Making 7x Her Previous Salary by Taking a Leap of Faith with Founder Eman Zabi

Eman Zabi was a young graduate living with her parents in the sandy deserts of Qatar. She was unemployed and unsure of her career path, like many of us in our early 20’s. But she was steadfast on discovering her passion. When Eman started her own business in 2016, she was young and inexperienced. She […]

Eman Zabi was a young graduate living with her parents in the sandy deserts of Qatar. She was unemployed and unsure of her career path, like many of us in our early 20’s. But she was steadfast on discovering her passion.

When Eman started her own business in 2016, she was young and inexperienced. She quickly realized that she had to grow into the shoes that she had already built for her business. But with a competitive background in Martial Arts, if there’s one thing Eman knew how to do, it was to commit to the punch.

Eman Zabi’s Website: https://www.thescribesmith.com/

Josh:
Hi everyone. This week we are here with Eman Zabi. She is the founder of Scribesmith, which is a copywriting agency. They help people with copywriting and they’re very good at it. She is currently making six to seven times what she was making in her previous job. That’s pretty awesome. Thanks for coming on and let’s get into how this all got started.

Zabi:
Sure. When I stumbled into this industry like most people do and oddly enough, because of a podcast, I was fresh bread. I was unemployed. Heard a podcast about people who type words into the internet and make money. I would like to try that. Never heard of copywriting before. I gave it a shot. I built this up. I had a full-time job on the side. Now three years on December 13. My personal salary is six or seven times what it was. We have three arms to the business. We’re creating physical products, we’re creating our own course platform. And then we have an agency. A lot is happening.

Josh:
I like that description of copywriting. Type words into the internet to make money.

Zabi:
It’s accurate. To make other people money, but also to make us money.

Josh:
I like that a lot. You would have been 21 or 22 then?

Zabi:
Yes. 22.

Josh:
What gave you the inkling that you could just do that? You have a job. Where did that come from?

Zabi:
I was actually unemployed when I started this up. I had become miserably bad. This is back in 2016, at the end of 2015. Especially if you have a useless degree, like political science. Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. I started blogging and people started noticing my work. They were like, “Can we pay you for this?” I’m like, “Yes, please.” As I started digging into that, I was sending the link to the copywriter club podcast. Up until that point I didn’t even know copywriting existed. I would have thought, intellectual property, or something like that.

Zabi:
That’s when things shifted for me. I eventually did get a job. It was maybe April, 2017. Up until this point, I was making four or 500 bucks a month. Nothing crazy. I wasn’t in North America at the time. I was in Qatar. It was enough money to eat out for a month. Nothing crazy. I couldn’t pay rent with it. I had to get a full-time job. Eventually by November of that year, I was making enough to quit my job, move to Canada and not have to look for a job here. It was fairly quick.

Josh:
I’m getting the sense that you don’t second guess yourself that much. Is that true?

Zabi:
I’m very much a leap before you look kind of person.

Josh:
How did that developed? That is not all that common in my experience.

Zabi:
I don’t know. I get that question a lot, actually. I think part of it is from having a background in martial arts. This is going to sound really cliche and I hate to be Mr. Miyagi about this but you have to commit to a punch. That was ingrained in me really early on. I’ve been doing martial arts since I was six or seven. It’s been a huge part of my life. I used to compete.

Josh:
That’s really cool. I’m a fake martial art person. I did Muay Thai for four months. What kind of martial arts do you do?

Zabi:
Primarily Shotokan Karate, but I’ve also done some TaeKwonDo, some kickboxing. Karate is my favorite.

Josh:
That’s so cool. Somebody else that I interviewed was talking about his background in sports and how that parlayed over into certain attributes of how he runs his company. What else do you feel comes from that background and that training that you use in your business now?

Zabi:
I would love to say discipline, but I have none. I think resilience is definitely part of it. At least I know that I was a little bit delusional coming into this thinking it’s going to be great. I’m going to be living the laptop life. It’s going to be easy, but it’s not. It’s really hard. It’s really, really hard. Whatever I got from my background in karate just helped me push through. I’ve had some pretty rough years. On the personal side. I was running this business while my mom was hospitalized and I was her primary caretaker. I was 23. Never had to deal with anything like that before. Running those things helps you, compartmentalize because you’re able to clear your mind and focus. There’s definitely that part of it. Overall resilience. Grit, probably.

Josh:
That’s a really hard thing. You mentioned it’s not this dream that you thought it was going to be. What actually happened for you?

Zabi:
I remember when I made my first $23 online. This is it. I’m going to be minting money. I started doing the kind of math people have on sales pages. You’re going to have 20 clients a month at a thousand dollars. You’re making 20 grand a month and you’re set. Nobody ever really talks about how work getting those 20 clients is. How much bandwidth it actually takes mentally to keep all those balls up in the air. I didn’t realize how much I would get in my own way, because I was so young and so immature. No real work experience at that point. How much I really didn’t know about how things work, coming from a totally different cultural and work backgrounds, as well. The learning curve was so steep. But when I look back at who I was in 2015, early 2017, I don’t believe I’d recognize that person anymore.

Josh:
I can resonate with that. I was starting my first company and I made a hundred bucks. All right, if I do this 10 times a week, and then I do that every week. Then I’ll make this amount of money and that’s going to be easy. And then, wait a minute.

Zabi:
Yes.

Josh:
It was a hard dose of reality. What happened? What was that waking up like for you? To go from who you were then to now. What were the big lessons from this?

Zabi:
I felt like I was the kid at the grownups table. But with that came the expectation that people would treat me like a kid as well. If I screw up, it’s fine. I’m not a real business. I’m just trying somethings. That was not my most professional way to come across for obvious reasons. But it also meant that I have to really learn that people are actually trusting me with their money. Therefore, I have to deliver and actually do really good work that I could justify to raise what I was charging. I wasn’t charging very much at that point.

Zabi:
It felt like when people feel a kid has the right to charge those rates, it meant that I had to grow into the shoes that I had already built for my business. Emotionally make sure things went this, this and that. That was really challenging for me. I’m the most introverted person on the planet. You can’t really be that way if you have a business. You have to be a podcast, you have to talk about yourself. I’m a fairly solution oriented person so I went out and hired a speaking coach. To get over my fear of speaking to another human being on camera. I continually invested in myself, which really helped.

Josh:
I can resonate with the story. I could imagine that there were some hard situations. You spoke about being the kid at the grownups table and then having to learn that you can’t necessarily do that. Where there any specific instances where clients got really upset or things didn’t go right?

Zabi:
There were some very close calls, which were enough that the fear would come at me. You know how it is in college, you don’t hand something in, the only person it affects is your grade. I was totally okay with that. I was the kind of person who really didn’t give a shit about how my grade was affected when I was in university. I never attached my idea of software as to my grades. I was really okay with the fact that I got a C for not handing in something or a D minus for not having handed in something. You can’t carry that mentality into business because you’re being paid for something.

Zabi:
Deadlines are deadlines, they’re not suggestions. There were blocks of nights where I would have to scramble until 3:00 or 4:00 AM just to get something in to a client, and it would not be my best work. It would reflect in the comments that they were giving with their feedback. It would be more around edits. It didn’t end in losing any clients thankfully. I needed to keep it more seriously than I did in the first four, five months.

Josh:
That makes sense. The popular term for this is, self care. You mentioned growing yourself as a way of growing your business. At least that’s what it sounded like. What other kinds of things did you do? You got the speech coach. Were there other things that really made a difference for you in terms of, once I worked on this part of myself, I could see it play out in my public persona as this business?

Zabi:
Working with a mindset coach was really helpful as well. I think because the business is growing so fast I hadn’t really had a chance to deal with a lot of those things that were just being shoved under the rug. I needed to sit down and drop all of that which was really helpful for me. Investing in mentorship. I’ve invested in mentorship from day one. I think that’s really helpful. It’s been really helpful to see how other people see me rather than how I perceived myself. That’s been helpful because, this cultural, was you know, being a woman and things like that. There’s a tendency to self-deprecate which, is not ideal if you’re trying to build a business. Working with people who saw value in my work and respected it, despite the fact that I was young and people who were giving me opportunities and trusted me with those things that was really helpful as well.

Josh:
Do you have peer groups as well? You mentioned mentors were important. You have other founders that you have think tank or just somebody to bounce ideas off. Just talk about when you’re having a bad day.

Zabi:
For sure. I’m in one right now. I think this is probably the fourth one that I’m in. Honestly, most of the agency side was built from leads that came in through my peers. Till today, I think 95, 99% of all of our leads [inaudible 00:13:40] will come to from word of mouth and really from my network. We’ve done very little paid advertising or anything like that for our agency.

Josh:
That’s awesome. How do you go about that? To get on the strategic side for a second, people in what I’ve seen, mess this up a lot. They join groups with the purpose of selling, but it sounds like you’ve brought in leads. I would imagine that you’re not just going in, “Hey guys, I have this thing”. How do you show up?

Zabi:
I think it depends on the kind of group you’re in, number one. For example, I’m in a group with other copywriters. My target audience isn’t other copywriters. I’m not going to be selling anything in that group. But if I can show up and show that I do good work and it can be known for good work. I am being helpful in a certain place. And become known in my niche. And if they have leads coming in that aren’t necessarily good fits for them or they have bandwidth issues and it’s a good fit for my niche. Then they just send them my way. It’s really, and I would just name whenever I have something that isn’t a good fit for me.

Josh:
That makes a lot of sense. Having friends that think of you.

Zabi:
Basically best friends.

Josh:
That’s awesome. I’m curious, what’s on your mind today? You have team now you’re growing. What’s on your mind day to day, in terms of where you want to head?

Zabi:
Right now, we have a launch coming up On October 19. Everything is focused on that one launch. We have built our own course platform. We work primarily with course creators. We saw a couple of issues in the space where the best and the most popular courses aren’t necessarily the best ones. They’re just the ones with the best marketing teams. There’s a fundamental problem with quality control in the course space. Our team alone has spent around 20 grand on bad courses alone. I wasn’t joking when I said [inaudible 00:16:17]. We wanted to create a platform where we would vet every course that goes up. All of this is curated course platform for entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to host their personal platform, we’re hosting it for free, we’re marketing it for free. We just take 25% of global revenue. That’s when everything comes out of our end. We’ve built and we’ve developed the platform ourselves and it goes live on October 19. So there’s a lot of pressure.

Josh:
That’s a lot. It’s a full platform where you can build courses too?

Zabi:
You’d have to build it elsewhere and upload the video content.

Josh:
Gotcha. That’s lot of stuff.

Zabi:
Especially for someone that has no programming background whatsoever.

Josh:
Did you hire people or did you build it?

Zabi:
I built it myself.

Josh:
You build it yourself?

Zabi:
Yeah.

Josh:
Wow. That’s very helpful.

Zabi:
I have a lot of concealer on hiding the dark circles that I have the last three months.

Josh:
That’s how it goes. That’s good old software development. We know all about that. That’s very exciting. October 19th. And what’s it called?

Zabi:
It’s called Terrain.

Josh:
Wait, say that again.

Zabi:
Terrain. You know, like know the terrain.

Josh:
Okay. I like that. That’s very cool. Awesome. Anybody listening to this will go out before October 19th.

Zabi:
Get on our wait list.

Josh:
I think I saw it was terrain.io

Zabi:
Yes.

Josh:
I think I already looked at this. Perfect. I will wrap it up here. Thank you for coming on. We haven’t had martial arts as the background for starting companies. I like that a lot. I think it’s very cool. Thank you for coming on and sharing that with us.

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Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. Outside of Interact Josh is an outdoor enthusiast, is very into health/fitness, and enjoys spending time with his community in San Francisco.

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