It’s hard to believe that this May marks nine years in business for my team at Express Writers.
We’re very fortunate, if you consider the scary statistics surrounding business tenure. 20% of new businesses fail in their first two years, 45% fail in the first five years, and a whopping 65% don’t make it in the first ten years (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Here’s the thing, though. Our ‘fortune’ didn’t just accidentally happen.
Back in May of 2011, when we began, it was with every chance of failure. Literally — 100% chance of failing. I was a college dropout with a dream to write for a living and build my own business. I had $75 cash to my name in the bank, and I was searching for a route to create a business out of my passion. (Pssst… I’m writing a book due out 2021 on this topic! Get on the waitlist here.)
All my life, I loved to write. It was an obsession — an addiction.
At 19 years old, while I was still in college, I decided to look up “how to write for a living” one morning. That same day, I discovered a booming if not premature market of “freelance writing,” and I signed up immediately for a freelance profile on oDesk (now Upwork). I worked hard every day following to learn this trade and take on paying freelance writing gigs, inspired to get up at 4 a.m. and work my butt off simply because of the sheer fact that I was following my passion.
It was a literal, simple inspiration-struck-and-I-took-action sequence. Three months later, I had more work than I could handle or keep up with, and I created a business within five minutes — Express Writers. Truth be told, I did not think it would last the year.
Here we are, nine years later, celebrating our #19,900th project (a number that grows daily). We published our first-ever income report last year, which highlights how we serve 50-60 clients each month with custom content writing services.
We have a team of almost ninety rock stars — a full-time Content Manager, an editorial staff, writers in expert niches, writers trained to write for almost every format. We serve clients around the globe.
It’s incredible that we made it to nine years. And I have many of you to thank, reading this post. We wouldn’t be here without your support. So, thank you. 🙏🏻
To celebrate, I sat down and wrote some reflections for you. Here you go — my nine lessons from nine years in business, and nearing the 20,000 projects completed mark.
If you've been a part of @expwriters at all -- reader, subscriber, client, student, team member... I can't thank you enough. Without you we wouldn't be celebrating 9 years today. ❤️ Read my 9 lessons in 9 years: Click To Tweet
9 Lessons From 9 Years of Business and 19,900+ Projects
That headline is all made up of nines—how crazy is that?! That was a complete accident, but not a bad way for the data to line up on our celebratory post.
Let’s get into my nine reflections.
1. One core marketing commitment, centered around your clients/audience (not you), is all you need to earn clients.
If I could tell my younger self one phrase, it would be this. Keep going, you have everything you need to earn clients consistently simply because of your core commitment.
I had no idea just how much the simple marketing commitment I made at the beginning would be worth it to our success throughout the years.
Back in 2011, I committed to one goal — growing our business through what we sold. Essentially, existing as the proof of our own pudding. And that’s why we’ve maintained a marketing presence explicitly based on content. Our Write Blog has brought in the majority of our clients. For nine years, I’ve written a blog every week. For nine years, I’ve sent at least two emails every week. With help from my own team at Express Writers, consistency in weekly onsite content has been a practice we’ve never dropped.
And today, our site earns over 100,000 visitors each month; we have over 1,300 published blogs; and our site ranks on Alexa as the #25,700th most popular website in the world. Not to mention, we rank for over 19,000 keywords indexed in Google, the cost of which would be over $200,000 in an ad campaign!
Decide on one core marketing medium and stick to it. Become the best at what you do. Create the most in-depth content on that topic. This is how you succeed at serving your audience so well, they want to become your clients.
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2. Every chance of failure is a great opportunity for success.
As I look back today on the beginning, I know that the simple realization I had back then — I have every chance of failure here — was a great launchpad for everything I’ve been able to do since.
Just being aware that you will, might, or can fail, and then getting ready to shrug it off and pick yourself back up, is a surefire way to succeed in business.
As I look back today on the beginning, I know that the simple realization I had back then -'I have every chance of failure here' - was a great launchpad for everything I’ve been able to do since. 💪 via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
3. Never give up.
As stereotypical and over-quoted as this sounds, it’s the truth. Time and time again we’ve hit what feels like “the end of the world” — unexpected roadblocks, hiring and firing, growing pains. But we’ve never given up. As simple as that sounds, it’s the way to success.
4. It’s okay to feel like everything’s broken sometimes.
Each time you hit a slump or a roadblock, it will truly feel like the end of the world. You can’t simply ignore that feeling, if you’re as invested in running a great business as I am with Express Writers. When you build your trust on your name, your business name, that means you will be extremely subjective about your business. When someone hurts you, you will feel hurt. When someone undercuts you, or fails on your expectations, you will be upset. And that’s okay. I’ve had others chide me for this, but I believe that if you care, you will feel. You cannot turn those feelings off. Which leads me to my next point.
5. Have at least two mentors you can count on for foundational advice.
Anytime I felt like something was going severely wrong in my business, it was important to me to pick up the phone and call someone who was, simply put, wise. You don’t need a business mentor who’s raised seven figures three times. You don’t need a guru that’s been through five exits each worth a million plus dollars. You simply need someone who will speak wisdom into your particular circumstance.
For example, one of my favorite mentors owns a cleaning company. He knows and speaks business finances with sense, tells it plainly, and gives what I would describe as grounding advice. Another mentor is a spiritual counselor from my church who is in his late 60s. He looks at challenges with such wisdom, and his advice reminds me of predictions, they are so true.
Find that person that will speak truth into your circumstances when they go downhill. (And maybe add them on speed dial.)
6. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
There are far too many marketers, gurus, and founders out there that make incredibly high-reaching promises to their audience and clientele.
“I promise you the world for $xx.”
We’ve always been real about what we can and can’t do. Sometimes we’ll even tell a client “no” if they want amazing content delivered in 24 hours (it just isn’t possible). Keeping our word and sticking to a clear process and protocol has always been paramount to us, and it’s served us — and our clients — well.
7. Never stop learning and growing.
On a daily basis, my Content Manager tells me in Slack what we can improve at. It’s ridiculous how much we evolve. But if we stayed in one place for more than a week, I think we would have died out a long time ago as a business.
Our services are so custom, so unique and creative — content writing — that they must evolve to serve our clients well. We’re continually growing, adding new services, increasing our fees so we can pay writers better rates, and we’re even hard at work on a new platform for our team and clients behind-the-scenes that will launch this summer. 🎉
8. Build a team that is ready to embrace the real-life world of working together to win.
It’s not about degrees, accolades, or “expert experience” when you’re putting together a team that will serve your clients with honesty, care, integrity, and intelligence.
Not at all. Instead, it’s about looking for hungry people who have the same passion for the core of what you do (for us, that’s writing), and assembling a team who has the same goal in heart – succeeding together. We’ve stopped hiring commissioned sales reps or even salespeople, period, for this reason. We look for content and freelance-minded humans who have that natural zest and passion for good content and achieving goals, who we can shape and train to learn the various client-centric roles we have.
One of my favorite guest stars on Shark Tank is Alex Rodriguez, Major League Baseball star and successful entrepreneur. He says: “I have a PhD in failing, and a Masters in getting back up.” This is the kind of experience you need — people in your team that are ready for the real-world challenges that come with operating a successful business.
It’s not about degrees, accolades, or 'expert experience' when you’re putting together a team that will serve your clients with honesty, care, integrity, and intelligence. - @JuliaEMcCoy on lessons learned from 9 years in business 🔥 Click To Tweet
9. You never know — you might just succeed.
It’s important to start with every chance of failure and check your ego at the door. But it’s also important to celebrate when you win. Don’t stop at winning—keep progressing, growing, and improving—but take a moment to celebrate when you do succeed. And guess what? If you stick at it enough, it will happen. Kudos to you. You made it this far, and you deserve a moment to shout, “HECK YEAH.”
Celebrating Nine Years at Express Writers
I’ve learned that the minute you think, “I’m here! No further work needs to be done,” you’ll head for the Failure door. It’s imperative to wake up daily with the thought, “How can I better serve my clients?” And if you’re the boss, add to that, “How can I better serve my team? What further resources can I add to make their lives easier?”
So, that’s what we plan on doing for the next nine years and beyond.
Also, I have to end this post with a shout out.
Thanks to all of my amazing team and their hard work. None of what we do at Express Writers would be possible without you!
Here’s to amazing content. And to YOU… and your success! 🥂
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