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EPISODE 28: Evolving Your Content Creation Business

by Apr 6, 2021Podcast, Writers

In this episode we will cover:

  • Developing a vision for your business
  • Understanding how your business needs change over time
  • Evolving your business to play to your strengths
  • Anticipating the need for future change

Change can be scary, especially when it comes to your business. There are real financial consequences if you try something new and everything blows up in your face, which can keep a lot of us from straying from the familiar path. {The motto “better safe than sorry” comes to mind here.}

But making sure your business evolves with your needs is actually key to its success. By giving yourself permission to try something new, you can evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. You can get a better understanding of what you want your business to be {and what you DON’T want it to be}.

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to develop a vision for your business.
  • Why your business needs to change over time.
  • How to evolve your business to play to your strengths and the work you most enjoy doing.
  • How to anticipate the need for future change.

You deserve a business that supports you not just financially, but in your values and lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to make changes and try something new. If you don’t like it, you can always try something else!

 

Additional media referenced in this episode:

Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz

Run Like Clockwork Accelerator Program

Brand Your Voice podcast episode 20: Upholding Boundaries as a Content Creator

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Jessi:
All right, welcome back to another episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. This is technically the last episode in our series for writers and content creators. However, we've enjoyed talking about this topic so much. In talking about it, so many other things have come up that don't be surprised to hear other episodes in the future. Also addressing writers and content creators. Specifically, we understand what a unique role you have in creating a business that truly serves you while delivering done for you services. And we want to allow our journey to help support yours. So stay tuned. You'll probably hear more from us, but today's episode is specifically about that evolution of a done-for-you business, how you can evaluate it adjusted and adapted over time as your own goals change. Quite often, the business that we set out to create at the beginning, whether it's a full-fledged business or a side hustle or freelancing gig, is not the business we end up needing or wanting a year or two years, 10 years down the road.
And sometimes in done for you content creation, it can get easy to get trapped in one way of doing things and that evolution can feel a little hard sometimes. And so today we want to dig into how you can continue to adjust and grow your business in a way that really supports you, supports your life, supports the business that you want to create and allows you to continue delivering services in a way that feels really good for you.

Marie:
Exactly. And if you are a CEO of a business that isn't a writing business, please stick around. Although our examples will be specifically for our fellow writers and content creators. I think I've got a lot out of this episode. So, case in point, what Jessi was talking about regarding the evolution of a business... Man, the writing industry is vast and the types of creation that's come out of it are really diverse. And so it can really kind of take a while to settle in and kind of find your place in the sun.
And we started off, it was the recession. And so we were writing and editing resumes and cover letters for people. In those early days we found some work on Upwork and actually one of those clients that we found through Upwork is still with us today. She's really grown with us over time and that's been really exciting. Because of my non-profits grant writing background, we did some grant writing. Because of Jessi's education, Brown background, we did some curriculum development. We've done also a lot of things that flunked over the years, things that we tried. I think Jessi, you're telling me earlier that you saw the, I had forgotten about this, that we were doing something like data analytics work in the past and in terms of like for content. You know, we do that only on the tiny scale of this point and it's really only kind of baked into just like overall content strategy, but it's fascinating that at one point we were actually offering that as a standalone service. And of course, sort of our most, some of our most recent changes have been shifting from the Jessi and Marie show where we were the only two writers on the team to having an agency with multiple writers who are also joining us and supporting our clients. So we've changed a lot over the years and ultimately it's really hard to know what is, and isn't working in, yes a kind of intuitive way, but also a data-driven way if you don't periodically take a step back and take a look at it.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I think, you know, if it sounds like we were sort of throwing spaghetti at the wall, we kind of were, and often that is seen and I think has this perception of being really non-strategic and not great. And I mean, I think if you're consistently just throwing spaghetti at the wall, not looking at the data, not making adjustments periodically that are based in how you feel about things, what's creating a profit and whatnot. Yeah, that's not great. But sometimes it's actually okay to throw a little spaghetti at the wall. Sometimes you need to give yourself permission to try something new.
I remember a few years ago, gosh, maybe four or five years ago now when we first started working with small business owners, one of the things that we really kicked off with and we've talked about this in previous episodes was website copy. That was really our sweet spot for a while. And it still is, and we've expanded to offer launch copy. And I remember that for a period of time, we were terrified about offering that as a service. So we would just say, no, we don't do sales pages. We don't do sales emails because website copy is our sweet spot. And we did all of that already. We did it for our own business, but the idea of offering it to someone else just felt like too big of a leap until we started doing it and realized, Hey, we're actually really good at this. And really getting a lot of great results for our clients. And so sometimes stepping out and trying something new, we'll give you some insight into where you might actually shine a little bit, that you may not have anticipated.

Marie:
Yeah. Another example of one of those throwing spaghetti at the wall that stuck to the wall, I guess the spaghetti was coated in super glue or something was our copywriting character quiz. And wow we have rebranded this thing renamed, it we've shuffled it in and out of funnels. We punted it to the curb, and it would never die. And it was totally one of those things that was just sort of created as like a, that might be fun. I think you were reading like a book on archetypes at the time, Jessi. Right. And so you're like, I want to make an opt-in based on this idea of like, what is basically your archetype of your brand voice is like ultimately what it is. And, it was just meant to be a fun, you know, archetype quiz, just a fun little opt-in and the more time has passed, the more we realized this is actually extremely central to our brand voice process.
And so nowadays not only is it an opt-in for us, but more importantly, it is a tool that we ask all of our prospective clients to go through and use because A, it helps us get closer to nailing their brand voice right off the bat. But B it also helps us know when there's somebody who maybe their style of communicating is not within our wheelhouse and it's not within our sweet spot. And so there's actually some of those archetypes or archetype combinations that come up where we're like, eh, I don't know if this is actually going to be a great fit for us, but like this person, this writer over here would be a great fit. And so we can refer them out. It's nothing against them. It's just like we have to play to our strengths and they have to play to their ears. And of course a client is going to want to work with a writer who can serve them with confidence. And so, it's actually become a really central tool for us.

Jessi:
Yeah. And totally unexpected. It was something that we thought might live on in our business for a few months, maybe a year or so. And I think it's been a really crucial central part of our business for six years now. If not that, close to it. And it will remain a part of our business because it's been integrated into our full brand voice framework, which is a framework that we could not have created if we hadn't evolved the business up to the point where it's at now, if we hadn't created the copyrighting character on a whim, if we hadn't worked with such a diverse kind of clientele, so many different types of writing and tried so many different things to find where our strengths were. And so really being willing to throw spaghetti at the wall sometimes, actually can lead to some really big discoveries within your business and how you want to operate.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. A few of those catalysts for us being able to like, kind of take a step back though, and to actually do the evaluation for us. This is what's worked for us. You may find other things work for you. So working with a few business coaches, that's been really supportive in this process because they'll actually ask the tough questions around what's working, what's not, and help you actually frame that question in a way that works with the data that you have and the way you're feeling about things. Um, reading the book clockwork by Mike Michalowicz and then subsequently joining the Run Like Clockwork Consultancy Community has been also super helpful for us taking a step back that is all about metrics. And, especially Tyler Brandon giving you a shout out, you were like the matrix man, metrics man, like you, you know, so like we've learned a lot from that staff there and learning how to evaluate this stuff.
Also just like kind of fun stuff, right? Like coffee chats, whether virtual or in-person with other business owners or other people at other fields, you know, there's a lot we can learn from people in other fields. Listening to podcasts, you know, reading other books, like kind of getting insights from our peers, those who are also running businesses or have creative ideas. This opens our eyes to new ways of doing things. And then also, for ever, I think maybe at least for seven or eight years, we've had an annual business planning business visioning process where Jessi and I get together. But if you're a solopreneur, solo freelancer, you can do this on your own. You just need to like set aside the time for it. And have kind of like a CEO day with yourself and actually take a look at your business plans, see if things are working, see how you feel about certain things. Set aside the time. And that's for us been really, you know, just a consistently helpful practice.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I think that in particular is really valuable to do periodically. I think, you know, we do it once or twice a year and not just to see your business's vision, but to see how that integrates in with your life goals and your life situation. You know, in the 11, almost 11 years that our business has been around, not only has the business changed dramatically, but our lives have changed dramatically. And so often the shifts in the business were designed to help support the shifts in our lives. One of the earliest shifts we made was when Marie went full-time with the business, she also decided at the same time or within about a year of that, she decided to start RVing full-time, which meant she was traveling and that not only effected her availability, but also, and meant that our clients who up until that point had been pretty much limited to the city that we both lived in at the time, Houston suddenly it didn't necessarily make sense for us to physically limit and geographically limit our clientele because half of us were no longer physically in Houston.
And I was planning on moving in the next couple of years. And so we were able to sit down and have conversations about, okay, well, what makes the most sense? That was also a time when we leaned more heavily into grant writing because Marie was full-time, it was still my side hustle and her background was a nonprofit. So for that period of our lives, that made more sense when I went full-time we started adding the curriculum piece in until we were able to come together and decide, okay, what out of both of our different strengths, do we want to pull together to create a cohesive version of our business that plays on both of those strengths and on where we are in our life right now?

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, more recently too, at this point, this is our dedicated full-time career. But two things are shifting for us. One is we are looking at creating an additional revenue stream and in order to do that, we actually have to carve a little bit of time out of our lives for that. And that doesn't necessarily mean now working full-time plus weekends, right? So we're trying to shift the business so that we have time to develop that revenue stream during working hours. The other piece of it is that in the last couple of years, Jessi, and I've gotten very serious about two coincidentally independent dreams we have that are the same dream. Isn't that lucky, right. Which is like writing fiction. And so we've always wanted to do this, but in the last couple of years, we've gotten very serious about it.
We've been, you know, brushing up on our professional development, networking, writing novels jointly, and also independently that we feel very passionate about. And so, like, we also want to be able to create space for that in our lives, right? Like who knows, probably one of us will move at some point in the future. Maybe one of us would have a child. Like there are so many reasons why we might also need to continue having this conversation and you too, right. With yourself, with whoever else is involved in your business, even if it's just you, if it's you and a VA, if it's you in a giant agency, it doesn't really matter. But you know, if you're the boss, as it were lucky, you, you get to choose and you get to create a business that actually supports all of that.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. And if you are working with someone else or if you have a team and you're the kind of the solopreneur who's building a team, this is also something that's really helpful for them to know the vision, to know where things are going to know how things are adjusting over time, because obviously it affects them, but also if they can get behind your vision, they can help support it. And that's really important too.

Marie:
You know, it's also important, it may be a good idea, at least for you to share some of your vision with your clients, because they're probably your greatest. Also they may be really excited about the direction you're going, because it also supports them. And so they may be your early adopter, right? Like this thing that sounds pie in the sky to you, if you tell them, you know, just by the way, this is like something I'm cooking up and would really like to have implemented in the next year, they may be like, well, could I, could I hear you for that tomorrow? Like, right. And so suddenly your goal a year from now might actually be possible tomorrow or at least stepping in that direction. Right. And having like a proof of concept or, you know, your kind of your Guinea pig clients. So, I definitely recommend having this conversations with those clients, especially like what Clockwork would call them the crush clients or what we were calling the other episodes, the clonable clients, like the ones that you really love. And you wish you could just like work with only clients just like them. Those are the people to have this kind of conversation with if you feel comfortable doing so.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, really at its core. Really what we're talking about is kind of looping back to the beginning of this conversation is making sure that your business is evolving with you. Um, you know, we sort of fundamentally believe that you in your life and your life circumstances and how you enjoy spending your time and energy is always going to evolve. There are going to be different seasons ebbs and flows, different interests, different ways in which you, you know, want to explore new things or feel confident in new things. And your life is also going to evolve. And if you're not taking time to periodically stop and evaluate how you have shifted and changed and how you want your business to support that shift and change, then you might end up in a situation where you're stuck with a business that no longer fits you, where you're stuck doing projects that no longer light you up or where you're stuck working in situations that, going back to our previous episode about boundaries, that are, you know, testing those boundaries in ways that maybe three or four years ago, that actually wasn't a boundary, but now it is.
And so we really believe that writers and content creators, you deserve a business that supports you. You know, we've, we've said it before. And we really believe that this whole starving artists sort of stereotype around writing as a profession and a career is really damaging to writers who are passionate about what they do. And often it's really on the writer and the content creator to advocate for themselves. And part of that advocacy comes from understanding what you want and need out of the business that you're creating. And so please set aside that time to look at those things so that you can build a business that does serve you and serve your clients.

Marie:
Right. So setting aside that time can look like a lot of different things. Like I mentioned, kind of a CEO day, maybe an annual visioning process that you go through. Maybe you have a vision board on your wall. Maybe you talk with your therapist, right? Maybe you, I'm serious. Like maybe you talk with your business coach, maybe write in your journal, maybe attend a retreat that's like a visioning retreat. It doesn't really matter how, but just laying into something that sounds like that could work for you and like your processing style, but regardless, we want to just give you some things to consider as you go through this process. So what kinds of writing services or content creation services do you want to offer? Is there stuff that you're like, I hate that. I hate doing it. I don't care how much I love that client. If I have to write another blog post, I'm going to scream, right. Like whatever it is, like you can just say, I'm not doing that anymore. You know, that's totally fine. It is within your rights to set that boundary. Consider like how many hours and how much energy different types of pro projects or different clients, different processes or packages you have, how much time and energy is that taking you? And is your pricing reasonable based on that? And I also really, I know, and like how much energy do you have is a little, seems a little non quantifiable, whereas like ours are granted. It means you miss track your hours, please track your hours, please track your hours. Even if you never charge hourly, please track your hours. Anyway. Soap boxing, but, you know, I think the energy can be quantified too.
I remember when we worked with, uh, um, a client or sorry, a coach in the past every week, she would ask us like, how do you feel about, you know, what you're doing? And a lot, like, sometimes a lot of the time we'd write tired, but good, you know, but if you constantly see that you're just tired and you suspect it's mostly coming from your work and not like whatever. I mean, it's still a pandemic as I'm recording this. And so I think everyone's exhausted cause, Wowza. But, if you suspect that a lot of your fatigue is coming from your work or a certain subset of your work, just make a note of it. Just check in with yourself once a week and just see, you know, maybe it's even like on a Tuesday when you're not like just tired cause it's Friday and you've been working all week, but like looking at your inbox, does it fill you with dread, right? Or does it, or does it feel neutral or exciting if it feels neutral or exciting, you're probably fine there. We have more questions, but I'm not going to Yammer through all of them. Do you want to take some of these Jessi?

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, some of the questions go back to what we were talking about earlier around your boundaries. How have they changed? How has that impacted your capacity? Maybe you could take on 10 clients before, but now you have new boundaries and you can only take on five. You still have 10 clients when you can only take on five that's where that energy drain might come in. So just take a look at the boundaries, which new ones do you need to reinforce or create, or in which older ones do you need to reinforce. And how do you actually build in time for creative rejuvenation? This is a really important one. I think, you know, Marie was mentioning our novel writing as you know, one of the pursuits that has really become a high priority for both of us, that's writing too. And that takes a lot of creative energy. And so one of the things we realized very quickly when we started doubling down on the time we were spending, working on our novels was that we could not spend the same amount of time and energy writing for our clients and then for our business, and then expect ourselves to be able to put the same amount of energy towards our novels. We were just adding on. And eventually that was just going to make us crumble and be very, very sad. And so that's around the time when we started bringing out writers and teaching other people are processed so that we could create a little time and space for that creative energy and creative rejuvenation. And you don't have to be writing a novel to need this. Writing isn't in and of itself, something that can be creatively draining. And so when you're done with one client project, what do you need to do in order to create energy so that you can tackle the next creative project with just as much fervor and confidence and energy as you did the first one.

Marie:
Right. Exactly. And it's not always about, you know, cutting different types of creative work that you don't enjoy. It could also be something where you just streamline your processes, like your client onboarding, for example, like, is there a way that you can automate a few things that usually it feels like you kind of have to reinvent every time. Or like, Oh man, I know a big one for us was, uh, every time somebody would come to us and want to work with us, we'd have to like spend three hours drawing up a quote for them because it's all from scratch. We're like, well, I think this is going to take five hours. I think that's going to take, and you know, every time it was like this just agonizing repetitive process and any time you have a repetitive process, probably it can be automated. Even if it's not like something sending emails on your path. Like one thing that just really helped us with that was just sending packages. And we just took a look. It was like, instead of saying, okay, so for four pages of website, copy for this client, I'm going to charge this much as I calculate all the blah, blah, blah. Like instead we're just like, okay, no, four page website copy is a package and it costs this much. And so that was just really helpful for us. And another part of this sort of creative question is, you know, what creative are sort of life giving life rejuvinating projects or activities do you have outside of work that can help refill your well. Like one of, Josh, my husband and I, we were stopping RVing and it was time for us to settle into a, you know, a home that didn't have wheels. We really could go anywhere because fortunately, both of us were working remotely, which is what allowed us to travel full-time in the first place. And I was like, I don't really care where we end up, but I to have a mountain because I want to go hiking. Because I had learned over in contrast to living in Houston, certainly you can go hiking, but it usually takes, either heading into like a municipal park or driving many hours out into like the Texas Hill country. I wanted, then what RV, when I had access to hiking all the time or nearly all the time, I realized how much that filled my, well, how much it made me feel grounded and like myself, it energized. And so I wanted to have access to that if we were going to put down roots somewhere too.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I want to have one more question to this list, which is, you know, what does my business need to give me right now? What does it need to provide me? Because at the end of the day, it is your business and it's there, yes, so that you can serve your clients, but you also created it for a reason. And so it needs to serve that purpose, even if that purpose has changed, whatever the purpose is for it, you know, you don't want to end up in a situation where you feel like the business is overwhelmingly zapping that energy and that creative well. If it doesn't feel like it's a good fit, if you're in sort of the place where if you were at a normal nine to five job working for someone else, you'd be like looking for new jobs. You don't want to get to that point within your business. And so when you're looking at your periodic visioning retreat or meeting with yourself, you know, ask yourself that question, what does the business need to give you? What does it need to provide you in order to feel fulfilled?

Marie:
Right. What's your current why and how does the business support that? You know, so as you go through this process again, you know, just people to encourage you, don't be afraid to experiment. Strategy always matters. You know, Jessi and I are, even though we define ourselves as creatives, like we're pretty, left-brained in a lot of ways. And also it can be really interesting to try things, have fun, see what sticks and when something does stick, you know, follow it for a bit, see where it leads and buy a bit. I think usually we mean 90 days, give it a quarter, see what happens, reevaluate.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. I have something keeps coming back to the surface, like our copywriting character quiz, even after you've moved on from it, maybe pay attention to that and see what might be there and dig into it a little and figure out, okay, how can I take this thing that keeps coming back into my business's life and make sure that it is serving us in a way or you in a way that really is effective.
Okay. So that's a lot to think about.

Marie:
Easy.

Jessi:
Yeah, no problem. Your homework is relatively short though, and I think it's really kind of taking this huge list of questions that we just posed to you and simplifying it into three or four key questions. So your homework is to grab some paper, open up a Google doc, take some time, go somewhere where you can be alone and think about the vision that you have for yourself and your business and your life and all of that good stuff and take stock. So you're going to write down three things. What parts of your business are evolving or have evolved since the last time you did an activity like this?

Marie:
And if that's never just, you know, take note of where things are now and what you actually think they're going in.

Jessi:
Yeah. And then same for your life. What parts of your life are evolving or have evolved in the last six months, one year, whatever that time period may be. And also if you can anticipate future changes, this is a good time to take note of them as well. So, you know, if you have a kid on the way, maybe your life hasn't dramatically changed yet, but you know, it will in, you know, eight or nine months. And then the last one is the last question is how are those two things supporting one another, I guess, as a bonus, how could you make them more supportive? So if the answer is, they're not supporting one another, okay, well now we need to do some troubleshooting and some brainstorming.

Marie:
Right. And then, you know, kind of as a, a follow up to all of this, I encourage you to make note of anything that feels fun in your business and anything that feels unfun in your business. Where can you lean into the fun and ditch the un-fun. A few things, you know, you know, taking a look at your profit and loss statements, like that's not going away, but how can you make it fun? Right. And you know, whatever it is that feels unfun ask yourself, like, is this necessary? Okay. And if it is, how can I make it more fun? And if it's not necessary, chances are, it probably is not supporting the evolution in your life. So see if it's something that could be outsourced if it is necessary to the functioning of the business. Because I promise you, that's going to give you some creative energy back that you probably are wanting. Or again, see if you don't like, maybe you can gamify it. Maybe you can set up a reward system for yourself. Maybe you can just turn it into a habit. So even if it's not like the most fun thing ever, but like, it becomes like brushing your teeth and it's just something you do every day. So yeah, I think, you know, there's a lot that when you do free up creativity, that means that creativity just creates itself. It bounds on itself. You know, you're a human being and that means that you're a creative creature and you crave creativity. And so a lot of it is just allowing the business to give you what you crave.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, Northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content, creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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