Hi, Thank You, We're Still Here (Probably Because of You)
My to-do list is forever long and the last thing I should be writing is this, but this piece has essentially been echoing in my head for two weeks now. Figured it was about time things got said.
First off — to all the kind strangers who have been visiting our website even though we never update anymore, to all the random (but very treasured) people who have signed up to our mailing list, thank you. We don’t know who most of you are, but your +1 presence here is so appreciated.
If you’ve been following our journey for a while, you’ll know we decided to remove certain services from our repertoire and focus on what we were (and still are) most interested in: people-driven stories. We made the switch after we had our highest grossing year. OK, pretty sure that’s not the right business term, but in layman’s terms, we made more money than we had EVER, knew we had a good thing going, and then chose to walk away from that. We actively turned down jobs because we were tired of BS clients and work. We believed we could do this one thing much better and so we chased down that dream.
And because this is not a fairytale, let me be honest and say: that dream had a hefty price tag. Last year we declared an almost $40,000 loss. Which might not sound like a lot compared to big agency work, but guys, we are a lean team of 4 and 40k can keep bills paid for a while. To be fair, the 40k included a lot of bad debt that our accountant wanted to resolve (again, don’t look at me for the right business jargon, you’re not going to find it here), but finding out we had unknowingly lost so much money caused a lot of sleepless nights.
(Shoutout to co-founder, Tina, who rode out this news like a champ when I told her very sheepishly over lunch that I was running the company to the ground.)
So this year has been wild. Not in the handing out dolla dolla bills way, mind. We invoiced something like 60k in the first quarter (due to a bumper crop of big projects and a workload that damn near killed us) BUT our overheads are 15k a month and we had more than one client who defaulted on substantial payment. Which I could write a whole other thing about, but I won’t just yet because I have more emotions than solutions for the issue. In Q2 I think we lost a little bit of money every month, or barely kept afloat. I say I think because at some point I just stopped keeping track and started looking at ballpark figures instead. It was too stressful so I figured as long as our bank account remained above a certain number, we would be fine.
(Shoutout to our retainer clients for helping to feed us during this time!)
And then, because this story does have a silver lining, the last month happened, and it has truly felt like magic from the universe. I went for way more pitch meetings than we have ever done since our Jan 2018 pivot. We met people who finally genuinely wanted to work with us because we shared the same values and held the same beliefs about content marketing. AND on top of all these new things unfolding, our roster of ALL our old and very loved clients announced to us that they were growing in all kinds of ways and needed help doing XYZ. Would we like to join them? they asked.
(Shoutout to aforementioned retainer clients for not batting an eyelid when we air danced and threw victory punches in the air in front of them because HOW EXCITING RIGHT?!)
So here we are today, where I’m writing this post after a day of meetings and beautiful ideas in bloom. I still don’t know if we’re going to make a profit this year, but yes, our finances are finally looking up and for that I am eternally grateful, because we need to be commercially viable for this business thing to work, yknow? But beyond that, it is heartening to see that our belief in ‘slow’ content and pushing people-centred stories in a commercial setting is finally starting to see light. It is heartening to see the team grow in the way we wanted to. And it’s a special kind of honour to be able to sit with people — our clients, the people we interview, the PC girls every day — to figure out how we can get these conversations bigger, deeper, closer to people’s hearts.
I used to hate the word ‘marketing’. When I began my career all I wanted to do was write without fancy goals or campaign objectives to hit. I remember we once worked with an agency and they had this master copywriter teach us how to sensationalise headlines for more effective marketing. Honestly we weren’t bad at it, but we never put the work in our portfolio because there was nothing to be proud of there.
I still don’t understand a lot of marketing, but what I have learned is this: it takes many heads and hands to keep a small business moving forward. It takes heart and soul to get it growing. But above all, marketing can be done in a way that’s not nauseating. It can be done on your own terms if you listen closely enough to the people who matter to your brand AND if you take steps to let them know they’ve been heard. What we believe in works and after 18 months we now have the numbers to show for it, but the approach isn’t for people wanting an overnight success. It takes hard work, grit, and always needs room for error. (To be clear: there is also a stupid amount of hope necessary because running a small business does involve a lot of groping in the dark.)
So, hi Seth Godin, you were right. Not that I ever doubted you, but after losing 40k and sweating out months of barely breaking even, even I, a chronically stubborn advocate of your beliefs, was starting to get cold feet. Finding our voice was a lesson in patience. Honing our expertise is an ongoing act of humility. Being grateful for the people who support us is something I never want to lose sight of.
(Shoutout to the universe for rebating our karmic points and for luck and good timing and fortune and kismet for coming together on this one.)
Thank you to everyone for helping us get this far: friends who were always ready to listen and empathise, clients for being steadfast in their pursuit of different (I daresay better) content, the female role models we work with who have pushed us to relentlessly chase down what we want to do and handed us the luxury of using their business to experiment with. And of course, to my triple A star teammates for building this tiny fort of ours come rain, shine, hail, snow. I know there’s loads more to learn, but after the great turmoil of chapter 1 (new beginnings 2018), here’s celebrating the start of chapter 2!