‘Cancer warrior’ marks decade turning clients into rock stars with her writing

During her decade as owner of Agency Content Writer, Anne McAuley Lopez has survived a recession, a cancer scare and a pandemic, powering through it all to buff her clients to a high sheen in the eyes of customers. –Anne McAuley Lopez photo

Beneath the surface, she has an underlying hard-driven edge. But she’s just so darn nice about it.

Get past her charming smile, frequent out-loud laugh and congenial personality, and Anne McAuley Lopez is a closet badass. In fact, her brand is Blogging Badass.

“I like to think I am but I’ve been told that I don’t look like a badass, so I don’t know,” she said. “But I think my writing is.”

That she has survived a trying personal journey and stayed in business for 10 years in this day and age lends supporting evidence.

She recently celebrated a decade of spreading her words to boost businesses across West Chandler and South Tempe through her business, Agency Content Writer. She helps companies prosper with her content strategy, website copywriting, freelance writing, working with digital-marketing agencies and blogs.

She writes for a variety of industries, most notably financial and real estate, understanding the importance of research, search-engine optimization and target-market-focused writing.

“As an agency content writer, my goal is to make you look like a rock star to your clients,” McAuley Lopez said.

Then, five years ago, as her business was taking off, she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a slowly progressing and uncommon type of blood-cell cancer. Many people don’t develop CML symptoms until later stages and the diagnosis is made only through routine blood work.

“I’m in as close as we get to remission,” McAuley Lopez  said. “We’ve got everything really well managed. I tell my husband this isn’t going to be what kills me.”

McAuley Lopez, 47, doesn’t pronounce herself a cancer survivor. Not yet. She takes a chemotherapy pill every day.

“I like to say I’m a ‘cancer warrior,’” she said. “They found it through basic bloodwork, a physical. I tell people to go get a physical. CML isn’t curable although they’re getting close to what would be an effective cure.”

She cut back on work initially, finding enough strength to power through part time.

“The first nine months were pretty hard. I had muted side effects. I didn’t lose hair, but my hair thinned. I’d get nausea on and off. Bone pain, not to the extreme that patients of other cancers might experience, but pretty debilitating.

“It’s been an interesting ride. I was nervous to tell people what was going on. As I’ve talked to people, I’ve realized there a lot who have chronic conditions, also. My body needs to rest sometimes, and that’s OK. Give yourself grace for that.”

The leukemia has been undetectable for 2½ years, she said, and she is writing a book about her journey, to be published this fall.

Keep content sharply focused and try not to do too much at one time, Anne McAuley Lopez advises clients. –Anne McAuley Lopez photo

It has been good, she said, that she could immerse herself in her passion of writing, attempting to exceed her client’s expectations while meeting deadlines.

“I try my best to deliver good content,” McAuley Lopez said. “When I was growing up (in Stratford, Conn.), I had an English teacher for three years who taught us so many things that was super helpful. I think of her every week. I’ve been writing my whole life. I don’t remember not loving it. I don’t remember not wanting to write when we were in school.

“They’d ask, ‘Wanna do a poster board or an essay?’ I always said essay. Kids looked at me funny. I can do a five-paragraph essay faster and easier than finding stuff to glue to a poster board – which I hated anyway. It was not my thing.”

But words and storytelling were. Despite earning her undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Connecticut, she found her way to words after working in the financial industry in New York for a couple of years.

After her mom died of breast cancer, her aunt and uncle, who’d recently moved to the Valley, invited her out to unwind.

“My aunt said, ‘I’m gonna give you a ticket, just come out, sit by the pool, pet the dog, the beer’s in the fridge,’” she said. “I fell in love with Arizona. It was the peace I needed, the environment I needed with the sunshine while I tried to figure out who I wanted to be.”

She would follow her passion to that.

As a small-business writer for hire, McAuley Lopez has discovered the pros and cons of working on her own.

“Every client is your boss, which no one tells you,” she said.

“Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty simple process, and that is to talk to people about their business. Why do you do what you do? What is your story? Why did you start the business? What do you hope to get out of our work together?”

Often, her clients have taken the first crack at writing their own website or marketing content.

“Typically when I work with folks it’s the second or third time around for their content, where they say they’ve got a marketing budget now, they’ve seen growth but want more growth,” McAuley Lopez said. “They understand that digital marketing is the place to be but need help getting on that path. They call me to help fill in the blanks on the team, and then I come in and do writing for them.”

Some businesses or writers are gun shy about financial-services writing because of compliance issues.

“I’ve worked with financial-services companies on and off basically my whole career in writing,” she said.

The secret to great search-engine-optimized content? Research and having a good writer who puts it all together, she says.

“People want relevant content,” McAuley Lopez  said. “If you want an auto mechanic in West Chandler in 85226, that’s what you want. You don’t want a horrible website. Give them content that makes sense and answers questions that they’re asking. Is it driving website visits? That’s the reward.”

For a good blog – a badass blog – answer only one question, she says.

“Get your audience interested enough to pick up a phone and call your business,” she said. “Have a call to action at the end. A mistake is folks try to say too much or answer too many questions in one article.”

And her secret to keeping her business afloat for 10 years coming out of a recession, working through her health issues and now the COVID-19 pandemic?

Not burning bridges and consistency,” McAuley Lopez said. “One mistake of small businesses is not following through and not keeping in touch with people. It’s so simple. It’s not that hard. Then make sure you deliver what you say you’ll deliver, and when.

“First is network, second is don’t burn bridges.”

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