It’s about Serving Others

I had an unexpected request from someone I don’t know but who had heard my name at the church we both attend. Her 13-year-old daughter is pursuing a Girl Scout badge and needed to talk to a writer about his/her career. All she needed to do was take a few moments to ask me a few questions.

Happy to oblige. We arranged a time between church activities.

I explained that being a copywriter is the business side of my writing life – how I earn income. I write for businesses who need to promote their messages. These days that looks a lot like web content, email and newsletters. When I started in this field, it looked like television commercials, radio spots, billboards, brochures and print ads.

She doesn’t watch TV or read newspapers. I felt we might have a generational issue as I described my starting point, though I gave it my best shot. I did say, “Things are different now.”

She was only required to ask me two questions; because she’s an overachiever, she asked four – one being, “How did you know this is what you wanted to do? I’ve never heard of it.”

Back to that generational issue. How do you explain the source of your dreams to someone who never saw a Bewitched rerun, doesn’t know Alka-Seltzer goes “plop plop, fizz fizz,” and didn’t get misty-eyed when Coca-Cola wanted to teach the world to sing?

I said, “If you could advance my dreams from back then to today, it’d be like wanting to create a viral video and watch those view numbers go up and up.”

I hope she gets her badge.

That’s my takeaway, by the way. If I had it to do over again, I would have told her that being a copywriter is always about helping someone else get their badge.

Maybe this is the CMO under pressure to keep the content pipeline filled, or the development director who needs to communicate with donors, or the ad agency outsourcing a special project. My name is hardly ever associated with the work I do. Instead, it’s about saving someone time or taking off the pressure or completing the project that has been languishing.

The Girl Scout asked one more question: “What is something you like to do?”

I told her, “I like to take photos and videos of my cat and share them on social media.” She smiled. That part she understood.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and developer of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform.

What Is Your Project?

Being a solopreneur can be a dance where you seek that which you do well and quickly while steering away from that which slows you down. This process can be confusing, though, because when you want business, any shiny client object can look like your next chance for income.

For example, my copywriting services could be summed up in this way: “Tell me what you want, and I will do it. But I’m not the one to ask, ‘What do I want?’” I have a project-based set up. Clients have a need, they tell me what that need is, and I do the work that fills the need.

If a client doesn’t know what he or she needs, in theory, I could help with that. I have experience. I have ideas. I could draw from that experience and those ideas to help someone create a marketing plan. But that’s a different process from what I ordinarily do, and I would be departing from my mission in a way that is frustrating to me and ineffective for the client.

I recall early in my freelance career, I intended to work with a new client. I thought he would need my services; he thought he would need my services. But we had a different idea of what those services could be. I listened to and was sympathetic to his concerns. But when I walked away, I was confused. I asked myself, “What is my project? What am I supposed to do?”

He may have needed a writer at some point, but what he needed at that moment was a marketing consultant. At the time, I didn’t have enough steady work to want anyone to slip through my fingers, no matter how ill-fitting the client could be, and I kept trying to figure out my project.

Age and experience teach another lesson. When the signs show that something isn’t going to work out, it’s OK to say, “This isn’t my area.” You are, after all, not letting go of opportunity; you’re letting go of something that isn’t going to work out.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and author of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform.

How to Network in Your Community

I was at a luncheon meeting not long ago. Everyone was asked to stand up, introduce ourselves and say one thing about our work. I gave my elevator pitch and sat back down.

When the meeting was over, two people asked me for my business cards. I actually had forgotten this was a networking luncheon. I thought it was just a luncheon. I scurried to find business cards in my purse, lamenting how I had a thousand at my desk.

I almost offered one inquirer my dental appointment reminder and the other my nail salon punch card, but I came up with the needed items.

The point is: don’t be like me. At least in that moment. Be ready.

Networking is not just an event. It’s an availability. A connection. A conversation.

Early in my self-employed life, I ran into a colleague at a community gathering that involved free beer tasting (a detail central to my claim). He was the editor of a magazine. We discussed an article. When it came out, someone asked, “How’d you get that assignment?”

“I ran into the editor one night when he was drinking beer,” I explained.

One time I did something I really, really did not want to do – I became chair of an alumni committee for my alma mater. I didn’t want to go to the meetings or be in charge. I kept asking myself, “Why did I say yes?” Yet that experience led to an article assignment and a speaking opportunity that led to years of weekly editing assignments and another client referral. I was very soon asking, “What if I’d said no?”

My favorite networking story is about a visit to Target. My 2-year-old niece needed new Play Doh. I said I’d get it. I discovered that six containers totaled about two dollars – not too shabby for a favor. I pulled them off the shelves and headed to the checkout line, where I saw a PR colleague checking out ahead of me.

I can trace that two-dollar investment and brief, unplanned conversation to a newsletter series, four work-for-hire book projects, and several magazine assignments.

That’s how to network within your communities. Make connections. Enter conversations. Keep business cards handy. Say yes to growth opportunities. And always volunteer to buy the Play Doh.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and author of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform.

How to Recognize when Something Isn’t a Problem

I’d gotten a new laptop not long ago. I’d cross-checked my specific needs with price ranges and computer-selling sources and came to a final purchase decision. Then I packed up my digital files and moved them to their new home, hopeful that things would work smoothly – and faster.

I was glad to get this done. Everything seemed to be working fine, except I discovered one big problem when a project came in that I needed to proofread. When I made a comment in the PDF file to correct a typo, I discovered that my name in the comment box was spelled “Minni.” This was the start of a 48-hour journey to figure out what was wrong and how to get it right. Because it was far too disorienting for me to tolerate making proofreading comments with my name misspelled.

It turns out, as I set up my laptop, Microsoft created a user folder with the first five letters of my email address. This is what they do, and changing the name of that folder, looks like, is a huge ordeal. So, here’s how I started looking at things:

“This is a problem for everyone.” If Microsoft has created defaults where people can’t control how their names appear, this would be a problem for millions of people. If this is a problem for millions of people, Microsoft (or a bunch of tech people) would have instructions on how to correct this issue that is bothering me so much, and I would be able to find these instructions in Google.

The most I could find, however, were a few very complicated instructions dating back more than a year. That is the evidence, to me, that this is not a problem for everyone.


“This is a problem only for me.” If this is a problem only for me, what that means in technical terms is: I am the source of the problem. Whenever I seek technical help that is not answered in the FAQs, it often ends as a local issue – a user error. Or, as I discovered, I have some kind of needless expectation, which led me to the possibility that…

“This is not a problem.” That was the most interesting idea of all, and the one I finally explored. Clearly, I don’t want my name misspelled in my documents, but what if the folder name is not a problem at all? That has to be the answer, and it was… because I realized inside Adobe Acrobat Reader, I could change the spelling of my name. I didn’t have to stick with the default.

So much about creative pursuits is about solving problems. how do I present this idea, what materials do I use, how do I keep costs down, how do I fine-tune, etc., etc., etc. The best way to solve a problem, however, is to recognize that it isn’t actually a problem.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and shares creative encouragement through her Story Shaping platform. 

Two P’s You Don’t Want in Your Pod

Accuracy is a big deal, especially when you’re about to press send, print or publish on a marketing piece. But perfectionism? That’s another matter.

In my early freelance writing days, I kept working on a particular article assignment within my slim workload. All day long, I fiddled with it. I was not finishing it. The information and the organization were already there. I was trying to make it “just right.”

Here’s what I finally realized. I was to be paid a set fee for the article. Whether I spent three hours on it or eight hours on it, I was going to be paid the same amount. That meant, the longer I worked on the article, the less I got paid.

This experience helped me see the cost of perfectionism. Also, trying to get things “just right” can sometimes be the same as the fear of letting go.

Procrastination is another costly quality. For me, that appears as a dragging feeling – a lack of energy created by my very inactivity. But when I get whatever it is done, a weight lifts, and my action restores my energy.

Some days I have to do what I call “the hard things.” Writing is easy. The hard things are checking on an invoice payment, contacting a prospect or following up on some other thing I’d rather avoid. The hard things are hard. But they get easier after you do them.

Even when it’s an easy thing, however, you can face resistance getting started. A good trick for overcoming that resistance is to take a very small step.

Last year, I read One Small Step Can Change Your Life, a well-known book by Dr. Robert Maurer based on principles of Kaizen, a philosophy used by Japanese businesses to make improvements. The Kaizen method involves taking a small step – often the smallest possible – which reroutes the circuits in your brain that make you feel overwhelmed.

Solopreneurs can use this process too. For example, one day when I didn’t want to write an article, I decided to take a very small step: I opened a new Word document. That was my step. I could do that and walk away, having accomplished what I set out to do. However, I started typing some words and got my project going.

If there’s something you would like to do, have been meaning to do or fear you can’t do, what’s one small step you can take today? Is there an unfinished work you would like to begin, move forward or complete? Don’t worry about how far you’ve got to go, or how far behind you’ve fallen, just take a small step today.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and developer of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform. 

How to Write for Hire

There are several qualities that are needed in order to write for others, especially if you’re writing pieces as if they had written them themselves.

The first step is to remove yourself. This is not your work, not your goal, not your project. You are helping others achieve their goals through their projects and their work. Therefore, it’s important to embrace what they are doing and see the value in their work – and think less about your own preferences.

Second, listen to what they’re telling you. Listen to what’s important, what their mindset is. As you do, the same words will come up over and over, whatever they are. If I hear a phrase more than once, I write it down, because that’s what the person is thinking; that’s what the person is telling me. I find a way to use those words in the piece I’m writing. Then, when the process works, the client says, “Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I wanted to say.”

Third, accept edits and revisions as a valuable part of the process. I welcome edits and changes that get the piece closer to what the client wants. And I respect someone who will make changes in a particular area. For one thing, it means that the piece has been read.

If there aren’t any changes, and if there are never any changes, that’s not a bad thing; but, it’s not the best way to establish a long-term relationship.

As a copywriter who wants future work, I want to know that my words are being read and are serving the purpose they are intended to serve. A specific change says, “I read and considered what you wrote.”

On the other hand, if there are too many changes too often, that’s a different issue. Most clients know what they want to say; but if you find someone who doesn’t know what he wants to say, it’s hard to be the one to say it for him.

The fourth necessary quality is to respect the authority of others. You might think that being connected to the president and CEO is the most important thing in establishing a relationship with a company. It’s good, but it’s not necessarily the quality that brings business. As a business grows, other levels of authority come in, and they’re the ones pushing the projects through – projects like Web-site redesign, article assignments, newsletter content and so forth.

That’s my team. I need good relationships with the ones who are under pressure to get that sort of work done because then they’ll think of me.

Do you know who else is important? Accounts payable. It’s nice to have good relationships with accounts payable – because if you have those relationships, that can make a world of difference. It is not unusual for me to remember all the people in accounts payable in my morning prayers in hopes that they might feel like being overachievers during the day.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and developer of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform. 

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

I had a big idea on my morning walk.

This idea began a few weeks ago when I attended a meeting, and the speaker talked about virtual reality. His examples have military application. We could put on headsets and find ourselves in the cargo hold of a plane and learn how to exit or move around the plane.

I don’t often need to know how to do things like that, but that’s not the point.

“How was the meeting?” a few people asked.

“It was interesting, but no one has the budget for that,” I said, offering my finely-tuned logic. It’s too soon for wide application. But who knows?

The experience reminded me of those days in the 1990s when I sat through sessions led by a number of speakers who wanted to tell us about the amazing technology called the World Wide Web. These speeches often made me sleepy, because the lights in the room were turned down so attendees could see images on a screen.

That’s why I thought sessions about the Internet were boring. I would get sleepy in dim lighting.

(Do not trust me for prognostication.)

In any case, this morning I was taking a walk, and I came to a dead snake in my path. I jumped high. Then I had an idea for the world.

Gyms and health clubs could create virtual-reality exercise experiences. You’d be much more motivated to get your heart rate up by escaping a snake room than by listening to a podcast on a treadmill.

Maybe someone’s already doing this, I don’t know. But the point, that’s how creative thinking works.

You sit in a meeting that has nothing to do with you, the subject gets in your mental filing cabinet, and one day on a morning walk, you can pull it back out and ask what if? And then, if you’re a writer, you write about that process.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and developer of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform.

Is Your Job a Good Fit?

I remember when I was hired for my first professional job. I wanted to be a copywriter. I set up appointments at ad agencies and took my portfolio of clever clippings from the college newspaper. This job search went on for a long and seemingly unfruitful time.

Some months into the process, I reached back out to an earlier contact. By then, the agency had a need and hired me. I was so excited. But given that I’d only met my future employer one time some months earlier and I had no relevant work history, I remember thinking, “What if he’s confused me with someone else?”

I decided to keep that concern about the mistaken identity to myself rather than ask him, “Are you sure you meant to pick me?”

Somehow, instinctively, you know what not to say on a job interview. And sometimes you don’t.

A few years later, I began to look for another job in a different kind of place. I hadn’t interviewed in a long time, and I could have used a skills-building session.

In any case, I took my resume to a lunchtime appointment and began to discuss what I might bring to this potential position. It didn’t take long before I knew – without a shadow of a doubt – that this interview was not going well. But I stuck it out, because what do you do?

On Earth 2, I’m sure I stood up to say, “It is clear to me that I have no chance of getting this job, but if I leave now, I’ve got time to go through the Wendy’s drive-thru before my current employer realizes I’m missing.”

On this planet, however, I stuck it out and was as relieved as I have ever been to get a form letter later that week telling me I wasn’t the one selected.

Two takeaways:

Don’t discount the strengths that are uniquely yours and the way you can make a difference. You may very well be the person the company is looking for, and you will both benefit when you come together.

On the other hand, if you want to find a peaceful career, you won’t find it in trying to plead your way into a poor job fit just because you’re frustrated by your current situation.

I’m not much for offering career advice, but I know a good resource that can help. I recently worked with a client on the preparation and launch of a book to help readers find a peaceful and life-giving career at any stage of life. Visit if you’d like to learn more.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and author of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform. 

How to Prepare for a Writing Project

If you’ve got a big idea for a book, how do you begin? I talked to a gentleman the other day who’s got a big idea. He’s given his project a lot of thought and prepared a lot of research material. But what about the writing part? If you’re in a situation like that, how do you get started?

Establish your goal. Identify what you want this book to achieve (or what you want the readers to be able to achieve). In marketing, this would be identifying “the pain point.” What is missing in the readers’ knowledge of this material? How would they benefit from learning more? Establishing your goal for the book will help you maintain focus as you write.

Or, just start writing. Sometimes you can write your way into the questions and answers that will guide you through the rest of the project.

Identify your audience. The Bible is probably the only book where “everyone” is actually the intended audience. Most other books start to segment based on demographics, interests, needs, etc. If you can’t name your audience, get a picture in your mind of a person or people you’d most like to know this information, and keep them in mind as you write.

Find samples of the type of book you’d like to write. If you have found similar books that look like what you want to create, take note of the format, structure, length, tone, etc. This can help you create a roadmap for where you’re headed.

But do start writing. You may figure some of this out as you go, and even rethink initial assumptions.

Schedule your writing time. Consider how many hours a week you will spend on this project, then put it on a calendar. Creating a schedule helps keep projects on track. Also…

Start writing… one sentence at a time.

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and author of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform.