How to Handle "The Feast" with Danielle Hughes

The roller coaster of feast or famine is stressful.

It goes without saying that famine is definitely a problem.

But is endless feast the ideal?

What do you do when your marketing is working so well that you’re getting more good work from good people with good budgets than you can handle?

Should you grow? Should you delegate? Should you hire an employee? Or simply raise your prices?

These are just a few of the questions I tackled in the latest episode of the Marketing Mentor Podcast with my guest, Danielle Hughes, of More Than Words, who is in this enviable position.

It’s a good problem to have, but not necessarily easy to solve. 

The first quarter of 2021 was Danielle's best quarter ever. Her marketing plan -- which combines strategic networking with high quality content marketing -- is clearly working for her. And she has developed her own point of view, which she calls "Personality Brand" which started as one of many blog post topics, then took on a life of its own because the market responded to it. That's called "listening to the market" and letting it guide you, which is exactly what Danielle has done. 

And now she has too much work that she doesn't want to say no to.

How did she get to this point and what should she do now?

Listen here or below to find out: 

 

If you like what you hear, listen to my previous episode with Danielle, #373: Asking for Help = Business Growth

And we’d love it if you write a review, subscribe on ApplePodcasts and sign up for Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor.

Here's the transcript of the conversation:

ilise benun  

As you probably know, my mantra for this podcast is about avoiding the feast or famine syndrome. Of course, famine is to be avoided for obvious reasons, but what about feast? The idea of the feast is appealing but it has problems of its own. What do you do when your marketing is working so well that you're getting more good work from good people with good budgets than you can handle? Should you grow? Should you delegate? Should you hire an employee, or simply raise your prices? These are just a few of the questions I tackled with Danielle Hughes, who is in this enviable position. So listen and learn.

ilise benun  

Hello Danielle. Welcome back to the podcast.


Danielle Hughes  

Thank you, ilise, I'm excited to be a twofer.


ilise benun  

Exactly. And before we talk about what we're going to talk about, please give your most current elevator pitch.


Danielle Hughes  

Sure, I mean it's always a work in progress, but my name is Danielle Hughes. I am the self proclaimed Chief Personality Officer of More Than Words Marketing, and I help individuals and institutions bring more of themselves into their messaging through what I call creating your genuine personality brand.


ilise benun  

Beautiful, and that's been evolving and growing over the last couple of years that I've known you and it's been very exciting to see that because, you know, when we first got to work together, you were doing mostly copywriting. Right? 

Danielle Hughes  

Correct, yes. And very much just a freelancer, didn't even have the business at that time.


ilise benun  

And as many people know, the way I decide who's gonna be on the podcast is based on ideas. Basically, if someone comes to me with a really good idea, I generally say yes, especially if it's relevant to my listeners, who are creatively self employed people. So you came to me with an idea. What is your idea, Danielle?


Danielle Hughes  

So it's funny because I always listen to your podcasts, and you always talk about, your thing is about getting out of the feast or famine cycle. And I had this thought about what happens when it's all feast. And what do you do with that? It's something that I think we all kind of dream of, like, “Wouldn't it be great if I just have this steady flow of work that's pouring in all the time?” 


But what happens when that work is maybe too much or too good and what do you do with that? What do you do when you're just feasting all the time, and there's an endless feast?


ilise benun  

And so maybe before we get to that. Tell us a little bit about how you got to all feast. What kind of marketing, are you doing, that is generating the feast.


Danielle Hughes  

So a few things. I would say I am a constant networker. I have toned it down a little bit, but most people who follow me know that last year I had 240, face to face, or virtual face to face meetings during the pandemic. I'm in several networking groups. And I think that all of these relationships that I've been cultivating and the way that I position myself have just really started to pay off in recognition and awareness. And you know it's about relationships, right? So now I have this trust that people want to refer me for work. So that's one. 


The second piece is my newsletter which goes out twice a month, and allows me to stay in front of my audience, but more importantly it allows me to have a distinct point of view that really seems to be resonating with people. I think it's funny that “personality brand” was one of these first blog posts or newsletters that I wrote when we first started working together. It was just a concept. It wasn't meant to be my brand. And it's taken on a life of its own now and I feel like it's taken, two, three years for that to get into the ether, and for the world to start recognizing it. 


So I think it's the combination of networking and outreach that's kind of created this windfall of people coming to me with work all the time. 


ilise benun  

So, again, I have a few more questions before we get to the feast part, because what you just described is two of the three main marketing tools in the Simplest Marketing Plan: the strategic networking, and the high quality content marketing, which is your newsletter. 


I've been talking a lot with people lately about email newsletters and I constantly get the question about how often and how long. And in general, my answer is monthly is plenty and quarterly is a minimum; and shorter tends to be better. But yours works, obviously, and it's every other week and it's long, so talk a little bit about what works for you in that strategy.


Danielle Hughes  

I don't think as long. I think it's short. You know how they tell you how long a “read” is when you create a post? Well, most of mine are 1 to 2 minutes to read. So to me that's pretty short.

[Regarding frequency], I always tell my clients to do what you can commit to. And for me, monthly was actually too infrequent. I would quibble with you. I think most people should do at least monthly. I think quarterly -- why bother? You might as well just not do it at all. But for me, weekly felt too daunting and I didn't think I could commit to that; every other week just felt like something that I could bite off and chew. And as a writer I kind of feel like you should be able to put out content at least twice a month. That just feels like something that you should be willing and able to do. 


And it's just worked out for me as a cadence and most people think it comes out weekly, which is so funny -- because people who think I send it out every week, I keep telling them no it's not. But they're like, “I love your newsletters and look forward to them. I can't wait for Friday.” And yes, I send them out on Fridays. I don't even know how that happened but I just started doing it on Friday and now I feel like I can't break from that. But I think this appearance that it comes more frequently is also really interesting, because I guess if somebody is looking forward to something they think they get it more often than they do.


ilise benun  

I don't know. I'm sure there is one of these mental blind spots and I can come up with about this perception of frequency. I'm going to have to look into that. but my newsletter, my Quick Tips, is also every other week and people think it's weekly so there is definitely something there.


Danielle Hughes  

Yeah, so maybe we're gaming the system. So you don't have to do it every week to get the weekly impression.


ilise benun  

I love that. And now let's just talk about the networking for a moment, because in the pandemic, a lot of people have said, “Oh, it's just so much harder to network in the pandemic because you can't be in person with people.” But most of the people I'm in contact with have found it that much easier and I'm curious if you have to?


Danielle Hughes  

I think it's easier to find groups you can attend, because you don't have to physically go somewhere, right? So you can attend groups out of your area. For me, I'm in a weekly networking group that has 150 locations across the country. So in the beginning of the pandemic, I was popping into Texas and over to Colorado, New York and wherever. I live in New York City. So I do have a lot of opportunity here, but like the idea that you call in from your couch and reach more people, especially as either a service provider or product where you're not location based. I mean, the potential is so much more to expand your horizons. 


But I also feel like the pandemic for a lot of people created a need for connection. And so more people were willing to not only network but the most important thing -- networking is the irrelevant part -- it's the follow up to that face to face meeting that you have with someone where you get to know them and they get to know you. That's the most important piece because that's where you become memorable, you become this fully realized person, and you create that connection and you're physically still seeing them on the screen so you can get to read their energy. You get to kind of vibe and see if you're on the same page, and then that leads to them knowing people that you should connect with, you knowing people that they should connect with. So for me I felt like I was able to ramp up my networking, which I had already been doing anyway in just a bigger way.


ilise benun  

I want to connect the dots between the two marketing tools because most of the time I see people doing marketing, but not in a connected way. So when you say follow up, you're doing this to strategic networking, and then you're doing follow up. Is the newsletter part of how you follow up?


Danielle Hughes  

I mean, if people sign up for it. I probably should and could be better about asking people to sign up for my newsletter when I meet with them or when I do a face to face. I will find that a lot of times they do that on their own, either before or after we meet. I will see that there's a subscriber, and then I'll realize it's someone that I'm going to have a meeting with that day or that I just talked to. So it's not necessarily part of the follow up to the networking. 


To me the follow up to the networking is -- I take notes when we meet, and I think about -- there's something we call the three “i”s. Because you can always do an introduction. You don't always know somebody that you can refer when you chat with a new person, but you can provide information, whether it's an article you read, or just something that you find relevant. Or you can do an invitation, where you can invite them to another group that you belong to.


So I'm always thinking about how do I serve these people, even if I don't know someone that would be a good client for them? Usually I can be like, “I know a networking group that's looking for whatever you do and here's an introduction.” 


Yesterday I talked to another writer and I belong to like two marketing type groups -- one's a Slack channel and one's an email -- and I said, “I'll hook you up with those,” because she was looking for a job and people are always posting opportunities on there. So sometimes I just think it's, how can you expand what you offer outside of always thinking you have to make a referral or it's all about you? I don't usually go into these things trying to talk about myself. I usually go into them, trying to find out more about them, which of course creates more goodwill. They feel seen, and they're more likely to remember me, even though I probably spend less time talking about myself. And then they come to me when they need help with content.


ilise benun  

So that's you using curiosity as a marketing tool and generosity as a marketing tool. I just want to articulate and summarize what you just said about your follow up strategy, the three “i”s -- it sounded like introduction, information, invitation.


Danielle Hughes  

Introduction, information, invitation. Correct.


ilise benun  

All right, so all of this together has resulted for you in feast. I just want to say something about feast or famine first. I love alliteration -- feast or famine first -- because the ebb and flow is, to me, the nature of being self employed, especially the way you and I are. It is just up and down, unless we get a J-O-B. We are never going to have steady, steady work constantly. The only situation where you do is when you have that “gorilla” client who then provides everything you need, but is always potentially about to disappear. You just don't know. So I do think that the ebb and flow is natural but the feast or famine is very stressful. Could we say that one is better than the other? I don't know but I love the fact that you wanted to talk about the feast and how you handle it. So tell us a little bit about your feast.


Danielle Hughes  

I think that's what's so interesting is, like I said earlier, I think this is what we all kind of hope for, right? “I just want tons of work and people coming to me.” I know when you and I talked a couple weeks ago, you're said, “You know, you can say no.” But it's hard to say no when everything is a good opportunity. I'm at the point now, luckily, where things coming to me for the most part are almost always a good fit: the rates are good, the client is good, the material is good. So I'm having this conundrum -- how do I turn down work when still in my head, I'm thinking, “What if this stops one day?” even though it's been basically all systems go since last March. And this first quarter is my best first quarter ever. 


I still, you know, like most people -- like celebrities do this all the time, they always live in fear of running out of all their money, and that's what keeps them driving. And it's not that I have that per se. But I also feel like so many of the things coming to me, I actually want to do. I'm starting to have the quandary of, how do I take on all the things that I want to take on and what does that look like for my business?


And as you know, I did, last year, hire a virtual assistant, which has been instrumental for me in taking some of the admin off of my plate and helping me with a little bit of project management. I have a designer that I will tap into for my work and for some of my clients’ work now. And I do have a couple of writers that I've used here and there. But I don't really have consistent help, and I think as I've been getting busier, that idea of what the scaling looks like: do I want to scale? do I want to bring on an employee, which I said I would never do, but everybody I talk to says it will change your life. 


And so it's just gotten my brain in so many directions, and then also, as you know, part of this influx and flooding of work has made me think, Is this even what I want to still be doing? Do I still want to be a creator? Or do I want to be a creative director or a teacher or trainer? Am I wanting to move more into a training and coaching model, as opposed to doing the actual work? So I'm a little bit at a crossroads and I think that this year for me will shake out which direction I go in -- or maybe it's both. Maybe I bring on an employee to do the actual work and I just oversee it, and then I can go out and do more speaking opportunities and do more corporate engagements and help people in that way.


ilise benun  

As I'm listening, I'm thinking about how many people say to me that they have trouble delegating, and it's not like they're at the feast point that you're describing, but there are definitely things they could delegate, and they're not exactly sure how, or which. One person in particular, Andy Brenits, wrote a piece for Entrepreneur.com actually recently about how the hardest thing for him was to delegate the thing he does himself, which is design. So I'm curious if, for you, it is more challenging to delegate the copywriting than the admin for example?


Danielle Hughes  

Yes, 100%! I delegated my bookkeeping, my admin, I've delegated my financial planning, the design. But the copy -- I still have it in my head that I'm the only one who can do what I do. And I think a lot of people feel that way. There are certain projects that are less “personality driven” so I can hand it off to another writer and I can just massage it. But I feel like so much of what I do is teasing out people's brand and personality, and I don't know if -- it's not that I'm not comfortable. I would have to find someone and train them. They would have to follow me and shadow me and learn my technique -- and it's not even a technique! It's just it's in my head, and how do I get it out of my head into someone else's head? It's difficult. It's difficult.


ilise benun  

Repetition is helpful. Yes. It's interesting because, for you, the work of copywriting is not just any kind of copywriting. It's a certain kind of copywriting, based on this brand and this concept that you have evolved. 


And one thing that I find really interesting about the personality brand idea is that, as you said, it was just a blog post that you wrote, at one point. But then people started to respond to it and so you listened to the market and you started to give the market more of what it was asking for. To me that's one of the trickiest things to teach -- because people think it has to come from them and they have to decide where they're going instead of balancing that with listening to the market. So I wonder, as you're articulating the opportunities that you see in the options before you, because you know how to listen to the market, there will also be that aspect of, “Where am I being called?”


Danielle Hughes  

Basically. Yeah, and I totally agree and I thank you for that advice. Because so many people had come to me in the past couple of years saying, “I love the way you write about yourself” or “I love your website -- I need that. I don't know how to write about myself.” And it did not occur to me that this was so difficult for so many people. What's more interesting now, as you know, I'm going to be moving into the corporate space. So how do you do a brand for a person who's an employee? 


But companies are starting to see that there's a need for that because, especially with virtual, you have employees who struggle. It's not that they don't know that they're good at their job. But they don't know how to advocate for themselves, they don't know how to put into words the value that they bring to their team or the value that they bring to the organization, or specifically what they're good at. And so I'm really excited about this potential and this happened because of my newsletter! Somebody saw my newsletter and said, “I think the people I mentor could really use this.” And she brought it to her organization [and they said,] “Yes, we have a problem internally and we would love to embolden and bolster the people in our company to be able to say, ‘This is my own personality brand. This is who I am. This is what I'm good at.’’ Because then it just serves everybody more, it serves the teams that they work with, it serves their managers, it serves their employers. So I'm really fascinated to see how this can translate into an internal employer perspective as an employee perspective as opposed to just entrepreneurial.


ilise benun  

Yeah and then you're definitely going to have to train other people to do it with you.


Danielle Hughes  

I would think, yes, or I'll just not actually do writing, and all the training -- that's a whole other podcast maybe.


ilise benun  

Exactly. Alright, my last question for you, Danielle and this is a thread that has been woven through everything I'm doing and talking about and people I'm talking to lately -- what role does confidence play in what you're describing, in this case the feast for example?


Danielle Hughes  

I think it's a huge component. I think clients or potential clients can sense if you are confident in what you do. And I want to distinguish that introverts can be confident -- confident is not just an extroverted outgoing personality trait. So many people think that when you are confident you're braggadocious or you're boasting, but there's a huge piece in having that energy about you that says, “I know that I am good at this, and I am going to price my work and value what I'm good at. And I'm going to even maybe tease a little bit when we're having a conversation about what I know.” I think that goes such a long way because why would you [a client] trust your brand or your message with someone who doesn't give you the sense that they're going to know what to do with it, right? You want someone who's going to come in and say, “Here's what I see, or here's what I noticed” and is not afraid to say that and to speak up. 


So I think it's something that can be cultivated. I definitely suffered from that impostor syndrome, Brene Brown just had a whole thing about how it's not a syndrome, but we all have moments of feeling like an impostor and that's completely normal. I just think it's something that happens over time, the more you talk about what you do and the more you do what you do, that's where the confidence comes from. 


So if I look back two years ago, I don't think that I was as confident as maybe I pretended to be.


ilise benun  

So the idea of competence breeding confidence.


Danielle Hughes  

100%. I mean obviously there are people who are confident whoi shouldn't be confident. But I think for the most part, yes, if you know that you are good at what you do and you have a distinct point of view, then you can be confident about it -- clarity creates confidence.


ilise benun  

All right, well, I just want to thank you, Danielle, for bringing this really interesting issue and conundrum -- it's a good problem to have, but it's a problem nonetheless, to the podcast. Tell the people where they can find you and your newsletter and your workshops and everything that you're doing.


Danielle Hughes  

Sure. So my website is morethanwordscopy.com and you can sign up for my newsletter there. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, I’m a big LinkedIn user. Everything's really on my website. I don't know when I'm going to be doing my next workshop, but the newsletter is definitely on the website.


ilise benun  

The newsletter is the thing to always get involved. All right, thank you, Danielle,


Danielle Hughes  

Thank you so much, it was great.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai