Emma Hersh is the CEO and founder of Content CEO, a content and marketing service. Since its inception in 2015, the company has offered result-driven content to its customers, helping their brands to be as engaging as possible. In this article, we’ll learn more about the company’s CEO, how she started the business, and her secret to creating a successful company, which has written over four million words for clients in a span of only seven years.
Tell us about your background
My background includes corporate level logistics and supply chain management. It started after the 9/11, and I accidentally landed a job in a logistics company, which I'd never considered as a career, before shifting to the corporate chain. Over the years, I have flown to lots of different cities across the US, including New York, Miami, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
How long were you doing that?
About 15 or 16 years, right before I went on my own. I grew tired of the corporate rat race after 15 years and came to a point where I was high up where I was at. I was the only female at my level, and for two levels below me. It came to a crossroads where I had to either stay where I was or move up another level. But it wasn’t an overnight decision; I made an exit plan. And it took about five years to get through it.
Take us through the process of launching the business
I was pretty techy. When I started, I did web design, which helped me gain clients. Many clients were quite demanding in that field, so I moved away from it eventually. I improved my skills, though. I learned WordPress before shifting to content writing--which was a logical step, as it was in high demand.
How were you able to grow and get new customers?
Many of my customers resulted from word of mouth, as well as from businesses and people I know. I might, for example, write an article for Superyacht Magazine, and people would reach out to me if I could also write for them.
In the early days, I did a bit of networking on Craigslist, which is the Gumtree counterpart in England. Craigslist was very dodgy at first, but eventually, it became a valuable place for advertisement. The rest was just networking or things like Facebook groups.
What’s something you know that you wish you had known when you started?
I think I'd approach it very differently. I would have done outreach on public social media platforms, direct messaging, or across different social media groups.
How’s the business doing today?
Great! I don't have any shortage of work. I'm fortunate in the sense that I can pick and choose to some extent. I think every small business owner is the same: when starting a business, you don’t turn anything down. But as you get further on, you can be a little bit more discerning. You can have the flexibility to accept a project or not.
How many clients have you worked with?
I did a rough estimation based on the clients that I had, but about a year ago, I think I had exceeded four million words.
Have you thought about hiring people?
Yes, I have. I'm thinking of diversifying a little bit, going into some social media management and a bit of video marketing.
There are creative people who are not interested in face-to-face interaction and just want to do the creative part. I've actually found a couple of good video content creators.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?
The challenging part at the moment is dealing with a whole bunch of automation tools to try and set up workflows. It's really hard to write things down step by step and then reverse-engineer a workflow to follow what you want.
The other was transitioning from one place to another. I started the business in 2015 in the US and then relocated back to England. It was just a bit of a shift in mindset, moving from one country to another, keeping your business going seamlessly in between the two.
What are the most important tools you use?
I use Zapier. I'm also using some sort of client portal software at the minute; that's what I'm trying to set up. The rest of the tools include Google Docs, Canva, Grammarly, and more!
Is there anything that you wish you had known when you first started this business?
Absolutely! In the past, it was like, I have this great idea, and I want to launch it, but I can’t do anything for three weeks because I’m getting my logo design done. I suppose, on some level, it was a need for a sense of security.
My advice now is just “do it.” You'll figure it out along the way because as long as it's invisible to the client, you’ll have time to figure things out behind the scenes.
Any advice for somebody wanting to start a career in content writing?
Just put yourself out there and write as much as you can. That can be hard if you're a little bit introverted, but I think it’s one of those things that you just have to do.
Do you think beginning writers should accept writing jobs with lower rates just to build a portfolio?
My advice for beginning writers is to get onto something like Upwork. Even if you have to do a project with low rates, it's still worth it because you can use the reviews to leverage more business. Then you can build your status from there.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I'm not a huge reader and don't listen to podcasts that much. But I follow a lot of people on LinkedIn, Twitter, business people, and those who are not related to the content business but are sort of connected to it.
For example, automation. What I do is follow automation experts, marketing experts, and small business gurus. You start accumulating all this information, especially on a place like Twitter.
Some books I read include How to Win Friends & Influence People and The Chimp Paradox.
What are your plans for the next year?
I think to move towards a more productized service. Specifically, I look forward to productizing something for people who want a volume of content on their website and taking the whole project into a monthly subscription format. This will be beneficial and convenient for business owners.