How and why you need to create your own lane

Jun 7, 2018 | Thoughtful Creative Business

While I was interviewing Lucy Lucraft for an episode of her own podcast, What She Said, she asked me if I felt competitive with other copywriters. It wasn’t something I’d really given much thought to, so slightly off-the-cuff I said that I actually don’t, because I’ve sort of created my own lane. I’m doing things in what, I think, is quite a unique way, and I think that stops me from engaging competitively with other copywriters and content creators.

“Creating your own lane” is not a phrase I had used before, but if felt true to say, so I did. It was only afterwards that I thought about what I’d said, and realised how spot on it actually was.

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Before we go any further I just want to clarify that I am in no way immune from feeling competitive with other people. I feel it a lot, and its something that I’m very conscious of. At a guess I’d say I’m probably even a bit more competitive than most people (hard to state with any sort of authority as we don’t really know what other people are feeling and thinking), and jealousy is an emotion I am very familiar with in lots of different contexts.

So when she asked me that question, I was actually quite surprised by my answer, especially as it’s not something I’ve intentionally worked towards. 

However I do think it stems from something that definitely is intentional:  I’ve put blinders on myself when it comes to other copywriters. I have a tight mastermind group (who are all US based which helps), but other than that don’t really follow any other copywriters or content creators online. Occasionally people pop up and I have a quick glance, but I try not to get sucked into their content, as I know it only really leads one way: down the comparison trapdoor. 

I didn’t always do this though. When I started writing my website I spent quite a lot of time looking at other copywriter and content creator websites. It was, to be fair, a very good exercise in working out what I like and what I don’t. I found quite a few to be way too salesy for my tastes, lots of short sentences and emotional pull language, or overly feminine, targeting “girl bosses”. 

But there were a few I really liked, and I found myself frequently going back to them when it came to thinking about how to phrase something, or how to structure a page. It got to the point where I wasn’t writing what I really wanted to say, but a piecemeal, watered-down, version of other peoples’ visions, ideas and positioning. And it was obviously rubbish.

So I took a step back. I forced myself to stop looking at other people, to focus instead on myself, and work out what I really want to say.  And I have tried to remain true to this ever since. 

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A not-intentional side effect of this has been that I’ve somehow created my own lane, and I think, as I said in the interview, this is a large part of why I don’t feel competitive.

There are a lot of (very good) copywriters and content creators out there now, and a lot of us are targeting creative entrepreneurs and small businesses, because we know how joyful and fulfilling that work can be. But by working out what I wanted to say, and saying that; by really thinking about what makes me unique as a copywriter and content creator, and making that the main thrust of my brand and copy; and by looking at how I think I can deliver the best work for my clients, and creating my own process from it, I have separated myself from the pack (or I like to think I have), and created my own lane in which to run. 

Now, there’s no easy, non-arrogant way, to say this next bit so please excuse me! But I have also, and continue to, put a lot of thought into where my “zone of genius” lies (eurgh!), and I think it’s at at the crossroads of strategy and creativity. I think its being able to analyse, organise and structure, to put together a clear framework and positioning for brands, and then to be able to get creative with the copy that goes in it. It’s something that I’m still uncovering the more clients I take on, but as I do so I’m zoning in on it as a message.

Ok, I’ll go back to being British and self-deprecating now! 

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So how can you create your own lane? Well, my way is to stop thinking about how other people are doing things, and simply get really honest with yourself about who you are, and what makes you unique. And this starts with asking yourself some tough questions. 

Here are a few to get your started:

1. Pretend you are not British for a moment, and ask yourself what is your “zone of genius”? What do you think you do damn well? Get as specific as you can. Don’t just think “I design pretty logos” but “I’m really good at designing logos that reflect how my clients see themselves and their brand”. 

2. How are you different from other people in your field? Do you have different values or ethos? Do you have any experiences that makes you unique? Do you offer something extra that no one else really does?

3. What is your process? Are the materials or tools that you use unique, or do you approach your client work from a certain angle? 

4. Why are you doing this? What are you really passionate about? Why do you want to attract certain clients?  What is it about your industry that gets you fired up?

5. Who are you as a human-being? Why do your friends like you? What qualities do you have that help you with your work? Are you particularly empathetic or kind? Are you funny? Do you value honesty above everything else?

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If you need any extra help creating your own lane, then I have just launched a new service, brand clarity calls, specifically for this! You can find out more about them over here

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