wine Wednesday: my life as a wine consultant

happy Wine Wednesday! hope you’re swirling and sipping something delicious this evening! filed under things i’ve been doing instead of writing, is a little story i’m finally ready to share here about me coming out of my comfort zone and trying something totally new . . . and what i’ve learned. pop open a bottle and indulge me.

back in February, i went up to Virginia for a bachelorette weekend winery trip. two days with some of my best girlfriends, two great wineries, some amazing wines and food, and a lot of good stories and laughs ensued. on the drive back to Richmond from Charlottesville, one of them mentioned that she’d been to a really fun wine tasting at another friend’s house recently. she said it was like one of the jewelry parties everyone does now, where there was a wine consultant who brought the wine. they did the tasting and then enjoyed the leftovers while everyone placed orders. she said the wine was really good and well priced, and she bought a few bottles. and she finished with you’d be great at that. i was intrigued.

i was on the cusp of taking a new job, expecting it was going to be another unsatisfying way to pass the time until i could figure out how to escape 9-to-5 life all together. but had been interested in doing one of these home selling businesses for a while. i have friends who do Stella & Dot, Chloe & Isabel, Rodan & Fields . . . i wondered was having an & in your brand name a prerequisite for this type of company . . . but every time i thought about venturing into one of these businesses, all i could think was how much jewelry does anyone really need? or how much overpriced face cream does anyone really need? i’m a drugstore girl who pretty much wears one of the same 3 pairs of earrings every single day. i just couldn’t see how it could ever be profitable. but wine. oh yes, wine. everyone always wants to try new wine and speaking from experience, it’s definitely something you pretty much are always needing to buy. this one seemed like a winner.

so long story short, i got in touch with WineShop at Home pretty much the minute i got back to Atlanta and started my journey as an independent wine consultant. what that means is that i conduct wine tastings in people’s homes, tell their guests a bit about the wines from a cheatsheet i’m given and create a fun informative atmosphere for a unique girls’ night, guys’ night or date night. people love the shit out of it. and the wine is really good. so i always sell some of it at the end. everyone has a great time and i make bank. what’s not to love?

well, that’s the thing. after only 4 months, i think i’m kind of over it. here’s what i’ve learned:

i like the parts i thought i’d like.

it is totally fun to actually do the tastings. i’m not great at ad-libbing about the different wines yet and pretty much go by the notes i’m given, but i do okay. and i’m having fun with social posts and making graphics for emails and certificates and such. i was pretty sure going in that i would love doing those things. and getting even a small commission check every month certainly doesn’t suck.

i hate the parts i thought i’d hate.

mainly the whole selling thing. and constantly self-promoting and pestering to get the next tasting set up. and those are some pretty damn important parts of being successful in this business.

i have some super-supportive friends.

seriously, i’ve had so many people show interest, host and purchase without much effort on my part, just because they knew i was doing this and wanted to help my small business succeed. pretty awesome.

i don’t love people that much.

honestly. i’m kind of a a high-functioning introvert. don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows i have my moments of being the social butterfly, but it is draining for me to be “on” with people i don’t know . . . especially as a means to an end other than just having a good time. people can also be a pain in the ass. i have enough terrible clients in my day job. i don’t have time or energy for people who won’t commit or don’t know what they want (or want to be difficult). and please. if i have to chase you down for your credit card info, i just can’t.

i’m a homebody at heart.

when it comes down to it, i don’t want to spend as many weekend hours away from my family as it would take to really run with this, book the tastings and build a team. i’ve typically only done 2 tastings a month. i should be doing triple that at least to start building a business with this. and i’ve started getting stressed out about people wanting to schedule in late August and September, when all i want to do is watch football, simmer soup, bake apple cake and continue my push to spend more time writing. and i always try to listen to my gut.

rose.001so that last revelation is really the big one. the WSAH team is so supportive and provides so many tips, tricks and trainings to help you become successful — my current hesitations have absolutely nothing to do with any of that! this is a really easy and fun business to succeed at if you can commit to putting in the time and effort. i’m just not sure it’s where i want to put my energy right now. i’m not set on quitting just yet, but for now, i will settle for thinking it over . . . over a glass of our amazing Grand Cadeau Rosé Sparklingcheers, y’all!

 

agency afterlife: week 7

photo 2

i don’t run often enough. but when i do, i run in the cemetery near my home. some people think it’s morbid. i find it exhilirating. the wide paths, with no cars on them, travel a varied topography with enough long stretches up to make my thighs weak and enough blissful flats to let me catch my breath. it is beautiful, peaceful and reminds me with every step that no matter how bad things seem, they really could be worse. i mean, i could be a permanent resident and not just passing through.

i was especially reminded of this today, when i  chose a different route. classic solution for feeling stuck in a rut, right? i’d spent another morning networking and trolling LinkedIn and some freelance boards, thinking about doing some writing or revising my site (again) and in the end, feeling a little paralyzed by it all. again. cue change of scenery.

as i rounded a familiar bend, but from the opposite direction today, i got a sign. literally. for the very first time in 4 years of running Crest Lawn, i noticed the Garden of Faith section marker. it literally made me stop in my tracks (after pausing Nike Running and the random Paris Hilton track it had dug up. don’t judge.). it seemed like the exact place i should be right now—metaphorically, of course.

in the past 7 weeks, i have struggled a lot with not just what will be next for me, but what i want to be next. i’ve been suffering from the paradox of too many options, yet no options, as this process takes its painfully slow course. while i’ve got the chance to re-think what i want to be when i grow up, the reality of tuition and mortgage and car payments makes the dream pool much more shallow. and i’ve spent a lot of time spinning, trying to keep doing and keep things moving, trying to figure out the best way forward.

today’s surprise visit to the Garden of Faith reminded me that sometimes, you need to stand still first in order to move forward in the right direction. and it re-assured me that everything is going to be okay. i just need to continue to have faith that that right direction is going to present itself. perhaps the sign i’m looking for won’t be so literal is it was today, but i will know it when i see it. i always do.

new product writing: back to basics

wow. i’ve had a crazy few weeks doing some freelance writing for a new social/productivity app that’s about to launch. i haven’t officially been NDAed, but feel like it’s not appropriate to give details right now. what i will do, though, is give the details of what this project has helped me remember. because there’s a lot.

but first. since i have been thinking about all this, i realized how many product launches i’ve helped facilitate over the years. back in the day, i wrote all the digital components to launch Burt’s Bees’ Natural Acne Solutions line, which was to compete with ProActive. i also launched their competitor to Tom’s Toothpaste. (launch copy isn’t necessarily still live for either of these.) and, on a much different note, i pitched, won and then helped set initial tone and descriptive voice for  AT&T’s (then new) Digital Life.

so, i’ve done this a couple times. what’s interesting/different with the products i just mentioned is that they’re concepts people get. an anti-acne regimen. natural toothpaste. home security. got it. they can be compared to something else (not that you should necissarily go there, see below.)

but what happens when you have to describe a product that gives users something completely new? (fuck. should totally have asked for stock options, instead of hourly fee.)

well, a lot of things happen, including thousand-email conversations where everyone involved debates the meaning of “is”. and you know what, that’s okay. because when non-advertising people create something the world can actually benefit from, yes, that is a thing of beauty. and it takes a lot of debate, discussion and rounds of edits to get it just right. (and that’s when that hourly fee is a happy thing.)

so here’s what i’ve learned/remembered. super copywriting 101 stuff, but it’s always good to get a refresher.

get out of your client’s head.

your client is definitely too close to this baby they’ve conceived, pitched, landed backing for, painstakingly developed and are now about to set loose on the world. it’s not new to them anymore. you’ve pored over every deck they’ve created and have drunk the juice, their way of describing this thing being the only one you’ve seen. and just maybe that way of describing doesn’t really resonate with—or even make sense to—real people in the real world who haven’t been along for the whole ride.

so take a step back. think about what it would be like to see, hear about it or use it for the very first time and what that would feel and sound like and what is important from that perspective. then write about it. those initial words on paper may be right. but just maybe your fresh perspective can give those words a twist that helps them ring truer.

KISS that copy.

i can hardly think of a better time to keep it simple. when you’re describing something that is brand new, keeping the idea crystal clear is absolutely key. save the flowery, the cute, the lofty for something else. as something people have not yet heard of, you don’t have the luxury of assuming they’ll be captivated by your pretty words. they want to know quickly what’s in it for them.

but don’t try to say all the wonderful things the product does in one positioning statement. focus on the one unique, amazing thing you want the world to know about and write that. bullets and body copy are where you can round out the entire set of features and benefits. (and sometimes, it’s up to you to help your client understand what that one thing is, because they are in love with all their baby’s parts.)

don’t get lazy.

i always think comparisons to competitors are lazy. it’s one reason why i particularly hate election season, when 90% of ads talk about all the stuff the other guy does and you’re left not even knowing the name of the guy they do want you to vote for. so, for real. you can definitely find a better way to say what you are than by saying you’re like something else, only better.

and speaking of better, don’t leave readers hanging with vagueness. why is your product better, easy, fast or whatever. unless you are going to provide more detail on how or why, it doesn’t mean a thing.

have fun.

part of the beauty of writing about something brand-spanking new is that you get to become part of the invention process. you suddenly have a stake in this thing’s success or failure. and since, like me, you probably weren’t smart enough to ask for stock options up front, the least you can do is come up with one killer book piece you can lay claim to in a few months when everybody is talking about this thing.

agency afterlife: week 4

horeshoe

(photo: LuckyPonyShop)

we just got back from a wonderful 4-day weekend in New York, visiting friends and playgrounds across the city and on both sides of the river. the weather turned out absolutely fallish and perfect for all-day wandering. the generosity of the two sets of friends who invited us to their homes and actually cooked for us made me remember, despite my current circumstances and a couple pieces of bad news about a job and a friend’s health that we received on Friday, how very, very lucky we are.

i had hoped that a change of scenery would spark some kind of epiphany about what i want to do when i grow up. on that count, i was not so lucky. so i start my week the same as i started last week, unenlightened, yet determined not to let my jobless status get me down — or keep me from recognizing the truly wonderful moments i’m lucky enough to get almost every day.

agency afterlife: week 3

while it was 3 weeks ago this morning that i got the news i was 1 of the 7 people in my office being relieved of our jobs, i’ve only technically been unemployed for a week. the first 2 weeks were a joyous freebee. woo-hoo. it already kind of feels like forever, though. and for all the lists and plans i made that first week, and all the running around and busy-ness that’s ensued, i feel like i have relatively little to show. i mean, for god’s sake. i thought by now i would at least have had all the closets organized, achieved perfect attendance at the gym and delved back into a writing project i started last summer. not. so. much.

somehow, the sheer fear of living without a paycheck has trumped all that and, let’s just say, i’ve found it a little hard to focus on non-essential/non-paying tasks. (the husband is an excellent, ahem, motivator, as well.)

won’t bore y’all with the laundry list of what’s actually happened in the past few weeks, except to say that there is freelance (yay!), there are job prospects (yay!) and the universe has been generous with support and opportunities. enough, so far, to keep me from going completely stir crazy. for now. stay tuned . . .