My name is Michael Luchies. I help entrepreneurs and small businesses tell compelling stories through writing, from website content to blog posts. AMA!

Michael Luchies
Jun 15, 2018

Grow your business with content -- I can help! As an entrepreneur first and writer second, my passion and purpose in life is to help small businesses and entrepreneurs grow through the magic of storytelling and practice of writing. 

The Importance of Being an Unselfish Storyteller | Michael Luchies | TEDxNormal

Over the past decade, I've published over 1,000 articles, written copy for over 100 small business websites, ghostwritten a book and contributed to a half-dozen others, given a TEDx talk, built my own small business, interviewed over 100 young entrepreneurs, become a contributor for publications including Entrepreneur, and more. 

In this AMA, I am an open book. I would love to answer any of your questions about writing for your business, writing for businesses, or anything related to my passion or history. Please don't be shy and join me for this AMA. 

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What is your biggest reward from life as a writer and an entrepreneur in the business world?
Jun 22, 8:33AM EDT1

Love this question, thank you. 

I think knowledge and being able to see and understand the viewpoints of others. Writing is mainly about collecting information and figuring the best way to share that information with a specific audience. 

I have learned how businesses work and how people think that I would not have had the chance to learn if not for writing and entrepreneurship. It has benefitted my life in more ways than I will ever even know. 

Jun 22, 12:04PM EDT0
How did you go about integrating writing with business? Was it an opportunity that presented itself or was it something you sought?
Jun 21, 9:50PM EDT1

I first got involved in writing to promote my business, and later discovered how to monetize that ability and write for other businesses. Turning it into a business was something I never would have thought of on my own. 

I had several opportunities to write for businesses while working for a nonprofit that worked with entrepreneurs and then as an Interview Editor for a small entrepreneurship website, and these helped me land my first couple of clients. 

Thanks for the question!

Jun 21, 10:36PM EDT0
Based on your personal experience, how much should a content writer charge for website content, and other content marketing, for a company?
Jun 21, 12:27PM EDT0

Do your research to see what others charge, but I'd also recommend that you look at my response to a similar questions below. Here's how I responded: 

Here's what you should do to come up with this rate for yourself: 

#1. Determine how long on average it will take you to write a 500 word article (this is very difficult and it will change, but come up with an amount of time even if it's wrong). 

#2. Come up with the amount of money you would feel comfortable and happy with making per hour (Note: this number must be higher than what you need to make an hour to survive). 

#3. Multiply #1 by #2. Example: It takes you three hours to research, write, and provide a round of edits for a 500 word article. You want to make $20/hour. 3 x 20 = $60. 

#4. Double it (or triple it). In the above scenario, you should be charging AT LEAST $120. 

Jun 21, 12:34PM EDT0
What do you think the most challenging aspect of being in your position is?
Jun 21, 6:15AM EDT1

That's a very interesting question and something I don't think I have thought of in that way. Thank you. 

I guess I would have to say that the most challenging aspect of my job/business is balancing my workload and trying to grow the business without completely overwhelming myself. 

If I accept too few clients, one leaving could cause me to earn less than I need. If I accept too many clients, I will either work too many hours and not have enough time with my family, or not give enough care and attention to all of my clients. It's a tricky balance. 

Jun 21, 9:02AM EDT0
How would you go about finding nonpaid content writers for a hobbyist website trying to build content?
Jun 20, 12:45AM EDT0

Is this a for-profit website? 

Since the website is not yet established, there is little to no benefit for a hobbyist to write for your website rather than their own personal blog. I would recommend consider paying writers until you build a base of content, write the articles yourself, try to utilize the network you have at your disposal (friends and others you know would be willing to do you a favor and write for your website), or repurpose existing content while properly citing the original articles. Make sure not to copy, but you can list and link to other articles. 

I would not depend on getting unpaid writers to build your site for you. The writer needs to be receiving something of value in exchange for their time in effort to give you anything worth publishing in return. 

Jun 20, 9:15AM EDT0
Do you write every day or do you wait ’til you’re in the mood?
Jun 19, 10:24AM EDT1

I do write every day, but there are certainly more productive days than others. One thing I would recommend if you're interested in trying to write each day is to freewrite. Take 5-15 minutes, pick a prompt (a word that inspires you) or just write whatever is on your mind and don't stop. It's a good way to practice and to get your mind in a good place to write. 

Most of my freewrites are nonsense, but the exercise helps keep me productive. 

Jun 19, 10:27AM EDT0
Where’s a good platform to find good but affordable writers?
Jun 18, 8:23AM EDT1

This depends highly on your definition of "good" and "affordable," and also what type of writer you are looking for. If the quality of the content really matters to you, find someone who specializes in your niche. This will save them time doing research and you'll likely get a better result. 

There are many great writers on platforms both good and bad, so try searching for what you're looking for rather than just looking at specific platforms. You can find good writers on eLance, Upwork, Contently, WriterAccess, etc. If cost is more important than quality, look at Fiverr. 

Jun 18, 9:16AM EDT0
For newbie freelancers, what’s a decent rate to charge per web content article of say 500 words?
Jun 17, 11:35PM EDT1

Great and hard question to answer. Pricing is very difficult, and you are not going to like my answer, but I am going to give you a real damn answer. 

Here's what you should do to come up with this rate for yourself: 

#1. Determine how long on average it will take you to write a 500 word article (this is very difficult and it will change, but come up with an amount of time even if it's wrong). 

#2. Come up with the amount of money you would feel comfortable and happy with making per hour (Note: this number must be higher than what you need to make an hour to survive). 

#3. Multiply #1 by #2. Example: It takes you three hours to research, write, and provide a round of edits for a 500 word article. You want to make $20/hour. 3 x 20 = $60. 

#4. Double it (or triple it). In the above scenario, you should be charging AT LEAST $120. 

If you don't feel like you're worth this amount, then you need to focus on a niche -- an area of expertise that you can write about better than anyone else. You should also improve your writing skills. 

If you're asking "why double it?," it's because so much of your time as a freelancer is unpaid, and projects often take much longer than you think. To find new clients, take courses to improve your writing, etc. -- these are all things that you aren't paid for that you need to work into your rate. 

You will feel like a crook when you first start charging this much, but you should be doing exactly this and then work hard to make sure your work is worth what you're charging. 

Jun 18, 1:03AM EDT0
What are your thoughts about article spinning? Why do people do this when they always come up with really bad spun articles?
Jun 17, 11:10PM EDT1

Lol. I think most "spun" articles aren't "spun" enough. They are sloppy copies changed just enough to not risk being sued or asked to take the content down. 

Actually curating or creating a new article inspired by an existing piece is perfectly fine, but I think we need a new definition of what a spun article should be, and what's acceptable. 

"Why do people do this when they always come up with really bad spun articles?" 

Answer: Because their goals aren't related to quality -- they are trying to game the system to produce FAST and CHEAP content in order to get a little boost in SEO. It's lazy (not all spinning is lazy). 

Jun 18, 12:54AM EDT0
Is it necessary for a business to hire an in-house writer for their website? Would it be more practical to just outsource the service?
Jun 17, 1:26PM EDT1

This is difficult to answer without knowing more about the business, their content needs, marketing plan, etc. 

Also, "for their website," do you mean writing copy for the site, or blog writing? Assuming you mean copy for the website, there are benefits and risks of both. If outsourcing, you have to find a writer who is a natural interviewer, experienced with web copy, and someone that can understand your business model. You also have to have someone in your business able and willing to share the information the writer needs to create great copy. 

Hiring someone in-house most likely means that they don't have experience writing web copy but they understand the business. This is not an ideal scenario. People in the business are likely to think similarly and are more likely to just talk about the business when writing copy than talk TO the customer. The content needs to be for and about the customer much more than it needs to be about the business (it sounds weird, but it's the truth). If the in-house writer understands this and is given the freedom to write FOR the customer instead of ABOUT the business, they can be successful. 

Jun 18, 12:50AM EDT0
What are some good resources to further your knowledge about storytelling and learning more about how to do it successfully?
Jun 17, 12:22AM EDT1

Great question. There are a few very strong books and TED talks on this subject. 

Although it applies more to fiction, Wired for Story by Lisa Cron is a great book that explains storytelling based on brain science. 

TED talks -- Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story

If interested in writing for businesses, I highly recommend Story Brand by Donald Miller. This is a great resource for telling stories based on/around/for businesses. 

I hope this helps!

Jun 17, 12:35AM EDT0
How do you manage your time to dedicate yourself to write to so many publications and businesses?
Jun 16, 4:21AM EDT1

Managing time has never been one of my strengths, but it's something I'm constantly working on improving. I use Google Calendar religously to schedule and try my best to stick to that schedule. 

I set soft and hard deadlines to finish the things I need to do and those I want to do. 

Jun 16, 12:31PM EDT0
How was your experience of giving a TEDx talk at TEDxNormal? How did you get the opportunity to speak at the event?
Jun 16, 12:38AM EDT1

It was a great experience. I later decided to volunteer to help in future years. 

I was very nervous but it worked out better than I had expected. My advice, if giving a TEDx talk, is to work with a coach. TEDx is different than other types of talks. 

I worked with a coach late in the process and it completely changed everything about my talk. I only had about three weeks to write and prepare the new talk, but it was 10x better than the talk I was preparing to give before working with a coach. 

If you get the chance to give a TEDx talk, do it. And if you want to give a TEDx talk, start getting some public speaking experience and network with organizers. I developed some strong relationships, which helped me get the speaking spot in the event. 

Jun 16, 1:36AM EDT0
In what ways is different to ghostwrite a book as opposed to writing one with your name on it? Did you enjoy the experience?
Jun 15, 4:15PM EDT1

What a wonderful question, thank you!

It's definitely a different skill. Ghostwriting is all about diving deep inside of the mind, past, present, etc. of the author. This is where interviewing skills are key. You also need a subject who is an open book and willing to give you anything you need. 

While serving as the interview editor for Under30CEO years ago, I interviewed somewhere around 100 different young entrepreneurs. These interviews helped me see things from their perspective and significantly improve my interviewing skills. 

I very much enjoyed being a ghostwriter, but I also had an absolutely fantastic subject (we're just starting to work on a second book together). 

Your work as a ghostwriter will in large part depend on the subject. If they don't give you enough to work with, it's going to be very difficult to be successful regardless of how talented you are. 

When you're writing a book, you need to know and be passionate about the subject you're writing about more than anyone. 

When you're ghostwriting a book, your subject (the "author") needs to know and be passionate about the subject you're writing about more than anyone AND be completely open and willing to work with you throughout the process. 

Jun 15, 4:49PM EDT0
What are your growths plans for the writing business in 2018 and going forward?
Jun 15, 11:36AM EDT1

2018 Goals: 

- Begin to scale by adding a VA and two part-time writers

- Focus on a core niche and build around it 

- Increase revenue by 15% over last year 

- Spend more time and money on marketing efforts (mostly time). I want to write more guest posts, free guides, etc. to help spread my work to a larger audience

Jun 15, 11:55AM EDT0
How did you deal with any perceived risk prior to start-up as an entrepreneur in writing field?
Jun 15, 6:22AM EDT1

Good question. Things I did ahead of quitting my day job: 

  • Began working with clients while working full-time (nights and weekends)
  • Built a portfolio of work that I could show to potential clients 
  • Created a basic website and blog
  • Made my network aware of what I was doing and asked for their help when appropriate 
  • Created rough plan for the business and filed necessary paperwork 
Jun 15, 10:16AM EDT0
Is there anything in your writing as well as entrepreneur career and work that you want to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
Jun 14, 11:47PM EDT1

Yes! I was just thinking about this today. I have ghostwritten an entire book (which is doing pretty well), and I have contributed to 4-5 published books. However, I have yet to publish my own. 

I'm okay with the fact that I haven't written my own book because I don't want to write one just to write one. I want to write something that will actually benefit readers (which is a top priority in all of my writing outside of a freewriting session). In the next couple of years, I want to find the right fit -- a specific focus that will help people and that I am skilled and interested in enough to write well. 

I am starting a document with ideas, but I think I'm probably a couple of years away. 

As far as my career as an entrepreneur, I have struggled finding others to help grow my business -- I have not scaled my business. I want to build my business to a level that I can take a week off and still make enough money not to worry about it. I have built a few very small passive income streams, but nothing that I can rely on. 

Great question!

Jun 15, 12:03AM EDT0
Were you always an entrepreneur first and writer then, or the role changed once you started working on your business?
Jun 14, 10:40PM EDT1

My favorite question so far! 

I consider myself an entrepreneur first. I started writing online because I needed to market my first business online and I didn't have a budget, I only had time. 

My writing is effective only because of my understanding of the businesses I work with and their customers. There are many better writers out there, but my interest, passion, and experience in entrepreneurship and small business help me and my work stand out. 

Also, I love entrepreneurship much more than I love writing. I do love both, but if I had to pick just one, it would be business/entrepreneurship. 

Jun 14, 11:41PM EDT0
Do you feel it's really important for entrepreneurs and startups to have a blog?
Jun 14, 6:37PM EDT1

Simple but great question. It depends on many factors. 

If looking for my general answer, I would have to lean towards yes, but blogging isn't necessarily right for every entrepreneur (they may want to work with someone who can do it for them), and sometimes there are other (much) more important things to focus on when first getting started. 

The important aspect of blogging that I do think every entrepreneur and startup needs to incorporate into their efforts is speaking to and connecting with their target market. Blogs are a great way to accomplish this but not the only way by any means. 

I gained a lot from blogging right from the start when launching my first niche startup, but I enjoyed writing, had time to do it, and was reasonably decent at it. 

Feel free to ask me a follow up on this. Thanks again for the great question. 

Jun 14, 6:52PM EDT0
What's your secret of success? What do you think led your career to what it is today?
Jun 14, 3:21PM EDT1

I still consider myself a long ways away from "success." It's a daily grind and I still have a lot to accomplish. 

My secret to staying in business has been to find ways to add value to everyone I come in contact with, develop strong personal relationships, and to always look for new opportunities. Develop so many opportunities that you have to continually turn some of them down. 

Jun 14, 4:07PM EDT0
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