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I've been called the OG of copywriters for creatives, wink—I hook up women with words as a launch copywriter & brand strategist. Even while raking in more than 7-figures since I've been at it, I believe working from a place of rest (not hustle) IS possible—and I want the same for you.
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January 20, 2017

What’s a Mastermind? 7 Things I Learned in Savannah on #TheMastermindRetreat

Reading time: 5 min.

Coffee mugs stayed full, wine and mimosa glasses littered the table, and candles from Magnolia stayed lit (affectionately dubbed the “Jojo candles.”).

I really don’t know how I fell into this specific crew of 4 other women, but for God’s grace, truly: My friend Lauren Carnes asked Jessica of Simply Jessica Marie and me if we’d be down for a January business mastermind retreat in Savannah, as 2 spots had opened up.

Ashlyn Writes What is a mastermind? 7 Things I learned in Savannah, Georgia on #TheMastermindRetreat

Naturally, it being 2017, all of us had met over Instagram. 🙂 I sorta knew the women, but I’d only ever met one in person.

So Jessica and I scoot down from Atlanta by way of Knoxville, where she’s from, and pull up a little house under dripping Spanish Moss for our three day retreat. Not a conference, not a vacation, not even a workcation, but a true retreat for my business-whirling mind.

#TheMastermindRetreat Ashlyn Writes Savannah, Georgia

And this online creative world? It’s deceptive, you know … because of the five of us (Jessica, Lauren, Callie Lindsey, Laura Foote, and me), everyone assumed the others were A-list and “killin’ it.”

Turns out — like most anything in 2017 — there’s a lot of smoke-and-mirrors going on.

But 3 days in community with these women was just what my head AND my heart (and my marriage!) needed, and today, I wanna break that down a little bit. Most of us have a small group or a BFF circle or a mentor. But I’m realizing there’s something to be said for strategic, peer-to-peer feedback on your life.

And to prove it, here’s 7 things I learned in Savannah.

Such a pretty custom map -- this is by Jessica at Simply Jessica Marie!

Such a pretty custom map — this is by Jessica at Simply Jessica Marie!

Oh, but first what IS a mastermind?

NOT a dumb question. Wes asked me when I got home, actually. They’re kinda an industry buzzword, but basically a mastermind is like a next-level small group (typically focused on your business, career, etc.). I heard King Arthur’s Round Table was like, the first mastermind. So that’s a noble notion, and I’d say it’s fairly accurate. Peer-to-peer. Focused on giving you whitespace to process and direct feedback on your questions.

Nowadays, they’re popping up like spring bunnies, and though I hate a cliche, they’ve changed my business. I’m in one that’s unpaid, and a paid group coaching program that I sorta consider a mastermind.

7 Things I Learned on #themastermindretreat

1. I’m a workaholic, and we talked about it. And it hurt (so good).

For someone whose anthem is “work from a place of rest, not hustle,” I sho’ nuff don’t do it well! In fact, I adore work. Always have. But Laura, Callie, Lindsey, and Lauren called me on my *ish. Refined my thoughts and challenged me to change my perspective on some things this year.

2. I should treat Ashlyn Writes like a client.

Being a copywriter for brands like Hilary Rushford/Dean Street Society, Jenna Kutcher, Justin & Mary Marantz, and Abby Grace Photography? Honestly, it’s tough sometimes. Words are my sword and fill my arsenal, but I give my best stuff to my clients. I realized that this year, it’s ok if I build MY list. Write MY blogs. Spend a day a week on MY business. I love my clients so much I want to be their best friends … but if I’m not careful, I won’t be serving my own tribe well.

3. Put your LIFE down on the calendar first. Then let that tell you where your work goes in.

Not the other way around.

4. When you grow professionally, you’re inviting criticism. And it’s not if, it’s when. It’s not why, but how.

And that’s ok.

5. We think the whole online education thing is gonna shift in 2017.

It’ll stay big. We’re millennials, and we’re used to learning online. But the whole “buy a course and never finish it thing because no one holds your hand through it” has GOT to go. The whole everyone-only-launches-with-a-webinar also has gotta go.

But like I said, we’re millennials. We’ll only want to keep learning online. 30% of us will be self-employed or freelance by 2020, so to me, that says the online education world is stickin’ around.

6. There ARE women out there who pray about business, and work hard to remember that any gifting we have is from the Lord.

And these strengths are to be used to build HIS Kingdom … not ours. And I also learned that’s something other women struggle to remember some days, too.

6. There’s a lack of education about copywriting.

Photographers ask for credit on every image. As a copywriter, you die to that a lil’ bit. You watch your words market for someone ELSE’s business, and if someone’s the “face” of the brand … then your words are assumed as their words. That’s ok — it’s marketing copy. It’s what I’ve always done. But at the same time, audiences don’t always know that. They think every Instagram post is written by the person in the profile picture. And every email is written by the business owner. That’s not true, and it’s ok.

7. Just because you’ve not been asked to be in a mastermind doesn’t mean you’re not valued.

I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve had tell me “I wish you could be in ours, but … we’re full on spots/we already have a copywriter/etc.” At first, it felt like high school all over again, but I learned to look at it as a professional. It’s business. Buddy, you’re ok. 🙂 My dear friend Nevica Vasquez started her own by scheduling coffee dates (which were actually her opportunity to vet girls she wanted to invite to her new idea!), and aligning a group of women pulled from various ends of the industry.

So you want to start your own little King Arthur round table? Go for it! Here are some things I’ve seen work well.

  • Meet regularly. Some groups hop on calls every other week, some quarterly. Some meet in person on a retreat once a year or so.
  • Use smart exercises. Hot-seating (love seat, as we called it!) is my favorite, where each person gets a turn to get feedback and insight on anything they want. “Unsolicited Advice” is another fun activity … where for 5-10 minutes, you talk like one member isn’t in the room (but she is). It’s so affirming to learn what others think you’re doing great — even when you’re insecure! — and areas where the world needs what you have to offer, that you’ve not thought of yet!
  • Start your time together by writing 5-7 things you want answers through (whether learning from listening to someone else’s hotseat, or your own).
  • Pull from different industries and strengths. Nevica deliberately decided there would be no cross-over in industry, so they could each serve with their expertise. Our crew had like industries (photography, calligraphy, messaging), but varied strengths.
  • If you want to make it REALLY profesh, I know of some that have a contract agreement. Ha! Great idea: if you miss two or three (or whatever) meetings in a row, the group has the right to find someone else for your spot.

Ok, I want to hear from you! Are you in a mastermind or an accountability group? What are some ways you get constructive feedback?

Freshly sharpened pencil bouquet ready, I'm here to make sure your words sell. I help women like you steward your story well, so you can work from a place of rest—not hustle.

free mentoring? yes, please

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  1. Julie Marquez says:

    Interesting and I’m glad it went so well for you ladies! I always wondered what the three day agenda of a mastermind would consist of. Amen for getting offline and meeting together!

    • Ashlyn Carter says:

      Hi, Julie! Oh my goodness — I should add in that we took one afternoon completely off to go have a photo shoot and explore downtown before an early dinner. 🙂 That makes us sound like all work and no play otherwise! 🙂 So good to hear from you!

  2. I’d love to hear more about how you think the online education space is going to change in 2017. Totally agree with you that there needs to be a shift. No more webinars/course purchase/not finishing said course.

    • Ashlyn Carter says:

      Oh my goodness, Joyce — give me a glass of wine and I could talk a day about that. Maybe I do have a post brewing in the back of my head. 🙂 I’m a BIG believer in courses … I think in comparison to college level classes, and even digital marketing courses I’d take at General Assembly to stay up on the latest when it comes to the digital space … there are so many well priced courses out there. The thing is, they put the responsibility on YOU, don’t they … and a lot of us need more accountability than that.

      I genuinely think it’s going to shift to more group coaching/ group coursework … or at least people putting more into the actual students that purchase the course. I’m so tired of the turn-and-burn courses!

  3. Hannah McCulley says:

    Rounding up some fine ladies for a little mastermind group of our own! <3 Love this.

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