How the 30 Day List Building Challenge Helped Me Build a 5-figure Business from Scratch

I’m not the kind of person that has always had that entrepreneurial spirit in them.

I didn’t have a lemonade stand as a kid. Selling Girl Scout cookies involved sending the order form to work with my parents. I ate more of the marching band fundraising candy bars than I sold. So I’m pretty amazed that I’ve built a five-figure online business from scratch.

It certainly didn’t happen overnight, and I’ve got a long way to go. But $20,000 in revenue totally counts as a five-figure business.

As of writing this, I’m still working a full-time job and doing this online business thing on the side. My plan for 2016 is to increase my revenue 10x and go full time…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

To see where Shannon’s business is today, click here.

How it all started…

This blog post shares how the 30 Day List Building Challenge helped build a 5-figure business form scratch in 2015. Worth the read! | | #entrepreneurs #businessowners A couple of years ago, I started to feel very unhappy in my job. I craved more freedom.

I resented having to be on someone else’s schedule, even though that someone was paying me well to be on their schedule. I didn’t like having to wear uncomfortable clothes every day. I didn’t like being in a high-stress environment.

Feeling Guilty

I felt pretty guilty for feeling that way, because that’s what you do, right? You go to college so you can get a good job where someone pays you to dress a certain way and be at a certain place at a certain time. Outside of work hours, you get to spend the money they gave you however you want.

And if you’re lucky enough to be able to make ends meet, you really shouldn’t complain.

During this time my weight had been creeping up, and my best friend wanted me to do the 30 Day PUSH by fitness/business guru Charlene Johnson with her. The gist of the 30 Day PUSH is that you set 10 goals for the next year, and then you come up with a PUSH goal, which is the one that makes all the others possible, it PUSHES them over.

My PUSH Goal Was to Own a Business

I decided that the one thing that would help me to eat healthier, exercise more, get organized and pay off debt would be to own a business.

That’s the only way I could see myself getting in control of my time and income. (I totally used building a business as an excuse not to focus on my fitness in 2015, but that’s a blog post for another day…)

I Knew What I Wanted

I knew that I wanted to teach women how to start a blog or build their own WordPress sites.

After listening to all my favorite podcasts like Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn and Build Your Tribe with Chalene Johnson, I learned how important it is to build an email list and that you must offer something of value for free to get people to opt-in.

So I created the 5 Day Website Challenge, a program that teaches participants how to build a WordPress site from scratch. I planned to make money from affiliate commissions on the products I promoted via the Challenge.

I got to work

To my new business started, I took some time off of work, recorded all my tutorial videos, signed up for my affiliate programs, built my website, set up MailChimp, set up my opt-in, and I was all ready to get started.

But there was just one little problem… I had NO CLUE how to find people that would be interested in signing up for my Challenge!

I had all the tech set up, ready and waiting for people to start signing up – but how was I supposed to find these people? I already knew from my day job that SEO in a highly competitive niche like WordPress would be difficult and Google AdWords would be crazy expensive…

Even if you build it, they might not come.

I Realized I Had to Learn Email List Building

So I literally Googled “how to build an email list” and I came upon Nathalie Lussier’s 30 Day List Building Challenge. That changed everything.


Because I already had much of the preliminary steps completed I upgraded to the Fast Track option to get all 30 days at once.

Over the first 10 days of her email list building challenge, Nathalie teaches you the basics, such as how to figure out what you want to offer, how to set up the tech, etc. how to install a pop-up on your site to get people to opt-in to set up and how to track your conversions.

Yay, I already had that done!

Joining the Facebook Group Was Pivotal

Next, I joined the 30 Day List Building Challenge Facebook group, which was a pivotal moment for my business.

I didn’t know much about Facebook groups at that time, but I jumped in and told the group my email list building goal was to get 100 subscribers in 30 days.

I asked a question about my call to action, but because I took not marketing in the group very seriously, I never said my business name or posted a link to my site.

I Shared My Knowledge With Others

But people had tons of WordPress questions that I answered which helped me establish myself as an expert.

Nathalie also had a promo thread every now and again, and the very first time I posted my business on that thread, I got my first subscriber, Jenn Walker Wall. Jenn bought every single affiliate product I recommended and launched her site in a week!

That was on January 4, 2015, and that small win showed me that people want what I’m offering – and that this was totally possible!

I Veered Off the Challenge a Little

Starting with Day 11 of the Challenge, Nathalie’s email list building course covers other ways to get traffic to your site such as guest posting, hosting a webinar, being helpful in Facebook groups, offering to be interviewed, creating a contest and even writing a Kindle book! She gives you step-by-step instructions on how to implement each strategy.

So this is where I veered off of the email list building Challenge a little bit… Looking back, it was a total lack of confidence, but at the time, I just couldn’t figure out what website that targeted who I was targeting would want me to write or talk about WordPress for them… I couldn’t think of interesting things to write about WordPress.

After all, I wasn’t targeting developers, but who would even want to read about WordPress besides developers? And what if people thought I didn’t know what I was talking about??

I Decided to Interview People for My Blog

So I decided to interview people for my blog instead. My thought process was that if I interview women entrepreneurs that built their own WordPress site from scratch (ask them why they chose the DIY route, what advice they have for newbies, what would they do differently, etc.), then they would link to their interview on my site from their site, driving traffic to me!

My Interview Process

So I utilized Nathalie’s Facebook group to find people to interview (and I Googled best websites for female entrepreneurs and asked to interview them too) and I just sent them my questions via email.

Once I got their responses, I wrote an intro, sent back to them for their approval, and published it on my site. Then, I sent them a link and promoted it on my social media accounts.

A Shoutout to Mentors

The other thing I did was to ask my interviewees who their mentors are, and then I’d give each mentor a shoutout on Twitter – “S/O to @NathLussier for being named a top influencer by @personIinterview in (link to my blog post).” That would catch the attention of people with more followers than me (because I had like 80 at the time), and they would retweet it.

The results: more followers for all of us, more traffic to the blog post, and more people signing up for my Free 5 Day Website Challenge.

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Steady and Consistent Growth Achieved

Interviews and being active in Facebook groups where entrepreneurs hang out are all I did for the first few months. I didn’t have explosive growth, but it was steady and consistent and I developed a network of people that trust me and refer me all the time to other entrepreneurs to learn WordPress.

Over the past year, I stayed active in Facebook groups and I’ve done a few interviews and guest posts as well. My list continues to grow steadily. I’m now at almost 1,400 people that want to learn how to DIY their WordPress site. From ZERO people!!

In the past year, I’ve also developed premium courses (some of which flopped and some that have done well), hosted a couple of webinars, tried Facebook ads, offered a Done For You service and an hourly consulting rate.

What I Would Have Done Differently

My first year in business has kinda been all over the place: trying and testing and learning and building and teaching and serving – all setting me up to know exactly what I do and DON’T want to do in 2016.

More Time Spent on Email List Building

If I could go back in time, I would have spent more focused time on email list building and less time on building a product that I assumed my audience would want, but that ultimately they weren’t ready for.

I blew through those first 30 days and went right into trying to make some money… and I barely made any money in my first 6 months. The majority of my five-figure revenue has come in the past 2-3 months after refocusing on email list building and serving my audience. And I’m putting every dime right back into my business.

I haven’t paid myself anything yet, but I haven’t gone into debt either.

More Patient and Focused

If I had to start over, I would be more patient and focused.

The lure of fast money and explosive list growth through flashy courses and products is tempting, but even with expert advice to put you on the fast track, no one can make it happen for you but you. Taking action and being focused and consistent is what will make you successful.

Think of the 30 Day List Building Challenge as 30 days of building a foundation and learning email list building strategies. Then pick one or two strategies to build your list and be consistent.

Focus on doing nothing but building an email list and serving your audience for your first 6 months. It may seem like you’re working for free for 6 months, but what you’re really doing is building an audience that trusts you enough to buy from you.

After 6 months, ask your audience what more you can do for them, what else they need and build products and services around their answers. Then you’ll reap the rewards of 6 months of hard work.

Suddenly, Everything Falls Into Place

Can you do it faster than that? Sure! Everyone is different – but just like getting healthy or getting out of debt, it takes a lot of effort over a long period time. It will seem like you aren’t getting any traction and then suddenly everything starts to fall into place.

I’m so excited about 2016, and Nathalie Lussier is once again a big part of my master plan. I just implemented AccessAlly for online course delivery (I made $800 in 2 weeks with a beta launch of my MailChimp Master Class). I’ll also be honing in on more list building strategies with a goal to triple the number of people I can serve in 2016.

I would love to hear more about your journey and your most successful list building efforts! Share them in the comments below and here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016!

About the Author

Shannon Mattern teaches solorpreneurs how to DIY their WordPress site. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Floyd and their dog Gracie, who you’ll often heer snoring in Shannon’s tutorial videos. When she’s not trying out the latest and greatest WordPress plugins or interacting with her community of empowered solopreneurs, you can find her riding her ATV or hanging out with her friends around a campfire.

Click here to see a free demo of AccessAlly


  1. Jane Gramlich on January 27, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for generously sharing your first year’s experience! I bogged down on Nathalie’s challenge in the same spot, Day 11, as you did. It’s great to see that you pushed through it. I know I can,too.
    I made my own website from scratch over a year ago. It was before your 5-day challenge was available. I’m glad I did it myself because learned so much. Now I’m ready for a redo with the challenge this time. The difference this time is that I feel so empowered, like you have my back.

    • Shannon Mattern on January 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks so much Jane!! I’m so glad you feel empowered. Mission accomplished :)

  2. Kim on January 27, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Great article, Shannon! I have gotten a ton out of your WP-BFF group, and am thrilled you shared Nathalie’s 30 day challenge! Thanks for sharing your inspiring story!

    • Shannon Mattern on January 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      It’s the BEST thing I’ve ever done for my business (besides hiring a coach!)

  3. S. Brooke Bailey on January 27, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story Shannon. It’s inspiring and also realistic. I appreciate that you shared your gradual progress and your numbers with us.

    I recently went back through the 30 Day List Building Challenge and picked up on a lot of things I missed the first couple of times I attempted it. Since my background isn’t in technology I got caught up with creating and delivering a valuable opt-in to my subscribers. Reviewing the full 30 Day course helped me identify some things that could really help me expand my reach.

    I’m looking forward to continuing the consistent effort of building online relationships. I would love to read an update from you in another 6 months to see what else you have learned and how your business is going.

    • Shannon Mattern on January 29, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words Brooke! I will definitely continue to share my journey – sometimes I think that if I share what’s really going on in my biz, people may not go for bigger! But this is the real deal of what’s happening while trying to build an online biz while working a full-time job. Hopefully I’ll be an overnight sensation soon :)

  4. Merri Dennis on January 27, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I have so enjoyed following your journey and appreciate getting even more details. You are brave and open. Thanks so much for launching and following through on your dream.

    • Shannon Mattern on January 29, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      Wow, thank you for that Merri! It’s not only passion for tech, but for the amazing people in my community wonderful mentors from afar like Nathalie Lussier that make me keep going!!

  5. Meera on January 27, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Hey Shannon, thanks for sharing your amazing story. You have no idea how helpful your community and 5 day course has been in helping me build my website. I thought I couldn’t do it without a designer till mine left me hanging to pick up the pieces myself. I gained a lot of confidence the DIY route and thank you for it!

  6. Shannon Mattern on January 29, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Meera! I’ve heard from so many people whose web designers disappeared and left them hanging! I’m so glad you feel confident and empowered. I hope with this new WordPress knowledge you can trust another web designer, knowing if they bail on you, you can take it over no problem!

  7. […] from a “Groundhog Day” lifestyle to launching her very own (and very successful) business on the […]

  8. Chris L'Heureux on February 1, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Shannon, you are the best. I love this post. I now have a website because of your 5-Day Challenge. You always over-deliver and you are trustworthy. I know your business will continue to grow as you started out helping others grow their blogs and businesses and continue to do so. You continue to serve others with great passion and humility. I’m honored to be on your email list.