What Writers Can Learn From Entrepreneurs: An Interview With Marcia Hoeck
Today, I’m featuring an interview with the delightful Marcia Hoeck. Marcia is a successful entrepreneur who also coaches other beginning entrepreneurs on how to make their businesses more successful. (Many of her clients are writers and other creatives.)
I first found out about Marcia through this guest post on Copyblogger, and I just found her wisdom and matter-of-fact advice really useful and inspiring.
I am very excited to have her on the C2C today to talk about a subject that many writers are being forced to learn a whole lot more about: entrepreneurship.
Ollin: How would you define entrepreneurship?
Marcia: The traditional meaning of an entrepreneur is someone who starts a business: someone who is working for themselves.
But I think that more and more the lines that denote what entrepreneurship is are being blurred because of the way business is being done nowadays. Even people who have a boss have to really be a lot more “entrepreneurial” in their thinking—especially if they want to be noticed and move ahead.
Ollin: What are the fundamentals of being a successful entrepreneur?
1. Successful entrepreneurs know that they are primarily selling themselves.
One of the fundamentals of a successful entrepreneur is knowing that you’re not just selling things, products, services, or ideas—you’re also selling you. As everyone knows, you can get products and services lots of places, and customers continually prove that over and over again when they don’t choose what you offer. So, when someone is choosing to buy your service—whether it is writing, or graphic design, or photography, or accounting—they’re really buying you. When you’re working on your craft, it isn’t just about making sure you have the best product and best service out there, you have to understand the connection you bring to your customer, and you have to be wiling to break down a few of those walls and help your customers to understand the true value you bring to the table.
2. Successful entrepreneurs take risks.
You have to take risks in order to move forward. If everybody worked within their comfort zone all of the time, and didn’t push any boundaries, there wouldn’t be any innovation.
3. Successful entrepreneurs know that not everybody is going to support them.
Not everyone will support you. Not everyone will think you’re a genius when you’re starting out, but that’s no reason to stop. You still have to move forward and understand that you’re not going to make everybody happy, and not everybody is going to support you as an entrepreneur.
4. Successful entrepreneurs can stomach “standing alone.”
I had a friend tell me [when talking about her business] that “the cheese stands alone.” That was her description of running a business. You have to have a certain stomach for being able to go it alone sometimes. Even if you have employees who support you—even if you have partners and other people who go along with you—you are “it” when you’re an entrepreneur, and you have to have the strength of your convictions.
5. Successful entrepreneurs are authentic.
Customers can smell “fake,” so if you don’t have a good product, or service, or philosophy, and you are not really being you, customers can really tell, and they’ll back away.
6. Successful entrepreneurs know that they need to provide value.
Make sure that you’re giving value and that it’s something that can help people. Otherwise there is just really no point.
Ollin: What are the essential tools or skills needed in order to become a successful entrepreneur that you find most of your clients lacking?
One of them is vision. Most business owners start a business because they have a passion for something and they really want to do it full-time. So they just start doing it. Sometimes it works, and they make money doing it. They bring money in and they pay their bills out. But they don’t really plan it. They don’t really understand that, sooner or later, they’re going to have to think about what they’re doing and the fact that they are actually running a business. You need to know where you are starting from, you need to know where you want to go, and you need to be able to connect those two points. Because if you don’t know where you’re going in your business, there’s not a chance in hell that you’re going to get there.
Cultivate confidence. So many business owners are good at what they do: they are good at their craft. But there is a real disconnect between being able to do “the thing” and being able to talk about how well they do the thing to the point where they can be convincing—to the point where they can talk to people about buying it from them. Their confidence really breaks down when they try to market themselves. They can talk about their work to their peers and to their spouses, but when it comes being able to justify their work—in terms of charging for it—they really fall down in this area. So cultivating steady confidence is really important, and it is a tool that a lot of [beginning] entrepreneurs lack.
3. Being able to communicate what makes you different
Another skill most beginning entrepreneurs lack is being able to communicate what makes them different. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of places you can get services and products, so what makes you different? Why should someone come to you? Why should someone buy from you over someone else who offers writing skills, for instance?
4. Being able to commit to being visible
A lot of creative people like to hide. It’s just hard for us to get out there and show ourselves. But there are ways to do it without feeling “icky.” You need to have this skill in a way that you feel comfortable about it, and in a way that attracts the right people to you. And you need to commit to it. They’ve actually done psychological studies on the fact that when people see you more, they like you more. It just stands to reason that you want to be out there more so that people can see you. If they like you more, they are going to refer you more, they are going to spend money with you, and you will be able to have a more viable business.
5. Being able to be effectively productive
Entrepreneurs tend to follow the “bright shiny object.” We tend to daydream; we tend to go off on tangents. Sometimes it’s hard to follow a schedule. That seems to be something that accountants and engineers and “people who have day jobs” do. But we need to do it, too. If we want to have businesses that are going to be successful, we need learn how to be productive. And we need to learn how to stop doing things that are not effective for our business.
6. Learning how to get the “right support”
We need to learn how to get the right support for our business. No one can do everything, so you need to find people who are good resources for you.
7. Understanding your money
If you’re going to run a business, you have to understand how your money works. You need to be on top of things. A lot of creative entrepreneurs are routinely taken advantage of, or they spend too much money on things that they shouldn’t be spending their money on. Or they’re just not watching their money. You really have to understand that money is just a scorecard. It’s an energy. And the energy in the universe has to be balanced, and you need to have a “balanced scorecard.” And if the energy that you’re putting out isn’t being balanced by the energy that is coming back to you—in terms of money—then you feel icky. You feel off-balanced. You don’t feel right. It’s up to you to work with it to keep it balanced.
Ollin: What are the biggest mistakes you see most entrepreneurs making when they first start off?
1. They think they need a lot of money to start.
There is an awful lot of hype on the Internet about “raising capital.” There’s this notion that you have to have money in your business before you start. I think it’s a big mistake to think that. I think most entrepreneurs can start on a shoestring. Even today. There’s not a lot of capital expenditure needed—and that kind of thinking can get you in trouble.
2. They are not accountable to themselves.
I think another big mistake that I see people making is not really being accountable to themselves. One of the first things that I do when I start working with my coaching clients is to have them start tracking their time. Not just the time they’re going to bill a client for their services, but ALL of the time that they’re working on their business so they know what they’re doing with their time.When you start tracking your time, you’ll find out how much time you’re wasting. And that’s only okay if you don’t care about being successful.
Ollin: Becoming an entrepreneur can be intimidating and many will not start because of their fears. What do you recommend these beginners do so that they can get the ball rolling and not be afraid?
Marcia: Fear can be a limiting thing. But I also think that the world works in wondrous ways, and I don’t think that you would be given the desire to be an entrepreneur if you didn’t have it in you. I don’t think we are given a germ of an idea unless we have it in us. I don’t think you are given the desire to be a painter if you can’t paint. I don’t think you have the fire in you to be a writer if you don’t have some talent for writing. If you’re supposed to be an entrepreneur, you will be able to overcome that fear. Just put one foot in front of the other and get moving.
Ollin: What do you do when the going gets tough? Any last words of inspiration or encouragement for new entrepreneurs out there?
Marcia: Just say to yourself: “Oh my gosh, I am so lucky that I get to do this!”
Even when things have been going horribly for me, and I know I’m going to be facing an irate client, or there’s not enough money to meet payroll, or the sky is falling in, I just stop, pat myself on the back and I say:
“Marcia, you are so lucky that you can make something out of nothing!” That’s what entrepreneurs do—we make something out of nothing.
That’s enough for me because I am so excited that I have the opportunity to do this. I know people who don’t have that opportunity, or who are too afraid to take the plunge.
Ollin: Thank you, Marcia!
If you’re interested in hiring Marcia for her coaching services, check out her limited time Holiday offers by going here.
About Marcia Hoeck: After selling the assets of the creative firm she ran for 25 years, Marcia turned her attention to helping make business easy for creative and values-based business owners through coaching and consulting. She often speaks in person and on teleclasses and webinars on business building topics. You can find her at www.apurposefulbusiness.com.