Have you ever wondered how you can better engage your readers? Then grab your favorite pen and notepad, and join us as Carrie Ashley shares her favorite prompts for enhancing connection and quieting marketing noise.
First, tell us a little about yourself!
Hi! I’m Carrie—wife, puppy mama, lover of pizza and athleisure attire, and an accidental entrepreneur. I’m a Midwest girl born and raised, and a graduate of the University of Kansas where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and minor in Business.
Right after college, I began my career as a client account coordinator at an advertising agency in Kansas City. That experience definitely fueled my love for working alongside creative women. When my husband’s career forced us to move, however, I knew I wanted to get back to doing that same kind of work. I just didn’t know exactly how at that moment.
Flash forward to 2016 when I was working at a women-owned, modern family travel agency in Williamsburg, Virginia, and my husband got orders to deploy. That’s when the lightbulb went off.
What if I pitched the idea of working as a virtual contractor to them and continued assisting them with their marketing efforts? That way, my schedule could be much more flexible and allow me to spend time with my husband before he deployed, and also plenty of days off to go back to my hometown over the holidays.
Taking that risk and getting a “yes” in return helped ignite this little idea I had—Carried Away Creative Co., a virtual marketing boutique dedicated to lightening writing workloads and helping readers to get carried away by brands.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As they say in the world of client work, “No two days are ever the same.” But, I seriously value a solid foundation of small daily actions to help me practice living and working each day intentionally.
I’ve always been an “early bird” (even though I haven’t gotten hooked on coffee just yet!), and have found my “golden hours” of work are in the early to late morning hours. So, before I dive into my day, I’ll wake up, take our dog on a walk, come back and fix a cup of tea, eat a quick breakfast, and read the day’s devotional on the First 5 app. Then, I’ll stroll into our spare bedroom-turned-office around 7:30-8am to get started on the most urgent tasks for the day.
Typically, at the top of my list is either research for an article or blog post, creating an outline based off of that research, or then writing a 1,500-2,000 word article or blog post. Any of these tasks can take between two to four hours, so lunchtime rolls around fast!
And, while I did get in a bad habit of eating lunch at my desk and not taking much of a break, I’m working hard on dedicating an hour to both walking Jules again for some fresh air and refueling to finish the rest of the day strong!
Once that hour is up, I focus my afternoon on less demanding tasks such as strategizing a client’s content for the next month, following up on emails, re-organizing or checking off Trello tasks, replying to messages on Slack, and jotting down a to-do list for the next day. Then, as soon as my husband comes home from work in the late afternoon, while I totally could keep working for another 390382938 hours, he encourages me to get up out of my chair and off to the gym!
As a content creator, what is the number one thing that you see neglected by entrepreneurs?
Oh, wow. The #1 thing? What I’d say is remembering that your content—whether it be your blog posts, e-newsletters, landing pages, and more—is an opportunity to have a conversation with your readers.
To elaborate, if you had the chance to meet up with your readers for a face-to-face conversation with them, would you talk all about yourself? Or, your amazing product or service? Nope. It’s easy, however, to lose sight of the fact that there’s another human on the other side of the computer screen reading and soaking in all of the insightful nuggets you have to share.
Thus, your copy ends up being a complete snooze-fest because you’re not making that personal connection that many readers, and ultimately your future customers, crave so badly in this digital world we live in.
What advice or prompt would you offer to help business owners remedy it?
As soon as you start thinking about having a conversation with your tribe through your content, you’ll be amazed at how your feelings change when it comes time to sit down and type away! What you once considered to be a completely boring and hair-pulling task will become so much more fun for you. And, your readers will thank you (and love you!).
So, to get to that mentality, here’s my advice:
- Write how you talk to allow your personality to shine through! This involves crafting your very own copy bank of words and phrases you commonly use while tossing that stuffy gibberish you got extra points for back in school. And, don’t be afraid to crack jokes if it fits your brand!
- Give your readers time to breathe by cutting long sentences and paragraphs. White space will become your best friend.
- Stop getting squeamish at the thought of starting a sentence with And, Because, or But. When you do, your sentences will become shorter and easier to read.
- Ask questions. It slows the reader down and gets them involved in the conversation.
- Use contractions (you’re, we’re, I’m). They sound way less formal.
- Check how often you use the words I, we, me, and us. Then, count how often you’ve used the word you. Always address your readers with the word you. And, use that word. A lot.
- Read your content out loud before publishing. You’ll ensure your writing reads au naturel so you can get to the hearts of your readers.
We’ve heard you use the metaphoric phrase “write drunk, edit sober,” could you elaborate on that?
Of course! It’s only one of my favorite phrases ever! Fun fact: I actually came across it on a pencil set, and it spoke to my writing-obsessed heart.
I'm not advising this phrase be taken literally, however, and you start guzzling your favorite Pinot Noir (my personal fave!) or Chardonnay EVERY. SINGLE. TIME you get a bad case of writer's block.
Instead, think of "write drunk" as a state of mind. As soon as you begin imagining the quirky and less buttoned-up things you'd say after sipping back a few libations, the more relaxed your content will become. You’ve got the green light to throw some of those rigid high school English class lessons out the window! Hey, I'm guilty of using sentence fragments (sparingly) because I just love them. They're my go-to to convey momentum, tone, and intensity.
And, remember: your draft should be, well, just that. A draft. Stop halting your typing fingers to pick apart every sentence or paragraph. When you do, you'll keep that momentum going and have plenty of time to "edit sober" (aka turning on your no-fun inner editor) as soon as you've approached the end of your next brilliant piece of writing.
We would love to know how you and your husband met!
It’s the cliche story: we met in high school! But, he was two years older than me, and I kind of played it cool that I didn’t really want much to do with him while he was there. So, the time came for him to graduate and he went off to the Air Force Academy. Yet, that didn’t stop him! He’s very stubborn (one of the many reasons why I love him!).
When he came back home for spring break, he asked if I wanted to go to the movies with him. Of course, I said yes, and the rest is history! He’s honestly the type of person you feel you’ve known forever, and is super laid back and rolls with the punches. That said, he made seven years of long-distance dating seem like a walk in the park!
What are some ways that the two of you unwind and create space for one another?
We’re 100% homebodies! No shame here. We love, love, LOVE watching movies or the latest Netflix obsession, cuddling up with our dog on the couch, cooking dinner together (I’m the veggie chopper, he’s the grill master!), and going to the gym to de-stress and get a boost of energy in the late afternoon. We also enjoy completing a week-by-week journal prompt in our Navigator’s Council Marriage Journal. It encourages us to really connect with one another in the midst of life’s hustle and bustle, ask each other questions (such as how we can best support each other in the upcoming week), and pray for one another and our marriage.
Creating space for one another is important, however. When your husband or significant other returns from deployment, you might feel guilty if you don’t spend every waking minute with them. I know I did! But, we both realized that “space” isn’t a cowardly way to say you want an out. It’s simply gifting yourself a moment alone so you can put more energy to devote to your family. Because, as one of our prints in our home reads: “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
For me, it’s waking up early and doing my devotional on the First 5 app, taking a bubble bath, or even just watching some silly reality TV in the bedroom. For my husband, it’s taking our dog for a long walk to get some fresh air or watching sports in the living room when our favorite team isn’t playing.
What brings joy in your home?
We definitely live by keeping things simple, yet meaningful. I find joy in our home by bringing the outdoors in (my favorite is our faux fiddle leaf fig tree and succulents from our wedding!), filling the room with a diffusing blend of essential oils (or brownies baking in the oven! It really depends on the week.), seeing our Lab Jules get so excited as we walk through the door, hosting family and friends near and far whenever we get the chance, and unplugging on the evenings and weekends to be present.
It’s amazing what powering off your phone and computer will do for your happiness! And, if you have a hard time with that, download the Moment app. Trust me! It’s a huge eye-opener as to how much time you spend glued to technology.
Do you have a word of the year, or are you more of resolutions gal?
I’m definitely a word of the year kind of gal! To be honest, setting a long list of resolutions for myself kind of freaks me out a bit haha. Therefore, I love dedicating the entire year to living by a specific word I feel speaks to my heart.
This year, that word for me is mindfulness. When focusing on what will happen in the future, it's easy to lose focus on the present moment. I’m guilty of that, that’s for sure! So, I’m dedicating this year to practicing the art of being mindful of how I spend my time, and, most importantly, how I interact with my family, friends, and clients.
Lastly, what are your favorite resources, exercises, or prompts for goal setting?
I recently started journaling and using prompts for self-reflection and self-discovery. It’s amazing what such a simple thing can do to help you celebrate your wins and put the spotlight on where you want to be! And, these journal prompts have been key for my 2018 goal setting.
I’m a huge fan of Lara Casey and feel she’s one of, if not the queen bee of goal setting. So, I used her Cultivate What Matters Method to create more meaningful goals!
- The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others:
- How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal:
- Starting steps:
- How I will know I accomplished or made progress on this goal:
- Encouraging words:
- How I will celebrate at the end of 2018:
When you have a strong vision of where you want to be and how you’re going to get there, there’s no doubt you’ll achieve great things throughout your entrepreneurial journey!