This is a follow up story for Scribly.io. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi! My name’s Dani, founder of the productised content marketing service scribly.io.
In a nutshell: Scribly delivers done-for-you content marketing solutions, covering everything from SEO research through to content planning and production.
We support clients across almost every niche imaginable to increase brand awareness, build authority, and drive new leads through the power of content. Our customers typically come from the SaaS space, but we’ve worked with a wide range of both B2B and B2C businesses covering all sorts — from health & wellbeing, lifestyle, HR, and design, to AI, crypto, energy and so much more.
There’s a lot of bad rap when it comes to content marketing. There are so many “content mill” services out there and our focus from day one has always been on quality. If we don’t think a piece of content will actually engage the reader and deliver results, we figure out a plan B.
The net result is that over the last few years we’ve successfully supported businesses in reaping the rewards of investing wisely in content.
Right now, the average monthly revenue is ≈ $37,000 USD/m.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Where to begin! Since the last interview in March last year, the whole world upended and a huge part of the last 12 months has been responding to those challenges.
Just keep it simple and let your customers guide how and where things evolve. Who knows where it might take you!
I had no idea if, or how, the business would survive when the world went into lockdown last year. But I’m really proud to say that Scribly weathered the storm of 2020 really well.
In fact, in the first few months after March, we actually saw significant growth as businesses put the brakes on paid marketing in favor of evergreen sources of traffic like the content.
During this time, our brand messaging shifted slightly to be more human and personal. Our core message was, “things are really tough right now, so let us help you figure it out”. This meant that we pushed out lots of content like this and free strategy calls to support businesses as much as possible.
As the dust settled in the industry’s new-ish normal, revenue settled back around the $30K/m mark and has grown steadily in the last 9 months since. I had big plans for growth in 2020, but what transpired was in fact a period of really figuring out how to pivot the brand message to meet businesses where they are now in this new world.
I’m really proud of this, not least because alongside the business challenge of Coronavirus, I also found out that I was pregnant in March last year, too! So 2020 really was something of a double-edged sword, where I was figuring out not only how to keep the business healthy, but also how to plan for me stepping aside from the business to work on my next startup, my baby boy.
Key things that needed to happen (and quickly!) were to figure out all the areas that I still handled across sales, marketing and operations, and to fill those roles with other people.
This resulted in a couple of really big and exciting changes, including several important hires in to account management, sales and ops roles. Scribly is now a team of four: Lauren, Lorna, Alex, and Ryan.
You’ll notice I left my name out of the line-up there, and here’s the reason why.
Scribly’s most significant change of 2020 was me stepping back as CEO and handing over the reins to Lauren Bennett, who used to be our Head of Content.
Initially, the plan was that this would be a temporary thing while I left to have my baby, but now I’ve decided to hand this role over to Lauren permanently.
Having a baby shifted all my priorities and I’m really ready to take a step back from the business and focus on my little family. When I started Scribly I always said that I aimed to create freedom from the constraints of a 9-5. That’s exactly what’s happened, so I’d say the last two years have been mission accomplished on a personal and professional level.
This change is also a really natural evolution of the business. Lauren brings whole new energy and motivation. So it really is on to bigger and better things for Scribly from this point on!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I’d say the biggest learning I’ve had this year is that, often, the best answers are almost always the simplest ones.
When I found out I was pregnant I spent so many months battling with decision fatigue about what to do with the company while I was away on maternity leave. I was so afraid to make the wrong decision, that I struggled to make any decision at all.
I was interviewing people left, right, and center to take over in a CEO function, but all the candidates just didn’t seem right. It wasn’t until I really stopped and thought clearly about what was missing that I realized that I’d had the ideal person right there all along.
Lauren was the first full-time person I hired at Scribly and has been absolutely instrumental to the business since that point. In fact, she’s been part of the Scribly family almost since the beginning — helping us out on a regular, part-time basis as a freelance writer before coming on board in a much larger capacity.
As a result, Lauren knows the business inside out, is incredibly capable, and I trust her implicitly. She was the perfect person to hand the proverbial baton to, and I have no idea why it took me 7 months of worrying to realize that.
I think there’s a tendency to overcomplicate things when faced with a new challenge. I’d never handed over the business in any meaningful way until now, so I thought it would require fairly pivotal change. The reality was it was nothing like this.
Once Lauren and I decided to commit to this change, it was just a very gradual and natural evolution of the company.
Which I guess is also another really big learning from this year: at some point, a business will outgrow you.
Over the course of 2020, I stopped being an instrumental part of Scribly. Through effective hiring and growth, the company had become bigger than me and it was time for me to step aside and stop being ‘the face’ of the company. Today, Lauren is your go-to for Scribly (you can say hello here if you want!)
This is such an important step in any business, and I’m really proud it’s happened, but it does take some adjustment.
Learning how to let go of the business has been a real challenge for me. I’ve spent a lot of this year focusing on creating robust documentation so that everyone in the company is empowered to do things their way. Moving forward, this opens up the exciting possibility of the business being less about ‘me’ and more about the product, which is a really important step change.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
On a personal level, my biggest priority for both the short and long term is my son. Until October last year, my whole life revolved around Scribly, at some points I didn’t know where I ended and the business began. That will very much not be the case from now on, and I’m really open to that change.
In terms of the business, this is going to be an exciting period as I step back to allow new and fresh energy to build Scribly 2.0.
We are looking forward to further building our team and reaching the next level. Our customers are happier than ever with our work and we continue to bring on new accounts too.
I mentioned in a previous Starter Story that Scribly has been almost entirely powered by word-of-mouth referrals, and that’s continued to be a really valuable growth channel for us. Long term, though, we’re also planning to expand our marketing reach, in the UK, EU, and the USA. All under the guidance of Lauren who will be taking over from me.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Books, no (unless you’re interested in pregnancy or baby books, in which case I can give you a whole library list!). But I did sign up to Masterclass a few months back which has been a really fun way of diving into new areas of knowledge that I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
The courses that have impacted me most professionally are the one on leadership and strategy by Bob Iger, and the one on the art of successful negotiation by Chris Voss (I also highly recommend his book “Never Split the Difference”).
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
In my last interview I talked about the importance of creating solid documentation for your business from day 1, and this year has really cemented that.
No matter how invested you are in your business, one day, life might need you to take a step back and focus on other things.
That’s why it’s super important that you think about what it would take to hand different roles over to someone totally new and make that a priority from the get-go.
This includes creating clear and consistent processes, documentation, and ways of working. I can’t stress how important this is if you ever plan to scale your business, or just take a day off.
I used Notion.so to create a company wiki, but there are tons of ways you could approach it (If you’re interested, I talk about how I did this at Scribly in this webinar with Notion)
Another really important learning is to just give your idea a go, and see where it takes you. Ultimately, I started Scribly over one weekend with basically zero experience or investment, and bootstrapped it from there (more on this here).
When I got the idea to try and turn my freelance gigs into something more scalable, I kept the initial prototype as simple as humanly possible so that I could launch and learn in less than 48 hours.
My process pretty much consisted of:
- Creating a website based on a template (Webflow!)
- Writing web copy (me!)
- Hooking up some kind of payment solution (Stripe!)
- Automating as much of the back end as possible (Airtable and Zapier!)
Total cost = $90 Total time = 2 days
With the initial setup complete, all that was left was to put my embryonic business idea out into the world and see what happened. Over the next seven days, I did a soft launch by contacting freelance clients and announcing online to various founder communities.
By the end of the following week, I generated over $2K in sales — my new life running Scribly was born.
My point here is that, if you have an idea whirring around in your head, it’s probably easier than you think to turn it into a profitable business.
You don’t need to launch with a fully formed idea. I certainly didn’t. Just keep it simple and let your customers guide how and where things evolve. Who knows where it might take you!
Scribly’s product offering has pivoted and changed several times over the years. We went from being an “unlimited” service to one that focused on subscriptions. Today, we’re seeing more and more clients adding one-off projects to their monthly packages, so we’re planning to trial a credits-based, “pick and mix” style offer, designed with whitelabel agency partners in mind, this year too.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Absolutely! We are always looking for passionate writers, editors, social media community managers, and technical SEO minds to join our remote team.
We take our role as content creators very seriously, and that’s why we only bring on the best.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Scribly.io has provided an update on their business!
Over 2 years ago, we followed up with Scribly.io to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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