This week, Kaleigh Moore joins us for the third in a new series of Dumb Questions for Brilliant Marketers. In this interview, we talk about her experience running an e-Commerce business in the early days of internet marketing, the impact COVID has had on the content marketing industry, her advice for clients, and how her social media reach affects her business.
Thanks for being here with us! We’ll dive right in. You run a busy freelance writing business – how do you find time to connect with your followers and nurture relationships with your clients?
I work with most of my clients on a fairly long-term basis. Several years in a row, if not every single month. I think it’s just a matter of delivering consistently high-quality work, and by maintaining that quality of work, people are happy to come back and maintain the relationship. I don’t do any outbound marketing or ads–at this point, it’s all referral-based.
The way I connect with my followers is two-fold. Number one, I have a newsletter that I have sent out twice a month for almost six years now—consistently sharing value there, teaching lessons about writing and freelancing, and sharing stories. That’s a creative outlet for me. Second, Twitter. I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I have a pretty sizeable following there and use it as my water cooler throughout the day to check in on things, share random thoughts, and go back and forth with people. That’s been a great source of community for me. Twitter is also sometimes how I get new clients. People know me from Twitter, or there’ll be an introduction made, and so we go from Tweets to the inbox, and sometimes it develops from there. That’s the big thing for me.
You mention launching your freelance business in 2013 following ownership of an ecommerce business – could you tell us a little bit about that?
I started an Etsy store when I was 19 years old. I was in college. I made jewelry pieces for myself; just going to Michael’s craft store, buying materials, and putting things together. On a whim I decided to give it a try, and I ended up running that business for five years. It was still very early in the days of social media, so it was a lot of trial and error. But it was a great learning experience, a way for me to get hands-on with marketing for ecommerce, which is experience I still use today. Over time the store grew. I had a nice base of loyal customers who would buy repeatedly. I had a newsletter, I was very active on social media, and I had a blog. I did some influencer marketing, too, in the early days of influencer marketing, when most of them were just bloggers at the time. I’d reach out to people and say, “Hey, I’d love to send you a piece of jewelry in exchange for a post about it.” That was a really easy way for me to get cheap marketing. I did these things early on, just trial and error.
It was also a nice foot in the door for me with the clients I work with, so I could say I am not only interested in the subject matter, but I have also been there. I’ve been there first-hand. I know what it’s like to run an eCommerce store. I’ve been in that person’s shoes. My experience has been a really valuable perspective for the people I work with.
At the close of 2021, you mentioned that you wanted to increase your speaking engagements during 2022 – do you hope to make that the foundation of your business eventually?
You know, I don’t know. I really like teaching what I know. I think I’d like to find a more scalable way to do that through a course, a podcast, or things like that. I feel like sometimes speaking, while it can be lucrative, it’s physically taxing. It’s a lot to be on the road all the time, so unless the world reverts to Zoom events, I think I’m going to be pretty selective about that. Speaking from the point of view of just getting back from a speaking engagement and being sick, it’s often much more than the short period of time you’re on stage speaking, right? There’s before, after–there are ripple effects like this. As much as I would love to be on stage more often, I think more scalable things like consulting work and remote education are more appealing to me, at least at this very moment.
Let’s talk a little bit about The Creative Class (2017 – 2021, 84 episodes) – a podcast you co-hosted with Paul Jarvis. What was that like? Why did it conclude in 2021?
I was a student of Creative Class. I was one of the early students of the course for freelancers that he put together, and then when he put out a request for feedback to the email newsletter, saying, “Hey, I’m gonna make a V2 of this, how can we make it better?” I immediately reached out and said, “I think you should do x, y, and z, and I can help you do those things.” He immediately answered, “Oh yes, absolutely, come on as a partner, let’s do this together. You have this firsthand experience of being a student; this is a really valuable perspective for me. You’re in the thick of building your freelance business, so it’s a perfect fit.” So, we did the course together, revamped it, added some templates and things like that, and started the podcast. It was a great experience to see how he put everything together in his workflow. I think when things started to wind down, we were just going in different directions with our businesses. Paul was building a software company; I was doing more writing work and really wanted to lean into writing specifically rather than just teaching freelancers. We decided to let things peter out and haven’t renewed—the course is no longer available, and the podcast is no longer up, which is a shame, but we just decided not to cover those hosting costs anymore. It just kind of naturally fizzled, and we followed that path, but now we’re doing our own things. It was still a wonderful experience. We had about 3,000 students in total. We got to reach a lot of people. It was a cool, collaborative project to be part of.
What macro trends are you seeing in freelancing within marketing, and did COVID fuel that change (for better or worse)?
When COVID happened, and everything shut down two years ago, I had no idea how things were going to go for me. I really felt like, should I get the PPP? Is everybody gonna pull the plug on content marketing? Because it’s often one of the first things to go. What I found was that people really doubled down on it, which was great for me because events were canceled, and people were looking for new ways to continue marketing, but in a way that made sense. This type of remote work, with the help of freelancers, I think people really leaned into. That was a great place to be. It kept me very busy.
Everybody is talking about “the great resignation” right now. People are leaving their jobs to go to a remote work option, start their own company, or do their own thing, and I don’t think that that will go anywhere. I think that now that people have had a taste of remote work and see how it can make for better work/life balance, they’re going to be more compelled to seek that out – either through freelancing or remote jobs or starting their own business, whatever it might be. But from the people I speak to, it seems like the common theme: How do I get back to that place, ‘cause I was happier there.
How does running your podcast with Emma Siemasko, Freelance Writing Coach, affect your freelancing career?
It really doesn’t, honestly. It’s just another fun, creative, collaborative project that I’m doing with a good friend. She and I have been doing this together… I think we’re on season six now? I’ve known her basically since the beginning. She was actually one of the first people who hired me to write for the SaaS company she was working at. So, she and I have always kind of shared, vented, and talked about what we’re dealing with in our careers. This podcast is an extension of that. It’s not a huge moneymaker. It doesn’t have a huge impact on my career; it’s really more of a teaching-and-give-back type thing. It’s a good excuse for her and me to visit, so I’ll take that.
What makes a great client? What do you screen for in initial discussions?
A few things I always look for is: Do you have a content strategy? Because if you don’t, you’re not ready to work with me. What’s your budget? What’s your timeline? Basically, are you in line with the niche that I serve, which is ecommerce and software as a service that feeds into that ecosystem. Those are the big qualifiers, so that’s a good filtering mechanism; a good way to make sure that neither of us is tying up a bunch of time chatting with each other before we find out the budget’s not a fit or this client’s serving an industry that makes no sense to me, that I know nothing about. So, just a few preliminary questions to ensure we’re on the same page.
How do you advise clients to update old content, and how do you identify how to prioritize?
I think it’s a traffic thing. You know? If you have aging posts, but they have historically driven a lot of traffic, maybe they’ve sparked a lot of social conversation; I think those are the ones to prioritize because they clearly already have some level of reader interest, and they’re resonating. I think the other thing, too, is you can think about it from an SEO perspective. Do you have some that are, keyword-wise, ranking really well? The content itself isn’t that interesting or compelling, but it’s doing that one thing well, so that’s a good one. I think, also, what are the stories that you feel are most intrinsic to the brand? So, if there’s maybe a founder story or a product-related story that’s been told that can be repackaged and put into a different format, I think that’s worth doing, too. Those are the buckets that I look at when thinking about repurposing.
Thank you so much for talking with us!
Thanks for asking me to do it!
Many thanks to nDash freelancer Janna Leadbetter for serving as the transcriptionist for this interview.