Laura Bell is the author of 101 Things You Didn’t Learn in Harvard Business School, a collection of essays which takes basic business principles and relates them to everyday life. She has been writing about business and economics since the 80s and has over 400 bylines to her name. Bell’s work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, the San Jose Mercury News, the Los Angeles Business Journal, and many more. In this Write On! Author Q&A Bell discusses her career path, offers some business “essentials,” and explains how LinkedIn led her to being a published author.

book_cover 101

How did you first get started business writing?
I always knew I wold run my own business and planned on minoring in business. When that didn’t work out, I ended up in economics, listening to my first professor complaining that journalists never got the stories right. I was determined to be one who did.

How did 101 Things You Didn’t Learn in Harvard Business School come about?
I answered my publishers ad on Linkedin for articles for his website. He had it set up for the ‘ad sense’ type payment. I wrote and said, “I am too old to be waiting on potential earnings.” He said, “Send samples.” I did and then he asked me how much I wanted. Each time I talked to him, he asked me if I was interest in doing a book. Three publishers, the year before, had turned me down for the lack of marketing plan. He told me not to worry, he would take care of that.

What was your process for writing it?
We agreed on 101 essays. I pulled 50 off my website: and wrote 51 more.

What was your favorite part about writing the book?
My favorite part was realizing I would now be an author not just a freelance writer.

The greatest challenge?
The whole thing. I never worked so hard in my life. I was writing two or three essays a day.

What are the 3 most important of the 101 things?
*Understanding economic profit. Without knowing that a percent of every dollar goes to the profit account, your business is not going far. Most entrepreneurs don’t realize they need to calculate a percent of every dollar towards profit from day one. It’s a fixed cost of running a business. It sounds so simple, but many don’t get it.

*Marketing on the fly—ways to market in hard times—got rave reviews on my blog. This explains how to go back to old school: use business cards when meeting people, host a chamber mixer, go to all sorts of mixers with business cars, and offer to write a column for a local paper.

*Do you control your money or does it control you? One of my readers thanked me for that one. If you are living as if checks will always come, you heading for a big problem. You will be working for your money until you drop. Put your money to work.

What should writers know about business that many rarely consider?
They should know the basics of contract law. Most interact with editors, etc. as if no law effects or is relative to them. Ask about a contract. Ask when you get paid and don”t agree to the work until you know the answers.

How was writing a book different than article writing? Similarities?
In my case it was similar because of the essays, but the workload is enormous. There is no way to describe unless you live it. The writing is just the beginning. The proofreading takes forever.

Additional advice for writers?
Get more credentials. Do internships if in your area.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started your career?
The above. I would have done an internship wherever it was offered. The lack of that credential put me in the freelance world because I couldn’t get a staff position.

1 Comment

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  1. Roberta Beach Jacobson 13 years ago

    An informative interview. Most enjoyable. Laura’s book sounds helpful! Thank you.


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