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In this episode, Dusti talks with Jennifer Louden, a writing coach and bestselling author, most recently of “Why Bother?” Jennifer has evolved from a self-care advocate to a trusted mentor for writers, focusing on helping individuals build their platforms and start (and finish!) their nonfiction books. They discuss Jennifer’s journey and her approach to fostering creativity and authentic storytelling among writers.

Jennifer shares insights on overcoming creative blocks and the significance of writing as a tool for personal growth. Her commitment to guiding others in their writing endeavors, paired with her expertise in platform, make her an incredible resource – and very easy to refer to as a result.

Tune in to Referral Worthy for an inspiring conversation with Jennifer Louden about the power of writing, the process of creative exploration, and how to build your writing platform.

Referral Worthy is hosted by Dusti Arab, Fractional CMO and marketing strategist. She's the founder of the reinvention co, a marketing consultancy for personality-driven companies with big online presences and small teams. Learn more at

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Referral Worthy intro, outro and transition music is named We are invincible by Tim Hirst and was found on Epidemic Sounds.

“One secret is you’re always marketing. You never stop marketing. And that is so hard for people psychologically.”

– Jennifer Louden, on being an entrepreneur

Dusti Arab: Hello, welcome back to Referral Worthy. I am here today with the incredible Jennifer Louden. I’m so excited she’s here. Jen has been my writing coach before for a nonfiction book, I almost said nonprofit, nonfiction that I was working on—nonprofit nonprofits. No, no, this is not a space where we focus on nonprofits. But Jen has written multiple bestselling books over the years. Her most recent was “Why Bother?” It was incredible, and had so many amazing pieces in it. I cannot recommend it enough. “Why Bother?” Here it is. It’s beautiful. Jen, thank you again for coming on. It’s always such a joy to talk to you, and it’s an honor to tap into some of your wisdom and expertise that you’ve gleaned over the years. 

Jennifer Louden: Thank you so much, Dusti. It’s an honor to talk to you. You’re smart and ethical, and I’ve learned so much from you over the years. Fewer years for you than me, just to be clear.

Dusti: My gosh. Okay, so I would love to hear about your career and how you got started. I mean, both like I know there’s the author side of things, but I’d also love to hear about, like, as a writing coach, and what that’s been like for you running a small business where you’re a service provider.

Jennifer: So my career started by chance, really. In 1992, I published my first self-help book, which became a word-of-mouth bestseller. It’s still my best seller. It’s still in print. It’s not a bestseller anymore. I get these cute little royalty checks, like $120, but it made me hundreds of thousands, if not more, probably millions of dollars really over time. In those days in the ’90s, I thought of myself as a writer, and a writer is like an actor or you’re waiting to be picked. You’re trying to get chosen. Now, for those of you who are coming up in this media environment, think big media, think no internet, right? So it was a really different world. And because of the success of that book, I got a lot of speaking engagements. I taught myself to teach workshops and retreats. So that was probably my life up to 2000, maybe around 2000. That’s when I started to think of myself more as an entrepreneur. And I launched in a really big, way expensive, ridiculous amount of money I put into a content website. I was going to build it out and sell it. It was the dot com days. Timing was really bad, but we kept working, and we did well. I mean, we eventually made our investment back just from selling products. I did licensed products anyway. I had a lot of entrepreneurial, I was raised in a very entrepreneurial family. So I was very entrepreneurial as a writer for many years, but I still was waiting to be chosen. And I remember the moment that I truly stepped into being a business owner. I was at one of my own writing retreats, and my friend Marianne Elliott used to come from New Zealand and be my yoga teacher. And we were walking across the parking lot at the retreat center, and I said, “I want to choose me. I want to stop waiting to be chosen.” And that was really a pivotal moment for me to really stop waiting to get on Oprah again, stop waiting to get chosen for speaking engagements. It was so important that I think of myself as building a business where I knew I could guarantee the income that I needed. And it took a while, but I did it. A lot of that was still around personal growth stuff, still teaching courses and leading retreats around my books. But meanwhile, about 20 to 23 years ago, another author reached out to me and said, “We should do a writing retreat together,” and I didn’t even know the woman from Adam. I won’t mention her name; she’s not a great person. But we led a few writing retreats together, and they were so popular that when I realized she wasn’t a great person and we separated ways, I kept doing them. And then those people came back year after year, and they started to be like, “Well, can you help me with my book?” And I’m like, “Really?” So this became like this little side business. And then I realized maybe seven years ago, wow, I really want to do more of that. I love it. I love freeing women’s voices. I love helping people realize that this is a puzzle that you can figure out if you’re willing to do it. And so that slowly became my writing coaching business. And now I don’t write self-help books anymore. I’m working on a novel, and I made more money last year as a writing coach than I think I made except in my heydays when the books were really pumping out royalties. I was getting $300,000 a year in royalties.

Dusti: That is wild to me, like even thinking about royalty checks with the way publishing has changed.

Jennifer: I know, and I had to pivot because I saw that publishing was changing. So I think a really important part of my career that I could have been way smarter about, but I was smart enough to keep myself together, is I did keep looking at what was changing. I did listen when my publisher in 1999 said, “You need to grow an email list,” and I started growing an email list then.

Dusti: Very, very smart. I wish that I had been growing an email list in 1999 as well.

Jennifer: Here’s the mistake I made: when email providers came out, I didn’t move to an email provider. We ended up losing half our list when we finally moved. So for everything I did right, I did something really stupid. 

Dusti: But that’s totally how it goes, right? You don’t know until you know. And there’s so many great nuggets there, but to have seen an industry change that much and still be able to show up and be a leader in that space, because even if you don’t write for self-help anymore, like you said it really well. I feel like being able to, like, you do help women free their voices. I think fundamentally so much of your work is around that, including with the people who you work with who tend to have a self-help bent, not all the time, but…

Jennifer: Yeah, business, prescriptive nonfiction, self-help, personal growth. Those are the books that I work best at. I’ve done some memoir, but I don’t really do memoir anymore. It’s such a hard genre.

Dusti: Right, right. Which, yeah, absolutely makes sense. So if, I mean, I feel like you touched on it a little bit here, but if you could go back to like, Baby, I’m becoming an entrepreneur, Jen, is there any advice that you would give her?

Jennifer: I think knowing that you’re not—you really do have to keep choosing yourself. You have to really look at that. And it’s not just a mindset, it’s important, but it’s also deeply like, how am I showing up in a regular way to market my services or my products or whatever I’m doing? I run with a dear friend, and she got laid off out of the blue from a very high-powered, expensive, well-paid job. And she’s thinking about consulting for these last few years of her work life and I said there’s one there’s a few secrets and one secret is you’re always marketing. You never stop marketing. And that is so hard for people psychologically. So I break down my marketing actions on my to do list. I make them specific every day if they’re general. I don’t know what to do. So you also have to have time to think about your marketing, but you can’t stop when the bank account is full. That’s the thing that I see a lot. And I also see people just like they’re so into the creation of the work. Like if you’re doing products or courses that they’re not there, they go into their cave and they’re not, like I’m sorry, no, no, no, no. We’re gonna be talking about them, building the excitement way more than you think. So that’s one. I think another thing is, you have to be willing to be your best PR person and this is really hard for me and I failed at it. But for example with this friend of mine, one of her, someone who used to work with her in another firm said, You’re the OG of change management. I’m like, that’s gotta go on your LinkedIn bio. That’d be something you bring up all the time in conversations with prospective clients. Oh, this is so cute. But you know, “so and so told me that I’m the OG of change management and that’s because…” and then you sell them on why it’s because. So it’s those things that I think we miss out on, right, we miss out on the system job, oh, and the other thing I would have told me is stop reinventing the wheel. That cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars. And then my first VA would be like, no, no, you have to offer this again. And I’d be like, Oh, I’m on to the next thing because I’m creative. And when I learned to offer the same writing retreats year after year doesn’t mean I don’t tweak them because people come, I have to have new prompts and new stories, but I’ll spend a day tweaking that retreat, tweaking the handouts, not three weeks. I’ll spend an hour or two tweaking the sales page every year, right so you’ve got to stop reinventing the wheel.

Dusti: Oh man, that’s one I would like to go back and tell baby Dusti

Jennifer: Oh my god, I would have made so much more money. And it’s hard. It’s hard because we’re creative and we want to keep doing so find a hobby for ____ sake.

Dusti: Oh my god. Alright. Well, that’s the audiogram for this episode. 

Jennifer: I wasn’t sure if I could curse. 

Dusti: Oh, you absolutely can. 

Jennifer: I fucking edited myself. 

Dusti: Yep, yep, we are a safe space for that. Okay, so you’ve been doing this a long time. But I’m curious. Where do most of your clients come from right now? 

Jennifer: You know, it’s interesting. They seem to come from people who have followed me on that newsletter that I’ve been writing every week. They seem to mostly come from there, but I did have a very high profile client come, I think, from Instagram. And then she said to me when she came to me, she said, “I love your stuff. I love your content.” I’m like, Okay, well, that has to be Instagram, because she’s on all the platforms. And then later she said to me, “I don’t know where I found you.” So sometimes they’ll comment, they’ll say, “Yeah, I read Why Bother? or I read The Life Organizer or Consequence Guide to Life.” And then other times, yeah, a lot of times I’m not sure. So there’s a hole in my referral bucket. 

Dusti: I mean, that’s fine. Like you at least have an idea of where people are coming from. 

Jennifer: Yeah. I have gotten people from the – I have a freebie about five ways how to start your nonfiction book. I think I wrote it in an hour. And that has gotten me clients. So I do know that that’s been, and it has a good simple nurture sequence. 

Dusti: That’s fabulous. Well, and it’s such a great subject line to like, I mean, it’s just the concept I feel like is so well targeted, like the messaging on it for who you work with is just flawless. Like it’s definitely one of the best lead magnet names that I think I’ve ever seen, to be honest. 

Jennifer: Thank you. Here’s the thing about going back to little Jen. She would not have lead magnets that went with her offers. It’s a mistake I’ve seen so many people make. I’m like no, your lead offer has to be simple. I have a lead out there. You can go find it. Y’all just go to my website. It’s under the freebies. It’s like 50 pages. It’s fantastic. That is not a good lead magnet, right? It’s got to leave people hungry. It’s clearly tied to your offer and it’s got to leave them hungry, but there, it’s not one of those ones. I download people’s all the time and like that was such a waste of my time. I even gave you my email. So I’m not saying do that. 

Dusti: Yeah, there’s a balance there. But I do see a lot on either side. It’s either, like, the one pager that you put together is like fucking useless. Or you’re trying to give so much and like and it’s always women who do this too like, which does not surprise me at all, but where it’s really long or they’re trying to give basically a mini book away. Like on the topic and, there’s just, I mean, there are lots of reasons it doesn’t work, but I mean, it’s so hard to see it because usually the piece of content is really fucking good. 

Jennifer: I’ve been coaching and I have a client who I’m coaching her on or I coach all my clients on their platform and their book. And so part of that has been her lead magnet. And of course, that she wants to teach and I don’t know how many times I’ve gone back towards that. Nope, still too much. Nope, still too much. Nope, nope, nope, nope. Nope. Does this part just do this little part? Right? I turned around and coached my book coach. She’s launching a course I coached her toward the end of our session on her free webinar that she is going to do. I’m like no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, you’re not there. No one’s gonna sign up for this after your course after this. You’re telling them the entire course. 

Dusti: So that’s incredible. That’s incredible. But I mean, it’s so like even the way that courses are put together it’s changing so much like these Gen Zers are coming out here and instead of like 20 minute modules even they’re like two minutes or less and it’s like that small that actionable like if it’s not a TikTok size little which which is such an interesting approach because like on the one hand, like I mean, are you getting depth there? Mmm,yeah, we’ll see. Like maybe if you get enough two minute videos, but the idea of what you were talking about, like if I’m breaking my marketing plan down into these little like two minute actions like that, that could actually work. 

Jennifer: You know, what helps you, like today, a day like today I had a lot of appointments. I wanted to get a workout in. I wanted to get some work done on the novel, but I never want to have a day go by that I don’t touch my marketing. So what my marketing is doing right now, this year is the year that I pivot from nonfiction Jen to fiction Jen, not as a service provider, but as someone that I want you to buy my novel when it comes out. And so I’m sorry. And so I’m having to do new things like find new authors to follow and start showing up and commenting and recommending their work. I have to ask you this ‘cause I have an idea. I want you to tell me if it’s stupid. All right. 

Dusti: Yes. 

Jennifer: Okay. So what do you think about the outfit of the day and the book of the day as an Instagram video where I put on a cute outfit and then I show a book? I’m reading or a book that’s coming out? 

Dusti: Oh, yeah. Especially if you can make it match. Oh my god. You’ve seen the pie lady, right? 

Jennifer: Yeah, I don’t know if I can make it match. I don’t have that many clothes, but I could try. 

Dusti: I mean, honestly, that would be I would totally play with that. So for you, I would love both perspectives on this. On the one hand, how can writing make a small business a referral magnet as someone who’s a writing coach?

Jennifer: Well, everything we said – make it so much smaller than you think. Leave them with something just like those two minute videos you were describing. Right? Hopefully, if that course has been created correctly, you get that two minutes and you’re like, “Okay, now I’m gonna go do this thing. Now understand this thing.” There’s a concept that I learned from AJ Harper, who’s a great editor, and she works a lot of business books. And she taught me this concept of small wins. And that in the first few chapters of the book, I coach my writers on “How can we build in really simple things that people can do that, give them an AHA, give them some hope? Yes, I can do this.” So you want to think about that for your lead magnet. How can you give them a little like, oh, like that’s how I’ve gotten clients for my lead magnet. They go, “Oh, I get it. But I can’t do this on my own.” That’s what you want. “I get it. I can do something. But now I feel the need, I feel the lack that I need your services for your product for.”

Dusti: I love that. I love that. Okay, and last but not least, what makes a business referral worthy to you? 

Jennifer: Well, first of all, it’s ethics. So I need to, I have been burned over my long career of thinking someone’s fun or I meet them and I’m like, “Oh, you seem really neat or your contents really smart.” And then I find out that you’re sleazy, or you’re I mean, I’ve had some really bad experiences. So I’m really careful about referrals. Now I want to make sure that you’re ethical. And then do you actually do what you say you will do? I find it unbelievably horrifying of people who you hire and they don’t deliver their services. So if I get any whiff of that, no, I’m never gonna refer you. How is your content? Is your content, is it hype? I’m not gonna recommend you if you’re full of hype. And then are you somebody that I feel like is going to be caring with the people that I recommend? I have a lot of sensitive delicate flowers that I work with. And I think that there’s a lot of us in the world, right? And the world is scary. And so I’m not going to recommend somebody, even if I think you’re great, if I think you’re like, “Buck up,” right? It’s not going to be a good fit for most of my people, right? I could learn from you. I could maybe recommend a product of yours. I’m not going to recommend you, the service provider.

Dusti: Oh, that’s yeah, having the vibe match there for your client and their clients.

Jennifer: Perfect way of saying it, much shorter way of saying it. Yes, there’s got to be a vibe match. You’ve got to be ethical. You’ve got to do what you say you will do. There’s got to be a vibe match. And please don’t be hyping.

Dusti: Amen. I cannot with the hype. Cannot. Okay, perfect. Well, Jen, this was amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about this. Where can my listeners find you if they want to learn more about book coaching or potentially going on a retreat with you?

Jennifer: Yeah, everything is always at Like LOUDen and you can get the freebie there. You can get off my list in one click. We’re not weird. We don’t do anything weird. That’s the other thing. I would never recommend someone who makes it hard to get off your list or starts emailing you again. That is so unethical and gross.

Dusti: Literally nothing pisses me off more than when I can’t find that unsubscribe button. 

Jennifer: Or when you unsubscribe and six months later they start emailing you and then I will put you in spam. I will put you in spam. Anyway, so you can get that freebie and you can look at it as an example of like, why does it work? Do you think it works? Feel free to email me and tell me your thoughts on it.

Dusti: Oh, incredible. Like what an amazing offer also. Great. Well, thank you again so much, Jen and all of those links will be down in the show notes thanks for listening 

Jennifer: Thank you, Dusti. Thanks, everybody.

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