As a copywriter, I have as much a need as any online entrepreneur to create vivid, engaging language that communicates the value of what I do to a public eager to buy my services. As an expert, it can be difficult to ask for help from another writer.

If I were a surgeon, I wouldn’t operate on myself, and only a foolish lawyer has herself as a client. So I finally, for nearly the first time, turned to another copywriter for a session of insight and assistance. (The only other time I did so, I didn’t realize I was talking with a copywriter until she delivered amazing copy to me, copy I still adore and use.)

Talking with Amy Ramsey was a bit like looking in the mirror, only with my eyes open wider and better illumination than usual. There was nowhere to hide, which works for me, since I’m not much of a hider, and no reason. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a little bit terrifying, though in a good way.

If all I had done was kept my appointment, it would have been enough. If I’d kept my appointment and asked her one question, it would have been enough. If the one question had been, “What do you think of this new way of talking about my mission?” it would have been enough.

In fact, I want to take a sidestep and look at this “new way of talking.” Frequently, I throw ideas and words around until they ring true, and less frequently, I have a burst of inspiration (often in the shower or in bed just before turning out the light). The other night I had a burst, and it came out like this:

I help women change their relationship to language and fully express their ideas.

Yes! That’s exactly what I do! Hooray — I finally got it onto the page!

Then Amy heard it, and gave me the kind of advice I give others. Namely, how you describe what you do needs to reflect the problem people believe they have. Very few women wake up in the morning and say, “I need to change my relationship to language today.”

(This comes up with health and nutrition coaching. Very few women wake up and say, “Today I need to change my relationship to food.” Many of us certainly do, but what we really say to ourselves is, “I’m not going to eat that whole cake today. Or am I?”)

So I can have this as my mission, but it’s my secret mission, and talking about it won’t help people hear what they need to hear to hire me.

And what do they need to hear to hire me? Well, why not look to what real people who have actually hired me say they needed and I did? Wisely, Amy suggested I look to my testimonials for language that hit the problems on the head and showed what kind of satisfaction was directly available (as I was helping change the relationship of my clients to their language).

I suck the ideas out of people’s heads and turn them into usable poetry — and very quickly!
I take your list of words and make word magic in your own voice.
I offer simple tweaks that work to get you new clients.
I give advice that feels true to who you are and what your work is about.
My focus on emotional benefits is a fresh reminder of why you do your business in the first place.

The last bit of outstanding advice from Amy is that my photos, my collaborative approach, and even the colors on my website are fun, but I tell a lot of stories and use a lot of language that goes deep really fast, and might scare away the most prepared-to-buy visitor. There will indeed be time after the first contact, maybe even in the first 5 minutes of conversation, for people to experience what I think of as the delightful edge I balance between the dark and the light of life, but most people don’t get drawn into the dark. Even when we’ve gone through dark moments, we are drawn into the light, the dappling, warming rays we can see between heavy branches.

This was one of the hardest things to hear, as I’ve been hearing it since high school, and you know those voices burrow in deep and screw with your DNA. During my senior year, I was going through some serious shit, and a girl I thought of as a great friend ultimately told me I just kept bringing her down. I didn’t know how to put the darkness aside, so I ended up losing that friend. At the time, I thought there might be some day when she’d realize she’d been wrong to like shallower people better than she liked my profound, pain-filled presence, but the mutation was already working through me.

So I’m sensitive to being told I’m too serious, that I need to lighten up and have some fun and stop thinking so much. Which is not at all what Amy was telling me. What she wanted me to know was that the fun is clearly part of me — she and I laughed together a lot in our hour together — but that I might want to wait until a second or third date to start talking about death and aging and crying.

Now I’ve got new shoes, thanks to meeting with another cobbler. I nearly said “rival cobbler,” but the point is that is room for multiple cobbling shops in this online world of footwear and professional metaphor-making.

Even if the writing might sometimes be more poetic than useful.