1+1 = 10 – The Power of Partnership

After becoming fast friends, starting a book and launching an info product and companion niche site, we finally decided to make it official and start a website together which would bring us freelance work. In April we launched the first version of the Collective Inkwell, an online informal café/studio where we could join our voices and open our doors for business.

It was a place where we could be ourselves, all while demonstrating what we did best. We would write about writing and creativity with the warmth and knowledge we were known for. Though we both had successful family sites with loyal audiences, but those sites were not the best environments for doing business.

Be ourselves, clearly demonstrate the quality of our work, and eventually, we reasoned, the business would come pouring in. With our high quality copy and Dave’s wonderful eye for branding and design, it was only a matter of time, right?

WRONG.

The last thing the Internet needs is another site posting top ten tips on writing. We were just another bar band looking for a record deal. Yes, we may have been singing in a slightly different key than everybody else, but it was still the same old song. Worse, we were referring to ourselves as freelance writers, no different than a million others offering their wares. That simple label meant all the difference in the world. How would our prospective clients know we were different if we didn’t take the time to tell them?

We needed to stand out or we would fade fast. To hedge our bets we also launched Ghostwriter Dad.

We attempted to carry our previous audiences over to the Inkwell; using the domain as a launching pad for fresh faces and new exposure. Ghostwriter Dad, on the other hand, was set up as a niche site, using our previously picked up SEO skills to draw business from search engine queries.

Ghostwriter Dad felt like the perfect domain. The two of us both love the craft of writing and have never cared so much about the byline. Ghostwriter Dad was able to build off the strength of some of our previous branding, and so long as we were delighting clients and continuing to build our dreams, all would be right with the world.

Launching the two sites at relatively the same time allowed us to quietly compare the two strategies.

Ghostwriter Dad published keyword rich copy, solely intended to target search engine traffic, each post targeting a particular keyword or search phrase. At Collective Inkwell, we put our best writing feet forward. It was a creative space to show off our skills as high-quality writers, including publishing our in-development novel Available Darkness in a serialized format every Friday.

The problem with the Collective Inkwell strategy was that it had us running in the exact same circles we had already been running for our first six months. Yes, people loved our writing and weren’t afraid to tell us so. But a high percentage of our audience was comprised of other writers(!), and the rest of our readers were people who were not in the market for what we had to offer. After starting with a bang, the Inkwell was growing at a crawl. The design was gorgeous and the content top notch, but it simply wasn’t enough.

Ghostwriter Dad, it seemed, was also in a hurry to go nowhere. We had maintained a consistent publishing schedule, but even after a couple of months online, it was still in Google’s sandbox and not showing up in any Internet searches.

We had been online for more than half a year and things were looking grim. For the first time we began to wonder if perhaps we were on the wrong track. We had poured countless hours into various projects, many of which yielded results that paid out well below minimum wage. Mistakes are, of course, part of the process and growth always takes time, but maybe we were making too many mistakes, wasting too much time.

Was it supposed to take this long?

Many bloggers agree that the six months slog is the most difficult part to get through. Yet the rewards are richest for those who continue to plow on through. We looked inside ourselves and saw the truth that couldn’t be argued. What we had was rock solid, we just needed to be patient until we reached our tipping point.

Sometimes, it turns out, two is the strongest number of all.

Stay tuned. Monday we’ll be publishing the next part in our series looking back at our first year online.

2 responses to 1+1 = 10 – The Power of Partnership

  1. Rita

    Sean,
    Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to say “no” to what looks like a great opportunity at first. A strong partnership makes the decision ever more difficult. It seems, however, that you have already started to make up your mind – in the negatory. The conundrum is that if you don’t do something you will never know if it would have been a phenomenal success. However, it you do it, you might just be wasting time spinning wheels. A tough choice.
    (And btw…where did you go on FB? What happened?)
    R.

    • Sean

      Rita,

      Six months is long enough to make a clean evaluation of whether something is working or not. This is a few hundred words of a much longer story, thirteen parts in total, which will combine to cary us through the end of the year. At that point we will unveil what is next for us. Neither of us are in the negatory, but are smart enough to look around and observe the many cues and clues which surround us to determine our next best direction.

      I went nowhere on Facebook. The last comment on the thread belongs to me. You disappeared after I asked the name of your book, what the early word was, or if you had any links to share.

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