Learn how to leverage your About page on your website so that you stand out and increase your chances of getting new clients. Find out tips for what to include and how to write a good About page even if you find it hard to talk about yourself.
Todd Jones helps service-based small-to-midsize businesses use strategic storytelling to create interest and awareness. He is the author of the Website Copy Framework and longtime writer for MainWP. In his spare time, he enjoys watching pro wrestling, sports (go Razorbacks!) and exploring the stories of music.
Getting to Know Todd
Colleen Gratzer: Welcome to the podcast, Todd. Finally!
Todd Jones: You’ve been trying to get me on for a while, huh?
Todd: It’s been a crazy four months, so it’s probably for the best that it was now.
Colleen: I’m glad it worked out and you’re finally here.
I thought we would start out with a couple of fun questions like usual. The first one is: would you rather be the most popular or smartest person?
Todd: Good question. When you asked that, I paused because the answer for me, previously, was the smartest. That’s the noble thing, right? I’ll be the smartest. Nobody wants to be the most popular.
I’m going to reframe that just a little bit. I’m going to choose popular but in the context of charisma. It’s something I’ve been thinking about. I think there’s a slight difference between charisma and popular. You could have a whole podcast episode about charisma.
I think no one wants to… I won’t say no one, but most people don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. A lot of people don’t want to be. Some do. I never want to be the smartest person in the room because that means I can’t learn anything.
Colleen: Right, right.
Todd: If I can be charismatic, then at least, I’m interesting to people.
Most people know 101 Dalmatians. Cruella de Vil is the villain. She’s also extremely charismatic, so there’s good and there’s bad charisma.
I would identify with Dusty Rhodes, the late great American Dream. But I think the short answer is popular in the context of charisma.
Colleen: If you didn’t get paid for it, what would be something that you would love to do still?
Todd: Storyteller cafe or listening to people’s stories. I was telling you earlier about the professor of rock. I got to listen to stories of musicians through him.
I would do my own version of that except it would span different eras not just music, but wrestling, artists, business owners—inspirational people. I have a few that I have bookmarked in my head that I would like to interview that transcend all that.
Why an About Page Is Important
Colleen: Cool. Alright, so we’re going to talk about About pages. So why do you get so excited about About pages? I know you love them and you talk about them. That’s why I had to have you on to talk about them.
Todd: I gave myself the moniker “The About Page Guy.” I just threw it out there and I’ve left it up for a long time. Andy Castedona from a big agency in Chicago, pinged me and said, “Hey, man! I’m doing an article on About pages and you’re the About page guy. So I want to use you as a subject matter expert.”
Here’s the thing: About pages get treated like stepchildren. I mean, most people do basically make it sound like a resume, especially individuals and solopreneurs.
But you have a chance to show your credibility as a service provider for what you do. You have a chance to make yourself more personable. You have a chance to increase your brand—who you are.
Those things are huge with an About page and people don’t look at it that way because they tend to think of them as like, “Oh, this is a place where I put my CV, my resume.”
Well, if you do that, that’s fine. Just don’t make that the only thing. You do want to build credibility. If you’re going to do day rates, if you’re going to charge more than the person on Upwork you have a chance to establish your credibility with About pages. It’s a chance to show that you’re a human being. The story that drives what you do. You get a chance to hear people’s stories on an About page.
Colleen: Do people really visit About pages? Are they that big of a deal?
Todd: I’ve been looking at stats in Google Analytics for 13, 14, or 15 years something like that. About pages is usually number two. That’s not a hard and fast rule it usually depends on the type of website you have. If you’ve got a content-driven site, they’re almost always looking at some major article.
But if you go to a regular service provider’s website, almost always, it’s around number two behind the homepage. My friends, who also do web design, have told me that too. So when I look at Google Analytics the stats pretty much bear that out.
Colleen: I always go look at them, too.
Todd: I like to tell people, “Look, not having an About page or having a weak About page is kind of like somebody browsing through Craigslist and deciding to buy something from somebody in a shady side of town, not knowing who they are. They’re just not going to do it.”
You become the shady side of town without an About page. That’s the bottom line. Especially when it comes to a product, like software, plugins, and WordPress plugins. I want to know who’s behind this plugin because I want to know if they’re still going to be there a year from now.
Colleen: Those are interesting points. I love what you said about the shady side of town on Craigslist. That’s a really interesting way of putting it.
Todd: We all remember buying stuff. My first web design project—well, one of my first web design projects that I did—was through Craigslist. We were a little bit more bold back then, I guess.
But these days, I don’t think anybody would go to that side of town, if you will, the place where the crimes are high. If they don’t know anything about who they’re going to meet. I mean, the red flags are everywhere.
Well, I think about not having a good About page or even not having one… and I’m amazed at how many people don’t have one. Even if all you do is put up your resume and your CV, that’s better than not having anything. It might be.
Benefits of a Good About Page
Colleen: You already touched on some benefits of an About page. So you said…
Todd: It makes you more personable, increases your brand awareness, and increases your credibility.
Colleen: Are there some other benefits to a great About page?
Todd: When I talk about storytelling, I go to oxytocin (not oxycontin). I bought a book couple of years ago called Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall. I do recommend that if you’re in business. I know it probably won’t appeal to everybody but she talks about stories that stick.
If you’re going to look for that scientific reasoning, it’s called oxytocin, which, as you probably know, is the love hormone. Scientists discovered that that is released when mothers are bonding with their newborn babies. They call it the love hormone because it’s that connection between people—human to human.
This guy named Paul Zak from Berkeley discovered when he did some study, that our body releases oxytocin when we engage in storytelling.
Todd: Yeah. Watch a movie… the movie that kind of spurred the theory in his brain was Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank, and Clint Eastwood, but anytime you see a movie that you identify with the characters, it releases oxytocin in you.
I think we’re hardwired… People will say it’s hardwired in our brains—storytelling. I have changed that recently and said, I think we’re hardwired in our souls for storytelling. It goes beyond the brain, in my opinion, and pretty much every major religion in the world uses storytelling to tell their message.
I think we’re hardwired in our souls for storytelling and if you can use storytelling in your About page, you can create a connection with the person, if they see that you’re human.
Like, I know you love dogs and I think you rescue dogs, right?
Todd: My friend Ryan is part of a group that rescues and they are big with I think Brittany Spaniels. He’s got a dog named Bud. Bud is like his son. I know that about Ryan. So I enjoy that kind of connection.
I think it’s critical especially when you’re a solopreneur. But I think it’s also critical for a team business as well because it’s really easy to see a team, or a company name and think of them as an institution. There’s no connection.
What a team can do is they can—this is a simple thing—do bios of team members. In those bios, you might say something about what they’re an expert at. But also say that they love following Halestorm in concert, they’re going to follow wherever Halestorm’s playing. Or they rescue dogs, or they rescue cats. Some kind of personal thing about them allows you to connect with that person.
I think that’s a huge benefit of an About page. But if you don’t use the storytelling, then you’re probably going to miss that benefit.
Colleen: Those are all really good points.
How to Write a Good About Page
Colleen: You were saying earlier, some people designers are notorious for this. They don’t put up an About page at all. I think that part of that is because a lot of designers find it hard to talk about themselves. So if that is the case, they do find it hard to talk about themselves, do you have ways for how they can get inspired to write their About page?
Todd: Go on a podcast where somebody asks you questions about yourself. I’m being funny, but I’m serious as well because being interviewed sometimes is the best way to pull that information out.
Whether you’re hiring a copywriter to write about it and they’re interviewing you or you just go on podcasts like yours, where you get that story pulled out of you. That can be very helpful. Then you don’t really have to write it, you can take the transcript, and use that to build that story. That is probably the hardest part of writing about yourself—your story.
The other thing is, what you put in there is pretty like, “I’m an expert at accessibility design and this is how I got started doing it…” which, of course, is your story, right?
Colleen: I got into it by accident. I wasn’t doing anything with it. I hadn’t even heard of it and someone approached me about it.
Todd: Exactly and that is, to me, an interesting story. I think, as someone who likes storytelling at people, I find those stories, and think, “Oh, I want to know more about that.”
Honestly, it’s hard to get inspired about writing it, especially if you’re looking at it that way. It might be best to have a friend or somebody who’s skilled at asking those questions do an interview with you on Zoom or something where you can record it.
Colleen: That’s a good idea!
What to Include on an About Page
Todd: Let’s talk about the four pillars. These are different cornerstones that you can go into to help create that About page story. There’s four: history, passion, values, and skills. I think for at least two or three of those you could probably write about it without much problem.
We’re not talking about skills. I’m really talking about the things that enhance your credibility. So third-party testimonials, documentation of that, anytime you’ve been on a podcast or been interviewed in an article.
You do that really well on your website. I was looking at that…
Colleen: Oh, on mine? Thanks!
Todd: Yeah. You’re saying, I’ve been interviewed about these people and one of them is MainWP. You gave me so much stuff I had to make two articles out of them.
If you say, “I’ve never been interviewed on podcasts or PR,” well, then, you got some work to do. But it’s really not too hard. Usually, your niche industry, will ask people about their story at some point.
For instance, the very first one that I remember somebody asked me was Open Source Magazine, I think that’s what it’s called. They wanted to know my open source WordPress origin story. Maybe I requested to be in it. I don’t know. It wasn’t even a niche to WordPress. It was a niche to open source community.
Mustaasam, if you’re in the WordPress space runs WPfounders. He also does growth and marketing for MainWP. But he has done WPfounders for a while and that’s largely what he does. He gets stories of people. He’s gotten mine. He’s probably… I don’t know if he’s gotten yours or not. [ Colleen shakes her head. ]
He’s gotten pretty much almost everybody I know in the WordPress space. There’s usually a niche publication somewhere that wants to hear something about how you got started, so that’s great.
Todd: And then, of course, if you have certain skills, like you’ve gotten some training that only a few people have, that’s always good to add.
I don’t necessarily advocate putting all your stuff there. If you have a digital marketing certification from HubSpot, everybody has that. A lot of people do.
There’s different stuff you can get along the way that adds to your credibility. Sometimes you just have to have somebody pull that out of you maybe a friend or a mentor.
Just like when I put “Author of the Website Copy Framework,” I had forgotten about that. I don’t know what to say and a friend of mine said, “Hey, you’re the author of the Website Copy Framework,” so I added that. Sometimes we have our own blind spots.
Colleen: Oh, absolutely.
Todd: This is why it’s great to have a network. If you can be in a Facebook group or Slack group, sometimes it’s better to get a friend, or a mentor, or a colleague to sit there and help you figure out that stuff. So that takes care of your skills.
Todd: Passion, look at it two ways. Passion is like where it all comes together. But also, I want to know that you’re human.
Do you have hobbies? Are you into Halestorm? Are you into rescuing dogs? Are you into professional wrestling? Do you like dirt track racing? Are you a big NBA fan? Tell me you’re a human being and connect somehow. You didn’t even have to be the same thing I’m into.
Todd: When it comes to your history, I usually tell people, either your founder’s story… if you’re a solopreneur, it could be your origin story, like how you got started, or what you’re doing now.
The best question that is asked is not so much what but it’s where. Where was I when I realized this is the thing I want to do? Where was I? What was going on? Who was I talking to? What was the smell? What was the scene? That’s a good place to start.
The other one I say is the pivot story, which can be a really interesting story. It can be something an individual does.
For instance, I did an article at MainWP last month, I can’t remember the lady’s name. She was a featured user. On her About page—I didn’t consult her. I’m guessing she had a copywriter or she’s just that smart—she talks about how she had a dead-end job, driving an hour and a half everyday commuting, and decided she didn’t want to do that anymore and she pivoted.
She had her own pivot story. Her origin story was a pivot story.
But a lot of companies, I can’t remember the company now, but I got to one of those situations where you pay 10 bucks and they send you the book. They’re an e-commerce company. But they were doing something totally different with their software when they started it and they were running out of cash and had to let everybody go.
The founder got on a call with long-term customers and asked them how they use the program/software, and they learned that they use it way differently than they were thinking people did.
So they pivoted their whole company to messaging it and marketing it the way their existing customers were using the product. It changed everything and they grew.
Todd: That’s a pivot story that happens a lot of times and I call that a pivot story.
Todd: Then finally your values. Values is not an easy thing to pull out. I’ve talked about brand declaration before, I call it a brand declaration because manifesto has negative connotations for a lot of people. But the ideal is a manifesto.
But it doesn’t really have to be a manifesto. I’m looking for your values, your mission, and your purpose, both as an individual and as a company, and how that played together. When I’m talking about values, you may have three, four or five things that you stand on regardless.
Most people, especially when it comes to creatives, there are certain things they will not do. That’s a value. Be willing to elucidate those values and talk about them. I think that every value usually has a story. What is the reason you won’t do this?
A lot of people in design will do almost anything. But maybe they won’t do politics. They won’t do adult work. Why is that? There’s a story there. Usually, there’s a story there. But, again, that might take somebody coaching you to pull that information out.
Storytelling on Your About Page
A way to inspire yourself, though, is to listen to podcasts and people who tell their stories. There are many that do it. I know Mixergy has done a lot of it. There’s a guy named Lewis Howes, who does a lot of storytelling podcasts. I actually connected with him a long time ago before he was huge.
There are a lot of podcasts out there like that, maybe not what they do regularly, but they’ll have somebody on and some will do that.
When you do interviews, you’re trying to figure out why people started doing what they’re doing. So that might help inspire you a little bit, or TED talks, or something like that. It’s going to be hard to pull that out of yourself. You probably will need somebody to help you.
Colleen: When you made the first point, you were talking about going on a podcast or having somebody interview you and that made me think of this service called HARO (Help a Reporter Out). I found out about it because I was looking up something about getting backlinks on your site. One of the things suggested this service, so I thought I’ll try it up.
When you sign up, you get these emails and they’d be for different categories. You can get the tech edition, the business and finance edition, or different things and their groups have questions on that topic.
It was funny because the very first one that I received was a reporter looking for people who are course creators to share their stories. That was the very first email I got. I can’t believe it and I actually got published on a few different websites that this reporter was putting that story on. So that was kind of cool.
I haven’t yet put those on my website, I need to put the logos on there and link to them. But that’s exactly what happened. That was a free way to get my story out there.
Todd: That’s a great story. You probably got a good backlink for it from an SEO standpoint.
If you’re trying to get your story out and you’re having trouble, maybe pitch to a friend who runs a podcast, “Hey, can you have me on your podcast? I’ve never been on podcasts before. I need experience. Help me pull out my story.”
Most people who run a podcast will do that for their friends if it fits with what they’re doing. That podcast may not have some great backlink than maybe being in Forbes or something like that. But that doesn’t mean that it’s one of those things where you got to start somewhere.
If your goal is to get somebody to help you pull out your story, then any podcast—no matter how many downloads they have—could be really helpful for that. But you’re right about HARO, that can be a big backlink.
That’s why I’m talking about credibility enhancers under skills. I probably should change that to just credibility enhancer. The name “credibility enhancer” comes from Hannah and I can never say her last name, but she’s a copywriter from the U.K. I stole it from her, so I can’t take credit for it.
I do like the term “credibility enhancers”—stuff that enhances your credibility. But it’s also part of PR—public relations. Every business should try to find some way to do that. Even if it’s being on niche podcasts or in a niche publication. You usually start somewhere before you get to the bigger ones.
Why Your About Page Is Not a Résumé
Colleen: We were talking earlier about how About pages a lot of times are just kind of like a résumé—where somebody went to school or how many years of experience they have. I don’t think that most clients when they’re coming to your site, are going to care about that.
When I go and look at other designers’ sites, I might care if they have two years of experience versus 20. But I’m looking more at their work. I want to learn more about them. Do you agree with that—that clients don’t necessarily care about that kind of stuff? Or do you think that is?
Todd: I agree with you. I think they want some credibility but that doesn’t mean that your resume has everything. You know how a lot of us are, we’ve been in the game for a while, and our bachelor’s degree may not have anything to do directly with what we do now.
Colleen: No, absolutely it doesn’t. I have a foreign language degree.
Todd: Exactly. Putting your foreign language degree on your website there’s just really no relevance to that. It might make for an interesting story in an email, “Here’s five things I learned about what I do now from a foreign language degree.“ That would be an interesting blog post, podcast, or video. That’s fine.
There’s something to be said for saying that I did go to school or I did get training, especially if it’s something art related. Putting a bio, a written bio, is probably better than a resume because you can put what’s important in the bio that you do and leave out everything else.
Third-party testimonials were pretty hard to beat. I’ve done enough websites for service businesses. It doesn’t matter. You can say all the fancy persuasive stuff you want but people are going to look at those testimonials almost every single time.
Think less about your resume and your CV. I see a lot of designers and developers putting CVs up, honestly, I want to know you can do what you’re doing. I want to know who you have worked with, both on staff and people you have built logos for or designs for.
In your case, being someone that has done accessibility, I think it is imperative to say that people from the government have used you because of your knowledge and your skill. That is imperative.
Take Amber Hinds, for instance, she has a plugin and she’s always doing talks and stuff like that. I know you know Amber.
Todd: One day, I’d love to have you and Amber on a roundtable to talk about accessibility.
Colleen: Oh, that would be cool!
Todd: She has a plugin and I would imagine at some point she’s done stuff for some government agencies. It’s imperative that it goes directly with what you do. It doesn’t mean you have to be all grandiose about it.
But if you’ve got a governmental department agency willing to do a testimonial and put their name on your website. I mean, that’s pretty hard to beat.
Colleen: But that’s a problem with many government testimonials. You’re not going to get a name with them.
Todd: I know, I know. But I don’t know what you can get from them if you can get anything from them. I’m not too interested in working with the red tape. But I’m thankful for people like you who are.
Colleen: Only sometimes.
Todd: I know. You got it. You can’t put your sanity… check your sanity, and always do that. There’s a reason people get paid a lot of money to work with the government. They earn every bit of it because they also put up a lot of stuff.
You’ll hear something about, “Oh, so and so had this logo made and it cost them $2.5 million.” You’re like what? Well, you don’t know what they had to go through to come up with that logo. Give them the money. That’s how I feel about that.
It’s tough but it’s okay to put stuff on there that speaks directly to your relevant skills. But I think a resume is an overkill.
About Me or About Us?
Colleen: What do you say about this? I have to say, I used to do this when it was just me and when I didn’t have any help. This drove me nuts for years because it was the “I” versus ”we.”
One time I remember and I was on my honeymoon and I checked my email to see if I had gotten this one project. That’s all I was doing. I was just checking it real quick, so don’t go crazy about that. But back then it wasn’t like Wi-Fi and all that. This is a long time ago.
I checked my email to see if I have gotten this project and I was so mad because all it was was a media kit job. I could have done that in my sleep. I had done them before and it was no big deal and the company said they didn’t hire me because I didn’t have “staff.” Why the hell would I need staff to design a media kit? That’s insane.
I thought maybe I should start saying, I’m a “we” instead of an “I”. Then my About page is going to be About us instead of About me, right? It drove me crazy for years because it’s like when you say you’re a “we” or an “us,” you may get larger work. Maybe clients don’t care about that as much as they did 20 years ago, right?
But I do see a lot of websites where the designer is clearly solo. All over their site they’re talking about, well, a lot of the times, they’re talking about themselves in the singular, but then you have like an about us page. Who’s the “us”? You’re talking about yourself on all the other pages? It’s good stuff—what they’re saying, but why are you saying it’s an About us page?
It feels like they’re just trying to say that to sound bigger. Because that’s what I was trying to do at least. I also thought that I did really good work by myself, and to say that I was an “us” was also making it sound like more people were responsible for the great work that I was doing by myself. Why should I not take all that credit? I feel there’s a conflict there, especially with designers with this About us, or maybe it should be About me.
Todd: Let me ask you, first of all, not to be nosy, but how long ago were you on your honeymoon? How many years was that?
Colleen: It was almost 20.
Todd: So 20 years ago, companies probably made a big deal. Probably a bigger deal about that than they are now. First of all, I think we’re in a place now where people understand that freelancing and solopreneurs are much more accepted now than it was 20 years ago.
I think people realize, especially when it comes to creatives, that a lot of times, you’re solo. You may have an LLC, and most people do, but that doesn’t mean you have more people. I don’t think it’s as big of a deal anymore.
Second, I would always be honest about who I am. That would be the same if you are having somebody help you on a contract basis or subcontract, something like, “I’m a solo but I use somebody to do this for me or somebody else to do this for me.”
Todd: I had a well-known content marketing guy say the other day that they let a freelancer go because they found out he was subcontracting and he didn’t tell. He’s like don’t do that. If you’re a subcontract, you need to make it clear with the person you’re working with.
If you’re working with somebody, and you say, “Hey, I’m overloaded, but I have this person,” you also stake your life on that person that they’re going to do a good job, and that you’re watching over it.
In this case, I think the person was not doing a very good job. They basically noticed that the work was suffering. In other words, it wasn’t good.
I don’t think it’s a big deal anymore, that you’re a solo. Some companies are going to want an agency and that’s just how it is. They’re bigger and they understand that agencies know how to deal with their system and that’s fine.
Some companies absolutely want to solo a person. I’m working with such a company right now and that’s really what they want. Then in the creative space, they want to work with solo people.
When it comes to the “I” versus “we,” if you’re an “I,” just be an “I.”
The Heading for Your About Page
On your About page, don’t ever title it “About us” or “About me” or anything like that. That stock About us is from the theme, that’s what you’re doing. You can make the slug About, I usually just go with About because no reason to do About us, or About me.
So it’s copyflight.com/about. It’s easy to tell somebody that. They can find it. But on your title on your page don’t do About, unless you say about whatever.
What I would say—and this is a copywriting thing—is you don’t need to make the title of your page About because that’s in your slug. You need to make it your desired outcome. So whatever that is, what would be a desired outcome for a designer? Design while you sleep. I don’t know. I’m just making something up.
“We design while you sleep.” “We take the load…” “We take the creative load off,” whatever it is. Make that the title of your page, instead of “About this” or “About that.”
You’re focusing on what the desired outcome is for your customer. There’s an implication there. You are doing a page about yourself or your business. You want to connect that to whatever that desired outcome is—that benefit.
“Benefit” is the word that marketing people like to use. I’ve kind of settled on outcome—desired outcome. I got that from a conversion rate optimization lady. I call her the CRO queen. Her name is Talia Wolf.
So the desired outcome, make that your title because that’s what they care about. You lead with the desired outcome. Before you ever get to yourself there’s always this question marketers will say, “You don’t talk about yourself. Use “you” language.
You don’t use “I” language. That’s absolutely true, especially on your homepage and your service page and all that. The one exception to that—and it’s a slight exception—is the About page. You are free to say “I,” or if you have a team, “we” on your About page. Just don’t overdo it.
Remember that you’re still writing to your prospective client. Always lead with whatever unique value proposition you provide to them. That accessibility is on or whatever it is. You lead with that. You get them to envision what it’s like using you before you go into why, where, and how you got to that point.
Does that make sense?
Todd: Did I even answer your question?
Colleen: Yeah. I think you did.
Todd: A lot of solo teams have “staff” for lack of a better term, sometimes the staff is all subcontractors or contractors and that’s fine.
Colleen: Right. That’s still a “we.”
Todd: Yes, still a “we” and that’s fine. If you have a staff like that, and there’s somebody that will actually interact with customers. I would say that on your About page, go ahead and put their bio up.
It didn’t have to be a big bio. Maybe, “This is Tammy. She’s the account manager. You probably will speak to her at some point. Tammy likes to cook on the weekend. Has her own youtube cooking show, and blah, blah, blah.”
And something like, “This is John. He’s our developer, if you have a question about your website, and you need to have something added, John’s going to be the one who does that. John plays in a rock and roll band on the weekends.”
There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re solo, and you just use a VA, which is a crucial part of your team. It’s up to you if you want to put a VA on your About page or not, but most people understand that solopreneurs work solo, but often use others to supplement when they need it. I think most people understand that.
Colleen: You were saying earlier, about the “I” versus “we,” and for years, I was just going back and forth about it for those reasons I already stated. You said something about people sometimes want to work with a solopreneur or sometimes they want to work with an agency.
I think at least with me and I think other designers do this too, is that I felt like I was trying to be everything to everyone. If they came to me, and they were looking for an “I” was going to be an “I”. If they were coming to me looking for an agency, then I was going to be that too.
And it’s like, just own what you are. I don’t want to be dishonest about it either. Own what you are, and then you’ll attract those clients that want to work with you. We don’t want to be inauthentic and we don’t want to be attracting clients that aren’t a good fit.
Todd: If they come to you, and they say, “Oh, I’m sorry, We’re actually wanting to work with an agency.” That’s fine. You can then say, “Hey, I have a friend over here who has an agency.”
At least give them an option. You want to work with an agency. That’s fine. “Here’s my friend, This is my friend John. He runs this agency over here and you might find it more of what you would need.”
Maybe one day, John gets somebody. “Oh, I was really looking for work for solo.”
“Go see my friend Colleen. She’s the best at what she does.” Always be willing to refer especially if they’re a good client. Being all things to all people isn’t always the best business strategy.
Colleen: No. Yeah. It’s exhausting.
Get Help Writing Your About Page
Colleen: Todd, I know that you actually have something that I mentioned earlier, the Website Copy Framework that helps people write their own copy. Tell us a little bit about that.
Todd: I started building websites on WordPress, probably about 2010 or maybe before that, and one of the things I would run into, even when I worked at an agency—I worked at a “we,” one time. I was a contractor for a “we.”
Here’s a story for you. I’ll tell you in terms of a story.
I got a project to do and it was really interesting because they turned everything over to me. They said, you project manage it, the design is done. The girl in the office, she was a designer, she did the designs that were actually fairly simple design, which is easy for me to develop.
You do the development, and you do the design get talked back and forth, and they’re going to provide content. The wife of one of the guys there had an English degree. I waited a year for the content.
Colleen: A year?
Todd: I was excited. Yeah, it probably was over a year,
Colleen: I got you beat. I’ve actually been waiting on a client for five years now.
Todd: I got the development done pretty quickly, which I was really proud of myself because a lot of times I get these designs, and I have a hard time. I’m not the best with front-end development. And it’s like, “Oh, I’m done,” all I need now is content. I waited, and I waited, and I waited, and I waited.
This is a recurring theme with designers and developers, anybody who does websites, whether you consider yourself a designer or developer, you run into this problem. So I put together all these checklist-taught worksheets. At the first Atarim summit, I gave a talk and gave that as a giveaway.
Well, my friend Paul Lacey, which you probably know from the U.K. He thought—this is really good—I took these worksheets and I sold a consultant session to one of my clients to get the content. You need to package this and sell it. So I did.
I did a little bit of revisioning with it. I got Mor Cohen to do a design for the cover. My friend Davinder helped me with the page, and we rolled it out on Gumroad. I did the original one and it was all branded.
I thought to do a white label for agencies. All that really meant was you got all that, plus a Google document of the worksheets, so you could brand it. You could put your brand on it. You could sit down one to one with your client and walk through it.
It’s really kind of a consulting deal. But just because they fill it out doesn’t mean your website’s written. I do say explicitly at the beginning, “You’re still going to need somebody to write this stuff.”
It’s more or less the pre-planning for the content, the written content, I should say, because I don’t do anything with images or graphics that’s your department.
I like to talk about web copy project in terms of three phases. I call the first phase Research, the second phase is what I call Strategy and the third stage is Writing. You basically get the research and strategy but the writing is left to somebody else.
So what I tell you is, once you go through all this and you fill out the worksheets, you should have enough to hand off to a writer. It doesn’t have to be a skilled copywriter, but a writer, somebody who knows how to put sentences in front of each other and form paragraphs and write your content. It’s great for first-time website owners maybe the first or second time.
I think if you are beyond that, you probably should hire a professional copywriter to write that content. That’s what I did. I do intend on revising it into a second edition. I haven’t done that yet. I want to make it a little more interactive.
One of the biggest things that hold up any project is content—written content.
Todd: You have a lot of different tools that are out there to help like Atarim and Content Snare and some of those other project management type tools, which are great. The problem is people just don’t know what to say about themselves because we don’t like talking about ourselves. We talked about that earlier. We don’t know what to say about our story.
The Website Copy Framework is going to help you with that part—trying to know what to say. If you have a blank page problem, the best thing to do to solve that is research. This helps if you know what to research, what to find, and what things to write.
I do give some copywriting formulas for pages and things like unique value propositions, that kind of thing. Their frameworks are not hard and fast templates, and they certainly can be adjusted to your own.
I think in the future, we might even have some alternate frameworks for certain pages too. But the biggest part I think most good writers can write if they just know what to write.
So if you tell them, I need you to write this and they’re like, “What do I write?” Well, here if you go through the Website Copy Framework my hope is you can take that information, turn it over to a friend or family member who’s a good writer who can then take it and then write your content.
Colleen: Great. They can find that at copyflight.com/wcf.
Todd: That’s correct. There you’ll see two versions. One is business and one’s a consultant. The consultant is basically the white label version. You don’t need to buy that unless if you’re a designer, and you want to get a white label version of it, where you can put your own logo on there and turn it into a PDF to hand to your customer. You want to get the consultant one.
Colleen: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. This was great. This was fun.
Todd: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.