Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jocelyn Winn, Owner of The Eleventh Letter, located in Concord, NH, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The Eleventh Letter is an editorial services company consulting on and editing literary manuscripts, large and small. I also run in-person and online writing workshops on myriad craft subjects. My customers are aspiring, emerging, or experienced writers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and hybrid forms.
Tell us about yourself
I started out at a third-party book publisher in Boston around 1995. This was before the internet and any type of software, when we still edited on paper with red pencils. From there, I continued freelancing as a production editor for book publishers, art magazines, and science nonprofits. Eventually, I added education assessment editing and marketing, web, and social media copywriting to my services.
I've always been a writer at my core, but back in the day, I didn't give myself the option of being a writer as a career. I went to school for rhetorical theory. Go figure. The closest I could come to working with the written word and still earn a living was being an editor. It's turned out to serve me really well—for over 25 years, I've been exposed to all sorts of writing and industries. Essentially I read for a living, which is amazing.
I am motivated by how important it is for the world to understand all sorts of stories from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds and writers and genres. Storytelling is a vital art form that connects people across time and space. Writing, for me, is a spiritual practice. I am honored to have any part in continuing that legacy.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest professional and personal accomplishment was pretty recent, earning my MFA in writing at almost 50. It was the best life and business decision as it opened my world to a whole community of artists and kindred creatives. Continually applying what I learned while producing a substantial body of work not only enhances my own craft but also benefits my approach to editing and teaching workshops as well. This has led to the rebranding of my business to what it is now, focusing mainly on literary manuscripts and writing workshops.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I am a company of one, so it's just me running the front, back, and middle of the house. While I thrive on multitasking, the nature of editing is time-consuming and intense. Switching to that gear requires isolation. Writing also requires isolation. Sometimes I won't talk to a person all day. And at the end of that day, I am a mom and homemaker. It's a constant quest for balance.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Above all else, burn no bridges. I got an amazing magazine editor opportunity from a publisher who knew someone I had worked for 14 years prior. Over a decade later! Even within hi-tech industries, the best business is still conducted by word of mouth, aka recommendations. If you burn a bridge, you've lost not only that person but possibly every person they have known for all of the time.
- Trust your gut. With small business ownership, often, there's no one else to make executive decisions. While this is fantastic because it's less corporate red tape, it also means the risk and rewards are yours alone. Trusting your instincts is being true to your goals and your unique path.
- Take the risk. All businesses in existence today took one person, just like you or me, who calculated risk on a crazy idea, skill, or talent. If you don't do it, someone else will, so why not do what you love? The only failure is never trying.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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