Chris Ducker - The Active Marketer Podcast

TAM 074: Finding Your Voice and Brand With Chris Ducker

A lot of the folks I work with and talk to have trouble finding their voice when it comes to writing emails and landing page copy. So in episode 74 I talk to Chris Ducker about how to find your voice and build a personal brand

We Chat About:

  • How the personal brand business evolved
  • The transition from the forefront brand to the personal brand
  • Why people find it hard to speak their own “craft”
  • What are the means necessary to establish a personal brand


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Barry: Welcome to the show, Mr. Chris Ducker Esquire. How are you sir?

Chris: Esquire? I love that. That's never been done. I'm very good sir, thank you for having me.

Barry: I understand you're going back to the UK soon for a bit of a visit.

Chris: I am. Just gonna eat some fish and chips, drink some proper tea, you know that kind of stuff.

Barry: Lovely. I was hoping that you sir, could share with some of the audience, some of the folks that I work with we're building up their sales funnels and their autoresponder sequences, the introduction sequences, and sales sequences, and they always seem to come unstuck when it comes to writing those emails, the content for those emails.

It becomes, “Oh I don't know what to say here.” They seem to have a lot of trouble finding their own voice. I know you're really great about creating a brand around yourself and helping people do that through your Youpreneur programme. I was hoping you could help some of the listeners find their voice and help them define who they are as a brand. I'm super interested in your journey in that area. I know you originally came on to the “internet scene” quote on quote, with Virtual Staff Finder and your book Virtual Freedom, which is great by the way.

Chris: Thank you.

Barry: So I guess my question would be, what was the impetus to go from, you had success around that in being the Virtual Staff Finder guy, what was the impetus to go from that to the brand?

Chris: Yeah, and that's a great question. I mean, very honestly, the brand was around a long time before the Virtual Freedom book. I've been blogging and podcasting since 2010 the book came out middle of 2014. I got the book deal with a traditional publisher because of the Chris brand. The way that traditional publishers, and we're not going to turn this into how to market book conversation, but the way that traditional publishers work is that they go after people that have established good sized followings.

They're not buying you or your book, they're buying all the people that are going to buy the book that are already buying you, right? I probably would not have got that traditional publishing deal, as would a lot of other authors as well, if I didn't have the following that I had based around my personal brand already. And that's why you go live and you sell 8,000 books in one week. It is what it is.

I think what's happened with my brand over time is that it's pivoted. This is one of the beautiful things about building a personal brand based business. Because when you build the business around you and what you stand for and what you're all about, as and when your passions and your wants and needs and desires change from a business perspective, your audience can make that change with you. Or they can end up, obviously, not wanting to follow you any more and that's absolutely fine as well.

But if you go to and you search the blog archives there's over 600 blog and podcast posts on there. You'll see everything from virtual assistant outsourcing delegation type content, you'll see lots of productivity stuff because I'm a bit of a productivity hacker I want to try and get the most out of my days. You'll also find a lot of information in regards to building a business based around your personal brand and your experiences and have a cash in on that experience. You'll find a lot of other thought leader type stuff. Why entrepreneurs should stop avoiding the word fear, why we should be more professional in our entrepreneurship and all this other sort of stuff.

So I think the personal brand really lends itself to you as the entrepreneur and as the voice and you can pivot and change as you want to move into the future. And you can't do that as easily, I'm not saying it's impossible, but you can't do that as easily when you're a brand based business, but with a personal brand based business, it's a lot easier to be a little flexible.

Barry: Yeah, I guess the crux of my question was, it seemed like there was a point in time while the Chris brand existed, it wasn't the forefront brand, Virtual Staff Finder was the forefront brand I think.

Chris: Yeah. And Virtual Staff Finder is still a business it's still making a lot of money every year, and it's still something I talk about, and I'm still the all out owner, I have no partners in it, et cetera, et cetera. But I think, yeah, it was a very deliberate pivot from my end. Because to be honest with you, I wrote Virtual Freedom, it's 65,000 words on delegation to virtual staff and building virtual teams, I have been interviewed over 200 times on the subject on virtual staffing and outsourcing, I have keynoted stages all around the world on that very topic since 2010, and to be honest with you, I'm kind of tired.

Barry: Fair enough. I was gonna ask you that. I'm like, “Are you just flat out sick of talking about it?”

Chris: I don't think I'm sick of talking about it, I think I'm just tired. And there's a difference between the two right? It's not like I don't enjoy the idea of helping people leverage their time by outsourcing and delegation, I do. I absolutely thrive on that because I know when you've got the right help around you, you can grow, and support, and build your business a lot faster. I'm still a big advocate of delegation and outsourcing and the rest of it, but I just honestly got tired.

There's only so much you can say about one topic. And this whole time the personal brand of me was developing and picking up speed and was getting stronger. So I started to get people coming to me saying, “Hey, how do I do that? How do I build, market and monetize my brand, my experience?” And that's the area that I've now pivoted into and I'm loving it. It's a lot of excitement, lot of passion based people to work with. Obviously with the Youpreneur community, I'm in there everyday with everyone talking up a storm and it's just been an incredible last couple of years.

Barry: That transition where came to the forefront, was there a point where it was just a mental flip of the switch where you're like, “Right, I'm going to put 90% into this and 10% into that.” When one eclipsed to the other, I know it was a deliberate strategy, but was there a mental flip like, “Right, this is what I'm doing now, bang.”

Chris: Yeah, there was. I remember I was in San Francisco, I was in a great little tea house with my buddy Corbett Bar, and Corbett at the time, we're talking 2012 right so it was a few years ago, but Corbett at the time was making quite a name for himself in the online business world as a coach for brand based bloggers. Particularly on helping bloggers find their voice, figure out who their audience was, et cetera, et cetera. I had gotten to know Corbett just as a friend through meeting up with him at conferences and mutual friends and things like that.

We were sitting there having a tea and we were talking about things and he was asking me questions about what I wanted to do in the future, how I was going to build the blog, and to be honest with you I couldn't answer the guy. I just couldn't answer him. I just didn't have the answers to the questions that he was asking. And he kind of sat back and said, “You're not happy are you? You're not happy doing what you're doing.” And I said, “No not really to be honest with you. I'm doing it because people want it from me and they eager and I like the idea of having a tribe and a community, but I'm wouldn't say I was happy doing it.” And he said, “Well I'm telling you now, if you don't turn that around you're going to burn out and it's going to be horrible.”

We actually worked together on and off for a couple months and he really really helped me clarify where I wanted to take my personal brand moving forward. So I owe a lot, a lot for the overall success of my personal brand to Corbett because it was that afternoon and a few Skype calls after that that really helped me get my crap together when it came to that side of things.

Barry: And that process of solidifying your personal brand so to speak, what did that feel like? Was it a struggle like, “Wow this is harder than I thought it was going to be”? Or was it just kind of, a natural extension to what you'd been doing already?

Chris: I think it was a natural extension. When I first got active online I was blogging and podcasting and video blogging as well over at Under that brand and that name across the board. When people talked about my blog or my podcast, they wouldn't call it Virtual Business Lifestyle. They would just call it Chris's blog or Chris's podcast. So the brand was already developing slowly anyway. Once I made that mental shift it was a relatively easy move to make. Except for the web design side of things. That was where I really struggled actually at first to kind of find my visual brand. What colours? What was the logo going to look like? What fonts was I going to use? Et cetera, et cetera. But we put together a great first website and it served me really really well for what, three years almost. We updated a couple of years ago.

Barry: Yeah I remember that. I remember when that came out and it's not dramatically different now, but it certainly was unique, it stood out. It was like, “Yep, that's Chris.”

Chris: Yeah. Dude, my designer had a tonne of people going to him saying, “I want a site like Chris's.” So I know I did something the first time around. And we still get that know with the current website even though I kind of feel like the current site does need a little bit of a renovation it's a little dated now compared to some of the other personal brand sites out there. But hey, we do one thing at a time right?

Barry: So that transition, what did you find the most difficult in that? Was it defining the look and feel that was going to be Chris? Or was it more esoteric than that?

Chris: No the one thing that I promised myself when I made that decision to go all out in the personal brand business side of things, I said to myself, “I'm going to be me all the time.” That was the most important thing. No smoke and mirrors, no hiding behind curtains, and I think by doing that and by making that clear decision, it allowed me to really, I don't want to use management speak that blue sky approach to “Think outside the box” and all that kind of stuff, but it allowed me to really just do me. You know what I mean? Just be me. And I think people want to business with other people now a days. They don't want to do business with brands or smokes and mirrors and curtains, they're not interested in that. I think people appreciated it.

I get messages all the time from people saying they appreciate the transparency and that I share a little bit of my personal life on live video, they can see a little bit behind the scenes so to speak. Quite regularly I'll pop open Periscope and people will just sit and watch me work and ask questions and I'll just for 20 minutes here and there. People appreciate it! It sounds a little cooky, but people appreciate that stuff. They want to see the real you now a days. That's part of the personal part of personal brand you know?

Barry: I'm watching you Chris.

Chris: Yeah exactly! It's very Steven King when it wants to be.

Barry: I lost my train of thought there.

Chris: It was a ad lib, Barry.

Barry: Oh thank you, thank you so much. I think maybe it's just the circles that we both travel in, but I think online especially has become, there's a niche for everything, and it's kind of almost become the personality economy right?

Chris: Right.

Barry: I can buy product A anywhere from anyone these days so why should I buy it from you because I resonate with you or I like what you're doing or whatever. I think if you're missing that component to a reasonably sized online business, you're missing out. I was consulting with this really great company in Australia and they send out organic fruit and veg boxes to people and they're like, “How can we get more.” And I'm like, “Well you need someone to lead the tribe.

There's a tonne of people who love what you're doing, but you haven't given them a flag to rally around. You haven't given them a person to lead that tribe. You need someone in the company to step up and be that personality, that brand, so that people can identify it's more than just a box that shows up it's a whole socio-economic system that you guys are putting money back into the local community, you're doing organic farming. Yeah, so I think that personality plays a huge, huge part in it.

You see so many people in the Youpreneur community that you've got starting out on this, and I see a lot of people, as I said at the beginning, trying to craft their copy, so to speak, who find it so difficult to speak in their own voice. Why do you think that is?

Chris: Well I think what happens is when people are starting out they do what they should do and that is they hop on other people's mailing lists to see what they're up to, to see how they're doing things, to see how they're launching, and engaging, and all the rest of it. And then what happens is they just end up copying them. Which is, you know it's fine to emulate, it's fine to get inspiration and ideas, but all out copying is not going to get you anywhere any time soon.

I think the most important thing is when you get started writing email copy, website copy, landing page copy, sales page copy, anything above and beyond content right? There's a difference between content and copy right? So content is blog posts, it's podcasts, transcriptions, it's all that sort of stuff. When you talk about sales copy, and I'm no expert here, I still hire copywriters myself from time to time.

Barry: Oh for sure.

Chris: When you this is not your strength you should not try and do it. But, you can't hire a copywriter for every single piece of copy that you need written. Unless you're very, very well off and you don't mind investing in it, which is fine if that's the case then go for it, I know I would. I know I would. If I could afford to invest $50,000 every quarter in copywriting I would absolutely do it. Now obviously, can I afford it? Yes. Do I want to put 50 grand a quarter there? No. There's other things I could be doing with the money is I guess what I'm saying.

I think what's important is that you just talk like a human being. This is the big thing is that people try to get too sales-y. Just talk, tell stories, tell stories, be honest. Part of the launch funnel for the Youpreneur academy that we are bang smack in the middle of, the second email that got sent out was me just telling the story. It's a long form email, it's a good probably, 6-700 words it's quite long for an email. But it's just telling the story of how I made a mistake when I first launched Youpreneur and how the terminology meant that the first launch of the community was not as successful as I wanted it to be, and how we've made changes not only to the terminology that we use but also to what is actually happening behind the door so that we can help the most people and affect the most change with our members. People have eaten that email up. They've eaten it up.

Some people are sneaky, they might get on your list with more than one email address, so even though we'll eliminate current members from our marketing, there's no need for them to get them if they're already in, right? We've actually had emails, just literally in the last 24 hours, from current members who have already paid and they continue to pay on a regular basis for access, I've actually had emails from people over the last 24 hours saying, “That was some serious copy. Like I would totally buy if I wasn't already a member.” So you know you're doing something right when your members who are already paying say, “Hey can I pay again?” You know what I mean?

I think that's what it is. Just tell stories. Be yourself and try not to over think it. I think that's the big thing, people try and over think these things too much. And by the way, you'll never get it right. Not even a copywriter will get it perfect but it's just a matter of learning it with every launch, with every open rate, with every click through rate that you can see you know?

Barry: Yeah. A couple things back there that I want to loop back too. One even if you could afford or chose to use a copywriter for every single piece of copy, you're going to have to train him or her to speak in your voice anyway. You know what I mean? So it's all congruent with the rest of your brand. If you don't know what your voice is to start with it's going to be very, very difficult process.

Chris: Yes, indeed. That all comes back to defining who you are. What do you want to be known for? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? That self awareness is very important in that process of defining who you are. What problems can you solve? Who do you want to solve them for? That's the first week as part of the Youpreneur academy, that is right front and centre, defining who you are, and it's probably the most important week of that 12 week programme no doubt about it.

Barry: Nice. And the other thing from that is, like you said, being open and honest and sharing your quote on quote “mistakes” or “set backs” or whatever you want to call it with everybody as well. I think that makes you even more relatable. It's like, “Oh the great Chris, he can do that, he knows what he's doing he doesn't make any mistakes.” It's like, “Oh wait, he makes mistakes, I make mistakes.”

Chris: Dude I make mistakes everyday almost. If you're not falling forward then you're not moving forward. That's the way I look at it. I'm more than happy to make mistakes. I'm like anybody else I get pissed off if it costs me money, but let me tell you something. Never make those mistakes twice. Never, never. So there you go.

Barry: For sure. All right, so we talked about why it's important to put a stake in the ground and identify who you are as a brand, so on a high level, what are the first steps involved in that process?

Chris: Sorry, just repeat that? You cut out just a little there.

Barry: Sorry, so we talked about the importance of putting a stake in the ground saying this is me, this is what I stand for, and creating a brand around you and what you do. What are the first steps in making that from an idea into a reality?

Chris: Yeah, great question. What it really comes down to, like I said, is focusing in on what you believe you are the best at, right? It's okay to get a little selfish here. It's okay to get a little egotistical here because without you figuring out who you are, you're not going to be able to continue to build out the strategy of your personal brand business moving forward. It's all about crafting, first and foremost, your story. What's your backstory? People want to know who you are, what you're all about, and what you've been through.

What will happen is at the same exact time you will attract the people that understand you and what you're all about and get your vibe, but at the very same time, just like a magnet, I call this marked in like a magnet, at the very same time you will repel the wrong people away, the people that you don't need in your customer book. The people who will ask for refunds on day 29 of your 30 day refund period. The people that will bitch and moan over a $99 product after sucking your brain and your energy for the last 30 days. You don't need those people in there.

So you create your story, you create your story you create that attractive character story that people want to attach themselves to to begin with. And what will happen is, by doing that, you'll understand what you need to do to be able to build rapport and gain trust, which are the two most important parts of the sales process, to be able to not only remain original in a very crowded space, no matter what industry you're in it's crowded, but more importantly than remaining original, it will also be to gain that clarity for yourself and the people that you end up serving in terms of what you are actually all about. So that's the first thing, to develop your story, develop your backstory, develop that attractive character that you need to be able to build rapport and gain trust.

And then, the next thing is to really get into that self awareness vibe. So you make a couple of lists. What I did when I went through this many years ago, I got a piece of paper and I just drew a line down the middle of it, and on one side of the line I put all the things that I knew I was really good at, and then on the other side I put all the things that I knew I struggled with. It's funny, because in that first column it filled up really quickly, but that struggle column, it filled up very slowly. That's a mental block right there because we don't want to admit that we're not good at certain things. Us entrepreneurs we're wired differently to normal human beings right? So we believe we're brilliant at everything. But once you understand what you're not good, once you understand what you do struggle with, it allows you to then focus on the things that you know you're really good at. Like, flatter yourself. Flatter yourself. Think of all the things that you know you're really, really good at. So that's the second thing I would do. Make those two lists, the flatter list and the struggle list.

And then third and finally, in regards to the beginning of this process is, and this is a little morbid but stick with me here, sit down, and this is a huge exercise that I've done with thousands of people now, but it's a game changer. You have to sit down and you write an obituary for your business. Okay? You've achieved everything that you've wanted to achieve, how do you want people to remember your business? That little exercise right there, again, a little morbid, but it's so good. It really helps you to see where you want to be long term as well. Sometimes you gotta do that and then reverse engineer it back you know?

Barry: Yeah for sure, that's a powerful exercise. I did a similar thing at a workshop once and we actually sat in a cemetery and wrote an obituary and a goodbye letter.

Chris: That's taking it to a whole new level that one. Field trip everybody!

Barry: Yeah it was pretty weird. We wrote goodbye letters to all the important people in our lives and it was like, “Wow, there's a lot of undone shit I need to work on with these people.” So it was an amazing exercise if you have the guts to do it for sure. All right, so we might wrap up with a little common errors. You've helped tonnes of people along this journey, what do you see as common mistakes or common stumbling blocks that people seem to fall over again and again?

Chris: Yeah, that's a really good question, man. For me, one of the biggest things that I see people trying to do is trying to be too much to too many people. We all know the power of niching down and understanding that it's better to serve a smaller group of people in a more direct manner than it is to try and serve a broader, larger group of people in a very broad manner. And it's still the number one mistake that people make. Don't be a social media expert. Be the Facebook ads guy for dentists. You understand what I mean? Your entire marketing angle can be so much more powerful when you know exactly who you're talking to and exactly what you're talking about.

Don't be the guy that teaches you how to become a better basketball player. Be the guy who's going to teach people how to become a better forward or a better centre or a better point guard. Yes, you're instantly eliminating four positions on that court, but by doing so, you can really fine tune your message to those point guards or to those centres. For me, it really does come to niching down. You've got to niche down it's a big mistake people make more than anything else.

Barry: Yeah, you can always expand out from there. And-

Chris: Well that's the beautiful thing about pivoting. You're in control right?

Barry: And, it makes your instantly referable as quote on quote “that guy” or “that girl” It's like, “Oh you need this? You need to talk to Chris.”

Chris: Yeah. That's right. And I found that with Virtual Staff and with outsourcing for many, many years. I still get it now, but there are more people on the scene now then what there was four or five years ago when I was focusing in on that properly. But I became the VA and outsourcing guy. And now, slowly but surely, slowly but surely, after really two and a half solid years of focusing on my personal brand, I now starting to see that, oh you need to go to Youpreneur or you need to go to Chris. Forbes just did a piece of me in terms of personal brand business as well. When you see big name press houses like Forbes picking you up and what you're all about, you know what you're doing is starting to work. It's not something that can happen over night, and that's where patience and that long game mindset in business comes into play. But I think as long as you've got your head screwed on right that you've truly done that first exercise and defined who you are and who you want to serve, I think it's what it's all about.

Barry: Awesome. We've been mentioning here and there, but for the listeners who aren't familiar, do you want to tell us a little bit about Youpreneur and personal question, why the relaunch?

Chris: Youpreneur came about as a direct result of putting on smaller mastermind events of travelling around the world speaking. I've been very blessed to be invited to speak in keynote at some very, very large events. US, Australia, UK, Europe, all over Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and what not, and I saw two things happening over and over again. It's actually quite obvious but a lot of people I don't think give it the eye balls and the head space time to figure it out. First and foremost, entrepreneurs are lonely. They are. We're lonely.

Barry: For sure.

Chris: It's a very, very lonely battle being an entrepreneur and building you're own business, particularly an online business where a majority of people working from home don't get out much and all the rest of it. So that's the fist thing, the fact that it's a lonely journey. The second thing that I discovered from doing these smaller masterminds, and this was the big one, was that nobody has a monopoly on good ideas. Nobody. When I used to do these mastermind sessions, 10, 12 people, in the room, all day long, by the time we were done, it was an absolute guarantee that someone, in fact everyone at that table, was going to have a huge value bomb dropped on them by somebody else at that table by the end of the day. Whether they knew them before that day began or not. That's just the power of getting together with like minded people who get it. Who get it.

I wanted to develop a community that could give that support, and give that accountability and have that get it mentality, but also one focused on serving people that I, based on the fact that I've now truly got to the point of deciding who I am and figuring out that definition of who I am and those that I want to serve, I wanted to create that community that was going to serve people that were building brands and businesses around their personal brands. So guys like coaches, authors, speakers, bloggers, podcasters, experts, consultants, that kind of thing.

We launched in 2015, we're now relaunching with a new angle. So it's no longer just a community angle it's more of a training programme with a community angle because the feedback was that a lot of people liked the idea of being part of a community but they also needed the hand holding and that step by step approach to get started with things. So there's the relaunch strategy behind what you now see at but it's been an interesting journey, Barry. It's not something that I would have thought that I'd be doing five years from now, but now that it's been up and running for a couple of years I'm very, very happy with the way it's come together and obviously I'm pumped for the future of it. I think it's gonna continue to grow and it's true, or rather it's very clear to see that we're serving people in the right way, and more importantly, the right people. That's I think what has made the big change to the growth of it above and beyond everything else.

Barry: Awesome. If you are interested folks, if you're interested in getting your brand to go you can head over to You'll find all the information there. Where else would you find it right? But

Chris: It's got to pretty much be a personal brand, that domain name.

Barry: Well sir, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today and your expertise and your knowledge in your journey. Do appreciate it and I know all the listeners appreciate it as well, and all the safe travels on your trip to the UK.

Chris: Thank you my man, and I appreciate it and thanks for having me on it was a lot of fun. Good chat.

Barry: All right. See you online.

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