Find your people. Yes, this means a customer base. It also means people who know your customer base. Here in Dayton, I have a friend named Jason, a solopreneur handyman. To turn his skills into a viable business that supports his family, Jason’s gone out of his way to form friendships with people who already work with homeowners — real estate agents, loan officers, plumbers, roofers, painters. These folks are more than happy to have their clients just call Jason when needs arise.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua Lisec. He is the world’s only award-winning, celebrity-recommended, #1 international bestselling Certified Professional Ghostwriter.
Since 2011, Joshua has ghostwritten more than 55 full-length books as well as 1,000s of articles, blog posts, speeches, and white papers for household name entrepreneurs, executives, politicians, public figures, and the breakthrough stars of tomorrow in over 100 different industries. Ghostwriting clients have won prestigious awards, been ranked as all-time best authors in their category, and reached the Wall Street Journal bestseller list.
Learn more about Joshua at https://entrepreneurswordsmith.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I decided to become a Ghostwriter completely by accident. At age 20, I received a 2-book publishing deal for novels I’d written in college. While promoting them at signings, on panels, and through social media, two aspiring authors bought my books, enjoyed them, and asked me if I could help them finally finish theirs. Especially since they’d had the desire to become authors longer than I’d been alive. Given that I was nurturing a tiny freelance writing side hustle at the time, I thought, OK . . . fine . . . sure . . . I guess I can help you write your book. And here I am all these years later still saying that.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
In college, several professors praised my essays as superior in depth and readability compared to the typical “just give me my degree so I can get out of here” efforts from the typical student. One professor in particular told me, “Joshua, you can probably do this professionally.” And I thought, Why not? That same day, I listed myself as a writer-for-hire on freelance marketplaces that no longer exist.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
My very first writing gig paid $1.67/hour. Words fail me as I attempt to describe the joy that those few bucks brought me. For the first time in my albeit young life, I’d made my own money. Outside a job. Selling my service. No boss but me. No longer do I charge that rate (or anything near it, thankfully). But I’ve been a thrill-seeker pursuing that same rush ever since.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Originally, my company was named Legacy Editions Publishing because my first ghostwriting clients desired the completion of their memoirs. My promise was, “I’ll put your legacy in print.” And that was exactly what we did. I had a vision for documenting as much of the world’s wisdom as possible in masterpieces that made their authors proud. But over time, I realized that entrepreneurs as opposed to aspiring memoirists have an even greater desire to become authors. Entrepreneurs earn authority, build credibility, and showcase expertise when they author a book. My purpose realigned with theirs, and my company followed — becoming The Entrepreneur’s Wordsmith to reflect my purpose: To be the entrepreneur’s go-to writing pro, from blogs to books.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
The Entrepreneur’s Wordsmith values our client’s existing brands above all. We ensure that everything that goes out — articles, scripts, tweets, ebooks, white papers, marketing emails — supports the client’s brand, sounds like their voice, and avoids the many perils of content marketing. Perils include unintentional offenses to a protected class that a certain word choice would cause, word choice which the client used during an interview with us for that specific piece of content. We act therefore as a brand integrity filter, ensuring that the right message reaches their audience . . . but it’s the best way they could have said it.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
I borrow Tony Ulwick’s Jobs To Be Done Theory. No matter what happens in business or life, there are always potential clients willing to pay to get the job done. Whenever there is a struggle, simply check in: Am I doing the best I can to get as many jobs done for clients that we’re able to do? You bet we asked that question a lot more than usual during these covid shenanigans.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I met several copywriters who made their first year in business a six-figure profit year. I didn’t reach that level until my seventh year in business. Still, I never gave up because the trade-off was too good. Write for clients on my own time, derisk my own self-employment my working with as many as possible, or go back to the cubicle with one income source and a steel ceiling over my income. No thank you.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Business has never been better. We have grown by at least 20% each of the past three years. Our desire to help customers get high-value writing jobs done has led us to offer more and more useful writing packages in alignment with our values. Client retention is not a problem; in fact, we still have writing clients going back to 2012, 2013, and 2014 — simply because we continue to make them look good.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Expand your comfort zone. If you’re going to own your sliver of the marketplace and have clientele coming back to you over and over for years to come, let’s get one thing straight: You DO NOT want to be your industry’s best kept secret! ’Cause guess what? if you’re a secret, no one knows who you are! And if no one knows who you are, nobody can hire you! So commit to shamelessly extroverted activities that might feel “not you” at first. When I first started networking with business owners in my niche, I delivered what one might call, “the Forrest Gump version of an Elevator Pitch.” To solve my little confidence problem, I hired a sales coach to expand my comfort zone and show me how to authentically shmooze with potential clients, and turn casual conversations into booked consultations.
- Test the market. “If you build it. . .” they probably won’t come, because they don’t have a clue they need you! Before you quit your day job and drop out of school to start a side hustle, confirm that people WILL actually pay for the product or service you want to offer. Here’s a little market research secret for you: If people are already paying for something, there’s a market for it.
- Find your people. Yes, this means a customer base. It also means people who know your customer base. Here in Dayton, I have a friend named Jason, a solopreneur handyman. To turn his skills into a viable business that supports his family, Jason’s gone out of his way to form friendships with people who already work with homeowners — real estate agents, loan officers, plumbers, roofers, painters. These folks are more than happy to have their clients just call Jason when needs arise.
- Be a problem-solver for hire. Creating your dream job from scratch is NOT all about you; and it’s definitely not about retweeting inspirational quotes from the Buddha with a beach picture in the background. Successful Solopreneurs know they HAVE to offer products and services that are more than “nice-to-have”; they are “need-to-have.”
- Improve, improve, improve. As you do great work for your customer base, track every result. Be proactive at requesting uncensored testimonials so you can highlight all the different ways your clients experience Return on their Investment.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Heather Prestanski is my fractional CMO. In the middle of a slump during what would be our first six-figure year, Heather advised us on applying the 80/20 rule to our service offerings. Eliminate those 80% of services that only result in 20% of revenue. This shift, which I expected to result in lower revenue, actually freed up my time while also enabling us to close projects 2X to 5X higher than we had ever before. It pays to specialize.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would bring the Anti-Goal mainstream — the planned pursuit of what our hearts desire through first identifying the absolute worst case scenario. Decide the outcomes you do not want, then work backwards to prevent that from happening, thereby achieving your goal.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow my shenanigans on Twitter @joshualisec
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!