To start and grow a successful business, you need to leverage relevant tools and resources. It also helps to have a serene, supportive community of peers and mentors. You could start and grow a successful business if you lack them but that's obviously more difficult.
One entrepreneur who had to take that difficult route and still make it is Abdullahi Muhammed. Abdullahi started from a humble beginning, had a traumatic childhood and grew up in a rural community in Nigeria lacking good infrastructures. He started writing by accident and now he's won 11 writing prizes and authored two published books, "Your Right To Write" and "Vertical Writing". He's a smart entrepreneur whose business interests include this blogging guide and Oxygenmat, a content marketing company he started and grew to 6 figures in a year.
I had an enlivening chat with Abdullahi today and here's the transcript:
I read that you attended 6 different primary schools. That's a fun fact about you. Why is that so?
You're right AJ. It's thanks to recurrent ethnic crises that overtook Kano, Nigeria, the city my family and I lived in. The unrest caused serious security breaches and triggered a downward spiraling of the economy. We narrowly escaped being killed one night, thanks to absconding from home to stay with my uncle just few hours before the rioters razed our house. But we weren't lucky enough with our property, a large chunk of which we lost. We fell into a serious financial distress. We had to relocate many times to stay safe and live within our seriously constrained means. And with each relocation, I had to change school.
How did you become a writer when you had no computer or good Internet access?
Well, I was stubborn and then maybe I was lucky for having a supportive friend who gave me the nudge I needed to start writing. I was a freshman in the university, studying Law. A student association in the university was staging a writing contest and my friend encouraged me to enter. I had fears and feelings of inadequacy but I entered anyways. I clinched the second prize. I'd typed my entry for that essay contest on my Nokia 6080 phone and then transferred it to a borrowed computer via a Bluetooth device. If you didn't now, that wasn't a smart phone where each letter has it's key for typing. You had to hit 2 three times in quick succession to type letter C for instance. I wrote many other writing contest entries and articles that way.
I'd walk several kilometers at times to access the Internet to do research for my writing or submit my entry for an essay contest. So I was basically determined to keep at it and improvise in whatever way I could. In a couple of years, I'd entered over 100 essay contests and won 11 of them. Writing fetched me all the tools I needed for writing but I never would have got them if I hadn't improvised for the tools to get started.
Did you have any assurance writing was going to work for you?
Absolutely no! I had no idea it was going to be a career I'd be pursuing today. After I won that first essay contest I took part in, I had some faith in myself and wanted to see what I could do if I put in more efforts.
I think as a writer, innovator or entrepreneur, one thing you must become comfortable with is uncertainty and trying without an assurance of success. Life doesn't promise creatives like us stability or certainty. It promises us a laboratory. In that lab, we can experiment, get confused at some points, make mistakes and fail, even. But then, we also learn from those travails and get better each day.
What do you like best about your career as a freelancer and entrepreneur?
Freedom! I work from home or any other place I choose. I get to set my own hours. I'm able to choose clients I want to work with and avoid those who try to make my life difficult. I'm really grateful for the freedom writing affords me--I feel blessed having my wife beside me when I work most times and seeing her smile and sharing time and ideas with her.
You mentioned working from home. Don't you leave home for office to run your company?
Our company has a fully distributed team. From myself, the CEO, to the Project Manager, Client Manager and the dozens of creative freelancers on our team, everybody works from home, spread across many cities and countries. Thanks to that, I get to hire and work with the best talents for the job, no matter where they live.
Some companies I admire also use this model. These include Mozilla, Zapier, Automattic and Buffer. For instance, Automattic which owns WordPress has over 400 employees working in over 90 cities and every single one of them works from home. This model's definitely not ideal for all companies but it's worked excellently for us. If you're considering running a remote team, the key is to build a team of go-getters who must also write well as communication is key; hire only people you can trust and trust the people you've hired.
What impacts have the struggles you had growing up had on your business growth?
The struggles made me learn hard work, become creative and grow a thick skin to rejections and failures. These have been key for me in my business.
What was your reaction when your company hit 6 figures in revenue?
I was scared at first. I didn't earn a dime in the first two years of my blogging and when I started earning, it was really modest. And when I started the company, my goal was to make low 5 figures annually and have the freedom of being my own boss. So I was first scared to see how fast and high my company shot up in just a year but I'm comfortable with it now and I want more.
Can you tell our readers what's working in content marketing and what they should avoid today?
Content marketing is about facilitating valuable conversations with your customers and target market. Instead of brandishing your products about and yelling, "Buy my stuff!" you need to create amazing content that educates them and solves their problems. Then go all out to promote the content via email, social media, SEO and connecting with other bloggers to make sure your great content actually gets seen by your target audience. By all means avoid churning out low quality content or creating great content without promoting it like crazy.
In one sentence, what's your best advice on success?
The way to success is to seek to do what you love, and then show up daily and roll up your sleeves without waiting for permission.