How to start a blog writing service business with Dayne Shuda
Dayne Shuda is the Founder of Ghost Blog Writers, a blog writing service for businesses and agencies. He was born and raised in Wisconsin and currently lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with his wife and daughter. In his free time he enjoys golfing and spending time outdoors.
What's special about the services you provide?
Ghost Blog Writers provides blog writing services for businesses and agencies. We provide ongoing blogging services for businesses looking to build a long-term content marketing strategy to increase their brand awareness and reputation. What was your main motivation to start a business?
Growing up I had been drawn toward business people. I had a couple in my distance family that were business owners. I was intrigued by people I encountered that owned and operated businesses. I don't know why I was drawn to it, but it was always an interest for me and always seemed to be something I wanted to become. I had no idea how, but I knew I had to follow some path into the business world. How did you start it? Did you have any previous experience as an entrepreneur?
I had no experience starting a business. It was the mid-2000s and I paid a company to launch a website for some kind of outdoor-related social network. Those were taking off at the time. It was a complete failure. I spent all my savings and more. I had a full-time job in marketing and that was wonderful. I learned a lot.
And on the side I started blogging as a hobby. Then as a freelancer mostly to pay off some debt. That slowly grew into what Ghost Blog Writers is today. How did you validate your idea?
I found three paying customers before I even started taking steps to officially launching a business. I had been down the path of starting a business, spending money, etc. I didn't want to take that step right away again. So with Ghost Blog Writers I focused on doing something that people would pay for. How did you finance your project?
It didn't require any startup expenses. I was a freelancer providing a service. However, as I brought on other writers and eventually other people to handle other tasks it required cash investment. For that I used savings. Early on when I was freelancing I paid off a little debt.
But then I realized I didn't really need to spend money so I mostly saved it and invested it back into the company. Sometimes it would get stretched a little thing, but at least for now the situation never called for any debt or outside investment. How did you market and promote your business when you were launching?
The first customer was through word of mouth. The second I found via Twitter. This was pretty early Twitter, around 2009. I was following a bunch of CEOs at the time and one tweeted that they were looking for a blog writer. I replied to them, got their info via direct message and that was client number two.
After that I started responding to listings on job boards and things like that. All the while I was also writing regularly for the Ghost Blog Writers website blog and slowly that began to build inbound traffic. How long did it take you to start getting the first results and see you could create a viable business ?
I started earning profit right away since it was just a service. No expenses really other than my time. After a few months I started thinking about it as a business and I started thinking about the agency model. I thought there was enough room to hire freelance writers and provide them with value while building an operation that would provide a decent profit.
And the demand for the service seemed to be on the rise. Businesses were seeing the benefits of providing helpful content, but many didn't have the internal resources to create it and many people really don't enjoy writing so the idea seemed viable. How long did it take before you could switch full time on your business? What has been your revenue progression as a side hustle?
After two years I decided to leave my full-time job. I wasn't earning as much as my salary + side business. The business wasn't enough to replace my salary either. But I was in my 20s and didn't have much to lose. My girlfriend, now wife, was very supportive. The first year was tough. Just enough to pay the bills. The second year was better.
Since then it's continued to steadily grow. It hasn't been a perfectly straight line, but very consistent. I'm in a position now where I think I'm making more than I would if I would have stayed with a regular full-time job. Although that wasn't entirely the reason for leaving the corporate world. I also needed to see if I could build something. How did you organize yourself and keep motivated to make sure your side hustle was moving forward without burning out ?
Early on the motivation was to pay the bills. That's a strong motivation. But after you're able to pay your bills and live a comfortable life you need to find new motivation. At least in my case. So every year I audit my personal habits and schedule. I make sure I'm looking at new opportunities and that I'm scheduling time to do that and to work on new revenue streams, more efficient processes, etc.
Burn out hasn't been too much of an issue. I have my family. I have 1-2 hobbies I'm passionate about. And I have the business. I schedule time with family. I schedule time for hobbies. I keep focused on 1-2 priorities with the business. Things get askew from time to time, but never too much where I'm burned out on any one thing.
How many hours on average were you able to work weekly on your side hustle while having a full time job?
I worked at least 20 hours a week beyond the 40-50 at the full-time job. It didn't seem like too much. I was relatively young. It was pretty much 2-3 hours every night along with 10 or so on the weekends.
Even thinking back, it was easy then, with few things really going on in my life. But even now I think I could find the time to do it while still spending time with my wife and daughter. What was key in successfully transitioning from a side hustle to a full time business?
The key for me was knowing that I wanted to build a business. The big jump was taking less money in the short-term for the hope of earning more in the long-term. My side hustle was 100% profit.
As I brought on writers and overhead that obviously goes way down. You take a cut in cash not just from revenue, but also from investing savings. I guess an important key for me was not having a lot of obligations. I didn't have car payments. I didn't have house payments. I didn't need a lot of stuff so making less money each month, while transitioning from freelancer to business, didn't seem like a big deal. What do you like most being an entrepreneur?
It's probably the autonomy. Although the more I think about it the more I think it's just something I need to be doing. I don't know if it's a purpose or something I've just thought about for so long, but when I think about business I feel challenged and fulfilled. What has been your biggest challenge/failure as an entrepreneur?
Well, that first experience with the social website was a big failure. Money down the drain. Lots of poor decisions and spending. I've also lost out on clients for all kinds of reasons. I've made mistakes with writers. There have been all kinds of things. But I try not to let the failures get to me too much. I try to learn and move forward.
I realized that I only have so much energy to give. I try to give it to improvement. For example, with the social website I paid someone a lot of money to build a new version of the site. Then they disappeared. For several months I tried to get that money back. Then one day I woke up and thought, "I need to let this go. I need to move on."
After that it was like a huge weight was off my shoulder and I got started finding new blogging customers. It was like, I could spend my time chasing thousands of dollars a bad way or chase it with something that was more promising.
What are your business goals for this coming year?
Right now I'm in cash savings mode. We have a few sales channels going. We're testing a few. But next I would like to acquire a related business. I have no idea how, but that's a priority in the next 1-2 years. How can an aspiring entrepreneur start building a business now as a side hustle? What would be a good business type to start as a beginner?
A service business was good for me. Zero cost. You just need your time. And if you cut out what isn't really important there is still usually plenty of time to work on something. Even if it's just five hours a week. For me it was blogging. I saw people that were blogging.
I decided that instead of watching TV or doing whatever that I was going to write every night of the week for 1-2 hours everyday. After a year, that turned into one paying gig. And it just built from there. What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I like to have 1-2 major priorities each year for the business. I'm always looking at opportunities. I'm always doing little tests. But each year I review what we have been doing and what the new and old opportunities are and decide on where to put the focus. What's your favourite quote?
You are what you do everyday. I wanted to be a blogger so I blogged everyday. Then I wanted to be a business owner, so I quit my job and became a business owner everyday. Whatever you do with your habits each day is what you are and what you become. Any good book to recommend to an aspiring entrepreneur?
The Good To Great series by Jim Collins is a favorite of mine. It's great research on successful business. I also read a lot of business autobiographies and biographies. They all have good insight, but those books by Jim Collins seem to be the most objective look at what makes for a successful business.
Learn more about Dayne Shuda and Ghost Blog Writers at
Learn more about Dayne Shuda's success story :
Side Hustle Nation podcast episode - How to start and scale a service business to quit your job
Additional Resources :
If you're interested in starting a blog on the side, check our free Beginner's guide -How to make money blogging
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