So ever since I stopped writing my income reports (why I decided to stop is here), and we started focusing heavily on content that will kill it with SEO, I feel like I lost a little bit of the personal aspect and life updates that I used to give every month.
So, enter ‘Business Behind-The-Scenes’ posts where I can share what’s been happening, why I’m making the decisions I am and generally what’s happening in my life alongside the business.
In this post I’ll pick up from where the last income report in December 2019 left off, so basically a half-year update.
In January I stopped the Online Business Besties podcast.
There were so many different aspects that led to this.
First and most practically was that Squarespace launched Squarespace 7.1, meaning I needed to rerecord my entire Square Secrets course before our launch that we had scheduled in February.
When I say I went all in and eliminated EVERYTHING else from my life & work that wasn’t absolutely vital, I mean it.
From the day I realized ‘wow, I can’t launch again until we have the new version of the course ready’ I looked at my Asana and blocked out weeks called ‘Learn 7.1 & rerecord course’ and moved everything else to after the launch.
Including stopping recording the podcast and posting blog posts.
(Which is a big deal as the girl who is known for years now as the one who posts consistent content.)
I had full intentions of continuing to record after I had finished the course and launch.
But when I went to LA with my Collective Mastermind, I realized I had been pivoting my business in a direction that didn’t serve it.
Y’all, don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely SO excited by talking about online business and building one for yourself, but I had neglected my core business last year.
I’ve been teaching Squarespace website design and how to become a successful Squarespace web designer for years, so it was starting to feel like the ‘same old’ thing to me.
My courses are the most successful in the space and I have more students in my Squarespace courses than anyone else, so I felt like there was nothing more to achieve.
So a pivot to online business felt good, like a new challenge.
But at my mastermind I realized just how much more potential there was for my field and that there was still more achievement to be had and more students to serve.
Many of the ladies in my mastermind taught complimentary courses, and recommended Squarespace but had no interest in teaching it. Many of them wanted to partner up to send students my way.
Not to mention, when I was in Bali in November I met someone who was trying to become a Squarespace designer and she had never heard of me or come across my content before.
I learned that clearly there was unfinished business in the Squarespace world, and that the best path forward for me was to stick to it.
I wrestled with this over January and February. After I finished the launch in February, I had fully come to the decision to stick with Squarespace education as my topic of expertise, and eliminate all else.
Meaning, no more ‘online business’ focused podcast, but instead creating all content with a focus on Squarespace & becoming a Squarespace designer.
Shout out to Dean, my amazing assistant, who since the beginning of the year has been helping me more and more not just with Customer Service & Operations but also marketing.
I decided the next marketing strategy I wanted to try was an affiliate program.
Past students had asked for it many times and it felt in my heart like it was better to pay our marketing dollars to past students who had trusted me and experienced my courses first hand then to pay them to Facebook ads.
As I was re-recording the course, Dean fully owned starting up our affiliate program.
Knowing that an affiliate program is a lot of work and the more affiliates you have, the more crazy it gets, we wanted to at least for the first launch keep the group fairly small to test it and perfect it.
We sent out an email to our list of past students asking them to apply to be affiliates. We asked some basic questions to get a feel for the reach they would have and the audience they would get in front of to talk about the courses.
And that’s when we learned the key flaw to our affiliate program plan.
We quickly learned, the vast majority of our students don’t yet have audiences.
Most of them are 1:1 service-based business owners, who generally only need to get a few clients in the year, so their marketing is done more by personal relationships and less at scale.
When it comes to selling courses however, you need scale and reach.
And the way an affiliate program works is the affiliate promotes to their audience, and 1% percent of that audience converts to sales. So you need audiences on email lists of at least 1,000+ to likely even make a few sales.
If our students didn’t have audiences, and those were the people we were going to have as our affiliates, the program was destined to flop before it even started.
We quickly learned that just having past students as affiliates wasn’t going to work.
So we emailed our whole list to invite them to apply and thankfully found a decent number of people in my audience with audiences.
I also then reached out to people I’ve known in the Squarespace world for years, people who post content or are very engaged in the Squarespace world who I suspected would also have audiences. That worked out beautifully.
While it was a little disheartening to not have the affiliate program work out the way I wanted it to, to truly reward and thank our own students, we did come up with a solid alternative.
Granted, we’ve learned a lot.
An affiliate program means a LOT of work on our end, even still with a small number of affiliates.
It also means preparing for launches wayyy further in advance than we normally do.
It’s not a marketing strategy that lends well to quick changes to a launch plan.
I had wanted to add a challenge on to create some hype around our May 2020 Square Secrets Business launch, but couldn’t because we needed to get affiliates info on the launch weeks in advance, meaning I couldn’t do any last minute changes like adding a challenge.
We also learned that there’s a lot of overlap between our audience and others in the Squarespace world.
40% of sales affiliates earned in the last launch were sales from people already on our email list.
Meaning they would have gotten our course launch emails anyways, even without the affiliates talking about the courses.
You could absolutely argue that the recommendation of the affiliate is what convinced the customer to buy, but we learned that an affiliate program full of others also posting Squarespace content isn’t massively increasing our reach to people who didn’t know about us and our courses before, which was kinda the point.
I absolutely still think there’s value in affiliate programs, but I know now that who your affiliates are matters significantly.
In the future we’ll focus on getting affiliates who already have large audiences, teach something complimentary but don’t want to teach Squarespace themselves – like the ladies in my mastermind or other large course creators.
I think that will be the sweet spot of the perfect affiliates for us.
Or we might just go back to Facebook ads because they’re easier and you can change up your launches more with them. The decision isn’t final on that one yet.
Ohhhh Corona. Man, what to say…
It threw a wrench into my life just like everyone elses.
I had been excited to start speaking at conferences this year, so I took a speakers training and had a few speaking engagements lined up I was so excited about.
Ski trip in Austria with friends.
My mastermind trip to Necker Island to meet Richard Branson?
My annual summer trip home to Canada see family and friends?
When Corona started, and the potential of my husband and I living in our little apartment we’re fast growing out of and which doesn’t have a balcony, did not sound appealing.
We heard in Spain & France where Corona hit earlier and harder people weren’t allowed to leave their house for anything but grocery shopping and couldn’t travel to other cities.
Facing a potential of weeks or months locked up in our tiny place, we packed up our bags and drove to my husbands parents house out in the countryside.
There we at least had a bigger space, a patio, a garden and good company.
We stayed there for 7 amazing weeks.
We truly had a wonderful time together with his parents and thankfully there was no ‘you can’t leave your house’ rules in Germany, so we went for a daily walk in the beautiful countryside and mountains.
With my husband and his Mom both teachers and schools being closed and his Dad retired, I was the only one working. Meaning all the cooking, cleaning and house chores were taken care of by the other 3 and I had some of the most productive weeks of work I’ve had in a long time.
Throughout Corona, we were also working on buying a house.
It wasn’t a straightforward and normal process however.
We’d seen the house last August, didn’t feel ready and said ‘no thank you, not yet’. By December we were upset we’d missed the chance at our dream house as nothing similar in our style had come up on the housing app for months.
We emailed the real estate agent asking to let us know if she found anything else similar in the area to please let us know.
She told us the house hadn’t been sold, the seller didn’t like any of the potential buyers he met and she would tell the seller we were interested.
While I was at a speakers training and my mastermind in the US in January, my husband went to meet the seller. It wasn’t ideal I couldn’t go because the problem with all the past people was he didn’t like them so it was important we got the seller to like us, but we had to try as the seller was only in the country shortly.
Thankfully, if you asked me what my husbands #1 trait is, it’s without a doubt his people skills. He’s a charmer for sure.
The seller loved him, and agreed to sell.
Still, apparently buying a house in Germany is a long complicated process with lots of in-person meetings at notary offices and mortgage brokers. Corona definitely added a little stress that we wouldn’t be able to have the meetings and therefore couldn’t buy.
Thankfully it all worked out, but with Corona because the seller couldn’t leave the country to his other home in Spain, we actually only got access to the place a month after we owned it.
Then the renos and shopping started.
I have to say, I’m LOVING renovating and decorating a house. I’m now all about learning about interior design which I never had any interested in before.
I guess now we literally own this place, I’m also owning the fact that it’s up to us to make it our own.
Before and after pics to come! Follow me on Instagram to catch reno updates in the meantime!
As I write this now, we’re a week from moving and we’re SO excited. It’s literally been a 8 month process and Corona definitely showed us that we’ve grown out of our current place.
Oh and the cancelled wedding kind of worked out well.
The wedding would have fallen directly in the middle of our renovations and it would have been a massively stressful situation to do both at once.
We’re also amazed by any couple who does house renos with kids, so if that’s you, kudos!
My schedule lately has been working during the morning and afternoon until 2 PM, eat quickly, drive to the house, do work until 10 or 11 PM and eat some unhealthy takeout at midnight.
Getting my life back to a normal, healthy routine will also be appreciated once we move in and the renos stop.
After determining that Squarespace was our focus, we looked back at our content. We had hardly been posting about Squarespace or being a web designer in the past year. Most of our content had been focusing on running an online business.
It was also in the back of my head that people who genuinely would be served by my courses, like the girl in Bali who wanted to be a Squarespace designer, weren’t finding me.
That brought me to a decision, we needed to get serious about our SEO and absolutely own all Squarespace-related search results.
We’re already doing quite well in Squarespace search results, but clearly there was more to be done and more keywords we weren’t ranking for.
My assistant Dean started helping out more with content and really making sure our posts were SEO’ed well, because it’s something I just couldn’t bring myself to do as well as it should have been.
We also determined that in many search results for our chosen keywords, videos were appearing, and we have done veryyy little with video up until this point.
But for a lot of the things we’re covering, video is the obvious format people would want.
Granted, producing video is significantly harder and more time consuming than producing blog posts.
And because I’m a stickler for consistency, I didn’t want to go after something I could never be consistent with, therefore why I always stayed with blog posts.
But as Dean started helping more with marketing, we decided to bring someone else on to fill her past Customer Service & Operations role so she could go fully into marketing and help us get started with YouTube.
Which leads me to our little hiring endeavour.
We hired someone to fill Dean’s old role so she could step fully into marketing.
We chose a candidate we loved and were excited about.
Unfortunately, 3 weeks later the candidate decided that role was too much with her other work, and we were back to the drawing board.
Then it was back to our original applications and that’s when we honestly smacked ourselves with how many amazing candidates we hadn’t interviewed.
We then marathoned 11 interviews in 2 days and genuinely were floored by how many unbelievable candidates we hadn’t gotten to know before.
We loved meeting each and were so honored to meet the amazing ladies in our community.
As time-consuming as interviews are (and therefore why I didn’t do so many the first time we hired), it’s so much fun to get to meet people and hear their stories!
We learned from a former flight attendant what happens in the case of a bomb being found on a plane. Without a doubt, that was one of the most interesting things I’ve learned in the last few years!
We followed up with references and were super thorough this time, not wanting to have another candidate step out just a few weeks in.
Finally, we settled on Shannon.
Shannon is actually the first helper in the business I ever had and is someone I knew personally before.
We had met in Germany, she is also an American living abroad because of her German husband and she wasn’t doing anything at the time of my first ever launch so she offered to help.
Shannon managed the inbox during my first launch and just helped out as she could even thought she knew nothing about online courses out of the goodness of her heart.
After helping me out with my first launch, Shannon got a job at a travel company. But you guessed it, travel companies and Corona don’t mix well, so she was free again.
Shannon is exceptional at customer service, so if you ever send us an email, look forward to one of her amazing responses. (And be sure to welcome her!)
Oh and again, actually was very lucky our original wedding date was cancelled, because had it happened on the original date, we would have been rehiring and retraining, doing house renovations and hosting a wedding all at the same time. Can you say nightmare?
Lessons learned from this experience? Interview a TON of people, every time. There’s so many amazing people you miss out on from just looking at written answers alone.
Also, actually follow up with references.
While Corona started off amazing for my productivity, I could only sustain that so long.
As a business owner, your brain is constantly on your business.
The way I turn off? Go on vacation.
On vacation the guilt of working when I should be off and appreciating the time with those I’m with is just about the only thing that can turn my brain off my business and stop my fingers from tapping new ideas onto my laptop.
As it turns out, working 6 months straight and not taking a vacation led to some serious demotivation for me.
I couldn’t get myself excited about my work, I’d look at my to do list and not have an interest in any of it.
My husband often says how amazing it is that I have no one to report to, but still am so motivated and work so hard regardless.
Constant work without a break however definitely killed that.
I’d sit down to work, procrastinate hard, accomplish nothing, then feel guilty for not getting done what I should have, and work into the evening, thereby ruining my entire day and night.
After a couple weeks of this, I decided I needed to change something.
So a friend and I went south for a few days, hiked a mountain and swam in some amazing lakes. A few weeks later, with travel restrictions lifted in Europe, I went to Greece.
Lesson learned: Even in a pandemic, I should take vacation time and go somewhere (even if it’s in the same country.)
And lastly, I want to just say, regardless of all the things, all the cancellations, all the Corona craziness, all the challenges in my business, it’s been a truly amazing year.
Our postponed wedding was a blessing-in-disguise, 7 weeks of Corona in the countryside was such a nice little slow-down to life, we’re SO EXCITED to move into our amazing new house, the business blew past $1 million in course sales, my mastermind ladies have calmed me in so many situations and helped guide my business direction so well, I couldn’t be happier with my team, and I’m still tanned from my trip to Greece.
Oh and I was having a problem with knee pain when I go running for years, but because I travel so frequently, I never got around to going to a doctor for it. Thanks to Corona-enforced travel restrictions, I finally went to a physio, got insoles and am loving hitting the trails for runs, knee-pain-free!
In the last few months I’ve learned to accept what comes my way, carry on with a level head and to always look for the silver lining, because there’s always something to be grateful for.
Oh and btw, if you want to see these photos and life updates in real-time, follow on Instagram!