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…
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.
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.
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.