Conversion copywriter and podcast host Kira Hug talks about her journey to build her brand and why strategically-crafted visuals are so important for connecting with the right people.
“This might sound strange coming from a copywriter – who should, presumably, eat, sleep and poop words – but I love me some visuals.”
Kira Hug isn’t just any copywriter. She’s a conversion copywriter – which means her specialty is writing words that spur and inspire readers to take action. If you’re selling a product or service and want to talk your ideal customers into buying them, Kira is the person behind the scenes making that happen with landing pages, sales pages, and email campaigns.
This work requires her to get inside people’s minds, take on different brand voices, and play upon just the right mix of pains, fears and desires that cause people to act.
It also requires a strong grasp of how to use an entire brand experience to attract and connect with ideal customers – and much of that experience is created through visuals. Visuals are never to be underestimated.
But that’s an idea that runs contrary to the philosophy of many writers – we’re biased. Our art is the written word. However, Kira didn’t grow up as the ‘writer’ in the family. Her identity was ‘the artist.’
“My sister was the smarty pants. I embraced my artistic side and wore the ‘artist’ label very happily. That followed me into college. But I realized, I can’t be a fine artist and live the life I want, so I pursued graphic design.”
As Kira worked toward her B.F.A. in Fine Arts in Visual Communication, she found herself attracted to advertising classes, which led to an advertising design internship.
That’s where things really started to click for me. You get to be creative, and there’s strategy, words, and visuals and psychology behind it. I remember thinking that this is the best thing ever.
Of course, the challenge all new graduates face is finding a job in the ‘real world’ doing what you love. Which rarely, if ever, happens fresh off of campus. With no job prospects in sight, Kira took a leap of faith and moved to New York City, a lifelong goal.
“I didn’t plan well in terms of having a job before I moved there. I just did it. So I took the first job I could find at Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s management training program. I cringed at taking it. It was so different from the cool, art-design job I’d envisioned, and I was embarrassed by it.”
For nine months, Kira sold car insurance and rental cars, spending down time washing cars “in a parking garage that smelled like urine, in a pencil skirt.”
But at the same time she was learning how to tap into the selling power of words.
Over the next several years, Kira took many different jobs – glamorous jobs at places like Estee Lauder’s store design department, hard jobs in marketing for non-profits, even jobs in event planning. If she didn’t feel like she was growing, learning, and feeling challenged, she’d move onto the next thing.
After Kira had her first child, she needed a little more control over her work schedule. She began working for a fast-growing startup as CMO, which allowed her to build her reputation in the company as well as her own business on the side at the same time.
All with a newborn baby. Is Kira Hug secretly Wonder Woman?
Possibly. She does have more alter-egos than the average copywriter. But that’s all part of her brand strategy.
In this interview, Kira Hug tells us how she built her solo copywriting business and how her artistic background informs everything she does, from her own blog, to her copy, to her delightfully quirky business strategy.
Why Kira’s Website is strategically weird
“I had been running my business for a year and a half and had a website that I’d DIY’ed, but I knew I needed to do something visual to stand out.”
Kira looked around at other copywriters’ websites, finding that very few had invested in their branding.
I went the opposite way. I went all in on my branding. I knew how powerful visuals can be.
She invested in professional guidance from brand strategist Sarah Ancalmo-Ashman, working extra jobs to cover the cost.
“It also came at a time when I was going through an identity crisis in my own life. I was pregnant with my second baby, we were living in a new home in the country, not a lot of friends in this new place. It was a very surreal time. I was trying to figure out: ‘Who am I now?’ I needed the branding process for business, but also personally, to figure out who I am and what I bring to the table.”
Tempted to get a little weird? Maybe this Colorful Facebook Cover can help you out.
Armed with a rather alarming number of pirate costumes from her wedding, Kira started taking pictures for the first incarnation of her rebranded website.
“My husband is a photographer. SO I put on a pirate costume, went into the backyard, and we took pictures. I like that quirky, playful vibe. I love costume parties. It was really fun. I didn’t know what it meant – and I knew it could hurt my brand message-wise (pirating copy isn’t great), but I also knew that nobody else was dressing up as a pirate.”
She admits it wasn’t the most professional set of images. But it worked.
“It attracted the right people. It repelled the right people.”
Her visuals evolved through the branding process to more closely reflect who Kira is.
“I am the mom. I am the creative. I am quirky. I am a hot mess. I am also running this business. Each character represented a different side of who I am. For the people who don’t get the story or don’t relate to it, it’s just a super quirky, fun, playful brand. And if it’s not attracting someone, I’m okay with that too. I would only want to work with people who don’t take themselves too seriously.”
Kira says it’s been one of the best investments she’s made, helping her to take her business to the next level and attract incredible entrepreneurs in the online marketing space.
“It took me a while to find those people, and branding was a big part of bringing them to me.”
Kira’s approach to blogging, sales pages and about pages
“Anything you write is, at its core, selling something. Maybe that something is a product or service. Maybe it’s you.”
Kira Hug’s writing philosophy is simple: Everything is a sales page. Sure, it might appear on a blog, but really, the purpose of written content is to convert the reader. The first challenge, however, is to persuade the reader to buy into what you’re saying…
“I’ve written my most recent epically-long guest posts just like a sales page.”
As she writes, Kira says she’s thinking “How do I get them to read through this 6000 word post? What crossheads do I need that are intriguing? What kind of credibility do I give myself, do I give to this topic? What research do I need to do?”
While Kira doesn’t offer blogging services herself – she is far more interested in sales copy.
“On a sales page, you kind of tease what you teach or share so they read through the page. Want more of that? Here’s what you can buy from me. With blogs, you add more value in the middle. You can give more away if that’s your strategy, and leave them wanting just a little bit more so they’re motivated to opt into something.
But it’s all the same to me. Sales pages. About pages. It’s all selling something, whether or not you like it. And that’s from an artist.
While Kira loves the left-brained side of her job, the metrics that tell you whether sales copy is working or not, she brings a distinctly artistic, visual flair to her projects.
“I think a lot of what I do well as a copywriter is creating visual descriptions that create an image. That’s channeled from my background in oil painting in college.
Having that background in visual arts helps me see what I want to create with words. It’s an art piece in that final product, and I enjoy the science and research. What I do now is conversion copy; you know if you did or did not sell something.
I loved oils because you can never really mess it up, it’s a work in progress. I like the idea of editing. Going back, adding more, and continuing that with words.
So many people think that sales copy and sales pages are icky, but I think of them as a work of art.“
Using an apparently non sequitur background to inform her copywriting isn’t something peculiar to Kira. Successfully defining your niche as a writer is all about working with what you’ve got.
“How many oil painters have turned into conversion copywriters? Maybe not many. But, Kevin Rogers is a comedian and he turned into a copywriter – he knows how to write really punchy copy with humor. Or maybe you’re an engineer and you think about copy in a whole different way.”
Kira’s own content strategy
Kira Hug uses a combination of her own blog, her podcast with co-host Rob Marsh, and guest posting to build her brand. Of those, it’s her own blog that gets short shrift.
“I think blog content has the power to share your viewpoints and philosophies, your strong opinions, what you believe in. That’s the power of it. For people who want more than just your static website pages, they can go down the rabbit hole to really get to know you before they commit to partnering with you. They can get a feel for you as a human being.”
Blog content is great for creating an experience, especially for people like us who are visual – we create an experience through words that can be very powerful.
This kind of getting-to-know-you content isn’t confined to blogs though. It can take the form of vlogs or podcasts – anything that shows “a multifaceted view of who you are as a business person.”
So taking the time to blog is worth the effort, but when it comes to Kira’s own blog… it’s been awhile since the last update.
“I took the dates off of all my blog posts. You’d never know that they were written a while ago.”
But that’s for a reason.
When you don’t have a lot of time to promote yourself, you need to put in the effort where it counts most. For Kira, her energy is best spent reaching audiences who don’t find her website, which she does through guest posts.
You might say guest posting is the best posting.
“When choosing where to guest post, I’m looking for sites with a good amount of traffic, first and foremost. And credibility. It needs to be a well-known name that’s respected among my audience and colleagues.
“The approach I took was to go after a website with a lot of followers and prestige in the copywriting world. My two epic guest posts were on Copyhackers. I already had an invitation to write for them, and I knew that entrepreneurs, tech startups and copywriters all read it. So I wrote it to impress my fellow copywriters.”
Why would a writer want to impress other writers? Because that’s how you get referrals.
Kira Hug’s super actionable advice on writing effective blog content
- Treat it like a long-form sales page! Use crossheads and style your copy so readers make it all the way down your long post. Use images to break up your copy, add different font sizes to direct the eye down the page. Treat each post, in a way, like a work of art that persuades people to keep on reading.
- Use clear call-to-actions: give the reader something they can take away and implement.
- Make it tight. Every word has to count. Time and attention are precious resources, so pull out anything that’s fluffy.
- What do you want people to do? I think there always needs to be a call to action, even if it’s just to report back what they did with your content or advice on Facebook or Twitter. Now that you’ve learned X, what action are you going to take now? What action should you suggest that will help them? Maybe it’s joining your Facebook group, because that would help them.
- Leave comments open so you can start a conversation there.
Building a freelance business through referrals
Kira Hug doesn’t advertise and she doesn’t hustle. She doesn’t need to. She gets her work primarily from referrals from past clients and fellow copywriters. It’s a strategy she says will work for anyone.
“When you’re getting started and you’re growing, you get more work from other copywriters than anyone else. I had a few copywriters who helped me by sharing their leads when I was just starting out.
“So building my authority within the copywriter world has been more helpful than focusing on clients, because the client work will come. Copywriters have the power to help each other more than a lot of us realize.”
When forming those relationships with other copywriters, it helps to have a niche.
“People can’t give you leads if you don’t specialize; they won’t know what kind of work to send you. So you have to specialize so people know who to send your way.”
But having a niche when you’re just starting out isn’t easy, and it’s not necessary. As Kira can attest, “In the beginning, it’s helpful to say ‘yes’ to everything, to learn a bit of everything.” After all, that’s precisely what led her to where she is now.