Welcome to the first-ever edition of the BTL Diaries, a blog series I quite literally thought of as I was deciding what to title this post. In order for you to understand the significance of this series, we’re going to need to time-travel back to 2016.
Before we do, though, it’s important to note that the BTL Diaries have nothing to do with content marketing. These are not educational posts about how to get Google to like you, or what to write on your About page, or the 6 things you need to know before launching your first online course.
They’re not SEO-optimized, strategic, or intentionally helpful. They won’t have a structure or an upload schedule. They’ll likely lack calls to action, proper word count, and maybe even a clear point.
(But they’ll never be without an Oxford comma, because that’s practically a crime against humanity.)
The BTL Diaries will be exactly that—diary entries. You’ll understand why I’m creating them in just a moment… if you choose to keep reading, of course.
Now, to 2016. I’ll set the scene for you:
(Or, at least, not enough tasks I could force myself to actually care about, given that no one ever checked on me or actually desperately needed me to make copies of all the Trusts and Wills in boxes by my desk.)
I’d been working at Last Names—law firms don’t have brand names, they have last names: Fletcher, Murtha, and Mirick, in my experience (with a bunch of less relevant last names listed after the primary, to be perpetually ignored but somehow still on all the stationery)—for two years at this point, and had no intention of ever stopping, because Sophomore Year Sara was dying to be an attorney.
She’d been planning that career path since high school, and her college experience was specifically designed to produce the best possible law school application and LSAT scores—which, naturally, had to include several years working at a law firm.
On the particular day in June of 2016, though, Future Attorney Sara started to question some things. Namely: why do people even want to be lawyers? Is this really the only way to make a lot of money? I want stability and noteriaty, but… do I really want this?
(I wouldn’t figure out until about a year later that, no, I didn’t want that at all. But that’s a life-changing story for another day.)
The event leading to the beginning of my existential career crisis was a stack of timesheets dropped on my desk. One of the attorneys I was supporting as a secretary at the time was a fierce Trusts and Estates lawyer, who doubled as a mother of three.
She had billed thirteen hours on a Sunday.
I’m guessing you’ve likely never worked as a Legal Executive Assistant, so I’ll tell you why that’s so gross.
Every attorney has a certain amount of hours they’re required to log and ‘bill’ to the client. Each type of task is given a numeric code, as is each client, for us to track. It’s basically like creating an itemized receipt for the work, on the off chance anyone ever asked for it. The main purpose, though, is to make the firm money, and the Partners need to know how much work everyone is contributing to the firm’s bottom line.
Billable hours are not synonymous with actual hours worked. It’s only a ‘billable’ hour if it’s something you can ethically charge the client for… so that often excludes certain research, admin, etc.
So, when she billed 13 hours that day, that probably meant that she actually worked, like, 16 or more. I did a double-take looking at her timesheet, and promptly started questioning my entire life.
And what do you do when you start questioning your entire life? You avoid all existing responsibility and start a new project without a second thought, obviously. (Or, at least, that’s what I did and still do. Or I get tattoos on a whim. Both fun choices. New projects and new tattoos are both in the double digits now, in case you were wondering.)
The project? Journey of Sara Joelle.
A blog about… nothing, really. My life. My thoughts. My travels, sometimes. It was kinda lame, kinda not. People genuinely loved reading my opinions—I wrote about what inspired me, and what bothered me (women saying “sorry” when they shouldn’t have to, friends not understanding the importance of loving themselves first). And I loved it.
But I didn’t know what I was doing.
I had a WordPress website, and not much of a plan beyond that. I didn’t have a clear niche; it wasn’t like I could jump into the world of fashion blogging (huge at the time) or food blogging (has always been huge) or…was there even another popular niche? Either way, I didn’t know anything about a target audience, or organic marketing, or how to get my name out there (and, in turn, get people to read this blog).
So, me being the all-0r-nothing Capricorn that I am, I stopped, before failure could truly catch me in its ugly grasp. RIP to JOSJ. She is dearly missed—mostly because I know that if I had stuck with it I’d be living my wildest influencer dreams right now, and I’m mad at Perfectionist Me for not caring more 5+ years ago.
There’s another important event that happened in 2016 leading us to where we are now (to be clear: we’re one-third of the way through the inaugural BTL Diary Entry. I’m sorry that this shit is so long.)
I was elected Vice President Panhellenic for Delta Gamma Fraternity.
If that sounds fancy to you, check yourself. All it meant was that I sat in a crusty basement one night a week, telling a group of 60 girls which of them had to go to the latest half-assed philanthropy event my university’s small Greek life presence was holding that week.
(Not actually. I’m still friends with the majority of them, and people often comment on how the hell I’m able to keep tabs on so many friends at once. The answer? Extroversion and an experience as an Only Child with a need for friends to avoid severe boredom.)
They’d complain about having to go, and I’d ruthlessly ignore their complaints in the name of remaining a sorority in good standing on campus. And then I’d tell them to get a diary.
The girls loved this phrase. They thought it was hilarious, and they waited for me to say it at every chapter meeting. This is an early example of me realizing how beneficial being aggressively myself could be—I said my honest thoughts out loud, and they listened, and laughed.
It escalated so far that I actually got them all mini ‘diaries’ to write their complaints in, passing them out like candy. “Get a diary” became my first official tagline, and I wasn’t mad about it.
As a writer (and as a person), I’m a huge proponent of diaries. I’ve graduated to calling them journals now, but I still love them just as much as I did when they came in the form of pink fuzzy notebooks with locks. There’s nothing more therapeutic and empowering than letting your most honest thoughts flow freely.
Now, let’s talk about why these diary entries are BTL and not Sara. There are a few reasons.
The first is that BTL and Sara are the same person. This business and I have the same brand voice—not something I typically advise, by the way, but my community seems to love it. Being so aggressively and authentically myself in this professional space is what has allowed me to grow in the way that I have.
Plus, it’s quite literally the only way I know how to operate.
The second reason why I’ve chosen (for now!) to create a space on my business’s website for my personal musings is because they’re often intertwined. I don’t intend on sharing the actual happenings of my personal life, because… I don’t have an exciting one. What I’m excited about is Between The Lines.
(And, of course, obsessing over how my three-year-old could possibly be this smart and cute and hilarious, but I don’t blog about that—I just write letters to his email account I created when he was a fetus for him to cringe at when he’s 18.)
There are a lot of things I’d love to share that don’t necessarily fit the “advice” category, or the “marketing” category, or the “how-to” category. Sometimes, I just wanna talk.
And it doesn’t hurt that by “just talking” you’re getting a great insight into what it would be like to know me as me, as opposed to me, Copywriter or me, Marketing Strategist.
(Although, I don’t believe it’s possible to ever truly take those hats off—I found myself marveling over the packaging copy on my son’s snot vapor wipes yesterday and fighting the urge to make a whole Instagram post about it. Shoutout Baby Frida—case study coming soon for you, babe.)
The final reason why I won’t be creating a separate place for these musings is because, well, I don’t want to actually create and maintain that separate space. I considered it, and it’s still technically on the table, but it won’t be happening right now, because between client work, toddler wrangling, course creating, mentoring, and marketing BTL…your girl doesn’t have the damn time.
I’ve gotta save some eyeball time for TikTok. Let’s be real.
I’m so happy to have you here. I hope you’ll continue to read through my honest and unfiltered virtual journal pages, and that the BTL Diary inspires you to tap into whichever creative outlet feels most authentic to you. I promise—you’ll be better for it.
If we haven’t had the chance to *virtually* meet yet, hi! I’m Sara Noel—website copywriter and marketing mentor for creatives, copywriters, and all-around cool people. If you like my content and you want even more BTL in your life, here are a few ways you can connect with me:
Subscribe to my newsletter! I send one marketing tip, once a week – and, according to my subscribers, it’s “the best marketing newsletter on the Internet” and “the only reason to wake up on Tuesday mornings.” So… yeah. You’ll love ‘er. 😏 Click here to subscribe!
Check out my services. I write website copy, sales pages, email sequences, blog posts, and brand messaging guides for entrepreneurs of all kinds! Maybe you’re my next favorite client.
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