What I learned from James Chartrand - Q&A with the founder of Men with Pens

What I learned from James Chartrand – Q&A with the founder of Men with Pens

This week I’m pleased to feature James Chartrand the founder of Men with Pens.

Don’t miss the last episode, what I learned from the Elite Eight bloggers of the #IBCT.

This is the ninth edition of the What I learned interview series.



I first discovered Men with Pens when I was reviewing blogs for the first annual #IBCT last year.

I was instantly impressed by the online business that James built but more importantly I was inspired by HOW she did it.

Strategy to me means everything.

This is why I wanted to share her story with you.

Here’s some quick stats about her blog:


  • Domain Registered: 2006

  • Alexa Traffic rank: 80,662

  • Twitter followers: 9,483 @MenwithPens

  • Facebook page likes: 874

  • Google+ users have her in circles: 185


If you haven’t heard of James before you’re probably wondering why I’m referring to someone with a name like JAMES as a “she”?

Well, that’s part of the strategy and brilliance of James Chartrand.


I’m sure you’ve heard of Mark Twain, right?

This legendary American writer wasn’t born to this name either.

Neither was James.


Why would someone write under a different name than their own?


STRATEGY, that’s why.


The #1 most important concept that I notice people over looking on their journey to success is strategy.


A plan without strategy is like a saw without teeth.

-It just won’t cut it.


Do you think more people would rather read a book by Samuel Langhorne Clemens or Mark Twain?

Do you think more business owners would listen to advice from someone named James Chartrand or Makeda Jackson?


Now do you see the value of strategy?

(No, Makeda Jackson is not her real name it’s actually my last name and the first name of the Queen of Sheba.)


Ok, enough of me, lets get to the interview with James Chartrand the founder of Men with Pens.




This fall will mark the 7th-year anniversary for your blog Men With Pens. From the very beginning including the premise of your site you did it your way. Can you share what you compromised the most over the years?



You make a lot of compromises when you own your own business. There are always the basics, like compromising some personal time for work hours or big projects that need to get done, or compromising on what you’d LOVE to do in favor of what pays the bills faster. And that’s fine – that’s part of making smart decisions that help your business grow.

When I began to write for my blog in a way that compromised my beliefs and values, though, everything skidded off the rails. I got it in my head that if I didn’t follow trends, if I didn’t do what people said I “should” be doing, my business would suffer.

So instead of writing my famous “tell it like it is’ posts, full of savvy insight and smart advice, I began writing “tell it like everyone else tells it” posts… which were boring and generic. And I absolutely hated it.

I even stopped blogging for several months!

Thankfully, I realized that this was a huge mistake. I got back in touch with what I truly believed, found my writing voice again, and regained my confidence. My business could only succeed from writing to my beliefs and values – and I was relieved!

Sadly, many people go through this phase, and the majority of them never come back from it. So my best advice is to write about what you believe in, in your voice, and remember that this is what makes you stand out from all the rest of the same old, same old.



Which is harder, becoming successful or staying there? explain.



Both – but bear in mind that my success came in two separate landslides I couldn’t at all predict.

Typically, success moves upwards in a nice, manageable line, and you can adjust as you go. When you suddenly become famous out of the blue, when you least expect it (first when my blog hit the Top Ten for Writers list and second when my story was revealed), the onslaught of attention can be tough to cope with. (I sympathize with Hollywood stars.)

Staying that successful can be difficult as well. You don’t always enjoy the attention, you don’t always feel like playing the hot shot, and you sometimes wish life could go back to what it was. Only sometimes, though. Most of the time, it feels damn great.

No matter where you are on the success scale – starting out or maintaining the level you have – there’s work involved. You can’t rest on your laurels or get complacent. Sure, life’s easier in many, many ways, but successful people deal with issues and problems like anyone else – they’re just different issues and problems.

I enjoy that work, so I suppose at the end of the day, the challenge of becoming and staying successful is a pleasure. Figuring out how to keep it and achieve even greater success gets me out of bed every day!



Finish this sentence regarding blog growth and performance:

I noticed the biggest improvement when I stopped ______ and I started _____.


I noticed the biggest improvement when I stopped writing for a faceless crowd of 50,000 people and started writing for myself and my “ideal reader”, on what I believed to be important or valuable to me and this person.



As a prolific writer and talented website builder which do you think has made a bigger impact on the internet, WordPress or Social Media?



Neither. WordPress is simply a low-cost option that lets people start and build a business, and there are many of those around the world. Social media is an ever-changing fad that seems to take more time away from business people’s days than it’s worth!

What I believe made a true impact on the internet is the fact that it removes the barriers. It allows people who’d be relative unknowns to come online and become superstars. It lets people from Australia work with people in Canada, or the UK, or anywhere – right from their very own homes. It gives people a voice, a medium through which they can be heard around the globe. It can be a valuable tool in starting revolutions, changing the world for the better and allowing new innovations that help millions of people to see the light of day.

That accessibility, to me, creates the biggest impact of all.



On quitting. Obviously you never did but at any point in your journey did you want to? What kept you going?


Oh sure. I’ve had plenty of days where I’ve muttered, “I should just quit my business and go work at McDonalds.” Everyone has those days (and if you haven’t yet, you will). Being in business brings many challenges and not all are fun or easy to work through.

But each one is a fantastic learning experience. I may grumble, mutter and get completely fed up every now and then (it’s perfectly human!), but I absolutely love the knowledge I’ve acquired and the ability to learn about anything I’d like.

It all makes me a better businessperson – and a better person, period!

Here’s another reason I never gave up: When you get emails that say, “I want to thank you. You’ve helped me achieve more than I ever thought possible,” it really gives you the warm fuzzies. I know that my blog posts, my articles, my interviews, my advice, can help people have a better life than they have now – and I want to see these people to succeed.

That’s important to me: I’m not in this for me alone. I’m in this for every person out there who has ever struggled, become confused, felt lost or just didn’t know what to do. I may not always know the right words to say or the perfect solution, but I can always be that person who is right there by their side, so that they’re never alone.

That matters to me… and that’s why I do what I do, every day.
James Chartrand Men with Pens 



What I learned from James Chartrand the founder of Men with Pens:


#1 – You are someone important.

The sooner you realize this the sooner everyone else will too.

You are special, you are unique, and only you can add value from YOUR point of view.

Don’t use your voice to always repeat what others are saying, tell your story in your way, which actually is MORE important at the end of the day.


#2 – Don’t stop, get it.  Get it?

There’s nothing new under the sun.  When in doubt use #OldSchoolKnowledge.

Had James quit and went to work for McDonald’s instead of continuing to plant seeds online then she would probably still be working at McDonald’s instead of writing articles for the New York Times, Forbes, and Newsweek.

PS:  My first “real” job was with McDonald’s by the way.


#3 – Money is a lousy motivator, help people first.

You can always tell when people are motivated by a quick dollar.

Think about how websites come at you when they’re focused on trying to sell you something.

Annoying your audience with non stop sales pitches won’t make them or YOU happy.

You’ll get tired of “saying anything” hoping it will bring you a sale and your audience or whatever is left of it will too.

This is why its so important to develop your internet skill set.

This starts with WRITING.

In order to make money you have to help people.

In order to help people you have to be able to communicate in WRITING.

Do you want to learn how to write articles that people will naturally want to read and share?  Check out these great books by James Chartrand.



I want to thank James Chartrand for taking the time to do this interview.

I’m sure you could have wrote a guest post instead for the new online version of Newsweek that would have been seen by millions but instead you shared knowledge.

I really appreciate it, thank you.



That’s it for this episode.

Don’t miss the first interview in the what I learned series featuring Steve Scott – The Six-Figure Affiliate Blogger.

You can also browse all of the latest interviews here.


Now it’s over to you.

What did you learn from James Chartrand?

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What's up! I'm Darnell the founder of Your Online Biz. I believe "We come from absolute greatness. Accomplishing the extraordinary is the least that we should expect from ourselves." In 2012 I launched TruckLicense.net which redefined how to get a CDL without expensive trucking school. I also created the #IBCT - International Blogger Championship Tournament which features the top 64 blogs worldwide in a competitive comparative analysis. When you support me you help #PayItForward as I contribute 10% of my online income to help children in need.

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6 comments on “What I learned from James Chartrand – Q&A with the founder of Men with Pens
  1. Cherry Tiu says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this post. You interviewed a great person. I love how she ended up writing under James instead her name. Again, Thank you for sharing a great post!
    Cherry Tiu recently posted…Guide to Universal and Programmable RemotesMy Profile

  2. Gail Gardner says:

    Hi Darnell,

    Great person to interview. I love the story about how she ended up writing so often under James instead of her real name. If you haven’t read it I encourage you to check it out.

    Every woman needs to know about that – and men should, too. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no level playing field. You make your own way – often in spite of rather than because of – many people.

    “James” caught a lot of flack when she went public and handled it tactfully. I admire her as much for how she dealt with that controversy as I do for her doing what she needed to do in what I personally consider an entirely ethical manner. (And if there is one blogger who catches more crap for being highly ethical it would be me.)

    Great to see exceptionally successful writers still making the time to do interviews like this and encourage others to stay the course.

  3. Hi Darnell,

    What a fab interview here. James became successful by staying true to what she values and what her ideal readers value.

    Stay on topic but write from your heart. Nobody can tell your story. Naturally, if you tell only your story each time you post expect to become popular.

    Why? Few people tell their story. You stand out like a sore thumb. You are amazingly successful because you decided to be true to you, and to talk to your ideal reader, instead of attempting to reach masses of individuals quickly, watering down your unique message.

    Thanks for sharing your keen insight and the interview Darnell.

    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…1 Reason Why Peoples Program Mentors Screw Up in the Proof DepartmentMy Profile

    • Very kind words Ryan thank you.

      Yeah I’m noticing a trend with people like James who find dramatic success they “keep it real” instead of selling themselves out for a quick dollar.

      Meanwhile too many people are in a rush to do just that and then they wonder why it’s not working out.

      …reminds me of that old quote

      “Stay true to thy self.”
      Darnell Jackson recently posted…2013 #IBCT Final Four & Championship FinalMy Profile

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