Three years ago, my company WeGrowMedia took its first client. Today, I want to talk about my journey in running a company so far.
Before doing this, I had worked for a decade at a single company, they were disbanding and the last day of my job was right around July 4, 2010. I had setup WeGrowMedia the December before, the official “anniversary,” but I waited until I had stopped working one job to take a client for WeGrowMedia.
When I first announced this on my blog, one commenter scolded me for endangering the financial well-being of my family. You see, in quick succession, I launched my company, had my first child, and soon after, my wife quit her job as a teacher to be home with our son full time. These are three pretty big risks, which is why the commenter feared for my well-being.
I’m happy to report, the rewards have far outweighed any potential downsides.
It always struck me as a nice coincidence that I ventured out on my own during the week of Independence Day. I’ve been reflecting on that, the meaning of “independence,” and where it does – and DOESN’T – apply to my work.
Oftentimes, there is this vision of “being your own boss” when you start a company, and while I do enjoy the freedom to choose to do work I am proud of, I rarely sentimentalize “being my own boss.” I have many bosses, many obligations, not the least of which is to my clients, my family, and myself.
Let’s give this some context though. I typically work with 30-50 writers per month (these are writers who I have not worked within the past), as well as other clients. Here are all of the projects I am working on right now, quite a few of them I have not mentioned publicly before:
I love how online education has connected us and helps us each develop. Unlike many “online courses” I see, which just shove PDF files at you each week, what I enjoy most and find most useful is truly interacting with those who take my classes, brainstorming with them, working past obstacles, and getting to know them as a person. Here are the courses I am currently teaching:
- Build Your Author Platform – a six week online course. I am just rapping up a session of this.
- A private session of Build Your Author Platform that I am running for authors at a single literary agency. This runs through most of the summer.
- Masterclass: Roadmap to Readers – a new online course I am currently only offering to writers I have worked with already.
- Digital Content Strategy through Mediabistro
- Blogging 101 and Social Media 101 through Writer’s Digest
PRIVATE WRITING CLIENTS
I work one-on-one with authors as well, really getting into the trenches with them to grow their platforms, find readers, and develop specific marketing plans for their work. Right now I have four private clients, and since my work is not publicity oriented, I rarely say who these clients are publicly.
But, there is one exception to that rule, a writer I am working with and doing something very special for. We are embarking on a year-long book launch process, and will be live-blogging the entire thing! The writer is Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, whose next novel Bittersweet is to be published by Crown in May 2014. I am helping her on the overall strategy as well as many specific tactics to best reach readers. We thought it would be fun to share the process, and you can follow along here: http://wegrowmedia.com/bittersweet.
WRITING A BOOK
This is another thing I haven’t really announced publicly yet, but yes, I am writing a book. BUT! I’m not doing it a lone. My friend Christina Rosalie, an artist & writer, and I kept having these long Skype chats about what it means to really live a creative life. We talked about the amazing things we see online, and also considered what does and doesn’t add up to a body of work over time.
We finally realized that our ideas complemented each other really well, and that the best format to explore this would be a book. So, we are doing just that. We are also beginning to blog about these ideas over at MakingACreativeLife.com. That site is a sketchbook for us.
I usually have a couple of corporate consulting gigs as well, working with publishers or media companies to help them better connect with readers and develop compelling content and marketing strategies. I also do a lot of training programs for their employees, partners or audiences to help them grow their skills.
Right now, I am consulting with JWT, a digital agency, helping one of their clients with their content strategy & better understanding their audience and how to reach them. It’s fun to work inside a company like this and consider the strategies & tactics that large organizations use, and how it applies back down to the goals of authors who are hoping to connect with readers.
RUNNING AN ONLINE CONFERENCE
I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I am about to announce an online conference for writers that I am running. I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this, and how amazing it is going to be. Right now, I have recruited my advisory board, am crafting the agenda, conference details, and lining up speakers. More info very soon…
A MEETUP FOR CREATIVE PROFESSIONALS
My friend Scott McDowell and I are holding our first local meetup in Morristown, New Jersey on July 11th. The goal is to meet other creative professionals working in this area, folks who are writers, designers, artists, and entrepreneurs who are crafting meaningful work. He and I will each make a short presentation, but the real goal is conversation and forging helpful connections. Hopefully, we can make this a monthly endeavor.
SPEAKING & WORKSHOPS
I regularly speak at publishing and writing conferences, and run in-person workshops. Next week I will be speaking at Thrillerfest in New York City, and I recently spoke at Backspace Conference, Writer’s Digest Conference, Tools of Change for Publishing, and several others.
Beyond that, every week I blog, send out a newsletter, update social media, and am a contributor to WriterUnboxed.com and Huffington Post Books. This is an area where I feel I could do so much more, but simply feel that I don’t have the time. I am a slow writer.
End of list.
Sure, there are other ideas and projects I am exploring, such as an event at the new Word Bookstore opening in Jersey City soon. But the list above is all of the things I am working on RIGHT NOW.
I LOVE the work that I do, the people I get to work with, the range of different projects keeps me fueled creatively, plus: I am ALWAYS learning. This is by far the most creative period in my life, and the most fulfilling as well.
Because of all of this responsibility, that is why I shy away from the term “independence,” or boasting about “being your own boss.” That isn’t a goal for me. I LIKE serving these people, and having these responsibilities.
Beyond the opportunity to create meaningful work and have meaningful relationships/experiences, there is another benefit, one that I don’t often write about…
I work from home, from cafes, from libraries. What this means is that I get to choose when and where I work. The biggest benefit of this is that I get to be very present in the lives of my wife and 3 year old son. Every single day. I am often there when they wake and up; I eat lunch with them every day; I take my son out right at 5pm each day, spending a couple of hour together at the park, library or elsewhere; and I pop in for short conversations or play sessions throughout the day.
The qualitative difference this makes in the life of my family is even beyond my own comprehension. But I know that:
- My wife and I are likely less stressed trying to coordinate schedules, or in me being away all day because of a commute. Before I started WeGrowMedia, I was gone from 7am – 7pm at my job, and that included at least 2 hours of commuting time.
- My son gets to grow up with me there throughout the day, every day. And while I clearly work a lot, he gets to actually see me working, and ENJOYING that work.
There are lots of ways to measure success. And yes, I do focus on revenue and supporting my family as the sole financial provider. I would never EVER diminish the importance of that.
But I also measure success in how I live every day. The experiences I have in the small moments of the day. And of course, in who I experience those moments with.
So that is WeGrowMedia a bit more than 3 years in. That is what I do everyday, and why I do it. I hope none of this came off as gloating or self-serving, that is not my intention.