she said it again, why did grandpa have to die? That question rang in my ears as we made funeral arrangements, as we're preparing what to do with his assets. And I remember while my father was battling cancer, he would go to his chemotherapy and radiation and when he'd get home, he would put on these white boots. These white boots were ridiculous white rain boots that he would wear in order to cut the grass. Now my father loves gardening, he loved taking care of his grass. And I decided, as we were making these funeral arrangements, we were at my father's house, I decided, you know what, I'm not gonna let this grass get higher than it is right now. And I decided to put on those same white boots to cut the grass. Now I have no idea how he did it because it took me three hours and I had to take breaks. And my father was able to cut the grass in the midst of battling cancer. He was weak, right, and he didn't have the same energy that he used to have.
Well, I went to a speaking engagement recently, and I wore white shoes. And the white shoes represented my father's white boots. Because I realise now, eight years later, I have big shoes to fill and I continue to walk in my father's shoes. A man of strength. A man who was a great leader. And I strive to be that every single day. Here's the important piece that your audience should take away from this, that story, that same exact story, Spokane, Washington, that's how it's listed in what I call my story bank journal. That story I start with, anytime I go to sit with a client for a consulting session, I do a consulting session called road mapping. In road mapping we're mapping out the project itself, the video project that this client may be thinking about doing. But within the first three minutes, five minutes that we're sitting down with this client, that is the opening story. And I usually at the end, sometimes I'll talk about the white shoes, but other times I will say my mission is to lead and empower entrepreneurs to have relentless courage and I'm going to ask you very difficult questions in this road mapping session. What I need you to understand is I've been through difficult times too, and I've had to lead others through difficult times. And so I need you to trust me through this process that I'm going to lead you to being able to have the courage you need to share your story authentically.
When we talked about earlier in the beginning with storytelling, but specifically visual storytelling, I made meaning of white shoes. I didn't just tell you that I'm wearing white shoes, and it's really cool, and my dad used to wear white shoes. I gave you a story that illustrated why I wear these white shoes and why it's important to me. But also, when I went to this event to speak, again I brought meaning of these white shoes, I brought meaning of the work that we're getting ready to do together. If there's one thing to take away from listening to this podcast today is visual stories, visual being the tangible thing that someone can see with their own eyes, and then stories being a moment in time, that's all the story is a specific moment in time. Those two things put together helps to transform you from just being another commodity, another person to hire, to being someone that your client will want to partner with for life. And so I think it's very important. Like, again, this was just an illustration with these white shoes, but take it wherever you want to take it. Whatever it may be for you as a copywriter. Take that and bring meaning. Don't just say the statement, don't just say the word, I'm really good at what I do, or you should trust me, or all these other things. Bring meaning to it. What is an analogy that you can use? What is a story, a moment in time where you have got gotten through difficult moments that can help this client understand what makes you different. When someone is thinking about working with you that one question they're asking is why should I do business with you versus any and every other option available to me. If we want to shorten that, it's why you, the visual stories or stories alone can help someone understand, why you.
L: I think that's so smart. I really like the way that you use story, in particularly the story about the white shoes with clients when you're first meeting them. And it just shows the power of story to make that emotional connection with people. And you've created a safe space for them so they now trust you and they're going to be a bit more open to you. Which is hugely important if you're going to be telling their story for them. And it's also really smart because it's showing them the power of story, isn't it, and you're selling storytelling as a service. I think that's a really interesting one for listeners to be thinking about. You mentioned there the story bank, can you tell us a bit more about that? What exactly is that and how are you using it?
J: A story bank journal is a notebook that I started years ago, I forget exactly when, but years ago. I started this journal because I wanted to get better at storytelling. Not simply for my clients but for myself, I wasn't always telling my own stories. And so this story bank journal what happens is, almost daily, if not once a week, I will go into this journal and I would write a story, a random thing that happened for the week or for the day. First I'll start with the headline, which I'll take a random one that I've written before that I remember called “Uber driver by day, musician by night”. So I write that title, and then I write out the story. I won't give you the long drawn out story but it was basically this Uber driver who had played her music for me while she was taking me to the airport. And then, the last thing is the lesson that I learned from the story. And so in the lesson, with this one, I think it was, be prepared and in this lesson, what I'm doing is, I'm looking at how can I go back and use this in different parts of my business. Whether it's on a website, or on a blog, when I write a newsletter, how can I use this story to illustrate a point. I specifically call it a story bank because if you think about a regular bank, a financial bank, the only thing that you can withdraw from that bank is the money you've actually deposited. So in the same way with stories, the only stories you can pull that you can remember on the spot are the stories you've actually deposited. And so I try to deposit as many stories as possible that are happening to me. And I shouldn't even say stories that are happening to me, because sometimes it's stories from movies, or stories from TV shows. That is what the story bank is it. I'm thinking of like, even I just watched a movie called Ticket to Paradise featuring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. And there's a story that George Clooney tells in there, he didn't title it this, but I went and titled it House of Ashes. And then he tells this story, so I actually went and looked up the story, like I had seen it in the movie theatre but then I went and looked up the script to actually get a copy of the story, and now I have that in my story bank journal. And then I think of the lesson. So sometimes it's not even the story that has happened to you, but maybe it's happened to someone else and it'd be a great story to illustrate, to communicate to a client that will help them better understand what it is that you're saying. Stories are the most effective way to communicate. It's the way we've been communicating for literally centuries. And so that's what I use my story bank journal for, is to be able to get better at it, to get better at communication really.
L: That's great. And obviously, the more that you do this and the more that you're kind of paying attention, you start to notice things that you could turn into stories. And I think what's really interesting there is it doesn't have to be that you're going out living this crazy, exciting life and you've got all these adventures to write about. I mean, if you do that's amazing, but you can turn quite everyday situations into a really interesting story and people will relate to those as well, or like you say pull from other people's experiences and films and things like that, too. I wonder if you've got any resources that you would recommend to people who want to learn a bit more about storytelling, if anything comes to mind?
J: Yeah, I’ll give two. The first one is, I do write a newsletter about the business of storytelling. So how do you first craft these stories and then be able to use them in different parts of your business. I take you behind the scenes of how I do it in my business, but also my clients as well. That is called the Dramatic Leverage newsletter, you can go to JudeCharles.co/newsletter, I'm sure Louise will put it in the show notes. That's the first resource, it is completely free. But most importantly, for me, it's conversational. I don't just write these newsletters and expect you to read them and then never respond. One of the requirements to being on my email list, being a part of this newsletter is to engage. And so if you're looking to get better at it, and quite frankly, if you're just looking to get free coaching through this newsletter, respond and let's connect.
The second thing, only because we talked about it a little bit, the story bank journal. I have actually launched that this this month. I've been talking about the story bank for a while, and people keep asking for it so I've launched the story bank journal, both a digital and physical version. The digital version is available and you can immediately get started on telling your stories, crafting your stories. There are 30 prompts in this digital version that helps you even if you don't know what to think about what to write about. It helps you to be able to ask a question and then you answer that question in story format and that helps you get better stories too.
L: Perfect, we will definitely put those in the show notes.
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Louise here again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode, which was part one of my conversation with Jude. If you want to hear more of Jude’s insights and ideas look out for part two in the next episode. As always, you'll find all the relevant links that we mentioned in this episode in the show notes. Until next time, happy freelancing.