Diane Wiredu is a Messaging Strategist and Conversion Copywriter, and the founder of Lion Words. Diane is an expert in using storytelling and customer research to attract perfect-fit clients, and in this episode, she shares how freelancers can use the same strategies to market their services. We cover:
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Louise Shanahan is a freelance health copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.
Louise: Hello, and welcome to another episode of 15 Minute Freelancer. Today, I am very excited to be joined by Diane Wiredu, who is a messaging strategist and conversion copywriter, and the founder of Lion Words. She helps SaaS and B2B companies simplify their message, attract more perfect-fit customers and get better results from their marketing. Who doesn't want that? So I wanted to have Diane on the podcast today to talk about how we as freelancers can use similar customer research and storytelling strategies to attract our clients even when we don't have all the budget and resources of a big software company.
Diane also has a pretty cool framework that she uses to structure her services, the ROAR framework, so I'm very curious to find out how having a named process like that has helped elevate her business, and how freelancers who might be listening to this can think about developing their own. So hello, Diane, thank you so much for joining me.
Diane: Hi, Louise. Thanks a lot for having me excited to be here.
L: We've actually got a few translators in the audience. So they might be interested to hear that you also used to be a translator, I believe.
D: In a previous life, I was a translator, yes, I've always worked with words in some way, some shape or form. My academic background is languages. I studied Spanish and Italian at university, then I kind of went straight into the corporate world and worked in a translation company. And I first started my freelance journey as a translator before pivoting into messaging and copywriting.
L: I mentioned your ROAR framework in the intro, and people are maybe wondering what that is. Something I often talk about on this podcast is the importance of owning your process when you work with clients and having a proprietary framework, if we can put it that way, to help you explain and structure your processes seems like a great way for freelancers to shift from that mindset where maybe you see yourself as “just” a copywriter, or “just” a designer or a translator “for hire” to actually owning your process and being seen as an expert. So maybe we could start there, if you could tell us a little bit more about what your ROAR framework is. What is it? And what was the inspiration behind that?
D: Yeah, the ROAR framework is the four letters, R-O-A-R, like a lion. So you can probably guess there's a little link between the framework and my business name, which is Lion Words. The R is research and discovery, O is organisation and strategy, A is then assembling and executing, and then the R is review, or review, testing, validation. So that's my conversion copywriting process, basically. I follow that for any copywriting engagement. And it just helps me walk through the process that I follow to uncover those messages. I really gives me a way to explain the way that I work to clients. And it's funny actually, the way that it came about. I was actually given some advice that I'm really happy to pass on, from a mini mastermind group that I was in last year with Joanna Wiebe. The CopyHackers mini mastermind. And one of the pieces of advice that she gave was just think about your process and own it.
And I think at that time, I didn't have all the samples and portfolio pieces, I didn't have the fancy client roster, because I was moving from one industry to another. I realised I didn't need all of that to own my own process. And so once I realised that I came up with it really quickly, actually, it was like a light bulb just went off in my head. I realised I wanted to go with something bold, something memorable, like me and my brand. And then I landed on the ROAR framework. So it was just breaking down my work into steps. But it just gave me a way to talk about my process and highlight my approach in a really, really fun and interesting way.
L: I love this. It sounds like it must make calls with new clients a lot easier, because you're not going to be scrambling and wondering what to talk about when they're asking how you work, you know, you've got your solid process. You sound like you know what you're doing, and it's showing a bit of your personality as well.
D: Yeah, exactly. And one of the fun things about it that I like is that one of the steps isn't writing. So I don't I don't actually have writing. That's quite interesting for clients, who say okay, well, where is that? It's the assembly phase. I talk about the processes being like a puzzle. I put the pieces of the puzzle together and I whip the words into shape and all of that kind of stuff. And that part of the framework was inspired by Eugene Schwartz. He's a famous copywriter from back in back in the day. And I remember I read a book where he said copy isn't written, it's assembled. I think that was the first little lightbulb moment. And I just I absolutely loved that. Because it felt really true to the way that I work. I don't feel like I sit down and write. My process is very research heavy, very discovery heavy, I get on lots of calls with clients and do lots of customer research. At the end, I just assemble the pieces together. And so it felt like a really interesting way to talk about the way that I work and a little bit, you know, it's a bit different to other people.
L: Yeah. And I imagine it makes it easier to get across the value of what you're doing as well. It's moving away from focusing on word count, or the number of hours that you're spending on a project. It's about the value and the process and your experience and research that goes into that.
D: Yeah, definitely, you know, sometimes projects takes six, eight or even more weeks. And I could talk about that in 30 seconds. Like, really simply, you know? I can get on a 20-minute intro call with a client and say this is the process that I follow, steps 1, 2, 3, 4, and I can expand on that if we do decide to work together and they have questions about it. Just having those simple steps, I think, allows you to give your clients confidence that you know what you're doing, you know what you're talking about.
L: So do you have any tips for other freelancers? Maybe not necessarily copywriters, but any freelancer, about how they could think about developing their own framework like this?
D: Yeah, definitely. I think that having a framework or process, whatever you want to call, it really applies to every single industry out there. I would say first, start by looking at your process for uniqueness. You know, think about what do you do differently to anyone else? Is there something that you do that no one else does? Or what skills do you have that you take for granted? You might even follow a process or follow steps and you haven't really thought about it, but it's actually kind of a differentiator. So start by doing that. Just walking through – what steps do you work through on every single project? That'll start getting the juices flowing. And then you can also look at the way you approach your work. So if you do think, okay, there isn't really anything crazy unique here. What are you doing maybe the same as everyone else, but they're just not talking about? You know, maybe like the way that I've talked about assembly assembling those pieces. I mean, I'm sure you do the same thing, Louise, but maybe you would use a different word. Can you talk about what you do in a bit of a different way? I think those are the first few steps and then distilling that into the simplest steps. A framework that is more than three, four, maybe five steps, once you go past that, it's not going to stick. So go for something simple and memorable.
L: And this also ties in with the storytelling service that you provide your clients, doesn't it? Because you're using this framework to tell a story about how you work, and how you get results for your client. So beyond frameworks, can you tell us a bit about how freelancers can approach the idea of storytelling in their marketing, to get their message across in a memorable way?
D: I think that storytelling is the foundation of everything, honestly. It's become a bit of a buzzword, unfortunately, because everyone is out there calling themselves a guru and a storyteller. But it really does work. You know, we're built on stories from when we were young. Emotional stories increase the oxytocin levels in our brain, and all that kind of stuff. And they just help you really connect with people. I'm a bit anti-traditional storytelling. So you might have heard about the hero's journey, or the three acts or, you know, approaching storytelling in their traditional ways that you start with act one, act two, the climax, and then the resolution. And I think that that's great, but when you just want to focus on your LinkedIn posts, or your website, or your whatever else, like, sometimes that's not really practical.
So I've pulled a few elements from storytelling frameworks that I try to apply to my work. One of the things that I look at is familiarity. Just trying to put out things that we will be able to connect on with our audience, you know, so that they relate to our lives. Because people want to see themselves in the work that you do. So just making sure that people feel seen. One of the other things is challenge. Picking a fight. Lots of great stories have conflict, they force us to take sides and form opinions. I often like to put a bit of conflict into the messaging that I put out there and take a stand. And then the other thing as well is the idea of promise. And so that's closing the gap between what is and what could be, so using a story to help your customer or your reader create a better version of themselves, Making sure that your client or your reader is actually the like protagonist of the story, if that makes sense.
L: Yeah, I wonder if you've got any specific examples. So when you say something like picking a fight, what would that mean for a freelancer who's marketing their services or trying to tell a story about their services?
D: Yeah, I can. In traditional storytelling, there's always a villain, right? So there's always someone, you know, the big bad wolf or the ogre or whatever. And that's a really easy principle to apply to our content and even social posting or blogs. Like, what do you stand for? What do you stand against? If you're a freelancer who works in analytics or design, maybe you're against big data, or you're really for these privacy firms. And you can create content, you can tell a story about yourself by picking that fight, or by showing that you really believe in something. And I think that's a really great way to connect with clients who believe the same things that you do.
I think often as freelancers, we're really scared to put our opinions out there. But it's actually one of the biggest advantages of being your own company. It's like, I don't need to check if my opinions align with the boss or the top dog, because that's us. So don't forget to just put your opinions out there and be a little bit challenging. People love that. And even if people disagree with you, that's also fine.
L: If you try and appeal to everybody, and you don't say anything that you think might be controversial, then people don't know what you stand for, do they? So if you can be a bit bolder about sharing your opinions, then maybe you'll attract more of the kind of clients who feel the same way. And then it's gonna be more fun working with them, isn't it?
D: Yeah, exactly. And that's why I like to look at storytelling in a much more practical way. I don't think storytelling is – it's not really, “one day I was born…” – you don't need to tell your entire life story. It's just about pulling one tiny little element that people are going to be engaged in. And so yeah, challenge is one of those and just showing little snippets that people can relate to.
L: And one way to make sure that these frameworks that we've talked about and stories and messages resonate with the right audience, is through customer research, which I know you're an expert in. And that's true for a small company of one as much as any large tech companies. Have you got any advice for simple ways that freelancers can ask for and act on feedback from their current clients, or potential new clients and use that to inform storytelling and messaging?
D: Oh, yeah, definitely. I love using customer research in everything I do. It's one of the big parts of the projects that I work on for my clients. I will never work on copy or messaging without having spoken to customers, because you can just get such juicy insights. And you can hear the language and the way that people speak about your product or service. I would say maybe let's start with the easy things. If you're trying to get feedback, or a testimonial, or just to understand how your client feels about your work. The first thing I would say to do is just to anticipate that and talk about it in advance. So if you're working on a project currently, with a client, and you haven't mentioned that you'd like feedback at the end, say, “hey, at the end of this project, I'd love to get on a quick call, get some feedback from you.”
Use the momentum of the project as well. If during a project, you hear a client say, “oh, you know, we love this,” or they just give you a little bit of feedback, use that moment to pounce and say, “Great, thanks so much, would you be up for sharing or expanding on that or giving that testimonial?” I think that's one way to get immediate testimonials. And then if you're maybe going back to older clients, to understand maybe why they picked you or just to understand your marketing and your business better, the first thing I think is just don't worry. Like reach out, just ask people. I think the first hurdle people think is, I can't ask, I can't go back and say, “do you want to get on a call and chat with me?” because people don't want to do it. But people love talking about themselves, people love to help. So reach out, ask, set expectations. Set some boundaries, say “it's going to be 30 minutes, it's going to be a few questions,” so people know what they're signing up for. Because people hate going into something without knowing. And I'd also say the big one is never call an interview an interview, because interviews are horrible. So call it a chat. Because a chat doesn't sound scary. You can send a survey, but the best way to get feedback is really to get on the phone with someone. So don't be afraid of picking up the phone or getting on a zoom.
L: Yeah, I totally agree. I have always used a very short set of questions that I would send to people, when I was asking for feedback at the end of a project and asking them for a testimonial. And it's always worked pretty well. But recently, I had someone who asked to do over the phone, which I hadn't really done before, but it worked so well. And I was able to dig into some of the things that they said and really just get down to another level of detail and insight that you wouldn't necessarily get where they're just replying to an email.
D: And I do both. I send surveys and I also get on the phone with people. If it feels too scary, then set up a sort of a survey. But yeah, people will say things in conversations that they don't write down. And it's that language that's just so useful to hear.
L: Yeah. Okay. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today. And I certainly feel really excited to go and put my creative hat on and start thinking about what stories I could be telling about my services and coming up with frameworks. And if listeners would like to ask you any questions about what we've been talking about today, or find out more about what you do, where would be the best place for them to find you?
D: Yeah, so I hang out on LinkedIn. Way too much, actually. So definitely head over there, send me a connection request, say hi. I'd love to answer any questions over there. And particularly because we were talking about customer research and questions, I also have a cheat sheet of questions that I love to ask customers, both in interviews and in surveys. So anyone who's listening and who wants a bit of a framework or doesn't know where to start, what questions to ask to help them with their work, and they can grab that as well. And I think maybe we can share the link in the show notes?
L: Yes, definitely. Yeah.
D: Yeah. So we can share that.
L: Okay, a huge thank you, Diane. And thank you to everyone for listening. And until next time, happy freelancing.
D: Thank you so much.
You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.