Today we will be talking with Maria Collen. She has proved that it’s never too late to actualize a dream once, you still have the motivation to do so. She’s a professional speaker, coach, professional author, Award-winning writer and has entrepreneurial blood running through her veins.
Welcome, Maria. It’s good to have you here.
Thanks for having me.
Alright, great. So just so that we can get to know you better. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your story and your entrepreneurial journey?
Okay. Well, I started my journey. 23 years ago. Yeah. I was a legal assistant at a law firm. And I had started, that’s back in a long time ago, in a home-based business, we’re starting there, really, to bond a really break out in America here. And so I had a small child at that time. And I was bored doing the mundane work in an office. And I had a medical background, a medical language background. I wanted to be able to have access to my son and I needed to work. There’s no way that I could not work. I had to work. And so I wanted to I started researching home-based businesses. And then I offered to ask the law firm if I could go and do a job share activity, and they are job share. And they said no. And so I gave him a month’s notice. I said, Okay, then I’m quitting as of such date. And I had nothing really lined up other than the research I had done to start my business. So I started my medical transcription business then. And I really, I worked for someone else as I was building my business. And I had a plan. And within two years or so, I had all my clients, I marketed. The funny thing is back in back in the day when you were in the phone book, that’s about the marketing you did 23 years ago, you were in the phone book, I had taken out an ad, and they forgot to put me in the phone book. So I had no real marketing at that time. So it was word of mouth, and a lot of getting on the phone and, and in finding people. But the great thing about it was I was really professional and what I did, and I’m I did a high standard, I’m very high standard and what I do, and so word of mouth came about and I actually had those clients for the entire 15 years I had my medical transcription business was very blessed and lucky to have that. And if I had listened, but going back when I started doing research for my home-based business, I went to a score counsellor, are you familiar with the score counsellors, I have an American year, they, they will counsel you on whether or not you should start a business, that kind of thing. And I did have like a retirement plan at the law firm. And I had you know, a steady job, the steady income, blah, blah, blah. And he said We are crazy if you want to leave that. And I was he would, if I had listened to him and not followed my dream, I would probably still be working and doing that. But I would be miserable if that makes sense. So I took the leap and started my business. And I have been really pretty happy ever since. I mean, there are struggles as you know, as an entrepreneur, there’s a lot of struggles, I didn’t have any capital start my business. I didn’t have any backing and started it from the ground up.
So that’s amazing. So how has thing how have things changed over these years that you’ve been doing this for a long time? Do you do things differently? do you market yourself differently? Do you have different systems in place?
Yes, yes, definitely. Within the medical transcription companies, I know there are still some but that industry in America really kind of dried up about five, six years ago, because of outsourcing because of the industry, the insurance industry here in America. And so I knew things were changing. So I had to make a change. And I had started writing articles getting some articles published, I belong to a writing group. And I knew I had to make that change. So I started IB, I was in a virtual assistant, and did start doing work, website, work writing work, that kind of thing. And I knew I had to make that change. So I progressively started doing that and marketing myself as a virtual assistant, if you will. And you know, you started, marketing just changed. It wasn’t just in the phone book, or it wasn’t just going to networking meetings, it was social media was starting videos were starting. So I started marketing myself that way, a lot of joining groups, going to conferences, that type of things. So that’s really how I started marketing myself more and more as getting out there in person more going to conferences, and doing social media and marketing myself that way.
That’s great. So you already had the foresight to see, you know, when the business was drying up, and then you wanted to make sure that you are well pleased to face the changes coming in?
Yes, I yes. It found it took me a while to I kept thinking oh, it’s really not going to happen in my brain. I was you know, I really didn’t want it to happen, but I knew it was going to. So I did start learning different skills, making sure that I was going to have something to go forward with. And it did that. Yes.
It’s interesting because I worked on medical transcription company like I built their systems and all that that was back in 2001. And yeah, I mean, even back then they were noticing the trends were going down because of, you know, artificial intelligence people were dictating, reading their transcripts. Doctors were dictating the transcripts and the machines were transcribing them. So yeah, I’m familiar with the business or show right now. Now, can you tell us, you know, you, obviously you, you’ve been doing this for a long time, you must have faced some failures, as you said, you know, you put out an ad, which didn’t really work out. So tell us a little bit more about all the struggles that you had to go through all the failures that you had to go through or mistakes you made through your entrepreneurial journey?
Okay, well, a couple of mistakes I made that I regret is, I always, I don’t like to say it was a mistake. But I really wanted my I had subcontractors. And then I eventually did have a few employees. And I always wanted to treat what I always did treat my employees and my subcontractors very well. And I paid them very well. And in the long run, I treated them better than I treated myself if that makes sense. So I didn’t. And in the long run, I don’t believe that they respected me. Like I thought they would respect me. And I think that that was a mistake that I made. Because I thought if I treated them well that they would treat me well. And it doesn’t really always work out that way. Another mistake I made was, I knew that the medical transcription company was the transcription industry was changing. And if I had, if I had looked further into it into the future, I would have sold my business sooner than what I had tried to sell my business because when I tried to sell my business, it was too late. People weren’t interested in it. So that was a bad mistake that I had made. And another failure, my biggest failure, I believe was that I became, if you will, desperate, I think during that chance that transition, I became desperate. And I had gone into partnership with somebody and doing something else. And I jumped into it too soon, and that person ended up. Let’s say it was a very, very bad experience. And it cost me a lot of money. And it was very, very bad. And it took me a long time to like I thought it was my fault. And it really wasn’t my fault. And it took me a lot of time to get up the courage and get over that. And so those were probably my biggest, if you will say failures or my biggest learnings from challenges.
Thanks a lot for sharing that now. You know, everybody goes through these type of challenges. Some of them are, you know, more harmful than others. But I think keeping a positive mindset and having that courage to keep going is very important. Will you agree with?
Oh, yes, yes. It true. A true entrepreneur, I believe will keep going no matter what. If you know what your why is, if your Why is big enough. And you know what it is, no matter what that is everybody’s Why is different. But if you focus on what your why is, if you have a plan and your goal in place, and then really your support systems, whatever that is, if it’s your family, if it’s a mastermind group, whatever it is, if you have that support in place, you can make it through those challenges. And I think that those are three things that are really important for entrepreneurs, especially because if you don’t know your why getting through anything is going to be hard, and support to help you along the way is really important. And I there’s a quote that I wanted to turn to read to you what since we’re at this point, it says obstacles put in your way to see if what you really want is worth fighting for. And I think that when we come across challenges, that’s really true.
Yeah, that’s for sure. And I think you touched on a very important point there to figure out your why a lot of entrepreneurs I talked to, basically their wives to earn more money. But I don’t think that’s a very, you know, very long-lasting why that you can keep going after. So, like, in your opinion, what is the correct, you know, the reason why people should start their business and, and enter this life of entrepreneurship.
Well, like I said, everybody’s Why is different. But their y has to be so deep, that it’s going to keep them going. Like, I’ll go back to my why if you want just, for example, when I started my business like I said I wanted my son was to about two or three at the time. And he was actually born with a cleft lip and palate. And he had, at that point in time had already had two surgeries in his life. And he ended up having seven to eight surgeries throughout his life. But not only that, I did not want to be in a law firm or any corporate atmosphere and have to worry about taking time off for vacation and worrying about him being in the hospital. And that was part of my why I wanted to be able to either work in the hospital or take that time off. And also when they start we started school, there’s that where you drop them off? And then they go to preschool for two and a half hours? And how are they going to get home or who are going to watching that kind of thing? So that was my biggest why on when I started my business. So that’s that was my biggest why people need to really dig deep and ask themselves, why am I starting this business, it can’t just be about the money. Does it have to be for? Yeah, the money is great. If you can, you can get there. But money is not going to hold you over in the tough times. If that makes sense. You can have all the money in the world. But if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter. I did a bike challenge. I did it this year. But I also did last year, I did a 300-mile bike challenge. And the why my why was to get an and earn money or get money donated for childhood cancer research. So that was my wife for that. And my goal was to ride 300 miles in the month of June. So that was my wife for that it took to help find a cure for childhood cancer. So you have to dig down and figure out what is the why it can’t just be about money it needs to dig down. Does that help answer your question?
Oh, that’s very well said, thank you so much for sharing that. Now, you know, even if you have a big enough why you need a huge amount of motivation to keep going. So how like, do you have any strategies that you can share that, that have helped you over the years? To keep you motivated and keep going? Oh,
yeah, let’s see. What motivates you to motivate it, here’s the thing, you have to motivate yourself, people can inspire you, but people can’t motivate you to have to motivate yourself. So the way I’ve been motivated I just my motivation is, Are you being happy with what you’re doing? If that makes sense? Yeah. Are you happy with what you’re doing is it easy for you to get out of bed in the morning and, and go to your job and go to your work? If it’s not, then you’re not living your WHY? That you’re not happy. If you’re struggling to get out of it, get out of bed in the morning to even go to your office, if you work in your home, then you’re not living your why, you’re not being motivated to get motivated. You have to motivate yourself. But people can inspire you to get through that if that makes sense. Um, let me see. But motivation comes through knowing your why because your motivation comes because your why is so deep. Because let’s say let me use something simple. Say your motivation is to go and work for a month in Ireland. Okay. Your, your why is that you want to go work in Ireland for a month just to get immersed in the culture and live there and work and live and see the destinations? Well, what’s going to motivate you to get over there. So your motivation is going to be well, I’m gonna get those clients, I’m going to save the money. I’m going to do what it takes to get there. So to motivate yourself, you have to motivate yourself to do that people can’t motivate you.
Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s a very good point. Now, let’s talk about, you know, the way that you discovered your inner rider, and then you adopted it too, and basically build a business around it. So how did you discover that? Were you always good at writing? Or did you develop that skill over the years?
I developed it over the years, I laugh, because in one of my speeches, I say, in high school, I did not like writing at all, I didn’t even finish a term paper I was supposed to do because I felt that if you didn’t say what teachers wanted you to say, you weren’t going to get a good grade, I felt that it was so subjective, if you didn’t say what they wanted you to say. So what I ended up doing is I in, I took some college courses, and I did business writing. And when I when I really started learning and liking literature was in college when I read some literature, and that’s when I started really developing my love for writing. And so that was my journey of starting to like to write. And then during this transition period, from my medical language, business to the publishing business, I started writing articles for like easing articles, or different online article sites. And I developed a creative writing blog at that time. And I felt freer in my writing then, where I just wrote fun things, and it became a fun time for me. And so that’s how I developed my writing skills. But I also had joined, when my son went to college, we found a b&b down by his college where we stayed. And they actually, the people down there hit a writing group. And so I joined the writing group. And I went down there once a month, and people share their writing, we wrote, and people had books, and poem, you know, poem, poems, pages and pages of poems and things. And so that’s when I really started to enjoy and get my writing, prose. specialty getting gets going. And then that’s also when I started thinking about helping people publish books because they didn’t know the next step after they had written what they had written. And so that’s when I thought, well, it would be great to be able to help these people know, to go to the next step.
Yeah, that’s for sure. So can you recommend like, you know, that anybody, all of us have some sort of a talent that may be underdeveloped or we have some interest in? Do you see that anybody can develop a talent that they have? Or they’re interested in and build a business around it?
Yes, definitely. If they, if they want you, they can develop you, I believe that people can do anything that they choose that they want to do. For instance, if I have the money, I would love to, I’ve always wanted to, I love baking. I love cooking. In fact, my first business, I wanted to have a catering business, because I love to do that so much. But there were too many rules and regulations. So I didn’t do it. But I and then also at one time, I wanted to open a coffee shop and call it perks and pastries I had the name and everything. So yes, I believe that people can do what they want to do. They just what’s important is making sure that it is a business and they are an entrepreneur, and they’re not a hobbyist at it. Because if you’re a hobbyist, that’s not a real business, and you’re not going to make the money, you have to have the plan in place. You have to, you want to put the systems in place, you want to have the professionals behind you to help you like you want to have an attorney to help you put the papers in place. You want to have an accountant that helps you with the money, that kind of thing. But I believe that anybody if they have a yearning inside of them, they can always take that next step to become better and better at what they do. You don’t have to be a perfectionist at what you’re doing, as long as you take the time to learn it and not just be mediocre at it. Does that make sense?
For sure, yeah. Now, when you wrote you’ve written several books, I believe, right?
I’m actually in the process of writing a couple now they’ll be published at the end of this year and early 2020.
Yes. Okay. Awesome. So how does that you know how, let’s say if somebody wants to write a book, how do they get started with this?
Well, what we suggest is it to get started, if there are a couple of different things if you’re talking about if they have a story inside of them, or they think they might have a story inside of them, or they’re not quite sure. Well, first of all, I believe everybody has a story inside of them, whether it’s a novel, whether it’s nonfiction, novel, whatever. But start writing, if you think you want to write a book, at some point, start writing and make it a daily habit. Because the more you write, the better writer you’re going to be. And I have four tips, which I did read a long, long time ago, and I’ve followed these. And if that is read, write, observe and live. And the more you read, the better writer, you’re going to become. Okay? Because you’re going to discover what genres you like, what styles of writing you like, what authors you like. So you can pick up that kind of writing, or discover what kind of styles and that kind of thing you like, but write every day, okay. So that gets that goes to the right part, read, write, observe, when you’re out, observe everything around you, if you’re in the park, if you’re taking a walk, observe everything around you, because then when you go to right, part of that can become part of your storey, if you’re a fiction writer that can become part of your storey, if you’re at the lake, or if you’re taking a hike, or whatever it is, observe everything around you, because then you’re going to be able to put that into your story or when you’re writing something could pop in your head. After you’ve been observing your life, whatever that is. And then, of course, living every day you’re alive, you’re finding something that you could write about if you’re in it’s a fiction novel, or even if you enter your professional life, every day you live, you can find something about your expertise that you could write about. So read, write, observing, live, and then just start writing. If you really want to write a book bad enough, start writing every day, make it a habit. That’s what that’s the name of our book is six daily habits of a successful writer. And we’re putting that together so people know what know, it’ll help them know what to do. But one of that one of those chapters is about writing. Just write every day, find a place you like to write, find a place you’re comfortable writing.
Great. And do you believe that you should already have an audience before you start writing or you should, you know, publish a book and then create an audience after that?
You people should start finding their audience before they even put the pen to paper if they haven’t started writing yet. If you’ve started writing, don’t worry, it’s not too late. But start now. Because if after your parents and your friends and your kids buy your book, you need to have your followers buy your book, and you want your followers. Well, first of all, when you’re writing your book you want to do before you write your book, if you haven’t started, you want to find out who’s going to be your audience research. Who are you writing to? Do you know who you’re writing to? What are their pain points? What is it that they need to be answered? What type of topics do they want you to write about, and then your audience is going to grow. So you want to get out there and get your audience together as soon as you can. Because then you’re going to have those raving fans who are going to be dying to buy your book when you do get it out there and get it launched. So start marketing as soon as you can get out there, as soon as you can. But if you’ve started writing already, don’t worry, it’s not too late. But start a plan now. Because when we talk to people, we when we talk to them about their book plan, that’s the first thing we say is have you started you talking about the on either social media or, you know, getting your people out there? He’d be done research? So start that, yes.
Great. And do you believe today people can make a decent living just being an author or writing exclusively,
I think, I think you could become if you are if you make it your business, if that makes sense. I think that you need to be an expert at something, I think that you want to make sure that you follow the professionals, you get the professional advice you want. We believe and we tell people that your book is a business, it’s not a hobby, if you want to make this if you want to make money writing your books, you want to do it the professional way. You want to hire the professionals that are going to help you. For instance, when we talk to authors or potential authors. I’ve talked to a lot of authors who say, Oh, well, I’m just going to edit the book myself, or I’m going to have my Aunt Sally edit the book because she’s a really good writer. And we’re like, No, no, you want to have a professional proofreader and a professional editor. Edit your book, because a and Sally is too close to the project, and you’re not really going to get that critique that you need, because she’s too close to the project. Does that make sense? Or should you hire a professional graphic designer for your cover? a cover of your book is so important people decide if they’re going to buy your book within 15 to 20 seconds based on the cover of your book. It doesn’t. I mean, yes, your content, and what’s inside the book matters. But people will pick up a book and look at it. And if they don’t like the cover, chances are they’re not going to ride your read your book, or they’re not going to turn it over to the back and even see what’s written on testimonials or reviews of your book. So yes, I believe that people can make a living at their book if they’re serious about doing it, but they need to, I don’t like to use the word need. It’s very important that they listen to the professionals, and do it the right way. And watch, I want to say watch for people out there who guarantee that you are going to be a best-seller, no one can guarantee that you are going to be a best seller. Because it’s not. It’s not a given that someone is going to be a best seller. People can’t guarantee that I just want to caution people about that. They think that someone says I’ve talked to people other you know, publishers are different people and they’ll say, well, I’ve guaranteed that. If some it pays me $30,000 I’ll make them a best seller. And in my in the back of my mind. And I’m like, No, you cannot do that. No one can guarantee that. So if you work hard enough at your craft, if you make it a full-time job, then yes, you probably can make it a good living at it.
Great, great. And you brought up a very interesting point, you said that most people buy the book just by looking at the cover and goes against you know, the popular saying don’t judge the book by the cover like, so. Is that really? Is that really proven? I mean, people do buy based on the cover of the book.
There are statistics out there. I don’t have it in front of me right now. But we have looked up in excuse me, we have done the statistics and the research on that. And it is proven research. I wish I had the statistic in front of me I don’t that people do buy a book. And they will decide within 15 to 20 seconds when they look at the book the cover of the book whether or not they’re going to buy the book because the cover does say a lot about your book. Sure, sure.
Now, so what are some of the characteristics of a good cover of a book?
Well, it’s perfect. It needs to be professionally done. And I know that might sound How can you tell?
What Okay, I mean, anything that comes to mind, if nothing comes to mind, you know, that’s fine. It’s, it may be totally subjective.
Yeah, I think really is subjective. But the goal, especially if you’re talking self-published, authors versus traditionally published authors, when we work with self-published authors, our goal is to put their book up next to a traditionally published book, you will not be able to tell the difference between the two, because, well, I’m not trying to sell myself here. That’s not what I’m here to do. But I’m here to tell you that if you work with a professional who knows what they’re doing, when you self publish your book, you will not be able to tell the difference between a professionally professionally self published book and traditionally self published book, because people know what they’re doing your support staff, your support team, when your self-publishing and book knows what they’re doing. And they’re going to, they’re going to lead you in the right way, the right direction of a good cover of the trim size of what is what looks good, what doesn’t look good, of the typeset your your your interior designer, helping you with the typeset the margins, the bleed over in your cover the bleed over in the inside of your book. So does that help answer your question?
For sure, for sure. And now, lately, I’m noticing, I’ve been noticing this trend of ghostwriting and you know, people writing a number of books using ghost riders. So do you have any opinion about that?
I don’t really have an opinion about that. I know a ghost or ghostwriter or two. And they really enjoy doing it. And the thing is, if you use a ghostwriter when you publish your book, The ghostwriter doesn’t get any credit for the book, you as the author get credit for the book. But I want to suggest to people if they do use a ghostwriter, interview them like you interview anybody an employee for your job, or you would interview anybody for something important because you want to have that relationship with them so that you know that they’re going to write in your style, they’re going to write in your tone, your voice. So just make sure that you interview one or two, three or four, do whatever it takes, if you’re going to work with a Ghost Rider, because you want that them to be on it’s going to be a close relationship, it’s going to take months, it could take year, two years, whatever. So you want to have a great relationship with that ghostwriter.
That’s great. Do you think writing a book is important even if you’re not an author, your entrepreneur, how important it is to write a book these days to establish authority?
I think that if you are an entrepreneur, an expert in your field, a professional speaker especially, it is a great marketing tool. And it is a great way to get your story out there. And even if you aren’t a professional, like an expert in, in the corporate world or something, if you have an important story to tell if you’ve been abused, if you have a life-changing story if you’ve suffered through something that is going to inspire people are healthy people. Telling your storey if it’s going to affect your storey could affect somebody like no one else’s story can and the how I’m going to say that says there’s some let me give you a topic.
Oh gosh, say there’s I’m going to use musician.
Okay. Maybe there’s someone who I’ll say because I’m taking violin lessons. So say there are two violin instructors. One teaches the Suzuki method and one teaches a different method. And they both teach violin, okay, but they teach different styles. So their expertise in teaching violin to someone is going to reach you or me in a different way. So their stories both of their storeys are important, but there’s always going to reach somebody like the other person’s story isn’t going to. So if their storey is told professionally, and in a good way, then I think anybody story is important. If it’s important to them to get out, then yes, I think, tell your storey. And I know that that could be an overtone. an overused term these days, go out and tell your storey out until your storey. But I think it is important if you’ve got a story to tell, but I think definitely experts in their field accountants, lawyers, professional speakers, for sure. If you that’s a great marketing tool for professional speakers, if they’re on stage, they can use that as a selling tool at the back of the stage to sell their book. That’s another way that they can earn money on their book. But yes, expertise, get it out there because your story is going to reach somebody like no one else.
Well, thanks a lot for all this information about the publishing industry. I think we learned a lot today. Now before I let you go, can you tell us a little bit about how people can reach out if they need some advice, help?
Sure. Our website is your literary prose dot com, or my email is Colleen at your literary prose dot calm. And I’d love to talk to anybody or answering questions. And I appreciate you having me on today.
That’s great. Thank you so much for being with us today.
Links & Mentions From This Episode:
Colleen’s Website: https://YourLiteraryProse.com
TetraNoodle consulting services: https://bootstraptechstartup.com
TetraNoodle professional training: https://courses.tetranoodle.com