Write On Command is a writing, editing and project management business based in Springfield, Illinois. Owner Bridget Ingebrigtsen leads a team of writers, editors and VAs who assist small-business owners with their projects.
In 1998, Bridget Ingebrigtsen started working as a freelance writer and editor after leaving her full-time job as an editor in the not-for-profit industry. With a newborn daughter at home, Bridget needed more flexibility and felt she could make a good living as a freelancer. “I had jobs coming in here and there; nothing consistent, but the jobs were coming in,” Bridget said. “I made money, but I never thought it could sustain me or provide a lasting and profitable career.” Bridget continued to work as a freelancer for the next seven years, during which time her income fluctuated dramatically each year. With her brood growing to four children, Bridget’s needs – and vision – began to change. Now, she needed the flexibility of being self-employed while also needing a steady, reliable income. However, it did not appear she could have the best of both worlds. As the need to grow her business increased, it seemed the time and energy she had to devote to her business decreased. Bridget began contemplating returning to work full-time. She felt defeated and saw no feasible way to balance a growing family with her “need-to-grow” business. Bridget explained, “People would tell me I was talented and that I had something, but I didn’t feel like my bank account ever reflected the amount of work I was doing or the effort I was expending. I didn’t see how I could have my own successful and profitable business while raising a family.”
Bridget consulted Brad Farris of Anchor Advisors to learn how she could create more of a “business” rather than “a self-employed existence.” Brad explained to Bridget that her talents were in demand, but she had to find the right market. Bridget said, “I was going after bigger clients with marketing budgets and publications, but Brad said where I could really thrive is with small-business owners who also need help building their businesses and do not have the full-time marketing staff or assistants.” Changing directions and pursuing this market could provide another benefit: a steady income that would help Bridget’s personal finances, but also enable her to build a business she can lead rather than run. “Brad showed me that growing and managing my business was much like raising my family. With the right approaches and mindset, I could be not only a successful Mom but a successful and effective small-business owner,” Bridget said.
Brad also recommended Bridget change her pricing structure. Bridget was charging by the hour and her rates would vary by project type. “I remember Brad saying to me, ‘What do you want to make?’ I told him an amount, and he said, ‘If you’re only one person and there are only so many hours in a year, how will you ever make that?'” Brad suggested Bridget bill for value or charge a project fee rather than an hourly rate. He also recommended she focus more on establishing retainers with her consistent clients, which would create regular and reliable income. Bridget said, “One of the most important lessons I learned from Brad was that my talents and business have value, and I need to realize that value and begin to charge accordingly. If I didn’t realize the value of my business, then my clients certainly wouldn’t either. With a creative-services business, it can be hard to put a price on your work. But, once I began to see the value of my work, the pricing structure became more apparent.”
As Bridget began to employ Brad’s advice, her business began to grow and she started seeing more of a consistent profit. Now, she felt it was time to begin expanding her business by bringing in outside talent and resources. Brad called it “filling the talent pool.” He told her that her business would never grow beyond a certain point if she didn’t start outsourcing. And, with a family of four, it was time to work smarter by “managing” her business instead of “running” it.
Brad also recommended Bridget create an operational budget as a way to help improve her cash flow and establish financial goals. “A budget helped me realize it’s not all about luck, and it’s not all about funneling my profits into my personal finances. I needed to invest in my business – my career,” Bridget said.
Since implementing Brad’s suggestions, Bridget’s income far exceeds what she would earn if she returned to work full-time. Besides the reliable income, the retainer system also changed the way Bridget operated her business. “Retainers allow me to build relationships, whereas charging by the hour, when you think of it, discourages relationship-building,” Bridget said. And through the relationships she has built with her clients, she has been able to spot opportunities for creating new revenue streams. “I’m seeing the need for more comprehensive services, so we’re slowly expanding into project management services. Instead of just working on a piece of the puzzle, we are working on putting the entire puzzle together. Now, we can see a project through from inception to implementation,” Bridget said.
As she looks toward the future, Bridget feels more positive and confident about her business – and her future. She is especially optimistic since her business seems to be surviving – and still growing – during the economic downturn. While she once thought going back to work full-time was her only option, Bridget now feels she has a good, solid business that will achieve her personal and professional goals. With Brad’s advice and guidance, Bridget has transformed herself from a “freelancer” into the confident owner of a viable, profitable small business.