Starting a Services Business: Tips from Writer Nicole Rollender of Strand Writing Services

a woman holds a giant crayon and is selecting colors for a chart

Nicole Rollender describes herself as an “accidental entrepreneur.” When she left her executive position in the publishing industry in 2017, she had full intentions to find another full-time job in the publishing industry. After all, Nicole had spent ten years in editorial roles, including the editor-in-chief of two entrepreneurial magazines in the apparel space.

But the more she thought about it, the more Nicole realized that she was primed to start her own business. Nicole had spent over a decade writing for and about entrepreneurs. At the same time, she had the writing skills and industry insight to provide value to various organizations.

Unlike other potential entrepreneurs who test the waters by freelancing for the first few months, Nicole hit the ground running by establishing Strand Writing Services as a full-fledged business on day one. Her goal was to make her transition from full-time employee to self-employed business owner as seamless as possible.

“That's why I think I was able to grow pretty quickly and create a sustainable but also scalable business,” says Nicole.

But in a digital sea of agencies, freelancers, and gig workers, all with varying business models, Nicole knew she needed a simple but effective way to manage her business from the start.

We sat down with Nicole in our recent episode of the Cash Flow Show to discuss what she’s learned from creating a business and how she plans to keep it sustainable.

Know what to delegate

When creating a business—especially if you intend to stay a solopreneur—you should understand what you should and shouldn’t delegate to keep your services valuable and high-quality.

“I do all of my writing,” says Nicole. “I’m selling my intellectual property and my creativity. And so if I were to outsource in an agency type model, that would be diluting what I’m selling.”

For that reason, Nicole decided to reject the agency model to scale and hasn’t hired additional writers. However, she has taken on a business manager and researcher.

“I really wanted a right-hand person as my business manager who knew the business inside and out, was committed with someone like me, who did stay with her clients in the long term,” notes Nicole. “You can really get bogged down with doing that stuff. And it makes sense to have somebody there helping with it earlier rather than later.”

Spending money on not just hiring people, but hiring the right people, has allowed Nicole to set time aside to focus on her writing rather than administrative tasks. The funds spent on her business, even its hiring contractors, offset her taxes.

Protect your business with strategic payment terms

Business success isn’t just about delivering a valuable service or product. Setting beneficial payment terms from the outset can save business owners from constant payday headaches.

It’s common for independent contractors to have retainers, but not every client needs ongoing work. In the case of large, one-off projects, many contractors ask for a 50% advance payment and bill the rest post-delivery. While this payment structure benefits clients, it can be a problem if they skip the final payment.

To avoid late payments or no payments, Nicole requires payments upfront.

“I’ve met a lot of people who think that it’s crazy. But it’s not,” says Nicole. “Actually, a lot of businesses are switching to 100%, full upfront payments, and I’ve had no resistance to it.”

Asking for full payment upfront isn't at all far fetched if you have:

  • A good track record

  • Excellent and extensive testimonials

  • Positive reviews

  • Proven delivery times

Having money paid upfront allows Nicole to accurately pace her project, forecast her cash flow, and ensure she can make all of her business payments with peace of mind.

Additionally, Nicole has decided on a minimum of six-month retainers. Three-month retainers are often too short since usually one month is spent onboarding, and a year may be too long for clients who aren’t sure. Six-month retainers, however, provide stability and security for both parties involved.

Prioritize your business strategy

Since Nicole works with a small team, ensuring that the foundations of her business are sustainable is crucial. Undercharging, poor project management, and a lack of direction are real dangers for writers and other creative contractors.

“I'm not necessarily forecasting out like five years, but I do know for sure that I want this to be what I do for the rest of my career. I'm not planning to go back to traditional employment,” says Nicole.

Nicole took it upon herself to make sure she avoided common pitfalls for writers and other content creators. She took care to position her copywriting services correctly through participating in courses, working with coaches, and building her packages to appeal to her ideal client.

Nicole kept a tight watch on her finances and cash flow to get her prices right. She continues looking at short-term projections and making sure that her operations run smoothly.

“I'm not necessarily forecasting out like five years, but I do know for sure that I want this to be what I do for the rest of my career. I'm not planning to go back to traditional employment,” says Nicole. “So I think, ‘What is key to balancing my personal and professional objectives?’”

For Nicole, it’s avoiding burn out. But she still has goals to meet for her annual and monthly income. Experimenting with her service packages, garnering customer feedback, and understanding her limits feed into her cash flow. Which, in turn, feeds into her business decisions.

“We track every single expense, everything that goes in, everything that goes out,” says Nicole. “And the first year that I gave my accountant my spreadsheet, he said that he’s never seen anything so comprehensive and organized.”

Track your cash flow

Tracking expenses and income helps business owners like Nicole set better payment terms and understand what can be accomplished. With full visibility over her company’s finances, she can make better business decisions.

Cash flow projections, detailed reports, and intuitive visualization can all help you keep your business sustainable and thriving. Pulse helps business owners take control over their cash flow through easy-to-read reports and money management. Try out Pulse free for 30 days and start seeing how you can optimize your business operations today.