Kate Williams, PhD is the founder and CEO of People First Content, a digital content marketing agency. She earned her PhD in English, Language and Literature from the University of Tulsa in 2015 and has been writing professional web content since 2010. She loves writing long-form content, including blog posts and ebooks, and specializes in writing on topics related to health and wellness, business management, entrepreneurship, and women’s empowerment.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET FEATURED?
All interviews are 100% FREE OF CHARGE
Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Kate Williams: Hi, and thanks for the opportunity to speak with you! I am the founder of a content marketing agency called People First Content. My original career goal was to be an academic professor of English, which is how I ended up getting a Ph.D. in English, Language, and Literature. While I was getting my degree, I was also freelance writing for businesses. The whole notion of content marketing and blogging for business was relatively new, so I got in at the very early stages. Along the way, I realized that I loved that style of writing much more than an academic style. After graduation, I switched career goals and went to a tech company where I was hired as the first in-house writer. I grew a team there, then decided I wanted to take my career to another level by starting my own content company (People First Content), which was established in 2018.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Kate Williams: That’s a difficult question. I never set out to be an entrepreneur, and yet, now that I’m here it seems like the most natural course my career could have taken! I think we are all influenced by our surroundings. When I left academia, I found myself in an environment that embraced entrepreneurship and encouraged people to start businesses. That was when I first started to see entrepreneurship as a real, tangible option. But, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. I worked with plenty of people who had the same exposures I did who find the idea of entrepreneurship unappealing. There’s a lot of risk and a lot of unknowns. I do believe you need to be born with a certain personality to want to be an entrepreneur and to succeed at it. You can’t be someone who is happy to accept the status quo or who can’t commit to working past the traditional 9-5. At the same time, you need to have influences who can help you become an entrepreneur. As John Donne says, no man is an island. Entrepreneurs need to have support and influences who can help them find their path.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Kate Williams: I’ve been in toxic companies, and I know that those companies don’t deliver the best experiences for their employees or their customers. My focus is building a business from the inside out. We can’t deliver quality work without the right work environment. I tell my employees that I’m building the business I would have wanted to work in when I first graduated. I have a strong focus on creating a positive work environment for my employees — one that operates according to how a creative mind works. For example, we can’t work for 8 hours straight (most days). The work we do is extremely mentally taxing, which means we might need to take a few hours off in the afternoon, then come back in the evening to knock out an insightful article. It also means having several projects going at once, so we don’t get stuck with writer’s block.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Kate Williams: We write and edit content for businesses and individuals. We specialize in writing blog posts and articles, e-books, and social media posts. In the early days, our clients were mainly solopreneurs. As we have grown, our clients have grown too! Now, we work mostly with small and mid-sized businesses. We also work with high-profile individuals who have a story to tell and need help getting it down on paper.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Kate Williams: You have to assume someone else is doing the same thing you are. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it! It just means that you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd and be unique. For some companies, that might mean localizing. For others, it might mean going after only a certain demographic. Another thing you can assume is that there are other businesses out there that can help you. Our company has relationships with similar types of companies where we share clients. For example, many developers offer a package that includes blog posts when they build a website. We can write blog posts for those developers, which they can offer as a white-label service to their clients. You have to get creative and be ready to meet other entrepreneurs in adjacent industries.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Kate Williams: I don’t know if I paid dearly for it, but I do wish I had charged more from the start. It’s easy to underestimate how much your work is worth to your clients!
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Kate Williams: First, charge more money for your services. Second, register your business as soon as possible. It’s hard to get funding before your business has been incorporated for at least 2 years. The earlier you incorporate, the better! Third, I’d say you don’t have to follow everyone’s advice. I sought a lot of advice from people I trusted, and I took up pretty much all of it, even when their advice was counter to my own beliefs. It’s challenging to find the line between believing in yourself and identifying blind spots.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Kate Williams: When I told people I wanted to start a company that focused solely on written content, I had a lot of people say that I needed to be a full-fledged digital marketing company. I tried (and failed miserably) to do all sorts of things outside of my wheelhouse, like web design. A better approach, I have found, is to focus on my niche and become super-specialized in doing one thing extremely well (i.e., writing).
Then, I have sought out partnerships with companies in adjacent fields (like web design) for customers who want more of a full-service approach. I have also hired people who have skills outside of my own, such as creative writing and graphic design. The lesson here is that you don’t have to wear all the hats. Find people who can take on different projects or roles for you. Also, get an accountant ASAP. That was the first investment I made in my business, and I still stand by it as the best business decision I could have made.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Kate Williams: My company has always been run 100% remotely, so COVID-19 didn’t impact anything about how I would have started it. I would assume, though, that today’s entrepreneurs should always be looking for ways to operate virtually. I have been working with a global client base since 2018, using web conferencing, emails, and good old-fashioned phone calls for communication. Even though I am hiring a local team of employees, we all work from home and get together at co-working spaces a few times a quarter for in-person meetings. I don’t know that you need to worry about finding traditional office space for many types of businesses.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Kate Williams: One common myth is that you need to have tons of connections to be an entrepreneur. While it might be helpful, that’s certainly not a requirement. Along the way, I have talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs. Some of them had support networks and access to funding. Just as many (including myself) didn’t have any sort of funding or support. They entered entrepreneurship out of necessity (such as after losing a job) or, like I did because they simply wanted things to be done a different way. My advice would be to not let a lack of a network hold you back. However, now’s a great time to start trying to build one!
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Kate Williams: First, you need to be able to move on when things go wrong. I guarantee that things are going to go wrong, no matter how much you prepare. You can’t hide from the world when that happens. You’ll need to be able to face your employees, clients, and maybe even the world to fess up that you messed up. Next, you have to be patient because building a business takes time. Finally, I think you need to be able to take breaks. Assessing when you need to be working and when you can chill out for a bit is super important. Not everything is as urgent as you think it is. Knowing the difference between what’s important and what can wait will get you far as an entrepreneur.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Kate Williams: I am a big fan of binge-watching TV (one of the ways I take a break!) A few of my favorites that I think can be useful for people looking to inspire their employees are The Good Fight and Madame Secretary. I like the websites Forbes, and Entrepreneur for reading articles from the perspective of entrepreneurs. I have gained the most information about entrepreneurship from talking to entrepreneurs through networking groups. I highly encourage aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs to join a networking group. I volunteer on the board of a nonprofit (Oklahoma Women in Technology), and I have met a lot of inspirational business owners and leaders through events.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Kate Williams: I love what I do, so that’s a tough question! I think I would always end up doing something writing-related. My brain works best when I’m writing! If I had to go back in time and do things all over again, I’d try my hand at screenwriting
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Kate Williams: Betty White, of course! She’s a national treasure.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kate Williams for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Kate Williams or her company, you can do it through her – Facebook
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.