Everyone at college seemed to see my future except me. 

My clinical professor had just sat me down to tell me I was failing the semester. But in the same conversation, she told me I should fully embrace writing. She said she saw a spark in me when I talked about it.

I had just started a little online writing business, but driving home for the holidays, all I felt was a load of bricks around the realization I failed college. And this was my second go at a nursing degree.

Fast forward 10 years to 2021. Over $5M in sales had passed through that little writing business, and we helped over 5K clients create better content. I sold the business for over $1M, exited, and launched a new content business – Content Hacker. 

Let’s discuss the lessons I learned in those 10 years to help you grow as a successful content entrepreneur.

1. Your passion (and hard work) can get the bills paid

A lack of belief that you can follow your interests keeps people trapped in jobs that they hate.

Job unhappiness is at an all-time high. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report found that workers around the world experience incredibly high rates of disengagement and unhappiness.

Sixty percent of workers say they were emotionally detached at work, while 19% report being completely miserable. Only 33% report a high level of happiness and engagement (and this is even lower than in 2020.)

When I failed one avenue and pursued my passion full-time, I opened the door to what I have today – a life I love living. Today, I get paid thousands every month to lead advanced classes for beginners and intermediate content marketers and entrepreneurs on how to use content to grow a business to six and seven figures.

When I failed one avenue and opted to pursue my passion full-time, I opened the door to a business that 10 years later sold for over $!M, says @JuliaEMcCoy. #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet

I also host mastermind calls on a regular basis and teach content on a podcast.

Sharing in my clients’ big aha moments during training sessions is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. And content, which started as my passion, has truly become my home and the source of my livelihood.

I recently sold my writing business for $1.3M. Now, I can also pursue my other passions and interests – spending time with my family (including my new baby) and hiking. But in addition to my content coaching business, I also get to follow my writing passion in another way. Since the age of 7 or 8, I’ve always wanted to write a fiction series. My first book in that now-realized series, Earth Begins, debuts in 2023.

None of this would be possible if I didn’t follow my passion. Forget the naysayers who say you can’t make money doing what you love. It simply isn’t true. If you work hard, follow the path, and acquire the skills you’re missing, it is possible.

I love Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc. model. You need a sweet spot – where your audience’s interests overlap with your own. At my current business Content Hacker, that sweet spot is long-form and sustainable content creation. 

2. Build your skills

Back in 2011, I was on Upwork and got my first writing client, who paid around $10 per article. Today, I charge hundreds, sometimes thousands, per piece. It all depends on the results you’re able to achieve for your clients with your skillset. The bigger the results, the more value and worth they will place on it.

So, build your skillset. Stay in the trenches to learn what you don’t know. Consider an internship or charge a low price to get the missing experience. Get a mentor. 

Learn. Practice. Repeat. This simple point is grossly underestimated. You can’t achieve success without a real skill built to sell.

3. Time is part of the equation

Know that a million dollars net profit isn’t going to happen unless you put serious time into your business.

Put time into your business. Launch the website, launch your brand for your skillset, and get your first paying sponsors or subscribers. Let a few years pass by to grow the business. You need a history of income growth before any broker or buyer will get serious about helping you sell the business.

4. Get clear on finances and bookkeeping

Keep your books clean and get on top of your finances as early as possible – well before you expect to exit the business. Hire a bookkeeper to help you get clear on the returns, contractor filings, categories for expenses, and everything that matters to your profit-and-loss statement. Hire a tax consultant, so you know your stance with paying taxes and your business setup. Both of those things were some of the best moves I made in my business that helped me maintain clean books before my exit.

Well before you expect to exit your business, hire a bookkeeper and tax consultant, says #Enterpreneur @JuliaEMcCoy. #ContentBusiness Click To Tweet

5. Don’t sign anything that bars you from what you do best

Finally, don’t sign a non-compete agreement that will stop you from following the route of your passion. I told our broker early into the sale of my writing business that I wouldn’t agree to any sale that stopped me from running Content Hacker. 

I didn’t want to lose my ability to stay in the industry. I love content. It’s my home. I can’t imagine not teaching, writing, and serving in this industry. I received pushback from the broker and buyer, but I’m glad I decided I did. 

No matter what your advisor says, you can push for the things you want. It’s your business, your name, after all.

Get an attorney who knows exit legalities and can help you navigate these waters. This was one of my best decisions early in this process.

Grow and sell your business, too

Good luck to you on your business journey. I hope this inspired you to realize your dreams are possible. If this girl who failed college at 19 years old can do it, know that you can, too. More is possible for you than you’ve ever dreamed. Start walking in your passion today. 

About the author

Julia McCoy is the founder of Content Hacker, 7x author, and a leading strategist around creating exceptional content and brand presence that lasts online. At 19 years old, she used her last $75 to build a 7-figure writing agency, which she exited ten years later. Today, she’s devoted to teaching founders and marketers the strategy, skills, and systems they need to build a business through inbound content, so they can create more lasting impact in the world. Catch weekly advice from Julia on her Content Hacker blog and Content Transformation podcast.