Greg: Hi there, I am here again with Byron White, CEO and founder of WriterAccess, as well as all around content marketing guru. This is the third edition of the Ask the CEO Podcast where we answer questions from our writers about everything – writing, technology, the future of the company and anything else you submit. So happy to be here again with Byron. Thanks for talking to us and taking a moment out of your time, we really appreciate it.
Byron: Sure thing. Glad to be here, Greg.
Greg: All right, I’ll jump right into the questions then. So number one, we have, “I recently noted that an order I was working on was moved to the Writer Access house account, what does it mean exactly? Will I get penalized for it?”
Byron: Sure, great question. And of course, all of these are great questions because the writers came up with that. So thanks for all these questions. Really appreciate everybody reaching out. There is no question, and I will not, take a stab at answering. So let’s take a look at this one. So we have this sort of house account, if you will, it’s almost a clearing house if you will, for our helpdesk support team members and our account managers to move, to have a new owner of the account. That allows us to potentially pay a writer that should be paid, that may have been for reasons beyond their control taken away from their job or clients decided that they want a refund request, or they want to choose a different writer but we feel the writer deserves to be paid or at least his account deserves to be looked at closely to potentially pay it. So we move it to another account to clear it off of the original client’s account. That’s what’s going on with that house account. If your, if the owners changed it to the house account, it does not necessarily one hundred percent mean you’re going to get paid on it but there’s a very good chance that you will because we moved it there as a holding ground to just confirm our hunch that the client, our customer, went amiss here not so much you which we’re trying to sort this all out.
Greg: Yeah, I think that’s pretty much it. I think it is important to say too, I know a couple of the other content platform, they don’t do this. They offer a 50-50 split or something for the writers. So a lot of times, we’re paying the writers in full for work they’ve done which isn’t something that other people do which I think is cool on our part. So, the next question, “I’m still not clear about what happens when a client gives a writer an unwarranted, did not meet expectations rating. Since these ratings are only reviewable periodically, how do we know when they will be removed from our account within a reasonable amount of time?”
Byron: To that point, we need to, say a couple of things that are quite interesting here. The number of customers that are placing orders in our platform successfully and approving orders and are meeting expectations and paying writers properly is something like 98 point something percent. So these two questions are related to a very small percentage of people, of customers, that are having some issues for one reason or another. And that reason by the way, might be lack of working with freelancers before, lack of working with a platform before and inability to properly articulate what they want and when they need it. There are a whole bunch of reasons that we are trying to support customers on and writers as well, as we all know in the platform. But let’s go back to this question which is when somebody deemed an unwarranted, did not meet expectation. We don’t know it’s unwarranted yet until we review it. And we moved away from reviewing every single order that comes in tagged unwarranted to… for a whole bunch of reasons. We don’t do that on a one-up basis any longer. We thought up all of the changes and review them periodically when certain thresholds are reached with either, what we call positive points, rising star points, favorable activities that you do versus the negative activities which include unwarranted, do not meet expectation ratings for an individual order. So, I would fear no. The good news is your star ratings are not affected until we would review everything. It’s just business as usual and we take all of these considerations in stride. We look at the total picture rather than a one-up isolated picture. That’s really why we implement the rising and the falling star platform and then bottle these all up. Hopefully, that makes sense to everybody.
Greg: Yeah, that’s exactly right. If there’s only one did not meet expectation sitting on their account and they’re doing so well that they’re not getting reviewed for that, they’re not coming to the ball in our queue, you really have nothing to worry about. One did not meet; it really does not mean anything. It only matters in the context of that one. If you are doing that well, you have one sitting there not getting reviewed, you’re doing good. You don’t have to worry. The next question, “I’ve been stuck at Star Level 5 for a long time now and I really want to move up. When will I be at Level 6?”
Byron: I find it interesting that I am answering this question and not Greg because he is really the talent manager here in WriterAccess. But I am going to help Greg in throwing an answer out to you. So, here’s the dilemma that we are really at, if everyone can imagine this. We don’t have vision. We don’t often see your best work because you’re out performing work at the 3,4,5 Star Level and we’re not seeing this great work that you’re… in this with this question, you’re contending that you’re capable of doing. This puts us all in a very vulnerable situation and a very frustrating situation. What comes first, the great $2 a word, $6 order or the order comes first or your ability to produce the order. Both of them have to happen at the same time. So there’s some other questions coming up related to 6-star work and we’ll address some of those other questions. But the [00:06:52 inaudible] is, we need to have you perform satisfactory for a period of time. We need to look at the work you’re doing. We need to reevaluate writers. Certainly, our rising and falling star methodology is described earlier, helps us do that. When Greg takes on that task, particularly if we see a lot of exceeding expectations and delivering high-quality work, we take that into consideration, we look at everything we can to try to make decisions. We can look at things like LinkedIn account, and your Facebook account and your Twitter account. Everything you’re doing. We can take a look at your website. We can look at your endorsements from WriterAccess. One of the exciting things that I’ll talk about a little bit later is… we’re trying to open up endorsements and get validation of your ability to produce high-quality work from other people outside of the WriterAccess platform. I think that’s going to be a big deal when we launch that. And that will hopefully happen sooner rather than later. We need endorsements and I’ll be talking about that later today.
Greg: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I think the idea… there is an interesting sort of contradictions for writers that in order to move up to Star Level, we need to see them doing good work at the higher star level. So they think, “Well, I can’t get the higher level orders to prove that I can do them.” So I realize that is a difficult thing for a lot of writers. And that’s the point… we’re trying to take that into consideration. I don’t expect a 3-Star Level writer to be writing 6-Star orders because they are not getting offered them. So we do try to keep that in mind. The next question, “Why are clients allowed to take so long to approve orders, while writers have such a limited time to complete them and revise them?”
Byron: So, if you study the order form itself, customers are really determining the production schedule, which is much more complex in our model than it is in some other models. We don’t have flat rates here; all of our orders are delivered in seven days or X number of days like some of the other platforms out there. Our customers have a lot of control over the order structure. There’s actually three or four different touch points that they can control. How much time will the order sit out on the board before it’s picked up. How much time will the writer then need to have to deliver the project. And then how much time will transpire with the customer being able to review the order. And that’s really what this question is about, why is that lag phase, why does the customer seem to have so much time. Actually, we regulate that. The customer… if you’re a self-service customer, you only have 5 days to approve an order. If you are a Plus customer, you have 7 days. And if you’re and Enterprise customer, you have 14 days. So we offer that benefit and we step up the additional number of days for a whole bunch of reasons. In the bigger level, the Enterprise level customers are often agencies. About fifty percent of our customers in that level are agencies. And they often have to get the work approved by their customers, which of course can take a week or longer. So we need to build in those variables. Large corporations as well have often have approval processes on a particularly higher at work, like a white paper. So once again, we need longer time frames, and there needs to be some perks and benefits for bigger customers that commit to us. In the case of Enterprise, put $10,000 upfront towards a safe deposit, towards orders which gives them… need to offer some additional benefits. So, we’re pretty tight on the turnaround for customers. But remember, the customer is always right. The customer can extend the time for an individual writer however. As you build trust with writers and they learn how you work, you can try to ask them permission to extend the amount of time that you may want for an order or future orders by just communicating with them in the platform. So keep that in the back of your mind. You can always ask to work, in the future, with a customer to get more time added to your orders and you can build that into the workflow. So hopefully, that was helpful.
Greg: Will WriterAccess ever offer a higher level than 6 stars? Something closer to a dollar a word or more?
Byron: We’re excited that WriterAccess is probably the only platform out there that’s put a stake in the ground saying that we have writers in our database that want assignments that starts with ten cents per word. If you look at our language in the website, 6 star rates start at ten cents per word but have no cap to them. We have orders going through the platform that exceed a dollar per word. The work is relevant, directly proportional if you will, to the needs of the customers, the quality that they want. I wrote a book as some of you may know, some of you may have downloaded it for free on the website, called Professional Writing Skill and Price Guide, which talks about all of our star levels and what to expect when a customer pays more. It was an opportunity to get both writers and the customers on the same page with that expectation and setting some boundaries and guides if you will, on what to expect. So my answer on that is we think it’s up to all of us to educate and [0:12:46 inaudible] customers on what to expect when they pay more and why they should pay more. So I have done a fair amount by writing a book and we just need to do a better job of marketing those high-end services, high-end writing services. We’re working hard on that. There’s another question coming up that will talk about our marketing efforts.
Greg: Yeah, very true. And everyone should check out the pricing guide on the website, you can download it. Next question, ‘Why can’t I include my last name or links to my work in casting calls for my profile? How else am I supposed to attract clients, they can’t see all the great things I’ve done in the past?”
Byron: That’s an excellent question and one that has to do with the platform and the nature that we are set up. For a whole bunch of reasons, it is absolutely imperative that we protect the identity of our writers, many of which want to be anonymous, and not have customers have a direct access to them. As well as the relationship with many customers that would never reveal who they are or what their contact information is to be put in a position of, the right position I believe, to be able to hire writers and fire writers if they did not work out and to do what they need to do from their perspective. Likewise, customers need to protect their identity, they need to be paid escrow dollar amounts in our system where we’re guaranteeing their payment when they complete work to a degree of satisfaction that we here helped judge. This is an ecosystem. It’s one that requires anonymous activity and remaining completely transparent with our pay rates and transparent with how the system works including our delight guarantee. A customer can reject and order and request revisions and if they’re not happy with those revisions, we’ll refund the customer. And we’ll pay the writer if the writer is due and has completed the work in satisfaction. This is what you’re paying for when you agree to the terms and conditions of our model. You’re agreeing that we will protect you. You’re agreeing that we will back you, we’ll promote you, we’ll spend dollars to find customers for you. And that is a privilege that is… cannot violate you working directly with customers or communicating directly with them. And I’m going to answer that question in a few minutes as well from another question that popped up. But there is zero tolerance here for handing out your last name and/or links to your work. Now, on the subject of your work, that’s kind of interesting. We believe our profiles offer exceptional ways to demonstrate your work including samples, descriptions of your background and efficiency and it is done on a level playing field. So the design is an influence of that, of your websites design to somebody else’s. We’re leveling the playing field and allowing our work to speak and represent you in the best possible light. If you want to promote yourself better or more, work on your profile. You wouldn’t believe the task that Greg has in many, many cases. This was particularly true with writers that had worked with us a long time. They had their credentials. They completed lots of projects with customers. They had to perform on stats but honestly, their profiles were often written sloppily. There were grammatical errors often. And I am talking 5 or 6 star writers here. It was a really… you know we’ve been around for about six years now, about our 2nd, 3rd, 4th year in, we would literally have to almost beg writers to fix their profiles and to manually point out problems to them which they would then often fix. But sometimes would take longer than we like. It was unbelievable to me that a writer, particularly a high-quality writer, would have mistakes in their profile. But their stats are so great and they were so busy frankly, they couldn’t get around to fixing these problems. And they just don’t seem to have interest or care about the perception of them because they were just getting so much work. Probably because of the early grow stages of the platform like ours were. At that time our route rhythms were continuing to push them up on top of the search results. We since changed a lot of that and things like adding Editor’s pick, where Greg can go in and add some booster to a writer and get them higher-up in the search results, if he sees a great new writer that deserves to be on some promotion. There are things that we could do to promote people but hopefully that long-winded answer, answered some questions there for you. Thanks for bearing with me.
Greg: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. The profile is super important like you said. Being grammatically correct, having great samples, invest a little time on that although you are not getting paid directly from doing that, it would sure result in the future pay. But I also want to say something I see a lot which sounds a little superficial but your profile picture… if you have a professional looking profile picture where you’re smiling, that’s a huge help. Something that’s grainy or somebody’s cropped out of it, they don’t look that professional and I think everybody looks better when they got a good-looking high-resolution good photo. It’s superficial but it influences people. I would recommend that. The next thing, “I’ve applied in several casting calls but never seem to get picked. What can I do to improve my chances?”
Byron: Personal, professional, conversational, asking questions, that is what’s winning the game of the casting call. It’s a competition and generic answers will not cut it. I think the next layer is exactly what we just talked about. If your answer is great, customer’s going to look at your profile and see if your skills line-up and match up with the experience and efficiency that they’re looking for their project. So your answer needs to be personal and pointed. It doesn’t have to be verbose or too long. It must cut right into the chase and be professional. I think you’re winning the war. I think what’s also interesting to me is that, I think there’s an opportunity for you to read the instructions, to go into details of the tone, of the style that they might want and honestly, I think you should target your answer to the tone and style, to give the customer a sample of what they could expect if you were to complete the order. I think that there is wonderful room for creativity with these… with casting calls. And I think that we should really think that through as a group and blow customers away and make them sort of be disappointed that they can’t work with additional writers because their ideas were so great and their writing were so great. Where I think people go wrong is they’re sloppy and their quick. We actually had a customer that pulled their entire Plus service account away from us, because a writer had missed, had a misspelling in their casting call, if you can believe it. And I was like, “Really?” So again, people are looking at these casting calls as a close examination of your proficiency. So personal, professional, conversational, I love asking questions myself in general. I believe in Socratic methodology of life and learning. I figured it helps to say, you’re excited about the project, here’s what you bring into the table, here’s some questions that I’d love to see you answer. So I could really draw up a long-term relationship with you. That’s the kind of strategy and positive statement that I think would resonate well on a casting call. But a lot of this is experimentation and trying different things and mastering the art. Think about it, this is almost like a writing assignment where there is conversion attached to it. Where you can actually experiment and try different ways to respond to a casting call and see which method, which copy wins. So think about that when you’re applying to these casting calls.
Greg: What is some things I can do outside of WriterAccess to improve my writing skills and make myself a more valuable freelancer on the open market?
Byron: I think that you’re… all of our writers have sort of an opening statement which summarizes their background, their experience. The customers that you’ve worked with in the past reflect greatly on building trust and obviously aligning customers. Working in an industry-built confidence, somebody that has gone deep in a particular industry or segment is going to be more appealing for somebody into that segment. We’ve reached a point, I think, where specialization is going to be a critical element to the match-making process. And I think going deep in a few industries is really the way to go as we move forward. And that’s particularly true in our platform. Having said that, we’re in the process of building some new things that we’re going to talk about in the future and one of them is moving away from this concept where you as a writer could be an expert in 37 different industries. We’re going to change that methodology and that’s coming up in probably two to four months. Where we’re going to allow you to have your secondary 36 different industries, but we want you to slap three primary industries which are the focal points for you. This will change our search results. This will change your ability to promote yourself more directly and get more work from customers that see immediately through your initial summary that you’re diving deep into these three industries and have completed X number of projects in these three primary industries. And the same is true with the asset-types that you’re building and the specialties that you have. And there’s a lot of different types of specialties, we’re really moving more into of course general writing, Platforms like ours have a lot of generalist. People that can write articles, blog posts. They can do that quickly and efficiently and make a living doing that. But our customers are demanding more. We have to distinguish journalism from copywriting, from blog writing, from technical writing. So it’s really all moving towards these different divisions. So I think you want to go deep is my answer to this question and then have your profile and your promotions express the depth you have in fewer areas, not your ability to write copy by that effect.
Greg: Yeah, good answer. This writer says, “I login to WriterAccess several times a week but I’m still having trouble finding available orders. Do you have any advice?”
Byron: Whew, yeah. We need more customers. We need more orders or we need more customers. Some of the secrets that people have learned over the years, like hitting the refresh button, waiting for crowd orders to pop up. That’s obviously something that anyone and everyone can do because they do just lodge magically throughout the day. We need to level the playing field for our writers as well. I find it ridiculously tedious to do that, but that’s what people are basically doing. I myself don’t know the patterns when things launch. Obviously we’re dealing with the east coast and west coast, we’re also dealing with late night. We’ve got, strangely, customers seeming to place orders at night these days, which is interesting. Maybe after work, or maybe they’re just checking in with WriterAccess after hours. Maybe they’re running side businesses; who knows? I’m not really sure what the thought is behind it but don’t just think that a simple log on is the only exit. It’s a bit of refreshing and also altering the times you log in, and start doodling with trying to find crowd orders. The solo orders and the team orders will come with time, it just takes patience. When you are called for that first team order or solo order, that’s the time to rise to the occasion and exceed expectations. Then the fun starts to happen because you move up in the search results based upon your performance and you start getting more of those direct solo orders. We’re also very much in tune with helping our Plus and Enterprise customers build love list of writers. Greg does a great job of getting new writers to come into the platform to be introduced to our CS Team, our Customer Success Team. So they’re acclimated with [0:27:40 Rushaad], who’s new and who has great expertise in these areas. We try to push those new writers out to our best customers that we know and add them to like lists so our customers can go check you out, potentially add you to some of the team orders or even a solo order. We’re getting bigger, folks. We have more staff now than we’ve ever had, we got more support. We got another epic year last year. Keep the faith, we’re growing as hard as we can. But one thing that’s interesting about us is we’re organic; we don’t have a war chest like some of our competitors that have raised VC money. What that also means is that we don’t have to gouge writers with ridiculous markups like our competitors do. We can remain transparent, 70-30 split. We can be smart and grow a different way. There isn’t pressure on me… well there is pressure on me to grow, because I want more orders for writers. But we’re just doing things really the right way here. And I think that comes with a price, we grew 33% last year to give you a sense for that. Some of you may have read the annual report that I published on our blog, which is sort of an interesting way to get some data out and be transparent with our writers and our customers and tell them some exciting news. We were excited about our growth last year and hopefully that would mean more orders and more writers. More orders for all.
Greg: I recently had a client find me outside of WriterAccess and asked me to do work for her. I wouldn’t do this because I like WriterAccess, I like letting them take care of the billing and all the other stuff, but I’m wondering what the best way to go about this would be? How do I tell the client no? Who would I report this to? I like working with this client, and I don’t want to spoil our relationship.
Byron: This is a great question for a whole bunch of reasons. I’m going to let all of you think about this and just what I have to say here. My first question is, do you really want to work with people that are not trustworthy and are literally breaking the rules and violating Terms and Conditions? I don’t think so. More importantly, we don’t want to expose our writers to these types of customers. And I’m sorry that that has happened. Even worse than that is happening, is I would argue a likelihood that if you’re dealing with somebody that does not respect Terms and Conditions, they’re probably going to screw you over. I don’t know if there is a probability stat on that, but what I do know is that I don’t feel good when I work with sleazy people, I don’t do it. And that includes Content Marketing Conference that I share, learning in my communications with potential speakers: they’re just not nice people. And some of them are abrasive and not respectful of our staff and our team that work hard to bring that conference together. That’s just a business decision that you need to make yourself, the writer. Look, by sharing your first name and your last name, we want to be personal. I don’t want to come to a point where you’re like become an odd word, or a color, or a metaphor or something in our platform. I want personal connection, collaboration and I’ve even discussed on this call before, opening it up and actually putting your first name and your last name. I think that would be a very interesting and brazen move that I still consider all the time. With my deep roots and transparency which I’ve had for many years including the first company I launched called Freelance Access which was more of a traditional staffing firm in the graphic arts industry. I use that word, no one knows what that word is now, it’s sort of a dinosaur word, graphic arts industry which is an old-school phrase, I guess I’m kind of old-school as well. It’s up to you what to do in that situation. I thank you for respecting your own Terms and Conditions, and politely, professionally informing that customer that you are a loyal fan of WriterAccess. You’re not interested in violating the terms because it would jeopardize your relationship with all of your customers at WriterAccess. And that’s really the net of it. If we find out that anybody is working outside of our platform, we terminate immediately. It is no questions asked, and no excuses made, it is immediate and instant termination for a whole bunch of reasons. Number one, our livelihood of bringing more jobs to all of you depends on our company being successful and growing, we can’t do that if customers are working behind our back and writers are working behind our back. It’s all for one, one for all. Zero tolerance. Thank you for the faith in us that we will bring better clients to you than the ones trying to circumvent the Terms and Conditions. Thanks for listening to all of this. Go ahead, Greg.
Greg: Yeah, great answer. The next writer asks, “How does the editorial process work? Sometimes I see that my work is randomly sent to the editor even when the client doesn’t order it. Can you explain?”
Byron: That is correct, and it’s an expense that we incur because we want the quality of our content to be spot on. We also want to recognize amazing content and the writers producing that content. That’s why we do that. It’s sort of like going through the airport, some people are randomly selected to be frisked, and to have their bags examined. That’s basically what we’re trying to do, it’s sort of a TSA model. Inspecting work on a deeper level, greater level, we do that randomly. And we can step that up, and we can step that down, depending upon what stage you’re in our platform. We can also do that when we review work for the rising and falling. There’s all kinds of things that we can do. It’s sort of like Google’s algorithm, we can change our algorithm. We can shift things around and Greg is a decision-maker in that type of activity of things we do in our company.
Greg: Yeah speaking of, in the coming months we will be changing a little bit the process. We’re going to experiment with not doing the review checks before it goes to the client. We’re going to do more after it goes to the client. I think writers will be happy with it, it means that they won’t see their work randomly going to the editor. If the client orders proofreading or editing it will still go, but the random check would move to after the client gets it which will smooth out the timeline issues. Writers won’t see their work delayed quite as much, so I think that will be a good thing. Like you said, we’re kind of tweaking algorithms testing out what works best for everybody. But there will be some changes coming up. The next one, “I interact with a number of different people at Writer Access. But I’m not exactly clear who does what. Can you describe the role of the Account Manager as opposed to the Talent Management, or Aaron.”
Byron: Got it. So if I had my vote on who goes where, it would be everyone would understand the nature of a platform as large as ours. And all people complaints and questions and what-not would move through the helpdesk ticket where we can finally have a one source all things go to this place. This would allow us to track things more efficiently, look at our response time, manage orders. Where it gets broken is when writers try to reach out to an individual Account Manager that might have reached out to them, possibly in the past. Or, “I’m going to call Greg, see what he’s take on this.” Or, “My dog has been missing for five days, so I need to not work today to go drive around neighborhoods.” I mean, all of these things are understandable but it becomes a very broken engine without, poor communication. Let me define some of the roles and then everyone can get a better understanding of that. For starters, let’s start with my role. I’m the janitor as well as, no I’m joking, as well as the CEO. I’m a workaholic and I work on weekends, I do pick up the phone on weekends. So that’s a good time to catch me if you want to go right to the CEO. But I would not do that, because that would circumvent the whole system. Let’s see, we’ve got some incredible Account Management team members and I want to about that department. We got Account Managers that are servicing self-service customers and that’s primarily through helpdesk tickets. Not a lot of phone activity, and they’re just really more reactionary and less proactive. So that’s how the structure works there. We then have Account Managers that service Plus and Enterprise customers, and they’re the opposite. They’re extremely hands-on. We begin with kick-off calls, our Account Managers understand deeply what their goals are. They help them set up orders and they pre-flight all the orders that customers put in, at least initially their orders. So these Account Managers have a pretty good idea of what’s coming down the pipeline and what to expect. So they’re great resources for us to count on to develop and grow the relationships with customers. They’re also talking with customers about writers and about the work, and help them to develop strategy. And occasionally, that’s good information. But it should make its way to you in the right way which is adjustments to order forms and tweaks and possibly some messages to you that might make sense that can come to you in a number of different ways. But account managers are really not servicing writers, they’re servicing customers. Our talent manager, Greg, who is really… is really a go-to… is the person that should be… if there is a complex issue that comes through a helpdesk ticket Greg is on it. If it’s more of a functional automated procedural thing, Greg has team members that can resolve those issues for him. Our team that services all the inbound helpdesk tickets and helps to filter and automate those can either take action if it is immediate, quick and fast. Or direct it to Greg if needed. From a talent perspective, from our writers, Greg is… you can end up with Greg and that’s the right person for you to end up with when there’s a decision and it needs to be made, or call that needs to be made. But really folks, we have automated this system so there are very few things that would get the wheels to stop turning over here if Greg makes a decision on something. We refund customers instantly. There’s no debate whether a customer could get a refund when they’re unhappy with an order. No decision to be made over there. We also have a queue on whether the writer should be paid for an order that’s refunded. Our technology is built on algorithms. When you drop a job it’s evil because, no it’s not evil, but it’s close to it because you built an expectation that you’re going to deliver to a customer and you failed in that promise. So we have to penalize you and there’s no question about us penalizing you. We’re going to penalize you. We understand if there’s an issue outside of your control but we can’t have too many promises broken. It’s just the nature of what we’re doing. A lot of this is automated, there really isn’t a need for any other communication in my mind other than really well crafted helpdesk tickets and you will get a response and that is really the best way to commu… so we can get better at what we do. We can’t get better if we’re handling one-up phone calls on a problem. That removes all tracking on… or the resolve time of the problem being resolved. That also removes your ability to rate our service which we’re doing a better job of for writers. It’s to understand how well we’re doing. So helpdesk, helpdesk, helpdesk is my answer to that… but now you perhaps some of the roles. We also have a CS manager that looks over all the managers. We have a marketing manager, Greg’s boss, that looks over all the marketing efforts and the communication efforts to try to get better information to you and problems solved like the ones that you’re asking for this help on. We pay really close attention to all the helpdesk tickets that come in and that helps us identify problems on the platforms or systems. When we go to redesign our technology, which I tend to do every six months or a year, we look at helpdesk tickets. We batch them all up. We look at the problems from clients’ perspective. Were there problems with finding writers, or placing orders or managing order flow, were there communication problems with writers. And same with the writers, were there problems with the order instructions or different elements. So we break all these things down and try to make the platform better. Keep the ideas coming even when you’re writing a helpdesk ticket. Absolutely propose a resolution or a new idea that involves these problems moving forward. We have something here called the idea board where all the employees are not only empowered but motivated from a philosophical perspective to bring a [0:43:07 better] ideas to the platform. Hopefully that was another long-winded answer that helped you get some insight with how we work and how we think here.
Greg: Sure. Another question here, “What does WriterAccess do to recruit new clients, do you expect to bring a lot more on, in the future?”
Byron: Right. So we’ve doubled the size of our marketing department. We’ve increased our marketing budget about fifty percent for 2016. We are running, or doubling, the number of webinars. We’re reaching… we’re doubling the number of attendees at the show and the promotion dollars we’re spending on concept marketing conference which aligns nicely with our brand. We’re kind of becoming a major player, I would suggest, in the marketplace. Our word of mouth marketing is stronger than it’s ever been. Our organic success is stronger than it’s ever been. We’re doing things that our well funded competition is not doing. I think you can expect more from us. Just another interesting point that some people might want to hear, we brought in a consultant to help us analyze our business and make sure that our employees are aligned with the right activities to help our business have the best chance to grow. We’ve implemented some really cool internal plans, bonus structures for employees to reward them when our company grows and they achieve their individual goals and their department goals. We’re doing everything we can to get everybody here working as efficiently and as intelligently as they can. And that’s hard to do. Trust me. I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years. But I think we have the best team here now. We have the best systems in place. We have the best opportunity to grow than any real company I can ever remember. At least I feel more confident in our growth opportunity. But it’s a funky year coming up as well. We got stock market volatility, and oil prices all over the place, economic growth projections are sort of dwindling a little bit. We need to be careful. We have lots of it coming up as well. We need to be smart, we need to be careful. We need to band together and do whatever we can do to help our company grow. And that starts with you, the writer, having a great profile and performing great every day. That’s what our business is right there. We are nothing without that happening. That’s the starting point that Greg works really hard to try to motivate all of us to really make our profiles great and make the work great in any and every way we can.
Greg: So the last question here I think we may have touched on some of these things during our conversation Byron but I think it is really an interesting question still. The writer says, “I know that WriterAccess is always changing and growing, what new features can we expect to see in 2016?”
Byron: Yeah, so I have a question for all of you. Does it drive you crazy that we’re always changing? I move fast and sometimes too fast for some people. In about two or three weeks from now, you’re going to see some pretty major changes on the website for example. Which is something that I love doing. How can we tell our story better and present it in a more enlightening way that performs better. So that’ll be fine. Let’s talk about some of the new things we can expect. Very exciting. We are going to expand into translation services and we’re going to try and beef up our editing services. And we’re also expanding into content strategy, which is interesting, which will be performed by freelancers that we screened and bring into our platform. Our translation service will take-off first. And that we will begin recruiting translation specialists from all over the world actually, that are living locally in the countries that they are going to be performing the translation service in. And we will invite a small tribe if you will, of translators, to join the WriterAccess platform to give this service a go. We’ve hired an incredibly talented woman that is heading up that division if you will. And she has a lot of experience in the translation industry. She worked for a company out in Denmark for about four, five years, building a group and servicing hundreds of customers so she understands the business and understands… has a huge network of translators she has already worked with. So I think we will be in a good position to successfully launch that division. And that will be very interesting for WriterAccess particularly for the larger companies we’re servicing that have overseas marketing efforts. So I’m very excited and bullish on that addition to our platform. And we’ll really be one of the few platforms in the US like ours, to be compete with… that will be offering that service. Content strategy, I believe, is another really exciting division. For some of you that may not know this, we were a full service content marketing agency for five years prior to starting WriterAccess. We were working with companies like Wal-Mart, the companies of Brookstown, FTD, H&R Block, Iron Mountain, Sales Force, some really great companies, about a hundred companies per year. We had a large staff of about 20 people full time. And we worked with hundreds of freelance writers. We had internal editors and SEO specialists and project managers that were working with these freelancers. But we built the WriterAccess platform trying to scale from a hundred customers to thousands of possible, and having our customers work more directly with freelancers rather than going through all the, all the staff members that we needed to assign to each account. So those are our roots. We understand content strategy. We were pioneers in not only bringing content planning and SEO planning to the marketplace as a product that people could buy. We also built our own proprietary technology called WordVision, which you can go check out wordvision.com still kind of around in an archaic way. We don’t really service that anymore, that software. We strangely have a few clients still using it. We got very deep into tracking content performance that’s why around that time I published my first book, The Content Marketing Road Map, and really out doing webinars and speaking over a hundred conferences in five or ten years. So that’s where it all began for us. My point of all that is to explain to you we understand deeply content strategy. And I believe that there are freelance content strategists out there that understand content planning and creation, optimization, distribution, performance measurement, can offer consulting services and actual work deliverables to customers in our platform. There’s a couple of great webinars that I’ve had opportunities to create. One with Robert Rose that you should tune in to from Content Marketing Institute, where we talk a little bit about Content Marketing as a team sport. And it is my opinion that a content strategist is the center of that team. Somebody that really understands all of the big five channels I mentioned a few minutes ago, and in disciplines and we’re very excited to bring onboard some content strategists. I think that, hopefully a lot of writers out there that will feel qualified and be qualified for that new service. So stay tuned, and we’ll look to be launching that in a few months. We’re going to focus initially on translation. There’s some other minor thing that will come to the table. Right now our profile, the way you fill your profile out, it really stinks in my mind. It’s cumbersome and new people that show up in our platform have a hard time. Greg has brought this to my attention and our product team, so we’re going to fix that and make it easier to not only create your profile but edit your profile. And we’re also going to be bringing in the primary and secondary tags that you can put on your industry niches and some of your other asset types that will help you get to the top of the search engines better and quicker, change up your profiles a little bit. And I’m also very bullish on bringing in outside endorsements so look for that to launch as well, short term. Like within 30 to 60 days hopefully, we need to get through translation first. Anyway, we got other big huge plans but I can’t tell you now, so stay tune. So there’s my quick answers.
Greg: Alright. Sounds exciting, a lot to look forward to. Well thanks so much for sitting down with me and sharing your knowledge again, really appreciate it. It’s always helpful to hear it straight from the… straight from the top.
Greg: I want to thank everybody else for listening to this. The third Ask the CEO podcast and I encourage them all to check out our other podcasts in the archive. To look out for upcoming ones, really have great new ones coming out. I know Byron’s doing one every week with an interesting writer. We got all these webinars coming up. We have writer webinars that I haven’t announced anywhere but I think everyone will be really excited with the guests that we have coming. So check that stuff out and send me any questions or comments you have. You can put it in my Facebook, Twitter, you can email me greg@writeraccess. I look forward to hearing from you guys. Alright, talk to you next time Byron.
Byron: Write on. Thanks, everyone.