Val Geisler on Creative Elements

#7: Val Geisler [Everything is Figureoutable]

Email, imposter syndrome, and trading the corporate ladder for a spiral staircase

#7: Val Geisler [Everything is Figureoutable]

Email, imposter syndrome, and trading the corporate ladder for a spiral staircase

Val Geisler is the founder and CEO (that's Chief Email Officer) of Fix My Churn. She focuses on email copywriting for DTC and SaaS companies to help them better retain their customers.

Prior to FixMyChurn, Val spent over a decade inside companies from non-profits to 7-figure businesses to tech startups.

In this episode we talk about trading the corporate ladder for a spiral staircase, how her background in theatre and wedding planning prepared her for writing emails, imposter syndrome, and how believing that Everything is Figure-out-able has allowed her to create a successful online business.

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Val Geisler on Creative Elements
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Show Notes

Show Notes

Val Geisler is the founder and CEO (that's Chief Email Officer) of Fix My Churn. Val spent over a decade inside companies from non-profits to 7-figure businesses to tech startups. She brings her background in content creation, CX, and digital strategy to her clients every day.

Val calls herself an “email geek” who focuses on email copywriting for DTC and SaaS companies. She helps these companies better retain their customers.

And she’s worked with some of the best – including Stripe, Buffer, Egghead, AWeber, InVision, and Podia, just to name a few.

She made a name for herself publishing “email tear downs” – these are in depth, analytical looks at the emails some of YOUR favorite brands are sending, and explaining why they are successful, and often where they fall short.

In this episode we talk about trading the corporate ladder for a spiral staircase, how her background in theatre and wedding planning prepared her for writing emails, imposter syndrome, and how believing that Everything is Figure-out-able has allowed her to create a successful online business.

Visit Val's website

Visit FixMyChurn

Follow Val on Twitter

Strong Bad Email #59 – Marzipan

Creative Elements is brought to you by The Podglomerate.

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Transcript

Transcript

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Val Geisler 0:00
You can do client work and find your clients voice all day long. But you have to be producing your own stuff. Whether it's writing, or podcasting, or making videos, or tweet storms, or LinkedIn posts, whatever it is that you do, you just have to like put pen to paper, voice to microphone, and start creating.

Jay Clouse 0:23
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host Jay Clouse. Let's start the show. Hello, welcome back to Creative Elements. I hope you're having a great day, a great week, a great life. When you start offering creative services, whether that's graphic design, or website development, copywriting, photography and so on, you will hear one piece of advice repeated over and over again. You need to specialize. And as creatives, we resist this, we resist the advice to specialize. We're naturally talented, curious people. Why should we pigeonhole ourselves and focus in on one area? But as much as I resist it, too, specializing is a really good idea. If you were having a heart issue, would you rather go to a general doctor or a heart specialist? We want to work with specialists. When someone specializes, we are more confident that they know what they're doing, and that we can trust them. And because of that, specialists work with bigger clients and make more money too. They're harder to compete with, and they win bigger projects. In my Freelancing School courses, I have a lesson on specialization. And I use today's guest, Val Geisler, as a case study on why specialization is a great idea. Val calls herself an 'email geek' who focuses on email copywriting, for DTC--that's direct to consumer--and SaaS companies--that software as a service. She helps these companies better retain their customers, which of course means more money for that company. If the customer sticks around longer, keeps getting emails from you, keeps buying your products, you're a more valuable customer to that company. Val is the founder and CEO--that's chief email officer--of Fix My Churn. With an obsession for customer communication, Val has spent over a decade inside companies from nonprofits to seven figure businesses to tech startups. She brings her background in content creation, customer experience and digital strategy to her clients every day. And she's worked with some of the best, including Stripe Buffer, Egghead, AWeber, InVision, and Podia just to name a few. She really made a name for herself by publishing email tear downs. These are in depth, analytical looks at the emails some of your favorite brands are sending and explaining why they are successful and often where they fall short. There are a lot of interviews with Val talking about specialization and copywriting In particular, but I wanted to share more of her story to finding online success at all. You see, her story probably doesn't start where you expected. In this episode, we talk about trading the corporate ladder for a spiral staircase, how her background in theatre and wedding planning prepared her for writing emails, imposter syndrome, and how believing that everything is figure-out-able has allowed her to create a successful online business. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @JayClouse. But without further ado, let's hear from Val.

Jay Clouse 3:39
I'm going to use this opportunity now that I have you on record to ask a question I've always wondered and I've never asked, which is where did the handle @LoveValGeisler come from?

Val Geisler 3:51
Initially it was because Val Geisler was taken on Facebook, and I was using Facebook for my business a lot at the time. I don't rarely at all anymore. So I knew people did like "the" in front of their name. Like I don't want to be The Val Geisler, that feels really pretentious to me. And so then I thought like, this is a message from me, love Val. And so that's where it came from. And then it has like this kind of hidden meaning of that message thing, you know, the love letters from Val.

Jay Clouse 4:28
Yeah.

Val Geisler 4:29
And then it just, I like when things match and so I wanted it to be the same handle across all platforms. And so that was it. Val Geisler was was already a person on Facebook.

Jay Clouse 4:39
And in the universe, probably.

Val Geisler 4:41
And the universe.

Jay Clouse 4:43
What is the breakdown of your email sign off? Do you use "love" most of the time, or do you use "best" what is what is the breakdown?

Val Geisler 4:53
"Cheers" usually, you mean like when, personal emails or when I'm like, emailing my lis?

Jay Clouse 4:57
Both. I'd love to hear how you think about both.

Val Geisler 4:59
When I email my list, it's usually just like a dash and then V, because I like to feel friendly. And like, you know me, by this point, if you're on my list after the first couple of emails, you should feel like you know me pretty well. Especially, I mean, people will say after my welcome email, they feel like they know me pretty well. So that's how I sign emails to friends. So that's how I assign emails to my list. Clients, until their client, until we like have established a relationship, it's usually just like a dash and Val. When I was doing more like coaching in the creative business entrepreneur world, I signed a lot of XO.

Jay Clouse 5:36
Oh, really?

Val Geisler 5:36
Yeah. I worked with a lot of female business owners, life coaches, graphic designers, and it felt okay, but it doesn't feel like comfortable or even safe to assign emails like that anymore, especially working in software as a woman.

Jay Clouse 5:56
I find myself strongly in the "cheers" camp, although sometimes if I feel like it is a, like a pending client arrangement, I'll fall back on "Best," which just feels more neutral to me.

Val Geisler 6:10
Yeah, best is more neutral. And I like to future pace things with pending client stuff and say looking forward to it.

Jay Clouse 6:18
Ahh.

Val Geisler 6:20
Because it's like, this is happening.

Jay Clouse 6:22
Yeah. Conversion tactic.

Val Geisler 6:24
Yeah, right. Right, right there in those sales emails.

Jay Clouse 6:28
But before we get deeper into Val's copywriting business today, I want to start with how she found herself running a business at all, because I have a little inside information, and I know that she actually started in theater.

Val Geisler 6:41
I, yeah, it's part of my spiral staircase of my career progression. So like, you know, some people have this corporate ladder, they just like climb and climb. I have a spiral staircase where it's kind of all going in the same direction, but the view looks a little bit different along the way. So,

Jay Clouse 6:57
I love that.

Val Geisler 6:58
Well, it's not mine. I stole it from Natalie Lucie, so. She, she mentioned it, and I was like that is good, I'm taking that. The theater thing was, that's what I majored in in college. Went to a conservatory program, so I was like serious about theater. And I majored in stage management, which is the person who makes sure everybody is where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there, all the lights happen, everyone's wearing the right costumes, all those things. Basically, like really good at Excel when you are a stage manager. I'm sure there's better software now. But in 2002, it was mostly Excel.

Jay Clouse 7:34
Which you probably wouldn't expect if you're trying to get into theater that you're going to live and spend so much time in Microsoft Excel.

Val Geisler 7:40
Right? Yeah, yeah, we did a lot of Microsoft Excel and Homestar Runner in our...

Jay Clouse 7:45
Yes. Oh my gosh.

Val Geisler 7:47
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 7:47
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 7:47
My sister had a Strong Bad email.

Val Geisler 7:48
Like when one he read?

Jay Clouse 7:50
Yeah, the Strong Bad email, Marzipan.

Val Geisler 7:52
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 7:53
Yeah, it's Emily C from Ohio.

Val Geisler 7:55
The Marzipan email's her?

Jay Clouse 7:57
Yeah. Okay. I have to come in here. If you're not familiar with Homestar Runner, first of all, you need to look it up. But it was an animated comedy web series from the early 2000s. The whole thing was done in Flash. It was way before YouTube. We're talking about the time when ebaums world was where you went to find funny videos online. Homestar Runner was the main character, this armless bird type guy who wasn't very smart. But there were a bunch of other characters too, including Homestar's girlfriend, Marzipan, who was basically a broom, and Strong Bad. Strong Bad was this villainous guy with a red mask and boxing gloves, who answered actual fan emails every week in a segment called Strong Bad emails. These things were a staple of my childhood, and probably my sense of humor, too. I watch these things religiously every week with my sister, Emily, who actually does the episode artwork for this show. I'm going to play that episode of Strong Bad emails number 59, because I'm sure it's going to come up again in future episodes.

Strong Bad 8:53
There once was a man named email, and it is best for a while. Strong Bad, So if you're so good with the ladies, how come I never see you with any? The only female I've seen seicento... The only female I've seen even near you is Marzipan. She doesn't seem to like you're very much. Okay, bye. Emily C. Wow. What are you talking about, Emily? Marzipan can't keep her hands off of me. In fact, I had to change my screen name cuz she was bugging me so much. I'd be like trying to write an email like, here's the Cheat, and then, doodlee, it'd come up and Id be like, close the window, doodleoo. Anyway, cheif, I was going, doodlee doodledoo, to ask you, doodlee doodledoo, if I could borrow, doodledoo doodledoo, something nice, doodlee doodledoo. And if that's not enough proof, just watch this.

Marzipan 9:39
Oh yeah, oh yeah, and I really don't like him at all.

Strong Bad 9:44
So um, is that another song about Homestar?

Marzipan 9:49
No it's about you.

Strong Bad 9:50
About being in love with me?

Marzipan 9:52
That's disgusting. And I don't like your outift.

Strong Bad 9:56
Well, I'm not telling you my new screen name.

Marzipan 9:58
Well, I don't even know what screen name is, so there you go. And if you'd please leave now, because I'm tinkering with my guitar.

Strong Bad 10:06
Oh yeah, well, say you like me.

Marzipan 10:08
No, leave me alone.

Strong Bad 10:10
Say you like me?

Marzipan 10:11
No

Strong Bad 10:12
Then do you like Strong Bad?

Marzipan 10:14
No, you're just saying your name fast. Go away.

Strong Bad 10:16
What about the guy who is brothers with Strong Mad and Strong Sad?

Marzipan 10:20
That's still you, no.

Strong Bad 10:22
Then how about this one? Do you don't not dislike not Strong Bad?

Marzipan 10:26
Uh, I guess.

Strong Bad 10:28
See, I told you you love me. Oh I know knew it all along. Wait 'till my friend Emily from Ohio hears this. Oh, I new you loved me, I new you loved me.

Marzipan 10:38
Whatever. Come on Carol, let's rock.

Jay Clouse 10:42
My sister's always been cooler than me.

Val Geisler 10:44
Every single episode of Homestar Runner was played in our office. I worked in theater for several years after I graduated, and then I got kind of tired of like looking for a new gig every couple of months, living in a new city ever month or two, making brand new friends every single city. It got old. And I wanted to just be in one place. Ad I took an event management job. So I worked in the wedding industry at a botanical garden. And that was kind of the same skill set. But I had a like one job that I reported to for a year plus, you know, as long as I wanted to. And in my mind as a theatre person, a year was a very long time to be in one job. So yeah, I just wanted to have like the same hairdresser more than once and go to the same dentist and things that I think people take for granted. But when you're traveling a lot, it makes a difference.

Jay Clouse 11:42
Are most theater jobs that like inherently transient? Do most of them have to travel and follow like a touring group?

Val Geisler 11:48
Yeah, so I didn't even follow a touring group. I took contract the contracts. So for instance, I would be in Milwaukee for a month for a show. Go to Norfolk, Virginia for two months for a show. I'd go to Cincinnati for a month. And so each one was like, well, you're working on the show. You're also arranging your next contract. There's touring shows for sure. We've all seen those. But that's like you work for one company. You do the same show over and over all the time. Mine was like, go to a place, rehearse a show for three weeks, do it for three nights, and then leave, and then do that all over again in a new city with a new cast, and...

Jay Clouse 12:28
Are you living in a hotel?

Val Geisler 12:30
Yeah, like an extended stay hotel. Sometimes they would have like corporate apartments or something that they would rent for us. One time we did like a house share thing, pre-Airbnb time.

Jay Clouse 12:42
How did you learn the process of like finding new shows to get staffed on because that is very much like a, sounds like, a client prospecting type activity?

Val Geisler 12:52
Yeah. Theater is very much a world of relationships and like, who you know, matters, almost more than what you can do. And, and also, this, what is on your resume matters more than what you're actually capable of. So, when I was in school, I did a lot of, I did a lot of musicals. And that was because some of the more senior stage managers were working on operas. I really wanted to do operas, but because I knew that in the outside world, opera is where the money is. So I really wanted to do operas in school, but I didn't get a chance to do very many. And then right when I graduated that summer, I worked at a place called Chautauqua Opera Theatre in upstate New York in Chautauqua, New York. Chautauqua Opera Theatre does like one opera, and then all the rest is musicals all summer long. It's called an opera theater. But the second the word opera was on my resume, if I sent my resume to an opera company, I was more likely to get a gig than if that Chautauqua opera wasn't on there. So, and then the production managers recommendation, and so it's a lot of like asking other people to call their friends, and I ended up on an email list of like a senior opera stage manager who would send out, she'd get asked to, Hey, do you know anyone who can be an assistant stage manager in Santa Fe? And she'd send an email out to everybody. So a lot of just networking and building relationships. And, and then yeah, doing a good job once you get there so you can do that. Right. But up front, it's a lot of like, what's on your resume, production wise? Oh, you've done Carmen before? Great, we'll hire you because we're doing Carmen and like, how many different ways can you do Carmen? So.

Jay Clouse 14:36
I'm sure that hasn't, like totally left your world. So like, what musicals do you watch now? And what do you listen to most?

Val Geisler 14:45
Well, I have a five year old and a two year old now, so we listened to a lot of Disney. And I, and I do work really hard to like, if there's a musical version of a show, so Lion King, I make sure that they listen to the musical version of Lion King because it's different right? So we've listened to the cartoon, the live action, and the musical version. We listen to Hamilton in our house and Greatest Showmen is another big hit, so. But opera wise we do listen to a fair amount of opera music and I think a really good like primer opera is probably like Marriage of Figaro or a comedy of some kind. Those are, those are good for people who've never experienced opera before.

Jay Clouse 15:31
All right, Marriage of Figaro, I'll check it out. Is opera backing audio for any type of activity for you work?

Val Geisler 15:37
Yeah, for sure.

Jay Clouse 15:38
Really?

Val Geisler 15:39
Mostly because what's great, so for me, since I write mostly all day--and you write a lot, too, I don't know how you do that--I can't listen to music with words that I know while I'm writing or I just end up writing that. So I listen to music in other languages if it has words. I listen to a lot of French rap music. But also like opera is perfect for that because it's in French or Italian or Russian, and some, you know, there's all kinds of opera out there. So if you don't know the show, which I know a fair number of them, then opera is great for, it's classical music, it's good for your brain. And then you get that other language things here, you're not like ending up typing words that you're hearing. It's good.

Jay Clouse 16:24
When we come back, we continue up Val's spiral staircase right after this. Welcome back. When we left about, she was about halfway up her spiral staircase towards the copywriting career that she's known for today.

Val Geisler 16:38
So event management was weddings at the botanical garden and then I worked for Marriott for a little while at a, at a hotel as their Event Manager. So I had like that corporate kind of experience too. So went from nonprofit to corporate, very different environment. Found out corporate was not for me, and then, while, while, I was in my corporate job, I started doing yoga, because I was miserable in my corporate job. And, you know, yoga made me happy. And I learned about lululemon, which was, at the time, not very much here in the US. And they were opening stores all over the place. And I was desperate to get out of my corporate job. And I basically just like went, and I was in Virginia at the time, and the regional manager was in DC, and I just went up to DC as much as I could and like build a relationship with her, and, because I knew what store she was at all the time, and then convinced her to hire me as a store manager. And so I opened a store in Richmond for them, and the skill set that--this is still part of the spiral staircase--it sounds like retail, right? Like, but really opening a store for Lululemon is about connecting a community, putting on events. Like when you're pre-opening, there isn't a store to run yet. So you're really just putting on events all the time, going to classes and connecting people who need to know each other, making sure that it really feels like a community and not a bunch of separate fitness locations. So that was really fun. And my event background really lended itself to running that.

Jay Clouse 18:14
It really strikes me that with the botanical event company and with what you're describing here with Lululemon, it sounds like you're getting a lot of very personal interaction with people.

Val Geisler 18:23
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 18:24
Which I'm sure like really sharpened your sword of understanding how to relate and talk to people, which is really at the core of what you do all the time now.

Val Geisler 18:32
Well, and then, you know, even going back to opera, like opera divas are, that's a real thing. And so learning how to deal with divas and tenors and, and then, yeha, brides, and in some cases groom's, groomsmen are the worst to deal with actually. Lots of telling groomsmen like, Hey, you can't pee on that bush, this is a botanical garden.

Jay Clouse 18:57
Oh my gosh.

Val Geisler 18:58
Yeah. So lots of like, tough conversations. And yeah, and then connecting community, you know, having those, those interpersonal skills where it was so important. And I think I honed a lot of that in theater of having to create a new, you know, relationship every month with cast members. As the stage manager, they have to trust you that you know exactly how the show operates, you know, and that when you tell them, no, you're supposed to be holding this other thing, that they believe you. So you have to build trust really quickly. You have to build relationships to do that. So yeah, it's kind of all led me to running a business online. And I, it's funny, because I went from not wanting to go contract to contract in theater to now I go client to client as a business owner, so I kind of brought myself back to where I am. But I live in one place, so...

Jay Clouse 19:53
Yeah.

Val Geisler 19:54
It's a nice, happy medium.

Jay Clouse 19:57
So Val found herself coming full circle back around to working with clients. But now she's working with clients online on her own terms. She told me that going from theater and retail--two very offline businesses--to being one of the most sought after email copywriters around was all about knowing what she wanted and being confident that she could figure out how to get there.

Val Geisler 20:18
Marie Forleo says it, and it's 100% true, it's her book now. Everything is figure-out-able. That's kind of been my mentality basically my whole life is that, I can figure it ut. And when I started a business online, I was a virtual assistant, but I didn't even know that that was like a thing. I just knew I had a bunch of friends who were in businesses in different cities. And, and they had all complained to me about things they needed done. And I was like, Well, I don't, I've never really posted products to a Shopify site, but I can figure that out. I know what to Google. Maybe that's it more for me. It's like, I'm really good at Google.

Jay Clouse 20:59
Yeah.

Val Geisler 21:00
That's my personality trait. Good at Google.

Jay Clouse 21:02
How much would you say your life is figuring out problems for the client versus figuring out your own problems of like, now I'm running my business, and I want to get to x-place, and I need to figure out how to do that?

Val Geisler 21:16
Oh, that's like 80% my own problems. I mean, figuring out problems for clients is, I've basically systemized my business so much and kind of productized what I do that it's the problems for clients become really clear. Maybe on my first couple clients, that balance was a little bit higher. But now that I work with a consistent client type over and over, and I know the problems they're trying to solve, and how we can get to the solution, for me now it's really about my own business and, and like, how do we take this to the next level? Do we hire contractors or employees? Do we want to go to the next level? Do we want to be a company of one? How do you do sales when client work needs to get done? All those things are problems that are constantly in my brain. So yeah, I'd say it's way more my own problems than other people's.

Jay Clouse 22:11
Has it always been that way? Or have you made kind of a shift of being more proactive about thinking about where you're headed versus responding to the needs of clients?

Val Geisler 22:21
I feel like I'm a natural worrier. I'm half Italian, it's in my blood to worry about things that I have no control over. So I feel like there hasn't been a shift, right? Like, I've always worried about things that I probably don't need to be worried about right now. So and no, it's that's kind of always been my M.O.

Jay Clouse 22:44
What was the last thing that you did figure out that comes to mind as like a major thing that felt daunting at first, but you figured it out?

Val Geisler 22:51
Mm hmm. Well, I would say that what I figured out on the surface level would be hiring an employee because I recently hired my husband onto my team. And we used to just be me. But what I actually figured out was being willing to accept help, because he actually has done a lot of the figuring out of how to hire him, like all the payroll stuff and getting all that set up. And I mean, maybe in a different situation, if it weren't your husband, then it's a different kind of scenario, where I would have had to actually figure all that out. But a lot of it has been like me letting him manage the operational side of the business and that ability that, like, if you ask for help and accept it, that it might be done differently than you would have done it, but it's still okay.

Jay Clouse 23:42
Yeah, it's like an extreme version of this, this challenge I think a lot of people have have of vulnerability of a work in progress. Like your business is a work in progress. Everything is a work in progress. And when you share that with somebody that, even you're really close to, and you know that it's not perfect, and there are things that you know are flaws, that you're already planning to fix, but you haven't done it yet. You're like, hey, look at this, tell me what you think of it. And you know, it's gonna be like the first thing they point out. It's really hard to do that and accept help and accept feedback. And in your case here, I'm sure that is even more to the extreme.

Val Geisler 24:15
Yeah, I think it's the more important piece to have learned from saying like, Oh, yeah, I know how to set up gussto for payroll. Great. But that's like, that's definitely more figure-out-able than being able to accept help.

Jay Clouse 24:29
Yeah. What is on your horizon for trying to figure out right now?

Val Geisler 24:33
That's a great question. I think, you know, my business is shifting into this more productized methodology. So instead of having custom solutions for every client and working through exactly what they need, really saying, Hey, this is what we offer, these are the platforms we work on, here's how the process works, and you can either take it or leave it. That's something that I'm still trying to figure out both from a how do we actually productize this thing standpoint and from a like, being able to tell customers essentially no, right, by saying like, if you aren't on this, this platform, then we're not a good fit for you, or if you want to skip portion one of our projects, you know, then we're not a good fit for you. So being able to say no to people and know that that holds a door open for so many more by systemising, productizing more. That's, that's definitely something I'm trying to figure out.

Jay Clouse 25:35
When we come back, Val and I talk about finding her own voice right after this. Welcome back to Creative Elements. There's never going to be a time when Val or any of us have everything figured out. But one thing Val has figured out is her own voice and writing style and how to marry that with her clients' voice. So I asked her how other creators might be able to find their own voice, even if the work they do for clients isn't very public facing.

Val Geisler 26:03
You have to produce your own stuff, right? Like you can do client work and find your clients voice all day long, bt you have to be producing your own stuff, whether it's writing, or podcasting, or making videos, or tweet storms, or LinkedIn posts, whatever it is that you do, you just have to like put pen to paper, voice to microphone, and start creating. I have another friend Jay who has on his calendar every day, for the first hour of his day, he writes whether or not he ever publishes it, and that's solely to work on his craft. You have to work on it. I used to not think of it as a craft, but it absolutely is. And it does take that consistency. You know, publishing a new onboarding, tear down every single week helped me find that cadence and that tone and, and it wasn't even really like trying to figure out what kind of voice I want to embody. But it was really very much a paring away of all of these like false voices I had taken on over the years and stepping into exactly how I want to talk. You know, those read the same way that we're talking right now.

Jay Clouse 27:21
Yeah.

Val Geisler 27:22
It's no different than I'm not writing like a formal white paper.

Jay Clouse 27:26
Can you talk a little bit more and expand on that idea of these other voices that I've taken on?

Val Geisler 27:30
Like taken on and then take it off?

Jay Clouse 27:32
Is it like, are you saying, doing work for a client and taking on their voice or trying to take on that voice? Or were you like posturing for this is what I want people to think I sound like or am?

Val Geisler 27:43
Yeah, so there's a little bit of both of, you know, working with clients and, and getting in their voice and seeing how that kind of feels in my business. And then there's also the thing we all do of like what other people want me to be, and especially when it comes to, you're in charge of making your own money and you know, putting food on your table, what do people want to pay for, is kind of a thing that went through my mind a lot. And even thinking about how I present myself online. When I started my VA business, I was interacting with a bunch of other VA s and they would say things to me like, well, in your, in your headshots, you show your tattoos on your arms, and like, does that turn people off? Does that turn clients away? Did people say anything to you about it? And it was, this was kind of the first inkling of like, finding myself and all of it was me saying, you know, if it does, then that's not a client I want to work with. And if the fact that there is ink on my skin is an indicator of my ability to do my job posting products to your Shopify site, then we're gonna have other problems along the line. So I think that that was kind of the original piece, was just saying like, this is who I am. And then I, I went through evolutions of that because I definitely had, you know, like, more buttoned up blazer type photos and I mean, the blazer I wore in my headshot for the longest time I only ever wore it for that headshot. And now, you know, when I go speak places, or when I take, when I do photos or headshots or whatever, it's, it's like this shirt I'm wearing right now, you know, like I'm, I'd be happy to get up right now and go have a headshot taken because this is who I am, and, and that's, that's it.

Jay Clouse 29:33
So you live in a world where a lot of your clients are creating products for customers, and you're serving them. So on one hand, you have this drive that everybody has of, I want to create and I want to create for me and I want to be true to me. And at the same time you have to create content and work in the voice of clients who are making something to be purchased by someone else. So like, how do you just marry all these things together to say, this is when I'm being me and you accept me as I am, and this is when I need to be thoughtful about, you know, the jobs to be done framework that Fix My Churn goes with or you know, making something that you know people want?

Val Geisler 30:09
Yeah, so first of all people are hiring me because of my writing, right? So if you are hiring me, you know you're not going to get AP style writing and very formal or even, like, super technical, or you also aren't going to get very goofy off the wall, right? You get a little bit of each, and then blended in with some storytelling. And so there's, I always start with that mindset of like, they're hiring me for me. And it's my job to understand their tone of voice. So, so that's where I think it's really important to put your own content out because that's how clients can understand who you are and how you can help them. My friend Leanna is a very goofy writer. She, her whole business is punchline coffee; she's all about telling jokes all the time. And her clients hire her because they want to add more jokes into their business. People don't come to me for jokes. They come to me for metaphors and stories and relationships. But yeah, I think that you have to, you have to put your own content out. And then you do have to--so I always lean toward my voice blended with theirs, because I'm also typically trying to break people out of like, they have these really stuffy product-focused onboarding sequences, and I'm trying to break them out of that, and they know they need to break out of that. So I lean heavily toward what I would do if I ran that company and had that client or customer on the other end. And then they get to say like, eh, still doesn't feel right, and we can pull it back. But I always lean heavily toward what I would do if their end customer were my customer. I treat it like their business is my business.

Jay Clouse 31:56
And it's true. The way that Val writes even her tweets sounds just like you were talking to her. In October 2019, Val published "The Complete Guide to Non-Sucky SaaS Transactional Emails." And then that same day she tweeted, quote, "Publishing a post is like three weeks of gathering resources, writing and editing, two nights of sleepless thinking about more edits, six hours of uploading, reformatting, connecting content upgrade, two hours of sharing on social channels, 30 minutes of publishing the email, and 50 email replies saying, Yeah, but..." So I asked her what it feels like for so many eyes to be on you, and then to receive messages like that to something that you put so much time into. And it led us to a subject that we talk about a lot. Imposter syndrome.

Val Geisler 32:41
Yeah, I've noticed that when I feel imposter syndrome, my default response is being super defensive. So for instance, that transactional email post, one of the emails I got in response was like, Yeah, but GDPR says, You can't put Marketing and Sales content in a transactional email. And my gut response was like, I know, I know what GDPR is, and that's not what I said, and go read the post again, you need to reread all 43 pages, because that's not what I said. But instead, you know, I just let it sit for a minute, and, and, you know, my actual response was like, totally understand that and, and it's more like "yes, and" instead of a budget, right? So my new experience, between you and I, with improv has really helped me personally in overcoming imposter syndrome. Yeah, it's, it's been great because you can really use that "yes, and" to say, like, instead of the "but" if I feel myself saying like, "Yeah, but" then that's really where I'm feeling small. And I can feel big and like I belong, if I say yes, and you know, in improv, if you walk into a scene, and you want to, like redirect the whole scene with a but, it can go off rails, and if you're in front of an audience, they're kind of wondering why you're there in the first place, and everyone else on stage is wondering why you're there, and, and then you start to feel like, Wait, why am I here? But if you go into a scene with like and, and I'm going to contribute to this thing that's already happening, then the audience comes along with you, and everyone else on stage comes along with you. And it's been the most useful tool for me to get out of that, that "but" feeling,

Jay Clouse 34:34
Yeah, that's an interesting analogy because in an improv world, you know, where you're on the stage, and they're wondering, like, Who are these people and what are they doing up there, they're also already acknowledging that we are watching this person on the stage. You're there, and they're paying attention, and doesn't really serve you to make it easier for them to question why you're there. You know, you just need...

Val Geisler 34:55
Right.

Jay Clouse 34:55
You need to own that spot and say, I'm here for a reason, it doesn't matter if they understand what that reason is or not, and I'm gonna do what I do really well.

Val Geisler 35:03
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 35:03
Or bomb sometimes. Sometimes you bomb, too.

Val Geisler 35:06
You do. And, and your default mechanism takes over sometimes because you get scared. And so, you know, if your default is "but I want to do this thing" or "but look at this over here," then that can take over. So it does take practice. I write off my improv classes as a business expense because I use it more...

Jay Clouse 35:27
Totally.

Val Geisler 35:28
...than anywhere else in my life, so.

Jay Clouse 35:30
Yeah, totally. How does improv play into parenting?

Val Geisler 35:33
Oh, so much because I, like, I'm very much an introvert and I do not enjoy playing dolls in a dollhouse or building, building blocks, I'm okay about, you know. Playing make believe, it just doesn't come naturally to me. So improv is helped with that because I get to, you get to play in improv class, and you get to, that "yes, and" comes in really handy because then when you're kid goes, Mom, what is the car was a submarine, then you get to be like yeah, and, that school bus is a shark and, you know, that, when you're driving down the road, it all of a sudden becomes really fun game instead of being like, cars aren't submarines, sorry kid.

Jay Clouse 36:21
I absolutely love any opportunity I have to talk with Val. And the good news is, since her voice is so consistent online, I can feel like I'm talking with her even through Twitter. For creators looking to build their own path. I love the analogy of the spiral staircase. We're working our way upwards. It just may not be the shortest, most obvious or direct path. But if Val's story proves anything, it's that whatever your experiences to this point have been, they're building you into the person that you can uniquely be, and people will hire you for that. You can follow Val on twitter at @LoveValGeisler or visit FixMyChurn.com. Those links as well as a link to her "Complete Guide to Non-Sucky Saas Transactional Emails" will be in the show notes. Thanks to Val for being on the show. Thank you, Emily Klaus, for making the artwork and the Strong Bad email for this episode. Thanks to Brian Steele for mixing the show and also creating our music. If you liked this episode, please tweet at me @JayClouse and let me know, and if you really want to say thank you, a review on Apple podcasts goes a long way. Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.

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