Abby Herman is a content strategist and content coach for small business owners, which means she helps them figure out how to get their message out to their audience in their voice and on their terms.
Abby and I talked about how she transitioned from working as an elementary school teacher to running her own business, Write Solutions, full time and about how she helps business owners move past their fears and create strategic content that makes a big impact online.
Read on to learn more about Abby and discover her best business-building tips.
When did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I honestly don’t think I “decided” to become an entrepreneur, as much as it found me. But the decision to quit my day job and grow my business came about after being completely disenchanted with public education, where I had worked for 13 years.
I was actually doing contract writing projects on the side because my salary as a teacher didn’t really pay the bills. One day, I just got fed up with all the politics involved in teaching and quit. (I gave my notice to finish out the school year, of course.) I had decided that I could have more control over my income and my life as a business owner. It was very scary and it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where I could make ends meet, but it was completely worth it.
What drew you to entrepreneurship over going the more traditional path of working for someone else?
Whether you’re in your own business, in the corporate world or working as a public servant (and I’ve done all three), we can see how things work and don’t work in the grand scheme of things. And when you’re tied up in the bureaucracy of corporate or public service, there’s not a lot you can do to affect change. I love the fact that I can teach others about great content and marketing strategies while helping them to grow their businesses. I love that I can inspire others to follow their dreams. I absolutely think you can do that while working for someone else, but that just wasn’t the right path for me.
How would you describe the work you do?
I support other business owners in getting their marketing messages online. A blank computer screen seems to paralyze so many people, mostly because they think back to all those “rules” they learned in their sophomore year English class. As a coach, I help business owners move past those rules and unlearn some of them because, let’s face it, no one wants to read a five-paragraph essay on your website! As a content strategist, I help business owners decide what content they need to pour out to their audience—and where it needs to go online for the biggest impact.
What does a day in your working life look like?
Really, my day isn’t too exciting! I get up at 4 a.m. almost every morning (yes, even on the weekends). I get up, stretch a bit and then get dressed for my morning run. Depending on what time I’m running (I typically let my running buddy decide), I’ll usually sit down and read a business book for a bit. After my run, I shower, cook myself breakfast (yes, I cook every morning too), then sit down at my computer before 7 a.m. A bit later, I’ll take my daughter to school (an almost hour-long drive round-trip) and then plow into meetings, client work and my own business work—depending on what’s on the agenda. In the afternoon, my daughter usually has quite a bit of homework so I always have extra time to work when she gets home from school.
On the days when my daughter is at her dad’s house (one to two days a week), I end up working way too many hours. So basically, my work life involves a lot of work. I have trouble turning it off, which is something I’m always working on.
What makes you uniquely suited to do the work you do?
I think that being a writer requires a certain amount of introversion. I enjoy quiet time and reflection—in the comfort of my own home (and my pajamas). I love a well-written book that teaches me something or makes me think in a different way. I’m really good at reading people, which helps when I sit down to try to write something from a client’s perspective. I can grasp their voice and their words and make them flow onto paper in just the right way.
What support do you currently have in your business – and what has seeking that support taught you?
As far as “hired help,” I have a virtual assistant who helps me with posting my blogs and we’re moving into having her do some social media posting and guest blog management.
For non-paid help, I rely on several business friends quite a bit. I’ve met so many wonderful women in Facebook groups who have become real-life friends too. One even lives just a few miles from me, so we get together for breakfast on the weekends and have mini work retreats too.
In those early days of your business, what were your biggest challenges, real or self-imposed?
My biggest challenges were and continue to be money and mindset (and money mindset). When I first went full time, I didn’t have the funds to hire anything out or even figure out how to do things the “right” way and I really struggled with imposter syndrome. I didn’t know there was a better, more efficient to do, well, anything and everything in my business.
As a single parent, money mindset is always a challenge for me. I have a fear of scarcity and that one day all my clients will pack up and leave. It’s a completely unrealistic fear, but it still sits in the back of my mind.
How did you overcome those challenges to find your version of success?
I still struggle with these challenges in my business, but I’ve found ways to manage the mindset issues. When business was slow, I used to panic and then feel sorry for myself. Now, if I have a slow week, I use it to my advantage by spending time working on my business.
It’s also a lot easier now to remind myself that there are hills and valleys in business and in life. While I may run into a slow period, it always picks back up again. And my marketing efforts are a direct reflection on how busy and slow my business is.
What drives you to continue giving your time and energy to your business, even when it’s hard?
First and foremost, my daughter motivates me. She’s essentially self-sufficient now, but I think it’s the perfect time to be home with her. The teen years are challenging, and being home to support her as much as possible is a blessing to me.
Other business owners are a big motivation for me too. First, I’ve seen too many nice people have terrible experiences with other business owners. Promises they can’t keep, shoddy work, contractors disappearing. It’s a terrible way to run a business and it’s unfortunate for the good people who get wrapped up in that kind of situation. I want be able to educate and empower other business owners to grow a business they love. While I only handle the copy end, I have connections with other great resources and people I like to send my audience to when they need it.
Let’s talk about failure. How have you learned to deal with failure in your life as an entrepreneur?
If we don’t fail, we’re not learning. I take failure with a grain of salt. Does it hurt? Of course! But every time something doesn’t go the way I imagined—in life or in business—there’s always a takeaway or 10. I know how to shift the next launch so it’s more successful, I know how to better respond to that client, I know how to remember my boundaries, I know how to manage that relationship in a more positive way. It’s all a learning process. But if we get caught up in our mistakes and obsess about them, it holds us back from moving forward in our business.
What’s the best investment you’ve made in your business or self-development so far? What’s the next investment you want to make?
I’ve made two big investments in my business. One was a financial investment and one was a time investment. Coaching is, by far, the best financial investment I’ve made in my business. I’ve done both one-to-one coaching and joined paid mastermind groups. The individual coaching has been great for moving me forward in very specific areas like figuring out pricing, working on mindset, etc. And the mastermind groups have helped me build amazing relationships and communities with other business owners.
The other investment I’ve made has been time. Taking the time to connect with other business owners through masterminds, accountability groups and virtual coffee chats has done amazing things for my business and for my ability to reach out and ask for help. This is a huge piece of my success.
Moving forward, I’d like to invest in a true retreat—either with a group of business friends or solo. How amazing would it be to set up shop for a week in some tropical location? Talk about motivation!
What’s your long-term vision for your business?
One of the best things about my business is that it can completely be location-independent. By the time my daughter graduates from high school in 2020, I’d like my business to be able to support having a home base while I work on the road. I’ve done so little traveling in my life and I’m not ready to be an empty nester. So traveling it is!
As far as the workings of the business itself, I never see myself developing into an agency-style model. But I love to teach and would love to be the go-to source for writing development for business owners. I actually have some things in the works for this!
What advice do you have for women who are just getting started and are worried their business won’t amount to anything?
I think we all go through this phase in our businesses, and probably more than once or twice. Running a successful, profitable business is hard work and it’s so easy to look at what others are doing in their businesses and get discouraged. The truth is, you never know what it took someone to get to where they are. You don’t know what resources they have available to them.
I’m sure that some people have immediate success in their businesses, but that’s not the reality for the majority of us. Often, you have to do a lot of grunt work to get the experience and portfolio development that helps you get that next, bigger client. My first client paid me $9 an hour until about five years ago, when I got a raise. For someone who was the only income in her household and trying to feed a growing child, that’s below poverty level. But I gained so much experience from that one client, and I worked for that company for about eight years. It was tough at times, but the owner was willing to work around my then-full time job and give me an abundance of opportunities to learn and grow. It was worth it, and I’m forever grateful to her for the experience I gained.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
I was absolutely obsessing about my website before I re-launched in back in the early days of running my business full time. My coach challenged me to just get it the heck out there and told me, “Done is better than perfect.” Now I tell everyone that. If we wait for something to be perfect, we’d never get anything accomplished!
What one word best describes how you work?
Real. I am me, and I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. That’s how I live my life and how I run my business.
What book has made the biggest impression on you?
I’ve read so many books about business and mindset that this is a tough one. A book that really hit home for me recently is Essentialism by Greg McKeown. There’s a mindset today about doing it all, and I completely fall into this trap so much more than I’d like to admit. We want to do it all, have it all, experience it all. This book really puts it all in perspective and makes it okay to release some of the things and people who don’t fit into your life or business.
What are you listening to right now that’s influencing your work?
I am loving the Copywriter Club podcast. The hosts are Kira Hug and Rob Marsh, two big names who are relatively new to the copywriter scene. I’ve learned so much about my writing processes, working with clients and how to price my work from this podcast—and it just went live in January. I love the community they’re building for copywriters because the people I learn the most from are the people who others would call my “competition.” I don’t see it that way. We all have something different to bring to the table and we can bring the best if we work together.
What is one influential quote that guides you in your business?
This is a hard question because there are so many great quotes out there. One I’ve had on my wall for years, and one that I think resonates in both my personal life and in my business is this one from Calvin & Hobbes:
“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”
Thanks so much Abby for having this great conversation. Where can people connect with you online and learn more about your work?
My web site is www.abbymherman.com, and you can go there to learn more about my business, services and programs. I’m also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest if you want to connect on those platforms as well.
Photo credit: Crystal Hollman