#BYOB EPISODE 003 - JACQUIE PRETTY: WRITING BOOKS, BUILDING A BUSINESS AND WORK LIFE BALANCE

BYOB podcast #3 with Jacqui Pretty

If you had an opportunity to return to corporate life would you? What if you were able to combine the training and mentoring opportunities that come with a corporate role, with the satisfaction of running your own successful business?

In this episode, Jacquie Pretty from Grammar Factory joins me to talk all about what led her to set up her business helping entrepreneurs. How she helps people write awesome books and assists them to craft and hone their words so that they really resonate with their audience. Jacquie grew her business from being a sole trader to employing a team of editors, she talks about how she made that happen and what drove her to succeed. We also discuss how she has found work/life balance by returning to a corporate role, alongside running her own business and the advantages and opportunities that this presented her with.

For those who prefer to read, here is the transcript...

[0:02:39] ANDREW:  I’m Andrew Ford your host and I’m lucky today to be talking to Jacquie Pretty from the Grammar Factory books and she helps people publish books and she’s been a bit of a contact of mine for a while being part of the Dent program, so we’ll talk a little bit about her story and starting with her background so took a live without her story and starting with her background so welcome Jacquie.

 

[0:02:58] JACQUIE: Thank you for having me.

 

[0:02:59] ANDREW: So tell me what Grammer Factory does, give me a bit of a background.

 

[0:03:03] JACQUIE: So Grammer Factory is a publishing company and we turn entrepreneurs into authers, so we've been in business for about 4 years now and have worked with over 130 entrepreneurs and their business’s very dramatically.  One week we will be doing a book on financial planning, the next it'll be on how to travel with your pet or how to have a better orgasm, so it’s never boring…

 

[0:03:24] ANDREW: You get to read all these books obviously, so...

 

[0:03:25] JACQUIE: Well I used to read all of them back when it was just me being a little old freelance editor but now my team takes care of most of the books and I'm more the educator and the face of the company and the salesperson.  

 

[0:03:35] ANDREW: Yeah great, and so just for the listeners just give me a quick walkthrough from your career history and then we'll go back in detail and unpack it, so where did you start from, how did you get into that?

 

[0:03:46] JACQUIE: So I've always wanted to be a writer and I did a degree in professional writing and editing back at Monash over 10 years ago now and I wasn't quite sure where that would take me so what ended up happening was I move to the UK and got a job in media monitoring which basically involves reading all of the next day's newspapers the night before so it was night shift which meant how is a bit of a zombie after about 18 months but what was really good was I would work 7 days and have 7 days off so I got to do a little traveling.  Then I came back to Melbourne where I did a number of website copywriting jobs but I kept finding that…

 

[0:04:24] ANDREW: For agencies or for individuals....

 

[0:04:26] JACQUIE: No, for corporates and I kept finding that I was very unfulfilled and I would get to about 3 month mark in a job and then would have learnt everything I need to learn and was ready for the next challenge and this kept happening, and after this happened a number of times I started to think maybe the jobs not problem maybe, I’m the common factor here maybe it has something to do with me,  and that's what get me starting to think about running my own business.

 

[0:04:52] ANDREW: So let me just go back a step so you were doing websites for individual companies so you would get a job as the website person for that company, not at an agency doing various websites?

 

[0:05:03] JACQUIE: Yes so one of my jobs was at a financial trading company called IG Markets and there I was an SEO copywriter so I was writing a lot of articles for them under various pseudonyms trying to establish them as the authority in that space. Another company I worked for was Open Universities where I was doing a lot of content for their website as well as social media and PR and so on, so a pen for hire but within the corporate environment rather than agency one.

 

[0:05:30] ANDREW: Interesting and so, I mean, really you were an independent contractor almost back then but, you know, you wanted to be an independent contractor but you were basically just getting job after job after job because, you know, you do the project and then get bored and kind of move on right.  Interesting,  and when you said you write under different pseudonyms, is that a regular thing in corporations?

 

[0:05:54] JACQUIE: I'm not sure about now but back then it was a little bit of black hat SEO where one of the parts of SEO is trying to create backlinks that point to your website because  that helps Google see that you are an authority in that space but you don't want all of the backlinks to have been created by the same person otherwise it looks a bit contrived so I had about 5 different pen names I’d use to write articles that would all link back to their website.

 

[0:05:30] ANDREW: And you would have like, would these have profiles behind them all?

 

[0:06:18] JACQUIE: Year they all had profiles...

 

[0:06:23] ANDREW: Oh wow so these are all fake people?

 

[0:06:24] JACQUIE: Yes. I should try Googling them to see if they still exist.

 

[0:06:28] ANDREW: That’s amazing, in fact, I mean, I have created a few fake profiles just out of fun for giggles overtime, in fact if you look at Ellen DeGeneres on LinkedIn, that's me…

 

[0:06:39] JACQUIE: Really!

 

[0:06:41] ANDREW: And the amount of people from like America, we get movie stars and so forth who come in and you know, oh Ellen can you help me with my movie script or whatever is like amazing.  We actually sent the details to their people and said we've created this profile, because she doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile,  you know, can I give it to you and there is no reply so it’s been sitting there gathering momentum for the last year or so, so any way, we’re a little bit off track, so you kept bouncing around different roles so how many roles did you have, how long was that for?

 

[0:07:10] JACQUIE: That was for a period of probably 6 or 7 years…

 

[0:07:14] ANDREW: Oh, like a long time...

 

[0:07:15] JACQUIE: Yeah, that’s why I started thinking maybe the role wasn’t the problem and the rolls would be anywhere from about 9 months to I think Open Universities I was there for almost 2 years so jumping fairly regularly in that time.

 

[0:07:28] ANDREW: Yeah, and it was always content production so it was always writing…

 

[0:07:31] JACQUIE: Yes, it was always writing...

 

[0:07:31] ANDREW:  How did you know you want to do writing, like was it ...I was little girl...sort of thing?

 

[0:07:35] JACQUIE: I grew up loving to read, yeah, I grow up, you know, with the torch underneath the doona cover reading books after I was told to go to bed. I was always telling stories, I was always writing myself and it just seems like the logical progression.

 

[0:07:50] ANDREW: Wow, thats awsome. It’s rare that people, you know, I loved, you know, when I was a little kid playing little computer games but I don't, you know, I guess I work with computers but I don't make games but it’s good that you go to follow your passion from an early age. So then you had this realisation that it wasn't for you, you looked at your history things have I guess transpired that you kept moving all the time, which may be was a barrier to getting roles in the future cuz they might think, you know, not going to stay, so what made you, like, what did you do next, did you go well I’ve got this realisation what are you gonna do about it?

 

[0:08:20] JACQUIE: I actually, it's funny, I met up with a family friend for a coffee to ask for his advice because he ran a recruitment company at the time and my theory was just get me into a really high paying contract for a few months and I'll save up a bunch of money and then I'll go travelling again and then when I come back you can do the same thing and that'll be my life and he was the one who actually said you should start a business and it had never occurred to me before that conversation because, I don't know if it's different now, but back when I was at school it was, you go to school, you get your degree, you get a job, and that's your life. Starting a business was never raised so as soon as he said that I started to go ooh, that sounds interesting and that’s when I began doing research online and trying to figure out all the different things I can do and investigating coaching programs like Dent and KPI.

 

[0:09:10] ANDREW: Wow, so just go back on the school thing, so when did you graduate school, just to get some context?

 

[0:09:16] JACQUIE: High school….2004.

 

[0:09:18] ANDREW: 2004, right so I’m slightly a bit older than that, so I'm a generation before you and we were told go to school, get a good marks, go to University, get a job, stay in the job,  buy a house, retire, die.  It’s kind of the process, and so entrepreneurship was not a thing, you know, in fact entrepreneurs when I was around was like a dirty word.  It was the Alan Bond, Christopher Skase, you know, they're the sort of people who get rich quick schemes and send people broke, basically, it wasn't until the Richard Branson's and the, you know, Elon Musk was not around then but you know, the Steve Jobs type of model where it was an aspirational thing, so even when you went to school they weren’t talking about starting your own business, like, it wasn't that thing?

 

[0:10:02] JACQUIE: No, not at all, it was go to school, get a job, and the only exception was if you happen to be a really gifted athlete or an artist or something and you were seriously pursuing that as a career.

 

[0:10:11] ANDREW: Wow, because that's interesting to me, you know, I went to a private school and they pushed professional industries so, you know, if you're a lawyer, account, a doctor then they’re the aspirational things, or an engineer or something, I always wanted to do business so I didn't do maths science I did the humanities, did accounting and legal and economics, they’re the sorts of things I’m interested in, and they were second class subjects, you were considered not that smart, you're not smart enough to do maths science, but I’m like all I want to do is start a business so, you know, but now entrepreneur is obviously all the rage and very handy but even as a professional I deal with lots of those professions and all of them own their own business, I mean, so it's amazing that even going through the school systems where the outcome might be a professional career they’re still not talking about starting a business.  It's crazy right, so you started doing some investigation, how did you do that did you talk to people, did you go online, what was your process?

 

[0:11:08] JACQUIE: It was mostly Googling to see what would come up and I don't even know how but I started stumbling across a lot of life coaches in the US who were teaching you how to start your business and doing a lot of online programs and webinars and teleseminars and so on and I remember that the big piece of advice was basically combine all of your gifts and talents and interests into a career that doesn't exist yet and then you’ll magically be successful…


 

[0:11:33] ANDREW: Magic nice...

 

[0:11:34] JACQUIE:  I know it didn't quite work that way,  it didn't quite work that way for me and that’s why when I came across ...

 

[0:11:41] ANDREW: So you started something from that advice you were like oh...

 

[0:11:44] JACQUIE: I tried to start something I created a website and business cards but never went anywhere...

 

[0:11:48] ANDREW: Yeah, because you could create websites that’s what you do right...

 

[0:11:33] JACQUIE: Well, this is little bit funny in hindsight but what I was going to do is going to be a copywriter but I was going to combine meditation with it and I had this whole thing where I was going to do a workshop and I’d meditate with them and get them to connect to who they really were and then I would write copy around that, and of course no one wanted that they just wanted their words so...


 

[0:12:09] ANDREW: It’s kind of interesting...

 

[0:12:11] JACQUIE: It is….

 

[0:12:12] ANDREW: I get where you're coming from...

 

[0:12:12] JACQUIE: I mean I’m sure there’s someone who manages to make that work, but I never did.

 

[0:12:16] ANDREW: Yeah interesting, it all depends on how you market it right, coz you got a web site but you gotta go out there and talk to people and connect and, you know, I find in entrepreneurship sales is the hardest bit, is getting the regular numbers through the door, so ok you did some trial and error which is the normal way people start a business and that’s good learning right, how long did you do that for before you invested in a program?

 

[0:12:38] JACQUIE: Well I invested in a lot of little programs in that time between maybe $100 and $500 and that went on for maybe a year to 18 months.

 

[0:12:49] ANDREW: So quite a while...

 

[0:12:49] JACQUIE: Yeah, it was quite a while...

 

[0:12:51] ANDREW: And trying different things?

 

[0:12:54] JACQUIE: I was trying different things coz I started with the mediation/copywriting and then went into more straight laced copywriting. But it wasn’t until the beginning of 2013 when I made the big investment which for me was the Key Person of Influence program and back then it was about 10 grand which was huge for me because I...

 

[0:13:13] ANDREW: Didn’t have any money...

 

[0:13:14] JACQUIE: Well I had just got my first copywriting client who was paying me $300 to write a page on her website so wasn’t proportionate with my businesses income at that stage

 

[0:13:22] ANDREW: And you hadn’t been working for 18 months so...

 

[0:13:24] JACQUIE: I was trying to do it on the side of the corporate jobs so I did still have an income coming in so...

 

[0:13:28] ANDREW: Oh so you were still working….great...great

 

[0:13:30] JACQUIE: So I came across the KPI program, went to their big one day event and what I really liked about that was that was a step-by-step process and I went oh if I just follow these steps it will work and it was very practical as well, I mean I love the woo woo stuff and the spiritual stuff, but a lot of what I had been working with before hand was all spiritual and all woo woo and there was nothing in there about you know you actually need to make phone calls and go to networking events and you have to talk to people so they know about your business, you can’t just meditate and they will magically appear. So that’s what I liked about KPI it was just so concrete.  So that was 2013 and it was about halfway through that program when I came up with the idea to start offering editing services because as you know one of the steps in the program is to write and publish a book and I was a writer in a room of 50 people who wern’t writers, but who all had to write a book, so I got in front of the room and said look I can help you with this and that lead to my first couple of clients which gradually snowballed to gradually become Grammar Factory.

 

[0:14:34] ANDREW:  Which is...I mean it’s just so logical that you would go into the program and...I was thinking at the brand accelerator day you would go there and go hey they all write books, I can get in their community and start selling my services but that didn’t actually happen in your brain until you were in the program…

 

[0:14:49] JACQUIE: No it didn’t, in fact it didn’t….So when I start the program I was still trying to push the website copywriting services so it didn't happen until about halfway through the program after I'd already written a book, and the book came back from my editor and I read through it and went I have no interest in working on this or marketing it, actually I have no interest in this business that I'm trying to build, and that’s what forced me to look for something else...

 

[0:15:13] ANDREW: So it wasn’t hitting your passion points...

 

[0:15:15] JACQUIE: No.

 

[0:15:15] ANDREW: So what was the book called?

 

[0:15:17] JACQUIE: Well, that one I didn’t end up publishing….

 

[0:15:18] ANDREW: So that one never came out, so what book did you eventually publish?

 

[0:15:21] JACQUIE: I eventually published ‘Book Blueprint: How Any Entrepreneur Can Write an Awesome Book’.

 

[0:15:25] ANDREW: Nice, we’ll have a link in the show notes for that just so people want to check that out. So you go to the process and you’ve gone through the program which is a 40 week excelerator, you graduated from that and then, you know, what are you doing, had you quit your job at that stage, did you go full time, how did it all work for you?

 

[0:15:41] JACQUIE: So that year almost when I was doing KPI I had gone down to 3 days a week in my corporate job so I could start building the business on the side but in a way that was safe and stable rather than just taking the leap and potentially not getting caught, so when, in fact it was the last week of the program when we had our pitchfest event that was when I quit my corporate job and went and went full time with the business...

 

[0:16:07] ANDREW: You had customers already?

 

[0:16:09] JACQUIE: I did have customers, yes, by the time I left I had about 6 weeks of work lined up and then that gradually grew until, less than a year later I actually ended up hiring another couple of editors because I couldn't manage all the work on my own...

 

[0:16:23] ANDREW: Yeah great...and so just for an indication when you quit your job how much revenue was your business doing compared to your salary as a percentage, so was it half your salary or a quarter or...because that tipping point is...when I work with clients it’s such a careful thing to manage and it depends on, you know, I look at people's life stage as well as their resources to try and manage it because, you know, you’ve got a mortgage to feed and partner to satisfy and...want a holiday once and awhile, it’s very hard to make that transition.  The transition is the hardest bit, so how was it for you did you go ok when I hit 40% or 50% of my income I’ll quit, or is it other parameters for you?

 

[0:17:10] JACQUIE: Yeah I was nowhere near that organised in hindsight it was probably, it probably would have been about a third of my salary but I hadn’t earnt that much yet if that makes sense, I was just projecting that based on what I was currently charging and the work load and the number of enquiries I was getting...


 

[0:17:27] ANDREW: ...6 weeks of ...so it was showing enough promise for you to do that...

 

[0:17:31] JACQUIE: It was showing enough promise I wasn’t, like I knew there would be more clients, whether or not it would be full time was the big question for me so what I ended up doing is rather than going straight into full time I went well, I set up a business to I can travel so why don’t I spend the next 3 and a half months travelling and doing the business part time...

 

[0:17:50] ANDREW: Oh really...

 

[0:17:51] JACQUIE: Yes, probably not the more financially stable way to enter into a new business but, yeah, I spent ….it was... I finished KPI at the end of 2013 and then in February 2014 I did a 3 and a half month trip through the middle east and india

 

[0:18:05] ANDREW: Wow, with amazing wi-fi I’m sure so it was easy to connect...

 

[0:18:09] JACQUIE: Yeah...

 

[0:18:09] ANDREW: So how did that go managing that with the backlog of work when you're travelling, did you manage to do it or was it...

 

[0:18:15] JACQUIE: Oh yeah for most of the time it was fine actually because I would, I’m an early riser so I get up and do a couple of works in the morning, a couple of hours of work in the morning, and then I’d explore the city where I was during the day and then do a little bit of catching up in the evening and the balance works really well for me the only time when I was little difficult because when I went India because I was staying at a meditation resort where I was doing a program called workers meditation which is sold as a way of basically learning to view your work as a form of meditation and so you work basically full time at the resort while you're there. I think it's actually just a way for them to get people to pay them to work...

 

[0:18:54] ANDREW: Oh you're working on their stuff and not your stuff...hmmm...I don’t know about that...

 

[0:18:56] JACQUIE: Yeah, I was in their welcome centre and registering people and everything and that was when it got a bit hard cuz suddenly these big chunks of my day were gone and I couldn't actually do the editing, so that probably wasn’t the wisest decision, but when I was just travelling it worked really well.

 

[0:19:10] ANDREW: Your a bit like me, when I, through my process I look at people’s values a lot and if you have a high value on work then you don’t mind doing work on the weekends or around the times so for me whenever I go away on a holiday I always try and do something productive, because I just can’t sit by the pool all day reading a book and I don’t like to drink all day and I don’t want to ride elephants everytime I go to Bali and so forth so, when I wrote my book I went to Bali for a week and I did the same thing I would write in the morning for about 2-3 hours, have a break, go do some fun stuff and then I would come back in the afternoon and do another 2 hours, 4 hours writing a day is quite a lot if it’s intensive, like you need the break and I still felt like I have a holiday, so it was great, so I’m going on a holiday in October and I’m like, you know, am I going to write a book too, what’s the thing that I’m going to do, and I just feel, you know, people go oh you should just relax, and I go but it is kind of relaxing coz I enjoy doing it and I feel like I have achieved something not just sat around so...but people are different right so...

 

[0:20:11] JACQUIE: Absolutely...

 

[0:20:12] ANDREW: So you do the holiday and you come back and your full time so the pressure is on right?

 

[0:20:17] JACQUIE: Yep, well it was interesting because I came back and then suddenly I had this huge influx of work, I think I got into that the tipping point where I had enough clients at that point that they all started referring people to me at once, so I'd been back for maybe 2 months and that was when I went OK I’ve got to hire some other people for support because we’ve just got so much work coming in...

 

[0:20:36] ANDREW: And how much of it was through the course and how much outside the course?

 

[0:20:40] JACQUIE: At that time probably about 95% of my clients were from the KPI community, which makes sense because if you’ve worked with KPI’s and then they’re referring other people who are doing the program, and even today about 75% comes from that community.  So one of the things were looking at in the next year or two is how we can diversify coz obviously that is a bit of a risk.

 

[0:21:00] ANDREW: Yeah that's right, any large chunk of business from one client base is a risk and there’s competitors coming into the space as well because people have the same idea so, ok that sounds cool, so just a couple more detail things because we want to be super practical so when you did the KPI program and you leave, what other things did you have to invest in in order to get your business running, so you said a couple of staff members but did you build your own website, did you spend money on marketing did you have an office, like what are the, you know, the other things that you had to, expense if you like, to get going, was there legal and trademarks and, you know, what did you do to get going and what did you think isn’t necessary?

 

[0:21:37] JACQUIE:  For the first 18 months I didn't invest in much at all actually because I wanted the business to prove itself first and I think that was a lesson I learnt from my earlier business ideas where the first thing I did was build the website and do the business cards and then nothing happened, whereas with this one I actually waited until I'd had my first...I’d gotten my first 4 or 5 clients before I built a website and all of the collateral around the business came after it had proven itself, so it wasn't really until I’d hired my first staff that the big investment started to come in because obviously you hire people, then you need to change the business structures, so I can no longer be a sole trader so suddenly I was working with an accountant and had to pay WorkCover and Superannuation and all of these things...

 

[0:22:19] ANDREW: Insurance...

 

[0:22:19] JACQUIE: Insurance yeah, so there were...

 

[0:22:23] ANDREW: Which is very distracting from you like the core job of helping people write books right?

 

[0:22:27] JACQUIE: It is...so there was a lot...and it all hit at once as well and I wasn’t expecting it so one of the...if anyone else is at their stage in their business I'd say make sure you got some money set aside so you can take some time out of the main job and your business because I had a really difficult 6 months where I was probably working 80 hours a week every week and I also wasn't charging enough, I didn’t realise at the time but it meant that  I had to work that much to bring in the money to pay them and all these new expenses so...

 

[0:22:58] ANDREW: And not even make a profit right?

 

[0:22:59] JACQUIE: No..

 

[0:23:01] ANDREW: And this is the thing I kind of want people to think about before they jump ship, I mean I ran Social Star for almost 2 years part time before the opportunity presented itself to go out right, and it only presented itself because I had a fight with my boss and I left, like, I walked out, it wasn’t really well planned, but at least I had a business structure, I had a web site, I had a client bases, I had referrals, we didn’t have much cash flow, but we could easily ramp it up because we already had other things.  So I encourage other people to think more broadly than, you know, watch an inspiring video on YouTube and go oh I’m going to leave my job tomorrow, stuff my boss, I can do it, you know go meditate for an hour and think it's all going to happen, because it takes time right it takes money and you are going to make mistakes.  So you’ve invested in working big hours, did you ever want to give up?

 

[0:23:49] JACQUIE: No, which is really strange because it was a really difficult period. I never wanted to give up, what I thought about was potentially scaling back and making the business just me again because I was just at this stage were I couldn't see how I could make it work and in fact what's interesting is what got me through that was the discussion with another mentor who knew someone in New York who was running a similar business to me and he said, oh this girl her business turns over 55 grand a month, and she charges up to this much for her packages, and sort of went, oh people can charge that much and...

 

[0:24:26] ANDREW: It’s allowed...

 

[0:24:27] JACQUIE: I know where as before that I already felt like I was charging a lot and I just thought that the business model didn't work and no it absolutely works, it works now that we are charging sensibly...

 

[0:24:37] ANDREW: And was that more your confidence in charging of the value you were offering actually changed, like what changed in that mix?

 

[0:24:47] JACQUIE: It was, it would have been the confidence because...so when I...we offer an end to end publishing service now but when I started it was just editing and I would give people a quote and when I started I was charging $1,500 and I had people going oh actually I have spoken to this other person and they’re going to charge $500 and what I didn't realise at the time was what I was doing was very different to what they were doing and what happened was I had people seeing other editors and then coming to see me afterwards because all the other editor did was correct their spelling and grammar and didn’t actually give them any feedback on the book where as what I was doing and what I’ve taught my team to do is pull these books apart and put them back together. Sometimes we will rewrite them if we have to to make them good book and that takes a lot more time and it...requires a much higher level of skill and that's what we charge for.  So part of it was realising that you know what we did did offer a lot more value than what the sort of $300 $400 $500 editors were doing, and then it was also figuring out a way to demonstrate that which now we actually have a secret page on our website which is our sample edit vault, and it had before and after examples of different different chapters we have worked on so people…

 

[0:26:03] ANDREW: And you can show that to people yeah…

 

[0:26:04] JACQUIE: Yeah even before they get on the phone with me for a sales call they can see the difference it makes and means the discussion stops being about the money because they understand why we charge what we do.

 

[0:26:14] ANDREW: People pay for value that they can see and you're showing them the value and also you're able to describe the value and wheat I find with most people I coach on sales is when they believe themselves that it’s worth it, they can sell it.  Because certainly selles, because my certainty needs to exceed your doubt because if you're doubtful like, oh it's kind of 2 and a half grand for this, then people aren't going to buy, you know, you need to know that it's...think it’s cheap, you know, I mean my service is 5 grand for personal branding and I know all the work we do and I go I think it’s cheap, and if I can sell it like that then other people will think that too, because there’s the value there and I can explain it.  So great, so you're running it, you're working hard, and then did you scale back your stuff or did you continue with them or how did you...you put up the price and did things all because magically good?

 

[0:27:01] JACQUIE: Well it was funny, I told them I was going to scale back and we just decided to keep being friends and have our monthly breakfasts and about a month later I this conversation and said actually I think I can make it work after all will you come back.

 

[0:27:12] ANDREW: That's nice, so you gave them a rest...

 

[0:27:14] JACQUIE: Yes I get some rest and then came back, so there were a couple of things, one was charging more which made...and it took about 6 months to get our rates up to where they need to be just cause they were so far off, so it about 6 months and raising our rates fairly steadily. We also rejigged the employment contract so rather than them being employees we switched them to being independent contractors so…

 

[0:27:40] ANDREW: I was going to say why did you employ them at the start?

 

[0:27:42] JACQUIE: I got some bad advice...so that meant there weren't, because with employee there are a lot of extra expenses on top of what you're actually paying them whereas independent contractors you just pay them the agreed amount, do that made things alot easier as well, because one I cut out a lot of the extra expenses and two I charged my clients a flat rate assuming their book fits our standard criteria so it meant I could pay them a flat rate rather than working off an hourly rate...

 

[0:28:11] ANDREW: 100% it's a variable cost, it’s costs of goods sold not an overhead, and this is what I say to all my people is when your looking to scale up going from one person to two person is 100% increase in labour and generally costs because generally entrepreneurs don’t pay them self effectively, so their paying the person as much as them and that's just too much threat to the business because the business isn't going to double overnight, even if it does double, it is going to take time.  So, I always say bring them on as a contractor, give them a trial, you know, put them on and say if we do this then I;ll make it more full time-ish in terms of hours but I mean, and this is where the world is changing, it’s all going to independent contractors because all companies, corporates as well, want to have independent contractors, they want the variables costs, not the overhead, because it’s actually a liability, holiday and sick leave and stuff is a liability in your business, technically as an accounting standard, so we always say that you need to build your brand because whether you work for somebody or you work for yourself, you still need to have control of that, you still need to be an independent contractor in your eyes and be able to present your value, so those people that you...might sound harsh being put from an employee to a contractor, you're actually making them better off, because they can go and get other work right?

 

[0:29:28] JACQUIE: Yeah, absolutely...

 

[0:29:29] ANDREW: And they’ve been forced to articulate their value to you which means they can sell it to somebody else.  So if they want to work twice as much, they can, so...and they are free to do that right?

 

[0:29:40] JACQUIE: Absolutely and in fact it works really well now because, we’re up to 5 editors now, so the company has grown quite a bit, and all of them are generally working on something else at the same time, we are really flexible if they...so one of them does nano rhymo every year which is national novel writing month in November.  So in November she just blocks out her calendar and I know not to put anything…

 

[0:29:59] ANDREW: Says I’m not available, yeah...

 

[0:30:00] JACQUIE: So we’re very very flexible about that and they’re free to have their other projects...

 

[0:30:05] ANDREW: And they can have holidays when they want...

 

[0:30:06] JACQUIE: Yep, so it works really well and everyone is really happy with the arrangement which is good...

 

[0:30:10] ANDREW: Yeah great so it’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing if you do it the right way.  So how long have you been running the business since then, so it’s been a few years, it's been about 4 years did you say?

 

[0:30:19] JACQUIE: Yes I started in mid 2013 and it was August 2014 when I first hired my staff so it’s been about 3 years since we had that big...

 

[0:30:28] ANDREW: So it’s been growing steadily, and what sort of challenges have you had in that process, has it been smooth sailing, continued growth, or have you had big things that went wrong, how’s it been for you?

 

[0:30:39] JACQUIE: Well the hardest point was that 6 months after I employee the employees for the reasons we’ve discussed.  After that, the next big change would have been at the beginning of last year, so 2016, which is when we started doing the end to end service rather than just the editing and that’s...

 

[0:30:53] ANDREW: Oh ok, so you changed the business model a little bit?

 

[0:30:58] JACQUIE: So that’s been interesting for a couple of reasons, one is that as an editor and as an editing company, we had a very clear unique value proposition, and as an end to end publisher we’re still trying to land on that, so that makes the pitching a little bit harder.  The other thing is suddenly there are all these parts of the business that you don’t actually have personal experience in, so I’m not a designer, I’m not a printer, so I need to find people who already know how to do those things and trust their judgement and then trust them to take care of my clients the way I would, whereas with my editors there is a very stringent training process they all go through, I review all of their work, it’s not really appropriate for me to do that with a designer or printer because that’s not my field, so that’s a bit of a risk as well, growing beyond yourself.  

 

[0:31:44] ANDREW: So why did you do it?

 

[0:31:47] JACQUIE: Because it made sense, because I felt like we weren't’...so there’s a phrase in KPI which is the complete and remarkable solution and I didn’t feel like we were providing a complete and remarkable solution, our editing was fantastic but then clients would have to find someone else with the rest of it and often, and you probably know this, whenever you give something back to the client to take care of it often stops happening because life gets in the way or business gets in the way and sometimes they choose the wrong person and then they lose money or end up with a book they weren't happy with and I knew we could prevent that from happening.  So it made sense to offer the entire solution, and by that stage I also had contact I knew could help me because I had been working in publishing for a few years by that stage, so I knew the designers and I knew the printers.

 

[0:32:36] ANDREW: And so when did you start...did you pay yourself a wage from the start or did you only start doing that more recently?

 

[0:32:44] JACQUIE: No...I probably...so like most entrepreneurs I imagine, for the first couple of years it was just whatever was left over I get.  I didn’t start paying myself a regular wage until probably the beginning of last year which is when I went, ok on the 15th of every month money is going into my account...regardless.

 

[0:33:04] ANDREW: There’s a lot of business people who say you’ve got to pay yourself first, you know, you’ve got to implement a wage because it’s not a  real business model until you get there, however, I mean you’ve got to have revenue to do that from, I mean you’ve got to have a profit actually to do that from, not just revenue so I get that most people scrape by for the first couple of years, you know, work part time or do whatever to get it established, because it takes that long, it takes years...

 

[0:33:27] JACQUIE: Absolutely...

 

[0:33:28] ANDREW: People think it takes...oh in the first year I’ll make money, I’m like, no you won't…

 

[0:33:31] JACQUIE: It’s the overnight success that was 10 years in the making...

 

[0:33:31] ANDREW: 100%.  So you started paying yourself a wage, but I noticed that you were actually working as well so tell...why did you go back to that?

 

[0:33:41] JACQUIE: So it was the...last year we started doing the end to end publishing process and after that I wasn’t actually sure what was next for the business, because once we got through the teething pains of that we started providing a really good service in that area and as you know someone who’s entrepreneurial and is always learning and always wanting to grow, I didn’t like just being stagnant but I didn’t know what to do next, so at the end of last year I thought well why not go back into the corporate environment and get a traditional job again and that way I can be part of a larger organisation, hopefully get some coaching and mentoring from people with different skillsets to me, because that’s a little bit harder to come by when you're working for yourself, especially when you the one who’s running everything so you're sort of just trying whatever you can think of and hoping it works, whereas if you are part of a larger organisation, hopefully they have already tried it and they have systems that work and you can work from those, so that was the motivation behind it, it was I wasn’t sure what to do with my business next and I still wanted to keep learning and growing in some way so why not do it through a corporate job and then in February I actually found a position managing content marketing for censis in the yellow pages.

 

[0:34:57] ANDREW: And are you enjoying that?

 

[0:34:59] JACQUIE: It depends on when you ask me...

 

[0:35:02] ANDREW: Today, are you enjoying it?

 

[0:35:03] JACQUIE: Today I’m enjoying it, we recently had a restructure in my area which means that for about 6 weeks there everything was quite up in the air and everyone was in limbo and of that dust is just settling now so I think there is a lot of potential going forward, it’s just whether we get through this little part...

 

[0:35:22] ANDREW: And welcome to corporate life, re-structures all the time, that a regular part of the business, and they are kind of necessary because they are breaking it and putting it together in a more efficient way, so I get that.  So, because there are lots of challenges that, you know, your your own boss, you have your own hours, you don’t have to do any...you know it’s, you choose to do all the work so going back where you’ve got a boss, and you have to be in at certain hours and you know they are probably fairly flexible but what was that like, was it tough...because I’d imagine that a lot of people would say well why would you ever go back to work again, but I get it, like I think that there is being your own boss is more about having control or your time and choosing what you do rather than being forced to do these things so I kind of get that...kinda be interesting to get back and play a bigger game where there’s, you know, the company turns over hundreds of millions or billions and you’ve got bigger resources, you’ve got teams and your doing different types of work, like I find that quite stimulating, but you're running your business as well right?

 

[0:36:22] JACQUIE: Yes

 

[0:36:24] ANDREW: Did you have to negotiate that?

 

[0:36:26] JACQUIE: No actually, so I...and I'm so glad I did then, when I had my interview back in February I actually said look for the last few years I’ve been running my business full time, I am going to continue running that and want to make sure that’s not a problem and they were very open to is and I think one of the reasons is because they’re targeting small business owners so I can speak to their customers because...well I’m been one of them but through Grammar Factory we solely work with small business owners and entrepreneurs so I feel like I know this market really well so in some ways it was a plus.

 

[0:36:56] ANDREW: So it was a selling point really, because a lot of people, I’ve been out for about 4 years I think now from corporate and I worked at Sensis, you know, as digital marketing manager and so I know that business well and my employment contract said no side businesses and I left...part of the reason I left Sensis to go to IBM, apart from big pay rise, was I could then renegotiate my employment contract to say, because they wanted me, so I said I have a side business and I’m going to keep running it, and they were fine with it, and you know, in fact it became a plus so I got in there and they started, we spoke to Carol Benton from IBM last week and I met Carol at IBM when I presented personal branding to all their managers because they flew me around to teach it because they went oh you’ve got this extra skill, like it’s an extra thing on top of your job that you're doing and we can take advantage of that.  And I’m sure that you’d probably get people that go oh actually I really want to write a book, do you get that?

 

[0:37:54] JACQUIE: It has happened yep.

 

[0:37:55] ANDREW: So you get clients through work as well on top of which I think is a beautiful thing.  So it’s interesting because people say to me oh I could never go back, once you're out you can never go back, and I’m like I don’t know, I think I could, I was 15 years in corporate I think I could easily go back and fit into the right role as long as I didn’t have to give up the business.

 

[0:38:10] JACQUIE: I think that’s the big thing, it does need to be the right role.  But there was a big adjustment that I wasn’t actually expecting, for the first probably 6-8 weeks it was just really hard…it sounds really strange to say this because I am a morning person and I get up early anyway but having to get up early for someone else was really difficult and the commute is really difficult as well because I was used to going from one room to another...

 

[0:38:36] ANDREW: Ah so you worked from home?

 

[0:38:37] JACQUIE: Yeah...

 

[0:38:38] ANDREW: Yeah that’s a big change...

 

[0:38:38] JACQUIE: Whereas suddenly I had a hour plus commute from the suburbs to the city everyday and the other thing was, because I tend to be an all or nothing person I was also going to sign up for a gym and get healthy and all of this stuff at the same time and it was just too much especially because I was still running the business and it wasn’t until I was speaking with a friend who was in a similar situation so he’d been working home full time for 4 years and just started a job as well, he said look I’m giving myself 2 months just to adjust to being back in here before I start trying to do anything with the business or anything with my health and I went oh, that makes a lot of sense because you do actually need, like it’s a major change it’s a major change to your lifestyle so you need the time to adjust to it.

 

[0:39:23] ANDREW: Yeah, it’s a routine thing, and people forget how important routine it to people, I’ve just been training my kids, my son’s 12 and he does footballing and wants to get fitter and stronger and I’m like, my morning routine is I get up and I do a bit of exercise in the morning, it’s only a tiny little bit but you do it every single day, it makes a massive difference, even just the mental awakening of your brain to start the day, but if you save it up and go every two weeks I’ll do 3 hours, it’s really not the same thing right.  So a commute, an hour every day is like its 2 hours a day it’s a lot of time out of your diary, and what about practical things like you get up and you walk next door and you're probably not dressed the same as corporate work, so even just that type of change, was that a big thing, oh I’ve got to put my makeup on and get dressed, take my lunch or whatever?

 

[0:40:13] JACQUIE: It wasn’t so much that getting dressed and putting makeup on was a  chore it was more the time involved, coz oh it does actually take me longer to get ready now...

 

[0:40:23] ANDREW: That’s what I mean, it's extra stuff to do...

 

[0:40:25] JACQUIE: So it’s not just the commute but it's the waking up then the getting ready, then the commute, then the 8 hours of work, and then commute back, so...

 

[0:40:33] ANDREW: And then starting your business, or then working on the business...

 

[0:40:37] JACQUIE: So it was a challenge, I’m used to it now, in fact it feels funny coz it’s been 5 months now and it feels funny to reflect on that time going, oh it feel like so long ago but I remember how difficult it was back but it’s so different to my experience now coz you do adapt.  

 

[0:40:53] ANDREW: Yeah, you just relate.  So when do you do the work for the Grammar Factory, do you do it at night or the weekends or, how do you get it done?

 

[0:41:00] JACQUIE: A few things so I always have my laptop out on my commute so I'm usually using the trip, that 2 hours commuting, that’s Grammar Factory time

 

[0:41:07] ANDREW: Effectively, yeah that’s good...

 

[0:41:09] JACQUIE: If I need to do a sales call of something like this or I’m doing one of my coaching calls with one of my editors I usually organise it at lunch time and book a meeting room at work...

 

[0:41:21] ANDREW: Very efficient...

 

[0:41:22] JACQUIE: ...and it all actually fits in that time it’s much easier than I expected and if it's something on business development say, I’m doing some writing or working on a campaign I’ll usually do that on a Sunday morning because my husband likes to sleep in late on the week in so I’ve got a good 6 hours before he gets up...

 

[0:41:40] ANDREW: 6 hours wow...

 

[0:41:41] JACQUIE: Well I’m usually up at 5 or 6 AM anyway...

 

[0:41:43] ANDREW: Oh wow, on the weekends too?

 

[0:41:44] JACQUIE: Yeah I’m an early riser and he usually likes to sleep til midday so that‘s my working day on  the weekend

 

[0:41:50] ANDREW: Yeah nice and you’ve got the rest of the weekend free so, awsome, awsome, so if someone wanted to explore the Grammar Factory where would you recommend they go, how would they contact you?

 

[0:42:01] JACQUIE: The easiest place is to go to GrammarFactory.com and if they're interested in writing  a book we actually have an ultimate guide to writing an awesome book which is a selection of webinars and interviews and online guides that I've put together over the last few years, which basically cover everything you need to get started.

 

[0:42:17] ANDREW: Cool coz I mean I know from my client base I know that a lot of people want to write a book, it’s an aspirational thing, inside the Dent community obviously but outside as well or they feel like they’ve got, you know, significant content to add.  Is it just books, like do you help people do other types of content or is it exclusively books at the moment?

 

[0:42:37] JACQUIE: We do help people with other types of content so blog posts and so on and social media, we usually prefer for them to have written the book first though because that then gives us a lot to work with.  It also means that by the time we’ve done a book with someone we know them really well and know how they think and what they believe, whereas if you're just doing little pieces at a time it’s...we can do it but it’s harder to get the holistic understanding.

 

[0:43:03] ANDREW: Yeah yeah, sure, sure.  Awsome, well lovely to talk to you Jacquie...

 

[0:43:05] JACQUIE: You too...

 

[0:43:05] ANDREW: So last question, if you had to go back to that person who was thinking about leaving their job and you know, going out on their own, what advice would you give to them?

 

[0:43:14] JACQUIE: That’s a really good question, I think the first one is don’t put it all on black, you know, gamble responsibly, so if you are starting a business and taking this chance do go part time first if you can or make sure you have some money sitting there like 3 or 6 months of living expenses so that you aren't desperately trying to break even because desperation makes it really hard to succeed.

 

[0:43:41] ANDREW: Makes it hard to sell...

 

[0:43:43] JACQUIE: Yes...

 

[0:43:43] ANDREW: People smell that…

 

[0:43:46] JACQUIE: So that’s one thing, the next thing is definately continue to invest in education and guidance because there is just so much out there and there are so many people who have been where you are and they can help you get through those difficult patches and take those shortcuts and imagine if I’d spoken to that mentor 6 months earlier and he told me you need to raise your rates and I hadn’t been through that 6 months of absolute hell, I mean our business, probably wouldn’t be in that different a place today, we would have gotten here eventually but we would have gotten here faster.  

 

[0:44:16] ANDREW: I mean that’s a good point when I first started my book which was pre Dent, you know when I first met the guys, they hadn’t even run a program yet, I got inspired to write a book, started writing a book and I just tried to figure it out which is not the best way to do it and it took my 2 years of back and forth and cutting out 20 thousand words here and there I’m like ahhh, it could have been so much better, I mean, you know, just from the conversation I’m like, you know, I'm working on the second book now and I know I’m going to work with probably yourself to get that done because it’s just so worth getting the expertise because I know my time is better invested in other areas.  You know I;d rather be off playing with my kids and writing efficiently than just figuring it out, the trial and error days are gone and we shouldn’t do that any more.  

 

[0:45:03] JACQUIE: Absolutely...

 

[0:45:05] ANDREW: So thanks for coming in today I really appreciate the time to be on our podcast...

 

[0:45:09] JACQUIE: Thank you for having me...

 

[0:45:11] ANDREW: And we look forward to seeing you soon...

 

[0:45:12] JACQUIE: Wonderful thankyou.