The fire & fury of whole-assery: How my course The Wordshops finally got made

Photo of the whole-assing author by Jeff Weller

Hi, I’m Hillary and I’m an upbeat, fun-loving person who’s occasionally convinced she can mold the universe to fit the shape of her will.

As you might expect, this innate stubbornness is both a blessing for my clients and students, and a way to instantly triple my own workload.

However

The benefit of this part of my nature? It means I’ve built my career off being an obsessive whole-asser.

(Which is the opposite of a half-asser, in case you were wondering).

I’ve got a mighty determination to avoid half-baked ideas, half-hit deadlines, or shortcuts when it comes to what I deliver to my clients and crew (a.k.a. you guys)

When I have a clear vision of what needs to be done, it will take Hell, high water, and a pack of wild horses to drag me away from seeing it through.

I’ve run high-power promo campaigns for client events, then worked 16 hour days at said events, speaking onstage and racing to the back of the room to wrap post-event sales content. I’ve worked through piles of books and hours of interviews to prepare to ghostwrite client books. I’ve grabbed my laptop at 11 PM to finish an email that aligned with a sudden launch strategy pivot, because it had to go out the next morning.

Why? Because it’s part of the job of making and doing good work. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta push.

Which is probably why, when I built my course The Wordshops — to help unconventional entrepreneurs write their own phenomenal Home, About, or Sales pages — that launched last Friday?

… I didn’t really listen to the conventional first-program-launch wisdom.

If you’re not familiar, the usual advice goes like this:

  • Launch small. Focus on putting one tiny program out into the world and see how it does. You can always up-sell to a bigger signature program later.
  • Hold back on some stuff so people want more. Don’t put all of your knowledge on a topic out there. Keep some secrets to yourself so you can sell ‘em.
  • Don’t go all out with design. It’s easy to get by with a platform like Teachable or Udemy.
  • Just launch. Don’t sweat testing too much.

Now, make no mistake. This is good and sound advice that probably would have shortened timelines for me.

… But for better or worse — I had a whole-ass vision.

I knew exactly what I wanted to create with my first course, and why.

So I decided: I was gonna do things my way.

I was inspired to create The Wordshops for a simple reason: I believe we need your utterly creative (yep, you — the person reading this right now) voice, ideas, and work out in the world now more than ever.

But it’s easier said than done, right?

Day in, day out in my work, I saw brilliant entrepreneurs with phenomenal ideas playing small and blending into the background because they hesitated to truly bring all of themselves to their online space.

It meant meeting a wellness coach who was an f-bomb-droppin’, cage-rattlin’, leather-jacket-wearin’ Philly girl who wanted clients to burn their diet books IRL, but was coming across as a bland, pleasant, another green-juice-out-of-a-mason-jar sipping “health guru”online.

It meant working with designers who wanted to turn their travel-the-planet, live-your-truth-fiercely personal philosophies and mailing lists into movements — but were holding back because they didn’t know exactly what to say to engage with their audience on a deeper level, or didn’t believe they were worthy.

And it’s no wonder why this happens — right?

No matter what anyone tells you, selling authentically and powerfully isn’t as easy as plugging in a formula.

It requires — dare I say it — whole-assing and ground work.

You need a deep understanding of your audience, yourself, and what you want to create, and use that knowledge as fuel for your courage to flex your creative muscles and play with concepts that will make you undeniable, and unforgettable in your chosen industry.

So when I decided to hit the ground running with The Wordshops, here’s what happened next — and why:

  • I went straight to my audience to find out what they needed, and set up dozens of entrepreneur interviews — because every great product needs to solve a great big, existing problem. The answers I got were startling. There were so many places to get information on sales formulas and “best practices”, but not as many places to show you how your unique brand voice, story, ideas, and style fit into the sales equation, and how to create copy that really feels truly like you. After all, your voice and story are your biggest market differentiators, and are tied closely to your Unique Selling Prop and culture — a.k.a. the customer experiences that build brand loyalty, and stand the test of time.
  • Once research was over, the message was clear: This was not meant to be a tiny one-off program. I knew what people wanted and refused to hold back. My ultimate goal with The Wordshops was to create a product that broke down the process of copywriting to help students build up their foundation, and get all the tools they needed to write phenomenal copy today, tomorrow, and years down the line. The Wordshops aren’t about making me a ton of money by forcing you to buy again and again — you only need to run through it once (and you get lifetime access to all future versions when you buy) to really see and feel the difference in your online content and sales. Then you can keep working through the exercises over and over.
  • I tested in two beta rounds, and sent it to a course specialist for review. While there are phenomenal minds in the space who proudly put their ideas out there without testing first? I’m a tester. Big-time. I needed to make sure this worked, and worked well, so I scheduled 17 beta testers over the course of about a month to join me for the initial rounds. Did it work? Yep. You can read all of their stories right there on the sales page, and a few further below.
  • I poured a ton of love into design and branding — and it took a village of 7 people. When I first had the idea for The Wordshops, there was a whole squad of creatives I wanted to work with, each with their own specific zone of genius. So instead of dumping the sales page, module design, and delivery on one team? I decided to spread it out. While this was a risk (and meant juggling a few more emails), it was absolutely worth it. Every element of the course is gorgeous, and created by passionate people who loved what they built as part of the project.
  • I didn’t use Teachable or Udemy because I wanted full creative control. Whether this was a great call or a less-than-great one remains to be seen, but it’ll be easy to switch in the future if I want to. Reason being? My course delivery was simple — via editable PDF’s and videos — so it’s not quite as important to have a platform. So I decided for this round, I’d save the $99/month. Will report back.

And as a result of all this? I’ve got students saying stuff like:

The Wordshops were THE turning point in my business. I took the lessons learned and used them to rewrite my entire site, which was the foundation of my larger rebrand process.
Since re-designing my site, I’ve gone from marketing myself to sitting back and letting the client and collab requests roll in.”

And…

“The DIT Wordshops is one of the best programs I’ve experienced in my entrepreneurial career.
My experience in The Wordshops was so powerful in helping me find my voice that it’s spilled over into my emails and social media posts. I get emails all the time telling me how much they love reading my stuff. THANK YOU!!!!”

And…

There are SO many online courses these days, it can be hard to distinguish the quality ones from the fluff. I’ve definitely gotten burned when I invested in copywriting courses that seemed helpful, but weren’t substantive and didn’t make much of a difference in my business… and The Wordshops blew them out of the water.
I knew there was a science behind great website content, but I couldn’t figure it out on my own. Hillary breaks. it. down. I feel so confident and prepared to continue writing great content for my site, and the web in general because of the Wordshops.

And…

Make no mistake: I love to write. I have a degree in journalism. I figured I might learn a few cool tricks of the copy trade and be on my way — but now I’m at the end of this whole experience, I wish I could have majored in the Wordshops instead! It was so much more productive.
Now, I have a perfect homepage I absolutely love, and feel totally clear that good online copy boils down to a fun, personal conversation. I feel so excited, and so much more confident about tackling the other pages of my site now that I have the tools. I never thought I could actually sound cool and yet stay relevant and on brand.
Say a big fat YES to the Wordshops, if you can! I promise — you’ll be glad you did.

Aaaand some love from my course designer:

“I say this as someone with a degree in English, who specializes in branding. Writing your own copy (and designing your own site, but that’s another convo altogether) is not for the faint-hearted or weak-kneed.
But Hillary breaks this process down more comprehensively than I have EVER seen someone do. Having had the pleasure of being face to face with this course material for the last couple months, I can tell you guys that it will be motherf — ing transformative if you take it.
I worked through the first module as I was editing the design and had a major breakthrough in my positioning and client personas. Fiiiiinally. It helps that Hill is wonderful, tell-it-like-it-is, hilarious, and amazing to learn from.”

While I don’t want to get ahead of myself (but the live version of the course only has 2 spots left — I’m just sayin’…):

Despite the bigger workload and longer timeline to do my due diligence?Whole-assery may have won the day after all.

And now, the end result is ready for you to jump into. (You can join me for the LIVE version of The Wordshops starting October 2nd — I’ve only got 2 spots left — or hop into the D.I.Y. version for your About, Home, or Sales page.)

But in the interim? I want you to remember:

Sometimes you just need to take the reigns despite conventional wisdom — and whole-ass it the way you want to.

So, just in case you need it: Next time you want to build something for the world?

You have my permission to do it your way.

And you have my permission to do it right.

Go get ‘em.

P.S.:

No whole-ass project is complete without a running list of great albums to work to. Here’s everything I listened to over the course of project creation:

Kanye West: The Life of Pablo, Yeezus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 808’s and Heartbreak

Drake: Take Care, More Life, Views

Kendrick Lamar: Damn

Adele: 25

Bon Iver: 22, A Million

M83: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Perfume Genius: No Shape, Too Bright

DJ Khaled: Grateful

Lorde: Melodrama

Lana Del Rey: Lust For Life

Phoenix: Ti Amo

Young Thug: Beautiful Thugger Girls

Jon Hopkins: Immunity

Washed Out: Mister Mellow

Kesha: Rainbow

(And for some reason, John Mayer’s “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” like 300 times in the 2 days leading up to launch.)

Hillary Weiss is a copywriter, ghostwriter, writing coach, and creator of The Wordshops: Copywriting Courses for Unconventional Entrepreneurs. Since 2011, she’s been the pen, voice, and verve for 200+ brands and counting, and specializes in brand voice development and big-money messaging for profoundly rad brands with something real to say. For more stuff like this, and to jump on her mailing list, hop over to hillaryweiss.com/subscribe. To get your hands on her course, stop by http://thewordshops.org.