Hi. I'm Sam. I write copy.
The first rule of Cult of Personality™ Copywriting is: Be HUMAN, and treat your readers like humans.
Seriously. That’s it. That's the whole About page.
(What if that was really my whole About page? 😂)
WELL IT'S NOT. The current systems of internet marketing—and, by extension, traditional copywriting practices—are steeped in high-pressure sales funnels, agenda-driven “content marketing,” and persuasive selling tactics designed to play on psychological & social triggers.
(Like: hammering the pain points. Creating & maintaining a hierarchical, authority figure / neophyte dynamic. False scarcity / urgency. Shame-y, mindset-y, high pressure sales calls. And my favorite—overriding consent.)
And you know what?
I’m putting them all on blast.
These systems have been passed down through generations of digital marketers (so in Internet time, that’s what, like ten years?) and they’re largely accepted as standard practice. A.K.A, the Way We Do Things.
That’s one reason why even the most well-intentioned thought leaders and business owners engage in these tactics, even though they feel low-key icky about it the whole time.
(Another reason is that they’re convinced that these existing systems are the only effective way to get conversions, which is not true.)
Long before I ever learned about a thing called Feminist Copywriting, I chafed at the existing "best practices" and male-dominated status quo.
(Thank god I found Ash Ambirge during that time, or I might've left the industry altogether.)
I was deeply offended by the misogynistic examples used in these trainings (during one presentation, Ryan Deiss unironically compared effective marketing strategy to being a pickup-artist—ew), outright horrified by the flippant dismissal of women in Ryan Holiday’s book Trust Me I’m Lying—
And even MORE horrifying? That garbage was required reading at my first-ever writing job. 😫
I was disheartened by conference rooms full of white men (and, okay, the occasional corporate-looking white woman), laughing and clapping as a self-proclaimed “ninja” pranced around the stage talking about customers as if they were things, scribbling nonsense on a whiteboard, and treating “emoooootions” like a set of keys you could use to unlock wallets.
But even more than that, none of this writing was any good.
Shouty, shame-y, smarmy sales pages & email sequences that were downright painful to read.
In an attempt to sound "edgy," these copywriting ninjas came across as cocky, condescending, and cruel.
There was no real kindness or empathy for the human on the other end of the screen—any sort of psychological understanding was merely a tool to manipulate them into buying something.
And, there was no craft. Manipulative writing is shitty writing.
But this was the framework most (okay, all) of my clients were familiar with, and requesting.
So, I worked around it. Sneaking my empathy, my love for well-crafted sentences, my high sensitivity & desire to effect real change in this world into PLF formulas and webinar follow-ups. Building sales pages around shared values instead of pain points; easing up on the high-pressure language in favor of something more... you know, human.
But then, I started hearing about this methodology called Feminist Copywriting—and I realized, that's what I've been trying to do this whole time! I just hadn't had the words for it. (Ironic, I know.)
Here's the truth: If you're committed to building a feminist, anti-racist business in this world, then you have to recognize that the "tried and true" marketing practices we've all been taught are steeped in white supremacy. Just like everything else.
The good news is, we can unlearn those dude-bro tactics and strategies, just like we're working to unlearn our internalized racism & misogyny. There are plenty of entrepreneurs who are doing it differently—see my 'Influencers' section at the bottom of this page—and I'm proud to call myself one of them.
Plus, bonus—when you respect your readers and treat them like the human beings they are, your writing gets 100x better. So, there's that. 🙌🏼
Most of the thought leaders I work with have a head start in this process (whether they know it or not, wink).
Because when your own talent, expertise, and/or signature service are on offer—or you’re working to upend some stodgy status quo—you HAVE TO get more human. Your brand has a longer, deeper, and much more crucial “know-like-trust” cycle than a product-centric business, or, say, Justin’s Peanut Butter.
(I live for upending the status quo. And those little dark chocolate peanut butter cups.)
In those situations, what you’re asking is a lot more high-stakes than the $1,000 they’ll spend on a mattress they can send back if they choose to, or the realization that they like their old peanut butter better.
You’re asking them to embrace their unique story, skills, & life experience, and use it to teach others—believing in themselves (and in you) enough to show up and make sh*t happen.
(Danielle Leslie, Course From Scratch)
You’re asking them to show you how utterly crap they are at managing their money, and all the shame and ugly frustration that goes with it.
(Lynne Somerman, Financial Coach)
You’re asking them to honor their heritage, love their bodies, and embrace differences—all by choosing your leggings over somebody else’s.
(Ngozi Opara, CultureFit Clothing)
You’re asking them to hitch their wagon to your groundbreaking method for treating chronic and severe pain—even though your industry is full of intimidating legal barriers and blustery detractors.
(Chuck Duff, Coaching the Body)
You’re asking them to drop $4,000, take two weeks off work, and travel to a remote country with 14 strangers—OR, pay a monthly fee for access to insider travel tips they may or may not be able to Google for free.
(Zim Flores, Travel Noire & Compass™)
But there’s an even bigger ask on the table, and it’s the very first transaction you’ll have with every single reader who joins your list…
Their time. Their attention. Their giving a shit what you have to say.
Their freaking contact info.
Right off the bat, you need to establish that you respect, value, and honor these gifts (because they *ARE* gifts).
And that means, not wasting their time with "5 Top Secret Tips" that don't really help them in any meaningful way.
Or tricking them into joining your email list with a throwaway "lead magnet." (<< this is illegal in Europe now, anyway).
Or being cagey about what you charge.
Or making them click over to your blog to read something you could've just put inside the damn email.
When you treat your reader like a number, and every interaction is driven by an agenda to monetize them, and every communication is just one more tactic to move them deeper down your sales funnel…
They can tell. They're not stupid.
They won’t unsubscribe, or send you a displeased email about it, or unfollow you on Instagram.
They’ll just stop caring—they'll ignore you.
Your words will fade into the din with all the other emails they ignore.
Not with a bang but a whimper.
The trick to all of this, of course, is knowing all! that! stuff! and STILL managing to create content that's fresh and real and vulnerable—but also, still converts.
a talented storyteller who
understands the medium of internet writing & email
won't compromise her values (or yours)
is really good at translating complex messages into engaging prose
who expertly weaves these ideas together in
every piece of copy she writes while
utterly nailing your voice
"You gotta know the rules to break the rules."
^^some apologetic horseshit I put on the first version of this page, so you would still take me seriously.
(In other words, "I may have been crafting this methodology for the past four years, but I need you to know I still studied with all the dude-bros, just in case you were worried that I don’t know my shit.")
There used to be a story here about Picasso. He was classically trained, you know, before he started in with the Cubist boobs. And much like Picasso, I too was “classically trained” before I decided to start calling out the predatory, patriarchal, white supremacist practices I saw in the copywriting world and start insisting on doing things MY way.
But here’s the problem with that.
This whole vibe implies that the dude-bros (and their exploitative methods) are still the standard by which we measure success & expertise. It makes me implicit in their tactics, even as I rail against them.
Not to mention the other thing—trying to "soften my edges" and/or qualify my point of view, in case there’s a man reading this and he doesn’t like it. 🙄
So, bye bye Picasso. That was a nice piece of writing I made, but you were a misogynist fucker and you don't belong here.
(I will, however, keep this CTA down here, because I don’t know how to edit it without breaking my site. Also, it’s clever and I like art.)
Yes, I’m about to compare myself to Picasso.
Join my email cult to see what else I’ll say...
So here’s what I want you to know: Anyone can parrot André Chaperon, rip off Marie Forleo’s B-school emails, or plug-n-play a Jeff Walker launch sequence...
But when we all follow the same “rules,” steal the same templates, and default to the same “tried and true” selling methods, guess what happens?
Everything on the Internet ends up sounding exactly the same—stilted, shouty, fake, and tone-deaf.
(Not to mention, boring as hell.)
What I bring to the table is—hold onto your butts!—empathy. Storytelling. Translating your Big Ideas into emails that connect with the humans on the other side of the screen.
That, and an unrelenting commitment to the actual craft of writing.
Because if you don’t give a shit about the writing itself, you can’t deliver emails that are worth your readers’ time. You’ll just ANNOY them, like everyone else in their overcrowded inbox.
Well. I do give a shit about the writing…
I give ALL the shits. (heheh)
(And yes, I also understand the intricacies of email marketing, I’ve worked on multiple 6- and 7-figure launches, and I’m currently wrangling one client’s list of nearly 400k contacts (🤯). I have plenty of street cred if that's what you’re looking for.)
Some professional things...
My first two writing gigs (2015-2016) were in-house, full-time positions at two very different startups.
Both gave me unfettered access to all the courses and trainings and "ninjas" a fledgling copywriter could ask for, which is how I learned how sexist they all were. I also got to touch every single piece of copy that could ever exist in an online business—website copy! Facebook ads! exit pops! sales letters! webinar scripts!
And so. many. freaking. emails.
I started freelancing on the side in 2015, and after some paternalistic, sexist employers fired me in 2016 (I think we all saw that one coming, no?) I went full-time and never looked back.
(Now *I* get to fire people. Especially: paternalistic sexists.)
My first big client was Zim Flores, founder of Travel Noire, and the work she and I did together was basically the prototype for Cult of Personality™.
Right now, I’m the Head Copywriter for Danielle Leslie, creator of Course From Scratch, where I've contributed to multiple 6- and 7-figure launches, including her first #MillyMonth in June 2020.
Some personal things...
I worked in the service industry for ten years, then spent another decade in the fitness/wellness industry, about which I have many complicated feelings. In 2010 I attended a "nutrition school"—which I now suspect is an actual cult—and started a health coaching business that I absolutely hated.
Fun fact—that “failed” business is how I realized I was really a writer all along.
I have a very GenX, eyeroll-y relationship with social media, and feel conflicted about my participation in the Zuckerverse.
^^That grey area between taking a stand! and being a contrarian asshole for no reason? Basically where I live 24/7.
There are little nods to Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and other cult classics all throughout this website design, and I love it.
I am half Armenian, 100% from Cleveland, 20% Bostonian, and now I live in the mountains in Asheville, NC. (Hey, I'm a writer, not a mathematician.)
More than once, I’ve slipped an (ahem, completely spot-on) Lord of The Rings reference into a client’s copy, and more than once, they made me take it out. Booo.
Emails for cult thought leaders.
Want to learn how to craft emails that inspire action and engagement WITHOUT the “tried and true” (cough: patriarchal) norms we’ve all been taught?
I’m doing it, and I can show you how to do it, too.
(But sometimes, I also like to write about the books I’m reading, or the creative process, or the entrepreneurial experience, or why I hate Steve Jobs, or how I met my BFF. I’ll send you emails like that, too.)
*Just kidding. It’s only an email list.
Books. Cats. Rants. Drawrings.
(and every couple months or so, an unexplained absence 🤷🏻)