How can you make more money without growing the size of your business? What systems and mindset do you need to focus on in order to leverage your limited time? Elaine Pofeldt talks about Tiny Business, Big Money in this interview.
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Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist specializing in small business and entrepreneurship, as well as an author, editor, and ghostwriter. Elaine was previously on the show in 2020 talking about her previous book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business. Today we’re talking about her latest book Tiny Business, Big Money, Strategies for Creating a High-Revenue Microbusiness.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- The definition of a microbusiness, and how that applies to solopreneurs
- How successful microbusinesses survived the pandemic by diversifying
- Why we need to separate the ‘writer’ from the ‘business owner’ and work out what’s really important
- Tools and strategies of successful microbusinesses
- The importance of long-term thinking and building relationships
- Breaking through the ‘low price’ barrier to sell higher value products
- What works for marketing non-fiction books?
You can find Elaine Pofeldt at TinyBusinessBigMoney.com and on Twitter @ElainePofeldt
Transcript of Interview with Elaine Pofeldt
Jo: Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist specializing in small business and entrepreneurship, as well as an author, editor, and ghostwriter. Elaine was previously on the show in 2020 talking about her previous book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business. Today we’re talking about her latest book Tiny Business, Big Money, Strategies for Creating a High-Revenue Microbusiness. Welcome back to the show, Elaine.
Elaine: Thank you so much, Joanna, it’s great to be here.
Jo: I’m excited to talk about this. So, let’s start with your definition.
What is your definition of a tiny business or a micro business?
Elaine: For the purposes of this book, I looked at businesses that were 20 employees or less, but, generally speaking, they were 5 employees or less. And some of them didn’t have employees, they just had a recurring team of contractors.
What was different from the first book is that, if they did use contractors, it wasn’t the random contractor here and there, this was a team. And the owner of the business had to act as a leader of a team, which is a big transition for a lot of solopreneurs.
Jo: I think this is why I wanted to talk to you because this is exactly what most authors listening have. My business is a tiny business, I’m the only employee, but I have a team of freelancers and I manage it all.
What was it that made you want to write this book after the last one?
What is it about micro businesses that made you go, ‘Yes, I need to write another book on this’?
Elaine: What got me interested in micro businesses was, as a business journalist, I noticed that almost all of the coverage on small businesses was about startups that were hoping to scale into the next unicorn. There was very little about the type of business that most people actually aspire to run, which is the solo business.
A lot of people are looking for a lifestyle business that allows them to replace their income from a corporate job but not have the stress. They don’t necessarily want to scale, they like to keep their business small.
What I found was, after I did the first business, a number of the businesses said, ‘Elaine, we’re really sorry but we hired someone,’ and I would say, ‘that’s awesome. You don’t have to apologize to me for hiring somebody. I’m not against growing a business.’
What I think the challenge was for a lot of them was the leadership part of it. When you start transitioning from being a writer to being a writer with a team, you need to communicate more. And even though communication may be your forte, it’s a different type of communication as to what is expected of people on the team, when are the deliverables due, what does good look like, and that sort of thing.
You can lose the little bit of freedom if you don’t get it right because you’re then always having to put out fires. So, I thought, ‘What can I find out from entrepreneurs who are a step or two ahead of these entrepreneurs in terms of growing their business past the one-person stage that will help them to avoid those pitfalls and keep their great lifestyle?’ And that is what this new book is about.
Jo: So much to unpack there, but I do want to just come back to you, the timeline of this. Because 2020, when we talked last time, to now, which is we’re recording this in April, 2022, well, of course we’ve had 2 years of a global pandemic, which is still going on in a lot of places.
How has the pandemic impacted tiny businesses?
Elaine: It’s had a huge effect. A lot of them closed, here in the U.S., and I’m sure that’s true around the world. What I found in keeping up with the entrepreneurs in the first book and in learning the stories of the entrepreneurs in the second book was the ones that survived were very diversified.
They didn’t have just one sales channel. For instance, if they were a brick-and-mortar business that did service, maybe they also had a product.
I think writers did pretty well overall because we do digital work, to some extent, our whole careers are online. But even so there was some disruption for people in terms of their client base.
Maybe some of their clients weren’t digitally-based and took a hit and, therefore, didn’t need the services that they once did, or couldn’t afford it.
It behooved everybody, I think, to diversify, find new customer pools, and really make sure they were optimizing their business so that there was not a lot of waste in it. And that’s what the key to survival was, I think, for many of them.
Jo: You mentioned lifestyle and a lifestyle business, which is what I have. I’m one of those people also, I don’t want to scale in terms of the number of employees. I do want to scale in terms of money, which is why I like, that you say, a high-revenue micro business.
But in terms of the lifestyle, we’ve also heard a lot about the issues with working from home and, obviously, people have had childcare. Is lifestyle business, or freedom you also mentioned, is that actually false?
Does running your own micro business really give you these things or do you actually end up just working all the time?
Elaine: A lot depends on the systems that you put in place. A lifestyle business can take over your life and be your lifestyle if you’re not careful. But that’s where being very conscious is important.
Sometimes I know I’ve made the mistake of taking on clients who take far too much time, they’re not a good fit for the business. And that can cut into your time with your children or your pets or your hobbies or the other things that matter to you.
You have to be very mindful, I think, in terms of which clients are the right ones for you, which types of products are the most efficient for you, and also setting limits as to when you work and where you work.
You can literally work all the time, if you’re a writer, but that doesn’t mean you should.
And part of this goes into planning, just looking at your schedule every week and saying, ‘What time will I block out that is only for fun or only for my family or only for the other things in life?’ and that forces you to be disciplined and contain the work into other time slots so that it doesn’t take over.
Jo: That is something that I find very hard, and I think a lot of people listening probably find hard too. Because everything in life for a writer becomes fodder for the next book, right? If you’re writing fiction, it’s like, ‘Oh, look, there’s an interesting character,’ or, ‘that setting might go well in my book.’ And it’s really hard to ever turn the brain off.
What are your tips for writers in particular in terms of the separation between practitioner and business owner?
Elaine: Oh, you’re so right about that occupational hazard, Joanna. I remember, as a teenager, my English teacher sent me to a writing conference. I wish I knew who said this, it was one of the speakers, she said, ‘When you’re a writer, nothing is ever wasted.’
I think we go into life thinking everything will make a good story and things can take up a lot of our time that maybe we shouldn’t be spending it on if we want to also have a business. So, I think part of it is really having a purpose in your business.
I know I work with a business coach, his name is Doug Wick, and he’s been a great coach for me, he works with middle-market companies. And the reason I worked with him even though my business is much smaller than a middle-market company was he had survived a cancer diagnosis where he had a 2%, less than a 2% chance to live.
He’s very focused on what’s important. And I thought, ‘My life is totally different from his. I’m a mother with four children, now that my oldest are teenagers, and for me that’s a priority. So, saying yes to them means saying no to other things.’
No one understands that better than someone who has been basically told their life is over. Luckily, he had a stem-cell transplant, he survived and now, more than 10 years later, he’s fine. I think keeping that in mind.
None of us has unlimited time and we really have to make decisions. If we say yes to one thing, that means we’re saying no to doing other things in that time.
I find that’s a kind of simple tool to use every time you say yes to things. Sometimes they’re worthy, it might be volunteering to do something, but is that a cause that really matters to you or are you saying no to a cause that does because you’re just randomly doing this thing because it sounds nice to do? That’s the kind of thinking you need, I think, to have a balanced life and not let everything take over.
Jo: I find this is part of the problem though is that a lot of people coming into, say, ‘the author life,’ they think that their job is writing full time. And those of us who are full-time writers, will hear things like, ‘Well, you’re not a real full-time writer because you don’t write all the time.’
I feel like it’s almost a misnomer to say that one is a full-time anything. You have a lot of different titles as well but we all have to do different things when we’re running a business that is different to the work of the products that go into the business, I suppose. It is important, it does have a priority, right?
How can we reframe the ‘work’ of the business?
Elaine: You need some time to write but I think getting caught up in what other people think about you, as a writer, is a trap. The proof is in the output really. So, if something took you 80 hours to write or took you 1 hour, it doesn’t really matter.
Reminding yourself of that is important because there are so many tools to be more efficient that, maybe if your work is taking an inordinate amount of time, that’s just because you’re not using the best tools.
For instance, transcriptions, there are all kinds of tools out there that you can use for transcriptions. Or you can transcribe yourself, that will add hours to your business and make it full time. But should you be doing that? Or would you be better served by going on a walk in the woods and just letting your mind wander and letting your creativity flow?
I think it’s almost an industrial-era perspective where you were punching a clock and, if you didn’t work 37.5 hours a week, you weren’t really working. But I think we all need to work on throwing that out the window because we’re in the digital age where a lot of things can be done quickly.
That said, it is important to have a regular writing practice or you won’t get the results. I’m a really big believer that practices like martial arts and yoga, two things that I actually really enjoy, are a good model for a writing practice.
Interestingly, in the book Tiny Business, Big Money, I did a survey of the seven-figure entrepreneurs. I think it was 88% exercise and the top exercise was yoga. I think what these practices teach you is the value of showing up.
You could sit down and write something day after day and nothing good will happen, you just throw it out, delete the file, and etc. Then, one day, somehow, as a result of all that work, the magic happens and it all comes together and you solve the writing problem.
If you didn’t keep showing up and just showed up on that day, I don’t think it would’ve happened. This is just my belief. Because this is what I see with yoga. I have some moves I’ve been working on for years, and then there’s one called ‘the crow’ where you’re…
Jo: Oh yeah, I know that one.
Elaine: The crow, right, you’re perched on your hands and then you put your knees on your elbows. I used to face plant for two years, I couldn’t do it. Then, one day, suddenly, I came and I could do it. Now I can do it going into a headstand, going back into it, shooting my feet out, doing all these crazy yoga tricks.
I never would’ve believed that I could do it, and I think the reason I can do it is during the pandemic it was really the only form of exercise with a group that was available to me, living in the New York area, my school met outside. So, I just went to it more than I usually did. And that was when I really got the results.
I think the same is true with writing. The more you do it over and over again, the more proficient you get. But I don’t think it matters exactly how many hours, it’s more that, even if you have just one hour a day, that you’re really present and you really put your best effort forward. That I think is what really helps.
Jo: I love that, I think that’s so important too, having a practice. I love that you also mentioned the industrial-era perspective.
I still struggle with this, or I guess we can also call it the Protestant work ethic. The fact that, if you are not putting in 10 hours a day or 12 hours a day, then, clearly, you’re not working hard enough. I definitely struggle with this. My husband is very good at changing processes so things are more efficient, which is what you mentioned.
You do have tools and things in the book, and you mentioned transcription.
What are some of the other tools that you found that people are using in these tiny businesses?
Elaine: One thing that might be helpful to your listeners would be an exercise that I actually did with my coach, which was to take an Excel spreadsheet or a Google sheet and put in all the hours of the day and actually map out what you’re doing. Because that will help you to identify time that might be wasted or better spent on something else in the business.
I found that tremendously helpful. Even if it’s not business-related, for instance, if you feel like seeing friends would actually make you happier and, therefore, you’d bring your best self, for lack of a better phrase, to your business, and you seem to have no time for friends, you might identify that you’re spending a certain amount of time at the laundromat, or something like that, and you should send your laundry out and, therefore, you would have time for friends.
It helps you identify things like that that you’re probably not aware of just because you get into habits and routines. Or you can spot things that you’re doing out of obligation that maybe no longer serve you and that you could drop and free time for other things.
When my children were younger, sometimes it’s hard to run a business when you have small children, you might find that, by not doing one other thing, you’ll have the time to spend in your business and make more money.
The other thing I would recommend is setting income goals because that can free you from some of the constraints of that industrial-era thinking.
If you say, ‘I need to make $2,000 a week,’ I’m just throwing that number out there hypothetically, and you’ve hit the $2,000, then you’ll feel less pressure to log the hours because you’ve already achieved the income goal. So, shifting your goals to a monetary goal.
Or it could be an aspirational goal like getting into a certain publication. If I write an article for the economist, I pitch it successfully and get it published this month, that will be one of my goals.
If you set goals like that that really matter to you, you’ll have the sense of progress you need in the business, assuming you’re also bringing in income from other things and meeting your income goals, that can free you also from that.
It’s really an employee mindset. That’s one of the things I talked about in one of the earlier chapters of the book was the mindset to be an entrepreneur. A lot of us have been trained to be employees, pretty much most of us, by our schools, by our parents, by every influence that has surrounded us until we entered the work world.
So, it’s no wonder we think that way, and I don’t think anyone should beat themselves up for thinking that way. But you almost have to unlearn it and really think about just results. What are the results? And if I can get them quickly, why do I have to follow the rules of doing things that I learned in a corporate job? Because I’m not in one anymore.
I’ll give you an example. I do a lot of different projects for different clients. When I do a project for a corporate client, just to pitch a blog, I would have to create a PowerPoint maybe involving the art department, to pitch it to the client. It could take 9 months for the blog to get published, 19 people could weigh in on it.
It will take that much effort because it might be for a big organization where those people all are stakeholders. But you don’t have to do all those things, there’s no point in doing a PowerPoint about a blog if you’re doing it one-on-one for a client.
So, if you think about the processes that you follow, they might be suited for a different business environment than you’re now working in, as a freelancer. And the more you can weed those out and just focus directly on the work, the better off you’ll be.
That is part of mindset, it’s letting go of this feeling, like, ‘I have to be the perfect employee,’ and just saying, ‘I have to be the perfect entrepreneur for me and do things my own way.’
There’s a writer in the book, Brian Dean, who founded Backlinko, and I actually just reconnected with him. He sold the business to SEMrush and he had created a course, it came out of an article he wrote about search-engine optimization.
He’s an introvert, he does not like meetings, and he managed the whole business on Notion. And he was able to sell business to a publicly traded company. So, if he can do that, then why do we have to follow all the rules, right?
Jo: It’s interesting. Many of my audience are independent authors. And people often say, ‘Oh, well, in traditional publishing, there are these types of rules.’ And then what’s happened in the 15 years that I’ve been in independent publishing is we’ve ended up making our own rules for a so-called independent movement, which now has these rules, in inverted commas, like you must put the book on Amazon and do this on launch week and blah-blah-blah.
And, of course, there are best practices, but how can we use best practices but, at the same time, not be an employee in that way and just, like, ‘Well, that’s the rule, so, we have to follow it.’?
There’s this tension between best practices and rules. Do we need to break out of that?
Elaine: I think we do. One way to do it is to reverse engineer your own successes. If you look back at your own greatest hits, say, you got an article in a prestigious publication or you sold a book to a publisher or your self-published book was a big hit, if you think about the things that led up to that, you’ll start to identify your own best practices, and they may be very different from what you did in corporate.
One example might be pitching a project. Somebody who has never pitched a project in an industry will get a book on pitches or find an article on pitches and try to mirror other people’s successful pitches and try to use the same subject lines that they use and all that other stuff.
But if you’ve started to build relationships in the industry, maybe the best way to pitch a project is you go out with one of your friends from the industry for a drink and you start talking about work, or whatever, and then it just flows naturally into the conversation that you’ve been wanting to do this article.
Then your friend’s like, ‘Oh, we need an article on that,’ and they hire you. That’s not a formal pitch but it might’ve been very effective for you. And what was really effective was that you’ve taken the time to build relationships in your industry to the point you’re really friendly with your clients and you’re both helping each other.
So, if that really is what has worked for you, then doing those other types of pitches is probably a waste of time and you really need to be doubling down your efforts going to industry events or making time for coffee with your friends or phone catch-ups. Whatever is feasible, whatever state of the pandemic we’re in.
It’s that type of thing that will be a reality check for you to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I didn’t do any of those things that I was told I was supposed to do, and yet, this was my biggest placement ever. So, I’m going to stick with what actually worked for me.’
I think that’s kind of what Brian Dean did was he found that using Notion, a tech platform, worked really well for him with project management and scaling his business.
There was no need to go on a Zoom meeting or other things that he “should” be doing. That didn’t work for him. He didn’t want to do it, he dreaded it, and he was just going to throw it out the window, and he found a new way to do it.
Jo: And like you said, he’s an introvert. I know a lot of people listening are introverts. I’m an introvert and I just was thinking about relationships there.
You and I, this is the second time we’ve talked on the phone, and I think I actually think I pitched you for the first time because I saw your book come out and I was like, ‘this looks really amazing,’ or, I heard you on another show.
And then this time you reached out to me because we got on last time. Right? So, you could say we have an acquaintance-style relationship. But just from one conversation and a friendly email we have developed what is happily a nice conversation and also content marketing for us and, hopefully, useful for the listeners.
I feel like long-term relationships are really important.
And also this kind of connection, rather than a relationship, can also be really good. Right?
Elaine: Oh, absolutely. I think it’s really important, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, to find ways to get to know the people that you work with beyond just the transaction.
I think some of us have been taught to focus on every hour that we work to make sure we’re getting the most out of each hour in terms of productivity, but I have found, I love talking with people, I don’t know if I’m an introvert or an extrovert, I can’t really tell, but I enjoy chatting.
I really enjoyed our conversation. I remembered it and I thought of you immediately when I had a new book because I just felt like we enjoyed talking about the last one. But I think we ran over too because we had a lot to talk about, giving yourself that extra little window to chat with someone and get to know them, and maybe I hear about something that might be useful to you six months from now or make an introduction or whatever, doing those things you really don’t know where they’re going to lead.
But if you’re in an industry where you enjoy the people, it makes it a lot easier. So, it might be, as a writer, if you find a niche where that’s happening for you more, where you just find yourself running over, talking to the people or chatting back and forth, if you prefer text messaging or other types of chatting over talking, that will help you grow your business.
It’s not necessarily for that reason. I’ve made a lot of great friends through my work that I’m friends with outside of anything to do with freelance writing, now we do all kinds of things, I just like them as people, but part of it is placing yourself in a niche within your industry where that will happen, that makes it easier.
But then giving yourself that little breathing room to really get to know real human beings and develop more of a, whatever you want to call it, relationship or whatever it is, just two human beings connecting around a shared passion, there’s a lot of power and energy in that.
Jo: I agree. You talk quite a lot about mindset, and I think another thing is this long-term thinking, and relationships would also come under that. As you say, you might meet someone at a conference and then, two years later, something might come up and you can reconnect again.
I feel also that with growing a small business in every aspect, your craft, relationships, the clients, all of this takes time.
When you were looking at the common mindset issues, how was long-term thinking part of that? And also, if people struggle with that, what are your tips for developing that long-term thinking?
Elaine: One thing that allows you to do the long-term thinking is putting the right financial foundation in place for your business. I know that seems removed, but what I’ve seen time and time again with any type of small business, it could be a writing practice or something else, is, if people run out of money, they can’t think long term, they can’t think about the big picture projects they’d like to do.
You do books, books are a long-term project. You can’t possibly do a book on a book advance or if you’re self-publishing. Unless you get a really, really big advance, you need some other form of income.
So, maybe you have a day job, maybe you’re doing bread-and-butter editing or something like that to fund the other stuff, maybe you live in a really small apartment, so, you have the freedom to write, but if you don’t have those pieces in place, you just will never have the luxury of getting out of scarcity mode, emergency mode, crisis mode.
You’ll never have the mental space to be a big-picture thinker. So, I think that’s really important.
It’s also very important to have a peer group to support you.
It’s very easy to feel alienated if you’re only surrounded by people who have traditional jobs because they’re following a different life path and maybe they’re planning to retire with a pension or they’ve had a big 401k or things that are harder for writers to have.
If you surround yourself with successful writers who are navigating those issues too, you’ll have other people who are on this journey with you, so, you don’t abandon the long-term thinking, they find ways.
A friend of mine is finding a way to take the summer off to work on a novel, and she’s been wanting to do this for a really long time, but, finally, she got all the financial pieces lined up. And that’s really inspiring to me to think, ‘Well, wow, we’ve been doing the same type of work all these years.’
She’s taking the summer off, something that I have not been able to do with four kids, two of whom are heading to college this year, but it inspired me. I think that’s important too is if you can find, even if it’s just one friend who’s doing the same type of career as you are, it really adds a lot.
Jo: I totally agree with you. I’ve blogged every year since I’ve gone full time, which is coming up for 12 years now, I’ve blogged my lessons learned from that year. And my lessons learned from year one were exactly that, which was, ‘I need some structure,’ ‘I need a community,’ ‘I don’t know anyone,’ ‘this is really hard,’ ‘I want to run back to the day job.’
It was meeting other people who were independent authors and who I could talk to, just have a coffee with, and go, ‘This is really hard, why is it so hard?’ That really helped me in that first couple of years. And that’s what I almost say to people now, ‘That first six months is a bit kind of white knuckle in that you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re just trying to figure it out.’
As you say, having other forms of income is really important. I feel like we undervalue that community.
You almost just have to reach out in some way, don’t you, to find those people?
Elaine: You definitely do, and you have to make yourself a little bit vulnerable. But the way I look at it is, if somebody doesn’t take you up on going out for coffee or a phone call, you have no idea why that is. It could be that they have a personal issue going on, it could be that they’re ill. Who knows what their situation is? You can’t take it personally.
Although maybe it is kind of a personal overture, reaching out in friendship.
And the more you reach out, the more comfortable you’ll get with it and the more great relationships you’ll have.
Making time every week to do that, it might just be reaching out to help people.
If you see someone put something on LinkedIn and they need a connection for an article that they’re writing, that can be the start of something more to find that community of other people like you.
I think it’s really important to have people in your network of all ages too. I think one thing is we tend to self-select our own demographic in terms of networking. But as a writer, one thing that I think is important is to see the new ways things are being done.
Having younger friends who grew up with different technologies is really a great asset. I literally just, a few minutes ago, learned about a few different technologies from a friend of mine who’s really tech-savvy. I’m going to add that I have to test them out and add them to my repertoire.
Same thing with older friends because they may have deep industry knowledge that you don’t have about something or a different network than you have or just a different perspective. I think that’s an important thing for any writer also. Any entrepreneur really for that matter.
Jo: Let’s talk a bit more about money because I wanted to share a quote from the book.
The difference between a tiny business that makes big money and one that makes average money is often in finding a way to charge premium prices by delivering unusual value.
This is a fantastic quote, but the problem with most authors listening, and you as well, you write a book and there is a very clear price range for a book, for example.
Any tips on turning things into big money for authors and writers?
Elaine: A [non-fiction] book is often a calling card but it may not be the way that you make the six-figure or seven-figure income. For most people it won’t be because, I think, we both know a lot of writers, how many really do just from the book alone?
If you really strike it hot and get lucky or if you have a number of books and you’re starting to get royalties every year, you have self-published books, and, as a group, they start bringing in that kind of revenue, that’s more achievable.
One area to look at is other ancillary products. For instance, you could do a course. One of the writers in the book, her name is Laura Belgray, you may know her, she’s a copywriter, she’s very funny, and she was actually making $1,450 per hour for her services. Which is probably 10 times what most people would make.
And she found it to be a lot of pressure because, when people are paying you that kind of money, you really have to perform in that hour. So, she decided to create…well, she had some two PDF courses about copywriting, one of them was about how to create your About Us page. And she wasn’t really marketing them very heavily.
So, she worked with a business coach and he said, ‘What if you sent out your email newsletter three times a week and promoted these more?’ And she already had created them, she hired a designer to make them look nice but they were very low-tech. Then she also started a mastermind about copywriting and she made it a point to include people from different industries.
So, there was really interesting chemistry in this mastermind and it was a combination of everything that brought her to seven figures. And then she wound up very rarely doing the hourly work anymore, even though it paid well, it was just too stressful. And that’s where she is now.
Actually, the last time I spoke with her, she was working on a book which sounded really funny. I think she’s got a really good model.
Another entrepreneur in the book, he’s also a copywriter, Dana Derricks. He lives on a goat farm, it seems like it’s more of a hobby-type farm in Wisconsin, and children visit it and that sort of thing, but he has this copywriting business and he actually scaled it to the point where he had employees.
He didn’t like having employees because of all the compliance and then he went back to more of a freelance team. But what he does is high ticket books where he sells books to his clients related to copywriting but he prices them based on the value of the information.
He started with a $400 book and he sold over a 1,000 copies of that, and then he kept upping the ante a little bit. And it seemed that he maybe topped out at $1,500 per book. And then there was a point of diminishing returns.
I thought that was an interesting mindset to think about, ‘Well, wow, if they applied all the information in this book, it would be worth at least $400.’ And he had takers.
So, that might be something else to think about is there a convention in your industry that makes no sense to you about how things are priced. There is the reality of what the market will bear.
If you’re doing copy editing, I don’t think you can charge $2,000 an hour for that but maybe you could do a copy-editing course or, how to become a copywriter in a weekend retreat at your nice apartment somewhere.
There are a lot of examples of this in the book of people taking their knowledge and turning it into a product. It’s not an overnight thing, all of these things require product development, but when you had mentioned about long-term thinking, Joanna, it’s so important.
That will allow you to say, ‘Okay, I want to introduce my PDF course on whatever this year, so, I need to have every Friday off to work on it. Therefore, I’m going to take on this really high-paying bread-and-butter work to finance that, even though I’m not going to be taking in any money from it the first year.’
Doing it one step at a time instead of trying to do nine things at once seems to be the way that a lot of these folks work, by the way.
Because otherwise you spread yourself too thin and then nothing gets done. And there’s sort of a negative energy I think that comes from having unfinished products, projects, and this gives you those wins so that you feel there is momentum.
And you also learn. If you release a product or mastermind and nobody signs up, maybe your pricing is wrong or you’ve named it the wrong thing or you released it the wrong time of year. You have an opportunity to learn from the first one and then use that to make the next one better.
Jo: I think so much there it’s learning about yourself, it’s learning about the product. And then, of course, your life changes.
I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and my business model has changed multiple times because things change.
You decide to pivot into a new way and you try something else. I think that’s probably another long-term thing is to have a business for the long term.
It doesn’t mean you set up a business and it just stays like that until you die. Things change, right?
Elaine: Yes, the whole market might change, the demand for certain things.
In my business, I started out just doing freelance journalism, and then there was a demand for content writing that started taking off, and I added that on. And then, in the great recession, some of the journalism dried up and I got more heavily into copywriting and marketing.
Then when things came back, then I was really busy but I realized it made sense to switch to adding some retainer clients to have more of a steady income instead of project by project. So, then I emphasized those clients, some of whom became book clients. We would do the content and then that kind of morphed into books.
Now probably the majority of my income comes from ghostwriting books. And interestingly, it’s not intentional but the fact that I write books attracts the right type of clients to me because they like my writing style in my own books and they can very easily see if we have a similar mindset or not just by reading the books. That’s been kind of an interesting thing that’s happened that I didn’t expect. I don’t know, you may have found that too for you.
Jo: I don’t do any ghostwriting but it is interesting how we pivot over time. We’re almost out of time ourselves, and I did want to ask you because you do have two non-fiction books under your own name. And in terms of book marketing, because people are always interested, like, ‘How do you market a book?’
What have you found works best for marketing your non-fiction books?
Elaine: For me personally, I have found podcasting to be a really great engine for meeting people that are genuinely interested in the types of things that I write about. Because podcasts are so niche that people won’t listen to a podcast if they’re really not interested in the topic.
They also have to self-select the topic. If they see ‘Tiny Business, Big Money’ and they have no interest in running a business, they won’t even listen to it. So, it brings to me a lot of the types of people that will enjoy my books, and a lot of them become friends.
Also, live events have been really helpful for me. With my first book, I did a lot of live events where I would do panel discussions with the entrepreneurs that I profiled in the book. I found that was so powerful, I couldn’t believe how powerful it was sometimes.
I would do events at the New York Public Library and there would be people out the door, like over 200 people, coming to these free events on a Thursday night to talk to the actual entrepreneurs. I think it’s because they’re regular people, just like anyone else, and yet they’ve achieved these great results.
People actually want to see them and talk to them and hear from them. And they can say it better than I ever can because they’re talking about their own lives.
So, that was very effective, and I think I will be resuming that again now that the weather is a little warmer and we can do meetings safely. I’ve been holding off a little bit with the pandemic, I’m in the New York area, but I think the timing is right to get people back together.
For folks that are in a part of the world where that’s feasible right now, that might be another option. Zoom events and things like that can also be helpful in terms of reaching a more global audience, and I do do a lot of Zoom events but I feel like, at this point in the pandemic, a lot of people are screened out. They don’t want to look at another Zoom call. So, I do it sparingly, only if I feel like the event will really reach people that are genuinely interested in what I write about.
Where can people find you and your books online?
Elaine: They can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook under my full name Elaine Pofeldt. And that’s in the show notes, the spelling. Or on Instagram @milliondollaronepersonbusiness.
I do write back, it makes me a better journalist to know what you’re curious about or to know your story. Sometimes I end up covering people that I hear from in that way.
The book is available on major bookstores Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the other major bookstores. I have a website tinybusinessbigmoney.com that has links to the bookstores that carry it. So, do reach out, I hope to hear from you. And I really appreciate that the listeners have tuned in.
Jo: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time, Elaine, that was great.
Elaine: Thank you so much, I really appreciate the show. You do so much for the writing community, so, thank you.
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Author: Joanna Penn