This isn’t a normal Elle & Company blog post.
In a normal Elle & Company blog post, I share strategies and write about topics after I’ve already had time to experiment and figure out what works.
But after reading your replies to my annual survey a month or two ago, I saw that you want to see things as they’re happening. You requested more behind-the-scenes.
Your wish is my command.
I have to admit, though - this is a little out of my comfort zone. Because if something doesn’t work out the way I hope it will, my failure will be public knowledge. All of you will know about it.
But that’s a more honest look at running a business, isn’t it? Trial and error, falling down once, and getting up twice.
So here’s the inside scoop about what my team and I are focusing on this quarter, along with why and how we plan to accomplish it.
Priority #1 | Freelance Academy launch
When I first started Elle & Company, I had absolutely no clue how to run a business.
I had a degree in Visual Communication Design and a ton of motivation to pursue my love of design full-time and on my own terms… but I had no idea how to find, book, and work with clients.
I also didn’t know how to keep up with business finances, set up my LLC, create service packages, handle critiques, price my services, onboard new clients, schedule projects… and that was just the tip of the iceberg
Design school didn’t teach me all of those things, and I couldn’t find any resources specifically geared toward starting an online, creative, service-based business from the ground up.
After 6 months of struggling mightily and not bringing in enough income to stay afloat, I was faced with 2 options:
A) I could stop wasting my time, give up freelancing, and stick with my dreadful 9-5 day job or
B) I could spend time developing creative strategies to attract, book, and work with the right clients and pursue my love of design full-time, on my own terms.
Since then, I’ve worked with 30+ design clients, increased my prices by 600%, and grew my waiting list to 250+. All in the span of 16 months.
All the while, I was transparently sharing what I was learning on the blog in the hope that it might help other creatives who had a similar dream of pursuing their passion full-time.
But last year I wanted to dive a little deeper, take business owners by the hand, and walk them through my tried-and-true strategies to help them build a successful freelance business.
So I created my signature course, Freelance Academy.
6 in-depth training modules, 4 live online sessions, lifetime access, a comprehensive workbook, a course community Facebook group, tech trainings, 3 exciting challenges throughout the course - I held nothing back.
It’s without a doubt my favorite Elle & Company offering to-date.
Last Year's Launch
While I’ve launched a few online courses in the past, I decided to switch things up with the first Freelance Academy launch and focus on marketing the course primarily through my list.
But in order to utilize my list, I needed to grow it.
So I spent the first six months of 2016 building my mailing list through Ellechat registrations and content upgrades.
Then, with the help of Bryan Harris, I worked through a validation process to see if the Elle & Company audience would be interested in a course like Freelance Academy before I spent tons of time and effort creating it.
And finally, I came up with a launch strategy, mapping out a PAS sequence and a 10-day email series to introduce people to the course and encourage them to sign up.
For an in-depth look at exactly how I launched Freelance Academy, click here.
I was stunned when 100 people signed up for the first round, and I was even more thrilled when I received these student reviews once the course was over:
"Freelance Academy was the course and information I have been searching for all along. Not only did this change the way my business operates, I learned amazing resources and met other amazing creatives. Seriously one of the best decisions I have ever made for my freelance business."
“I have purchased quite a few courses to help grow my design business, but Lauren's Freelance Academy is the only one that (over) delivers on that promise. I highly recommend taking this course—you will receive so much more than your money's worth!”
"I loved Freelance Academy! Lauren was so thorough throughout the course and I could tell she is truly passionate about helping other small business owners succeed. There were so many applicable takeaways for me to apply to my business. I was able to streamline my process, organize my workflow, create service packages, and establish an editorial calendar. This course helped set my business up for success!"
This year’s goal
I only launch Freelance Academy once a year, and this year’s launch is quickly coming up in September.
I always find it helpful to set a specific goal for each course launch; having a number gives me something to work toward and helps me measure my progress.
So my goal this round is to have 150 students register.
That’s 50 more than last year, which *I think* is definitely doable. Especially now that the course content has already been created and I can spend more time on marketing and promotion.
But with several trips planned this summer and a move coming up in August for Jake and I, I know I need to try to get ahead and use the next 3 months to get everything ready to go.
Our game plan
Last year I kept things really simple to create a “baseline” for the launch.
The simple strategy was effective, and this year I’m excited to build on what we already have by:
- Starting an affiliate program for Freelance Academy
- Utilizing social media more to promote the course through Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and possibly Facebook ads
- And moving the course over to Teachable
I’m delegating many of these tasks over to my assistants and letting them run with it, which I’m really excited about.
Meanwhile, I’ll be reading through student feedback to tweak and improve the modules, revisiting some of the launch bonuses and course challenges, and writing content for both the blog and the list to promote the course.
In typical Elle & Company fashion, we’re using Asana to map out a timeline and schedule all the tasks that need to be done before (and after) registration opens on September 19th.
I’ll be sharing more behind-the-scenes looks at exactly what we’re working on in my Instagram stories and on Facebook Live, if you’re interested in following along!
Priority #2 | Ellechat revamp
My weekly Ellechat series started as a Twitter chat.
Every Tuesday night, I would hop on Twitter for an hour and start a conversation with other creative business owners about a certain topic in the industry.
We talked about everything from branding to Instagram and everything in between.
It was a lot of fun, I always walked away with a tip or strategy I hadn’t considered before, and I really enjoyed the community that formed through those one-hour chats.
But because many of those topics were often so visual, I had an idea: What if I moved the Ellechat over to a webinar format?
Registrants would still be able to tune in live and chat through the comments, but I could share my screen (or prepare slides) and go more in-depth on the topics.
I also hadn’t seen many other people in the industry use a weekly webinar series to simply share content instead of sell a product or service.
So in January 2016, I made the switch.
I kept the webinars simple, invited guests on from time to time, and before long, hundreds of Elle & Company readers and followers were tuning in week after week.
But this past year, I’ve been dreaming up some changes…
My dilemmas, goals, and game plan
1 | A name change - Ellechat was a great name for a Twitter chat, but it doesn’t make sense for a weekly webinar series. But I’m terrible at coming up with names, and I’m stuck on finding a clear, concise, and memorable name to take its place. (If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments! I’ll love you forever.)
2 | A new brand - Apart from some consistent graphics, I’ve never created a sub-brand for the series to promote it and create recognition.
3 | Recurring segments - At the moment, every Ellechat revolves around a topic. I would love to continue with that system and introduce segments (think Jimmy Fallon’s “hashtags”) to create more consistency between the episodes and foster engagement with those who are tuning in live.
4 | Sponsors - I would love to allow other businesses to jump in the Ellechat live and promote their offerings for 30 seconds or a minute. Not only would this help monetize Ellechats (total transparency, guys) but it would also be very entertaining.
5 | A podcast - This one is a little scary to put out there, but here goes! I would love to take the audio from each Ellechat and turn it into a podcast. Not only would this make it easier for people to listen to Ellechats on their way to work, at the gym, etc., but it would also help expand Elle & Company’s reach through searches on iTunes and increase awareness about the weekly Ellechats. I was stunned by the number of people who requested a podcast in the survey - y’all gave me a little nudge to finally get this up and running!
I’ve put Ellechats on hold this summer while my team and I work on these changes, but the goal is to have everything up and running by August 24th!
So there you have it! An honest, inside look at what we’re working on this summer.
Over the past three years I’ve found it extremely helpful to set big goals, especially quarterly goals. It gives me a framework, provides direction, helps me prioritize tasks, and motivates me to take action.
Have you set goals for your business this quarter? Share them in the comments! I would love to know what you’re working on and provide a little accountability.