By Yaro Starak
Belinda Weaver offers one of the best examples I have ever heard of someone carefully planning and executing the transformation from full time employee, to freelancer (paid-by-the-hour or per contract), to independent blogging entrepreneur selling her own teaching products (earning money while she sleeps).
As you listen to this story you will get the sense that Belinda was never ‘in trouble‘ so to speak, regarding the often scary decision to leave a well paying full time job. She carefully planned her escape and all but guaranteed that she would have ongoing work as a freelancer once she left her job.
Then, once her freelance copywriting business had taken off, Belinda once again realized the need to transform from a person who gets paid to work on projects, to a teaching expert, who has digital products she can sell without requiring ongoing labour.
If you’re reading this and you currently have a job that might be okay at times, horrible at other times, and you know it’s not what you want to do for the rest of your life, then you need to take careful notes while you listen to Belinda’s interview.
Her path was relatively simple…
…and then you are making money while you sleep!
Most of us have responsibilities, so making rash decisions like randomly leaving your job in the hope of figuring out how to make money yourself, is just not realistic.
Belinda made the process much safer, by being careful with how she transitioned between each key change to her work. She had a sound strategy, made sue she was educated and could provide value, and slowly rebalanced what she focused on until she found herself living the dream.
I personally never had a full time job, but I know a lot of EJ readers and listeners still do. This podcast should appeal to you if that is your situation.
Enjoy the interview.
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Hello, this is Yaro Starak and welcome to the Entrepreneur’s Journey podcast. Today’s guest is Belinda Weaver.
YARO: Hi there! Thank you for downloading this episode of the EJ podcast. Belinda, my guest today, is going to share with you a story that I think you will find very applicable, very realistic if you are currently in a full time job and want to transition to having your own business and eventually your own business selling digital products online which is exactly what Belinda did.
She went from being employed to then becoming a freelancer to then switching again to selling her own online courses and you’ll see as you listen to her story how smooth all the transitions were. Yes, she had to work hard but every step she took never felt like it was a huge gamble. She always did it with the confidence that her next step was working. She was making money from her freelance business. Or, she was ready to start selling digital products. Everything just seemed to work well. I think you can replicate what she did. She really does give you the steps in exactly everything that she did right in order to make the transition so smooth.
Also, what I love about this story is that she used a blog. She built a platform with a blog, an email list and social media, everything that I’m teaching and doing and all my students are doing as well. And she used that as a tool for growing her freelance business and then as a tool for launching her digital product business as well. And you can see, it really was the secret. The heart and soul of why she’s been able to have such a successful online business.
Now, if you enjoy interviews like this with Belinda, I’d like to encourage you to sign up to my InterviewsClub.com email newsletter where I’ll send you my latest podcast like this one with Belinda and also a series of my previous podcasts. So, get all the fresh ones as soon as I release them plus my best ones from my archive sent to you automatically once a week, all for free. So, you can sign up for that at InterviewsClub.com.
All right, here is the interview with Belinda. Enjoy.
YARO: Hello, this is Yaro and welcome to the Entrepreneur’s Journey podcast. Today, my guest is going to share a story which I think is really valid for anyone who’s looking to transition from employment to freelancer to making a near passive income from selling information products. So, I think that’s a really good transition that a lot of people would like to go through, feel like that they could go through. And we’re going to speak to someone who’s actually done it. Her name is Belinda who is actually from Brisbane as well. Belinda Weaver. And funnily enough, she’s also just near me. I’m in San Francisco right now and she’s in San Jose so I don’t know if I’m following her or she’s following me. But, Belinda, welcome to the show.
BELINDA: Thanks for having me. Yeah, it’s quite a coincidence that we’re practically neighbors.
YARO: Where are you from in Brisbane originally?
BELINDA: It’s really interesting when people ask where are you from in Brisbane. I think you generally mean north of the river or south of the river. But yeah, I was in a suburb called Sunnybank. And I grew up in Brisbane. I moved to England for a few years in 2001. When I came back to Australia, I lived in Melbourne for a few years.
YARO: Sunnybank. I thought only Asian people are in Sunnybank.
BELINDA: Oh no. I lived in Sunnybank before it had such a strong Chinese community.
YARO: It’s got the best Chinese food. I used to go there every Sunday with my guy friends. I love the food there and it’s always open 24/7 a day.
YARO: But anyway, I digressed. We should probably talk about your business. I want to find out how you became a copywriter because that’s the freelancing work that you did and that’s also what your information publishing business is. You’ve gone from being an employee to making a full time living freelancing and then a full time living selling digital information products and that is such a beautiful leap I think.
It’s a nice way to transition because I don’t think people can quickly jump always into information products because you need an audience and there might be some financial bridges that you have to kind of cross before you can leave off that money so freelancing is a great gateway. But before we dive into all of that, let’s go back… did you, obviously you had a job. Did you go to university in Melbourne, maybe? Have studies…
BELINDA: No. I went to university in Brisbane. I actually started my career in the IT industry. I worked as a pretty hardcore IT geek for nearly 10 years and then I jumped over into marketing and that’s when I discovered probably what I should have been doing all along. I’ve really tapped in, I really become passionate with marketing and that passion has helped me always strive to become a better marketer. So, I was working in a marketing day job just like many people do when they jump into freelance life. And I was going through a period of people in my career. My husband and I were talking about starting a family. I wasn’t particularly happy with my job so I was looking for a change but I didn’t really know what that change would look like or what I wanted it to look like.
I went to a one-day conference and I heard a lady talking about copywriting and I was interested in copywriting because I was writing copy everyday and I was interested in what she had to say. And she wrapped up her presentation talking about the benefits of being a freelance copywriter. Quite honestly, I felt like a lightning hit me. I didn’t even know it was a thing you could do full time. I really vividly remember this fire starting in my belly. I went back to work. Within a couple of weeks I signed up for a copywriting course and I registered my business, Copywrite Matters on the side. I did the course. I started promoting myself and so I was working on the weekend and then the evening still while holding down my day job. And then within 6 months, I could pretty much cover my salary.
YARO: That’s an amazingly fast success story. Do you remember what course it was you took? Whose course?
BELINDA: It was The Australian School of Copywriting and I did their home-study course so I studied at home. I applied it at work. So you know, the copy I was writing in my marketing world improved. But then, I also started getting clients through social media marketing pretty much. And then little by little, it just kind of snowballs.
YARO: OK. Copywriting is a very specialized form of copywriting. I actually don’t enjoy it as much as obviously blogging… I find it’s getting closer into blogging in a sense that you’re telling stories and you can get away with writing good stories as copy but I think good copy is a lot tighter than that. Word selection is so critical. There are so many nuances to it. So, can you maybe, explain, especially coming from working into marketing to then feeling like and obviously being good enough to sell services. How big a leap was that from your writing prior?
BELINDA: It was massive actually. What I really brought to my copywriting business was my marketing experience. So, the key to writing effective copy is the word selection but before that, you need to understand who you’re talking to. You need to understand the motives that are driving behavior and decision-making and things like that. And you also need to understand the business that you’re trying to connect to an audience.
So, the marketing experience I had helped me fast-track my ability to write copy so what I learned in the course was the techniques, the writing techniques. A lot of people think that copywriting is super creative and it’s just a talent and you’ve got it or you haven’t. But just like any other skill, when you learn the framework and you learn the processes involved, you can actually create repeatable success.
So, once I understood the techniques and I understood the frameworks, then it was really just a matter of practicing and I got to practice in my day job. So that when I started I was working with my clients outside of my day job, I was actually feeling really quite confident in my abilities and a lot of getting paid well for the work you do as a freelancer is confidence.
YARO: What types of materials were you practicing on your day job? Although it’s not really practicing because you’re getting paid to do it.
BELINDA: So, as the marketing coordinator, I came up with the marketing strategy so I have to execute it. I was writing regular email campaigns but I was also creating all the brochure content for the sales team to use and I was maintaining the website content and you know, just being in that position, I was the marketing resource. If I had an idea to run some ads or do some case studies or writer some editorial, I got to explore that. So, I also got to practice those kind of things in various formats. I pretty much suggested to the MD that we should do every type of marketing so I could practice the copywriting for it and see the results.
YARO: And what were you selling?
BELINDA:It was an extremely exciting product. A software for the timber industry.
YARO: OK. Wow.
BELINDA: Yeah. It was really niche so I also got to practice writing about something that I had little to no interest in which is often part of your job.
YARO: Yeah. That’s a really good test. If you can be a good copywriter writing about something you don’t like or maybe let’s not make it harsh, or something you’re not so passionate about then you can take that skill and replicate it into other markets which obviously was something required to become a freelance copywriter. So, can you explain how you got your first client? That was an important one. How did you get your first client?
BELINDA: Well I actually got them as part of the course that I did. I applied to become part of their copywriting Dream Team. That was a coaching program but it also allowed me to get referrals so yeah, big part of that copywriting Dream Team gave me access to a couple of leads. And, when I did those first few jobs, I then had things in my portfolio.
And at the same time when I was doing it sharing my knowledge on social media so I instantly created you know, a Facebook profile and I started sharing copywriting tips because I thought that would be the best way to position myself as The Copywriter that people knew on social media and then once I got the hang of that, I started Twitter, you know, LinkedIn, then when Google Plus started I started on there. And eventually, I started a blog as well so this is content marketing and social marketing working together and that’s pretty much how I got all my leads for the next 4 years. And, my pipeline is always full and pretty much for that at that time I was booked 4 to 6 weeks in advance.
YARO: How are people finding you? Because I know simply posting tips on social media won’t necessarily grow your following that quickly. Are you doing proactive marketing of your social channels, your blog, anything like that?
BELINDA: Well, I think social media has really changed. So, in 2009, 2010 when I started Copywrite Matters and I started this, you could actually get a following from posting tips. It was before Facebook got really profit oriented not that they aren’t profit oriented they are. It was before all the rules changed and you could really post helpful information and that information would get shared and you would get likes and followers.
That’s actually how my first few leads came through because people were saying, “Oh you post about those copywriting tips, they are really useful. I’d love to talk to you about getting my website done.” Another thing I did was I connected with people like graphic designers and web developers. People whose clients could need copywriting services. And I just, you know, it’s what you do. It’s online marketing. You connect with people. You build relationships in a friendly and non-aggressive way. And then when they need your services or their clients need your services, you’re the person that pops into mind because you’ve been friendly and helpful and expert and knowledgeable and you have engaged with your experience.
YARO: So, the first block of work that you got was mostly just website copy?
BELINDA: Yes, it was actually. I remember, I remember specifically, is that what you’re going to ask me?
YARO: I want to know the niches, I love hearing about the subjects that you write about.
BELINDA: My very first project was to write 5 pages for lady sanitary products. So, you know, if you can imagine my day writing about software about the software for the timber industry and my evening writing about very personal and sensitive topics for women. It was really a very big contrast. But, from there, one thing I decided was I wasn’t going to niche too early so I didn’t want to write about software coming from the IT industry. I’ve had enough of technology and software.
So, I really wanted to leave my gates wide open for all sorts of industries and in those early few jobs, you know, I wrote about finance. I did have other software jobs. I had ladies’ sanitary products. I wrote for an accountant. You know, there was a lot. There were also quite dry topics and one of the challenges was to bring hot into the brand and that’s one thing that I try to do as a I cut out my business was try and inject personality into copywriting and into marketing because a lot of businesses play really safe. They’re really conservative so that’s one thing, one way I try to differentiate myself.
YARO: How did you price since the first time you freelance can be a big decision to determine how much to charge especially for the different formats like a website versus the landing page versus the sales page and the brochure and so on. So, how did you decide on that?
BELINDA: The first thing I did was choose an hourly rate. You know, it was, pricing – there’s a lot of sides with prices. I think when you start out, you finger up in the air and you pick a number and you see how it pans out. So, you know, I discovered every copywriting rate card I could find from competitors around the world to try and get a feel for an average price for my experience level. And then I was given some advice. Set your price and then add 25% and you’re probably right.
So, I picked a rate for a medium experienced copywriter and then I added a little bit. The challenge of setting project process which is what I teach for copywriting, so I would offer a 6-project price. The challenge was working out how long it would take me to do things. And with that, I just kind of estimated based on the work I’ve been doing during the day and each year I would review how accurate that was and then I would just refine my pricing. And I was like, “This year, I got my rate because I was more experienced and I was more in demand.”
So, that’s you know, it’s just, I think you just got to keep on reviewing what you’re doing. Reviewing how long it’s taking you. Reviewing what people are willing to pay. Another piece of advice that I was given is that if everyone says yes, your price isn’t high enough. So that was a bit of advice that led me to my first price rise.
YARO: So, how hard was it to get to a full time income within 6 months especially because you’re working a full time job. So, you must have not a lot of spare time outside of these 2 roles that you’re performing if they are both making a full time income for you.
BELINDA: Well, my freelance side, it wasn’t necessarily a full time income. But by the time I got to that 6 months market, I thought you know I’m not far off. If I give away my full time income here, I can see my pipeline is being filled regularly so there’s a potential for it to keep filling and I would be, you know, I’m not that far off. I did work very hard but I think when you hook into an idea that you are truly passionate about (and people throw the passion word around a lot), it was like a fire in my belly. So, I actually didn’t mind. I was really excited about this future that I was creating for myself.
YARO: I have some of my coaching clients, members of my programs. We have been talking recently about what conditions you should have in place before you quit a full time job to do your online business. Did you have a list of criteria, a certain amount of money in the bank, or anything like that?
BELINDA: My criteria was basically around my pipeline. Do I have regular jobs coming in? Do I have the marketing capacity to keep that pipeline full enough to secure my financial future? You know, I wasn’t going to quit my job when I was just getting a random job here and there. I quit my job when I actually was too busy like I just couldn’t see any more working on the side when I was working every evening in every weekend. Well, I can’t actually grow this anymore without giving up away my full time job.
That was the main criteria. Does this have the potential to be repeatable? And when I said yes, and I didn’t have any more time and the number, the amount I was earning was pretty close to my full time salary. Obviously, it wasn’t a great salary. Then, that’s when I went, “OK, I feel secure and confident in my ability to make this successfully. “
YARO: OK. So you hand in your resignation. What year was that? That was 6 months you feel comfortable or did you wait another 6 months or something like that?
BELINDA: No. No. It was… I registered the business in October 2009. I think it was the first quarter 2010.
YARO: You handed the resignation?
BELINDA: Yeah. But what I actually did was rather than, it’s a really liberating moment when you hand in over a resignation in a job that you didn’t particularly like. But what I did is actually put together a full PowerPoint presentation and I asked the MD for a meeting. I presented him with this alternate solution to our working arrangement.
So, I basically opened up saying, “How would you like to save $20,000 a year?” And this is the time you know, the global financial crisis is in full thrust so he was very interested in saving $20,000 a year. And I basically broke down how I spend my day between valued tasks and non-valued tasks. And I said, “If you hire me as a freelancer to only do the valued tasks of my marketing role, the marketing campaign still go out. You don’t need to hire another marketing resource and you’ll save up to and possibly more than $20,000 a year.” And I think it took him about 30 seconds to say yes.
YARO: Did you hint at the fact that you would quit otherwise, like this is your only option or were you, you know, trying to obviously keep a good relationship there? It was a bit of too good to be true sort of deal.
BELINDA: I wanted to keep a good relationship because basically I was asking him to put me on retainer. But I was walking any way and I think he actually said to me that, “You know, I have a feeling that something was brewing. So, I’m not surprised we’re having a conversation but this is working out much better than I thought.” He was really happy.
YARO: OK. You quit your job but you got a retainer. What was the plan? Were you thinking, let’s grow a massive business or was there a target amount of money you want to make? Were you even planning or you just sort of wing it and see what would happen?
BELINDA: Oh totally wing it. I think in the first year, I just wanted to survive. I just wanted to know that at the end of the first year, I had done it. I had made a success and I wasn’t going back to my day job but at the same time, I thought, if this does fail, I’ve got a career in marketing and I could always go back to the day job. But I knew deep down that that was never ever going to happen.
On year 2, I wanted to grow my profit so I wanted to become better and you know I upped my rates and developed systems and processes to make everything more efficient. And then on year 3, I started taking on subcontractors. So, that’s when I started getting ideas of growth beyond just me and I started building a virtual team.
YARO: Explain how does that happen because that is a difficult transition to make as a freelancer because you’re too busy doing the work and go through the hiring process so how did you manage that?
BELINDA: Well, it was actually, like a lot of the changes I’ve made or the opportunities that have come along. It was kind of serendipitous. For example, the first freelance writer that I began working with just contacted me and said, “I read your blog all the time. I really love the way you write. I’m just starting as a copywriter. You know, do you have any time? I’d love to ask you some questions.” And I’m always been more happy to talk to people who are just starting out because sometimes you just need confidence based or one or two tips can really make a difference.
And then we just became, you know, we started chatting and I saw some of her work and I asked her, “Look, do you need some jobs? I have often got you know, jobs that I am too busy to take on so maybe we can work something out.” And that’s, you know, when I got to 3, 4 or maybe my max, I had 5 subcontractors that I regularly work with. That’s how they all started. They approach me. We started chatting. I look at their work. I give them a few trial jobs and I pay them of course. And I just started giving them regular work.
YARO: How does that work with your margins?
BELINDA: Well, obviously as they got better writers, and they became more successful and they got busier and they put their prices up. It reached a point where I was like, “Well I can’t give any more work for your new prices but I don’t think you need the jobs from me now anyway.” So, I did always look at that. But the biggest challenge was of course the time I had to spend because I still took the copywriting brief. It was all branded under Copywrite Matters. I still took the client brief. I did all the client liaison. I did the editing that needed to be done. I captured the revisions.
You know, so what I discovered after that 3rd year while I was working with these freelancers was I was actually spending more time project managing than doing anything else. And that’s when I started looking at the margins going this actually isn’t worth it. This is not a profitable way for me to spend my time.
YARO: So, did you adjust to your plans for the future of your business? Or, what did you start thinking about at that point?
BELINDA: Well, yeah I did. As I started, I stopped with a dream that I would have a harem of copywriters and I would kick back and smoke cigars at the beach somewhere because I realized that never happens and that’s not how it works at all. So I just started paring back. I started pulling back to me doing more of the writing and I still kept a couple of writers for jobs because we work really well together and I knew their styles and they were much better writers and stuff like that. But I generally just pulled it back and I realized that was not the business model that is going to take me 5 to 10 years of Copywrite Matters.
YARO: So, do you sort of resign yourself to the fact that, “I will be the writer and I will make a good margin because I do the writing myself and I could make a good income that’s probably going to reach a cap at some point because you can only do so much work in a given day.”
BELINDA: That’s exactly right. I started analyzing how much is enough. What does success look like and what am I happy with? Do I need to grow for the sake of growth? And I was having kind of those conversations with myself and I guess paring back my ambitions, balancing ambition with happiness.
YARO: Did you start to, like, was family becoming… Did you start making babies?
BELINDA: Well, that’s obviously going to be the next big change that have to happen because you know, in year 4, when I kind of pared it back, then my husband and I did start a family so it was a bit longer from that first initial thought. We did have a baby in 2013 and that kicked off a whole another series of questions I had to ask myself about how much time I have available because we also moved to America. We had a baby and we moved to America within about a 2 month period. She was just 8 weeks old so I had a very brief maternity leave when I was packing up the house, and then we moved to America and then I’m in a new country in a different time zone, with an infant.
And I used to do my copywriting brief course with clients when she was asleep and it just became really difficult. So, I started thinking to myself, what is it that I want from this business? I thought to myself I’d be happy if I was just the writer. The whole point of starting a business was to spend this quality time with this child. And instead, I was sneaking off to write emails and when I was with her, I was thinking about work. I was stressing about work, and I was staying up all sorts of crazy hours to try to meet the deadlines of my clients and it was horrible.
So, that actually drew me, forced my head into making some tough decisions about who I spend my time with when I had to be working and how I earned my income. So, that drew me into information products.
BELINDA: OK. So, before we dive into information products which is my favorite part, I’d love to know, what are the numbers were at this stage in terms of the size of the online presence that you had built? Because we haven’t really talked much about your marketing size, your initial growth during the early days getting graphic designers to refer your social media but things have changed. You said, back then it was different with social media. It’s 2013 when you were going through this period of transition.
Did you have, like maybe you can tell me, how big was your email list? Did you have fairly active community somewhere that you could tap into because if you’re thinking about information products, it’s already kind of a different clientele. Right?
YARO: You’re no longer providing the service to a business. You’re now going to be selling to other copywriters so you would have had their attention from your blog which is fantastic but isn’t a big switch there so how, what was your platform at that stage?
BELINDA: Well, I’ve been blogging for 3 years, 3-plus years and I’ve been on page 1 of Google for nearly about the whole time as well. So, that’s where the content come in.
YARO: When you say page 1, you mean, for what?
BELINDA: Oh, I’m sorry. For copywriting services, professional copywriter, SEO copywriter, SEO copywriter Melbourne, brochure copywriter. It was for offering copywriting services.
BELINDA: So, I thought I was marketing to business people predominantly. And when I started thinking about changes to my business, I asked myself who my tribe really was. So, I started analyzing who responds on my social media, who comments on my blog, who were the people I talked to most often. Because, you know, looking at you asking about my email list. I think it’s about 1200 or 1300. It’s not massive but it’s not too shabby. You know, I’ve got, several thousand followers on each of the social media platforms.
To be honest, I don’t really focus too hard on my numbers. I really just love to see people replying, and commenting, and talking to me and emailing. There is nothing that pleases me more than people directly emailing me after getting my latest blogpost and telling me what they got from it. I find that really, really rewarding.
So, you know, when I made the switch to information products, I did have enough of the social presence to get some immediate responses. When talking about my tribe, I realized that the people who were engaging with me most often were copywriters. So, that made me switch my focus from my information products to make sure that I was targeting my most profitable tribe which are copywriters and aspiring copywriters.
And I actually still have some business people attending my courses and a lot of business owners reading my blog. But as you know, when you’re targeting a product, you have to think about that bel curve. Who is in the middle you are going to focus most of your messages on.
YARO: Which turned out to be copywriters looking to basically do what you did.
BELINDA: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
YARO: OK. You’re thinking about information product business. How much knowledge and experience did you have with information products at that point?
YARO: Have you written sales pages for anyone else’s information products?
BELINDA: I mean, yes. I have written sales pages. I have consumed information products so I bought them. You know, I attended courses and I bought e-books and stuff I was always very watchful of how people created launch series and how they build thousands and what their email responders around the launch and stuff like that.
I think when the seed got planted even in 2011 and 2012 because this was a “someday” thing. Someday, I would like to offer a course. Someday, I would like to do the things and I never actually did them but I was starting to take notes on how the people I loved and respected were doing things.
YARO: So, what was the phase 1 of the switch to information products instead of freelance services?
BELINDA: Well, probably there was this lovely gray area when I started to present courses live. I worked with the Australian Business Women Network and I presented, repeatedly presented a copywriting course for them. I also did in-house copywriting training for some organizations including one called the Copywriters Collective. So, I started training and teaching. But they would generally be this kind of live settings so I knew I could do it. I knew I was pretty confident I would get a good response because I’ve always got good response from these sessions that I had run.
The first process for me was to work out… I did a Bronze, Silver, Gold product structure. I spent a lot of time thinking about what might be the entry level, what might be my main product and what might be the super duper platinum or gold version that I would try and work towards.
So, that was you know a lot of time thinking. I was given a piece of advice that your principal product should be priced at $2000 and that was simply to make you create something good enough to charge that kind of price so my course was not the impetus to really create something of high value so I did not have to spend a lot of time on an information product that actually wasn’t earning that much.
YARO: So, did you got out of the door with the course?
BELINDA: Yeah, that’s right. So, my copywriting is the course that I offer and that is my principal course so I have that I’ve since created to create this kind of content ladder, up to my principal course, my copywriting masterclass. That’s you know, that’s a 30-month experience.
YARO: All right. So, that was the first one. The copywriting master class was the first ever information product you sold?
YARO: OK. So, can you explain, how did you do everything to deal with it? Obviously, I know you could write the sales page of it, for one part of it. Did you have any technical assistance with any contractors or were you the tech person as well?
BELINDA: Yeah. I did everything for that. I wrote the modules. So, there are 16 lessons in 4 modules so I wrote all the content. I worked with a graphic designer because I wanted the content to look really good which you know, if you’re asking for a premium price, you have to offer a premium product.
So I worked with a graphic designer but I actually, you know the content, I wanted to make it super accessible. So, it’s in PDFs and video tutorials. So, I did all the video tutorials myself and the editing and all that kind of stuff.
YARO: What about things like, you know, setting up the membership area, the membership software?
BELINDA: The first time I launched it for the inaugural course, I used Derek Halpern’s Zippy courses. So, I used someone else’s bit of tech.
YARO: OK. You installed that yourself and everything?
BELINDA: Yup. I got it on the subdomain of my website. So, it was actually quite easy to do. That handled the payment process. People could sign up. It linked in to my Mailchimp, you know my email marketing. So, that bit of software really solved problems that I didn’t know I was going to have. And the first course went really successfully. What I did after that was I actually moved to Copyblogger’s Rainmaker platform. Have you heard of that?
YARO: Yes. Yup.
BELINDA: So, now, when the course runs, there is a forum membership site. So, there is a forum, there is, you know, the content is in LMS. And I also used their podcasting tools to record the live coaching calls. Where, before, you know I just kind of did that on Skype and I used Dropbox to make the calls available but know, it’s a much more cohesive experience for the students.
YARO: OK. So Rainmaker plus Mailchimp. Is that your current set up for technical delivery?
YARO: And Stripe for payments? Or Paypal?
BELINDA: I used Paypal and I have my video tutorials on YouTube, and privately.
YARO: OK. Pretty straightforward.
BELINDA: Yeah. It’s pretty straightforward. I like to keep it simple because I don’t want students having a complicated time trying to access the content.
YARO: So, when you first launched, did you just say, “Hey, I’ve got a program…” And you already created it or did you do like a pre-launch, sell it and then build it around the members?
BELINDA: What I did is I started creating the content so I decided the launch the course. I knew I wanted to launch it before Christmas and this was last year. And I had a little baby and I had 4 sets of visitors coming from overseas within a 12 week period and we were moving house. So, that was all happening and I decided I was going to write this 16-lesson course and take it live.
So, there was a lot going on. I had to be very focused. I became very focused on time management and very good at it as well. So, what I did while I started writing the course I created a pre-launch signup on my own website and I started promoting that. And I basically said, “Hey, I’m going to be launching a really, really fantastically awesome, copywriting course. If you want to find out about it when it goes live, pop your name down and you’ll be the first to hear about it.”
And then you know, I have some emails going out to at least keeping them updated about it going, this is what it’s going to be like and it’s all coming together. I got people excited and engaged with the content that was to come and then, I had, I think I had a little Q and A session as well so I could find out questions people wanted to know and that helped me write the sales page.
Basically, what I did is I left enrolments open for months and just kind of waited to see what would happen. But because I only marketed to that list of people on that pre-launch list, you know, I was only talking to people who are already interested. And I put a cap of 10 students on that first course and it sold out. So, I was really happy with that.
YARO: OK. So, 10 students. I’m assuming that’s not going to quite replace the freelancing business you got. That was like a test run. What happened next to expand it? And I haven’t asked how much you charged it either?
BELINDA: The cost is $1300 dollars.
YARO: So, the first 10 paid that as well? Or, was it…
BELINDA: Yup. That’s exactly right. You know, I’ve been reading a lot recently about you know, building a course around the people, you know, offering, say like a demo version or the cutdown rate and getting feedback on it and stuff like that and I think that is a really strong strategy. I didn’t do that. I went on saying, “This is awesome. This is how much it is.” And I thought, you know what, if no one buys it then I will adjust my strategy. But it sold out so I say, OK cool. I just made sure that I was totally on to any support problems or content issues or anything like that immediately as they happen so nothing ever became a big problem.
YARO: I’m guessing it was comforting having an established platform or blog or email list and your social media following makes you feel more confident going out there and saying, “I got this product for sale.” You can actually build pre-launch sale list like you said. That’s actually quite difficult to do it. You don’t have an audience yet to basically buy the traffic or quickly get a lot of exposure and deal with people you didn’t know yet either and you had the benefit of that building tribe or so to speak. It takes you some confidence doesn’t it to release a product?
BELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. And I’d say to anyone thinking about it, it’s worth it to just be blogging a lot in order to establish yourself and build a tribe.
YARO: I’m glad you said that. So, take us forward then. So, how did this become the main thing you do and I love that you said that, I think you call it a content ladder. I call that a blog sales funnel – creating up a series of products leading up to your flagship product. Did you learn that from somewhere or that just sort of made sense to you?
BELINDA: You know what, it’s something I’ve seen mentioned in quite a few marketing on marketing, you know, it’s talked quite a lot in marketing blogs and stuff like that. It’s kind of content map. I think just looking at my bookshelf. I read a book recently where he talked about a content ladder. The idea of this kind of steps up a ladder – that did make sense to me. So, that’s how you think about it. You know, the first step is really small, probably free and then you take, you know, increasingly, more expensive steps that are still quite easy up to your principal. So, you’re never making anyone make a massive jump.
YARO: So, I won’t call it a funnel. What is your ladder like today?
BELINDA: Well, I… people start off generally, by signing up my blog and they get a copywriting cheatsheets as just a thank you for signing up the blog and that has 20 copywriting tips that will transform the way you write about your business and you know, within that cheat sheet I link back to old blogposts and stuff like that. So that is an extremely useful download but I follow it up with a free copywriting courses. Just 3 tips because I know what it’s like. You get a download and you think that is awesome and put it on our folder and you never look at it again and you never take action on this.
So what I wanted to do is just create this really digestible, actionable, mini course that wasn’t overwhelming. And part of that is getting people to get to know me little better. I got to face a camera video as well as screen cap tutorials and there are worksheets as well. So, that’s a little kind of introduction into the kind of valuable content that you would discover in the Copywriting Master Class.
And then you know, some people actually, I get a lot of people get interested in SEO writing. So, a little mini step up as well, I have an SEO writing course for people, you know, a lot of copywriters say, I kind of know but I really want to explore SEO writing as a concise module so that’s another little product that I have but then you know, each of them is stepping up to Copywriting Master Class. And then beyond that which is something I’m doing hopefully this year but if not, next year will be a private coaching, small private coaching program to learn how to run a successful copywriting business.
So once they complete the course and they got the technical aspects of the writing down, then I want to show them how to run the business. And then they got the technical aspects of the writing down, then I want to show them how to run a successful business so they can become an in-demand copywriter because generally, the writing is only 50% of the time you spend being a business owner. So, that’s the step beyond the copywriting course.
YARO: OK. So I can suggest to the listener to go to the CopywriteMatters.com if you want to see what she’s been talking about, Belinda has been talking about the products so you can see her starting point so you can grab the free content and she what she gives away and join her list so you can see the product she sells and how everything she does, how she does at all so it would be a nice companion to what she’s been talking about.
Belinda, I’d love to turn this around a little bit to the person listening who is looking to emulate you and in particular, the transition. I would like to talk about the transition from freelancer to selling information products because you made that work. And I think that some people listening into this who, they struggle with the idea of making enough money to replace… It’s actually funny. Initially, you struggled in making that money to replace your job income and you get your freelancing and you’re working really hard and you realized you haven’t replaced your income and it’s almost like you employed yourself and if you don’t do work, there’s no salaries. There’s no paid leave. There’s no holidays. You get to paid to work by the contractor by the hour or whatever the case may be.
So, the information product business is a natural next step and even if it’s in tandem with freelancing as well as with information product. That’s not a bad combination. What do you advice people now especially in hindsight since you’ve gotten through it. Maybe, you think you can do something better than you did. What would you say the first step of a freelancer listening to this to transition into an information product business?
BELINDA: Well, I think you know, it’s something that we kind of touch on is build your tribe. Create a homebase of your website. I think blogging is just absolutely essential. A lot of really, really big organizations, like the content marketing institute for example. All I did for a long, long time was just blog and blog and blog and then build up followers and I just concentrated on offering really, really valuable content across a number of platforms as well so they make sure they have YouTube stuff and they have some e-books and they have social media.
But, the goal is to build an audience and then you can start asking that audience what it is they want. Because I think one of the mistakes a lot of people make and it could have happened to me because I launched with this really big product. That was a big gamble. And so, when you go through the process of building an audience, you can ask them what it is they need and start building that. And it doesn’t have to be big. You can start, you know, building stepping stone products that you then like to combine into a bigger product.
YARO: How do you ask though? What do you recommend for that? Is it just send a survey out?
BELINDA: You know surveys are more than fine. There is nothing wrong with sending surveys to your subscribers. I do it. Recently, regularly actually. Maybe, like twice a year. I think the key to getting surveys responded to is making sure that you’re not asking 50,000 questions. You know, a great way that I do that I get a lot of responses for is send an email saying, you know, “Hey there! I’ve got a really quick question, what is your biggest frustration right now?”
It doesn’t have to be that question. You just say quick question and then if you ask them just ask one question. And if you ask them just one question a few times a year, you can gradually piece together this picture.
Another way is just to listen to comments being made on your social media platforms on your blog. Getting comments on your blog, it’s a tough gig. It’s not that easy. So, I think a lot of people starting out, well that’s all very well and good but no one comments on my blog.
So the other thing is to go into forums. See what people are talking about. See what problems that they are needing help with. And even on freelance sites, there’s the Flying Solo in Australia. You can go into the forum and see what people are asking about what problems are they having. That’s probably the easiest way if you don’t have a big audience. That’s where you go. Go on and listen. Not in a creepy way but in a constructive way.
YARO: It’s a funny thing people get so wrapped up. I don’t get comments. I don’t have enough followers. I don’t have big enough email list. But you don’t have to necessarily ask the people who are directly subscribing to you. You can just find your target market and see what they’re saying on other people’s platforms to begin with. That’s certainly a starting point.
And I love the open-ended questions too. I never liked formulized surveys. Some people like them but I really like that, Hey, I got a question for you – type of email or even just in a blogpost. You get much more less structured answers which I appreciate more plus obviously it’s great working with clients that how I get a lot of my survey data. Tap your coaching clients, they will tell you everything because they need help so…
BELINDA: What you want ideally for these answers is the really big, elaborate, detailed answers.
YARO: With emotions.
BELINDA: Yeah, that’s exactly right because they’re the ones that will lead you to the right track.
YARO: If your clients’ crying – that’s a really good sign. Maybe not. It’s definitely a deep-rooted emotional response.
BELINDA: That’s right.
YARO: Belinda, OK. I think we covered your career and where you’re at today. What is the future for this? You did talk about a next level coaching program. Is that the end game at least for the near future?
BELINDA: No. After that, what I’m actually working toward is some kind of membership subscription model and I’m really excited by this idea of you know, running regular webinars and regular Q and A sessions and regular coaching calls and having a forum where members can access all these content, not only about copywriting techniques and processes but running a copywriting business. So, at the moment, I’m just kind of you know, wibbly, wobbly shaped thing in my brain.
YARO: A Doctor Who quote right there!
BELINDA: You know it! That’s what I’m working towards. And you know, we are talking about recurring income. Because running a course, it’s time consuming. If you want to run a good course, and want students to walk away feeling like they got a lot of value then you have to dedicate time. So, the next step will be a more recurring membership model but I’m being kind to myself because these decisions, I have to make around a toddler and I want to be there for her and I want to be happy. And I want to actually have that little thing called a life that I’ve read about sometimes. So being kind to myself and being balanced in my approach to work. I don’t need to do a little this year.
YARO: I think we have similar attitude, Belinda. I agree. First comes health and relaxation and doing the work you enjoy doing and you’re not after bigger, better extra zero on your bank statement or whatever it is that a lot of people seem to fall for in a chase for more. So…
BELINDA: Because everyone else is doing it or just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to do it. You know, you’ve got to be happy and mindful and present in your life.
YARO: I agree. I think it’s a great time to end. So, CopywriteMatters.com. Is there any other websites? Maybe you’d want to throw out your other social media. Or, CopywriterMatters is the place to go?
BELINDA: I think CopywriteMatters.com is the place to go. It’s got everything on there. If you search for Belinda Weaver, CopywriteMatters or pretty much any of the social media or the big social media platforms, you should find me. My big ginger head seems to be sometimes…
YARO: I think you have an interesting haircut by the looks of your pages. Is it still shaved on the half side?
BELINDA: Yes, it’s still shaved on the half side.
YARO: It’s a bit of a rock star…
BELINDA: It’s my rebelling against mommyhood.
YARO: I’m sure your child someday may rebel against you or a maybe get a proper haircut. Who knows?
BELINDA: I think it should go that way because you know, I’ve got tattoos. I’ve got the head shaved and I got some piercings. I suspect she will be…
YARO: You’re probably raising an accountant right now.
BELINDA: Oh no!
YARO: Belinda, thank you for sharing your story. Good luck with the future of your online business. I love hearing everything that you’re doing. Information products. I’m pretty much aligned with everything you’re saying. So, good luck with it all.
BELINDA: Thanks for having me. It’s been a great chat.
YARO: I enjoyed it too. For all the listeners, thank you for listening to both of us. You know where to go to get my shownotes. So, I’m going to put the links and everything well. Oh actually, my assistant will and she’ll put the links to Belinda’s social media as well as the website and everything else we’ve talked about in this call and you’ll get the transcript as well. So, you can get that by going to Entreprenurs-Journey.com or by Googling my name, Yaro.
Belinda, thanks again.
BELINDA: Thank you! It’s been a pleasure.
YARO: I’ll talk to to everyone else very very soon. Ba-bye.
I hope you enjoyed that interview with Belinda. I really thought that the was something that a lot of people can apply to their own situation. If you like to get more interviews like this from me on a regular basis, then go to InterviewsClub.com which will direct you to my blog where you can enter your email address to sign up for my EJ Podcast newsletter where I’ll send you my latest interviews as well as my very best interviews from my archive.
That’s InterviewsClub.com. OK. So that’s it for me. I’ll speak to you again on our next podcast. Thanks for listening. Goodbye.
About Yaro Starak
Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.