May 7, 2021
In this episode, I talked with Danielle Hughes, whose marketing is
working so well that she’s got too much good work with good budgets
from good people. What to do? It’s a good problem to have but not
necessarily easy to solve. So we brainstormed solutions. If you
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Here’s the transcript of the conversation:
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.
Hello Danielle. Welcome back to the podcast.
Thank you, ilise, I’m excited to be a twofer.
Exactly. And before we talk about what we’re going to talk
about, please give your most current elevator pitch.
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.
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?
Correct, yes. And very much just a freelancer, didn’t even have
the business at that time.
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?
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Yeah, so maybe we’re gaming the system. So you don’t have to do
it every week to get the weekly impression.
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
Introduction, information, invitation. Correct.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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?”
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.
Yeah and then you’re definitely going to have to train other
people to do it with you.
I would think, yes, or I’ll just not actually do writing, and
all the training — that’s a whole other podcast maybe.
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
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
So if I look back two years ago, I don’t think that I was as
confident as maybe I pretended to be.
So the idea of competence breeding confidence.
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
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.
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.
The newsletter is the thing to always get involved. All right,
thank you, Danielle,
Thank you so much, it was great.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai