The Five-Minute Pity Party

Do you ever get discouraged running your own creative business?

Whether you’re a newbie freelancer or you’ve been self employed a while, it’s bound to happen, especially if you work mostly in isolation.

But copywriter, Deidre Rienzo, has the solution: a 5 minute pity party -- but no more than 5 minutes!

Then you have to go find a new prospect on LinkedIn as a reward -- to get you moving again.

That’s just one of the things we talked about in Part 1 of my latest podcast episode with Deidre, based on her very popular blog post, 10 Tips to get your creative business off the ground now.

So listen here (or below) and learn. (And watch for Part 2 coming soon)

 

Here are just a few of my favorite of Deidre's blog posts

Check out ALL of her past newsletters here (and be sure to sign up for it here or on her homepage).

And here's the transcript of our conversation. 

Intro
10 years ago copywriter, Deidre Rienzo saw other creatives blogging about how they were just so busy that they had to say no to clients. And she couldn't imagine ever being in that position herself. Fast forward 10 years, and now she's the one blogging about how busy she is. How did she get here, literally? And what can you learn from her journey? That's what we talked about in part one of this episode. So listen and learn.

ilise benun
Hello Deidre, welcome to the podcast.

Deidre Rienzo
Hi Ilise, thank you for having me.

ilise benun
I'm so glad you're here. Please introduce yourself.

Deidre Rienzo
I am Deidre Rienzo, and I write personality-rich web copy, blog posts and newsletters for designers and their clients.

ilise benun
Excellent. And we're talking today because you do a lot of guest blogging on my blog, and you have been for a long time, and we can talk a little bit about that. But you recently wrote a post called, "10 tips to get your creative business off the ground now," which I have gotten so much amazing feedback on. People really love it, so that's how I know when it's time to do a podcast on a topic. So I invited you, and you said yes, so here we are. So maybe give us a little overview of what that blog post was based on.

Deidre Rienzo
So before that I had written a post called, "No, I can't do that." And it was about saying no to clients -- you know, just saying no. And then,  as I was writing it, I was thinking, "Oh my god, I'm that person now. I'm that person who, when I first started out, I was like, seriously, this person is talking about, "I'm so busy, I have to say no. I have to charge more."

And it used to make me feel so bad. I was like, there's no way that's ever gonna happen. Because there I was, trying to just make some money and get my business off the ground and be a real, you know, a real business owner. And these people were writing about, "Oh I'm just too busy to do any more work. I can't possibly take on any more work."

So I wrote this post because of that, to share things I would want to tell new freelancers, so that they know that one day they can be the person who is so busy, they'll have to say no to projects.

ilise benun
You have been in business for how long?

Deidre Rienzo
This is my 15th year.

ilise benun
Wow.

Deidre Rienzo
Yeah.

ilise benun
And you wrote that 10 years ago, when you still were feeling like, "I really want to be able to do this full time." You wrote that, "it seemed like such a pipe dream only for a few lucky ones who had been sprinkled with pixie dust."

Deidre Rienzo
Yeah, that's how I felt. I mean, especially the first couple years, it was rough, you know?

ilise benun
And you wrote, "I was plagued by self doubt and anxiety, mixed with moments of confident action. I was charging ridiculously low prices, I sent out an actual invoice for $14.76 -- for real."

And I'm reading that to you, and we're laughing but I know that there are people listening who are "plagued by self doubt and anxiety mixed with moments of confident action." So I thought we could just dig a little deeper into these tips that you suggested and show how possible this is.

We could say, "If Deidre can do it, anyone can do it." That is not a knock on you. So I picked a few tips from your post that I wanted to focus on and have you elaborate on. The first one, in number five, you said, "Tune into your inner voice, not the fear, but the clarity. It won't steer you wrong."

So I wondered -- I'm channeling my listeners now -- how do you tell the difference between the fear and the clarity? Can you give us an example? What does the fear say?

Deidre Rienzo
The fear says, "You should or you shouldn't do that." I think the fear talks in "shoulds." I don't know if the clarity talks, or the clarity just is, The clarity is just the truth that you feel is right.

And sometimes you do the scary thing. But you don't do it because you should do it or because everyone else is doing it or because someone told you to do it.

You do it because you know that for you, that's going to help get you to where you actually want to go.

ilise benun
Can you share with us one thing that you were afraid of doing that was the scary thing but that you did anyway? And now looking back, maybe it doesn't seem as scary or you're not even sure why you were afraid in the first place?

Deidre Rienzo
I don't know.

ilise benun
I have some ideas. I know what your marketing is -- you have an email newsletter. That's the main piece of marketing that you do, from what I can see. And I'm curious, was there any fear around writing an email newsletter?

Deidre Rienzo
You know, initially I know there was a little fear about how authentic I wanted to be, because I wanted to be just real. I wanted to be me. I wanted to not only show people, look, I can write things, but also give them insight into how I was able to share my own personality, so they can hopefully see how I can help them share their personality. And that was one of those things where, coming from the corporate marketing background, where you have to kind of be corporate and you don't want to get too personal. That was one of those things -- I though maybe I should be more corporate.

But there was the clarity thing: you know what, I'm going to be me and I'm going to share that, and the people who want to work with me, the people who are going to be ideal clients are going to like that.

ilise benun
Exactly. And I wonder also about fear around the money conversation. Because I know that you have gotten really good at the money conversation and you make it a practice to bring it up in the very first phone call. So talk to us a little bit about that.

Deidre Rienzo
At some point I did get really good at it. So how did I go from charging $14.76 on an invoice to saying, "That usually costs around $3,000 Is that comfortable for you?"

I guess that was a journey that happens with the confidence of knowing that you're doing good work, and actually helping people and giving your clients something that is of value to them.

The more I did that good work, and I saw that people were like, "Oh my gosh, this is great. This is what I needed. You really heard me." Those positive words from clients. Then I realized, this is valuable. I can charge more for this. So that's when I started gradually raising my rates.

And then with your influence, you've always been talking about bringing up money. Then I just started doing it. It was uncomfortable at first. That was one of those things that was scary. It was totally scary. And I didn't really want to do that, but the clarity and my gut said, You know what? You have to talk about it. 

ilise benun
Why? What happens when you don't? 

Deidre Rienzo
Oh my god, you just waste so much time! You could spend so much time talking to someone and thinking they might be a good fit. But without addressing that money piece, that's the biggest piece. I mean, that's huge. So without addressing that, you have no idea whether or not this is going to be something worth putting your time and energy into, so let's just get that right out of the way.

ilise benun
It's interesting, because without the money, it feels like a good fit, as if the money wasn't part of that question, "Are you a good fit?" 

Deidre Rienzo
Right, right, that's interesting. Yeah, everything else can sort of be there. This person sounds nice. I like what they're doing. It sounds like we're good at communicating with each other. It sounds like they want what I offer. But if they think what I offer costs $200, then all of this is not a good fit.

ilise benun
Yeah, exactly. You also wrote about feeling discouraged, and I know a lot of people often feel discouraged, and I imagine that actually doesn't ever end. That's my first question. Do you still feel discouraged?

Deidre Rienzo
No, not, not as much, not the way that I used to. I would say no. Not for a really long time. I was talking to Jill Anderson about this not too long ago, about how, over time, it kind of goes away. You do feel more confident. You feel less discouraged. But then yeah, there are still moments of it. But I'd say somewhere around maybe five years ago. So somewhere around Year 10, I stopped feeling discouraged so much. And maybe that was just a matter of practice, because all those other times when I did feel discouraged...

ilise benun
What did you do?

Deidre Rienzo
Apparently we have to feel all these feelings, right? We have so many. I have to feel the feelings and let them go through my body. And then I can come back to center. So when I was feeling discouraged or feeling like, "Oh my god, this is never gonna work." Or I would let myself sulk and have a little pity party.

And I'd say, Okay, you have five minutes.

ilise benun
You put the timer on?

Deidre Rienzo
Yeah, I would put the timer on and be sad, you know, feel crappy, feel like you suck, have a pity party, be like, "oh, woe is me."

And then after the five minutes, I'd be like, "Alright, let's do something." So I would have a pity party and then I would do something productive, like find a new prospect on LinkedIn or send an email or update my website. Taking the action just made me feel so much better.

So I wonder if, as the time went on, I was just able to reprogram that discouraged feeling with. "let's just do something."

ilise benun
And what's interesting to me is that you seem to have shed this behavior without quite noticing it.

Deidre Rienzo
Hmm. That is interesting.

ilise benun
Suddenly you looked back and it was gone. This thing that you had been doing for so long.

Deidre Rienzo
But you know what else sort of replaced it?

ilise benun
What?

Deidre Rienzo
I think now I can confidently tell you, I am good at what I do. I am good at what I do and I know that because the people I work with value what I do. They keep coming back to me and they tell me. And I think knowing that I'm good at what I do is the thing that helps eliminate a lot of that self doubt.

ilise benun
And do you think there's a way, early on, earlier on in your case, where -- I'm sure you've gotten better over the years so you're better at what you do but you were probably pretty good at it early on. So is there a way to know you're good, or good enough, so that you don't necessarily have to indulge quite as much or waste quite as much time on the pity party?

Deidre Rienzo
Yes,

ilise benun
The short answer is yes.

Deidre Rienzo
It's to just be good at what you do. And here's how you do that: you eliminate all the stuff you're not good at. Just don't do it.

I think, in the beginning, prospects used to say, "Well, you're a writer so you can write this." So I said, "Yeah, okay sure, I guess I can."

And then I found myself writing about medical journals and financial stuff I didn't understand, and a whole bunch of things that I wasn't good at. And that made me feel like crap! "Oh god, I suck!" Because it was so hard for me to figure out and it was so hard too. And I just felt bad and I wasn't bringing my best skills and my best talents to the project. But that's because I said yes to a project that wasn't a good fit for me!

ilise benun
I'm trying to make a connection also between what one is good at and what one wants to do, because maybe you don't know yet what you're good at, but you may know what you want to do.

Deidre Rienzo
That's true. I mean, Did I know what I was good at? No, but I know what felt like when you kind of get into that flow, and it just feels like things are working, you know? I think a lot of creative people have it where you're in that zone, you're in that place where the work is happening. And, yeah, sometimes it's hard to get into that place, sometimes you have to force yourself, and you have to set a timer and you have to make yourself get there. But it's the place where the good things happen. I feel like, if we can all tune in to that, and I think a lot of us know what that is -- I won't call it magic but where that special melding of our skills and talents and passions and action come together to make something powerful good.

ilise benun
And sometimes it takes time and trying out a bunch of things that you're not sure about, to find that also. 

Deidre Rienzo
That's true. That is true and that's why I can tell a new freelancer or creative business owner not to take the projects that don't feel like a good fit for them. But sometimes you need to take those projects to know that they're not a good fit for you. So there's learning involved always.

ilise benun
Always. You know, we're going to probably do two parts to this conversation because I have a whole other list of questions I haven't asked you yet. But I got a question from a new freelancer recently that I thought I would put to you and see what you say about this.

They said, "One of my clients came back after the final draft of a project and said they wanted more work done on it. I put so much work in that I was crestfallen. I negotiated further  payment but the wind kind of fell out of my sails. I finally completed it, but I really think it affected me."

Has this ever happened to you? Or, what would you say to this type of situation?

Deidre Rienzo
I would say good job for negotiating an additional payment for part of the project that was outside of the scope.

I would say, yeah, that's disappointing. I get it, that might feel kind of crummy and you might have to feel sad about it for a little bit -- a 5 minute pity party. But then also pat yourself on the back for dealing with it the way that you did and saying, "This is an additional piece of the project so I'm going to need to charge for it."

Also realize that the client probably loved what you did. And then they shared it with their aunt, or their nephew or the person in the business who said, "Well actually, maybe we need this."

There's a lot of different reasons why they thought they needed an update to it afterwards. It's fine, everything changes. I mean, sure, clients have come back to me. They're super happy with the web copy, and then they'll come back two weeks later when they're in the design process and say, "Could we add something here? Or we need a different headline because I don't like the way it works with a design," or something like that. That's fine.

ilise benun
I also feel like there's an element here about taking the work too personally, perhaps. And I'm curious how you've handled that over the years.

Deidre Rienzo
At some point you have to be able to detach yourself a little bit from the work.

It's so hard because you put all of this heart and soul and passion into it, but when I realized that it's really about the client, and what they need and what they want, it kind of became easier for me to do that a little bit. I'm going to give you what I think you need and I'm going to tell you, "This is what I think you need based on everything we've talked about and everything I heard. This is what I think that you need. And here it is."

Sometimes they might say. "I don't like that at all." That feels uncomfortable. But I give a lot of different options when I write content. I give a lot of headlines, because I hear things and I think, maybe they want to go this far. I want to maybe push them out of their comfort zone a little bit. Maybe they'll like this. I give options, and I tell them, "You know, you're gonna love some of this, you might hate some of it. Tell me what you love and what you hate, because that's the only way that we're going to get it to where you want it." 

So just acknowledging that you're going to give them what you think they need, you're going to do your best, but you can't read their minds. So, by acknowledging, "You might love some of this, you might really not like some of it. I'm ready. Be honest with me. Tell me what you think."

Take that feedback, maybe it's hard in the beginning. But it gets less hard because you know ultimately at the end of the day, you want to give this client what they need, what makes them happy, what they want, even if you don't necessarily think that's the best way they should do it. You're making them happy and they are giving you money.

ilise benun
That's why you're doing this, right?

Deidre Rienzo
Yeah exactly. I'm gonna deposit that check, and pay my rent or whatever.

ilise benun
Exactly. All right, we're definitely gonna have to do a part two. So, for now, Deidre, tell people where they can find you online

Deidre Rienzo
Connectwithcopy.com

ilise benun
Beautiful, and we will be back for part two. Thank you so much for sharing what you have so far.

Deidre Rienzo
Thank you, Ilise.

Outro
I do hope you learned a little something. Little by little I promise it will get easier, and before you know it, you'll have more and more confidence.

Speaking of confidence. If you cringe when a prospect asks for a proposal, or if you can never come up with the right thing to say in the moment, I think you'll like my latest download "Worth It: how getting good at the money conversation pays off."

It's got case studies, resources, and plenty of "what to say when" scripts and tips for real time conversations, and email messages, so you never again, say the wrong thing.

You can find it at marketing-mentor.com. I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are practicing what I preach to overcome -- once and for all -- the feast or famine syndrome. Until next time.