Five years ago, in September 2011, I left my day job to become a full-time author entrepreneur.
Every year since, I have posted a round-up of my lessons learned and things have definitely changed along the way! It's interesting how the challenges are different at each level and of course, the goals keep moving as I progress.
(1) I can't do everything myself. I have to work successfully with other people, including my husband!
I've been working with freelancers (editors, cover designers, accountant etc) since I started self-publishing back in 2008, but only in the last year have I really expanded my comfort zone in working with others.
My husband, Jonathan, and I have now managed a whole year of working together. There have been the inevitable wobbly moments for both of us, but with a shared vision and a lot of talking (!) we have tripled the company income in the last 12 months. Not bad at all … and we're still happily married, which is perhaps the more incredible feat. 🙂
We do different things now, although it took me time to hand things over. I'm now Director of Creative and focus on products and content marketing, as well as the accounting and being the face of the business. Jonathan is Director of Strategy and Analytics and is a ‘force multiplier,' putting into action the plans we make together, including implementing things like email, landing pages, video editing and advertising. He likes to stay behind the scenes, but he is just as invested in the business as I am. I'll try to get him to come on the podcast sometime, or we might even write a book about working with your spouse/partner at some point. 🙂
On the fiction front, I've co-written Risen Gods with J. Thorn in the last year, which taught me so much that we put our lessons learned in a book, Co-writing a Book: Collaboration and co-creation for authors. I've also now started co-writing in a more directorial manner with a sweet romance writer, so in the next year, I will have another set of books under a new brand.
I also co-produced An English Country Garden Fine Art Coloring Book with my Dad, Arthur J. Penn. We got in at the end of the adult coloring craze, so the book didn't go very far, but it was fun and we got a chance to make a cool video of my Dad's printing process. Life is short and spending time with him for a creative project was great.
Plus, I have my wonderful VA, Alexandra, who helps with the podcast and social media and a ton of other things.
So I'm better at delegating than I was and I've even started talking about my vision to get a COO (Chief Operations Officer) for the business at some point. Not in the next year, but that's something I want to be able to do so I can get off the hamster wheel of constantly being on call at some point!
(2) Health is critical for a long term (happy) creative business
I love my work and I have definitely prioritized working over health for many years. But in 2016, I have made health a priority. I started by mastering dictation, overcoming the excuses I had put up around that.
I now use a standing/sitting varidesk, use a swiss ball as a ‘chair,' and I've had some physio, so my RSI has almost entirely gone.
I did 100km in a weekend, which was really more about the training of long walks in the months prior and making walking a habit.
I've also started yoga as a way to become more centered in my body, rather than just in my head all the time. I find myself skip breathing when I work so even just the breathing exercises have helped me unwind and stress less. I'm a work-in-progress, but I'm on a better path than I was a year ago!
(3) Speeding up growth with paid advertising. “I'd rather spend $1000 to make $1000, than spend $0 to make $0.”
That's a quote from Adam Croft, who used Facebook Ads to hit the top of the UK crime charts and make himself a ton of cash, and then subsequently get a book deal.
But I've been overtaken time and time again by those who invest in paid advertising in order to sell more books, attract more people to their mailing list, and get their business/books noticed. I don't know why I have resisted for so long but the interview with Adam really changed my perspective. I have great books and courses and this is a useful website, so why resist paying for advertising now I have the budget for it?
So this year, I've been using Facebook Ads for growing my list and book marketing, and in the last month, I used ad stacking and paid promotions to hit the USA Today list. More to come on this but it's been a real mindset change.
OK, those are some big shifts for me in the last year. I'm looking forward to year 6 as an author entrepreneur! Thanks for joining me on the journey.
Please do leave your thoughts in the comments below and join the conversation.