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express writers story

The Entrepreneurial Story: How I Founded Express Writers From $75, Grew a Successful Company Mindset, and My Greatest Lessons in Business (Video)

This very month, back in 2011, I was plowing the seed of an idea, hiring five writers, and coding my own website.

I decided to launch the idea, and came up with a business name in five minutes: Express Writers.

As we move into our 6th business anniversary (and my 7th in the industry), I thought it would be awesome to get on video and sharing the story behind Express Writers – on camera!

So, for the first (ever) video story that I’m finally doing, I’m sharing the story of how I started out in freelance writing at 19 then stumbled into creating Express Writers out of $75, a hope and a dream.

That was what I started with – and nothing more.

We’ve been bootstrapped all the way, learned some hard lessons, went through some crazy times, and came out stronger from every hard-knocks lesson learned. Today, we’ve served over 5,000 clients, and have grown by leaps and bounds: 200-300% year after year. This year, we were able to break all previous year’s records for client satisfaction rates and monthly income.

But the story behind Express Writers’ creation isn’t complete without the real, raw, personal side of my life that I chose to change for the better (a personal, forced lifestyle that I chose to leave – and if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this blog today.)

Here it is.

The real, raw, true story of how Express Writers came to be.

What made us, what shaped us, and what we’re doing today in the industry.

Enjoy.

The Entrepreneurial Story: How Julia McCoy Founded Express Writers From $75, Grew a Company Mindset, and Life Lessons in Business (Video Transcript)

I run a writing agency, and 7 years ago I started with nothing but $75, a hope, and a dream.

Today, we have the best client satisfaction rates that we’ve ever had, and we just surpassed our biggest month in sales.

So, how have I been able to do it in such a competitive industry? Here’s my story.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Watch @JuliaEMcCoy’s #video story behind the creation of Express Writers. #entrepreneur” quote=”Watch @JuliaEMcCoy’s #video story behind the creation of Express Writers. #entrepreneur”]

express writers launch story

Everything started in my business back when I was 19. I was in the middle of nursing school, and I was failing miserably. One day I woke up, and I asked myself: what do I love to do, and how can I make money doing it?

I knew what the answer was in my heart: it was writing. That went back all the way before I was 12. I was always writing, and by age 12 I had a 200-page medieval fiction on a floppy disk. Along with that, I had early entrepreneurial roots. I figured out how to make money using the internet at 13: I was earning cash doing surveys. And by 16 – I don’t know where this idea came from, it was just in my head one day – I decided to go around the neighborhood and ask people if they needed help using their computer. I posted ads in the grocery store, and within a few days, I had several clients and I was making $40/hour at 16.

So at 19, when I found myself in the middle of college trying to get a degree that I didn’t even want, I decided I would just try to figure out online writing and make a career out of it. And the next three months, I taught myself how to write, and I wrote hundreds of articles for very cheap clients: but that was how I honed my early writing skills. I also started learning a lot of SEO and content marketing back then.

Before I knew it, I had more work than what I could handle. My next logical thought was, why not start a business? And Express Writers was born.

I had one goal when I started my company back then: it was to find a group of writers who had passion in online writing, and who I could teach the elements of SEO and content marketing to, and we could learn and progress as a whole. I noticed a phenomenon back then: a lot of so-called writers didn’t know the standards of how to write for SEO, or the reader. So I started my business with that one goal, and clients began to trust me and to look to me for SEO and content marketing advice. And that’s when I started blogging regularly on my site, expresswriters.com.

But the story is not complete without sharing a personal story. I grew up in a religiously suppressed environment. My dad was the pastor of a church, and at 21, I found myself locked up in my room by my parents and given a letter for my birthday that said I was a disgrace to my family. We were not allowed to lead normal lives, and my business was looked down on. So when I got that letter, even though that environment was the only thing I knew, I knew that it wasn’t normal and I had to get out.

So six months later, my sister and I made the decision to leave in the middle of the night. And we did. It was very hard, but I had the opportunity to go follow what I loved to do, and go follow my dreams and chase my passions once I got out of that environment.

I did that, and completely bootstrapped, without any outside funding, we grew 200% in the next few years. The first year was $50,000, and in the next few years we hit $300,000, and last year we just surpassed $650,000.

As an entrepreneur, you often hear that failure precedes success. And that’s not just a quote or a fun saying, that’s the truth. Early last year, I found out that two trusted managers in my staff were embezzling. I had to fire them, and rebuild the team, and that took 5 months of hard work.

I learned that with a supportive environment, ongoing accountability for your staff, and most importantly, the right people, there is no limits to what you can do as a business. That experience taught me what it means to create a great company culture, and serve our clients with the best customer service.

The CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, said:

“The secret to successful hiring is this: find the people that want to change the world.”

And for me, that was finding people that shared my goal, a gigantic goal, of creating the best copywriting agency on the planet, and giving our clients the best content that they’ve ever gotten.

But in the five months of rebuilding, it was the hardest thing to find the right people. One of my biggest lessons was that it’s not about the roles in your company, it’s about the environment and how your staff support each other.

So when we were rebuilding our company culture that year, and with a goal to give our clients the best customer service we possibly could, I decided to let our commissioned sales rep go. And it was scary, because she was getting us sales, but she was chasing the sale instead of the relationship with our customers.

So I replaced the commissioned sales rep with an expert to do the consulting and the selling at Express Writers. I was honored to find an industry content marketing expert to join the team. After she was working here for a week, I went to one of our clients, and I was very straight up. I asked: Could you rate the difference in experience between the commissioned sales rep and our expert? And he said that the difference was 100x better. I knew we were on the right track.

So last year, even though we went through a lot, and it took 5 months to find the right people, when we found them there’s no limit now to what we can do as a company, because we’re able to learn and progress together. Our team is large but small enough to be able to do that, which gives our clients the best service.

So we’re seeing the highest writer retention rates, we’re able to provide full time jobs for the writers we have, and we’re seeing the highest client satisfaction rates that we’ve ever had as well.

So, 3 lessons in business.

Everything changes when you find the right team. That’s #1. When you find the right people to work right next to you in the daily grind, work becomes delightful because you support each other. I’m so honored today to lead in my staff full-time a group of women that all share the same goal, to serve our clients best and to evolve and progress with the industry.

I encourage communication in my team. Even though we’re remote, we’re so close-knit. We have daily Skype threads that address the different topics we all talk about.

The second lesson in business is: in the trenches of failure, success is often born. Failure is really hard to go through, but I believe that it’s one of the greatest ways to learn the lessons that will teach you growth.

And the last lesson is, success is a progression. It’s not something you hit and plateau at, it’s a continual progression, something you work very hard at every day.

So this summer, a big goal of mine is to launch a course. I’m launching a content strategist certification course. I’m going to certify in content strategy, and I’m putting together everything I’ve learned in the last 7 years of finding the right keywords for your niche, what tools to use, how to use them to get your best content opportunities, how to find trending topics, how to put together an editorial calendar – which is what we get paid to do daily for our clients. So all of that is going into a course, and it will be out this summer. If you want to sign up to get notified, the link will be in the description of this video. 

Thank you so much for watching! You can follow me at @JuliaEMcCoy on Facebook and Twitter, and @ExpWriters on Twitter.

Conclusion

What did you think?

Go easy on me in the comments. 😉

I’d love to hear your feedback – I’m an introvert, so, video isn’t easy for me. You just might inspire me to do it more!

And don’t forget…

Update: September of 2017, my course officially launched! Learn about my certification course here: contentstrategycourse.com <—- I’m so excited about this! 

content strategy course cta

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Blogging for ROI in 2017: Where to Blog, SEO, and Writing Strategies with Julia McCoy

Are you curious about blogging for ROI in 2017? That’s what we covered in our latest round of #ContentWritingChat! And if you missed out, you’re in luck because we’ve created a recap for you and it’s filled with awesome tips. Keep reading to check it out!

Blogging for ROI in 2017: Where to Blog, SEO, and Writing Strategies with Julia McCoy

For this week’s chat, our very own CEO stepped in to guest host. Julia McCoy shared her expertise on blogging for ROI in 2017 and offered some amazing tips for writing, SEO, and where you should be blogging this year. We covered some of the key topics to help you succeed as a blogger this year, so make sure you read through them and start implementing this advice for yourself!

Q1: For those that aren’t convinced, why is blogging still so important for brands?

The reality is, many brands still aren’t convinced that blogging is worth their time. They don’t realize the value that it can provide to their audience and their brand overall. So, let’s convince them why they should be blogging! Here are just some reasons blogging is important for brands:

Julia knows that blogging is a must for brands! She even shared some pretty impressive data that backs it up. The graph above shows Express Writers outranking major competitors solely from blogging. She also shared some stats that are sure to convince you of the importance of starting your own blog this year.

As Annaliese said, blogging is a lead generation opportunity. So many people will stumble upon your blog and want to do business with you because of the content you share. She also said blogging helps you build influence, which is key to drawing in your audience.

Jason knows that blogging is a powerful way to establish an authentic, authoritative voice. Your blog is your place to share your thoughts with your audience.

Blogging is an opportunity to show off your expertise to your industry, but also to your audience. It’s a great way to connect with your audience and to start building a relationship with them.

To put it simply, blogging is an opportunity to expand your audience, share quality information with readers, and can help you establish your voice as a brand.

Cheval’s advice is important to keep in mind. Social media is like rented property when you think about it. You don’t own the platform, nor can you count on it to always be around. If a social media platform shuts down, you’re going to lose your followers and everything you’ve worked so hard to build (unless you’ve successfully converted them to readers, subscribers, and customers). Your blog, however, is one place that you truly own and are in control of.

Q2: Where should you blog this year besides your own website? Discuss how to find the right platforms.

While blogging on your own website is great, blogging on other sites can provide major results. There are a lot of benefits to guest blogging, but it’s all about choosing the right places to post if you want to make it work for your brand. Keep these tips in mind:

Julia recommends creating a target persona for your audience so you know what they’re like. You can figure out their demographics and also what sites they’re reading on the web. That’s where you should be sharing your content! Check out the blog post she linked for more information on creating your own target persona.

The key to choosing the sites to guest blog on is figuring out where your audience spends their time online. You want to post on the sites that your target audiences reads so they’ll discover you and head over to your website.

Jason also knows the importance of finding the popular blogs in your wheelhouse and guest posting there. It’s the best way for you to reach your target audience and hopefully make them a fan of your brand.

Varun recommends posting on forums that are specific to your industry, guest blogging on authority websites, and also using platforms like Quora, Reddit, and LinkedIn.

Another great option is to create content for Medium. Trying posting there a few times and see if you notice any results. Blogging for ROI is going to take some trial and error and you have to figure out what works for your brand.

Q3: What are a few SEO strategies all bloggers need to know if they want to get their content noticed?

It’s no secret that if you want to get your content noticed, SEO is very important. And we can’t talk blogging for ROI without mentioning some SEO tactics, can we? Of course not! So, in order to make sure your content gets noticed and attracts viewers, these are the optimization basics you need to know:

Julia knows how important it is to be able to conduct keyword research. She also said you need to know how to use H2s, H3s, alt tags, and how to write a meta description. It may sound overwhelming for beginners, but it’s all easy to figure out.

Sarah from ThinkSEM said you need to know your audience and what is going to resonate with them. Before you start thinking about SEO tactics, this is the first thing you need to consider.

As Sara said, it’s important to have a keyword tool handy so you can research which focus keyword is ideal for your content.

Once you have the right keyword, you can plug that into your content. You’ll want to use your keyword in the title of your blog post, the URL, the meta description, and throughout the post itself. As Mallie said though, it’s important that you don’t go overboard. Keyword stuffing is a huge turn-off for your readers and Google doesn’t like it either. They should be incorporated in a way that feels natural.

Yoast is a great SEO plugin to use if your site is running on WordPress. It’s very simple to use and it makes optimization easy for beginners and those who are more experienced. We use it here at Express Writers and highly recommend it!

Jeff knows that Google Analytics is another great tool to use as part of your keyword strategy in order to optimize your content.

Q4: How can you figure out what content your audience most wants to see on your blog?

In order to attract people to your blog in the first place, you need to create the content they want to see. Once they know you’re a source of great information, they’re going to keep coming back for more. But how do you figure out what kind of content you need to create for your audience? Check out these tips:

Julia recommends figuring out what your audience’s biggest questions are and answering them. You can use tools like Answer the Public and others to figure out what they need help with.

Not sure what your audience wants? Ask them! It really is that simple. You can create a survey and share it for readers to leave their feedback and you’ll easily see what they’re interested in. You can also post on social media to get suggestions.

Jeff also agrees that asking your audience what they want is a pretty powerful strategy. Not only does it provide you with great feedback, but it gives your audience the chance to have their voice heard. They’ll appreciate that.

Besides flat out asking them, you can also conduct a little research of your own. Figure out what they’re talking about, what they’re liking and sharing. Listening is key to understand your audience. Check out their conversations on social media and pay attention to the comments they leave and the emails they send.

It’s also worthwhile to see what your competitors are doing. Check out businesses that are similar to yours and find out what’s been working for them and what’s not. You obviously don’t want to copy their strategy, but it can give you plenty of ideas for what you can create.

Sending out a yearly survey is a great way to question your audience about their interests. Getting into the habit of doing it every year ensures you’re always updated on what your audience is looking for. It’s also wise to check your analytics to see which posts are more popular since it gives you an idea of what to create more of.

Kristen also knows your analytics can be helpful when it comes to content creation. See which posts get the most traffic and which posts your readers spend the most time on to see what works best.

And as James said, it all goes back to understanding your audience.

Q5: How important is it to include a call to action in your blog posts? Describe an effective CTA.

A call to action essentially tells your reader what the next step is. What do you want them to do after reading your blog post? Do you want them to leave your site without engaging with you, possibly to never return again? Definitely not! That’s where a call to action comes in. Check out these tips for crafting an effective CTA:

Forgetting a CTA could cause you to lose out on leads. Not good! Check out our post on crafting a CTA for more in-depth tips.

Check out a few of our CTAs above!

If you’re blogging for ROI, then it’s essential that you prompt your readers to take action. A clear CTA will tell them exactly what to do and will encourage them to follow through.

As Jeff pointed out, you also can’t assume your readers are just going to take the action you want them to take. You need to make it clear and empower them to follow through.

Zala said you shouldn’t make your readers guest what they need to do next. Make it clear what you want them to do with a CTA.

Your content should serve a purpose and it’s important to let your audience know what’s next. Sarah recommends that all CTAs should be visible, understandable, and well-placed and in order to be effective.

Without a CTA, there isn’t much of a purpose to your post, is there? Make sure it’s well-written, compelling, and concise in order to inspire action.

Q6: What are the secrets to making blog customers convert into real customers and clients?

Once you have people visiting your blog, you want them to take that next step with your brand. You want them to ultimately become customers and clients. How do you make that happen? We’ve got some great advice for you:

Julia’s advice is to choose targeted reader topics and provide thorough answers. Don’t forget to also optimize your content and to add a CTA.

Annaliese said you need to create high-quality, targeted content that leads readers through your funnel. This is key to seeing them finally convert.

Value and CTAs are two keys to success when it comes to blogging for ROI.

Focus on solving the common problems your audience is facing. They’ll appreciate you for it and you’ll be able to establish yourself as an authority in the process.

Don’t forget to engage with your audience as well. This helps to build a trusting relationship with them, which is key to ultimately making a sale.

Great advice from Michael: helping sells. Commit to helping your audience and you’ll start seeing results.

Q7: Do you rely on any tools to create amazing content for your blog? Share your favorites!

With so many tools available to us today, there are plenty to choose from that can help in content creation. Here are some suggestions to check out:

Be sure to check out Julia’s three favorite tools!

Mallie is all about her editorial calendar and so are we. No matter how you create your calendar, what’s important is that you actually use it.

WordPress, Google Analytics, Twitter, and Yoast are all great tools to use! Don’t forget how important that creative brain of yours is and time.

Quora, Reddit, Canva, and Bitly are all helpful tools.

Hemingway and Moz are two popular tools for content creators. Do you use them?

Maria is a fan of Trello for keeping things organized.

These are great suggestions from Sabjan!

Taking pen to paper is always so satisfying! Sometimes it’s just a lot nicer to do things the old school way as opposed to typing or punching out laters on our phone’s keyboard.

Q8: Which blogs do you read on a consistent basis? Tag them and let them know!

To wrap up our chat on blogging for ROI, we wanted to know which blogs our audience loves to read. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Julia likes to read content from Content Marketing Institute, Steve Rayson’s BuzzSumo posts, and Neil Patel’s blog.

Much like Zachary, we’re big fans of Gary Vaynerchuk here at Express Writers.

Annaliese enjoys reading Hootsuite’s blog.

These are all great suggestions from Rebecca!

You’ll want to add these sites to your reading list!

Don’t get so caught up in consuming content that you forget to embrace the world around you. As Shannon said, you need to pay attention and you’ll surely find some ideas for your content.

We look forward to seeing you at the next #ContentWritingChat! Mark your calendars weekly for Tuesday at 10 AM Central Time for great chats centered around content writing and marketing. Follow @ExpWriters to stay updated on our new topics and guests!

E18 Keesa Schreane

The Write Podcast, Episode 18: The Secrets of Customer-Centric Content: How to Discover What Keeps Them Craving More with Keesa Schreane

Listen to “E18 The Secrets of Customer-Centric Content: How to Discover What Keeps Them Craving More with Keesa Schreane” on Spreaker.

I first listened to Keesa Schreane last November at the Search Engine Journal Summit in NYC, where she covered Inspired Marketing: How To Leverage Emotions In SEO. Her presentation was of so much value that I had to invite her onto my podcast! We connected on Twitter, then LinkedIn, and the rest is history. 🙂

Keesa, the API, platform and analytics content marketing head at Thomson Reuters, joined me today to discuss how online content works hand-in-hand with customer relationships and service. This is a unique topic to my podcast, and one to be sure to listen to all the way through.

If there’s one thing I think that’s not maximized enough in today’s content marketing world, it’s how to draw out super valuable content ideas from the very problems your own customers face daily. If you can uncover that, you’ll discover the hottest content topics to talk about to capture a motivated audience who will only enlarge your own customer base!

Win, win. Keesa is all about serving those you sell to–and her ideas are golden.

Enjoy this week’s episode!

E18 Keesa Schreane

The Write Podcast, Episode 18: The Secrets of Customer-Centric Content- How to Discover What Keeps Them Craving More with Keesa Schreane Show Notes

While Keesa’s background is in journalism, she’s spent years writing about personal finance, entrepreneurism, and careers. People describe her as “curious” and she believes deeply in maintaining this as a marketer, as well as a journalist.

This curiosity lead her into a career with entrepreneurs. In this podcast, Keesa talks about why she loves working with entrepreneurs so much, and how this dynamic group of innovators has led her to develop her own outlook on customer service, content, and digital relationships:

In our conversation, Keesa and I discuss the following:

  • Keesa’s role at Thomson Reuters. Keesa also gives us a glimpse into how she arrived at her dynamic role, and how her background influenced her decisions (and how curiosity is so important to content marketers!)
  • Why we build the things we build. Keesa talks about how great customer service and communication tie into great content. Keesa helps listeners understand how businesses can use customer service to develop great relationships while also incorporating the mission into the content they create, to create massively effective content!
  • Why it’s important to talk to your client ‘as if they were a 6-year old.’ While jargon can be tempting, Keesa describes why she thinks clarity and simplicity are central to shareable content–even with a high-level audience!
  • How businesses can start building a core message for their audiences. Plus, the importance of fleshing your customer personas out into real, semi-fictional people.
  • How to communicate and reach your target audience most effectively. Keesa talks about why it’s critical to read what your audience reads and visit the platforms they love.
  • How brands can provide the message of “great customer service” and show you care for your customers through content and branding. How building a “use case” can help set up your workflow and show your customer you understand their processes.
  • How to keep your audiences coming back once you have them hooked. And how finding out how your service and product is important to your clients will help you predict their future pain points.

Favorite Quotes to Tweet

'Be clear on why you do what you do, and marry that to a need in the marketplace.' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet 'Great customer service and communication ties into great content.' @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet 'Businesses can tie in great customer relationships to their copy = massively effective!' @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet 'How to keep them coming back for more: know where your customer hangs out. Get to know X by knowing where X hangs out. Understand what motivates them, what’s important to them.' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet 'If you're not ahead of the trends, in content marketing, you're behind.' @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet 'Have one-on-one conversations with your customers so you can serve them best.' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet 'Nurture a client relationship by talking to customers. Listen to them, but also ask them questions. Be right there with them on their next question.' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet 'I know it's old-school, but I use Excel as my editorial calendar.' @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet 'Sometimes, old school is all you need.' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet Reach out to a small trial group of customers, maybe a dozen, and ask: 'Hey, this is what I’m thinking about for next quarter blog. Does this resonate with you?' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet 'Look for topics that prompt more conversation.' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet 'We want every point in the customer journey to be the best for that customer – to be tailor-made for that customer.' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet 'If a writer sticks to the story, the readers are going to be drawn to the authenticity of the article.' @KeesaCamille Click To Tweet

Links Mentioned

 

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E01 Write Podcast Website Cover Featured Image

The Write Podcast Episode 1: How I Quit McDonalds & Nursing School to Start a Six-Figure Writing Agency

Welcome to the very first episode of my podcast, The Write Podcast! I’m so, so thrilled this day has come. In a relieved-finally-it’s-out sort of way. I’ve been pouring the last four months of my life into grueling things like learning what the heck dB/Hz means in Audacity (one of the best podcast editing softwares), the joys of recording and re-recording episodes in the hope that things finally work, and the wonders of Skype (it tends to freeze mid-sentence: and I’ve actually learned how to repair those suspenseful mid-sentence hangs in the raw audio file).

So, here you are–and I’m so thrilled that The Write Podcast is finally around, so I can share information, fun-packed episodes to inspire and grow your skills in content creation, marketing and entrepreneurship!

In my first episode, I’ve shared my story, nutshell-ed (you’re welcome), in a 14-minutes-type-of-nutshell. For those of you who ask me about my story all the time, here you go!

I hope this will inspire those of you who are in the “starting” points, at ANY stage. This episode is JUST for you. Keep trudging on, you rebel you. Keep breaking the mold, and do something that a bunch of folks might think you’re “crazy” to do. Back in 2011, when I coined my company name in 5 minutes. I never dreamed Express Writers would be where it is today–a team of nearly 70 people, all working remotely, all hired by me; a revenue of six-figures; clients like Bank of America, Shopify, PayPal. Heck, I dropped out of nursing school and quit McDonald’s. And I’m even looking at my first published book and second brand on the horizon today.

If I could share one tip with you beginners, right now: work hard. Stare at that sentence, and realize it’s simplicity. Seriously. I put in 16-hour, 50+ hour work weeks every single day, sometimes even Sundays, in the first couple of years. Life was a ball of constant stress. And yes, there were days I didn’t know where the next dollar would be coming in for my month’s rent. But hey, don’t all success stories have this type of beginning? Work hard. Don’t overthink that. Be willing to put in the work, and (excuse me while I get all Nike on you) just do it.

If you like my podcast, whether that’s a single like or a big fat heart like… I would be so honored (times a million) if you could rate it via iTunes. That really helps with the rankings and overall search/audience visibility. Thanks for stopping by and listening! P.S.: If you like boring things like a very specific word-for-word transcription of my full audio, it’s below the bulleted recap.

how i quit mcdonalds julias story

In this introductory episode of The Write Podcast, Julia covers:

  • Her early beginnings as a 12-year-old, when she started 3 companies and wrote a novel
  • How Julia quit McDonalds and left nursing school…and what prompted her 180-degree career decision to be a writer
  • How she turned a heartfelt passion into a career
  • What SEO content writing was like in the early days of 2011
  • How Google influenced/influences online writing
  • What good standards are today and how Julia runs her agency
  • Get ready for Julia’s how-to guide on online writing coming out!

Full Transcription of The Write Podcast, E01: How I Quit McDonalds & Nursing School to Start a Six-Figure Writing Agency

Julia: Hello and welcome to the Write podcast!

This is your host Julia McCoy and for my first episode I’ll be sharing my story, how I went from being a broke college student at nursing school, working at McDonald’s to a self taught successful online content writer and business owner at 20 years old, so stay tuned.

So for those of you who don’t know me I’m the founder of Express Writers an online content agency. I have over 60 writers, editors and content creators and together we write blogs, website pages and other forms of online content.

I started this company in 2011 when I was 20 years old with a personal investment of only $75 I taught myself everything I needed to know to run my business well. Today is a six figure company we broke our first half million in my fourth year in business which was 2015. To sum up how I got here I would say that it’s a combination of really hard work and a lot of passion.

I’ve also failed a lot to get to where I am, so let me start at the beginning without telling you my life story, which could go on for hours. I’m convinced I was a born writer, when I was seven I started writing down story plots poems and I was drawing. By the time I was 12 I had a fully illustrated 200 page medieval fiction about a night in the middle ages.

I was going to publish this book when I was a teenager but I lost it on a corrupted 3 ½ floppy disk. I think that at 12 I also found my roots as an entrepreneur, at 12 years old, when I started an Internet company which was actually going around and helping my neighbors fix their computers and get on the Internet.

I helped a lot of people in their late ’60s and early ’70s learn how to use the Internet: it was a lot of fun. So before the time I was 13, I founded about three different little tiny companies One was my computer repair company, another was trying to get people to sign up to the online survey, which are probably not recommend that today.

My third company was a little cleaning company. When I was growing up I didn’t think I was supposed to be writer. I thought my calling was to be a nurse. I was home schooled up until College and when I was 16 I started dual enrollment classes at college to get my prerequisites done for nursing school.

By the time I was 19, I was working full-time at McDonald’s a lot of times over night shifts and I was balancing full-time semesters and nursing school. I hated when I was doing everyday. I was so tired, worn out and I wasn’t enjoying my life. So at 19 one morning I woke up and the thought just popped in my mind, why am I doing what I don’t like to do?

I don’t have to do this for the rest of my life. Then I asked myself what I love to do and I knew that I loved to write and I needed that the route to go would be online because of the companies I started when I was 12, and my experience dabbling back then in Internet marketing, just like writing I thoroughly insulated using the Internet and learning how to market through it.

So at 19 when the idea popped in my head about trying to discover what I love to do and trying to make a career out of it. Basically the next morning I got up at 4 AM and researched everything. I started learning about Elance and Upwork which were the early freelance communities for online writers, I taught myself SEO skills, I taught myself some HTML, and I just got started.

Over the next year I taught myself all the skills I needed to know to write successful online content from webpages to blogs to press releases, product descriptions and all different kinds of content. I was up really early and working really late. Some of my favorite first jobs were from Craigslist gigs.

I was really surprised to find a lot of writing jobs there with really good clients but in my first year things were pretty hard. I was paid such low rates that it’s pretty embarrassing to talk about today. There were days when I was writing 50 articles a day just to get a paycheck that will pay for my rent and my phone bills.

I even started getting carpal tunnel and my fingers would lock up at the end of the day from all the typing I was doing. But I actually don’t regret those early months because that’s how I fine tuned my best online writing skills And that was my starting ground to get to where I am today.

There was a mindset back in 2011 that the cheaper the writer, the better it is and you don’t have to treat your writers well. It was almost like writers were slaves. And we weren’t paid well and we were treated really bad. Google was a driving force of the amount of content needed on the web.

And I got a lot of jobs from marketers who were looking to fill their website with optimized content. This content was optimized for a certain keywords that they wanted to rank for and back then Google was not as smart as it is today. So marketers simply needed to get content to fill their website with the keyword in it, so the content was not as good as the content on the web today.

And when I was given jobs it was very often a keyword without any sense, without any grammar, and I was told to stuff that in amount of words as many times as I could and I was writing stuff like payday loans now Atlanta with that in my sub header, title and throughout my content.

And it sounded really stuffed, and it was really bad content. Today Google doesn’t look at keywords like this anymore it doesn’t just count the amount of keywords in content it bases ranking on authority, relevance and trust, which means that the content you need to produce today is a lot more human than just that keyword stuffed forced content of years ago.

Today when my team and I write content it’s more about the reader than the keyword, we use any keywords naturally throughout the content but we write thinking about the reader. We write to be engaging, to pull in that reader, to be useful. And that is what content today should be like.

Google is smart enough to pick out the content that serves the reader. So the mindset and needs for online content writing have really changed since I started out in 2011 and it’s been a really good change. Just months after delving in and teaching myself all of these skills, I got really good at writing online content and I picked up a lot of work.

Although it was a lot of hard work it involved what I absolutely love doing, putting my creative writing talents to use and using the internet as a means of getting paid to write. So when I was 20 in 2011 I was able to quit McDonald’s because in March of that year, I was earning more money than I’d ever earned.

In May of 2011, I formerly began Express Writers, I filed an LSC and my business Name. I coined my name Express Writers in five minutes. I was trying to come up with an agency name because I was getting more work than I could handle and I immediately thought of just looking for writers who had the same passion I did.

Hiring them and starting a company, it was literally a 5-minute idea and I ran with it. Looking back, I wish I would have spent a little more time with my company name, I only spent five minutes but the funny thing is that it worked and today we’re a half million dollar company.

I never would have guessed back then when I coined that company name that I would be where I am today. Goes to show if you follow your dreams, you never know where you’re going to end up. So when I officially began my company I was still in nursing school which meant that I was really struggling to get through both studying to be a nurse and running my little baby company.

There were so many days when I had to make the decision, was I going to fill a clients order because the writer I hired disappeared and I had to write the content or was I going to study for my next nursing lecture test. And there were so many times where I chose my company and my grade significantly failed because of that.

The next spring in 2012 when I started my second semester of nursing school I actually failed my clinicals. My clinical teacher told me afterwards, that it was not because I actually did something wrong on paper but she just didn’t see a passion in me for nursing and she told me instead that whenever I talked about my little tiny company that I had just started, she saw a sparkle in my eye and she encouraged me to go and do that.

It was the worst thing that happened to me that year and it was the best. It opened a door for me to really focus on my company and change my entire career focus. The day my clinical teacher failed me in nursing school, I went from being a struggling nursing student to being a business owner, 100% involved in my company.

And that failure was the best thing that could have happened to me that year. So that year I dove headfirst into growing my little company Express Writers. I was up again at 4 AM to hit crazy targets that I set for myself every day. I was sending over a hundred cold emails before noon.

I was cold calling the list of SEO agencies from Google. I found daily clients off of Craigslist gigs, and on top of that I was my own copywriter and editor. I didn’t know how to hire my best candidate, so I was learning that by trial and error. Eventually, with a lot of hard work and commitment, I saw things get better and easier.

And in late 2012 and early 2013, I transitioned from being a self-managed company handling over 60 hour workweeks, to a fully staffed company with an entire management team. Since 2013, we’ve seen a lot of growth. In 2014, I was training and writing documentation for our entire team, including coming up with different roles for content strategist.

So we not only write content, but we plan it for our clients too. And in 2015, we launched our first e-commerce content shop. Where our clients could just go online and order their content. It’s a fully built custom e-commerce platform that my COO, Josh McCoy came up with from scratch.

So, I’ve come a long way since 2011. It seems like almost every year we’ve doubled our size, and our endeavors at Express Writers, and today I still look at us as a growing company.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘To me growth is like a heartbeat, the only reason to stop growing is if you’re dead.’ @JuliaEMcCoy” quote=”To me growth is like a heartbeat, the only reason to stop growing is if you’re dead. We’re always brainstorming and we’re always growing our quality, and our level of service.”]

And I’ve tried never to lose focus on that. We never allow our quality standards to drop no matter how difficult hiring can get. Our entrance testing is a two step, really rigorous testing process, so we bring in the best writers. And we keep refining. As Google changes, I study those changes learn, and then I will adapt our online content writing principles.

So you’ve heard the nutshell of my entire story. How I succeeded, failed and got to be where I am today. I hope that my story inspires and motivates those who are listening. I believe that as an entrepreneur the sky is the limit. Set big goals and don’t be afraid to reach for them no matter what stands in your way.

[MUSIC] Thanks for joining today’s Write Podcast. For more online content, tips and strategies visit expresswriters.com/blog. And now here’s your host Julia McCoy with a final message. [MUSIC]

Julia: Are you a marketer or a writer? Go Join our Twitter chat that happens every Tuesday at 10 AM central standard time, join us with the #ContentWritingChat.

We launched it the first week of January this year and I was thrilled to see it trending on Twitter. I think it was number 42 most popular in the US. So we host this chat every single week on Tuesday, and we have guests that come on weekly and share their insights and expertise on content marketing SEO and more.

You can follow our Twitter chat account, at twitter.com/writingchat. And also launching my first ever published book. I’m really excited about it. It’s called So You Think You Can Write, the definitive guide to successful online writing. And in my book I detail everything I’ve taught myself to get to where I am.

How to write successful blog content, website content even headlines. How to research SEO keywords and much more. This is for the writer, who wants to take their skills online or any business owner, who wants to learn how to maximize content online for their business. I’m really excited about this book. I’m still in the final editing round, and I’m thinking it will be out in March this year. You can get on my book’s waiting list here. When it’s out, it will be available on Amazon.

Thank you for listening to today’s Write Podcast!

[MUSIC]

Like Julia’s episode? Be sure to go and rate via iTunes!

#ContentWritingChat first twitter chat

#ContentWritingChat First Episode: What is a Copywriter? With Julia McCoy Recap

We launched our very first #contentwritingchat this week, Tuesday the 19th at 10 AM, and it was a raging success! Over 300 tweets were sent back and forth in the short hour. I was the host, and the topic was all about my favorite subject, What is a Copywriter? As the host, I answered the key questions put together by my social media team on this topic. We had some great participants join in and add superb thoughts to the conversation!

Our Very First #ContentWritingChat Makes it To #42 Hottest Talked About on Twitter

The most exciting part was when we were told by TMobile that we ranked #42 in the USA on Twitter. We had to take a screenshot of that one:

Our chat featured writers, content creators and some of the experts who make up a large part of the content writing world.

Let’s dive right in on the recap! 

A copywriter works to build up a business. They work to make a business better from the ground up.

According to Anneliese Sparks, a good copywriter must have tech skills, be savvy and original. We agree.

Content that is engaging and targets an audience will pull the people in. Content that is well written will keep them in.

Content marketing is the best of both worlds for Olivia. She knows what it is all about and we know that the two often go hand in hand to get to content marketing.

Nearly everyone uses it, so it is important that social media content is unique. SEO is equally important because, let’s face it, who doesn’t use Google on a daily basis?

While we know there’s much more to SEO, long tail phrases are the newest way to get the content marketing results that you need for your business. They’re a great place to start.

Businesses need copywriters because most of them don’t have the skills for online writing. Copywriters provide professional service and great information that a business may not have been able to put out otherwise. You should also consider using a copywriter …

We are looking forward to seeing all of you next Tuesday at 10AM (Central) on the #ContentWritingChat! Our guest host will be none other than Elena from SEMrush, discussing content strategy tips for the online SEO writer. Join us on Twitter @ExpWriters!

black friday sale

Why We Didn’t Have a Black Friday Sale

This is an original short by Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers.

Everyone around me, everywhere I look, is having some sort of “Blowout Black Friday Clearance Deal NOW!” I flipped through (and instantly deleted) maybe 50 emails with some version of this title just today.

Now I’m not one to stop anyone from going to sales or having them. If that’s in your best interests, by all means—enjoy Black Friday.

Why We Didn’t Have A Blowout Black Friday Sale

How come we were one of the very few businesses who didn’t send out one of these emails or put out a quick promo code on social media?

black friday sale

For the new people perusing this. Express Writers is a copywriting agency. Our job is to write and create high quality content, web pages, ongoing blogs, sales pages, resumes, you-name-it—for businesses of all sizes and types.

My point is we don’t sell a product. We sell services. Human services.

And creative services, at that. No machine can replace a pen wielded by a real human with an active brain that has been endowed with the extra cells of writing creativity. We don’t sell a product we can mass-produce at once, sit in the closet, and ship out at a moment’s notice. Or what can be discounted for a quick sale at the end of the year.

Human services shouldn’t be discounted just because the commercial, product-oriented world has declared the Friday after Thanksgiving THE day for “blowout sales”.

4 Reasons Writing Doesn’t Ever Deserve a Coupon Code

1. It’s humanly created. Did I say yet that writing is a service written specifically to order, EVERY time it’s ordered? That is, if you want high quality. There’s services like Constant Content where writers bucket articles with random keywords, and you can come and buy those. I don’t recommend this, because in 2015/2016, to stand out in a huge sea of content marketing, you need to be unique; have your own voice; research and put a lot of work in; and have your own expertise angle to become a thought leader (a factor of winning content online).

2. It always takes time. Writers are working on the clock. If they give you a discount, chances are they have to rush through that piece and not spend as much time so they can make a decent hourly rate. And that’s why we don’t ever allow bartering. We know how much time is required by not just the writer, but our management; content specialists; and editorial staff on every single content piece (we never skip the quality process on anything). So, we charge to make the process worth our time, each time.

3. It’s too valuable. Would you ask your heart surgeon for a discount? Would you ask your chiropractor? Replace that with any service you value. Writing isn’t necessarily heart surgery, but it’s a talent to be valued. This ties into our human creation process mentioned. It also has huge ROI if you pick the right creative writer. Just don’t think of asking a good copywriter for a discount on their talents. The value is too high.

4. Writing is an art. A fading art, a God-given talent that not everyone can boast of. I meet a lot of people who say they can write or edit, but once they’re given our SEO and content tests, cannot. To truly create high quality content for the web is actually getting harder to do, because it’s hard to find a good copywriter who is dedicated and given to their trade.

So, don’t do a quick sale if you’re among those offering a human deliverable. Something that requires brain cells to come up with and deliver to specific order details, not in mass amounts that will sit on shelves for unlimited dates.

Here’s to the rebels of Black Friday.

Those who don’t conform and discount themselves to match the commercialization of America.

If you’re humanly creating what you’re selling for a living, don’t cheapen yourself for 24 hours just to match a short-lived fad.

I leave you with this quote by Eric Thomas:

Quotefancy-30012-3840x2160

To get high quality, non-cheap quality writing services 365 days of the year, visit our Content Shop.

express writers new logo

What’s New at Express Writers: Our Paper Plane Logo Rebrand, Upcoming Books & More

At Express Writers, we absolutely love adapting and growing.

What we don’t like to do is stay still.

express writers growth

Photo credit mayawidiani.tumblr.com

So, for the past few months, we’ve been working on a lot of things behind the scenes. Here’s a recap for you on just what we’ve been up to!

I Fly Like Paper, Get High Like Planes

express writers new logoOur calligraphy pen point has been our foundational visual logo for years now, and we were brainstorming together on how to take it to the next level, staring at different pen points and unique illustrative representations.

I looked at my team member, COO Josh, and instantly had a thought: a paper plane shape.

Then, we decided to take things up a notch and put the paper plane in motion – pointing directly to our name, flying, and “aloft.”

We knew we loved it as soon as the idea came to mind. The final designed product was done by our own COO Josh McCoy.

Our paper plane represents the modern standards we’re continually adapting to, and a standard of onwards/upwards that we have been upholding for four years now.

Just to put into reality how and why we work hard to symbolize the onward and upward standard in the industry of content writing. We are continually honing our services, and working towards the best content agency on the planet. The paper plane fits our mission statement in a big way.

Express Writers Announcement From Julia McCoy, CEO

Posted to our @ExpWriters Instagram account, here’s an announcement about all these changes at Express Writers from Julia:

I’m working on:

Books

Besides our logo rebrand, which has officially launched as of today, I’ve been working on two books: a complete guide on how to be an online content writer & a beginner’s guide to blogging.

Both will be out before Christmas, so stay tuned – look for an announcement from us with published Kindle book links.

Podcast & Twitter Chat

We’re launching:

I’ve already created our first episodes and scheduled in some super cool guests. I can’t wait to share all my content marketing knowledge and that of my guests’ with you.

Here’s to growing together in content marketing! 

cta seo guide

Google Hangout with Robert O’Haver and Rand Fishkin, CEO of MOZ, on Web Content Trends for 2014

We had the opportunity to attend and pose a live question during a Google Hangout on Air hosted by Robert O’Haver with guest speaker Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz, 20-year Internet veteran also known for co-authoring Art of SEO and co-founding Inbound.org.

View the Hangout on Youtube

Since Rand was answering questions live on air, I was able to post two questions for him, which he answered during the Hangout:

 

julia-mccoy-rand-fishkin

 
Rand’s question to our first question, what does he think about guest blogging, was sending us to his blog on the matter: Why Guest Posting & Blogging is a Slippery Slope. He posted this early in the week when checking on the G+ questions:

rand-fishkin-guest-blogging

 

Rand’s blog on guest blogging is well-worth a read if you are looking for in-depth thoughts, including answers to certain fallacies and assumptions about the matter.

 

His answer to our second question, what does Rand think in general of web content trends for 2014, was live on air. We’ve transcribed it:

 

Rand: So Julia wants to know, I and many others I know and work with would love to know what Rand thinks in general of web content trends in 2014. So I’ll answer the second one, since we talked about the first one.

 

So web content trends: the way I see things going is essentially we have sort of what I call two big trends going on.

 

One is a massive increase in the number of marketers who are interested in and performing content marketing; and because of that, you have much, much more competition than you’ve ever had before. That increased competition is causing a second trend, which is what I call consumer or content fatigue.

 

People who use social media to find content, find things on Reddit, get stuff emailed to them by friends, use Facebook, are getting overwhelmed; the amount of content that they are receiving, or you know being able to access, is just exponentially larger than it was a couple of years ago.

 

And so, what these two trends together combine to do is they make it such that a content marketer today and for the future is going to have to do two things in my opinion. Number one, focus on quality over quantity. Right? You can’t just say to do content marketing, I’m going to put out a blog post every night. I don’t think that’s what true, great content marketing will entail. I think it‘ll be: I have something truly valuable to share, I have a great way to present it, I have really put in the effort, I will put something out there that is far beyond the quality of what anyone else has done.

 

The second piece of that is not just great quality, but uniqueness of presentation. So, being the exception to the rule is going to be more and more and more important. That means the standard, long scroll-y infographic that everyone has seen a hundred thousand times, it has a little chart for a little thing, that might not be so great anymore. The silly little, fun little YouTube video might not work as well as it used to. The standard blog post with just some blocks of text might not work so well. But, we’re seeing the rise of things like Svbtle as a blogging platform because it’s very unique and it really is the exception to the rule in terms of things like presentation. We’re seeing a lot more visual assets do particularly well; high quality, interactive elements and quizzes and these types of things. The NY Times had a great language-based quiz that tried to identify where you were from based on how you answered particular questions. So, you know, there’s opportunity.

 

Presenter: Robert O’Haver I think, you also mentioned it, but the importance of not just puking up what someone else has written, but be unique with it, and stay relevant.

 

Rand: Yeah, absolutely.

 

Thank you, Rand, for such a great and informative answer to our question!
 

Julia Interviews Marc Landsberg, CEO of Social Deviant

I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Landsberg, CEO of Social Deviant, on Friday, January 24, 2014. See Marc’s blog and see his company online, Social Deviant. We were originally planning a Google Hangout, hosted by Open Communications, Mark’s marketing team—but it refused to work for us. Yes, maddening! Especially because we had our video cameras all ready! But, we were still able to meet in a recorded phone conference, and had a great conference together. 

What Marc Thought of Express Writers!

 

I started by introducing my company and asking Marc about Social Deviant. In return, Marc first started off by talking about how he appreciated, and saw the need and value for, the specific and large amounts of content Express Writers publishes. Marc is a 25+ year marketing veteran with a global exposure to CMOs, CEOs, for a long time, having built and sold his own businesses across the years. He saw a frustration in this world among agency owners where people did not create real-world content, which he saw as fundamental for their success—not an afterthought. Smart marketing of the future is smart content marketing, and they are synonymous. He saw the value in what Express Writers does from noticing a lack of the type of content we deliver. For instance, in one blog we talked about how to optimize your Pinterest posts. Marc saw that this offered real-world value to our followers. Too many agencies, Marc said, saw things from a 30,000 foot view—and the content topics we are delivering are spot on in today’s Internet.

 

Social Deviant Serving Big Names

Marc then talked about the value his brand, Social Deviant, brings to clients. “A toddler in a man’s body,” his less-than-two-year-old company focuses on helping their clients build smart social media strategies, identifying target audiences, thinking about business objectives and marketing goals, defining the content mixed model, and putting this into social platforms; including specific management, development, and optimization. SD links a strategic approach with a conceptual, creative approach instead of a programmatic idea of reposting, etc.  It’s a different approach, top-down rather than bottom-up. He outlined how he’s been targeting key metrics and building a content strategy for several clients. Just two years old, Social Deviant has already built out an entire strategy plan for amplify and publicize a new route in air travel across social media, and a specific retainer project for a big brand for Miller Coors Kraft Beer.

 

Why Social Deviant?

I asked Marc about his reasoning behind the company name Social Deviant. He believes in deviating from the typical and wants to revolutionize, in several ways, the field he works in. It’s also just as much as important, how you do it as what you do. Great reasoning, Marc!

 

Content & Social Media

Next up were my questions for Marc. Since he has probably seen it all when it comes to social media, I asked him what he thought of the role that content played in social media, specifically for example: how do blogs work for social media?

 

Content & Social Media = Synonymous

Marc said this is one of his favorite questions. What Social Deviant has done is equate social media with content. Social Deviant has basically made social media and content synonymous. Social media is content, Marc said. He said Express Writers’ content is great—because everything they do for clients is about content. Strategic issues arise, for example, how to measure and manage over time; how staffing can deliver smart content marketing; with POV on lots of this. Social Deviant has done a little “sleight-of-hand” to equate social media marketing to content marketing and include things like business metrics and content types, formats, frequency and volume, the social platforms, syndication and optimization strategies. He’s developed a 7-or-8 point list of content strategizing for all of his clients, making social media = content marketing synonymous.

 

Less Teaching In This Area?

I asked Marc if he has noticed less of a need for teaching, with more and more people realizing they need content. He said clients choose Social Deviant because they embrace the fact they need to be better content marketers. SD only pursues like-minded clients. Marc says: if you stink at advertising we’re probably not your guys, and I don’t have the time or energy to convince you that that’s the wrong approach! Instead, he is looking for clients who know they need to be smarter. The question isn’t just about social media, it’s about how to be a better content marketer, when clients approach SD.

 

Content Marketing As A Whole

SD also looks at all aspects and pieces of content marketing as content, and put a calendar together based on all aspects. They are re-defining what the marketing calendar looks like, driven by content. Put the word social aside, replace it with content. If you have a 12-month calendar, X budget, Y business objectives, what do you need to do to deliver on your marketing objectives? That could be a billboard, a long-form video, a Vine, infographic, images, all of the above. All of this is content. Which of these units make the most impact? Marc admitted it could be cheating—but he has put everything around content, which puts his company in a central role with all his clients. He’s taken the specific word social and replaced it with content.

 

At the ANA Social Summit in San Francisco, Social Deviant presented their new content calendar, driven by content formats that includes all online and offline content types. Interesting—at a social media summit, they presented an integrated content calendar! Incidentally, it’s now being used by big names like Farmer’s Insurance and was a hit when it was presented.

 

Marc said that what Express Writers does is very specific, very fantastic, and a great compliment to work that he’s doing. I told him we should hook this together! He said that we absolutely should, and offered to strategize together on a Join.me meeting with terrific opportunities to collaborate.

 

Long-Form Blogs Are Great, Marc Says

I then asked Marc how he saw other content products fitting into the realm of social media and content marketing: infographics, whitepapers, e-books. He said that Social Deviant has basically construed a taxonomy, built across categories and tags, across social platforms. He specifically mentioned that SD loves “long-form blog content.” Google, Marc said, over-indexes it, and it’s even more powerful if you’re smart about the way you blog and you use tags, etc., which is overlooked by clients but yet enormously relevant.

 

SM Tools

Marc then listed some of the tools that he loves for content curation and discovery: content discovery for hashtags, VideoDeck. He still saw the value of Hootsuite; but there is growing competition there, with bigger clients looking at specific curation, syndication, analytical, or all-of-the-above needs. Adobe Social integrations have been growing.

 

We ended the call with Marc saying: there should be less hand-waving agency guys and more of you! Very excited to get Marc’s feedback, and it was an honor to talk to him.