No one can read your mind. I am constantly reminding myself that unless I TELL my team what I want, they don’t know. They can’t magically intuit that information, as helpful as that would be. Just recently, I needed some help gathering testimonials. I struggled on my own for a few days, and then I got smart. I told the team EXACTLY what I wanted, and within HOURS it was done.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abbi Perets, a copywriter with 20 years of experience working with some of the biggest brands in the world. She’s passionate about writing email sequences and sales pages that help people get their courses, services, and products in front of the people who need them most.
Abbi’s signature approach comes down to building powerful, long-lasting relationships with readers so that they open every email you send.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
In 1999, I had my first baby, and I didn’t want to go back to my office job, so I decided to become a freelance writer, even though I had no idea what that really meant or any kind of plan. This was pre-Google (Alta Vista, anyone?), so I read a lot of books from the library and figured everything out as I was doing it. Over the next 10 years, I had four more babies, and kept writing for clients around their schedules.
In 2013, my kids were all in full-day programs, and I signed a contract to take on the largest project I’d ever had — it was around 30,000 dollars. Two days later, my son Adi — who is developmentally disabled — was diagnosed with leukemia, so I shut down everything and spent the next three years in the hospital.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
When my son was better, I wasn’t quite ready to go back to client work, and I’d met a lot of moms who needed a more flexible way to earn money while caring for kids with cancer and special needs, and so I started teaching them how to get started in freelance writing. I started Successful Freelance Mom in 2017, and every second of this journey has been amazing. I’m changing the lives of women — and by extension, families — in a very real way.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When you first start an online business, you’re looking at the success stories — people who have 7-figure launches and huge audiences, and everything they post goes viral. If you have an email list of 7 and a Facebook group with no engagement, and your mom is the only person who follows you on Instagram, it’s easy to get frustrated. But because I started this part of the journey after watching my kid literally fight for his life, I felt like everything in business was easier than cancer. So I didn’t ever feel like I wanted to give up on the business. — what I do matters. There are women and families who need what I’m teaching, and I have an obligation to show up for them.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
In 2017, Successful Freelance Mom was just me and a bunch of ideas in my head. Today, I have a team of 5 plus other on-demand help as I need it. And while there’s a part of me that wakes up and thinks, “Oh my gosh, how did I get here?” there’s another, logical part of me that says, “By showing up every day.” In the beginning, I did everything myself. I’m not a tech person, and I’m not a designer, but I figured out the stuff I needed to do. I made mistakes. I learned from them.
For months, I just worked on the business. I didn’t go out with friends, I didn’t watch TV, and I didn’t take days off. I worked. It’s not sexy, and it’s not a big secret, but there it is.
A few years ago, Adi (my developmentally disabled son) mastered tying his shoes and texting on his phone about 6 weeks apart, and I talked about his progress a lot. People kept asking, “What happened all of a sudden that he gained these skills? What did you change?” And I literally laughed out loud. There was NOTHING “all of a sudden” about it. It was the result of fourteen years of physical, occupational, and developmental therapy. It was Adi showing up every day, even when his figures didn’t move the right way, even when it was hard and frustrating, and even when he really, really didn’t want to.
Business is exactly the same. There’s no “one thing” you can change and hit 7 figures overnight, and I don’t care how many pictures of private jets you post. It’s never just one thing. It’s being consistent and doing the work over a long period of time.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I care deeply about the people I serve. I’ll get on Facebook lives and Zoom calls without any makeup, and I tell the truth about how I screw up projects and other mistakes. I let my kids walk into the room when I’m running calls, and I introduce them on camera. I’m unapologetic about the fact that I don’t fold laundry or wash dishes. I hire help, make my kids do chores, and let things go undone, because right now, I care more about serving students than I care about folded laundry. (Actually, I never care about folded laundry.) I think people crave real honesty, rather than Instagram vulnerability.
The first time I ran a paid live workshop, I was in my office with the door closed. About 20 minutes in, one of the kids knocked on the door. I ignored it, but the knocking was persistent and unrelenting. “Excuse me,” I said to my screen, and then without remembering to mute myself, screeched “WHAT IS IT?” My youngest, who was about 7 or 8 at the time, opened the door and said, “I want to make a cup of soup, but you said I’m not allowed to boil water alone.”
I was like, “Listen, kid. You have FOUR older siblings out there. FIGURE IT OUT.”
And everyone on the call LOVED it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
The first time I ran my course, Writing for Money, I recorded all the lessons on my laptop, sitting on my couch in my living room. In Week 2 or 3, I was recording a video on growth mindset, and somewhere in the room, a watch started beeping. I ignored it, but it kept beeping. For like 45 seconds, whereupon I LOST IT, and I said “HOLY CRAP THE WATCH WILL NOT STOP BEEPING,” and then I didn’t have time to re-record the video, so I kept it in the course, and now it’s the “famous” “beeping watch” video, and I have a whole lesson about the fact that I learned from that mistake and got better, and people LOVE it.
I definitely learned a lot about checking your surroundings before you record — but also that no one wants perfection. They want real. They want to know that THEY, TOO, can make mistakes and move on.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Honestly, I’ve certainly gotten bad advice, and even followed it, but I’ve learned and grown every time. If something absolutely contradicts my values, I won’t do it. Like, I’ll never listen to anyone who says, “Focus on charging as much money as possible while delivering as little as you can” — advice I recently heard on a call. But anything that seems like, Hey that could be worth trying — I’ll try it, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll let it go.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
In mid-October 2003, I landed a new freelance client and had a project due in mid-November. I was pregnant with my third baby (Adi, he of all the fame) and due around Thanksgiving. Well, Adi was born on October 31, and immediately admitted to the NICU. I certainly wasn’t going to tell my brand new client, “Hey, I can’t get this project done,” so I figured out a way to get it done. A year later, the client learned the circumstances under which I’d done the first project, and she was blown away. She was the head of a Silicon Valley company, and she had friends. That story got around, and I had people hire me without seeing my work, because they knew I was someone who got the work done.
When you’re building a personal brand, you ARE you business. I am not even close to perfect. My parenting philosophy could generously be described as “benign neglect.” I send out emails with typos to my list — and I’m a professional writer. I make mistakes, and I talk about them. I often go “live from the living room,” and I tell people, “Anything can happen. ANY CHILD could walk in right now.” They usually do, but since that’s the reality for the women I teach, it works. It’s not realistic to tell them, Hey, go lock yourself in the office for 8 hours and get the work done. They work in short bursts of time. That’s reality. And I model that it’s totally possible to be successful, 25 minutes at a time.
My parents have always taught me that at the end of the day, all you have is your integrity. If you wouldn’t want your mom to know you’re doing something, don’t do it. I refuse to run a recorded webinar and pretend it’s live. I let people know when things are recorded. Inside my membership, each month I go live to share what I earned AND what I spent. Because it’s one thing to say, “Oh, I made 10k dollars in course sales,” and it’s totally different to say, “I made 10k dollars in course sales and spent 8k dollars on Facebook ads.” My students LOVE getting the WHOLE picture.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
If you’re feeling burnt out, it’s either because you’re doing too much of the work on your own, or because the work is no longer in alignment with your passion and beliefs. So, you need to figure out which of those things is true (it could also be both!), and take steps to change it. I brought on a team so that I could focus on what I love most: creating amazing content for my students. I pay people to do the graphics and schedule the emails and build the sales pages and recoup the failed payments, so I get to do what I love doing most.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
In the online space, I see way too many people think they can start a business with no money down. Get out of that mindset NOW. You have to invest in good tech, tools, and people. It’s insane to think that you can build an online business with a Gmail address, a free website, and the cheapest freelancer you can find on Craigslist.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Again, I can only speak to the online space. I think that very few of us here have ANY preparation for running a company. We start off as solopreneurs or service providers, we get an idea and run with it, and all of a sudden, we have a team, and we step into a CEO role we are ENTIRELY unprepared for. I’m personally investing this year in training and coaching around that, specifically. The transition from “having an online business” to “being the CEO of a company” is a big deal, and a lot of us ignore that.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- You’re going to have to do a LOT of personal development work. In 2013, I was growing as a freelancer and my kid got cancer. In 2017, when I started SFM, I had a lot of fear around success that was directly related to that, and I had to work to uncover and address that fear. I feel guilty that I’ve never been homeless or hungry. Like everyone in the world, I suffer from imposter syndrome, and like many women and mothers, I often struggle with boundaries. All of these impact business. I had NO IDEA how much personal work I’d need to do.
- Firing people SUCKS, even when they’ve earned the firing. My business manager handles this piece, and it’s still really hard.
- Freelancers can be terribly unreliable. I sort of knew this, as all my clients had commented on my extreme reliability, but it’s AWFUL when you’re depending on someone for something, and they’ve absconded to the farthest reaches of the Internet and don’t answer your email.
- No one can read your mind. I am constantly reminding myself that unless I TELL my team what I want, they don’t know. They can’t magically intuit that information, as helpful as that would be. Just recently, I needed some help gathering testimonials. I struggled on my own for a few days, and then I got smart. I told the team EXACTLY what I wanted, and within HOURS it was done.
- You don’t have to listen to everyone’s advice. When you’re starting out, you spend a lot of time thinking that what you know or think can’t be right, or good enough, and that other people must know better or more or whatever, because they’re ahead of you or more successful, or making 7 figures. But if they’re doing something that violates your personal values, or that doesn’t feel good to you, or in a totally different industry, their advice might not be right for you. And that’s okay.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d start a Mister Rogers movement. Recently, in an effort to bring more kindness into my life, I’ve been watching a daily episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I think about the way he speaks and listens, and the specific lessons in each episode. I think that if everyone in the world started the day with 28 minutes of Mister Rogers, we’d all be a lot happier.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!