Andy Strote: An Update On My Side Hustle Self-Publishing Books

Published: September 7th, 2022
How to Start a Su...
from Toronto, ON, Canada
started August 2019
Discover what tools Andy recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Andy recommends to grow your business!
Want more updates on How to Start a Successful Creative Agency? Check out these stories:

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hi, I’m Andy Strote from Toronto, Canada. A little over a year ago I self-published a book How to Start a Successful Creative Agency. It’s available on all major book retail sites.

In my copywriting and marketing career, I helped start up two successful creative agencies. The first one was acquired by an IT company. I retired from the second one by selling my shares to my partners. It’s still in operation and doing well.

Why did I write this book? I realized that many creative freelancers and small agency founders struggle, not because of their creative output, but because they have trouble with operating and managing their businesses.

This book helps them prepare and then run their company. You can read the original story on Starter Story here.

From a revenue perspective, writing a book is not the path to riches for most authors. Sales vary, but in general, income from this book is a few hundred dollars per month.

But at this point in my life, this has been a way of giving back and helping others learn how to run their creative business.

Most people who start creative services companies, whether as solo operators or a partner in a small agency, come from the creative side. In other words, they’re copywriters, designers, programmers, filmmakers, or animators.

They often have little or no business training. That’s where I think my experience will be useful.

I’ve received lots of feedback, either by email or on Twitter which is my preferred social media platform. I’ve had numerous testimonials, either as reviews on the platforms where people have purchased the book, or sent directly to me.

Unexpected bonuses: I’m mentoring a young copywriter in Nigeria. His biggest challenge? Unreliable power. Imagine trying to be a freelancer under those conditions.

I’m also on an advisory board for a group of Filipino copywriters. (I’m not Filipino). Surprising fact: They have over 10,400 members in this group. Who knew there were so many copywriters in the Philippines?

Below are two book reviews, one on Twitter, and the other posted on Amazon.

A screenshot of a favorable book review posted on Twitter.

A screenshot of a 5-star book review posted on Amazon.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

Since publication, the sale of books has been steady at a few hundred dollars in revenue per month. Sales correspond to the amount of promotion I do. Since a book like this is often an impulse purchase, the promotion has a direct effect on sales.

I have focused mostly on Twitter, my newsletter, and improving the SEO of my site to drive traffic.

Here is a sample of my Twitter activity:




Here are some of my LinkedIn activities:

Activity 1

Activity 2

A post on LinkedIn where I’m quoting a post that includes my book as one of 11 books to upskill and make more money as a science writer.

As I continue to write blog posts (which I send to my email list), search traffic to the site increases.

To date, I’ve written over 50 blog posts. I have followed a once-a-week schedule and promoted the posts on social.

Here is a selection of the posts I’ve written.

Screenshot of introductions to four blog posts

For several relevant keywords and phrases, I’m now in the first position, on page 1 of Google, right after the ads. This helps drive traffic to the site.

Screenshot of a Google search result showing my blog post in the first position for the phrase “how to price creative services”.

Screenshot of a Google search result showing my blog post in the first position for the phrase “how to get on corporate vendor lists”.

I have to work on my domain authority, which is now a puny 11. So, I need more authoritative links pointing to the site, and more blog posts ranking high in results.

I also need to pay more attention to LinkedIn, Facebook Groups, and Reddit. I’ve been active on all those platforms, but there is plenty of room for improvement. I’ve found Twitter to be a much more community-based environment so I post there most often.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

For me, the biggest challenge has been finding new ways to write about some of the subjects in the book for my blog posts.

Typically, I’ve taken larger posts and broken them down to address one specific issue that people may have.

Learn to keep detailed records for estimates, invoices, and other important paperwork. It will save you endless arguments about “who said what”, and “what you meant”.

Also, motivating myself to be active on other social platforms.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

The two biggest lessons I’ve learned this year:

Promotion is remarkably effective. The more I promote, the greater the results. (What a surprise, huh?)

The second lesson is that it has paid to broaden the scope of my messaging. Although the book is ostensibly targeting those who want to start a larger creative agency (bigger than just themselves), most of the content in the book also applies to solo freelancers.

When I write, I make a point of addressing freelancers who may not want to expand beyond themselves, but are looking to work more efficiently, bill more, and keep more of what they bill.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Plans for the coming years? Well, writers write, so, more writing. Specifically, I’m pulling notes together for an updated version of this book, mostly based on what I’ve learned from interacting with people on social. I see their problems and issues, some of which I can answer in v2 of the book.

I also have another new book in mind but haven’t started writing. I’m still thinking about it.

Other than that, what I’m most excited about in the future is travel. Being a writer, I can work anywhere I have my laptop. These last few years have been discouraging for those of us who like to see the world. As I write this, I acknowledge that we are far away from normal again, but by taking precautions, I’m willing to take that risk.

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

Currently, I’m not reading any business-related books. When I was growing my freelance business, and then again when I co-founded the two agencies, I devoured business books, magazines, and websites. At this stage, I think I’ve read enough of those. It does get repetitive after a while.

I still read very specific blogs on topics such as SEO and content distribution. But even they tend to regurgitate the same information.

Right now, I’m reading books on other subjects that are of interest to me. That includes art, art history, and general history. The last book I truly enjoyed was a 900-page biography of Andy Warhol by Blake Gopnik.

That book might be of interest to those looking for business advice because Andy was a very astute business person. He hustled to get commissions, started various companies, and diversified into movies, a magazine, and books.

Here are Andy’s thoughts on business: “Making money is art and working is an art and good business is the best art.”

I’ve also become quite interested in the history of Venice. It was a republic that included much of the western Mediterranean for over 1,000 years. For longevity, no other country or region comes close. Venice’s history provides many lessons for modern republics (hello USA).

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Many entrepreneurs enjoy the creative aspects of their work, but not the nitty-gritty of the business. If running the business is not your strength, get help from someone who will take care of it. That might mean a partner, a senior employee, an accountant, a business advisor, or some combination of them.

Learn to keep detailed records for estimates, invoices, and other important paperwork. It will save you endless arguments about “who said what”, and “what you meant”.

Be clear on what your business is about. Who do you serve? Who are your ideal clients or customers? Who is your competition? Should you focus more on what you’re currently doing, or expand into a broader range of services?

Too many young businesses seem to wander somewhat aimlessly, or “pivot” too frequently. You don’t need to write a 50-page 5-year plan, but you should have a written document outlining what your business is about and your goals and objectives.

Get that document vetted and be ready to answer questions about your assumptions.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can learn more about me and my book at:

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!