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Erin Cafferty: Freelancing & the Art of UX Copywriting

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Hey everyone! Welcome to the Doodles 2 Dollars podcast. Today you are in for a special treat, it is not only our first episode but we also have Erin Cafferty on the show AND it’s her birthday.

Erin Cafferty is a freelance copywriter for founders and brands on a mission. Her audience-centered approach to copywriting means your website, blogs, emails, and case studies make an impact and connect with the right humans. Because with strategic messaging and persuasive copy, you can make your mark on the world.

Erin shares her perspective on how DIY copywriting is fine, whether design or copy comes first, and the value of UX copy. Plus, her story about stepping into the freelance world right after graduate school with no corporate experience.


Swell AI Transcript: 001 - Erin Cafferty
Ksenia, Host: Hi, so welcome to the show. I'm excited to have you on to get the ball rolling. Let us know who you are, what you do, who you serve, all that good stuff.
Erin Cafferty: Yes, thank you so much for having me today. My name is Erin Cafferty. I just recently got married, but I'm not changing my last name just quite yet. Yeah, very exciting. But I am a freelance copywriter. I work typically with small businesses, founders, and agency owners. And really what I do is write strategic copy that really helps to position the people that I work with as the experts in their field and really help them to amplify the impacts that they're trying to have. I kind of work with a lot of different variety of people. I know everyone's like niche down, niche down. And I, the furthest I can niche down is into like wellness brands. So that can be anything from cannabis related stuff to food that's like packed with functional nutrients, so kind of all over the place with clients working with the gardener now, but they all have that key, that like core of they're the experts in their field and they're just looking to amplify the information and the value that they have and connect with their audience.

Ksenia, Host: Cool. Yeah, I totally get that. It took me forever to niche down. And I only did it like, hmm, solopreneur seems like a pretty wide niche. So yeah, that's what I did. And I totally relate to that. Yeah. OK, cool. So I do want to dive into your journey. I know in the intro, I kind of mentioned how you just went straight into the freelancing world after school. So yeah, tell us how the journey has been. Yeah, I'd just love to know more.

Erin Cafferty: Yeah, so I feel like a pretty core part of my story is how I got into freelancing. So we'll start there. And then I'll kind of jump a couple of years. But I originally was applying to corporate jobs. So I went to graduate school right after undergrad. And I actually was offered a job at the internship that I was doing before I went to get my master's. And I remember sitting down in the office of my manager and she was like, you know, we really want you to work here. You do really good work. You seem to love like this space and like who you're working with. And I told her that, yes, I did love it, but I couldn't picture myself doing what I was doing every single day. It just wasn't creative enough. I didn't feel like the nine to five. It was in D.C. as well. I just didn't know if that was for me. So I basically told her, I'm going to go back to graduate school. And she's like, Erin, this is what people go to graduate school to get this job. Like, what are you doing? And I just told her, I was like, I just feel like there's something more, like something different for me. So I went to graduate school, was expecting to be able to just go immediately after off of that and get this like amazing corporate job. And I was applying to places, applying to places, literally did not get one single interview, which I know so many of you guys can relate to. Um, it's just, it's really hard. And it still was back in 2018, uh, when I graduated and yeah, from there, I just was like, okay, well, if no one's going to take a chance on me, like I believe in myself, so I'm just going to start freelancing. And, um, it, I actually didn't know what freelancing was before I started freelancing. I thought it was called consulting. Um, which is kind of is, but I feel like consulting is more like way later down the line. I feel like I think of consultants as like. people that have like 30 years of experience. I don't know why that's that's like kind of work.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah like more like corporate. I totally get what you mean because in my mind consulting is just like oh I'm a consultant I'm so refined but then realistically we can we can consult that is what we do.

Erin Cafferty: Right it's just it's it's all like about the wording right so anyways I found a public relations consultant that uh that was my undergrad degree within PR And I ended up just meeting up with her and talking with her about consultancy and freelancing. And she actually mentioned the word freelancing to me. You know, I Googled that shit so fast. I was like, Google, how do you how do you freelance? What's a freelancer freelancing? Whatever. And yeah, that's kind of like where I started. I just was looking for jobs. I started applying on sort of posting about my like what I do on LinkedIn, which was literally just like anything communication. And I ended up getting a job through there. for like a short contract work, which was awesome. Cause I like got sort of like into the process of like, okay, like I'm working with this company for like a short amount of time and then I get to like find other clients. And so I was like doing a lot of networking, all of those kinds of things. I ended up joining a freelancer spark event, which if you don't know about that, I'm not sure if they're in Canada, but I know that they're in, okay. I'm not sure. It's called Freelancers Union. And then they host these networking events. And anyways, there was a whole agenda. And I just completely screwed up that agenda. I went there with like questions. And I just, they didn't even touch on like what they were going to talk about. It was just me asking these people questions about what freelancing was and like how to market yourself. And they were so nice. And what ended up happening is a couple months later, I got my first newsletter copywriting job from someone that for some reason thought that I knew enough about what I was doing. to hire me, which was great. And yeah, from there, I just kind of got more into newsletter writing. I was doing social media management, which is I feel like what a lot of people start out with as writers, because it's kind of hard, in my opinion, it's kind of hard to jump into freelance blogging or like website copy versus jumping into social media. So that's kind of where I went. And then, yeah, just slowly from there, I've just sort of refined things. seen what I've loved doing, see what people like getting from me, see what I've really done that. And now I'm a freelance copywriter. That's what I'm doing here.

Ksenia, Host: Nice. Awesome. Thank you. I am really curious. So when you went to school, what did you study? Is it in line with what you're doing now, or is it completely different?

Erin Cafferty: Yeah. I wish that I was one of those people that was like, I went to school for chemistry, and now I'm a freelance copywriter. But I went to school. Dig it. I know. I'm so, I'm so boring. But I went to school for public relations. And I did some journalism, like things with my university, I was like a writer and an editor and an editor in chief of the newspaper. And then I went to graduate school for strategic communication. So all communication and media related.

Ksenia, Host: Nice. Okay, awesome. When I'm curious, like when you were at that job, and you got that job offer, you mentioned how like you couldn't do this every single day like what did that what did a day back then look like for you?

Erin Cafferty: oh my gosh you're gonna traumatize me oh my god i'm sorry we don't have to go into it if it's really bad no no no this is just like every time i talk about it i just like get so grateful that i'm here now because i i made the decision like i was i was uncomfortable with um So it was like a long commute. So I would wake up at 6, I would leave my house by 6.45. I would catch a bus that drove me an hour and a half into B.C. I would be there whenever and then I have to catch another bus, come back home. I wouldn't get home until around 6. I would eat and then I would like literally vlog and then go to bed. And yeah, I did that for like two summers, I think. And it was, like I said, it was a really good time. And I loved the people there. And I had a really good time while I was working there. But it was, I kept describing it as soul crushing. And that's not what you should be feeling before you go to a job. You should be excited. And it just didn't feel like this was what I needed to be doing. I pictured myself working there for the next five years. And I was like, no, I don't want this. Yeah.

Ksenia, Host: And it's one of those things where it's like, okay, I'll do this because I need the internship and the experience, but there's no way I'm doing this more than a summertime, like limited amount.

Erin Cafferty: Yeah. And I also feel like I need to be very clear that like this job was absolutely amazing. And I feel like anybody would be so grateful to have the job, but it just wasn't the right job for me. So that was like also kind of hard because like everyone around me was like, what do you mean you said no? I'm like, but it just It's just not, it's just not working. I don't know.

Ksenia, Host: So like, I guess, was there other than it being soul crushing, and having to deal with that, like, was there a moment when you were like, Okay, yeah, I need to get out of this, like, there's no way? Or did you just know the whole time? Like, okay, I'll do this just for the summer?

Erin Cafferty: Good question. I feel like it kind of just came on slowly. I think at one point, I did have that realization when they offered me that job. But I think I was surprised by how quickly I said no. Because like I said, it's like a great job. And I think they were all, I mean, that's what you do at internships. You get the internships, but you can get the job. And then I'm like doing all these things. And then they're like, perfect, we found someone. Let's hire you. And I'm like, just kidding. Peace out. But, but yeah, I, I mentioned that I was blogging on the side, um, and that was just like for my own personal, uh, blog. I think I might still have some of the blogs on my website, but I took a lot of them off cause they're just, they're very like, almost like diary entries. Um, so they don't really relate to what I'm doing now. So I took them off, but, um, I've always really wanted to be paid to be a writer. And what I was doing there was more marketing and sales and events. Um, and so I just felt like. Yeah, I just wanted to write, like that's really all I wanted to do. Now I get to do that every single day, which, you know, sometimes I'm like, wow, I really could use a day off of writing, but.

Ksenia, Host: Oh, what a problem to have.

Erin Cafferty: Oh, like if someone's paying me to write words, like whoops.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, but at the same time, I totally get it. Like, especially when you're booked out or when you're super busy. It's like, okay, I do love this thing, but I just need a break.

Erin Cafferty: I know. Yeah. And I feel like something that is interesting about like the specific line of work that we do just as like small business owners is that it's so creative that you, you can't just continue working. Like there are certain things I think you can do where you can just push through, but at some point, like your creativity will not run out, but it's really hard to express it in like an efficient way. And I think that that really helps me to like, just take a step back and be like, okay, like, we'll come back to this.

Ksenia, Host: when when we're not yeah, do you find that because you do like I Don't know possibly your dream job. I mean like for me what I'm kind of like, oh, this is my dream job That because you're creative Like in your business and for work that once you're outside and in your downtime Do you find that you still stay creative or is it a lot harder because all of that just gets used up for clients?

Erin Cafferty: Hmm I would definitely say I'm in the latter. I wish that I was more creative outside of it. I feel like a lot of times my like, outside of work, I'm just trying to like, get my energy back. So it's a lot of just like rusting. Yeah, that's such an interesting question. I wish I did more creative stuff. Although I did I did macrame this little thing up here, not pointing in the right direction. So I've learned a couple things, but yeah, definitely, definitely something that I want to improve on. I think a lot of it just, yeah, it goes to clients, which is unfortunate, but it does pay the bills. So it's hard to be like, focus more on the things that don't pay the bills. Then, you know, it's, yeah, it's a hard balance.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, I totally get that. I'm definitely in the same boat. Like I'm nowhere near spending any creative energy on like outside of work. Um, so I totally relate with, So now that you've been in your business, how long has it been as just like a freelancer and building out your business?

Erin Cafferty: So it's been five and a half years. May 2018 was when I graduated from graduate school and I went directly into freelancing. So Technically, I started my LLC in September of 2019, but I was running my business as just like an independent person using TurboTax, you know, the independent like whatever, like a small business thing, which again, is probably different in Canada.

Ksenia, Host: No, we have it. And honestly, I've, that's a whole, it's like another story with taxes and accounting, but I've actually like gone back to that.

Erin Cafferty: Really? Yeah. Okay, I mean, hey, it works. I use it. So I just personally now I'm like, Listen, I'm an expert what I do, I'm gonna pay an accountant to take all of that away from me. So I don't have to worry about anything. And then I know I'm not going to get emails or letters from my IRS was like, Hey, miss something. Yeah.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, I totally get that. Okay, so within the five-year journey, how has that been? Because I know we kind of talked to like before the business and then I'm curious like how has the business gone like the building it and just everything that falls under being a small business owner?

Erin Cafferty: Yeah, I think it's evolved a lot. I think I've got more I feel really confident with the services that I'm offering right now. Um, actually we're speaking at an interesting time because I've had the same services, I want to say for like probably like three years. Like I've just literally offered like website, coffee, blogs, newsletters. Um, but I'm kind of repackaging things that's been having clients come to me that are like, Hey, I want a website and three blogs, or I want like a strategy call at a website. And everything is kind of like ad hoc right now. So you can kind of like pick and choose what you want. But I really want to start like pulling things together into like a more cohesive package. So that's something exciting that's upcoming. But in terms of like the past couple of years, it's just been a lot of like honing in on what I really want to be doing. So I really enjoy website copy. That's like the crux of my business. The blogging is probably what I do more. which is funny because you think like the crux is like the main part of it but that's the part I enjoy doing but the blogs are what keep me afloat because they're like the consistent income, consistent clients. I get to really develop a relationship with my clients which is something that I love. I try not to have too many like one-off services mostly because it's very overwhelming to continue to market while you're also doing things as like with clients so I try to have those like repeat things but I do love websites. They're so fun to do. I think one of my favorite parts about them is the user journey. And I think I talked to you about this, but user experience copywriting is a thing. I wouldn't say I am a UX copywriter. I say I utilize UX principles, because I think UX copywriting is a lot more for product-based businesses, and I do more with services. but I think UX writing has been really cool because I've been able to kind of like take someone on a journey through the website, which obviously you know all about if you're a designer, that's like what you do. And that's just been really interesting because I've been doing that for the past couple of years, but I didn't know that it was called UX writing. It was just something that I offered and like did because I think I had that strategic communication degree and that PR degree and all of that in my brain just It kind of just gets you thinking about user intent and like, okay, they're landing on this website. Yes. Like you need everything to be clear. You need everything to be, um, you know, designed well, but like the questions I'm asking is like, why is this person here? Like, why are they on this page, this page specifically? And then like, what happens if they go to the about page? What does that say about that person and what they're needing from the page that they're specifically on? And so I'll try to design, um, the copy around that. So that's been really fun.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah. It makes such a huge difference, too. I mean, I just recently redid my copy from my website, and it's been really great. It's nice, because I've always followed that flow, especially even in the design, because a lot of the times I will have clients that come to me and they don't have copy, or they're like, oh, we'll figure it out. So I'm like, OK, let me hear you. give me what you have, and I will organize it for you. So it's kind of that UX of like, okay, the homepage does this, the about page leads them to services. So yeah, it's been interesting. Like, I definitely know what you mean when you talk about like, leading them through a journey. And it's so much better, because that's really how At least personally, I feel like that's how we read. That's how we get information. We're not just going to be like, OK, read a page. What now? Not going anywhere. OK.

Erin Cafferty: That's actually so funny that you say that. So one of the things that we learned in graduate school was, which is so simple but very clear, is that human beings, they don't do the things that they're supposed to do even when you tell them to. Because there's so many things happening like so, for example, you're on a website right and you want them to go to your services page. You obviously have to have a button that leads them over to your services page. But just having that button is not going to convince them to go over there. You have to like make it so that like it's the obvious next step because Like I said, like people, even when you tell them what to do, like, hey, go over to the services page now, that's the page you should be going to. They're still not going to do it. There's so many things, other things happening. So you just really like making sure that you're telling people what you need to be doing, being really clear about it. And just like trying to reduce uncertainty. That's also a big thing that I learned in school was just the, how do I try to explain this? Basically like uncertainty, leads to a lack of decision making. If you're uncertain about the process of working with someone, even if you know that working with them has produced results for other people in the past, if you don't know something specific that matters to you, like the process, they're not going to take that risk. So even if you share as many testimonials as you want, share the ROI that people are getting from it, if they don't have all the pieces to the puzzle, they're not going to have the full picture and they're not going to make the decision. So again, just trying to use like UX and copywriting in general to reduce uncertainty, which just requires knowing the audience and knowing what they want to know.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, I totally get that even from a design perspective, like it's always I mean, I haven't like necessarily studied UX and UI, but I've have experience with it. I honestly feel like it's just like a step away. Like I naturally do it. It's just there's no like certificate for it. But yeah, with call to actions and with getting people to move somewhere, that's always even in design, like that's always the brightest section or the section where like, if the whole page is white in like, white and black, then maybe the call to action is red if that's your accent color. So yeah, we have to make it super obvious. And I feel like a really good example of people not doing what you want them to do is, how many times do people actually use the menu on a site? Like the navigation, unless you're actually searching for something. Like, you usually scroll through, and then there's an about, and you're like, okay, cool, let me talk, let me see what people, like, what the about is, you know? Yeah, that thought just came in and I was like, that's actually really good. I rarely use it unless I'm searching for something.

Erin Cafferty: Yeah, that's so true. It's so interesting, too, because I feel like a lot of people, maybe not other copywriters and designers, but maybe people that are doing their own website, they treat each individual page as an individual page versus a whole entire It's almost like a store, like they're almost treating it like each room in the store is separate. But it's like, no, no, no, like your website is your entire store, and you need to guide people through the store, and then have like, lead them to the checkout counter, like this is what we're doing here. We're like going up, down and around just to get them to where you want to go or, you know, For example, I have a client that I'm working with right now who I am doing her website copy and a couple of blogs for. And she already has a full time job. She's really looking to be like an authority in her space as an educator. And so and she's also trying to write a book, which is very exciting. So her goal is actually not to get people to buy from her. It's to really clearly explain what she does and get people to read her blog. which is very interesting. So when we, when I was writing a copy for her website, it was interesting to like bringing people back to the blog and trying to, because again, we want her, we want people to buy her services, but the goal was not to get people to buy, to get people to read. And so just incorporating that in there was, was an interesting challenge, I guess you could say, because that's not everyone's goal. Most people's goal is like, Hey, I want people to like buy from me and like buy my services. Oh, that was pretty interesting.

Ksenia, Host: That is pretty interesting. I mean, then I'm like, Oh, well, you would fix that with copy. Like, even if the site layout was exactly the same, it would literally just be the copy, which Yeah, I think I like I mentioned earlier, I just redid my website and redid the copy. And I've always, at least from the design perspective, I've always known that copy is important. I've definitely worked with copywriters before. But going through the process for myself, I'm like, yes, okay. Everyone needs to do copy. This is the, even the results, like, before no one would talk about my website. Now, like, almost every meeting I have or, like, other people I talk to, like, oh my god, I read your site. I love it so much. And I think once you get into it, and especially when you get into like, okay, how do I want to talk about, like, what's my tone? What's the voice? Who am I talking to? Then it can be really, really good. Like, not to brag, but I'm really stoked about my website copy because I like really got into that. So yeah, there's so much value and highly recommend. even from a design standpoint, it makes my life easier, but it just makes your website and everything you have way better than just, hi, I'm so-and-so, I do this, contact me.

Erin Cafferty: I know, the amount of people, if I could share just one single website tip, it would be that above the fold section, when you first land on a website, that needs to be like, high priority. That should be, like, everything that your audience needs to know before they scroll. If your name is in there, take it out right now. Doesn't matter what your name is, if it's a part of your, like, business or whatever. It does not need to be in the top of the fold. It could be in, like, that later section on, like, about pages, or the one, sorry, the one that leads to your about page. Because I just think a lot of people miss out on that. They feel like, oh, it's almost like a, it's almost like they're treating it as a doorstep, So they're like, here's who I am, but that's not what people are wanting. People are going, it's again, like thinking about user intent. Like why are they coming here? They're not coming here because they have no idea who you are. They already know who you are. They're looking to see what you can do for them. So you don't need to use that really high value real estate at the top of your website to tell people who you are. They need to know how you're going to help them.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, absolutely. I so agree with that. I feel like it's like half of a second or maybe even less is how quickly people decide if they stay or not. Yeah. Yeah, I think it's like a couple seconds. Yeah.

Erin Cafferty: Or 0.8 or something. Yeah, I know what you're talking about. I've seen that statistic before. It's very short.

Ksenia, Host: Which is crazy. But then if I think about how much time I spend on websites, I'm like, yeah, that's accurate. yeah that that like above the fold section is so so important for copy 100% agree and design like you have point you have less than a second to have people stay on your site so yeah okay cool with um yeah i'm curious other than just like the ux journey is there anything else that you've come across whether it's with your own clients or even just like out in the world. Like, oh, look at this site. Wow, they need to fix their copy. Because trust me, I have the same with design. I'm like, oh, OK, cool. We need to fix this. But yeah, is there anything that you've come across that you think is really, really important to know, especially for other small business owners or solopreneurs?

Erin Cafferty: Do you mean just like copy related? yeah well i mean honestly anything obviously copy since that is your expertise but yeah um i want to leave people with like the best thing ever um maybe just it doesn't have to just be one also um i think this is just this is just anything my brain is like um hello uh maybe maybe about like functions versus benefits i'm sure you've like heard a lot of this too um when you write about you know if you're like selling something or you are sharing um an event or you know whatever you're trying to talk about um when you are doing your messaging, you want to make sure that you're not just talking about the functions of what you're getting, so like the logistics, right? So we'll say if you're selling an event like a webinar, you don't want to just talk about like the date of the webinar, what like what the topics are going to be about. You also want to talk about the benefits, and you'll also hear this described as like the transformation, but like what are people actually going to get out of it? So like Yes, today we're talking about website copy, we're talking about UX, we're talking about my journey as a solopreneur, but the benefits of this is that you're going to get inspiration from Aaron. You're going to, other benefits that you're going to get from this, you know what I mean? Like you want to talk about not just the logistics because that's obviously part of the uncertainty. You want to have those. I feel like a lot of people have kind of gone the opposite way. They've kind of been like, don't talk about the function, don't talk about the logistics, only talk about the transformation and the benefit. And I think it's really important to have both. But I think that benefits part is what a lot of solopreneurs that are DIYing their own copy are forgetting about. And it's it's harder to write about the benefits because you have to actually know your audience to understand what they're going to get out of it. So I think just in terms of messaging in general, that's something that I would say is like really important to know. So I hope that's helpful for everybody.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think I think you're right in saying that it does need to be both, because I'm sure we've all come across websites where it's either one or the other. And if it's just the function side, you're like, okay, cool, you're giving me all this technical stuff, at least from my perspective, like, as a designer, and if we're going to focus on websites, I absolutely mentioned like, hey, yeah, it's like a WordPress site, there's five pages, it's like, the all the jargon of like what I know, when I think of someone's like, Oh, I just want a pretty site. And I'm like, Okay, it needs to do this, this and this. And that's, I think, is the function, which is like, almost like a little to do list for me. Um, I but then there's also like the benefits and that's really the that emotional piece it's like someone can be like okay cool you're gonna give me five pages five pages of what like what are these pages gonna do but then when you talk about like it's your home on the internet people are gonna get to know you it's like you're one place where you can really nail your brand and like talk to your people at least one place that you own other than your email list you can you can do it all on social media but you still need a website um so yeah and i think it's really important to have both because i've definitely been on websites where they just talk about the benefit and then i'm left wondering okay so like what exactly am i getting like am i just getting your good vibes? Is it just a call? What is the outcome? What's the tangible thing that I'm getting? So yeah, I definitely agree. It is super important to have both and to balance it. Because yeah, I feel like with copy, especially on your website, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's almost like Or is it like the hero's journey? Like you want to take people through like, hey, you started here and now what if you could have this? Here's how to get you there.

Erin Cafferty: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The hero's journey. It's like all about it. Yeah. Your website really shouldn't be about you as much as that's like confusing for a lot of people. It really should be about how you help your audience get to the place that they're looking to get, which is wildly different depending on what you do and what their goals are. For example, the people that come to me are experts in their field that are looking to amplify their impact, so they're looking to do more speaking events, they're looking to gain visibility, they're looking to gain authority, and so everything that we do around that is related to what their actual goal is.

Ksenia, Host: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, we touched on this a little bit. But what do you think of DIY copywriting doing it yourself?

Erin Cafferty: I don't hate it. I don't hate it only because I understand like as a small business owner, I get it. But I think it's fine if you need if you need copy right like if it's if it's The difference between you not having a website and you having a website, DIY it. The difference between you posting on social media or not, DIY it. But, but, but, but, unless you are a designer, we're amazing like Ksenia is. When you were talking about how you were thinking about your audience while you were creating your website, that's exactly what someone like I would do, what a copywriter does. And something that you don't typically do when you're DIYing because you're just way too close to what you're doing. you're, it's really hard to pick out the things that are most important, because you don't have, it's everything is important, right? So it's like, like, of course, this small detail needs to be shared, because it's a core part of my journey. But if you hire a copywriter, they'll be able to see the threads that tie your journey together. And that one piece that you thought was really important might not actually be that important, and might actually be muddling up your message. So I think long term, if you actually want to see like ROI, if you're looking to meet your goals, definitely hire a copywriter. But if you, like I said, if you see something up, you just want to have a website, we can always work from what you have. And sometimes there's copywriters that will simply do audits. So it's like a lot less than getting like a complete overhaul, but kind of depends. I don't do audits for kind of a very specific reason. I feel like it's a lot easier to start from a process that I have, which is getting on the call with the client and literally just asking them as many detailed, deep questions as I can about what their goals are, what their audience is like, what they have struggled with, what their audience struggles with, and then using that to strategize the copy.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, because I totally get that too. I've done website audits before, and I'll definitely For me, it's from the design perspective, which is a bit easier. But even still, it's super important to know exactly who the audience is, what the client wants. So I can totally see what you mean where you don't do website, you don't do copy audits, because you don't have that key information. So you can be like, oh, the grammar needs to be fixed here. This is kind of a run on sentence. You can totally do it from there, which if that's all you're getting from the audit, that kind of seems like a waste of your time. But also something that a small business owner could just like, go into Google Docs and be like, hey, spelling check, grammar check, or you're like grammarly, like, there's so many ways to just check for the grammar. Which like, I feel like what you do, and what you mentioned is really that strategy side. It's like, yeah, like, you might have impeccable grammar, and technically, what you wrote is fine. But Is it actually talking to the people you want it to talk to? Yeah.

Erin Cafferty: And it like, is it laid out in the right way? Like it is something that I like to say that I do. It's not just like write copy, but I assemble copy because a lot of the copy that I, that I write comes directly from my client. Like they've literally said it, like, it's the funniest thing because I will take like phrases that they say and I'll put it in the copy and they'll like highlight it and be like, Oh my God, this is so good. And I'm like, You literally said that. Like that's your words. Or like taking it from customer testimonials. That's like my favorite thing to do. And I'm so strict. I always create a loom video at the end of my websites now. And just give like professional recommendations about like why I did this, whatever. Because I understand that sometimes people want to change copy, which is fine. I understand people are going to do that. I personally don't like it because I did every, every word is picked for a specific reason. But I will actually specifically highlight like, hey, this is a phrase that it might sound a little, maybe a little clunkier than you're used to. But this actually came directly from like multiple clients that left me reviews. And this is the word that they're using. And if they see that word, they're going to want to like continue reading. So I'll kind of like I'll kind of like make sure that they're like, hey, if you do end up changing everything, don't change this word because that's like a very core part of the strategy here. And they always appreciate that because, yeah, it's something that they I feel like a lot of people just don't understand what I do. They're like, oh, you just kind of write good words. And it's like, no, I've got like my my my documents like pulled up. I'm like looking at the strategy and looking at the audience and looking at the brand voice. And then I'm looking at what I'm what I'm currently writing. And it's a whole thing. It's very meticulous.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, image. I don't know if you've seen this. I can't remember what movie it's from. But there's this meme of this guy who's just like created this board of like, you know, when they're trying to find a missing person or some crime. And he's like, Yeah, yes, that one. That's exactly what goes to mind when you're like, I have it all in front of me. And then I'm like, Shh.

Erin Cafferty: Literally though, because that's what it is. You're literally assembling, you're like pulling words and then you're like, oh, should this word go here? And then I'm like, no, no, no, this word should go here because of this and x, y. And it's like, yeah, just a lot going on in there.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah. I'm curious with that in mind, with like DIY and copy and all that, your thoughts on AI and that coming in?

Erin Cafferty: I have always been a late adopter. thing you know that like that like whatever it's like early adopter what what i literally learned this i don't know i don't know exactly what it is but i know exactly what you're talking about there's some there's like five stages of like the buying process or something like that anyways i'm a late adopter i'm like the the second to the last person to like do anything new um so really the only thing i've used ai for has been out outlining blogs so like helping with the headers, just trying to like organize things, because I feel like that is what typically will take the longest for me, besides the writing, but like chat gpt just does not, it cannot write at all. I mean, it's like the same sentence over and over again. And even when you see like, whatever you feed it, it almost like just create using those words. So it's just a very strange, I just haven't really enjoyed it. I really know.

Ksenia, Host: So based on that, maybe this like, it could be based on where you are in the adoption of it scale. But if someone was to DIY their copy, like, is a good place to go? Do you have any insight on that? Is it? Because like, I've definitely, obviously, design has been out there and people have been DIY and design. And there's this joke with the like, in design communities that like, Hey, guys, don't worry, I won't take your job, like clients don't know how to articulate what they want properly. Because that's like our role. It's like you can say a bunch of words and I'll be like, Okay, I think I know what you want. and then create it. So, yeah, I'm curious from your perspective, like if someone who can't currently afford a copywriter went to AI, like, thoughts?

Erin Cafferty: Hmm. I would say based on how much I've used it and the output that I've got, I would say I would not use it. I truly don't know what it would give you. I would be a little scared to see what it gave you. However, I do know that there are some people that have discovered like the perfect like prompt and they are able to do that. Like for example, Chelsea, my business partner for remote ID, she loves chat GPT for that exact reason. It gives her like really great content ideas and things like that, which has been really good prompts. I think for me, it's just like, you kind of get what you pay for. Anything that's free is, and anything that you like, you don't, if you don't know writing, and then you're using a free tool to help you with the thing that you don't know how to do. Is it going to help you? Maybe? Yeah, probably not. Um, yeah, I have such a very cautious view of AI, especially seeing how many businesses went through it over the summer. And then seeing how many people are hiring writers to edit the work of chapter EPT expecting it to be less work when in reality it's a lot more work because you're having to rewrite the entire article, but you're getting paid to edit. So I have a very complicated relationship with AI.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah that's really interesting to know because obviously in the like solopreneur small business space and I mean really any space it's like AI is the next big thing to fix all your problems and that's really interesting to know from your perspective and like your industry just like I could have insights from design that like humans are redoing the work so it's double the time double the money double everything when you could have just tried to write it yourself or hired someone. And of course, there is always a use case for it, like you said, like the outlines. Even from design, there's so many cool things that help with workflow. But that's the thing, it helps with the workflow, it doesn't help with the creative strategy, which I totally agree with how you mentioned where it's like, if you, if you don't know how to do this one thing, just like say, if you don't know how to write for your website. My cat just dropped something. I have no idea what she dropped, so I'm going to hope. It was glass. I hope it's OK. I'm not leaving. I'm just going to stay in here and ignore. But anyways, wow, love cats. To get back on track, just like if you don't know how to do your copywriting or if you don't know how to design, how are you going to be a good judge of whatever Chad GPT gives you? Right. So I think that is also a really good point to make. And I mean, at least from my perspective, like I've, I definitely came from the like, this isn't right, to like, oh, let me use it for workflow. And there's so many amazing things that you can do. And I'm sure it'll improve and improve. But there is something to be said about, like, I don't know, maybe at least right now I know like AI is getting kind of crazy there's like really good deep faking and like looking like other people but there is something I think to be said when you know something's original and strategic and crafted just for you versus just pulled from the internet and like shoved together yeah yeah I think

Erin Cafferty: I think part of my cautiousness to AI is just that like I don't want to lose the human element. I just feel like that's such a big part of what I do and just writing in general. I mean, writing is literally like peeking into someone's soul, especially if it's like a novel or whatever, you're getting like an insight into like their perspective of like how they think about things and how they approach the world. And yeah, I don't know. I mean, I like getting on calls with clients and like hanging out with them and asking them questions. And it's not as fun to be like, I don't know, like typing, like prompts into the AI thing and then being like, Okay, give me a blog. Like, hopefully people will read this.

Ksenia, Host: Oh, yeah.

Ksenia, Host: I imagine even more with copy and AI, there's a higher chance of plagiarism because it really is pulling from what's already been written.

Erin Cafferty: Yeah. Yeah, there's actually been, I'm working with a publication right now that hires a lot of different writers, and they had let go, I don't know, it's probably been like 20 different people in the past like two months since I got hired a couple months ago, because of AI. And they just don't tell you, they say if you use AI, you're not allowed to write, and it's so easy to see who's using it, like it's so easy. So you just don't, there's no like, The first word that came to mind was flavor. I guess I'll go with that. There's no flavor in AI coffee. It's just no spice. Yeah, no spice. It kind of reminds me of this is actually the reason I went to school originally for journalism, and then realized that in journalism, you have to report on the facts. I'm not a fact surely. I'm a subjective, introspective, here's my thoughts early. So I went into creative writing and like, you know, that kind of stuff, more strategic writing because of that reason. And I feel like with AI, you just get a lot of facts because they don't have the experience to pull from. You don't have human experiences. You know, like there's sometimes where you're writing something and you're like, oh, that reminds me of something. And you kind of like incorporate it. Like they don't have that. And that's what makes writing good and like compelling to read and interesting to read. So even beyond just strategy and connections, just literally infusing personality into the words.

Ksenia, Host: That's so interesting, because in your intro, which you'll hear once I edit everything, but I mentioned like, hey, have you been struggling? But then suddenly, and you sit down to do it, and then suddenly you have to deep clean your house and start a new hobby. And there's things. Yeah, you're right. There's a human experience. There's like the thoughts that we have the feelings, all the memes, to be honest, like, I don't know if AI really captures like, that feeling like sure, you can write about it. But there is that human aspect. And you're right. It's like human experience where we all have bodies and we live in this world wherever we are that, like AI doesn't like can't feel that can't, like,

Erin Cafferty: it can try but then we can see the the gap right yeah yeah it's almost like imitating the experience versus actually experiencing it and that's kind of what i feel like with the writing it's like it's like imitating writing but it's not actually writing yeah so yeah that's a really good way of putting it cool let me see if i have any other questions for you

Ksenia, Host: What comes first, design or copy?

Erin Cafferty: My favorite question. I say copy comes first. I actually have a really good example for this because I just did copy for a website. And before I do, so I offer three rounds, two rounds about it. So three, you get three, two drafts and a final. um for any like project that we work on and before the final draft is delivered I require either a wireframe by me or by their designer or the words of the second draft to be up on the website on like a preview that I can see because I'll typically write a lot more copy than needs to be on the pages so that I can first of all to the leafy feedback on on the copy and they'll be like, oh, I love this one. I love this one. And it's like, okay, great. If you like this, we can keep it. If you don't like it, we can move it. And so anyways, with this specific website, we got to the wireframe part and I ended up cutting like probably 20% of the copy down after I put it onto the design because I was like, oh, this is like way too much words here. or something that I thought was going to be a header needed to be cut up into like this needed to be a header and then something else needed to be body copy and the design helps you do that. But you can't have the design first because then you don't know how the copy is going to fit into it and you don't necessarily want to write the copy to fit into the design if you if you can avoid it. I don't think that's like a bad way to do it but it's not the best way.

Ksenia, Host: yeah because you end up kind of going back and forth and it yeah like even just visually i know like the clients that i've had where they either wrote their own copy or even working with a copywriter once it comes into the design there is like a collaboration of okay cool you wrote this here's what it looks like on the page and i reading like i've I'm not doing this, but I loved creative writing when I was in high school and university, so I'll naturally edit and read things, especially when it's not professionally written. So yeah, absolutely, breaking up the text, making sure they're not just reading this huge chunk on the site, and how does that even look like on mobile and on your phone? I agree. I think like it is really important for copy. I think it's less of a, at least from my perspective, it's less of a, okay, copy is done. Okay, now go build the design. It's like, copy started, and then design will like come into it with the drafts. And then you can see the final result together. Yes.

Erin Cafferty: Yeah. And I will say just in case other copywriters are listening to this, that that is not how I started. Like, I didn't realize how important collaboration was until I worked with a couple of designers who I was giving my copy to. Because, of course, I'm a writer. I think every word that I wrote is perfect and amazing and deserves to be on the website. But as a logical person, I understand that that's not true. So being able to work with the designer is really nice because I'm also one of those people that, like, I trust the experts. We just talked about this at the beginning with the accountant. I am not a math person. I will not be doing my taxes. Absolutely not. That's for someone else. So when it comes to working with designers, I'm very much like, this is my opinion on where the copy should be, but you are the designer. You need to tell me, hey, this section is too long. We need another section here. I need some copy for this. This copy is too long. And I really appreciate that because I learn a lot in the process as well.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah. Yes, there's definitely things. I mean, like, to touch on the accounting thing, it's been a journey for me. And I'm like, I don't know what it is in the States, but I'm incorporated in Canada. So I have to have an accountant to deal with all that, which I'm happy to talk about that whole journey on another episode. But yeah, TurboTax can be useful. You just have to know what you're doing. And I'm only using it for personal. So Everyone, just a note, hire accountants. They really, really help, especially good ones. OK, cool. Yeah, thank you so much. This has been an awesome episode. To wrap up, I'm really curious, if you go back in time to any part of your journey, whether that's when you were still in school, at the internship, or even as you've grown your business, where would you go and what advice would you give yourself?

Erin Cafferty: Oh, my god. OK, 2019, early 2019. Oh my gosh, hi Kitty. Um, yeah, I would say early 2019. And I would just say, like, show up. Stop being so scared. Which I know is like, really harsh advice, right? I'm doing this myself. It's fine.

Ksenia, Host: Sometimes we need it.

Erin Cafferty: No, I think I just I was actually talking about it on my Instagram stories earlier today, but I just am so proud of how far I've come. I still get nervous on podcasts. I mean, we had a chat about this right before we started. I've literally been in business for five and a half years. I'm almost 30 years old. You think when you're younger that like when you get older, like you just automatically are like confident and like feel these certain ways. And I just want to tell 2019 Erin that like it just it comes from within and like you just have to be confident because like other people believe in you so much like other people should not believe in yourself more than you believe in you and I think I think I'm very grateful for the people that supported me during the time where I wasn't as confident um and I just I'm sure in five years I'll look back at 2023 Erin and be like I wish she was more confident you know I'm feeling I'm feeling pretty good now for where I am um but yeah I would definitely tell her that you know, it's okay, you can show up and people will accept you. It's gonna be okay.

Ksenia, Host: Yeah, I totally relate to that. 100% Okay, cool. Thank you so much. So to end it off, where can people find you? Is there anything that you're currently offering as? Yeah, just let people know the deeds. Give us your pitch.

Erin Cafferty: I'll try not to do too much because I have a lot going on. So if you want to look at my website, since we talked all about website copy today, you can just go to ErinHaffordy.com. And all my services are listed on there. I do websites, blogs, newsletters, and case studies. I also have a community that Ksenia's in, and it's a directory. It's called Remote ID. It's for freelancers, digital nomads, remote workers. I want to connect with other people from around the world. We have people in Indonesia, Australia, Canada, the US, Mexico. I think someone's in Greece right now. I have no idea. They're everywhere. So that's really fun. And then the last thing I want to mention is that I'm running a little offer on messaging strategy for $125. They normally charge $250. And that's available to the first five people that message me.

Ksenia, Host: Awesome. Yay. Thank you so much for coming on to the podcast. You are the first guest. So I'm very excited. Yeah, we did it. Awesome. Yeah, I'm happy it was.

Erin Cafferty: So yeah, thank you.

Ksenia, Host: Thank you.

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Ksenia & Co is a soul-led creative studio focused on bringing visionary brands to life through intuitive and strategic design. We support solopreneurs with branding, web design and development, strategy and graphic design.

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