Learn every single job at your company before you start delegating or outsourcing.
J. J. Hebert started writing fiction in high school but got more serious about his writing career during his college-aged years. By 2007, J.J. Hebert had completed his debut novel, Unconventional. He had written seven drafts of the novel before he felt it was ready for publication. He sought the help of a literary agent, and an agent represented him for about six months before he decided that he wanted to self-publish instead. He found that self-publishing allowed him to keep control of his content and rights, which he found greatly appealing. Hebert published the book in 2009 through a publishing company he formed, Mindstir Media. His book quickly became an Amazon bestseller, thanks to his online book marketing efforts. He later discovered that many aspiring authors needed assistance with book publishing; therefore, he decided to use the Mindstir Media brand to help other authors self-publish and market their books. Today, he’s published over 400 books for authors throughout the country and reaches thousands with his Mindstir Media publishing consultation work and through his blogs on self-publishing and marketing.
Where did the idea for Mindstir Media come from?
I needed to create my own publishing imprint or brand to self-publish my novel, Unconventional. I wanted a publishing name that somehow conveyed that my novel was thought-provoking or heart-stirring. I started combining words to see what I could come up with. I probably went through hundreds of variations until I came to words “mind” and “stir” and considered combining the two. “Mindstir” sounded great. If something is “mind-stirring,” it means that it stirs the mind, aka is thought-provoking. I began using the word Mindstir immediately. Mindstir Media was born out of necessity – the need for a unique publisher brand name for my book. I didn’t realize at the time that I would eventually use the brand to help publish other authors as well.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually check my email first thing in the morning. If there’s something pressing there, I try to answer it right away. Thankfully, I have a team that also helps with daily emails but there are some emails each day that tend to need my personal attention. Then I move onto to my daily to-do list and online project and customer management systems. I’ll check in to make sure projects are moving forward without a hitch and customers are being taken care of. I also read many manuscripts through Mindstir Media. Manuscripts and email account for maybe a quarter of my day. I also enjoy consulting with authors. On any given day, I might spend 2-3 hours on the phone helping authors with their projects – some of these folks are current clients and others are prospective clients. I also enjoy handling the online marketing at Mindstir Media. I personally manage most if not all the social media, SEO and PPC campaigns for Mindstir Media. I constantly check on ad performance and make changes on the fly as necessary to get the most for my advertising dollar.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My ideas grow organically. Usually, if there’s a specific need for Mindstir Media I’ll perform some brainstorming and come up with a creative solution. Then I don’t waste time executing those ideas with my team. I like to work at blazing speeds. Ideas are one thing, but execution is something else entirely.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Within the book publishing world, one trend that really excites me is the growing popularity of children’s picture books. I’ve seen a huge spike in picture book sales over the last couple years and more and more authors are giving the children’s market a try. We oversee the production of many picture books and even match authors with professional illustrators. We follow a seamless three-step illustration process of which I’m very proud. If the trend continues, Mindstir Media should double its children’s book production this year.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m a fantastic multi-tasker and I like to focus mainly on the items in business that I excel at and delegate the rest. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to do everything yourself. That’s a tough position to put yourself in. To be successful you really need to learn to delegate uninteresting tasks to others on your team and focus more on your strengths.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
In high school I worked at the local food market. I stocked shelves and then worked in the frozen section. They paid minimum wage. That was also my very first job. I learned the importance of working hard and having pride in your work even when the work you’re doing is unfulfilling or unsatisfying.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
That’s a tough question. On one hand, I’m satisfied with the overall results at Mindstir Media today. We have plenty of repeat clients and author successes. But, if I were to start again I guess I would put more focus on PPC right out of the gate and studying its techniques. I was very reliant on free marketing initially such as social media and SEO but PPC helped take Mindstir Media to the next level.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Learn every single job at your company before you start delegating or outsourcing. You should know your company like the back of your hand – its processes and products or services. The first year at Mindstir Media I handled most of the day-to-day activities. I quickly saw what worked and what didn’t and I was able to refine the processes myself. By the time I took on a staff, I was able to masterfully explain the processes and techniques to them. They felt supported throughout the transition.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I’ve mentioned it before but Facebook ads are ultra-targeted these days and inexpensive. I constantly run ads on Facebook and, believe it or not, see positive ROI on those ads. “Dark posts” or unpublished page posts are the best. By that I mean you can create a native ad that looks like a regular page post and then run the ad outside of your actual page to those you choose through specific targeting. This allows you to reach potential clients who haven’t even necessarily liked your page. If the ad is effective, it will get many shares as well, which can rapidly magnify your reach — so there’s an organic element to the ads, too.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I was a little overly ambition about pay-per-click advertising when I first gave it a try. I wasted a lot of money on ineffective ads because I didn’t really know what I was doing on search engines initially. I overcame this issue by studying, studying, and studying some more. I read every PPC book I could get my hands on and I started implementing the techniques.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
With so many companies and its employees working remotely these days, it seems there’s a growing need for virtual assistants. I use VAs myself and can tell you that they save an entrepreneur loads of time and headaches if trained properly. I honestly believe that there’s a nearly endless need for virtual workers, so launching a virtual assistant company could be highly profitable.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently ran a Facebook dark post with a budget of about $100 and saw hundreds of link clicks – and that means actual website traffic – and those resulted in leads and sales.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use web services or software for nearly everything we do at Mindstir Media. One of my favorites is Sharefile. It’s a fantastic file sharing system, completely custom branded, that allows my clients to share large files with us and vice versa. I don’t know what Mindstir Media would do without it. For example, we use it to show our clients the book designs we create as well as illustrations and more.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Anything by Gary Vaynerchuk. He has a magnetic personality and really knows his stuff when it comes to business marketing, particularly online marketing and media. I’ve learned a great deal from him with regards to social media. Check out his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. His book is filled with real-life case studies and through them he reveals why certain social ads worked or didn’t work on the popular social media platforms.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Gary Vaynerchuk can be found at https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/. As I mentioned before, he’s the go-to guy for all things social media, in my opinion. I’ve also learned some great lessons from Richard Koch, the creator of the 80/20 rule and Timothy Ferriss, an expert on delegating and outsourcing to virtual assistants. He chronicled his journey in the virtual assistant world in his book The 4-Hour Workweek.
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