[quote style=”boxed”]Every single day, you must take a chance. Be prepared for rejection 9 out of 10 times. But you just need one break![/quote]
I am a former academic, an All But Dissertation in a PhD program, who transitioned out of academia to start Aim High Writing Services. I teach students and professionals how to use Strategic Writing to achieve their objectives. I became disillusioned with my original career objective to become a Professor upon realizing scholars must prioritize their own research and publishing above all else. I derive the most satisfaction from teaching and working with people. I believe you can write your way into anything based on my experience of obtaining fully funded fellowships to Harvard University and Arizona State University, as well awards like the Fulbright.
Aim High serves two distinct demographics. For businesses I offer content writing, freelancing, copyediting, newsletters, ads, and grant writing. For students, I help them navigate the applications process for college, graduate school, scholarships, and grants, teaching them how to use Strategic Writing to make themselves stand out from other applicants. I do NOT write students’ essays for them, as that constitutes plagiarism. Regardless of the client, I consider their project our shared goal.
What are you working on right now?
Marketing strategies to recruit more student clients; I want high schoolers thinking about college applications in the summer, instead of waiting until fall.
Where did the idea for Aim High Writing come from?
I have always practiced what I call “Strategic Writing” for my own college, graduate school, and grant applications. A surprising number of students do not realize how the essay portion can be the deciding factor in getting into your dream school, obtaining the job you want, or receiving a fellowship. I wanted to start a business where I function as a Writing Coach, teaching students how to write strategically for their goals. When you are a confident, competent writer, you can be comfortable “aiming high” with your academic and professional objectives.
How do you make money?
My business model is simple. I charge business clients competitive rates for services like content writing, copy editing, newsletters, and ad-writing. This allows me to charge affordable rates for student clients, who may not otherwise have access to this type of service. I also work with nonprofits on a limited basis pro bono.
What does your typical day look like?
Get up at 4:30 am. Check my email. Do a work-related project at home, whether that’s work on a client’s project, make calls on behalf of the business, or do research on how to grow the business. I leave for a powerlifting session with my trainer (I’m training for an upcoming competition). For me, active body, active mind. Then I come home, clean up, and leave for the afternoon. Typically I have 1-3 meetings a day, with clients or with other business owners. Then I spend the late afternoon / early evening working from home. When my husband gets home I try to end the work day there, and concentrate on family time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Research, Writing, Action. I researched the potential market for my service, as well as how to develop a viable business model. I wrote my business plan out and designed a website, detailing my services. Finally, I sought out the local small business community and started getting my name out there. Soon after, clients found me.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Blogging. It’s not really new anymore, but it’s a fantastic way to participate in an online community. In addition to letting me interact with others in a similar line of work, you can also use blogs to direct traffic back to your site. It’s your online “word-of-mouth” referral. My blog is intended to be free advice for anyone needing information on resume-writing, writing an applications essay, preparing a competitive profile, etc. If a student reads it and can do it him or herself – wonderful! If a student is still unsure on how to follow the steps I outline, they can contact me for additional assistance.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
A bagger and cart-collector for a major grocery store. I was 18, and pushing in 10 carts in 100 degree weather, or bagging groceries for people requesting you separate the dairy from orange foods, which need to be double-bagged. I coped with the hours by retreating to my mind. I wrote stories in my head, or practiced Spanish. It was not a fun job, but it was a valuable lesson in customer service, as well as being grateful for any work you can find.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have started sooner. I had this idea I was too young to start my own business. Now I know age has nothing to do with it – if you have a passion for your work and a strong work ethic, you will be successful.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take a chance. TAKE EVERY CHANCE. I showed up at business networking events before my website was even finished. I asked my hairstylist if she would put my information in her salon. I cold-called potential clients. Every single day, you must take a chance. Be prepared for rejection 9 out of 10 times. But you just need one break!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
This isn’t really an irreversible failure, but one issue I’ve encountered is that I originally featured my college prep services as my main operation when I launched in April. But students getting out of school for the summer don’t want to hear anything more about school. I resolved this by recalibrating my website presence to give equal weight to my services for businesses.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Use Twitter to connect with more established business owners and get advice. Try not to retweet other people’s thoughts. Tweet your mission or mantra statement with strategically chosen hashtags to increase your business’s visibility among the Twitter community.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
If we are talking about something I can realistically hope to make an impact on, it would be increasing the accessibility and affordability of college / grad school prep services for students. My goal is NOT client retention. I want to teach my clients how to write strategically and send them on their way to enjoy academic and professional success.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I’m a powerlifter and love deadlifts.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Skype is so fantastic; it lets me have sessions with clients at their convenience. I let students schedule sessions anywhere from 6am through 10pm if over Skype. Google Analytics is a great way to monitor who is visiting your site, how frequently, and where the traffic is coming from. I like using Facebook to connect with other small business owners. It’s a simple thing, but sharing someone else’s page, and them sharing yours, increases your exposure exponentially.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Anything by Bill Bryson, but particularly “The Lost Continent”. Bryson’s style of writing is one to aspire to; he maintains his own distinct register, while writing in a fairly elevated voice. He has well-chosen anecdotes and delightful word choice. He is one of the very best examples out there of Strategic Writing.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
My cat, George, made me laugh when I was making lunch. Leaping up onto the counter, he accidentally landed on a dish and the apparently terrifying clatter was enough to send him rebounding and darting off. He slunk back later looking hideously embarrassed.
Who is your hero?
My husband. I’m fairly certain he is the kindest person on the planet. He once rescued a newt while he was out running with his college marathon team, scooping it up midstride, and running all the way back with it. He kept it as a pet.
Why did you design your business model the way that you did?
I deliberately made my business expandable/contractible and portable. We are a military family and I needed a business that I can move with us (entirely possible thanks to the internet) and that I can shrink down when my family needs me more, and grow back out when I’m ready for more clients again.
Who is your business role model?
My father is Mr. Business Man, with around 30 years of experience. He is my go-to when I need to field a question or opinion about a client or project. My father inspired my approach to business because he has always approached his work as a complement to family life, rather than the other way around.
Jessica Peyton’s Email: [email protected]
Aim High Writing Services on Facebook:
Aim High Writing Services on Twitter: @AimHighPeyton
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.