That’s exactly why I’m so excited to introduce you to Susannah Hutcheson of Susie B. & Co. When Susannah and I first connected over Instagram, I felt like I had found a kindred spirit. (I love all self-starters, but one who has a newsletter and affinity for candles has a special place in my heart.)
As a talented writer who creates content for brands and publications alike, Susannah knows how powerful messaging can be. I think a lot about words — I am a journalist, after all — but writing a story isn’t the same as, say, issuing a statement on behalf of your small business.
“Your message tells people who you are,” she explains. “It shows clients why they should work with you and it reminds you what you’re working towards. Messaging is one of those things that can completely change the trajectory of your business, if it’s done well, because it speaks to everyone else.”
So, in the spirit of learning something new from a friend, I caught up with Susannah about how self-starters can level up their messaging. Whether you want to improve communications with your clients or finesse your Instagram captions, Susannah’s tips will turn you into a wordsmith in no time.
Keep it Simple, Superstar
When it comes to your company’s messaging, get ready to pucker up and K.I.S.S. (You know, keep it simple, superstar.)
“We all want to write novels about how wonderful our businesses are — it’s human nature — but it’s always important to take a step back and look at your messaging from a client perspective,” Susannah says. “I’m all about a great About Me page, but when someone looks at your messaging, they should be able to quickly see who you are, what you do, and what you can do for them.”
As a self-starter, you take a lot of pride in your work and could probably talk about your business until the proverbial cows come home. But, if you’re too wordy or long-winded with your messaging, it’s likely a potential client got side-tracked or confused and moved on. (In 2018, a study found that the average person’s attention span is eight seconds — and that’s before TikTok became a thing.)
Instead of coming up with the most eloquent prose, think about how you can help your clients and customers. More times than not, that means being clear and concise.
“No matter how lovely they are, they’re looking for you to serve a purpose — so make sure that purpose is quickly clear to them,” Susannah says.
That said, just because you want to keep your brand messaging concise doesn’t mean it has to be boring. You are a unique person, so why not show off what makes you you?
“When you’ve decided on a tone you like (or don’t like), a platform you want to use, or a style of words that vibe with your audience, stick to them,” Susannah says. “Don’t jump around trying to be a zillion things to a zillion people — find your voice, and stay true to it.”
Start finding your authentic voice by jotting down words and phrases you typically say. When you think of your brand’s messaging style as an extension of your own voice, it can be easier (and a lot less stressful) to get the wording down pat.
“Get really clear before you ever sit down to work on your messaging,” Susannah adds. “Who are you? What is your mission? What do you want to accomplish? Who are your dream clients? Take those questions, and use [them] to build out a message that speaks to the person you want to become, the business you want to build, and the clients you want to attract.”
Amen to that!
Own Your Mistakes
When most people talk about brand messaging, they’re usually referring to all the fun, glamorous things about running your own business. (Creating your About Me page! Donating a portion of your proceeds to charity! Launching a new collection!) But, people rarely talk about how invaluable messaging can be when things don’t go according to plan.
Whether you’re experiencing some unexpected shipping delays or tripped over your words during a recent podcast, mistakes are bound to happen. (It’s okay, we’re all human.)
If the going gets tough, Susannah recommends speaking from the heart without dwelling on it.
“Be honest and be apologetic, but don’t be over-apologetic,” she recommends. “People make mistakes, and I think we tend to be over-apologetic when we make those mistakes. (It’s me! I’m we! I get it, especially as a recovering people pleaser.) Don’t gloss over your mistake, but also don’t spend so much time explaining your mistake that you make another. ”
Offer an apology, an actionable step of some sort, and then move on!
Get Your Community Involved
Sure, your brand’s messaging is how you communicate with your community, but remember it’s a two-way street. Instead of talking into a vacuum, Susannah recommends encouraging your community to get involved in the conversation.
“I’m a huge believer that the words you use for your business and brand should always, always give connection points to other people,” she explains. “After all, what’s life without people to connect with? Always craft your messaging in a way that lets people in, whether that’s through really smart calls to action or a reminder that we’re all in this weird thing called life together.”
The more, the merrier, right?
Hustler of the Week: Susannah Hutcheson
Congratulations on becoming a full-time freelancer! What inspired you to take the leap of faith?
After three full years of teaching high school (oof!) and freelancing enough to the point where I was essentially working two full-time jobs, I just knew it was time. When COVID hit and school went virtual, I was able to put some firmer plans down and force myself to send that resignation email — and, wow. It’s the best thing I’ve ever, ever done for myself.
What is your favorite part about being your own boss? Least favorite?
My favorite thing about being my own boss lies in my days. I spent three years in a job I genuinely did not love, and being able to craft days that fill me up inside? Man, it’s incredible. Truly. I love being busy and thrive off of it, but I also love the fact that I can close my computer, take a spin class and grab a coffee, and then get back to work on my own terms. It’s also such a great feeling to be doing work that lights me up, whether that’s something super technical and marketing-y (is that a word?! No, but hey!), or it’s something more journalism-based.
However, that leads into my least favorite part — which is probably going to be boundaries. I’ve always leaned towards a workaholic type of vibe myself, and becoming my own boss hasn’t helped. I’m always trying to be better about stepping away to focus on creativity that I’m not being paid for (a book isn’t going to write itself)! Also, taxes. Ew. So rude.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since becoming your own boss?
Not to sound woo-woo, because it might come off that way — but I’m convinced that the universe rewards you for following your dreams. I really am. I spent so long worrying about taking this jump, freaking out that I wouldn’t make enough or do enough — and I was (thankfully) so wrong. When you take the leap to trust yourself, you prove to yourself that you can do hard things. On another level, I’ve also learned that I cannot work on the couch, that no one will ever quite understand what it is I actually do, and that just because you’re TEMPTED to skip putting 25 percent of your checks into tax savings doesn’t mean you should.
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