Christy Pretzinger | From Freelancer To Agency Owner and Tips for Serving the Healthcare Industry
Smart Business Revolution

Christy Pretzinger is the Owner and CEO of WriterGirl, a company that creates content and strategy for hospitals and healthcare organizations across the United States. Christy went from freelancing to owning her own agency, uncovering a passion for creating an environment where people can thrive. She is a lifelong learner and believes personal growth leads to professional growth. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Christy Pretzinger, the Owner and CEO of WriterGirl, about her experience transitioning from freelancing to building an agency. Christy shares secrets to retaining long-term employees, finding big clients, and thriving during challenging economic times.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • How Christy Pretzinger became an agency owner
  • Best tips and practices for finding big clients
  • How Christy transitioned from being a freelancer to an agency owner 
  • Why company culture and values are crucial for business growth
  • Did the pandemic impact WriterGirl’s company culture?
  • Christy talks about building a business to serve the healthcare industry 
  • How WriterGirl thrived during challenging economic periods
  • Christy’s secrets to retaining long-term employees

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:06

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone, John Corcoran here stepping in as host today. And today we’ve got Christy Pretzinger. And Christy is the Owner and CEO of WriterGirl. It’s a fast-growing organization that creates content and provides strategies for hospitals and healthcare organizations across the United States. Christy went from being a freelancer to an agency owner. So we’re going to talk about that journey. And she uncovered her passion for creating an environment where people can thrive by writing a book on sharing your experience around doing that, just that. And one of the things that she talks about, and we’ll talk about this interview is about viewing culture through the lens of a balance sheet, and helping fellow business owners and others who have a direct impact on the culture. So, Christy, I’m excited to hop into those those topics. And first, let’s start at your origin story, how you got into the agency world into becoming an agency owner, you’d been a freelancer, and you actually ended up knowing a woman who was a former client of yours, who’d started your company, WriterGirl, and you ended up partnering up with her. So talk a little bit about how that came about.

Christy Pretzinger 1:44

Okay, thanks for having me, I’m happy to talk to you. That’s, I guess, an interesting story. She was a client, and she brought me on as a partner, and really kind of to sell, you know, stuff. But it was a company at the time that did advertising copy. So it did like headlines and naming and things like that. And a year later, her largest client, she really kind of had one client. And he was indicted and imprisoned actually for tax fraud. So she was expecting a baby and was obviously made her very nervous. And she wanted out. And so I bought her out for a pittance. And basically got the name of the company, which is WriterGirl. But I had to pivot pretty quickly because there was no client anymore. And started seeking out more long-form content, because that was the kind of writer that I was. And you know, as the Queen, Oprah says, luck is preparation for meeting opportunity. And so what happened is that through a series of events, a hospital group was redoing, they were merging and renaming actually. And they needed three websites done for each one of their three hospitals. And they had to be done pretty much simultaneously, the marketing director of that hospital group had been a former client of mine when I was a freelancer. So she reached out to me and thought that most of the content was done. And I came to find out like a week in that literally, nothing was done. And I had like 35 writers on it, you know, within like 20 minutes. And then once we finished that it was a huge learning curve. But fortunately, it was going so quickly, that we could make mistakes, and then fix them without really causing any issues. And so by the end of that, I thought, well, I’ll bring teams of writers to hospitals. And so it just seemed like, All right, yeah.

John Corcoran 3:32

Before we get to that, I want to ask you about how you brought in that first big project, you know, was it was a kind of a case of fake until you make it, you know, you saw the opportunity. There must have been part of you that was saying, oh my gosh, wow, this is like a massive project for me something bigger than I’ve ever handled. So, you know, I’m wondering how you set yourself up, for lack of a better term to take on that big project?

Christy Pretzinger 4:03

Well, I’ll talk about I won’t talk, the one that made me decide to go into hospitals really was kind of an accident. So I’ll talk about how I actually deliberately went out and got one because that’s more interesting. And what happened? There were two things. One of them was I went to, I’m in Cincinnati, I went to The Ohio State University and ended up landing their business for a small project, just like a just a brochure at the time. But she was saying they had a whole bunch of work to do. And if we could do this while but she was warning me that the medical director had an undergrad in English. And then, you know, had gone on to get his MD and she said he hates everybody’s writing. And when we did this, he made two changes, and it was like commas, and she couldn’t believe it. And so then she gave us a very large project to do the website content for their heart hospital. And that was probably the time the biggest single project we’ve ever had. And I honestly wasn’t sure if we could do it that I’ve thought well, I did that other hospital project, I did have some writers I had done some learning. And I knew how to project manage that kind of thing. And I had a really good relationship with the client at Ohio State. And for me, I’ve always found, especially when I was building the business, that having that really, really working to build that relationship with the client was key to being able to not only produce excellent work but get the grace if you made a mistake. Because I would always say nobody will work harder than me to find something about you to like, because, you know, clients can be challenging, right? And personally, and why don’t I keep thinking there’s gotta be, there’s gotta be a point, like, I had to work with one of her employees, and this woman was very challenging. But over time, we finally did build a relationship, and then it just made it so much better. So that then you feel like you can, if you make a mistake, you can acknowledge that and they’ll give you the grace to fix it. Yeah, so relationship-building has always been key. But then this was an interesting one to the next really big one. This was when I landed $150,000 from one client, and we’d never ever, ever had that kind of money. It was Indiana University. And I went through I’m a WeBank, a woman-owned business, which has never gotten me anything except this one time. I called the diversity person, who in this instance, was a man, which usually isn’t what it was. And for whatever reason, he’s like, Okay, I’ll connect you with our marketing director, which was like, Oh, wait, why? And he got me on the phone with them. And that hospital system at the time had to use it or lose it budgetary thing. And they had like foreign to $80,000 that was going to go away had been earmarked for something. And it didn’t fit in, or I think it had been earmarked. And the work didn’t get done in that calendar year, or whatever their year was academic year. And so they said, Can we give you a check for $450,000? And then work it off? And I was like, Well, yes, you can.

John Corcoran 6:55

That was not a hard YES.

Christy Pretzinger 6:58

YES to complete. Again, luck is preparation, a meeting opportunity that was just me calling and thinking, Well, why don’t I try getting in this way? And yeah,

John Corcoran 7:09

that’s great. That’s great. How did you make that transition from being a freelancer to managing teams of writers? And all the different challenges that come from moving from one to another? Can you talk about that?

Christy Pretzinger 7:25

Yeah, it’s interesting. In retrospect, now, I have a few different experience shares, I guess, around that. One of them is that when I became a freelance writer, a long, long, long time ago, I did it because I was a competent writer. I never wanted, I didn’t have a passion to be a writer, you know, I was a good writer, I made a good living as a writer. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t my passion. So when I started building WriterGirl, I wasn’t feeling like I had to hold on to being a writer and wasn’t like, oh my gosh, this is who I am. This is my talent. So as it started growing, I used to write project manager. And so the first thing I let go of was the writing. Because it wasn’t my passion anyway. And I was okay, a project managing, I’m really, especially now, I’m not a detail-oriented person, I would really have to really put on that hat and do that. And then sales came more naturally to me, but at that time, as it is, for most people building a business as a solopreneur, you know, at that time, you’re like, Okay, sell, sell, sell, sell, project, manage product, manage, and, you know, farm out the work to writers, and then oh, crap, there’s something in the pipeline, sell, sell, sell. You know, I mean, those people know that drill. So that was how, I mean, like, a lot of people I was doing that the difference for me was unlike people who would maybe be engineers and, and do something in an engineering field, or a doctor or like a dentist or something like that. I’m not the only one with the skill set. So I was able to move out of those roles. And because I had done all the roles, I knew what was required. And I could hire people that were better at it than I had been. And that was really key. I don’t think I knew that at the time. But I also never had a lot of ego around that. And I know, sometimes net that’s, again, an experience share that I see, especially with younger businesses where they think well, I’m the one who’s the best at that. I’m like, well, that’s great if you want to have a job for the rest of your life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t want a job for the rest of my life. So I was always really happy to hire people that were you know, better, faster, stronger than me in whatever capacity that was.

John Corcoran 9:30

Yeah. Now I know, one of your passions now is building and maintaining a culture within your company. And you were telling me beforehand that one of the things that you’ve always believed is that I couldn’t build a business based on kindness. I would go back to being a free freelancer. So that was important to you. Was there a point or was there a breaking point like sometimes I talked to business owners and they realized that their culture is off? They don’t like their own culture. Sometimes they have to fire a bunch of people to change the culture. Is there anything like that, or what was the realization that culture was really important to you as you built your business? Well,

Christy Pretzinger 10:06

I think because when I started freelancing, I had left a job because I felt completely unappreciated and taken advantage of, it had been a really good situation for a period of time. And then it just stopped being a good situation. And largely because the woman who had been my boss left, and I think she had shielded me from a lot of things and had promoted me and champion me. And that was wonderful. Then she was gone. And I was like, wow, this is a mess. And I didn’t like that at all. And I had had a lot of jobs, I had moved around a lot before I only worked in the workforce for I don’t know, what, seven years before I started freelancing. And I think I’d had like, four or five different jobs, I stayed about a year and a half the last one I was there for, I think, four years. So I’d seen a lot of different things that were places that weren’t necessarily that appreciative or kind to their people. So for me, it was always from the outset that I wanted to do that that was a core belief of mine. And I think, again, looking back on it, at the time, I have grown and changed but at the time, because of my own insecurities. I wanted to be everyone’s favorite client, meaning all the 1090 nines, the contractors that I would hire, I wanted to be their favorite client. And I wanted to be every client’s favorite vendor, I wanted everyone to like me. And so I thought that maybe, I guess maybe kindness was a core thing. It’s always been a core thing for me. And then once I never had to fire anybody, because of culture until many years later. And that was just a situation we knew was going awry anyway. But really, the people that are drawn to this organization seem to be of like mind. And that has been I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t know what that magic is. Because that’s actually been true in most aspects of my life, too. I haven’t had a lot of negative people around me, generally speaking, I don’t know what’s in there isn’t.