Eman Zabi started a copywriting business in the upstairs bedroom of her parents’ house in Qatar. Now the founder and chief copywriter behind The Scribesmith, Eman and her team work with entrepreneurs launching courses and membership platforms.
A passionate outdoor opportunist, Eman started her career writing about her ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, which then led her to work as an outdoor copywriter. Eventually, she realised that her love of research meant that her skills were best suited to the launch space.
Since then she’s had the privilege of working with some of the biggest names in the industry. With a background in neuromarketing, international politics, and economics, Eman and her team take a strong research-driven approach to create copy that maximises ROI, or as they like to say, gets clients an air-punching bottom line. Eman now lives in Vancouver with her cat (Scribesmith’s Chief Officer of Cuddles), travelling every other month, drinking copious amounts of tea, and complaining about how it doesn’t rain enough in Vancouver.
Welcome Eman, thank you for coming on board with us, can you introduce yourself to us?
Thanks for having me! I’m the founder of The Scribesmith! We work with 6 and 7-figure businesses to create copy that maximises the ROI of their launches, or as we like to say, gets them an air-punching bottom line. Our team’s small but mighty and draws from a strong academic background in political science, economics, neuromarketing, and behavioural design! We love the nerdy stuff just as much as the fun stuff, and that’s what makes our work so effective.
Can you give us a little back story on how you are where you are today as the founder of The Scribesmith?
Absolutely! Back in 2016, I had just graduated with a degree in International Politics from Georgetown, and I was home in Qatar. While looking for a job, I started a travel blog to talk about my experience climbing Kilimanjaro and some of the other travelling that I’d done.
People started to notice my writing and wanted me to write for them, and that’s when I started to believe I might actually have a shot at making some money off this. I wasn’t even thinking about a career at that point.
Soon after, I made $23 on UpWork and was over the moon (I know!). That same night I bought my domain and built out a website on Wix, and that’s how The Scribesmith was born. Initially, it was a writing and editorial service, I didn’t even know what the word ‘copywriter’ meant!
then a friend sent me a link to the Copywriter Club podcast, and everything changed! Copywriting was everything I’d been looking for my whole life: the perfect blend of hard data and research, with fun, creativity, and personality. I joined the Copywriter Club Accelerator in June 2017, and Kira Hug, the co-founder of the Copywriter Club, noticed my work and I started sub-contracting for her.
That changed everything for me. Kira works with some of the biggest names in the industry, working under her taught me so much, and I really got to hone my craft. From there, the business grew largely by word of mouth!
Can you take us back to the very beginning of launching The Scribesmith, the set-up process and how you initially funded your business?
The Scribesmith’s 100% remote so the initial expenses were minimal. I spent less than $50 on a Wix site and domain, that I bought when they were having one of their 50% off sales. I did the logo and design myself, used Zoho’s free custom domain email, and then showed up as much as I could in free Facebook groups, adding value and offering to help wherever I could.
After that, my first major expense was investing in the Copywriter Club Accelerator. It was $1,500, I believe. By that point I had a full-time job, so I had some money to spare, but I think I ended up borrowing that money from my father. After the Accelerator, I did two rounds of the Copywriter Club mastermind, to build a network of connections and polish the way I run the business.
What is the role of a copywriter?
If anyone ever tells you a copywriter’s job is to write pretty words, just waltz outta that Zoom room. A copywriter is a strategist, and the bulk of our work is research. The key is to get inside your audience’s head, and really understand what makes them tick, and then turn that knowledge into a copy that resonates with them.
How are you teaching your own clients how to directly speak to their target client?
I tell my clients what they think doesn’t matter half as much as what their clients think. And making assumptions about what they think can make you put your foot in your mouth. So pay attention to customer feedback, listen to them talk about their struggles, and make an effort to really get to know your target audience.
Can you share with us a particular career highlight so far?
I’ve had the privilege of working on some really interesting projects. MeetUp (thanks to Kira again) was a great one, I did a really interesting project with the Prime Minister’s Office in the UAE, but I think the highlight for me has been a project I’m actually still working on. It’s a partnership with Stanford University and The Hague, I can’t say too much about it since I’m under NDA, but it’s been really interesting because I get to use a little bit of my academic background as well.
How about any hardship, difficult times or barriers faced whilst growing professionally?
Oh boy. So I haven’t been in business very long, I started dabbling in the online space in December of 2016, 2017 I had a fulltime job so I was using the time to subcontract and learn the ropes. I only really went full time in December 2017, the same time I moved to Canada.
Within a few months of that, my mum had gallbladder surgery that went horribly wrong. The surgeon had nicked her bile duct, and instead of fixing it, just sewed her back up.
It was terrifying, we took her to 5 different hospitals in 2 different countries, and had her examined by a total of 9 specialists. It was only the last team that figured out what was wrong, and then it took around 12 surgical procedures to undo the damage. All of this took about 6 months, and we really didn’t know if she would make it for a while. Just before all of this happened, I signed a contract with one of my biggest clients. I was only 23 at the time, juggling a business, being there for my family, and dealing with my own emotions at the time. It wasn’t easy.
Too much of the copy I wrote during that period was written in Emergency Rooms and hospital wards. But, things worked out, my mum made a full recovery, and that client signed an even bigger deal with me this year.
How are you working towards your own personal development?
I’m fairly young, or at least I was when I got started, I was barely 22 when I first dabbled in online business, so I was very aware that I was going up against people who had decades of experience.
So that led to a lot of Imposter Syndrome. It took a while, but I’m finally getting over it. Linda Perry’s Mindset Mastery was straight up life-changing. I had so many blocks that I needed to work through, Linda’s program was instrumental for that. Prior to The Scribesmith, I had zero business experience, so I like to take every opportunity to learn.
Apart from that, I read everything I can get my hands on, everything from the New York Times to the Economist, to fiction and keeping abreast of pop-culture on Reddit. I think it’s incredibly important for copywriters to be well-read, there’s so much inspiration to be found everywhere.
One hard lesson in life you have learned so far?
Hire before you think you need to hire, and have systems in place well before you hire. I hired Haley, our OBM, in the middle of the crisis with my mum. I was interviewing people on Skype while in the hospital because I desperately needed help. I didn’t have any systems in place at the time, and poor Haley had to come in and build everything from scratch. I’ve been very lucky with hiring. Haley and Umber (our newest writer), as well as the people we sometimes subcontract to, are all incredibly talented.
What are your preferred marketing methods for The Scribesmith?
For a marketer, I do very little to market my own business. I’ve been very fortunate, my business runs almost entirely on referrals and word-of-mouth. I like to take the time to invest in relationships with both my clients and my peers. Going to conferences, sending thank-you notes, simple things like that can go a long way. I’m hoping to step things up a little later this year with some ads.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
You’ve got to tune out what other people say. I hate to quote Taylor Swift (who am I kidding? I love quoting her), ‘haters gonna hate’.
I’m a brown, Indian, Muslim woman raised in the Middle East. I’ve had a woman who refused to work with me because I don’t support Trump, a couple of clients refuse to work with me because I’m not White, people question my ability to write because I’m Indian. For a while, I wanted to hide behind The Scribesmith name, but as of 2019, I decided to put myself front and centre. If you head to the Scribesmith homepage now, the first thing you’ll see is my big, brown face in all its glory.
What have you got planned?
We’re working on a resource for business owners who are launching their own offers! We’re opening up more spots for ‘Rent My Brain’ which is a type of copy sprint, where people can buy either half-day or full-day slots to get as much copy as we can possibly get done in the allotted time!