PFC’s Origin Story — People First Content
In honor of Small Business Week, I wanted to share a little more about the small business I founded: People First Content.
I began my writing career as an academic. I went through 12 years of school to get my B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in English Language and Literature with the intent to become a tenure-track professor at a research university (aka, the academic dream, at least for English majors).
A lot happened during those 12 years. I got married, endured the economic recession that rocked Detroit in 2008, then moved across the country to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I also had two kids during that time.
Surprisingly, my kids were the change that led me down the path of entrepreneurship. As the only parent in my Ph.D. cohort, I needed a social outlet.
Enter my obsession with a new genre of internet writing — Mommy Blogs. In a community of women in the same walk of life, reading about their lives, I finally felt seen and understood.
But I didn’t want to just read these blogs. I wanted to write them. So I joined join the ranks of “mommy bloggers,” and documented and shared the joys and frustrations of my day-to-day life.
While I got good feedback on my writing style, something still wasn’t right. I just didn’t want to write about my own life. Turning a story about my kid eating ice cream into a 1,000-word blog post never felt natural.
I admired (and still admire) the women who have built businesses based on their domestic lives. I think it’s awesome. It’s just not me.
Adopting a Content Writing Style
Eventually, I realized that what I loved most about writing a Mommy Blog was the writing style. I appreciated the leniency toward grammar rules and the fact that short, concise sentences were valued. It was more reflective of my natural writing style, which is much more respected on the interwebs than in academia.
I even wrote about Mommy Blogs in the epilogue to my dissertation (on motherhood in 20th and 21st century American literature in the works of Joan Didion, Louise Erdrich, and Toni Morrison. If you’re interested in hearing more, let’s schedule a 3-hour chat.)
As part of my research, I attended several conferences on Mommy Blogs. I met some really awesome women who shared their stories about why they loved blogging and what it meant to build an online community.
In addition to getting together with other moms desperate for a night away from their kids, I learned a LOT about how to write for the internet. This was when I discovered there was more to successful blogging than just putting some words on a self-built WordPress site and hoping for the best.
I learned about elements that are foundational to digital marketing, like search engine optimization (SEO), link-building, gaining a social media following, and building an email list.
Importantly for my career, I also learned that I could make money blogging for other people. The first conference I attended took place back in 2012 as businesses were starting to transition to online marketing. There was a ton of opportunity for those businesses who recognized the power of blogging.
It was summer, which meant I still had time to earn some extra money outside of my teaching assistantship, which lasted the academic calendar year.
So, I got to work.
A Different Type of Mommy Blogger
Blogging for companies was the perfect way to make some extra money with two small kids. I was able to do it whenever I had the time (which, as anyone who has ever been around a toddler knows, is not often).
I spent a lot of pre-dawn hours typing away, making a few dollars here and there as I worked for one of the big content mills that attract writers (like me, at the time) who are inconsistent with their hours but, overall, capable of doing the job.
When I graduated with my Ph.D. in 2015, I pursued an academic career. After all, that was the goal I had set for myself over a decade earlier. Might as well attempt it, right?
The problem was that I graduated in the winter and academic contracts don’t come out until fall. (There are a whole lot of layers to the academic hiring market, which I recommend avoiding if at all possible.)
I was fortunate to have a connection with the CEO of a tech company headquartered in Tulsa–thanks, once again, to my kids who were in a playgroup with his children.
We worked out a deal, and I came on board as the first in-house writer working on a six-month contract. He was well aware of my academic pursuits, and we agreed that we’d reassess in the summertime.
It turned out that I LOVED that job. I loved learning more about how to create great content. I loved seeing metrics showing that the content I produced was reaching a wide audience (up to 8 million views a month).
I loved that I got to build a team from the ground up. I loved getting to know the sales team and listening in on their sales calls. I loved having mentors who took the time to walk me through every aspect of a tech company. Our Content team became part of the Product team, which meant doing sprints and learning agile methodology. It was great.
But then things changed, as they tend to do in the startup world. My mentors left, things shifted, and our team transitioned from one of writers to one of editors managing freelancers. That’s when the lightbulb really came on.
What if, instead of managing 5–10 independent freelancers each, we could just call up a company to do it for us?
This was the initial concept of People First Content. We could be a team that companies could turn to when they needed content. We’d manage the writers so companies could focus on getting their content published.
Transitioning from Freelancer to Small Business Owner
So, I started freelancing again in my downtime. I wanted to validate my suspicion that there were companies looking for a more stable content producer than what content mills could provide.
By now the kids were a little older and less needy, but I was working full-time. So, that meant spending more pre-dawn mornings plus evenings and weekends writing and learning how to build a business.
I spent about a year doing this, figuring out what types of clients I wanted to work with and establishing some relationships. I also had to figure out how to do things like pay taxes as a business owner and register as an LLC. Transitioning from a freelancer to a business owner takes a mind shift and a lot of extra paperwork. But it’s worth it.
Finally, in April 2019, I took the leap from side hustler to a full-time business owner.
A typical agency model includes hiring contract workers or freelancers. However, I wanted to do something different by hiring in-house creatives.
As a writer, I know that our work can be undervalued. It makes my stomach turn to read articles from business owners advising other business owners on how to get 1,000-word articles for $10 or less by haggling. (In case you’re not aware, you’re not going to get good quality work for that price.)
As a former freelancer, I also know that for gig writers the mindset is less “give the client a high-quality article” and more “get the article done as fast as possible so you can get on to the next paycheck.”
I don’t want my clients to get work done by someone who’s just phoning it in, and I don’t want my writers to feel like they need to hustle to get to the next gig.
So, we have an in-house team. That’s how People First Content is able to consistently deliver such high-quality content. We are continuing to grow our client base and look to continue growing our team soon.
If you’re an existing client, THANK YOU for your continued support and appreciation of high-quality content. If you’re new, WELCOME! Let’s talk more about your content needs and how PFC can fulfill them.
Originally published at https://www.peoplefirstcontent.com on May 3, 2022.