I had no intention of building a successful writing business when I started out. Even though I created a lucrative business, back then it was a stepping stone: An in-between to another corporate job. As an introvert who does not have the energy to make small talk in an office every day, writing became my big talk.
Have you heard of big talk? Me neither until now.
Big talk is what happens when you work virtually and have the bandwidth to make an impact: You can write about high-level, visionary ideas because you’re not letting the small talk of an office setting drain you and take you away from your core work.
You can research, write, and edit more effectively. In essence, you communicate in a quiet way that makes a huge impact — not just for your business but also for your clients.
Writing is how I built a successful online business.
Flashback to 2012: After reading about SXSW for years, I finally had the guts to hop on a flight to Austin for SXSW. I had recently moved back to my hometown in New Jersey. I was without a job and had all of the time in the world.
The only problem was that I had 1) no cash flow and 2) no clients. How did I turn my world around and build a successful online business?
I didn’t let anything stop me.
Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have at the time (like money and clients), I doubled down on my positivity, passion, and extreme enthusiasm.
I took the cheapest flights possible (which meant lots of layovers).
As I stood in line to board a flight with other SXSW attendees, the guy in front of me (let’s call him Brian) turns around and asks me what I do. Even though I spent time, money, and resources to get to SXSW, I didn’t have any “Services” to sell to potential clients at the time.
But I didn’t care.
I told Brian I was a writer and that I wrote about the intersection of technology, marketing, and business on my blog. I told him he could check out my website to see samples of my writing. I didn’t think much about our conversation, so when an email from him popped into my inbox a week later, I was thrilled.
Real people were reading my words on the web! It turns out that Brian actually read my words. At the time, the only person who read my words was my mom. My Google Analytics back then looked promising, but it was merely numbers. They weren’t real people, were they?!
He cc’d his colleague and mentioned that the content that I created fit with what they were doing at his company. When I followed up for more details, I learned that they were serious about hiring me: They wanted me to write twice a week for their blog in my voice.
Not only did they comp my website hosting for jessicaannmedia.com, they also paid me per article at a frequency of 2x a week. After we signed our contract, I got busy delivering articles, communicating, and keeping them a happy client. They renewed our contract for four years. When they were ready to say goodbye, I helped to train their employees on how to write, create, and distribute content.
I priced for profit
Even though I didn’t have any clients at the time, I believed in the value of the product I was offering (content marketing).
I quickly got business savvy: I read every blog on pricing and how to deliver the ultimate customer experience. I did not price for cheap. Instead, I priced for profit so that I could grow a profitable business.
I took risks.
I could have stayed at home back then and not made it to one of the top industry events. But I took a risk as a brand new business owner and went out of my comfort zone. The most random interactions turned into one of my most loyal, long-term clients.
You never know where your next client will come from.
I still keep in contact with this client today and express my gratitude for believing in the value of my work. While many businesses were staying status quo with traditional marketing, the most innovative companies were finding ways to connect with their customers through emotions and story.
Content marketing changes company culture
Content is the best catalyst for cultural change. Whether you run a small agency or a Fortune 500, the content that you create can change your entire culture. For example, the content that I contributed to Getty Images for their #Repictureit campaign aimed around the concept of breaking misconceptions and stereotypes through visuals.
They reached out to me to shed light on what these concepts mean. Getty's goal was to reshape how people think about important issues (I.e. Innovation, leadership, love, friendship, family, etc).
78% of CMO’s agree that custom content is the future of marketing. High-quality content that drives meaningful engagement can portray your business as innovative — which in turn, brings in more business.
Six years ago, this was a radical idea (even today it’s still pretty extreme). The idea that blog posts can make more of an impact on your bottom line than having employees in an actual office is unconventional. But I’ve seen how useful it is for my clients over the years. Plus, it’s less overhead.
Content marketing allows for reverse-engineering the sales cycles so that you can connect with your customers in a human way.
Mitch Joel revealed that this is how he grew his business too in Episode 29 of The Art of Humanity:
Writing works for my business model
I recently wrote about the intersection of minimalism and speaking — and why I’m eliminating speaking from my business model. For me, it’s not always about the “hustle’ and “getting out there.” I’m grateful for the opportunities (like standing on stage at Google in NYC!) but it’s important to reassess what’s working//what’s not while removing all attempts to chase my own ego.
I love to write.
I’m now more publicly sharing about my experience in case other business owners (and hopeful speakers) are going through something similar. I’m excited to refocus on other opportunities that are better aligned with how I move through the world (e.g., podcasting, book writing).
Over the years, I’ve learned that writing words on the web make a big impact. And it doesn't matter who you think you are – it matters how you show up in a world that takes you away from being yourself.
In a world that’s loud and intrusive, writing words on the web are how we can connect in a meaningful way. Your words don't have to scream (or even speak). But if they're making an impact in the way that you'd like, your writing will (eventually) lead to success.