Ever wonder how other FreshBooks customers run a business? Customer portraits connect you with your fellow FreshBooks peers to share guidance and inspiration.
After learning her trade in some of London’s leading agencies, Audrey Mason, owner of Mantra Copywriting, decided to go out on her own. Almost a decade on and business is booming. In fact, she barely has time to market herself because of all the work that keeps coming in. What’s her secret? Delivering great work, especially when she helps a brand shape their tone of voice.
Please tell us a little bit about your business:
Audrey Mason: My core business is copywriting. I write everything from magazines to websites, advertising to press ads and social media updates. I also do some tone of voice consulting. I’ll go into new businesses, usually, and smaller businesses, and help them find a unique tone of voice and language platform. Aside from that, I do conceptual work, working with designers or art directors coming up with ideas for ad campaigns. I write for larger clients as well, such as Vodafone, Hilton and Citibank.
Tell me a little bit, just for the uninitiated, what do you mean by tone of voice? What do you do for a company starting out or a company looking for some help?
AM: Every successful brand has a specific, established tone of voice. They speak to their audience in a very similar way all of the time. Smaller businesses typically don’t have that, thus creating a lack of consistency. If they have a number of people producing communications for them, they might have inconsistency in their language, and that can be quite confusing for the consumer.
What I do is go in and say “OK, here are your brand values, and based on these values, here’s a language platform, this is how you can sound.” I help them understand what might make them sound unique in contrast to their competitors. We usually start out by giving them an example and asking “are you a brand who might use humor? Do you sound warm, do you sound formal, do you sound informal?” It’s about giving them a set of loose guidelines from which they can produce their communications. That’s really the part of my job that I love.
Here in the UK, I guess Innocent was the first brand to come out with a very unique, humorous, warm and lighthearted, human tone of voice. Of course nowadays, everybody you speak to wants to sound like Innocent. A big part of my job is convincing companies that they can’t all sound like Innocent. I really believe that Innocent’s tone of voice is a huge part of what’s made them so successful. Really, their product wasn’t that different to their competitors – but their brand and tonality was totally unique.
My aim to help find companies something that’s as effective and stands out.
What are the elements of Innocent’s tone of voice that really makes them stand out and makes them different from their competitors?
AM: I’m going to say this applies to FreshBooks too. I think for Innocent, they were one of the first to be a bit risky, use humor and say things that you wouldn’t expect. To this day, you always find something on Innocent packaging that you wouldn’t expect to be there, something very different from the bog standard packaging copy you see every day.
I think FreshBooks does it particularly well too. There you are typing up an invoice and you see something flashing up on your screen that surprises you, or makes you smile. And that makes you feel good about the brand.
Why did you decide to go out on your own?
AM: Flexibility. I worked within agencies in Glasgow and London for about 8 years. Then I had took a long overdue gap year when I was 30 and went traveling around the world. When I came back, I decided that I still wanted that freedom. I thought OK, how can I make this happen? I decided to set up my own business, and I actually ran my business from India for a few years, before finally coming back home and setting up my office in Glasgow.
What’s been one of the biggest surprises so far being out on your own?
I think one of the biggest surprises is the fact that I’ve never actively marketed my business. My website went live last week, and I’ve been going since 2003 on my own. What surprised me most is that the contacts you make in your career can often sustain you, and certainly that’s the case for me, as pretty much all of my work comes through word of mouth. If you deliver for people, and you do a good job, I think word of mouth can carry you.
It’s a really interesting one, because people talk so much about social media these days. “You must be on Twitter, you must be on Facebook, you must have a website, you must have it optimized for search engines.” Actually, one of the biggest surprises for me is in a lot of cases, actually, if you’re good at what you do, and you provide a good service, you’re always busy.
What’s your secret for such continued success?
AM: To always do what you say you’re going to do, and always deliver on time. I think in this job, detail’s really important. Never do sloppy work, deliver when you say you will. Do little things extra for your client. I think in this climate, that’s really important. I’ve got clients that I do monthly campaigns for, and quite often they’ll say, “Audrey, I’ve got 100 words to write for a brochure, and they want it today.” I’ll do it for them and I’ll do it for free, because it’s something that will take me 10 minutes, whereas it might take them hours. Do little extra things that don’t cost you a lot, but mean a lot to your clients.
I think always be positive as well. I try, even if a job gets tricky – and it happens – to always positive, and to find solutions, and to remember that not everybody can do what you do. Where it’s a simple fix, make it simple and don’t over complicate things for people.