Crystalee Beck, a mother of four children aged 1, 4, 7 and 9, has grown a copywriting business worth tens of millions from her home near Salt Lake City.
She is the founder and CEO Comma CopywritersShe runs a copywriting company that works with tech and real-estate companies. She also runs the Mama Ladder InternationalIt is a community of moms that want to grow and start businesses. She has a YouTube channel where she shares videos about what she knows. Below is an example.
“I wouldn’t be a business owner without my babies as the motivation,” says Beck. “I wanted so much to be there for them, and said I’m going to figure out how to do both.”
Beck is part of a trend that’s exciting: the growth of one-person million-dollar businesses. The U.S. Census Bureau has reported an increase of 43,012 companies in 2019 that have no employees other than their owners and generate revenue ranging from $1 million to $2.49 millions. This is up from 41.6666 businesses in 2018. 2 553 businesses made between $2.5 and $4.99 million, while 388 reached $5 million and above. There’s no telling how many more of these businesses are likely to spring up, thanks to free and low-cost resources like cloud-based and artificial intelligence tools and robust freelance platforms for hiring talent.
She’s mastered lifestyle design to pull it off. Beck, who works 20-25 hours per week Monday to Thursday, relies on 47 independent contractors in 20 states. She plans to hire her very first payroll employee by the end of this year.
Beck developed the skills she needed to start her own successful business in her first job. Baker, who graduated in 2009 from Brigham Young University, got a job at SkyWest Airlines developing in-flight training material for flight attendants. She then became a pilot.
Wanting to get paid to write, she earned a master’s degree in communication at Weber State University. After two years of working as a freelance feature writer for Deseret Digital Media she became a corporate communication specialist at an international agency. She then worked as a social media manager at Market Star, a direct sales outsourced organization.
In 2016, after losing her job, she founded Comma Copywriters. “I had a little bit of warning it was coming,” says Beck, who had been freelancing on the side. She had to balance being the primary breadwinner, being a mother of a 1-year-old and her husband being in graduate school.
“I practically skipped out the door,” she recalls. “I was so excited to have some freedom to do with my day what I wanted to do with it.”
She became serious about expanding the business. “I bought myself a business license in February 2016,” she recalls. “I wrote in my journal ‘This is going to be a million-dollar business.’ I had no idea how I was going to get there.”
Writing was one of her first projects. Joyce’s Boy, a book that captures the life of serial entrepreneur Alan Hall, who’d been the president of the agency where she worked.
By leveraging her network, Beck gained new clients. Beck initially responded to the requests of her clients. “I call those first couple of years my sandbox years,” she says. “I was playing the sandbox. I would just do what people were paying me to do.”
Beck was soon overwhelmed with work. She hired a few freelancers rather than trying to do everything herself.
Beck earned $100,000 in 2017, the first year she was in business. By 2019, the business had grown and she rebranded under Comma Copywriters.
One of Comma Copywriters’ selling points to clients has been that assignments are delivered on time or they’re “on the house.” Last year, Beck says, the company delivered more than 21,000 pieces of content, and 99.94% was on time.
She doesn’t worry about other agencies and freelance platforms clients may consider using “I don’t think about competition,” she says. “I think of them as options, rather than competition. We’re a supplement. It ends up being much more cost-effective for our clients to hire us than a full-time headcount writer internally.”
Beck, as the company has grown, has divided the writers into three groups based on their clients: B2C(business to consumer),B2B (business-to-business), and agencies. “Team leads” manage each group. She also has two managers: a team manager who supports the team and a client manager.
When recruiting writers, Beck has found she does well by looking for people who match the company’s core values: Freedom, Accountability, Humility, Curiosity and Care. Women who are juggling family responsibilities and a career appreciate being part of a company that provides them with steady work, professional development, and a supportive environment. “I feel we really have the best of both worlds for our writers, who want the flexibility of being a freelancer and the support of a team,” says Beck.
Beck’s freelance team is motivated by her monthly professional development sessions, and annual team retreats. She also offers bonuses to those who are on time. Comma Copywriters rewards writers for their three-year tenure with a $1,000 bonus that they can use to fulfill a bucket list item. One woman bought camping gear. Another woman went to Disneyland.
Comma Copywriters allows writers to decide the amount of work they are willing to undertake. Basecamp is used by the team to communicate about projects. That’s allowed the company to keep things running smoothly, no matter what is going on. Four of the seven members of the leadership team of the company had babies when it broke the $1 million mark for the first year.
Giving back to the community, especially women, is a major focus for the company. Comma Cares, for example, is a great way to give back. For each client it works with, Comma Copywriters sponsors a girls’ education through a nonprofit partner, Kurandza.
Beck started The Mama Ladder International a year after the launch of comma. In response to the demand, it offers workshops and retreats to help women grow and start businesses. “I had all of these women coming to me and asking how you start a business with little babies,” she says.
Mama Ladder provides the HIGH FIVE grant for moms. This program offers a $5,000 grant along with other grants to mothers who are looking to expand their business but do not have access to capital. This year, Lowe’s and Clean Simple Eats are sponsoring the grants for the first time.
Beck has learned from her own experiences that raising children while achieving business success is not mutually exclusive. “There’s nothing a motivated mother can’t do,” she says.
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