Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
David Leonhardt: This business sort of grew organically. It started off as me doing freelance website promotion and some freelance writing. As I went on, I got more and more writing clients. I had to turn some away, especially fiction projects, since I really don’t have that level of fiction-writing skill. But the clients kept coming…and so did writers offering to take my overflow. We took on writers, one at a time, always as freelancers – but always as team members. Over time, I did less and less writing and more and more coordinating of clients, writers and projects. By 2006, we incorporated. I still do some of the writing, especially small projects. I love writing wedding speeches and graduation speeches, and I take on some other small projects, such as website bios or the occasional blog post on a topic that fires me up.
The Company’s name grew just as organically. THGM stands for The Happy Guy Marketing. I was originally known as The Happy Guy due to the book I wrote on happiness. As I started freelancing, the added “Marketing” covered pretty much everything I was doing. It worked especially well for website promotion. As we did less and less promotion and more and more memoirs and novels and speeches and screenplays, we reimagined the name as THGM Writing Services and THGM Writers, both of which we use.
Great Companies: What are the various services provided by THGM Writing Services?
David Leonhardt: We’ve narrowed it down a lot. A decade ago, as I mentioned, we were doing a lot of website promotion and also translation, as well as writing and editing. Now we do pretty much just writing and editing.
Our top services are book writing and screenplay writing. They account for at least 80% of the business. With books, it’s mostly memoirs and fiction, with a healthy dose of personal development, kidlit, spiritual and other topics. As ghost-writers, we can’t reveal most of our clients, but some have given us permission to do so, and you can see some samples at https://thgmwriters.com/blog/tag/client/.
There are some types of writing projects we don’t touch. We don’t write resumes. We don’t write technical manuals. We don’t write business plans. And we don’t write homework assignments. Geesh, people actually want to pay to be cheated out of an education. Let AI cheat them, not me. But we write pretty much everything else.
Great Companies: What makes THGM Writing Services different from hundreds of other similar service providers?
David Leonhardt: The name – the HG in THGM stands for “Happy Guy” – says it all. We are very focused on giving top-notch customer service to make our clients happy. You can see this by what we do and by what we do not do.
What we do is keep a roster of good writers who really, really know how to treat the customers. There are lots of very good writers out there. In the early days, I let some very good writers go, because they did not live up to my client-relations expectations. It’s just that important. We also have a standing policy to be as flexible as Elastigirl on almost everything. This is especially important on timing, because our clients tend to be busy people juggling way more than they can handle. I never want “reviewing draft chapter seven” to be an added stress point in a client’s schedule. I don’t think that makes them happy. What we don’t do is compete on price, because quality is more important. You can find cheaper writing services. If you want the lowest bid, we are not for you. So, if you hire the lowest bidder, you might come back to us anyway. And it’s true! It’s happened many times. We also don’t compete at the higher price end. Charging top rates doesn’t bring the client better quality, it just brings them emptier pockets. We charge as much as necessary to retain good quality writers whose work will please our clients. We don’t charge extra just because the market can bear it.
Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
David Leonhardt: Oh, the ups and downs of the marketplace. In 2008, everything slowed … just after hiring our first full-time employee! But we kept him for several months after we should have let him go. Who knew the recession would run that deep? Lesson learned, we are more flexible and more scalable – both up and down – when our team is freelance.
In 2011, a couple of our web promotion clients ignored my advice and got in trouble with Google. Because my website was linked with theirs in Google’s back-end, they took us down with them. The pipeline quickly grew as dry as the Atacama Desert. Lesson learned, but we are not doing website promotion anymore, so not a very useful lesson, I suppose.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for THGM Writing Services?
David Leonhardt: I don’t. We are at a good size. I like having a team of a dozen writers. I don’t want to coordinate two dozen. If I could get my two kids more involved, I would. They have each written a few projects – kidlit books and screenplays – but school is keeping them busy. I never set out to create a family business, but the thought does appeal to me. However, I don’t want to grow, because bigger is not always better.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
David Leonhardt: Understand your goals. “Success” is not measured by the numbers. It is measured by how you feel about what you are doing. As an entrepreneur, you have to pay attention to numbers – you have to. So, don’t lose what really counts, because money buys only so much happiness before it doesn’t. Do the numbers that you must, then focus your energies on what fulfils you. In my case, that is making clients happy.