Tara: Hey everyone, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.
This week, I’m joined by both Jason and Jodi Womack. Jason Womack is the CEO of The Womack Company, an international training firm, and the author of Your Best Just Got Better. Since 2000, he’s coached leaders across industries and trained them in the art of increasing their workplace productivity and achieving personal happiness. Jodi Womack is the CEO of the Get Momentum Leadership Academy, and the founder of No More Nylons, a coaching program providing women business leaders with professional networking expertise. I spoke with Jason and Jodi about the importance of offline relationship building in an online world, the unique challenges of wooing corporate clients, and what they do to create momentum when even they get stuck.
Jason and Jodi Womack, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Jason: Hey, delighted to be here, everybody.
Jodi: Good to see you.
Tara: Awesome. So I’d love to start with how you both transitioned from careers in education to starting an international consulting firm. What inspired you to start your business and kind of how did you navigate that transition?
Jason: You know, Tara, the short answer is we … we both make really bad employees, because we always had great ideas about what the companies we used to work for could be doing, and so in education, as a high school teacher back in the 90s, I really felt comfortable making up lesson plans, developing project-based learning, taking a look at portfolio assessment over time education. Jodi, meanwhile, was in the counseling office dealing with the kinds of issues that a high school campus might encounter when it comes to students who weren’t performing well on tests, doing their homework, or being quote/unquote good students, and so there were several stones in the river that got us from one side to the other side, and one of them was we both left education and worked for a private, very small at the time, consulting business, where we got to explore and start to take a look at, okay, who out in the world needs to know something, what do they need to know, and are they willing to pay for it.
Tara: Brilliant. Awesome. So what misconceptions did you have when you first started your business?
Jodi: Well, we had a good start, because we were working in a company that was also run by a married couple, and while we were there, we sort of got to look at what parts do we like and what parts do we don’t … we don’t like, and my thing was I never wanted to have a company where a whole bunch of employees came to my house, and that’s what I was going to every day, and I just saw what it did to their personal relationship, and I said I didn’t want to replicate that. But there were parts that I really did like, so my hope and goal was to be able to run an international company from a laptop and travel wherever the work was and not need staff, and I think the misconception for me was that we could do it all on our own, even with all the apps and tools and things, and so over the last nine years, we’ve evolved. We have a team of about twenty-four people now, but again, holding back to that original standard of not having people come to us. It’s a virtual team that’s located all over the U.S., and some people around the world, and we had to kind of build that ourselves to figure out what was going to work.
Jason: And on the content side, and I say this with a big smile, I was under the misconception that if I provided really, really good content and really, really good work, that that would speak for itself, and so what I’ve had to learn is a very delicate balance between creating the great material that when someone sees, they’re going to be naturally drawn to share it, and mapping that to what can be perceived as self-promotion. Oh, there’s Jason talking on his Facebook wall again about his new book.
Tara: Got you. So can … I want to talk more about the team piece in a little bit, but let’s … let’s start with this content piece, because I think that’s really juicy and it’s really relevant to a lot of people who are listening. So what have you noticed about content that actually helps you drive revenue without having that kind of self-promotional piece to it? How do you make that balance? What does that look like for you?
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Jason: Everyone’s looking for … when they’re … when they’re reading something, listening to something, watching something that’s content-based, they’re trying to answer three questions. Who is this person I’m reading, listening to, or watching? What do they know that I don’t know? And can they help me with a problem I have right now? And so the best content that I think Jodi and I come up with, and it’s weekly that we can come up with things like this, is going to our user-base. Going to the clients that we just coached last quarter. Going to our current academy members. Following up when I do a workshop on site, and asking them, what are you dealing with in the next 90, 60, or even 30 days, and I really like that time period, Tara, because I think once we start getting into over the next year or over the next three years, for me, it gets really fuzzy, but if I can get someone to tell me a challenge that they know they’re going to face in the next 90 days, then all of a sudden, it gives me my own homework, and then I can go back to them and say, hey, you know, based on that conversation we had six weeks ago, I’ve created a white paper, a short video course, a new podcast episode.
Tara: Brilliant. That is incredibly juicy, and I hope everyone’s taking notes on that, because that’s really awesome. Can you tell me how you kind of parse that information that you get back? Because if you’re following up with people that often, you’re getting a lot of information. How do you decide what to focus on when you are creating that white paper or that video course or whatever, you know, kind of content you’re … you’re producing?
Jodi: Well, we find, number one, we put it in people’s hands directly. So it’s a personal email, it’s not just a giant blast that goes everywhere, because we find people just have become numb to that, and I don’t know about you about, you know, if you have a read later folder in your emails, but we find that we send something, we call to follow up, and we do, we hold people’s hands, because we’re the ones with the real interest. You know, that we want to be able to provide service.
Jason: And I know Jodi went digital really fast. I just want to make sure that we spotlight this. We’re just as apt to send a handwritten letter, a photocopied article. I’ll print up an article that I post over on Enterpreneur.com or TrainingMag.com, and I’ll pull that content over into a Word document, I’ll make it a two-column Word document. Up on the top left, I’ll put a big title. On the bottom right, I’ll put a picture and my bio. I’ll make it look like an article, and I’ll actually put that in the mail, and then there’s always a call to action, so if I … if I do mail you something, and by the way, for those of you who are listening to this right now, the easiest way to do this is for the next two weeks, listen to the questions that your customers ask. If you’re running a boutique, listen to the questions they ask you when they call you on the phone. If you run a restaurant, if you’re an artist, if you’re … I could keep on going. If you’ll come up with the five or ten questions that people ask you, then over the next two weeks, find out which of those two, three, four that you get asked over and over again. That’s where we find, if we can give someone some content, if we can copy … if we can write copy on something, if we can record a video on something, if we can give them something that they can use right away, all of a sudden, we become the source. I think, I think, Jodi, if you were to talk about for a moment your women’s business social, and how you gathered people together and became a hub of women in business, that could be a story people could walk away with.
Jodi: I literally printed up postcards at Vistaprint. You know, just online, overnight, and started walking around my community and hand, personally inviting people to my networking event, and it was one of those things that it just handled so many questions all at once. It was actually more time efficient, even though it seemed like it took a long time, but people then felt like they really knew me. And I love that expression, like, oh, what are you waiting for, a personal invitation? It’s like, yes, I kind of am.
Tara: Yeah, that’s great. I … I so love that you guys are highlighting this offline example, because for as wonderful as online business is and all the tools that we have now, we tend to forget that there’s all these techniques that have worked for time immemorial that are absolutely applicable to a business that’s run virtually as well. So I love this … this kind of juxtaposition of you guys running a distributed team in a virtual, you know, in all but virtual business, but also using these on-the-ground marketing techniques.
Jason: I’ve got a quick story on that. My third book is called Your Best Just Got Better. Someone wrote a review of the book, this is a few years ago now, maybe three or four years ago. This woman named Rongenie wrote a review of Your Best Just Got Better, and while I was up at my parent’s house up in Northern California, I took her name, and I pasted it into Google. It turns out that she was in charge of a NAWBO, National Organization of Women Business Owners organization, she was very prominent in her community. I called her at work to say thank you for writing the review. You would have thought like the president of some country had called her. And I tell you, to this day, she’s probably one of our longest-term members of our academy. She’s been to two of our three retreats in Ojai, and she continues … she hired us to come up to Pleasanton and run a program last year. So you know, someone can say, “But Jason, is it cost-effective to call everybody who writes a review of your book?” Well, my answer is yes.
Jodi: Well, and the other part is we’re not doing it as a sales technique. We do this to build our community, and people remember us, and that’s really what we want is a whole community of people who want to take our calls and who do in fact open our emails, because it’s … there’s … it’s just really noisy out there, and it’s really easy to hit that delete button, so it … the human experience, you just can’t underestimate how far it’ll go, whether it is with, you know, building clients, or just that word-of-mouth and people who are willing to speak on your behalf.
Tara: Yeah. Well, and Jason mentioned that, you know, first question that people are asking themselves when they’re reading new content is who is this person, and I think when you’ve got that offline connection, whether it’s a phone call or a postcard or something hand-delivered that, you know, you’re answering that question pretty … pretty definitively right there and then.
Jodi: Yeah. And I’ll share … I’ve also added it on the flip side where I put people’s images, I’ll Google them and find pictures of people that I’ve never met but have been long-time clients and put them in the phone app in the contacts, and I love when I see their face pop up on my phone. It’s like how human can we make this? How … you know, it’s like I know that person. I know them by their look and by their name, and it’s … it’s really very fun. It sparks so many valuable conversations that lead to more things. That’s really what we’ve learned in business. It really is just Jason and I making the whole company run as far as the marketing and the experience with … you know, we don’t have a sales staff. We don’t have people going out into the field on our behalf. That’s all us, and people, our clients will tell you they know us well.
Tara: I love that. How human can we make this? That’s a brilliant question for people to ask themselves. So let’s talk about the company and how you guys actually make money. What are all the different ways that your company generates revenue today?
Jason: There’s three, and what we found over the years was that having a multiple streams of income was absolutely significant. And for this, Tara, I’m going to take out the investing that we do, I’m going to take out the more passive income, and go to what we do actively. So there’s three streams. One is we run an online academy. It’s called Get Momentum. We also put on workshops and seminars. That’s under the Womack Company. And then we help companies build internal information, content delivery, and kind of white label content. We write it, but they get to use it on an annual, and they just re-up every year, whether or not they want to use that information again. So with the academy, it’s a membership program. People jump in for a year at a time. We say that it’s for recently-funded entrepreneurs, people starting up a company where they’re going to be put in a position of leadership, and then of course, on the corporate side, recently promoted managers. And really, what winds up happening is people join Get Momentum, and then they find out about what we do, so then they have us come in and do a workshop. We come in and do a workshop, someone hears about the content, they ask us if we can do a four to seven to twelve video series for their intranet, for their side of the firewall. So I don’t see it as much as three columns, as much as a triangle, where each one gets to lead to the next, to the next. The last thing I’ll say on that, because I know you’ll have a follow up question, is that recurring revenue model we knew we had to jump into a few years ago. So the idea of someone joining Get Momentum for twelve months, at the end of those twelve months, I’m going to look at Jodi, what do we have, eight? Probably 75-80% of retention. Meaning people sign up for another year.
Jason: So where everyone in the world will always look at us and go, well, you know, what are you doing about … what’s that word? Attrition, right? I just always smile. It’s like, well, people come in, and I mean here’s the deal, you know, for example, in April, we study time management. Look, everybody should probably spend a month a year studying time management. Later, in October, we’re going to study relationship management. I can’t find anybody who would say, “Oh, yeah, I studied that last year. I’m done.”
Tara: Brilliant. I love that. And I love how you … you really illustrated how the business model works. Like you said, it’s not three different columns, it’s not three different streams, they’re all related. They all feed each other in a system, and that’s … that, to me, is sort of the holy grail of setting up a really effective business model.
So I do have a follow-up question, clearly, and that is around the corporate clients that you work with and how you woo those corporate clients, because it’s something that often, my audience, my clients ask me about is, you know, how do I get in front of decision-makers at a, you know, companies larger and small. So what have you guys done to connect with the corporate market and develop relationships to book deals? Whether it’s for speaking or for executive coaching or the content marketing that you do.
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Jason: So this is hindsight. This is, you know, we’re nine years into this together, and then I’ll get to the foresight on the other side. The hindsight is it’s referral-based. It is absolutely, you know, I could probably do a numbers game where 9 out of 10 pieces of work we get is because, you know, Bob at company Acme was just speaking with Sarah from company whatever. The real question is how did we create that in the first place, and what we did is … and we’re actually doing it again this summer, I’m … I moved … I put that in air quotes, I moved to New York for about two weeks, and in New York, using LinkedIn, Jigsaw, the New York Times, using anything I could do to find real, actual names of people who were at all involved in learning, leadership development, training, classes, I invited them. I invited them to coffee, to lunch, to happy hour, to dinner. Of those fourteen days I was in New York, Tara, I think I had about forty meetings over that time, and we have a story we tell internally, but one of those meetings over coffee was the most expensive coffee I’ve ever bought in my life. For three of us to get coffee, it was about $28. That has turned into nearly half a million dollars in booked business.
Jason: Building that relationship, maintaining that relationship, and then the real big thing is making it easy for people to refer you. The first chapter, the first stage of momentum, we just published a book a couple of weeks ago, the first stage of momentum is motivation, and what we mean by that is what do you want to be known for? What motivates you? So our clear and present job is to let people know here’s Jason, here’s Jodi, here’s what we want to be known for, here’s what motivates us. Your people on your staff being better leaders motivates me to want to be a better coach, let’s work together.
Jodi: Let me jump in, also, and it goes to this humanizing effect. Really understanding what people in the hiring position really value is so important, because a lot of times as vendors, we think, oh, our pricing is too high or too low. A lot of times, the cost of a speaker is about the same as the cost of a coffee break, you know, at a large conference, so it’s really not the significant factor, but you know, they’re putting their name on you. Like, they’re betting their reputation on you, if you’re the keynote, if you’re the person that they hire, and so our job is to always make them look good, and to make it really easy to work with us, and I think that’s part of the reason why we’ve had the same clients for the whole time. They take us with them when they jump jobs either sideways or up as they get up the ladder in the HR and training and development departments. We’re a known quantity, you know, a known entity, and they know they can trust us. That we’re going to be easy to work with, we’re going to do what we say, we’re going to show up when we say we’re going to show up, we’re going to make them look really good, and you don’t realize how much of their reputation is really on the line when they bring in an outside vendor, and understanding that game, and again, it goes to these real-life conversations and coffee chats and happy hours and asking good questions and listening to what they really value.
Tara: You know, Jason, you said something about making it easy for people to refer you. Do you have, you know, referral information?
Jason: Really tough. So after I do an event, if there’s any kind of good feedback at all via email or face-to-face or someone follows up, the question I ask is who do you know who has similar challenges to you, and would you connect us via email, I’d like to tell them what we do on the phone. That’s it.
Tara: So simple, so important, right?
Jason: And you know what, I mean, there’s probably three layers to that little process that I just gave you, that each one will scare people away. You know, I mean look, at bottom line, what I do, what Jodi and I do is very scary to some people. Jodi will look at me every now and then, because I’ll see her typing an email, and she’ll look over with this knowing look, because you know what I’m going to say.
Jodi: So the idea is like get away from hiding behind email and pick up the phone, and you would not believe how much time it saves from going back and forth and then wondering if they read your email, wondering what they’re doing with the email, all that. Just pick up the phone and make a call. Even if it’s a call to make an appointment to meet in person or you know, something, but set … put a real person behind it, because people like doing business with people they like and they know and they trust, right? So if you can be that person, and you know, it’s … the referral base is also all reputation-based. We … we’re only as good as our last gig, and everybody is connected, so we know that we have to really shine every single time, and handle anything. Like the more we talk with clients, the more we get to know where their pain points are, and anticipate it so we don’t drop the ball or we don’t let them look bad in any part of the whole process, and that’s really been our business model is stay in touch and don’t mess up. Stay in touch, do great work.
Tara: Oh, I love that. I love that.
Jodi: That’s our system.
Tara: That’s excellent. All right, so you guys mentioned that you’ve got a new book out called Get Momentum. I’d love to talk about the … just even the idea of momentum for a little bit, and specifically kind of the obstacles that we face, or even that you guys face in getting momentum for your work, for, you know, your day-to-day life, your productivity. What obstacles do you see to gaining momentum, getting a hold on things for your work today?
Jason: You know, I gave my first TEDx talk about a month and a half ago, and I led it off, I started off, I asked the audience a rhetorical question, and I asked, I said what if everything they’ve told us about achieving success is incomplete? What if there’s something more for us personally that we need to know, we need to do, we need to be, we need to have? And so if I look at the one thing, and I’m kind of giving Jodi a moment to think here, if I look at the one thing that blocks momentum, that forward motion, that get up off the couch and do what it is that you think should be different, do what it is you’re complaining about, do what it is that you know could be better, and look at any time I say, “Someone should …” or any time I hear someone say, “Why doesn’t someone just …” that to me is an indicator that I am someone. That they are somebody. So the number one thing that I think blocks momentum is that trust inside that they way other people have done it may not be the way I do it. That I will add my unique spin to it. People ask me all the time, Tara, “Jason, you’ve written a bunch of business books, you teach productivity tips, you talk to people about how they could be better managers and better parents. You know, what makes you different than anybody else?” And I go well, you’re listening to me right now, so I’m different than everybody else. That’s it. Where are you going to put your attention and where are you going to step into and do what it is that you know needs to be done?
Jodi: Okay, so my answer to that is we absolutely could not have written a book called Get Momentum: How to Start When You’re Stuck without having been stuck ourselves over the years. Personally, professionally, all that good stuff. And so a lot of it comes from our experience and our stories, and then we also pull from the Get Momentum membership, and people have shared some really big events that they’ve worked on in their lives and what they’ve been stuck on, and we found themes. So there’s activities, it’s very practical, but you know, for me, it’s about getting out of the day-to-day and looking up and out. You know, it’s having a more executive experience in my own business, and not being in the weaves and the day-to-day so much. Bringing in all these people to help support us and have this virtual team means that I end up being the bottleneck more often than I’d like. People are waiting for me to decide and give feedback and give the green light, and so my next challenge and real opportunity is how do I act more like an executive and let other people, you know, for me to set the vision and allow other people to step up to help and support us that way.
Tara: Okay, so I want to talk more about that for sure, because that, I think, is a very, very common problem, and I love that you guys are so far along in your business, you’ve already created all the success, and that’s still something that you’re wrestling with, but I want to back up for just a second, and Jodi, you said, you know, you couldn’t have written this book if you guys hadn’t been stuck before. So could you tell me about a time when you guys were stuck, or when you personally were stuck, and how you found momentum again?
Jodi: That’s a stumper. We’re both looking at each other.
Jason: Yeah. Daily?
Jodi: Well, the Get Momentum program came out of this feeling of being stuck where we were doing these executive coachings, we were doing … Jason was on stage doing these workshops, and it was like having a day job. If we didn’t go to work, we didn’t get paid. You know, we had to show up and be there in order for the work to happen.
Jason: The writing was on the wall for me. There was one year I … I took 168 flights in 12 months, and I was in hotels just shy of 300 nights that one year, and you know, where I was stuck, and this is going to sound ironic or weird, but I was stuck making a lot of money. I mean, don’t get us wrong, you know, we were living fine, but as Jodi just said, if I wasn’t on stage, we could not submit an invoice to a client.
Jodi: We didn’t have a company, we just had our own jobs that we had created. So that was the stuck of not being able to figure out how to get out of that successful loop, but there was really no end to that. We were in our 30s.
Jason: So let’s … let’s … let’s do how we got out of it.
Jason: Because I think that’ll be … there’s a couple lessons that we can share with that one. So Tara, it was back in two-thousand, and I want to say eleven (2011), and I ran an experiment, and we did an email campaign, we sent emails out to about 6000 people, our list was small. We sent an email out to 6000 people, we actually sent 12 emails out to 6000 people over one month asking them what is it that you need information, education, coaching wise that would be of service to you? Long, long, long story short, we created a one-month pilot Get Momentum program that was a class a week, it was a call with your coach a week, and it was a workbook that each member had to fill out of worksheets a week. Now, because it was so intensive, I could only take ten people in this program. Tara, when we opened registration for that ten-person spot, we sold out in 36 hours, and we opened the cart on December 27th. So with everything that was going on, with holidays, with New Years, with all of this, there were ten people who within 36 hours, they wrote us a check, and they said Jason and Jodi, we’re all in. So we did that one-month program, we reached out to those ten people, so this is the iterative process, we reached out to those ten people, and we said look, we can’t keep doing this, the numbers won’t work, but what if we did a monthly program? Not a weekly one, but a monthly one. And so you know, for anybody who is interested to see how we’ve created an online recurring revenue information/education-based business, you can get all those details at GetMomentum.com, but it’s what we had to do that would pull me off the road while maintaining this thought leadership domain expertise that Jodi and I have.
Tara: And how did you manage that transition? Because I think a lot of people, you know, you mentioned you’re constantly on an airplane, you’re constantly in a hotel, you’re constantly on stage. How did you find the space to create even the idea of this monthly coaching program, this monthly academy, and navigate the transition between those two things?
Jason: So there’s a term that people use for when people are playing pool and there’s one person who can really play pool well, but they don’t let everybody know that they can play pool well until they start betting for money. You know that saying?
Jason: Tara, I’ve been studying personal productivity and time management for 19 years. I’ve taught more than 3000 classes on personal productivity, project management, time management. I’ve read hundreds of articles, dozens of books, if there’s a class out there, I’ve taken it. So what I’ll say is there’s a tactic I came up with a long time ago that I’ve been using ever since. Let me explain it, and I’ll ask everybody who’s listening to this, do this for a month, and your life will change. So Tara, I call it the 30/30 rule. 30 minutes a day I work on anything that’s not due for 30 days or more away. So what I’ll do is I’ll open up my calendar in the morning, and I’ll go three, I’ll go four, five, six, seven weeks into the future, and I’ll pick something. Here’s my question I ask: What will I wish I had started working on sooner? And look at personal or professional. Right? Maybe five weeks from now, I’m planning to throw a surprise birthday for my sister. Maybe six weeks from now, Jodi and I are going to take a long weekend vacation. Maybe nine weeks from now, I’m … I’m rolling out a brand new product to a client that we’re working with for the first time. If I’ll spend 30 minutes today working on that, if I’ll spend that little bit of time where I carve out not working on what’s due tomorrow, in 30 or 60 or 90 days, I’m going to be ahead.
Tara: I love that. I love that. I’m going to start doing that. That’s such a great question to ask.
Jason: 30 minutes a day, and look, you know, I’m going to pull in on all the people that you and I know. There’s so many guys out there that are saying, look, for the first 30 days, maybe you need to get up a half an hour early, maybe you need to forego one episode of that one TV show that you want to binge watch over the weekend. I don’t care how you buy or borrow or beg or steal or find these 30 minutes, but if you’ll do this, within 30 days, that’s the bad news, right? If you start doing this today, you won’t know if it works for 30 days from today, but I can all but promise you get to 30, 45, 60 days from now, and over that period of time, you’ve been working a half hour a day on the things that are already coming at you, you’ll be shocked.
Tara: Yes. I think that’s a really … that 30-day bet is a really good bet to take. All right, let’s talk more about this executive experience piece, and how you guys are setting yourselves up to do that, because Jodi, I love that you mentioned that you’ve noticed that you’re really the bottleneck, or can be the bottleneck in your business, and I find that with my clients a lot that, you know, they’re getting better at delegating, they’re hiring more people, they’re investing more in the structure of their business, but at the end of the day, everyone still reports to them. Everyone, you know, still needs something from them to make value happen, to make progress on their to do list. So what specific things have you been doing to eliminate that bottleneck from your business?
Jason: So two things, and I think I’ll have Jodi come in on the second one, which is the Monday meetings. So I’ll have you talk about that. Here’s the first one: we are the cumulative …
Jason: The cumulative average of the people that we spend time with the most. Way back when, before I knew I needed a coach, I had a coach, I didn’t know she was coaching me until later on she told me, “I was coaching you.” But Martha, a woman who helped me a long time ago, she had me make a really easy, quick spreadsheet, it had five rows, and it had about a half a dozen columns. In the first column on the left-hand side, she had me write down the five people that I had been spending the most time with. The next column, how much money each one of those people made per year. The next column, how many books they read per year. The next column, how many days of vacation they made per year. You’re getting where I’m going with this. Well, what wound up happening is when I took those five people that I had been spending the most time with, and I averaged out how much money they made, how many days of vacation they took, how many books they read, I was living the average of those five. So here’s what I’ve done over the past nine years, I continue to add another C-level, executive, founder, entrepreneur. Basically, I look for people who are busier than I am, and I get coaching from them, even if it’s a hike in the woods, a chat over a coffee. I’ll fly around, literally, I flew to Singapore last Thanksgiving so I could have two dinners with a guy over there that I knew if I could hang out with Mark for an extra 48 hours this year, that influence was going to carry me to the next level, and it did.
Tara: Wow. That’s incredible.
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Jodi: Yeah, and having those mentors in your life, even like Jason was saying, if it’s over coffee. Learning how to be an executive, nobody teaches you that. They teach you how to be a good employee and competent worker, but learning how to hand things off, follow-up, and train people along the way, that’s … that’s big … that’s big learning to do.
The other thing that is really a surprise to me because nobody likes meetings and I’m especially one of those people that don’t like meetings, but I found that people let me down or I … I don’t like being surprised by people when they come up with something that wasn’t what I wanted, right? And I find that it’s usually my fault not guiding them better along the way. So we’ve created these Monday meetings with each of our teams, and they’re fast, they’re painless, everybody needs to come in with their agenda or they’re not allowed in, and then we have one person that tracks all of the action steps and who’s doing them. That was not a great strength of mine, and that’s one of the things about being executive is learning to find somebody who’s really great and wants to do things that you don’t want to, and so you know, it’s basically a glorified note-taker, but someone who’s really acute to following along and capturing who said they’ll do what, and if nobody claimed it, they’ll say near the end of the meeting before we break, “Well, who’s going to take that one? Who’s owning that piece?” And I’ll tell you, at the end of meetings, everybody always walks away, before we had this piece, saying, “Oh, so and so’s handling that,” and it’s like all the fingers were pointing to somebody else. Nobody knew. So really clarifying who’s going to do what by when has helped us keep projects on time, on schedule, on budget, and that there’s few surprises, and you know, people don’t want to disappoint. I think people work really hard. I work really hard. I don’t want to disappoint anybody, and so just building in a couple more touchpoints, and again, making it a human experience for the staff and the … the freelancers and all the people helping us out, making sure that every … I know that they know that I know that everybody’s on board. That’s really been a big learning curve for me, because my go to is like I’ll just do it. I’ll figure out how to do a WordPress blog site or something, you know, and I have no business doing that. And that’s really the hardest part about being in this executive type space is not going to that go to belief or core inside of like I’ll just do it, and training people so that they can help us along the way.
Tara: Yeah, I love it. So what’s next for you guys?
Jason: Let’s see, I’ll date stamp this thing. We’re in Ohio right now. We’re speaking at an Agile … I’m speaking at an Agile conference in healthcare, and I really am fascinated by, if I look at what’s next, if I look at the next three, four years, you know, 2020 has always been something, I just like the numbers put together, 2020, but Jodi and I spend a good portion of our time working with clients, asking them what will your workplace look like in 2020? Now, in many instances, it acts as a conversation stopper, because people are like, “Dude, I can’t think about this weekend, let alone 2020.” But it’s what I spend my … it’s what I spend my free time looking at. So the big thing that’s next for us is the Get Momentum Leadership Academy, it’s growing. We’ve opened up another level of membership to make it easier for people to get access to our information, without having to commit to the monthly one-on-one coaching calls, because all of that was a staple of our program, and Jodi and I both know how powerful it is to schedule a meeting with each one of our members. There were people out there that said, “Jason, A, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the budget, or right now, I simply need to read and listen to and watch what you create.” So you know, with a big smile, I’m studying very closely business schools, specifically executive education at business schools, because I see in the 2020, 2025, there’s going to be a lot more self-ownership of letting creativity, letting intuition, and letting curiosity guide their learning. And just to kind of, you know, as I know we’re bringing this to an end, it’s why I see CreativeLive being the support system and structure that it is. People are very … I don’t think we’re going to be moving toward a future where people are told as much what to learn, but they’re going to have to figure out how to, because there’s so darn much information to go get.
Tara: I love that, and that is a great place to leave it, but I think that’s also a great jumping off point for another conversation that we’ll have to have sometime soon, I think.
Well, Jason and Jodi Womack, thank you so much for joining me.
Jodi: Thanks, Tara.
Jason: Absolute pleasure, and please, everyone out there, we’re huge CreativeLive fans. If there’s anything we can do for this community or your friends, just reach out. We’d love to stay in touch.
My guest next week is feminist wedding photographer and founder of Catalyst Magazine, Carly Romeo. Carly and I talk about how being a feminist wedding photographer helps her stand out in a crowded industry, why she decided to pursue a print magazine in the digital age, and how she manages her time to make sure all her projects actually get done.
That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast. Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes. If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend. It means the world to us.
Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Kellen Shamezu. This episode was produced by Michael Karsh. We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week. Subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.
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Is it all glitz?
Lately, I’ve seen a great deal of pushback against the glitzy promises in Facebook ads or webinars about 6 or 7-figure businesses.
People say they don’t need or want to grow a 6 or 7-figure business. They’re tired of the hype. They just want to figure out how to make what they have… work.
When I started my business, I wanted to earn enough to stay home with my daughter and still drink daily iced lattes. My goal? Maybe $500 per month.
As my first year in business progressed and I quickly surpassed my old salary (not a huge accomplishment), it started to dawn on me that I had created a full-time job.
I had to work at least 35-40 hours a week to maintain the work that was now paying bills. It was working but it wasn’t very exciting.
Soon, I was introduced to people who were earning quite a bit more than I was but had similar businesses, similar experience, and similar audiences. “What was the difference?” I thought to myself.
They had a different goal and, because of that, they had designed their businesses to earn 6 or 7-figures instead of 4 or 5.
What’s the difference?
They didn’t get lucky. They weren’t working harder.
They simply designed their businesses to perform differently. And they believed in their ability (and the business’s) to perform to their goals.
I didn’t know this was possible when I started my business. Sometime in my life, I had arbitrarily assigned myself an earning ceiling around $35,000 (band geeks and religion majors don’t generally earn much).
I initially designed my business to hit that number. When I did, I pushed hard to reach a little higher.
Then I realized that if I just redesigned my business a bit, I could easily hit $120k+. So I did. And I did. I’ve been redesigning it to hit bigger goals ever since and I’ve trained my clients to do the same.
That might sound trite and simplistic. But I assure you, it is not.
Honor what you’ve already achieved.
What I see happen so often is that business owners like you beat themselves up when they haven’t hit the “glitzy” numbers that others have advertised. They don’t recognize—and honor—that they’ve achieved what they designed to achieve.
In other words, there’s a very, very good chance that the revenue you’re bringing in right now is the revenue your business is currently designed to bring in.
Pat yourself on the back. Seriously. Most people can’t get anything off the ground, let alone make offers and sell them to customers they’ve courted with their own two hands (and words). You have already achieved greatly.
Between a rock and a hard place?
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re at where you’d like to be.
In fact, you might find yourself between a rock (a business that’s paying some or all of the bills) and a hard place (big opportunities or goals that seem just out of reach).
It’s not so much that you or your business is underperforming as that you have a huge opportunity to design it to work better and produce more.
You see, your business is working. If you push harder and harder with the business design you have right now, you won’t make it work more for you. You’ll just be working harder at the model designed to produce what you’ve already produced.
Maybe you haven’t felt like you had the time to market your business properly…
Maybe you wonder how everyone else “keeps up with everything…”
Maybe the Impostor Complex reminds you of all those times when you’ve set a goal and haven’t reached it…
These aren’t personal shortcomings. They’re a result of having a business design that doesn’t match your goals. A smart business design creates time, reduces the amount of effort required of you, makes team-building easy, and makes goals reality.
If you’re going to break through to those sought-after outcomes, you need a new business design.
Would you rather push yourself to make a business work that’s designed to earn $75k per year? Or push yourself to make a business work that’s designed to make $250k per year? Or $1m per year?
It’s the same amount of work. But the work is different and the decisions are different–because the design is different.
Time to commit.
This is why it’s important to talk about 6, 7, and 8-figure businesses. If you don’t know how those businesses work, you can’t design a business that performs that way—nor do you have the information you need to make an informed decision about whether you want to build that kind of business or not.
I assure you: if you want to build a 7-figure business, you can. It’s available to you. It might take you time, research, and experimentation to find the right business design to hit that number. But it’s out there and it is yours if you want it.
Right now, you can choose to work hard at a 5-figure business design or you can choose to work hard at a 7-figure business design.
Yes, people use these numbers to wow you and glitzify you–but under all that is a real need to exposure yourself to something different so you can make an informed decision about the business you want to build.
What will you choose?
I truly hope you choose to stop getting by and start getting ahead with a fresh business design. To help, I’ve created a set of free training focused on guiding you through making simple tweaks that allow you to earn more at a more predictable pace.
Register below to get started or click here for more information.
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Tara: Hey everyone, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.
My guest this week is Monaica Ledell, a sought after copywriter and digital strategist.copywriter and digital strategist. In the last decade, she’s helped her clients create nearly $10 million in revenue, and worked with personal and entrepreneurial giants like Lisa Nichols, Jaime Tardy, Jonathon Fields, and Author Benjamin. She’s the president of Truth Hacking, and unconventional branding and sales positioning company that builds profitable, results-based brands, and the creator of Mommy Breadwinner, a blog for working moms who want more play and dough.
Monaica and I talk about her process for creating stories and brands that sell, how she connects with clients who don’t have time for your content marketing, and how she divides her time between client services and business development. Monaica Ledell, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Monaica: Of course. What an honor and a privilege.
Tara: Absolutely. Thank you. So let’s start off by talking about how you got into copywriting and branding. What kind of drew you into this work?
Monaica: Well, it was by accident, because plans in my life just don’t work out when I make them. You know, like life plans? I can make lots of business plans, Tara, but … but doing life plan stuff, like it just always takes its own kind of angle and twists and turns, so I was in another business, it really wasn’t working out. I was down in Mexico at an event. This is ten, eleven, twelve years ago, and actually, eleven, and I meet this guy who I thought had all the answers, and he really did at the time, and he became my mentor. I just wanted to know how to be successful, and so this guy ended up becoming my mentor, which is a story in and of itself, and I didn’t fall into copywriting or anything like that, although my high school AP English teacher told my parents as a senior I could write romance novels at the time, but anyway. So he … this guy called me one day, Tara, and he said, “Monaica, I’m mentoring you, but I want to do something different.” And I said okay. And I, you know, I’m in my early twenties, and he said, “I want to teach you sales.”
And I said, “Well, I don’t have any interest in learning sales, David,” and I didn’t say it like that, but that was basically the gist.
And he was like, “No, I’m going to teach you this, and it’s the way it’s going to be, because if you don’t know how to do this, then you’re not going to be successful in business, but if you do know how to sell, you can go anywhere. It doesn’t matter what happens in your life or your business.”
And I said okay. Because it was contingent. Like this guy was not going to mentor me if I didn’t do it his way. So as I grew in that mentorship, things just started to happen. So I started doing email copywriting when it really became a thing. So in some ways, I guess I’m kind of like a little bit of a veteran, which is strange, but anyway, it’s the truth. And we just started using other tools and I was adopting them as I was learning sales, and that’s really how it all came about.
Branding was a different story, if you want me to tell you that.
Tara: Yeah, please.
Monaica: Yeah, so what I realized over the years, after doing a ton of launches, you know, because you kind of get into this thing, and you’re like, I mean, we were using Constant Contact at the time, right?
Monaica: I mean, that’s all there was, really, and besides like just sending things through, like, your computer, you know, on a mass email list, which we would never do anymore, right? But what I realized through the years after doing all of these launches and producing so many people and products and services and pitching them out into the world is that you could have a great performing ad, you could have all of the strategic thingies on your website, like I got the opt-in here, and I got this here, and it looks good, and it’s on the right hand, and the blah, blah, blah, right, and then you could have like a highly-targeted ad with Google ads or even Facebook now, and everything could still underperform, right? Or it could perform at subpar levels, so it was like what’s the deal on that? If they’re following the quote/unquote marketing, internet marketing rules, why is this happening? Right? Well, the brand is off, and when you talk to high-level brand, I mean, sorry, funnel experts, they will tell you if you don’t have your story right, like the whole thing is going to underperform. So that’s when I started to be able to really step into my creative juice and my psychology background and go, ah, I know what makes people tick, I can get them to move, right? But then the … the brand piece goes further, because it’s layered, Tara, and so you know, over time, what I developed was a really incredible skillset, which is how do you create market disruption? Right? How do you actually take this amazing, genius individual who has all of these talents, and how do you help the world make sense of who they are.
Tara: Mmm, okay. We need to dive into that a little bit further.
Monaica: That’s okay.
Tara: Really good. So what is your thought process when you’re trying to figure out how do I make the world make sense of this person or this brand or this company or this idea?
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Monaica: Well, sometimes, I tell people, I really, what I really have is human investigative company, right?
Monaica: I do a lot of upfront work, and to this day … now, I don’t know if I’ll always be able to say this, but I can now, so I do, but I always preface it with this, to this day, I’ve never been wrong about a brand, ever, not once, yet. And I just dig and I dig and I dig, and I get to know somebody. I mean, like when I kick off, and I start with a client, Tara, I start with, “So where were you born? What was your dad like? What was your mom like? What kind of house did you grow up in? Were they married?” You know? And we get all the way up to kindergarten, and we’ve probably been talking for a half hour before we get up to kindergarten. So I have to know the whole story, and many, many times, I’m the first person who’s ever got the whole story. And then there will be this … there’s this piece that like how do you quantify it? Right? Like, I see people like my clients in their creative genius, and they get into that zone, right? Where they’re just so connected. You know, like when you’re just writing or you’re doing something or you’re singing. It doesn’t matter what it is, but you’re like … like time literally stops, okay? You know that feeling, right? And so you know that that’s the zone. I learned from this woman who is a, I don’t know, some sort of specialist in this kind of zone area. She says, and I believe her, that most people in the world only get to experience that a couple of times in their life, and when I was sitting in this really private, ten-person kind of mastermind two years ago, I thought to myself, “Man, I’m freaking lucky as hell, because I get to feel that like several times a week,” and then, of course, that high, ambitious entrepreneur was like, “Hey, how can I feel that every day?” Right? But when you get into that place, there’s this intuition that happens, and you’re like, eh, they’re holding back, or they’re not clear, and so my job is to help them get really, really clear.
Like, the whole crux of this one individual’s brand, who is a huge success story for us, right? And as so many of our clients are. I get down to about … we get up to about five, you know, and she’s making coffee and she’s waiting for her daddy, because her daddy is a … she’s using the terms daddy, her daddy is a grass farmer in Texas, and she’s living with her grandma, and anyway, and I just kept pressing and pressing and pressing, and I’m like, “So what did you do when you would wait for him to get to work,” because they had this house on this property and he would come into work in this house, and she said, “Well, I would make coffee.” And now I’ve got the footage rolling in my head of this little, tiny girl, who’s so ultra-responsible, making coffee for her dad at five years old. And I said, “So, did you drink it?” You know, like I’m looking for every detail, and she goes, “Well, as a matter of fact, I would.” Would you put cream and sugar in it? She goes, “No, I took it black.” And so it’s all of those little details that start to come together where you really start to get fully immersed in a human being, right? Who they really are? In addition to that, I do tons of interviews. So I don’t want to just take their word for it. Like, I’m interviewing people on their behalf. Like, I want to know how the world sees them.
And so there are these other, you know, brand experts who kind of DIY it, and they’re like … and there’s nothing wrong with this, by the way, because it can get you started, but it’s like so, go ask people what they think of you. All right. Well, the problem with that, and if you have a background in psychology or you’ve experienced this, you would know, is that when two people get into a conversation like that, it’s pretty vulnerable. So Tara, tell me what’s awesome about me. Right? And like … like what are my gifts and blah, blah, blah. Like, those are uncomfortable questions to ask, for starters. Secondly, you’re going to be put on the spot, so it’s not like, you know, human nature doesn’t want to come back and be like, well, you know, you, you know, I think that these are your gifts, but you’re going to kind of shade it and tell me what you think I want to hear, even if you’re up front, because it’s just … it’s just too vulnerable, and then whatever you’re telling me, even if it’s like amazing, 100% truth, I’m probably only going to hear about of that and be able to interpret it, because it’s vulnerable for me to accept that truth and reality about myself.
So when I say we run a human investigative company, I’m doing a whole lot of up front work to talk to these people and figure out where their true genius is, and then it’s about putting the magnifying glass in the right spot. Because I could be like, “Oh, you’re the most amazing author in the world,” and a lot of our clients are, but like is that how we really want to step out there in the world? Or is it the fact that they do this, instead, and then secondary to that, they’re an amazing author? Right? We have to find that white space in the marketplace and put them right there, so that now they have their own segment of the market that they’ve just swooped up and taken, nobody else owns it. Does that make sense?
Tara: Yeah, it does. Okay, so you’ve … you’ve talked about your interview process with a client. You’ve talked about sort of the interview process that happens with their clients. And then you mentioned, you know, where … where do you put the magnifying lens, how do you find that white space in the market, and that makes me think that you’re also doing a good bit of market analysis, sort of as a three-prong approach. Is that true?
Monaica: Yes, we do do that piece, too.
Tara: So what does that look like?
Monaica: Well, I’m doing … I do a couple of things. First, I research within the marketplace, and then I research just outside of the marketplace, because sometimes, a client comes in, and they’re like, “I want to be here,” but where they really need to be is over here, right?
Monaica: Which is a totally different spot. And so if I were to just go into their competitive market and look at it, we’re leaving out a humongous opportunity here. You have to really look at … you have to be able to dive deep, not only within a client, but within a marketplace, and also look at something globally. And then you have to be able to theorize, this takes me back to like psychology research college days, what would be the domino effect if we theoretically put somebody right here instead?
So I had a client, this is a really good example, it just was very plain as day. She’s at the top of a network marketing company. At the very top. She’s a veteran. She’s been there for a long time. She makes a hell of a lot of money. She travels the world. Everybody knows who she is. And so she’s at the very top of this network marketing company, and we get into some of the competitive research, and we’re looking at who her competitors are, like you know, other competitors within the network marketing industry and some of the other personal development. Something just wasn’t sitting right, you know. And so as we talked and talked and talked, I finally … we got down to the truth, and she was like, “I think I figured it out, where my resistance is.” And I was like, “What is it?” Because I’m just trying to get her feedback about the market. Like where are her creative boundaries, right? I’ve got to push her to this edge and this edge to figure out where her creative boundaries are. And she’s like, “I don’t really resonate with anybody in my market.” And I was like bingo. Okay.
So then we went in a totally different direction, right? And she was so excited and enthusiastic about that, because she doesn’t really feel like she fits in over there, and the truth is, she really doesn’t, but it was this whole discovery process. So then we go to have fun and say, okay, so if you got to pick, where do you want to be? And I think people forget that, too. Like, it’s not just about talking to an expert or a coach or a friend and saying hey, you know, this is what I want, help me create that, what do you think, right? I’m sorry, what do you think? Tara, what do you think I should do? What do you, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, right? What’s your advice? The truth is you get to pick.
Tara: Absolutely. And daunting. But awesome.
Monaica: It is, yeah.
Tara: All right. Let’s pull back a little bit, because I could go way down the rabbit hole with you with this … with this particular topic. We could talk about this all day. So I want to … I want to come back to as you’re starting your business again. What kind of misconceptions did you have about starting your business and maybe what kind of misconceptions have you had in growing your business?
Monaica: Okay, well, I think probably the biggest misconception is like I have this public mentor. I mean, he was known in some spaces, authors, coaches, you know, all these other things. He was a protégé of Bob Proctor, and so I make a lot of money for him. I make a lot of money. He teaches me sales. It was the scariest thing that I ever went through in my life to learn how to sell and influence people, right? And … but I learned I actually was pretty gifted at it. I didn’t know it. He just kind of helped me uncover that. I think that’s true of probably a lot of people?
At any rate, so I decide it’s time for me to go out on my own, and that was perfectly fine decision. I mean, it was scary in its own right, I weighed the pros and cons, and anyway, I left, and I started to do my own thing, which was consulting at the time, and I just kind of thought, well, because I was in these inner circles meeting with all of these high profile people, the clients will just come, and the clients they did not come, Tara. They just … they just like didn’t show up. I’m like why aren’t people knocking at my door, I don’t understand. What’s going on here? Don’t you guys remember who I worked with? You know, you make a couple calls, and it just doesn’t happen like that. Like there’s a whole new hustle that happens when you shift gears in a business, and it actually took me a while to accept. That, and then once I did, I was like oh my God. Like, let me tell you what I actually did, Tara, I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this, and I don’t know if this is that big of a deal, I just don’t think I’ve ever shared it. I didn’t really work for like a year. I was just like yeah, I’m just gonna let it like morph into its own thing, and like … like let the universe direct me, or what … I don’t know what I was thinking, but like at the very least, I should have kept my feet busy, like, doing something. Like go get a job at Starbucks. Just stay in it. Do something. I didn’t do anything. Partially because I didn’t have to, right, for that year. The pain wasn’t there. So the pain’s not there, you just kind of like yeah, do what I want, right? Or the motivation’s not there. I really thought it would just manifest all by itself, and it just didn’t. And so I get down to a year, and I’m like okay, I really … I haven’t done that, and then I had to learn marketing, and there’s a difference between sales and marketing, and I didn’t understand what the true difference was.
Tara: Can you talk about that difference? Because most people don’t.
Monaica: Yeah, I mean, so I thought I could write some emails and I can convert. And to this day, if you give me an email list or a leads, I don’t have problems converting leads. I have like an insanely high close rate. It’s like 86%. It’s like ridiculous, right? People think that I’m lying. Or I’ve had men, and not knocking on men at all, it’s just the only people who have accused me of lying have been men up until this point. But … but like who do you have to email to? Where’s your list? How did you build that list? That’s all marketing, right? Like, it’s getting out there. It’s running ads. It’s figuring out how to do it. It’s figuring out what your niche is. It’s … I mean, it’s like oh my gosh, marketing is this whole ‘nother Universe, right? And for awhile, it was like I’m just going to go gangbusters, and I’m just going to do everything, and you know when you do that, and you make those kind of decisions … when you’re trying to grow a business, which is the second part of the question you asked, you really do nothing well. Or not … even if you’re able to like kind of like C level it, like I’m getting a C in marketing, nothing really takes shape that quickly. Like if you were to just really narrow your focus, and go I’m just going to do this one thing, and I’m just going to dominate it.
Since … since that time, what I’ve learned is that I always have five things in the hopper. If I have three, it’s still a little dangerous to me, because I used to ride out the waters of the ocean on my silver bullet, right? So when I say focus on the one, focus on one, get it up, but then get two and three up pretty quickly, and four and five, right? And so I always take this five-pronged approach. When I’m working with a client or when I’m working on my own business, because I can’t totally know if something’s going to over perform or underperform. Like, I could think I have the best darn opt-in and like this video’s going to be amazing, right, and like nobody wants it. So what do you do then? How do you handle that? Well, I don’t want the silver bullet. That’s too dangerous for me.
Tara: Yeah, absolutely. So let me ask you … so you’ve essentially got like plan A, B, C, D, E, right, if you’ve got five things in the hopper.
Tara: When do you, or do you ever pull back on one of those things? You see it’s underperforming, or you see something, one of the other things is way over performing. When do you choose to narrow your focus, or do you choose to narrow your focus?
Monaica: Well, again, I credit … you know, you get into college, and you’re like, oh, this is all, like, worthless. I mean … you know what I mean? Like, I’m not going to use this stuff. Western Civ? How am I going to use this out in the world, right? Well, who knew that I would be studying Seneca some day on my own as a little hobby? I don’t know. Anyway. Anyway. So I … what I … what I learned, and again, it was in these upper level psych classes and some of the statistics and things is that, you know, you can’t just pull back after like a week. Like, you’ve got to give some things some time here, or it’s not going to work. I’m not talking about, okay, obviously, you just spent $500 on Facebook and it’s not performing, like let’s give it six months and let’s just keep wasting money. That’s not what I’m talking about. If it’s just glaring, that’s so in your face, well, you need to pivot right away, right? But … but do you actually pull back and just stop Facebook? No. You just pivot, right? You just start tweaking. Can I get … I always tell clients, and they … then they sound hopeful, because they’re like, oh, I want a 50% conversion rate. I want a 67% conversion rate, because you’ve written landing pages that have converted that high. Well, yeah, but look, I’m looking for the 1%. If I have a 1% conversion rate, I have something to work with, Tara.
Monaica: If I have 0, I have nothing to work with, right? And so sometimes, you have to accept that that’s part of the journey. Pulling back entirely is just when it’s obviously glaring, right? Like it’s just not working. But otherwise, I like to let things germinate for 90 days to 6 months. I mean, you can’t go heavy at PR and get turned down twice, and this has happened to many of my clients, and they’re like, well, I’m just going to, you know, not invest in PR anymore. Why? Like it’s … there’s nothing hotter that’s going to give you more oomph in your business than PR. It’s like the most undervalued marketing strategy ever, right? Like, it’s going to take awhile, so you’re going to get turned down, but like, you know, it only takes once to get into Marie Claire or CNN Money, and I’ve been featured in both of those, right?
Tara: Awesome. All right. Let’s … let’s talk specifically about how you’re generating revenue right now, because I want to make sure that people understand, you know, how your business is actually set up. So what are all the ways that you are currently bringing in money into your company?
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Monaica: Well, lately, I’ve been inventing new ways, and it’s been working, so I encourage anybody who’s wanting to invent new ways of earning money in their business to do so. I … most of what I do is this brand sales positioning. Okay? So again, those words for me are synonymous in the marketplace. They should be. People should be teaching it that way, although they’re not. I learned how to merge creative with strategic, right, and layer in all that revenue. So the main way that I make money is by building these incredible sales platforms for people, or launching these incredible brands out to the world. There are other ways, then, that I realized … I got burned out on consulting, Tara, and I was like, uh, I’m just going to do this process, because if they would go through this process with my entire team, me being at the helm, right, but then they get to touch some of the other team members, they are going to come out so much further on top, which is the truth, but then I wanted them to be done, and I realized that the clients are always going to come knocking again, and really, like, that’s where your true revenue is.
I mean, again, we have high-end programs, but the money is in the repeat customer, and so it’s been an unraveling for me, because I consulted for so long that my company in August will turn 3. It’s not even that old, right, and we’ve done well in less than 3 years, but these clients are going to come back, and you need to be able to service them, right, with something that gives you joy, or in … is … and provides value for them. So while I just wanted to be a brand identification company, and you know, do some copy writing and launching stuff, what I realized is that I really needed to move into brand-building, because we are very skilled at that. I’ve run national campaigns many times, and so we do copy writing, we do copy editing. Like, if you just need sales conversion editing, right? And that was something I kind of fought, but then I realized how beautiful, like, if they want to write their own copy and become skilled at sales copy, they should, but maybe they just need somebody to come in to edit it for higher conversions. Okay, cook, we can handle that, too, right? We can do that high-end brand platform. I also, lately, started pitching these strategic sales and marketing plans where I just come in for 90 minutes and I leave and I develop a plan for you. You know, we talk for 90 minutes, I leave, I develop this incredible plan for you that you can ride on for the next 6 to 12 months. People are loving it. It was a total test. I didn’t know if I could sell it and they would buy it, but they totally do. And it’s easy, easy, easy work for me. It’s like drinking water, and it really gets them going. Those are really the core things.
And then my husband has a design company where he does a lot of like sales page, landing page, web development and design, right? And little Facebook design stuff, just all of that, and so because we’re married, I get to refer him a lot of business, and he gets to help me out with a lot of cool clients, and we get to work together, and so then we’ve got that income coming in, right?
That’s mainly the core ways that we generate money.
Tara: Okay, that’s … that is perfect. That’s exactly what I needed. Now, you mentioned your team. Can you tell us what your team looks like right now?
Monaica: People are usually surprised when I tell them this that our bench is now about 19 people deep.
Monaica: They’re like, “What?” I’m like yes. They’re like, “But you have a brand new company.” I’m like I know. But there’s a genius behind it, and it was because of another mentor who taught me this, and he … he’s a really credible guy. He sold his last company for half a billion dollars, Tara, and he told me two things that changed my life, and one of those things was don’t ever have people step out of their genius. Ever. He has like twelve companies now that he owns, and he’s like in his mid-70s, okay, and I’m like don’t ever let people step out of their genius. He’s like, “Yeah, like the Toyota way.” Like just pile people down, like a VA, with a bunch of skills that they don’t actually have and get them to develop it. No, no, no, no, no. You keep people in their genius all the time, 100% of the day. So like video guys does only video. Audio guy does only audio. It’s not that video and audio … I could probably find one guy to do both, it’s just that we found two guys, and they’re amazing at each one, and so we just keep them there. Copy, storytelling, Kyle, he does just that. I could give him other things so he could earn more money within our company, but I don’t. So I think it’s really important, and this way of doing business has never failed me. Like, in fact, people are so happy, Tara. You know why? Because they’re in their passion, they’re in their gifting, and it doesn’t mean that they can’t pursue other things. Like, I’m totally pro them doing that. I have the most incredible project manager in the entire world. Like, I love this woman. I would be drowning if it were not for her. She has an ROTC background, she has a Master’s in Leadership Development, like, she’s incredible. Like, I’m so lucky to have her, right, and she … that’s her gifting, but she wants to try lead gen, because she has an interest. Well, then I let her play, because I don’t know if something else is going to spark, but her core … we have other lead gen things that we’re doing, so it’s not like I’ve let her like step out of her genius, but the distinction is she’s playing, and that’s okay. You know, I think it’s okay to let people experiment, because our company has been built, the way I wanted it designed, was that if you put … it’s an us company, not a Monaica company, and if you put value into this company, it should output dollars to you, right?
Monaica: So the more value you add, the greater amount of, you know, money you’ll make here.
Tara: I love it. It sounds like you guys have a real value for flexibility, too. Personal flexibility, team flexibility, structural, flexibility. Would you say that’s true?
Monaica: Yeah, totally. I just … I don’t want people to feel handcuffed. I don’t want them to get up … you know, we don’t become entrepreneurs to like hate our jobs or our businesses, you know?
Tara: Yeah. Absolutely. So the clients that you work with are high-performing clients, and they’re not the kinds of people who get wooed by content marketing or email marketing necessarily. You know, they’re busy people, right? And they don’t … they’re not going around reading your blog, maybe. So how do you … how do you, and how does your team connect with the right people for your business?
Monaica: Our business is 99% referral. I tell people … is it okay to get a little cheeky here?
Monaica: Okay. I tell people, you know, I should be in this to make money, right? Of course, I’m in it to impact the world and change the world, because our clients, 100% of them are doing incredible things in the world and impacting the world in a good way. That goes without saying, but what I really, what like really gets me going, Tara, is like I’m a total whore for testimonials, okay?
Tara: I love it.
Monaica: Like … like, I let clients know I am here to help you have an extraordinary experience. I am so good at that courtship piece, and being able to carry it through the entire time. I took the Five Love Languages, and I broke it down, and I know this is an unconventional way of talking about how do you get clients, right? But I … but this is the truth. I broke it down, and I was like how can I incorporate each one of these five love languages into our business, right? For our clients. Because I want them to experience me being all in, because I want my client to be all in, right? And so they start having such this incredible experience that they’re like holy cow, then the referrals come, and the start talking about you. You know, let’s give them something to talk about. That’s exactly what we do, and I’m just really good at doing that, and … but I’m always trying to like up level that in a bigger and bolder way. I would say almost all of our clients end up becoming good friends. They’ve invited me into their homes. I get packages on my doorstep. I don’t … these are unsolicited packages, and then I get this text like, “Did you get your gift?” And I’m like what? And like I got a soda machine in the mail, and it’s like epic. It’s like amazing, and my kids are like oh my God, I got a soda machine, you know, and I’m like, I know, this is awesome. You know, they’ll send me flowers. I’ve had them send me organic, like, grass-fed full frozen meals that were like a couple hundred dollars, you know. Like just ridiculous stuff for them to reciprocate. It’s just a beautiful experience when you can do that, and they just … they naturally want to send clients to you, because the people that these influencers hang out with, well, and everybody, right? But their circle, like they want to share that, and they want those people to have another incredible experience, right? So if you can create the extraordinary for somebody, you’re going to get referrals.
Now, that will only take you so far, and it’s pretty … it’s passive. Like not a lot of control in that. Like you can’t … kind of hard to anticipate. I mean, you can look at trends. Like, oh, I might get 10 referrals this month. That’s not likely for us at this point. I mean, that would be a whole lot, because we don’t really serve that many people over the course of a year. You could look at trends, but there’s no real control in that, so at the same time, I’m being a smart business woman by saying how can I actually go replicate some sort of funnel experience that would be extraordinary. Not like totally douchey. You know, like, and I’m a funnel girl, right? I’ve created a million of them, but like I don’t want to just take people through the tripwire and to this and to that and blah, blah, blah, blah. Like how can I just blow it out of the water so that I can maybe draw in these clients? And it’s just barely starting to happen. They’re not coming into our higher level package, but I can … I’m quick on my feet, and so I have designed a lower level package that’s still really incredible, and this is literally within the last 90 days, and that’s selling really well, almost every time. So it’s happening, but I would say that it always goes back to creating extraordinary experience for somebody.
Tara: I love that. I love that. I love the idea, too, just to kind of back up for a second of translating the Five Love Languages into a way, like giving … having that as your structure for creating your client experience or your funnel experience. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. So can you talk a little bit about how you divide your time between being the executive of your business and actually providing client services? How much, you know, on an average day, you know, how much time are you spending on executive functions, how much time are you spending on client services, that kind of thing.
Monaica: Well, I have another mentor helping me out with that one. Seriously. And he’s incredible. Okay. So I would say that at this point in the business and my career, I am head lead of creative. Nothing goes out the door without me seeing it, looking at it. I am, you know, my creative team is amazing, but like to give you some perspective, a client never knows this. Maybe I should tell them. We’ll go through 80 to 90 concepts before I finally pull the trigger on the one, and we never tell the client the other 89. I only give them the one concept that I said this is your brand and this is what we’re running with, right? And so I can kind of like make my team mad, because they’re like why don’t you like that, and I’m like, it’s not the one. I mean, you know, there’s a little bit of, like, kind of a romantic Mad Men thing going on, right? Like it makes you feel really cool when you think about it if you’re not letting things be sleazy. So there’s that piece. So I would say 60-70% of my time is actually being spent in creative with clients every single week. Maybe it’s closer to 60, because I’m also lead sales person, right? I mean, I am the strongest sales person on our entire team. No question about that. So I need to pick up all of that. And my mentor defines the creative and then the salesperson and then the CEO all differently, and that’s just the way he’s defined it. A lot of people will kind of merge CEO and sales in one, and that’s fine, too, but for me, he separated the three of them, and then I would say maybe 10%, I’m 5-10% spending on business development. I’m trying to change that, but what I have to find, and I have to be really particular, is a person that is like a me on the creative, right? Like we can really get into it. So I’m kind of like trying to bring my best friend, one of my best friends over. She’s a documentary filmmaker, and she does … she’s done some filming for some of our clients and she and I could do this together. She’s just like really busy, always on set, like traveling the world, so there’s that problem. But I think that if … what I’m learning to do is delegate up, right? So my tendency is Monaica can just take on the world and do everything. Well, I can’t. I mean, that’s ridiculous and it’s not effective and I’m six months pregnant, so that’s not really going to work out. But if I can really empower the team, and people talk about it, you know, like what the hell does that mean? But like really, really, really, really put people in their genius, and then have that expectation of leadership, like I … not in a rude way, not in a mean, bitchy way, but like in an I expect you to figure this out, because I trust you and I believe in you, and you know what, I bet you can do a better job than me. And every time I let the reigns go and I have that conversation, like I bet you can do a better job than me, they always do a better job than I could have done.
Monaica: So some of that executive stuff, like, actually gets taken care of, which is nice. Like giving the reigns to my husband when we were doing this whole transition into Scrum, which I don’t know if your audience knows about, yet, but you can have a whole show about that.
Monaica: Right? Like I gave him the reigns as Scrummaster, which is like not a glorified project manager, but like a … he has a really important job. Well, like, I kind of wanted the job, and I’m probably going to be pretty good at the job, but you know what, Andrew can, he’s actually going to be better at the job when I really step back from it, and he’s been great, and it’s given him a leadership opportunity. So that executive stuff he can handle.
Tara: Yeah. So it sounds like, you know, and I suffer from this, I guess it’s a problem, it’s not really a problem, it’s a quality problem to have, right, where you’re just good at a lot of things. Like, it sounds like you’re good at a lot of things, right? But you have this, you have this value for genius, for being in the zone at the same time, and so it sounds like what you’ve started to recognize is well, yeah, you could be the Scrummaster, somebody’s going to be better at being the Scrummaster than you are. Just because you could be good at it doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone else out there that’s best for it, right?
Monaica: Yeah, there’s a lot of that. I mean, and that comes with some humility, you know, too. Like, hey, let’s not get your ego involved, Monaica. Not like you really have to. And like you really have to trust people, and … and I think that when you have, as so many creative do, I’ve found … okay, you may think this is, or maybe you agree, I don’t know. We naturally value excellence, and when you want to show up in the world, like you know you can dominate something, even if you’ve never done it, and you usually can, because the underlying value is excellence. But like give that to somebody else. Like you don’t have to like try so hard all the time, Monaica. Like … like, yes, I’m trying to reconcile that whole genius thing within myself, and it’s been an unraveling trying to figure out where am I actually best suited, and the truth is, I may find out it’s actually sales, and it’s not in the creative development, although I’m very gifted at it.
Monaica: I don’t know. I’m … I’m willing to look at it over the next year.
Tara: Yeah. It’s a really interesting process, I think. You know, wherever you’re falling, whatever decisions you’re wrestling with in terms of, you know, where you’re putting your attention or where you’re finding out what your genius is, I think the process for it is really interesting.
All right, so as we start to wrap up, I wanted to ask you about your side projects, because as we were doing research on what I wanted to talk to you about, I … my assistant just kept kind of uncovering all of these domain names that had your name attached to them, and so I’d love to find out more about that. You know, how are … you know, what part of you are you spending on side projects, or you know, other businesses? How does that affect your day-to-day, your week-to week? What does that look like for you?
Monaica: Okay, so full disclosure, I’m not really supposed to be quote/unquote working on my side projects, and I know that we’re in like the same group with, you know, same group of people in this two group mastermind. However, I can’t get it out of my system, and you know what, Jaime knows I’m going to do exactly whatever I want to do.
Monaica: So here’s what happened, okay? Quickly. Five years ago, six years ago, I’m with this client, we’re at the Oprah show thing trying out in Georgia. She just wanted me to be in Atlanta with her. I wasn’t doing it. Hell no. I’m not going to go try out for Oprah’s show, like OWN. I don’t know what I’m doing. What would I do? I’m just there to support her, and like, anyway. So what happens is I get this idea, and it was Mommy Breadwinner, and it was something that was so reflective of me. I’ve always been the breadwinner. I thought I was going to marry a brain surgeon. I did not marry a brain surgeon. It still shocked me years later when I realized I did not marry a brain surgeon. I don’t know why that was so hard for me. I was not intuitively one of those women, although I wanted to be, that was like, oh, I want to just let my husband stay at home, and like, I don’t really want to take care of the kids, and I wanted a career. I wanted that stuff, but like I really wanted to be a mom, so that caused a lot of issues with us. Full disclosure, right? And so it took us a long time. We’ve been together for 15 years. We’ll be married 13 in July, and so it took us a long time to really get past that, and for me to realize that there are different seasons. I may not always be the breadwinner, but I’ve got to start taking control of my life. I’m not … I’m also not victimized by this, right? Like well, if he would make more money, I could stay home, or if … because you know, I’m not really a stay-at-home kind of girl. Like I get bored, right?
Monaica: Like I spent four hours on Sunday making a freaking alphabet box for my three-year-old that’s epic, mind you, right? It’s like total Montessori and epic, but like, you know, I get really bored, and so what was I going to do? And I know that there are other women who are conflicted, and I know that there are women that are not, they’re just like owning it, and that just wasn’t me, and I’ve also had to accept that. So where’s that balance? And how can, you know, and then I had to kind of decide what was I going to do, and so I tried to do a little bit of Mommy Breadwinner stuff, and then I just let it go, but I just couldn’t let it go. And then the only publicity I’ve picked up is not because I’m like an awesome brander. Like, apparently, the marketplace and publicity, they don’t care about that, but they care about me being Mommy Breadwinner. And so I thought, you know what, there’s something to this, and I just can’t let it go. I’m getting some market confirmation out of some of this. Like I recently, like, just got this plan together. I bet we spend, I bet I spend 10 hours on that a week. That’s not a lot for a side hustle. I’d like to spend more. But I just want to be … I want to teach women how to create more sales, and of course, we’ll drop in some sticky lifestyle content. It’s my experiment, and I never gave it my full. I never gave it my all. Now, 10 hours might feel like the all, but I’m investing a whole lot of money in this, as well, and a lot of time. Time that I’ve never invested before, right? So 10 hours is actually quite a bit for me to invest in a side gig. That’s not maybe all in, because I’m all in in the other business, because it’s the only thing that’s making money for us, right?
Monaica: Like Mommy Breadwinner is not making money, yet, but we just relaunched it. Like, I don’t know, less than 6 months ago. Money fixes a lot of things. Sales can fix an awful lot of things in your life and your business. And it’s okay, and how can I help women get okay with that comfortable … and get into that comfortable spot? And also not make them feel like they are doing something wrong. I think most women have been taught by … most successful women salespeople have been taught by men who have been taught by men. And again, this is not a male/female top thing. Like I’m not bashing them. I love men, okay, but those tactics don’t work for women, and they have this other, like, overwhelming intuitive thing that’s happening, and they have to listen to that if they want to be successful and make money.
Tara: Love it. Love it. Well, Monaica, what’s next for you?
Monaica: Well, a baby.
Monaica: That’s really my focus. I mean, I’m trying to hustle and do all these crazy things before the baby gets here to see how much time I can take off, right? So that’s what I’m working on right now. And then I want to blow this out of the water. I mean, of course I do. Have you heard me talk this whole time?
Monaica: I’m super motivated. Actually, I’m finally ready to kind of step outside, behind the people, and I think I’m ready to come out publicly, just to say, yeah, you know, I’ve done some really cool shit, and you should maybe know about it.
Tara: Love it. Monaica Ledell, thank you so much for joining me.
Monaica: Thank you.
Tara: Find out more about Monaica and her team at TruthHacking.com. My guests next week are husband and wife duo, Jason and Jody Womack. I speak with Jason and Jody about the importance of offline relationship building in an online world, the unique challenges of wooing corporate clients, and what they do to create momentum when even they get stuck.
That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., a CreativeLive podcast. Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes. If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend. It means the world to us. Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu. This episode was produced by Michael Karsh. We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts, so you never miss an episode.
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Tara: Hey everyone, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.
This week, I talk with Erin Dollar, the founder of, and textile designer behind, the home decor brand Cotton & Flax. Her striking hand-drawn patterns set her textiles apart as a blend of fine art and fine craft. Her work has been carried in retail stores across the USA and Canada, including West Elm and CB2. Erin and I discuss how she discovered print-making, how she ramps up production for big orders from companies like West Elm, and how she manages her time while largely running the business by herself.
Erin Dollar, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Erin: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Tara: Absolutely. So I’d love to start off by talking about how you decided on print-making, because when I was in college, I don’t think I even realized that print-making was a thing.
Erin: I mean, yeah. Honestly, I didn’t know either. I think I, you know, I was just telling someone about this the other day about when I went to college, I had this vision for my life, and I was going to be … I was going to study poetry and environmental studies, and I was going to live up in a Redwood tree and just be like writing my amazing poetry, and yeah, about a year into college, that, I realized, probably to my benefit, that that was a terrible idea for me. Maybe for someone else, but not for me, and so you know, I was focused on a lot of creative pursuits at that time. I’ve always been interested in fine arts, and so I was studying for a fine arts major, and you know, it wasn’t until probably my second or third year of being at the university that I discovered the print-making program, and I just fell instantly in love. I, you know, I got into the studio, I started trying my hand at some of these techniques, and it was just … it’s hard to describe, because you know, I think a lot of people look at art and they think, oh, you know, what’s really the difference between making a painting or making a print or making a drawing, and for a lot of us artists, I think when you find your medium, something just clicks in your brain, and it just … it’s an amazing, unforgettable moment in my life, and I think that it was something that once I found that place, once I found that studio and those processes, I didn’t want to do anything else. So it was sort of luck.
Tara: Wow, that is fascinating. So when you first got started, did you have a vision for it? Like did you make your first print and think wow, I can just see all of the possibilities for this?
Erin: Yeah, yeah.
Tara: Or was it something that more unfolded over time? More of a process.
Erin: Yeah, well, when I was in school, it was really more of a creative sort of discovery process at that point. I think the idea of running a business was sort of pretty far from my mind at that point. Obviously, I think one of the biggest differences with thinking about print-making rather than other artistic pursuits is that prints are generally created in multiples, so you have the opportunity to be able to sell them. And you know, you can sell all pieces of art, but I think prints are uniquely suited to reach a wider audience, because you can make multiples and sell them to multiple people, and really disseminate your work in a very different way than if you spend a year making one painting and it’s, of course, really beautiful and really incredible experience to create those larger pieces of work, but then, you know, that goes to one gallery or one museum or one owner, and it’s a little bit … it’s just a sort of different way to … to experience your art when you’re creating multiples versus creating one-of-a-kind pieces, and of course, prints are really special and one-of-a-kind in their own ways, but I think it … sort of that process of creating, you know, editions of prints, you know, up to 50 prints, you know, even more at a time, you start to think, okay, well, I’m not going to keep all 50 of these prints, where are these going to go?
So I think naturally something in your brain as a print-maker starts to kind of turn. Okay, where are these going to live? Who am I going to disseminate these to? Am I going to sell some of these prints or am I going to put these into my own personal collection? I think it presents a little bit more of a challenge in terms of the archival process maybe than other artists have to deal with, so yeah, it’s interesting. It sort of fed naturally into … into my business later on in life. I think … I think sort of part of why I started my business was circumstantial. I graduated from college in the middle of the recession. It was 2008, and so it was just the beginning of the real downturn, especially where I was living in Portland, it’s already hard to find creative work, and so instead of sort of piecing together a bunch of part-time jobs and just really not enjoying my work life, I decided to start selling some of those fine art prints that I had created during college.
Tara: So it sounds like print-makers might be the natural entrepreneurs of the maker world.
Erin: Yeah, yeah. And I don’t know that everyone relates to that necessarily, but for me, it was a really obvious … an obvious choice, because I had all of these extra prints from my editions laying around and you know, kind of just sitting in a flat file, and it seemed like, you know, why not try to put these out there. I’d been getting a lot of great feedback when I would do gallery shows and things like that, and you know, it seemed like why not just go ahead and start. You know, in 2008, it was so easy just to go ahead, start an Etsy shop, see how that works out, and you know, it kind of changed from there, and I rebranded under Cotton & Flax a little bit later on, but that was really my first sort of taste of, yeah, being a creative entrepreneur and kind of getting my work out there in a bigger way.
Tara: Love it. So let’s talk about where you are right now in your business.
Tara: How is your print-making business currently generating revenue?
Erin: Yeah, yeah. So it’s a lot of things. I think a lot of artists and creative people understand that process of needing to have, you know, I don’t know if it’s wearing a bunch of different hats or having a bunch of different sort of buckets to collect the money that comes in, but it’s very rarely I think one thing. So for me, I have Cotton & Flax, which is my product-based business, and that has, you know, a range of home decor products that I sell both online and direct to other business, so I have both the retail and the wholesale side. The wholesale side is generally to smaller indie shops, little boutiques around the country, but I also sometimes do sell to larger mass market stores like West Elm or CB2. So those experiences are pretty, pretty different, but really, really great in terms of generating income for the product side of the business as well as obviously the ecommerce side where it’s my … my customers coming directly to me and purchasing things for their homes or you know, for gifts. So that’s sort of one-third of how I’m making my income.
Another third would be teaching. So I do both creative classes, creative workshops that are based mostly in print-making. I do teach block printing and silk screen printing, and you know, some sort of, like, more hands on monoprinting classes from time to time, or poster printing. Those things that are more rooted in my … my creative practice. But then I also do some amount of teaching around creative entrepreneurship, people who are also interested in running creative businesses who want to get tips or tricks from me about how to grow their social media presence or how to share their work in a compelling way online, and so I do some amount of education around those topics as well, so that’s kind of another third.
And then the last third is licensing. So I … part of my practice through Cotton & Flax is creating all of these beautiful patterns and some of them get added into my product business and you know, get used there, but then I have a lot of extra patterns that I’ve developed that, you know, don’t … that end up kind of languishing because I just don’t have the resources to create 100 new products a year. That would be really overwhelming for me. It isn’t something I’m interested in taking on. And so now, I have the opportunity to license those patterns to other companies for them to put on products or to use in other … other fields.
So it’s kind of a nice three-pronged revenue generation system at this point. It’s something that I feel pretty comfortable with. I think it’s … it always sort of shifts, and sometimes the products are bringing in more income and sometimes the teaching is bringing more income in, and you know, I just kind of go with the flow.
Tara: Got you. So you mentioned thirds. Does that break down revenue-wise as well? So like a third for products, a third for licensing, and a third for teaching?
Erin: I mean, honestly, no. Generally, the products business is the main bread and butter of the income for me. This year, I’ve been doing a lot more teaching. For whatever reason, there’s been a huge demand for that. I’ve been getting in touch … I’ve had a lot of consulting work kind of come to me naturally just as people have been exposed to some of my classes online and so that side of the business, the teaching third, I guess, has really grown a lot in the last maybe six or seven months to where that is probably taking up more of that revenue base than it was before. Licensing is still a pretty small component of that because it’s something that I haven’t really thrown myself into wholeheartedly yet. I’m more passionate about growing the product business than I am about starting a second career as sort of an illustrator, so yeah. It’s uneven. I would love to see it become more even, and to maybe hand off some of those duties for the product-based business to, you know, other assistants or employees, and kind of move towards the licensing side eventually, but for right now, it’s a little bit more heavily weighted towards the product business in terms of revenue generation.
Tara: Got ya, got ya, got ya. So how do you plan for that money situation, because I think that’s a pretty tricky equation for a lot of creative entrepreneurs?
Erin: Right. Exactly. And that’s part of why I think most of us don’t just earn income from our product business. I think we all generally figure out what that ebb and flow looks like. We know that obviously, a lot more revenue’s coming in towards the end of the year around the Christmas holiday, and it’s just you kind of have to figure out what that ebb and flow looks like for your business and kind of make adjustments based on that, and for me, that means that I do … I generally would do a lot more teaching during the beginning of the year and maybe in the late summer, early fall months when I don’t have trade shows to be doing and I don’t have as much demand for my product-based business as I do towards the end of the year when I’m just too busy to be teaching classes.
I think, you know, if someone invited me to come and teach a workshop in November or December, I would have to say no, because it’s just too many … too many things to be juggling at that point in the year, but it’s nice that I get to kind of … the side benefit of that is just that I get to keep myself engaged with my work and really stay interested in what I’m doing, because I think that another thing that I’ve learned from doing the product business for Cotton & Flax for years is that I think that it’s not … it’s not enough to keep me interested. It’s really an amazing challenge and I love developing the products, but I think that being most of the time by myself in the studio developing these things and then putting them out into the world, I miss that human contact and I miss sharing the sort of artistry of the print-making side with people, and so having those … those opportunities to teach and to … to share that love of print-making with people in the flesh, that’s really, really important to me.
Tara: Got it. So I love that you talked about the ebb and flow and kind of adding things in during those ebb periods.
Erin: Mmhmm. Right. Exactly.
Tara: You know, when I talked to Melanie Duncan, it was very much the same thing. She started an apparel company and kind of figured that all out, found out where that ebb period was, and then started another company on top of that to even things out and to maximize her revenue flow.
Erin: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Tara: I just think that’s really helpful for helping people figure out that kind of long-term planning around the ups and downs of making money when you’re working for yourself or when you have your own company.
Erin: Well, yeah, and I think that it can be, you know, I’ll speak for myself. I don’t know if this is something that all makers or people who are selling their products that they create online, you know, I … I would always have these really sort of depressing episodes in like February or March where things would slow down and for whatever reason, my brain would just forget that that was natural in the course of my company. It’s like I can look at sales documents and be like, oh, yeah, this happens pretty much every year, that, you know, folks are getting ready to pay their taxes, and they’ve, you know, they’ve done all their holiday shopping, they’re not coming back for gifts for a little while, yet, and I would take it so personally somehow. It was really kind of ridiculous, but you know, when you look at the numbers, it’s like, oh no, this is the natural ebb and flow of my sales cycle, but I think that … you know, we’re human. We forget to kind of keep those things in check, especially when our egos are involved. You know, my ego is so involved in my work because it’s all my original designs, and you know, I’m involved in so much of the creation process that when things slow down, I do take it really personally, which is so dangerous. I think it’s one of those things, being able to kind of create space for that ebb and flow and to understand there are other ways for me to occupy my time during a slower period that are productive, that are enriching for me and my creative life and will build upon the business that I’ve already created with the product line.
Tara: I’m so glad you brought that up, because I think it’s so common. I deal with the same thing. In fact, I even pride myself …
Tara: On planning so that it doesn’t happen, but you know, inevitably, there are times where it still does.
Erin: Yeah, and I’ve gotten better this year at … my calendar is so much better, like, flushed out. Even from, you know, January 1, I have most of the year kind of roughly planned out, which is a huge, huge thing for me, and it helps me to remember, oh, you know, I am going to have some time in early March maybe to do some teaching. I’ll reach out to … to studios or make a plan for how I’m going to market a class a little bit before then, and you know, so I don’t get into these periods of sort of looking up and thinking, oh, there’s no orders, what am I supposed to be doing right now? That’s not a thing in my life anymore.
Tara: So you mentioned that your products are sold in some pretty big stores, like West Elm, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine.
Erin: Yeah. They’re amazing.
Tara: So how have you been able to scale your production to meet that kind of demand, those kind of orders?
Erin: Yeah, for me, the answer has come from finding contract helpers. I know that for a lot of businesses, they look to make, like, in-house sort of hiring decisions to scale up those production elements, but for me, it really was wanting to get things almost completely off of my plate, and luckily, I was able to find a group of contract sewers here in L.A. that I can just drop off, you know, cut pieces of printed fabric, and then show up, and hey, the pillows are done. This is great. It’s very, like, it’s very hands off, and it took me a long time to find those trusted partners, but in my mind, I would much rather have a team of experts at my disposal, rather than doing the sort of hiring hunt to find the perfect people to bring in and, you know, have in the studio with me. That has been a better fit. But that’s not true for everyone, obviously, but I think that in my mind, I’m … it’s almost … it’s almost like I’m avoiding hiring people in some ways.
It’s not that I look at hiring as a failure, but I would much rather search out … L.A. in particular is such an incredible resource for creative people, because almost anything you might need is somewhere here in this city. It’s an enormous resource, and so it just takes a little bit of digging to find those experts who are already set up to help you with whatever it is that you might need for your … for your product-based business. So in my mind, the challenge was really find those people who know exactly what you need and how to give it to you, and so when I found that group of sewing people to help me, it was just like angels singing, yes, okay, I don’t need to hire a bunch of helpers to come in and hang with me in the studio and bring their sewing machines in. This was much more … much better fit for my business. But in terms of working with somebody like West Elm, those … those accounts are coming in, you know, maybe a few times a year. This isn’t steady work that’s happening all year round, it’s really coming in bursts, right? So they place an order, and then I have to fulfill that order within a couple of months, and for me, it’s enough of kind of a cushion of time that I can plan around, okay, I can reach out to my sewing helper and ramp it up on their end. But for me, but my … my personal workflow doesn’t change all that much. Luckily. Gosh, yeah, because otherwise, it can really derail the whole process if all of a sudden I’m in charge of sewing hundreds and hundreds of napkins or hundreds and hundreds of pillows. It’s lucky that I’m able to kind of pass off that work.
Tara: Got it. So you’re really focused on the print work.
Tara: And then you’re dropping that off for the finished sewing.
Erin: Yeah, exactly. And so my … my expertise is really in prototyping the product, creating, you know, exactly what I want it to look like, figuring out the pattern, the layout, the color, all of those kind of aesthetic elements, and then I hand that off to a local production partner, and they actually manufacture it using the … the fabrics that I’ve chosen, the fabrics that I’ve printed on. You know, I still do a lot of the direct silk screen printing onto the fabric, so that’s, you know, that’s still very much my responsibility, and that’s something that I could outsource, but at this point, I really choose not to, because it’s probably where the heart of the business is for me. I think in a lot of ways, that will probably be, even though it would be an easy … easy part to hand off to a production partner, it’s something that I still really cling to.
Maybe in a sort of irrational way, because I love that part of the process, and I still feel so deeply connected to it. For me, the sewing was something that I felt more comfortable handing off, because the passion for sewing isn’t as … it’s not there as much to me as for the print-making side. So yeah, I think there’s definitely things that I’ve done to kind of relieve some of that stress around taking in bigger orders, because that’s the worst, right? If you can’t … if you can’t scale up your business to meet that higher demand, if … if getting a big order like that only represents stress and anxiety and oh my God, I can’t handle this much work, then you know, your business is naturally going to be limited to working with much smaller partners and not being able to reach that wider audience, and I didn’t want to limit myself in that way.
Tara: All right, let’s talk about this pricing piece for a little bit, because of course, that’s a big challenge for people as well.
Erin: Oh, yeah.
Tara: How are you going to price your work so that it still sells, so that West Elm can still sell it …
Tara: And make what they want to make? How can you price it so that you’re still profitable, even when you’re outsourcing all this extra work as well?
Erin: Right, exactly. Pricing is really tough, and I … you know, I think the general sort of thought is that it should be some … some blend of materials cost and your time and, you know, all of those things, and then multiply it by a certain amount so that you can have that wholesale margin, and you’ll be able to retail it to … to other shops, but honestly, there’s so much more that goes into that, right? You have to think about the pricing in terms of what kind of value does that project to your customers, because you know, maybe I could sell something at a lower price-point, but it might not make sense to sell it there, because there might be an assumed judgment about the quality of the item that I’m selling, and so you know, on the other side of that, there are some items that the profit margin is really, really, really slim, almost to the point of why am I even bothering to have this product, it’s not making me very much money, but at the same time, it actually adds value to the business as a whole, because it’s the type of lifestyle product that my customers really are excited to see, and even if it maybe at that much higher price point that not a lot of folks are able to purchase it, it’s something that rounds out the collection and tells a larger story about the type of home that I’m helping my customers decorate for. Does that make sense?
It’s sort of, you know, it’s … it’s more than just time plus materials plus, you know, add your wholesale margin in. There’s a lot … lot more moving parts that I have to consider to make sure that I’m kind of in that sweet spot. Keeping margins low enough, though, to work with those bigger … those bigger retailers like West Elm is really tricky, and honestly, in some ways, I think that they are getting savvy, too, about understanding that there’s going to be a difference between a vendor like me, who’s handcrafting and working with local partners to handcraft all of these amazing products versus somebody who’s got their production completely abroad, and you know, they … they might have much better margins, and they … and there’s some flexibility there.
I think that that was something that really intimidated me at first, but I think that there is a benefit for West Elm to work with a company like mine. They get a little bit of that cool credibility from working with an up and coming designer, and they’re willing to be a little bit more flexible on those margins for that … the ability to have some of that cultural cache of working with indie designers. So yeah, I think, you know, my advice to other up and coming sort of young designers who are creating these products themselves, I think just like don’t be intimidated by that process. If they’re coming to you, that means that they see something in your work that they think is really marketable, and so, you know, be able to kind of ask for what you need to … to be able to work with a big partner like that. There’s more flexibility than you might think.
Tara: Oh, I am so glad you shared that. I’m really excited about that trend.
Tara: Because I’ve … I’ve certainly had friends who were nearly put out of business by the, you know, big Anthropologie order or whatever.
Erin: Yeah, no, it can be a huge thing, and I think it can really be a make or break point for a lot of businesses when they finally get that recognition from a big retailer like that. It can be really exciting, a huge ego boost, you know, it’s fun. It’s always fun for me to hear my customers say, “Oh, I saw your work at West Elm,” or, “I saw your work at CB2,” and you know, that, I think, is meaningful, not just for me, but also for my customers to see my work at that level. I think it’s a fun, fun thing to experience, but yeah, the logistics can be … can be complicated. The contracts are insane, there’s a lot of stuff to go over, and you know, it’s something that I think that a lot of makers and folks who are focused more on an ecommerce business that get approached by these bigger companies aren’t always ready for, and so I think, you know, the best thing that I did to prepare for that was to have those partners who I could work with at a moment’s notice to be able to help me reach those levels of production that I really needed to get to on a quick turnaround. I think that that was such a valuable asset for me to be able to have.
Tara: So you mentioned that you prepared for it. Was working with big brands like West Elm or Anthropologie sort of a goal for you from the get go?
Erin: Yeah, no, absolutely, and I don’t think that … my goal really isn’t just to work with any sort of big, you know, mass market brand. There were definitely a handful, and still are kind of a few that I would like to work with at some point, just because I love the … the direction that they’re going as a brand, that they’re valuing artisan-made products, they have a really great eye for aesthetics, there’s … you know, and that would include West Elm, that would include CB2, that would include Anthropologie. There’s a lot of businesses like that that I think have that mass market appeal, but really do a great job with aesthetics. They almost have like this art direction appeal that I really love. There’s this … this eye for aesthetics or for style that I … that I’m just totally drawn to, and I think my customers are drawn to as well, so it’s nice to … nice to try and find ways to work with those bigger brands and get a little bit more of that exposure. But honestly, working with smaller business and, you know, boutiques that I’m selling to as well, those can be just as fun, and I think that seeing the impact of these small businesses around the country who are focused on more designer-made goods and things that are handmade, I think that they’re making a really big impact in their communities, and really sharing that love of handmade objects with their customers, and you know, not to knock the indies in favor of working with big brands, because I think that there’s power in those relationships as well.
Tara: All right, before we move on from this part of the conversation, let’s talk about one more thing.
Tara: Which is how have you connected with retail brands thus far. What have been the best ways for you to get in front of those big brands and start working with them as a retail account?
Erin: Yeah, absolutely. I do about two big product releases a year, and I don’t always have the ability to go and do trade shows and do those big wholesale trade shows where retail buyers are going and walking the floor and looking for new brands to carry in their shops, so my solution to that is to do those shows when I have the time or when I have the budget to be able to do them, but in the meantime, to also be able to send out a catalog or a really beautiful pdf mailer on … over email that shows all my new products. They’re styled in a beautiful way, they’re photographed really beautifully.
I try to do a really strong focus on lifestyle photography so that my … my retail customers can understand sort of who my customer demographic is, what their values are, what their style is like, and just sort of showcase that in the most beautiful, professional way that I can, and whether it’s in person or sending them something in the mail or something over email just to be able to highlight those products as strongly as I can on a regular basis. And you know, finding the name of a buyer for a retail store isn’t usually that hard. A lot of them have, you know, their own websites where you can kind of go and read a little bit more about the store. If it’s a local shop, you can go in person and talk to them about, you know, how things are going with their shop, what they’re seeing is doing well, what their sales are like, and kind of get a sense of what their needs are, and reach out to them with sort of a new product that might intrigue their audience as well. So for me, just that direct contact kind of highlighting my products in the best way that I can, and making sure that they have what they need has really worked well.
Tara: So it sounds like you marketing to retailers isn’t all that different from you marketing to consumers. The process might be a little different, but you know, you’re still kind of following the same cues.
Erin: Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely not. I think that retail buyers have a very specific set of needs. They need to understand how it’s going to look on a shelf, what the packaging is like, you know, how the price point fits in with their other goods that they carry, but generally, they’re looking for the same things. They’re looking for beautiful products that their customers are going to love, and you know, I think that most of the … most of the time, there’s a lot of that overlap. The retail buyers who are buying my work would probably buy it for their own homes as well, which is really nice. It’s fun … fun way to tie it all together.
Tara: Awesome. Let’s talk a little bit more about your team. You’ve mentioned that you have out-of-house production partners. Do you have any team members or contractors that you work with in-house to help you get work done?
Erin: Yeah. So generally, I have a personal assistant that I will hire for like the last quarter of the year. Generally, my time is sort of managed well enough that I don’t need any in-house help at this point. Honestly, it would be great to have, but it’s something that I just don’t have the budget for at this point. So I don’t have any in-house employees, except for really at that tail-end of the year when things get so, so busy with holiday production and shipping out orders and wanting to make sure that we get everything fulfilled really quickly. We want to make sure everyone gets their gifts on time, so that’s important to me to make sure that I have a small team of either one or two assistants for that part of the year, but during the rest of the year, I … I generally don’t have any employees. I will occasionally take on an intern from a local university who is curious about either social media marketing or business operations and want to kind of get a sense of how a business of my size works and what the moving parts look like, but I think most people who’ve had an intern understand that like that’s not really an employee, that’s somebody who’s sort of almost is job shadowing, and it’s an educational process for them, but the benefit that I get from that is a fresh set of eyes on everything that I’m doing. A lot of these younger folks have some really, really great ideas to bring to the table and I think are excited to get the opportunity to have input in a big way. For a company like mine where it’s really just me steering the ship, you know, one other person contributing ideas can make a huge impact, so that’s, you know, that’s the benefit for me, even though they’re technically not, you know, a full-time employee who’s doing work for me. Just that fresh infusion of brain power can be really invigorating to the business.
Tara: I love that. Can you tell us about maybe a specific idea that intern had and why you were so excited about it?
Erin: Well, yeah. Honestly, it’s … some of the ideas might not be that glamorous, but they … you know, I feel like they always have a tendency to catch these little things that we can tweak or shift to just make a much bigger impact. One of the things that … I had an intern a couple cycles back who was focused kind of on the editorial side. She was really interested in the blog, which is something that I wish that I could keep up with more, but you know, as I said, because it’s just me, I only have time for updates sort of on a periodic basis, and she was really interested in just kind of getting things there, a little bit more regimented, getting a better content calendar together, and one of the things that she proposed was just putting together like a monthly recap every month, because we had been letting all of these little details of the process slip through the crack, right, and so there were all these moments during the month where, you know, we would get a press mention somewhere or, you know, we’d get a new stockist that was carrying my work, or you know, any of those little details that maybe would get mentioned on social media, and then never talked about again.
It was a nice way to sort of create these monthly recaps on the blog, to highlight all of those little things that were happening in a bigger way, remind people of all of the exciting things that are going on in the studio during any given month, and honestly, weirdly, it kind of had a benefit for myself as well, because I think a lot of the time, I get so bogged down in the details of what’s going on in the business that I forget to kind of take a moment to look up and celebrate all of the things that have happened in a week, in a month, in a year, and it can just feel like everything’s kind of flying by, and you don’t get to have that sort of celebratory moment for like whoo, we got mentioned in a magazine, woo, we got like four new stockists in Canada, that’s amazing. Taking that time every month to remind both my customers and my fans that this stuff is happening, as well as reminding myself that it’s happening, honestly, you know, that was something that an intern proposed to me, and we executed, and it’s been going on on the blog for about a year now, and it’s just … it’s made a huge difference. It’s made a huge difference in how I feel about the business and in how I think our customers are perceiving everything that’s going on.
Tara: You mentioned that you manage your time pretty well, and this is definitely something that our listeners always want to hear more about. So do you have any particular systems or tools that you use to manage your time well?
Erin: Yeah. So I’m obsessed with Google Calendar. I am on there way too much fine-tuning everything, and that’s really where I put together that sort of content calendar, that promotional calendar, where I sort of plan for the different product releases that I’m going to have during the year, and then work backwards to figure out when I need to be focused on more production tasks, when I need to be developing different marketing for … for different product releases, for different holidays, or anything that might be going on, planning for when I’m going to be at trade shows or in-person sales and events, and kind of just mapping out the year. So I really, really depend … God, I mean, if my Google Calendar disappeared, I would be in so much trouble.
Tara: Oh, yeah.
Erin: I should really figure out like a backup for my backup for that, because it’s probably the most vital tool that helps get me … get me through the day and to help me stay on track with my goal setting for all of the things that I want to accomplish in a given year. I think that if I didn’t have those things mapped out on the calendar, it just wouldn’t happen. I wouldn’t make time for those things if I hadn’t blocked them out as tasks, as things to check off of my calendar. So that’s a big one for me, and I think that making sure that I have those … those product releases especially planned for and all of the … all of the things that need to go into a product release, you know, booking time with the photographer to make sure that everything gets photographed really beautifully for our catalog. You know, making sure that I make time to edit all of these photos that are going into the web shop, you know, writing the copy, all of these little tiny tasks that maybe, you know, only take a few hours at a time, but if they get left off the schedule, oh my God, it’s so disastrous, and it piles up, you know. Having that real plan in place, especially for those big things like a product release has been really, really valuable. And it’s something that took, God, at least a year and a half, two years to really get that ironed out. The first year, it was not as … not as smoothly planned as it is now. It took … it took a long time to figure that out for myself.
Tara: Okay, let’s dive into this a little bit more, because I … I love this stuff.
Tara: Can you tell us what the actual process, your process looks like for getting a goal onto your calendar.
Erin: Sure, sure.
Tara: And really filling in all the details, all the extra things that need to happen to make that goal accomplished?
Erin: Right, right. So for example, like with a product release like I’m going to be having in the fall, I’m trying to plan a product release that’s going to happen I guess in mid-August, really, to kind of time it with New York Now, which is the big sort of wholesale trade show that happens towards the end of the year for buyers to … retail buyers to come through and make purchases for their stores for the holiday season. So I need to have all of those sort of holiday releases ready by mid-August and ready to launch. So for me, that means I need to kind of go through my calendar and figure out, okay, if I need, you know, a week to plan for a photoshoot for that fall or for a fall/winter release, and you know, that means maybe an hour on the phone with my photographer planning for where the location is going to be, what props we’re going to need, what time we’re going to shoot, what day we’re going to shoot, you know, get that planning process on the calendar, as well as the actual shoot day needs to be on the calendar, as well as, you know, what day she’s going to deliver the photos so I can edit things and make any last minute tweaks. You know, it’s pretty much every … you know, I know that the photography’s part of it, the writing is part of it, so scheduling time on the calendar for writing the product descriptions, writing the copy for the catalog that I’m going to need to create, what day do I need to send the catalog to the printer to make sure I get it in time for the product release day so that I can send it out to my retail buyers. You know, all of those things I think some of them have hard and fast deadlines. Like obviously, if there’s a cutoff day for printing, I need to make sure that I meet that deadline so that goes on the calendar really early, and some of them are a little more fuzzy, right? Like I can … I can schedule some time to do maybe some brainstorming about how I’ll be talking about this release on social media and write down some ideas so I’m not creating everything from scratch on the go.
I think that that, that to me has been really important is to not undervalue my ability to plan ahead for basically any aspect of my business. And I don’t want that to come across as not being genuine and in the moment when I’m actually sharing things on social media, because there’s a time and a place for that, too, but I, especially when it comes to a product release or a part of my business that I take really seriously and I put a lot of effort towards, I don’t want to leave those last minute details like how am I going to talk about this on Instagram to chance. I want to make sure that I have a plan in place, I have ideas written down, that I’ve taken the time to really map that out in a full way well, well ahead of the actual launch date, so yeah. So like I’m saying, basically putting all of this little tiny tasks into a part of my calendar, and then it’s almost just figuring out what that last day is, and then backing up from there, right? So that could mean that, you know, in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be working on the designs that I’m going to be releasing in August, so you know, I understand that basically, I have to start now to work towards that goal of having the products finished and done by August 15th or so. There’s so many different, and like I can open up my calendar and list off all the things, but yeah, it’s a lot. It’s a lot. And I think that people tend to forget how many different tasks there are in just … even in just releasing one new product. I think it can be … it can be really overwhelming. That’s why the calendar is so helpful for me. I know some people maybe have that skill, or maybe that’s their strong suit is kind of holding all of those different tasks in their mind and being able to kind of juggle them around, but I know to … to combat overwhelm, particularly for me, I found that I need to have that schedule written down so that I can kind of let it go from my brain. I think that when I’ve had the 20 million tasks sort of cycling through my head is when I start to feel that anxiety or feel that pressure of how am I going to get this all done, but once I’ve programmed it into Google Calendar, it’s like, oh, I don’t have to think about that right now. That’s for two weeks from now. I can think about that in two weeks.
Tara: Thank you so much for sharing that. So as we start to wrap up here, I’d love to ask you one of the questions that I ask just about all of our guests. How do you balance the roles of creative in your business and executive for your business?
Erin: Oh, sure. Yeah, and that’s … that’s tough. I think that it’s … oh, it’s a challenge, and it’s something that I’m still kind of trying to figure out what that … what balance looks like for me, because I think, to be completely honest, it’s very easy for me to slip into that executive role. I kind of love the managerial aspects of my business. I love thinking big picture and trying to map out how to get there. The thing that can fall apart for me is the creative side, because I think that that is … sometimes feels a little bit more fragile, or more … it’s easier for me to lose sight of that and to get busy, busy, busy with, you know, shipping orders and figuring out marketing and figuring out, you know, long-term planning stuff, and then forgetting to make time to nurture that creative side and to leave space in my day to do those sort of arts enrichment activities and to do those self-care routines around my creative self, because I think that we … all creative people have had that experience of coming up against a creative block and just feeling that … that so, so frustrating feeling of not being able to create the work that they know that they can create, that they have the ability to create, but to just feel so, so stuck, and so I … I try to do as much as I can to kind of have a self-care routine for my creative side, make sure that I’m getting time to go to see museum exhibits and gallery exhibits, seeing other people’s work, making time for exercise, getting outside, making sure that I’m able to get some fresh air, talk with other creative entrepreneurs, see what they’re up to, all of those activities kind of help to keep me feeling rested and recharged after, you know, even during a busy period or a busy season of my business, and help me to be able to create that … that design work without … without as much effort. I think that there … there’s two ways to kind of create those … those same patterns, right?
I can create them at the very last second under a deadline, feeling like right up against the day that I need to release these products, or I can kind of be building in time for sketching, building in time for creating new work throughout the year, and kind of never letting that bucket kind of get down to that … that creative inspiration bucket get down to the last couple of drops, right? If I keep kind of filling it in with … with trips to the museum, trips to a garden to sketch flowers or wildlife, you know, if I have that in my schedule on a regular basis, I never feel frantic when I’m … when I’m working on creative projects. So that’s … that for me has worked pretty well, and I think that as I’ve had … as I’ve had the ability to start to step back from … you know, in my first couple of years, I know I worked too much. I probably still work too much, and I … I think that I do that because I love my work and because I’m excited about what I’m doing, but also, because I have trouble kind of putting things down and saying that’s enough for today, we’re going to pick this up again tomorrow. I think that a lot of creative people are … are almost burdened by their enthusiasm for their work, because we … we tend to forget, oh, like rest is actually really important for me to be able to kind of build on what I did for the previous day. If we’re not well-rested, if we’re not able to let our brains kind of power down for the night and really take those self-care routines seriously, we’re not bringing our best selves to the table, and for me, I know that what suffers first isn’t the executive side, it’s the creative side. And that’s so precious to me that I’m … I take my self-care stuff really seriously now.
Tara: That’s awesome. So what’s next for you?
Erin: Oh, what’s next? Okay, so more licensing. That is something, you know, the one-third of the revenue I’m trying to aim for is licensing, right? It’s a pillar that’s already in the business, and I just want to keep growing it, because I think it’s a really fun way to see my work kind of take on new life in ways that I’m not able to physically create those types of products or really give it that full potential. So I’m excited to work with more partners on licensing and maybe see the work grow in that way. I’m really kind of hoping to do a little bit more traveling and get a little bit more inspiration from traveling. I think that that’s something that I haven’t been able to do as much in the last few years, and it’s going to be something that I’m really putting as a priority in 2016 and 2017, and yeah, I think that’s, you know, those two are the big ones for me right now. I think that Cotton & Flax as a product-based business is really, has met a lot of the goals that I had for it when I … when I set out to … to found the business, and I’m … I’m just excited to kind of see what happens next. I think that the licensing is a big part of it, and there’s always kind of new partners that I either stumble upon or stumble upon me, and those partnerships are always so, so fun, and so exciting for me, so it’s … it’s a little bit of a mystery right now, but I think it’s going to be a fun year.
Tara: All right, Erin Dollar, thank you so much for joining me.
Erin: Thanks so much. It was a great, great talk.
Next week, I talk with brand and sales strategist Monaica Liddell. Monaica and I talk about her process for creating stories and brands that sell, how she connects with clients who don’t have time for your content marketing, and how she divides her time between her client services and business development.
That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. A CreativeLive podcast. Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes. If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend. It means the world to us.
Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu. This episode was produced by Michael Karsh. We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.
Launching a new product isn’t likely to get you out of a slump.
Neither is having a blow-out sale.
There comes a time in every business when you need to generate revenue — fast. And it could be for any number of reasons — something didn’t play out as you had expected, unforeseen expenses, maybe you had to take some time away…
Your bank account starts looking a little lonely and you need to generate revenue quickly, and without resorting to coupons or deep discounts.
I always encourage my clients to look at their business as a money machine: it has different parts that may need to be added, greased up, or fueled, but once you get it working properly, you should be able to turn on the money machine and generate revenue any time you need to.
How do you reconfigure your business to be a money machine? A few dos and don’ts.
1) DON’T try to launch a new product.
Launching all the time, creating products all the time (even if you’re an idea person like me!), and selling all the time is exhausting. Beyond that, it’s not building a legacy for your business. It doesn’t give your prospects something to remember your business for.
But most importantly, constantly creating new offers doesn’t set you up for making more money in the long run.
Every time you launch a new product or program, you’re only tapping into a very small segment of your potential customer base (the Early Adopters). If you stop there, other customers might trickle in over time but most people won’t even know you have that offer available.
That just puts your business back in the position of needing to generate revenue with another new product. It’s a vicious cycle.
2) DO send a sales email about your best-selling product or service.
Instead of a vicious cycle, your business needs a system for marketing, launching, and selling your best offers over & over again. And when that system also includes products that work together to create more value for your customers and your business than they could alone, it’s a Business Model.
When your business has that kind of system in place, revenue becomes predictable and more consistent. At the very least, you know when it’s coming. Best of all, you’ll find that your offers start to generate more and more revenue each time you enter a sales cycle because your customers are expecting them, planning for them, and eager to buy them.
What’s your No. 1 seller? There are people on your list who haven’t bought this product or service and likely would, if they knew about it. Even when we think “everyone” has bought our main product, there are people you’re connected to who still don’t know it exists.
Sometimes the best way to generate new revenue is to focus on old assets. What could you craft a fresh sales cycle for?
3) DON’T wait until you have the perfect “next big thing.”
I know you: you’re sitting on a great idea. You haven’t figured out how to make the time, find the money, or craft the sales process for that new product or program you have in mind.
Pro tip: don’t.
I’m not saying don’t make the thing, I’m saying don’t make the time. Because more time isn’t going to magically appear in your schedule.
Instead, write down everything you know about the first iteration of this product. Then write down all the reasons your best customers or most engaged audience members need it. Put those things together with a strong pitch and…
4) DO beta test a new product or service with a small group of hand-picked customers.
…present it to a select few you know will dig it.
In Quiet Power Strategy, we call this the Living Room Strategy, and it’s a simple way to test out a new idea on a few of those Early Adopters who will be thrilled to work with you. You’ll generate revenue while doing the work to create the product, instead of waiting for the product to be ready & waiting to get paid.
5) DON’T discount your prices.
It seems to me that whenever entrepreneurs need to generate revenue fast, their first thought is to discount — but really, that’s backward thinking. If you lower your prices, you actually have to sell more to make up the difference.
In addition, discounting, sales, and coupons train your customers not to buy. It tells them that if they just wait long enough, there will be a sale and they can pay less.
6) DO consider raising your prices or adding a bonus.
Instead of discounting, consider if there’s a way you can raise a price or add more value.
There are two ways you can approach raising your prices. If you’re regularly selling something that’s been on the shelf for a while, you can just raise the price to give you a revenue boost.
The other way to tackle this is by giving your customers a heads up on an impending price increase. There’s probably something sitting on your “shelf” that could use a 10–50% bump in price. Craft an email that lets people know the price is going up and they have until a certain date to get the item/program/service at a lower rate.
If you’re not ready to raise prices, you can run a promotion instead of a sale, and add a bonus to entice people to take action. Promotions are very different than sales, but they almost always motivate people nearly as much.
In almost every case, I encourage you to add value instead of subtracting from your price.
7) DO repackage and reposition.
Many times, businesses have several smaller products that can be repackaged as a bundle with more value. In fact, the repackaged product might be a more compelling offer than the individual products.
If you’re a jewelry designer, you might try to package up a necklace, bracelet, and pair of earrings. Simple, right? But the result is a greater value than the sum of its parts; it’s now a night-on-the-town kit.
If you’re a health coach, you might try to package a recipe book, coaching program, and one-off session with you. Again, simple. And again, the result is a higher value than the sum of its parts; it’s now the method, the accountability, and the day-to-day information you need to succeed all-in-one.
8) DO reach out and find a collaborator.
You can also bundle your products or services with someone else’s to increase value for both of your audiences.
For example, a yoga studio and a massage therapist could come together and create a package deal to help people de-stress. A handbag designer could pair up with a clothing designer to do trunk shows. A copywriter could pair up with a graphic designer to offer a single price for a finished ebook.
The possibilities are practically endless if you look at what else your customer might need.
The best collaborations often start from very small joint ventures. If there’s someone in your network you’ve been dying to connect and create with, this could be the time to jump on it.
By your powers combined, you could whip up a workshop or small event that will have both of your audiences asking for more. You get the chance to test drive the partnership, your audiences get value that they couldn’t have gotten from either one of you individually, and you generate some revenue to boot.
The trick here is to keep the scope small and the expectations for each party well-defined. That benefits both of you… and your customers.
The truth is, once you get the pieces in place, your business should be able to generate revenue any time you need it. But you can put that money machine to even more powerful use when you learn to plan ahead for steady, predictable revenue growth, and avoid those slumps in the first place.
I’ve created a set of free training focused on guiding you through making simple tweaks to the way your business is designed to allow you to earn more at a more predictable pace.
Register below to get started or click here for more information.
Design Your Business To Earn More
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Here in Central Pennsylvania, it’s cicada season… and allergy season. I don’t normally have it too bad, but this year I’ve gone through some serious stretches of discomfort.
What do you do when you’re suffering from allergies?
You go to the pharmacy.
Fun fact: I worked as a pharmacy technician in high school at a CVS. I loved that job.
At the pharmacy, you’ll find a whole aisle full of allergy medication. Some of it makes you sleepy, some keep you awake. Some of it lasts 4 hours, some lasts 24. Some are fancy brand names, some are generic.
There is absolutely no scarcity involved.
Pick from whatever you’d like.
And still… if you’re suffering from allergies, you won’t walk away from the hundreds of boxes in front of you without picking up one and putting it in your basket.
You see, there’s manufactured urgency and then there’s natural urgency.
I have a feeling that you think the only way to use urgency to sell more is to manufacture urgency–limit the number of spots in your program, add early bird discounts, utilize disappearing bonuses…
(Maybe you’re even envious of the people who run businesses in which they’re essentially selling something as essential as allergy medication.)
And sure, that can work.
But it’s also a bit over-played.
Tapping into natural urgency, though, is never over-played.
Creating urgency for your product or service isn’t about telling people there’s a limited time to buy. It’s not about how many seats are left in your workshop. It’s not about an early bird discount or an arbitrary deadline.
Urgency is about need.
If you want people to feel a sense of urgency for buying your product or service, you need to know why they need it now.
- People don’t need things now because they’d might like to learn more about what you teach.
- They don’t need things now because they’re pretty or you’re so excited about them.
- They don’t need things because they’d like to speak their truth and connect with their inner spark.
Those aren’t the kind of things that would send them running to the store–so they’re not the kinds of things that get them clicking to your sales page.
People need what you’ve created now because they’re ending a 10-year relationship and want to be intentional about what they’re creating next.
They need it now because they’re sick and tired of opening their closets and not having a clue what to put on their bodies.
They need it now because they wake up every morning still feeling exhausted and they’re beyond ready to make a change.
They need it now because they’re completely over holding back their ideas in meetings and watching others take credit for their work.
Urgency is absolutely the key to selling more of what you’re putting out into the world.
But it’s not based on numbers or time. Sure, those things help people make a decision.
Ultimately, however, people buy now because they’ve reached a point of no return. They can’t help but search for a solution to their need and start using the one they find.
What’s going on in your customers’ lives that might make them need or want what you have to offer right now?
Then tell them you understand. Tell them the stories you know are playing out in their lives right now. Show them the vision you have for them and how your product will take them from the urgency their already feeling into a brand new day.
Create a sense of urgency by respecting your customers’ needs and they’ll respond by buying—now.
On Wednesday at 7pm EDT/4pm PDT, I’m hosting a special encore of my popular workshop on 3 Ways to Help People Buy More From You.
—> If you’d like more ways to tap into the reasons people naturally want to buy so you can earn more money and close more deals, click here to register.