Jon Writes

The Brand Blog

3 ways I changed my business in its first year

When I launched the Jon Writes website and created a Facebook page a year ago, I had two steady clients, a storytelling itch I needed to scratch and only a few concrete ideas on what I wanted for my business.

Now that I’ve been side gigging for a year, I have a handful of steady clients (and an entire ocean of one-offs), a lot more itch that needs scratching and a few more concrete ideas on what I want for my business.

This is how I smile when I write things I like.

This is how I smile when I write things I like.

I love Jon Writes. But to tell the truth, managing it has been a mixed bag.

Some months, the work is so steady I can barely keep up. Other months? Well, let’s just say I’m glad I don’t freelance full-time.

It’s a hustle. A grind. A job.

I detest that cliched saying that proclaims if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life. I believe that if you do what you love, you’ll work 500,000 times harder to hone it, mold it and excel at it. You’ll cry over it. Stress over it. Fuss over it. Dote on it. Leave it for like two seconds, but come back with open arms and embrace it like the prodigal son.

That’s been my experience, at least. Still, I’m blessed. This is my side business, meaning I have the luxury of changing it to suit me, my schedule and my preferences.

Here are three significant changes I made in the first year of Jon Writes that make it better for me and, ultimately, my clients.

1. I stopped taking projects I didn’t enjoy

This changed the game. During my first (many) months of business, I held onto clients who gave me work that made me yawn. Literally.

Sure, I could write the stuff and make it good, but I was miserable doing it. The content didn’t stoke my passions; it just padded my bank account (and not by much).

Since 2016, I’ve worked corporate marketing jobs in the financial services industry. I like it, because it’s relevant and I learn a lot.

But some days can be grueling. You may find this hard to believe, but writing about finance doesn’t always make for an exciting time. Who knew?

That meant for months I spent my workday cranking out content about interest rates and business loans and then coming home to write about something as equally unimaginative.

I realized I needed to find a way to enjoy my side projects or my infantile business would die prematurely.

So, I began actively looking for projects that played to my strengths and interests, such as a feature story about a woman and her quilt of cupcakes, and a love story about two friends expecting a baby. I also started writing for The Biscuit, an email digest that puts Charlotte’s creative talent on full display, and editing for African American Graphic Designers.

Guess what? As off-the-beaten-path as they seem, these projects fulfilled me. How do I know? I still smile when I read them.

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2. I stopped undervaluing my work

Setting a fee structure is tricky.

You don’t want to undersell yourself because you do want to make money. You also don’t want to set an exorbitant fee because you may not get any business at all. You want to be fair to yourself and to your client.

Striking the balance is tough, and I won’t lie: I still don’t have it down pat. But for my first few months of business, I grossly underquoted myself. I charged pennies (not literally) for work that should’ve netted me at least $600.

Last September, I had an epiphany. I’m good at what I do. Real good. And there should be a premium on my work and time. So, I began researching how other freelancers set their fees and adopted a method of calculating the time it would take to finish a project so I could translate that into actual dollars.

Sometimes, I get what I quote. Sometimes, the client and I negotiate. Sometimes, the client flat out says no.

No matter the outcome, I’ve learned to value my work and avoid rendering low fees out of desperation. By the grace of God, I have a full-time job. I’m not desperate.

3. I (finally) updated my website

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This seems like a no-brainer, right? In the age of algorithms and Google bots, no stagnant website is going to generate much traffic or interest. But when you’re a one-man band, it’s tough to stop, slow down and take care of home.

It took me months (11, to be exact) to upload content writing samples onto the website. That was problematic considering the first thing you read on the homepage identifies me as a content writer 🤦🏽‍♂️.

Finally, in January this year, I sat down in my recliner and pulled my samples together. The result: more eyeballs on my work and at least one message on LinkedIn from a potential client.

Time will tell if the update will yield anything promising (I’m optimistic), but the takeaway is I can show people more of what I do instead of just talking about it.

There’s still work to be done

Jon Writes is a work in progress, and there’s still a lot I have to learn about managing it. There’s a lot more I want to do to grow the business. Here are a few.

  • Drop the knowledge: My brother from another mother has been trying to convince me to host a writing seminar at his barbershop for ages now. I want to do it. Anyone think it’s an event worth attending?

  • Be more social: Engagement on my business Facebook page could be better. I need to develop a solid social media strategy to keep Jon Writes in your news feeds.

  • Shoot for the stars: Even if I just land on the mountain, I want to be intentional about drawing more high-profile clients.

  • Attain balance. Is that a thing?: I have a full-time job, family, friends, a girlfriend, church and ministry (these two are very different in my book), mission trips, Netflix and myself to consider. Juggling it all can be tricky (sidenote: as I’m writing this blog, my girlfriend is still waiting for me to respond to a text she sent nearly 20 minutes ago 🤦🏽‍♂️).

Here’s hoping I make progress in 2019! Find more stuff I’ve written on the homepage and the Brand Blog.

Jonathan McFadden8 Comments