(RedShift Writers is a Houston-based content writing agency founded by Daniel J. Cohen. Cohen, one of Houston’s leading content writers and rising entrepreneurs, stated the company in December of 2012. Today, RedShift has a small team of floating writers and content professionals capable of successful ongoing campaigns for a wide variety of clients. Entrepreneurship Interviews took the time to interview Cohen and learn more about his content writing business earlier this week.)
Hi Daniel and welcome. As we are long-time collaborators now judged by today’s standards, I have to say that, unlike most people, you are one of these cases that quickly went from the idea to become an entrepreneur to actually doing it. So I thought this actually might be an interesting story. What are your start-up about?
Daniel: RedShift Writers is a premium content writing company specializing in creating compelling content for customers and effective for search engines. Guided by the slogan “We live to write and write to brand,” RedShift Writers brings lightning-fast content to businesses in an era when content is king. Everything we write is tailored for the digital/social media era: search engine optimized, prime for moving up the PR food chain, friendly for social media channels, and ready for distribution on any electronic channel.
I remember we were chatting about the entrepreneurial way, and while I was kind of warning you about the hard times ahead, you surprised me with a positive attitude and willingness to overcome obstacles. So what are the most important strengths to become an entrepreneur?
Daniel: Staying relentless in the face of challenges and understanding the use and exchange of resources are essential to entrepreneurship. I think if you can do those two things, you naturally become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are some of the most fearless people I have met in the business world.
Entrepreneurs also need to know how to sell, be smart with money, make connections, and stay focused.
And try not to drown in opportunity. Focus.
How did you actually decide to go the entrepreneurial way?
Daniel: Originally, I was interested in politics and attended American University in Washington, DC, but decided against a career in the field. So when I got out of college, I considered all kinds of careers. Education, Journalism, and PR seemed to be the routes that stood out. For a while, I had a series of no-so-easy sales jobs. I sold covered rain gutters on the phone for about three months, then landed a job as a research assistant at Arbitron Radio Ratings. I began to substitute teaching during the day. At the same time, I started writing for a boxing website called Ringside Report. I am a classically trained copywriter and have always been a writer. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted a career in writing. I was hitting deadlines twice per week at the Boxing site, and I had just enrolled in grad school to see what I thought of it and if I wanted to pursue a Master’s Degree.
Soon I found a job as a test prep instructor and realized there wasn’t really a consistent PR/Marketing function at the company. So I said, “Hey, I’m a bright guy. I know how to write. I get the company culture. How about I write up some stories about some of our students? These kids were getting perfect SAT scores. It only made sense to give them a little attention.
I became a teaching assistant at the University of Houston and continued grad school while I networked for freelance work until finally becoming a go-to source for a two-time Inc. 500/5000 Houston marketing firm. We established a good relationship, and from there, my portfolio ballooned. I also received my master’s degree in communications with a focus on PR.
I continued that speed for a while until I became a Head Writer for a classified advertising company, but my at-large business involvement was becoming too much for me. I was working incredibly long hours, and I realized, “I have a girlfriend but not a wife. I have an apartment but not a car. And I have a cat but not a dog. If I’m not starting a business now, when will I ever?” It was a very natural transition. My interests and daily activities guided my life, and that schedule slowly but surely evolved toward entrepreneurship.
Knowing where your customers are and how to reach them is one of the most important things when starting a business. Who is your typical customer?
Daniel: My typical customers are businesses or personalities who are looking for content. They tend to know they need it, but not exactly why or how. They don’t know much about the costs of a website or the hidden value it. We focus pretty heavily on products and companies that are rebranding to take the next step. Some of these companies are worth $2 million but can go to $20 million. We have provided products to so many of those companies that we now have a knack for that kind of messaging. Product naming, slogans, taglines, headlines… it’s in our DNA.
Many people willing to become entrepreneurs complain that they don’t have a great idea and everything has been done before. I know I say this in most of my interviews, but I failed to get a definitive generic answer, so I’m always curious to find everybody’s take on this. So what’s special in what you are doing?
Daniel: Simply put, we provide incredible content.
When I started my company, I looked around and saw that my competitors were either copywriters or marketing firms with copywriters on staff. This is an era where you can either learn to write yourself, hire an independent writer, or hire a writer who works in a marketing firm.
What I have done is brought a collection of writers together who can offer incredible content and content services for huge content projects. We work for any business, and all we do is write, so we’re specialists. If you need more firepower, we have it. If you need a specific individual writer, we can provide that too. It fills a hole in the market and provides a platform for competitive survival. My clients understand that and want to know how they can apply that level of thinking to their own companies.
What are the most important areas of expertise you offer?
Daniel: I assist people in messaging. I can tell you the best way to position your business from a message perspective. That knowledge extends to several forms of products and services. Our bread and butter are websites, but RedShift Writers has put together very respectable SEO campaigns, social media content, print materials, proposals, and more.
And still, how do you get noticed? Most people think that if you write a blog, you’ll get instant success. But things have changed! What would be your best advice for a small company willing to get ahead and have some exposure?
Daniel: Hire me! Honestly, it’s amazing what an actual writer can do for your organization. People think they can write because they speak English; it doesn’t work that way. There’s a lot to content writing. We are sort of the hypnotists of the content world. Writers can help you in so many different ways that you can’t help but bring one in to add firepower.
(-> RedShift Writers Content Writing Case Studies)
I recently read (and tend to agree) that Facebook is not necessarily the best investment for a small business to get noticed, mostly because when you are small, you want to spend any penny on getting customers the quickest and not building a “fan base.” What’s your take on social media for small businesses?
Daniel: I’m generally for it, actually. With the exception of certain businesses and certain industries, social media is becoming something that is somewhat expected. It’s a sign of legitimacy. It also contributes to SEO, and it can be used to pull customers all the way through the purchase process.
Having said that, I think it’s essential to demonstrate ROI. Facebook Likes and Twitter followers may be good for your business, but you need to be able to show yourself how they contribute to what you do. Otherwise, you may or may not be throwing money down the drain.
Some businesses are, for example, incognito. They don’t network too much. They don’t even have websites. What they have is information or tools your business can use that give you a unique advantage. And they sell it for a premium and make tons of money doing it. Those companies have no use for social media.
But if you have a cake shop or something, you obviously could benefit a little from a Facebook wall, so I would recommend setting one up.
I also always recommend securing URLs quickly on the major social media sites, so that you have them.
Is there anything you would like to say to small companies willing to have exposure and their own voice to be heard?
Daniel: Make sure you have a creative at the helm of your company. Creatives know how to make things happen for small companies. And make sure the content you are putting out is clean. Heck, make sure you are putting out content in the first place!
Contact RedShift Writers today! Or find out more about us at www.redshiftwriters.com.