Christina Gleason, owner and founder of newly-launched “SEO friendly” content creation firm Phenomenal Content, is our kind of human. Plucky. Open. Giving. Authentic. A perfectionist who all but defines “quality” in the world of freelance web content creation.
Like so many Americans, Christina has faced ups and downs in the past year. In the middle of old media’s focus on “the” recession, seam-bursting deficits, successive rounds of lay-offs, consumer confidence slides, and general despair, Christina found herself unemployed… within days, she began laying the groundwork for what has become Phenomenal Content.
Phenomenal Content is currently booked-out for longer than it’s been a company. That’s how ninjas work — and it’s why this is a story worth sharing.
For the skeptics, this is not a paid post. Christina “knows” the Mules as an email address and connoisseurs of native grasses, nothing more. The following is a tribute and testament to the creativity, grit, and endurance that once defined the American Way.
In that America, self determination and performance-based success inspired the same people who are now confused that reckless decisions and poor judgment have been met with federal bail-outs and unearned bonuses.
Or to paraphrase another online entrepreneur, “Sugar” Rae Hoffman, it has become “normal” to show up, hold out one’s empty hands, and demand a prize.
Hold out your hand near a mule, and we promise we will bite you. Hard.
There are no free rides. Success — real success — demands hard work, unyielding determination, and a indomitable spirit.
With that, please welcome Christina Gleason of Phenomenal Content, LLC.
Phenomenal Content: the Christina Gayle Interview
Being “let go” was not at all planned, and was initially very unpleasant. After a sad drive home, you decided not to give up, nor to get back into the corporate monkey box for others.
Here we are a few months later, in the middle of a recession, and you’re doing rather well, no?
CG: I am doing rather well. It’s really quite awesome what has happened to me in just a few months.
Maybe it’s attitude. Quickly now! Name or describe the first image, person, document, or idea that comes to mind when we say… recession. And then why, of course.
CG: Chocolate. I know it may not make sense to most people, but anyone who’s heard of the Chocolate Relief Act knows what I mean. (Great marketing move, by the way.)
You air whole baskets of your dirty laundry in public, we’ve done our research — but everyone reading this knows there’s something you have never said before. There’s a Secret Tweet hiding inside, we know it! What is it?
CG: Don’t make me say it. Oh come on. Fine. I have an irrational fear of washing the dishes. The very idea of touching nasty bits of food floating in the water gives me nightmares. That’s why my husband and I worked a strict division of labor into our wedding vows. He does the dishes; I do the laundry. It’s held up for almost nine years now!
Must be a common phobia. Ever wonder why we use troughs? We’ve seen the dog do the dishes. Disgusting.
Can just anyone expect similar results? Either way, what do you have that others can or must obtain to pursue a similar path to successful self-employment?
CG: I don’t know how to answer that. I’m still amazed that I got these results! I think what I have is a perfect storm of skills and experience that got me to where I needed to be to make this whole thing work. I have a natural eye for grammar and spelling. I spent three years running/editing my college newspaper. I love reading and writing. My last position I was hired for introduced me to the world of Internet marketing… and I became appreciated for all of these things.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I spent two years working as a Google Quality Rater! That seems to be a big selling point for the marketing community, despite the fact that I won’t spill the details of that work. For other people who don’t have the background that I have, I think the key is looking at what you can bring to the table that no one else can. SEO folks love me because of the whole Quality Rater thing. Who would love you for what you can do?
You are open about your personal challenges and emotions – examples: disease, being a mother, etc. Does that help or hurt on a personal and/or professional level? Recommendations to others?
CG: I think there’s a little bit of both. I’m sure that, professionally, there are people who are turned off by how much I talk about my personal life. But on the other hand, I get a lot of private messages in response to my public comments from people who want to say, “Me too!”
A fair number of people can appreciate that I’m an actual human being, and some of them are now my clients. I don’t necessarily recommend this level of disclosure to other people who are trying to market themselves. It could totally backfire. It hasn’t blown up in my face yet, but doesn’t mean it won’t.
On the other hand, no one is ever going to uncover anything shocking about me because it’s out there already. Hopefully no one will freak out and say, “OMG, she’s crazy!” when they learn I have a mood disorder. Why? Because I get my work done, and I do it well. Anxiety disorder and everything.
Actually, I hope that being open and honest about everything will help dispel some of the stigma there is about mental illness and the other thing that’s hard to tell people… Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I tweet about it a lot on Twitter, but even my mom doesn’t believe it’s a real illness… But that’s a whole other story! (I tend to ramble, too. Sorry about that.)
That’s fine… We don’t charge by the word here. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Moving on!
What do you find to be the largest niche with room for growth? How do you solicit new business? Is it broken into organic traffic, referrals, LinkedIn, Twitter, Naymz… and if so, any hints on which deserves more attention?
CG: Here is where you start to sound like you’re talking another language to me. I don’t speak niche and strategy. At least not yet. I’m taking what comes my way… I can honestly say that I haven’t had to actively solicit new business yet. Clients have all come to me. I guess my reputation proceeds me! I know that’s not helpful for you.
Quite the contrary. We have no strategy, and the mule niche isn’t what it was in the 1830s. And our reputation keeps prospects from bothering us with work and all the associated headaches.
What’s the part of your reputation that is most commonly cited by Phenomenal Content clients as a reason for consideration?
CG: Google Quality Rater! That seems to be a big selling point for the marketing community, despite the fact that I won’t spill the details of that work.
But you can answer by not answering, right? You promised us one yes or no answer. This is it. Don’t make us whine. Remember the most annoying sound in the world? Mules whining is that. Except worse.
Here goes… was Google Quality Rater a cafeteria position?
Are you aware we stand to lose five bales of imported Argentinean green based on your response? The toughs at the racetrack will collect.
You said Google Quality Raters do not work in the cafeteria. You are certain this is your final answer?
Ah… so it was a cafeteria position.
CG: No, what I mean is –
Next topic! About the new car – two questions: does it have a moon roof, and, can it pull a horse trailer?
CG: It does have a moon roof! I had to ask my husband about that — I couldn’t remember the difference between a sun roof and a moon roof, but he used to sell cars. As for the horse trailer, probably not. But I could probably fit one mule if I folded the back seats down.
So it’s a date. We’ll draw lots. As a rule, we like warm days and a nose bag. The winner will contact you with additional requirements.
Requirements, hmm. What do you look for when it comes to hiring staff as you begin to scale Phenomenal Content? What keys matter most to preserving your personal quality standards while expanding overall capacity?
CG: I’m trying to hammer that out right now. Technical excellence is a must — I don’t want to be fixing misspellings or errors in parallel construction before I send work on to my clients. I’m going to need to determine different requirements for copywriters and bloggers, because they are two very different skill sets.
Obviously, I would prefer to hire people who can do both well, but there are some rockstar copywriters who couldn’t blog their way out of a box, and there are amazing bloggers who couldn’t write a sales letter to save their lives. But in both cases, good research skills and almost neurotic attention to detail are necessities.
Neurotic? Have you met the farm cat? Thinks she’s a chicken. Yowls all night at being cooped-up. Sits on eggs and purrs most the day. By comparison, you seem positively normal.
How did you rock so hard in a time when far bigger names and companies folded and failed… which is the one true “secret” trick we should click in the spam folder? Networking? Riding laurels? Prayer? Oxycontin? Guest posting for additional reach?
CG: LOL. Normal? If by normal you mean completely bonkers, yeah, that’s me! I was completely surprised by the whole thing — the good and the bad.
Networking has been huge, and I still think I’m not exactly good at it. Maybe it works for me because I’m not trying to be good at it. What you see is what you get, and “genuine” isn’t just a PR buzzword in my work. There’s been a fair bit of prayer, too. Some free guest posting.
Sadly, I think some of the guest posting offers I got ended up buried in my Gmail box and I never even got back to the nice bloggers who wanted to give me some face time.
It’s okay, you didn’t ignore us, that’s the important thing.
How do you relax? Or how do you balance life with work, especially with no cubicles or “game face” commute?
CG: Gah, relax? I’ve got anxiety issues, remember? But seriously, I do have a hard time “turning off.” My son doesn’t understand why Mommy has to work all the time. Starting a company is very time consuming!
But I do love computer games. I was addicted to Spore for a while. I lose a lot of money playing Cubis and Spider Solitaire on WorldWinner. My son loves watching me play games, and he’ll sit on my lap sometimes. I also like dining out with my family. We don’t drink or smoke, so restaurants are our vice!
I do wish I was better able to switch from work mode to home mode better… My desk is in my living room, so there’s no real distinction. This will change when I get my new house. Got the new car. The new house is next. As soon as I’ve been self-employed long enough for someone to give me a new mortgage. I’m totally going to make sure I have a separate office.
Mortgages are being phased out. All housing will be completely subsidized by 2012 — we take it you’ve skipped the political news as you focus on growing Phenomenal Content.
Now, this isn’t Hardball, but here’s a curve. Your favorite blog theme is…
CG: Thesis, of course! Seriously, someone was kind enough to gift it to me the day after I lost my job. I loved it so much that I bought the developer license, and I’m in the process of upgrading all of my blogs. I’m not good with code, so I’m still figuring things out, but I love that I’ll never have to figure it out again after the first time!
We know some Thesis heroes if you get stuck. Here’s an ORM test — Reese Spykerman of Design by Reese is wicked awesome. Yes, Reese, that’s a nuzzle.
Okay, so what’s the future of Phenomenal Content?
CG: My goal for Phenomenal Content is to find the best team of writers I can possibly assemble — and keep them as busy as they want to be, while keeping myself as busy as I want to be. That will involve looking for the clients who didn’t come to me first. I may run with the marketing crowd, but I’m not a marketer, so that will be a challenge for me. But I’m working on it!
We need to prove Barbara Walters is not ghostwriting this.
No more easy answers.
If you were a mule, would you sport the “wild” look, or would you carefully trim your mane and braid your tail?
CG: I would totally braid my tail — with ribbons.
That’s a winner. We’ve thought about extensions a time or two… but who wants filthy horse hair polluting a naturally splendid mane and tail?
Ah, we nearly forgot. How can clients or aspiring content writers connect with Phenomenal Content? It’s time to paste the pitch…
Phenomenal Content LLC provides quality copywriting, blogging, and editing services to fit your content creation needs. When we come across poorly written content online, it keeps us awake at night. Our high standards mean you get the highest quality content for your Web site. When you’re ready to hire us to make phenomenal things happen for you, please contact us with the details of your project. Content writer applicants are encouraged to write as well — no phone calls, please!
Mule update: Phenomenal Content is booking faster than Barnes & Noble. Shake off your blankets, break your stalls, and contact Christina before Phenomenal Content is phenomenally unavailable.
If they’ve got a lick of sense, your competition will hire Christina and her ninja team. It’s not in the Art of War, but here’s a mule trick… always kick back first.