Khierstyn and Chris discuss finding your niche, protecting your time, and learning to scale your business via the power of delegation.
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“Gamify how you do things”
* Figure out how to scale
* Figure out what kind of life you want to have, and tailor your business to that
* Do you want to scale your business?
* Does doing client work fit with my goals?
* Change my services to cater to BOTH myself and to my long-term goals
* Consulting for 6 years
* Ran a franchises in college
* Consulted to that company for launching franchises
* Wanted to own a company
* Naturally gave advice to business owners at networking events
Keep yourself in mind!
Can you make money in that niche?
Can you scale your business in that niche?
In London on a visa doing corporate work; quit.
Went to a networking group for some MLM – not for me!
Tried 3-4 per week to try figure out what to do.
Going through the motions – blogging because I was supposed to.
Already tried corporate 2x, could NOT go back.
Spent 14-16 months experimenting w online marketing while helping clients acquired via networking.
Not mapping out what I wanted from the business hindered my progress.
Asked audience to get at the heart of what they need.
* Get on the phone with your list, sell back to them the thing they say they want
* Launching a crowdfunding accelerator
What you need to grow:
* Need to scale your business
* Need to protect your time
* “Clients resist working with my employees”
* “Clients resist working from my course”
* Need to system-ize and delegate the non-client-facing duties
Invested in a project manager:
* Recommended by a friend
* “Asana queen” as COO
* Figure out what systems to build to leverage your time & scale your business
Guest post on Sumo
“Me trying to cater to everyone wasn’t working”
Chris: Welcome to another episode of the $100k Freelancing Podcast. I’m Christopher Hawkins, your host, and today my co-host is Khierstyn Ross. Khierstyn is a crowd-funding product launch specialist that’s helped creators and entrepreneurs to raise multiple seven figures through Indiegogo and Kickstarter. She’s also the host and founder of the Crowdfunding Uncut Podcast, where she deconstructs what it takes to successfully launch a product online. Khierstyn, very happy to have you on the show.
Khierstyn: Yeah, I’m so happy to be here. Thanks for hosting.
Chris: Yeah it’s good. From the outside, I keep an eye on you, and it looks like your business is doing great.
Khierstyn: Thank you. It’s funny, because when you’re growing a business, you forget to look backwards and see how far you’ve come in the last twelve months or whatever, so it always seems like it doesn’t move, but in fact you just have bigger problems the further along you go as long as you keep moving. Yeah, it’s nice to take a second and think “Oh yeah, I guess things are going fairly well,” but it never seems that way because I’m very hard on myself. I’m like “Oh no, but because we’re not at like $50 billion in business,” it always feels like you could be better.
Chris: Right. Are you one of those folks that has a tendency to not stop and celebrate your wins?
Khierstyn: How did you know? Yeah that is something I need to intentionally do all the time. Even getting … Whatever you measure your metrics of success are, could be the number of subscribers you have or getting … charging a lot for that next client, or setting boundaries for yourself, I think that we don’t qualify what our success is enough, and I don’t do that. I just look and see … I’ve been doing a better job of it in the last couple months, but I definitely forget to celebrate. That actually sucks because then it means that you never feel happy with your progress because you don’t measure your progress in a certain way to celebrate those wins.
Chris: Right, that’s a real psychological hack. I talk to … A lot of the freelancers that I mentor have this problem, and I have this same problem. It’s like it takes one to know one. I looked into my crystal ball and I thought “Gee, I bet Khierstyn does this too. I’ve done the same thing. You make $50K, you’re pissed that you didn’t make $100K. You make the $100K, you’re pissed that you didn’t make $200K. You make $200K, you’re pissed that you didn’t make $400K. We tend to measure ourselves according to the things that we’ve failed to pull off rather than according to the things that we actually shipped or the value that we actually conferred onto the world. It’s tough. I constantly find myself having to encourage younger freelancers to take a minute. Sure, it’s only a $2000 website, that’s cool. Take a minute, acknowledge it, celebrate it, even if it’s as small a celebration as taking yourself to your favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch, do something to acknowledge it.
Khierstyn: Yeah, I have a friend, you may know the 5-Minute Journal or Productivity Journal.
Khierstyn: With UJ Ramdas. He’s one of my friends here in Toronto, and he has this thing where he manages himself by he does pomodoro tasks, so work for 25 minutes of focus time, take 5 minutes off, and for every pomodoro that he does, he has this bag of candy and nuts, and he rewards himself after every pomodoro, hacking himself kind of like Pavlov’s dog. That’s what he does to measure his success and constantly reward himself for the small wins that a child in him keeps going. It’s really cool.
Chris: Right. I was just talking with Josh Doody of Fearless Salary Negotiation about the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaptation. The tendency of humans to quickly try to return to a state of happiness despite positive or negative changes. That’s why a lot of people fall into a rut, they get an emotional payoff from being the guy that can’t or from being the sad sack story that everybody sympathizes with, but your friend has figured out a clever way to turn that around and get that kind of hedonic rush, that big dopamine rush of reward and pleasure, from things that benefit him, and that’s brilliant. That’s something that’s non-intuitive that a lot of us sometimes do accidentally, sometimes not. Usually we do it the other way around. I’m all for any kind of attempt to hack our own psychology to make our more negative aspects work in a positive way. That’s good stuff.
Khierstyn: Yeah, I love it. I don’t know what even you call that, personal growth hacking? You just need to become aware of your tendencies and somehow gamify your own how you do things. It’s kind of like if you want to start running in the morning, you will have a better chance of doing it by putting your running shoes by your bed or something so it triggers that aspect of the habit that you want to have versus having to go into the closet or “oh, my running clothes are dirty” or whatever. You planned in advance to gamify yourself so that you create an environment where you’re able to hit your goals and get the reward that you want to.
Chris: Yeah, that’s real stuff. That’s real stuff. I think with freelancing, it’s very difficult to do because a lot of things that we do, particularly when it comes to getting clients and particularly when we’re new, it’s just inherently difficult, isolated, non-scalable type stuff that just seems like a slog, but when we make it through the slog and we might some kind of a milestone, again $2000 bucks for a website, even the small stuff. I made ten new contacts today, just something, anything. I got opt-ins on my email list. We’ve got to stop and acknowledge them. It’s really, really important. Otherwise, who’s going to do this if it’s just an endless slog with no moments of pleasure?
Khierstyn: And you feel like there’s no endgame in sight. That’s what kills me about freelancing, is I love my clients so much, but I don’t want this to be the rest of my life where it’s just constantly looking for that next project, that is not why I’m doing what I’m doing. I want to serve more people. I think that freelancing is a means to an end, but you need to figure out “okay, is this really what I want to be doing long-term,” and if you love being a web designer or launch strategist or whatever, you really need to see how you are going to be able to create your circumstances and your business to cater to the life that you want, which ultimately means figuring our how to scale or change your business so that each of these milestones is progress along the path to bigger and better things for you.
Chris: I agree. Do you have a long-term or an over-arching set of goals for your current consulting operation?
Khierstyn: Yeah, it’s funny because in the last three, four months, I’ve really had to solidify where I want to take this because I have requests from clients to do one thing, but then I need to make sure that that’s in alignment with where I want to go, and looking at … What I do is I help people with launching physical product online, and I love that, so the thing is I need to look at do I want to become an agency where I’m growing the client side of things, or do I want to have a bit more leverage with my time, and answering that question, I know that I only want to work with people … a very small amount of people whose projects I’m super excited about while I’m building the personal brand side. I want to be the author, I want to be the speaker. I want to be the Marie Folio or someone in the marketing space who is an influencer in the startup world, that’s ultimately where I want to be. I just don’t think I can do that by growing full agency side. Having a look at the kind of business I wanted to run, that will help me figure out where I’m going to change my services to cater to people so that I’m still doing what people are asking me to do, but I’m doing it in a way that’s going to serve what I want to do.
Chris: Okay, that’s tricky. You’re really trying to strike an interesting balance there. You want to change your services so they still cater to your client base while at the same time still catering to your long-term goals. That sounds to me if I unpack that like you’re in a position where you’re probably going to have to start saying no to clients that you may have previously said yes to, is that right?
Khierstyn: Yeah, and I am doing that right now.
Chris: Nice. Okay, let’s go back just a little bit because I’m looking into my crystal ball and I’m guessing that you did not have quite this clear a set of long-term goals when you started as you do right now. What did the picture look like when you first started consulting?
Khierstyn: I’ve been consulting for six or seven years. I got my start in consulting because I ran a business in university with a franchise, and when I graduated they asked me to become a startup consultant with them, so I worked across Canada launching new franchises for about four years and it was fantastic. That’s where I started learning how to start a business from scratch. When I discovered Tim Harris’s work a while ago and I realized “Okay, I don’t want to be working under a company consulting for the rest of my life, I want to run a business online and I want to travel and stuff,” so I went traveling and found myself and do what we do. Then I had to figure out how to make money as an entrepreneur, and I kind of realized that I while I would go to networking events, I would just naturally give advice to starting business owners because that’s just what I had naturally done. Then I discovered “Oh, people will pay me to consult their business.” Okay.
Two or three years into that, I was catering to everyone. If you asked me at a networking event what I did, I would say “Oh, I help you get more sales.” And you’re like “What does that mean?” And I didn’t know. I was trying to cater to everybody, which meant my business didn’t do much but pay the bills. It wasn’t until … I was kind of floating by just trying to figure out stuff at that point, and it wasn’t until, I was living in London at this point, it wasn’t until I moved back to Toronto and I got involved with a local startup that ended up being my first Indiegogo campaign, and I just took it on because I’m like “Sure, new product, this looks interesting, I always want to learn new things.” That first product ended up failing. We revisited why it failed, relaunched it, and did $600,000 with the Indiegogo race at that point. I still didn’t want to niche into crowdfunding because I was like “it’s too risky, I don’t want to do this. I don’t like this.” Then I got another contract with a client to launch my second campaign that went really well, then a third, then people just kept coming to me for crowdfunding, then I got really good advice to say “Screw everything else and focus 100%, change the podcast and change everything into being a crowdfunding service provider.”
Chris: That’s very interesting.
Khierstyn: Yeah. You had to, because if you’re a freelancer you’re like “Oh, the number one piece of advice I hear is you need to pick a niche or else you’re not going to be known for anything, but it’s counter-intuitive because people think that if you narrow your scope too much, you’re just saying no to 99% of people out there.” I knew that I had to listen to the advice and niche down fully, because what I was doing before wasn’t working. With my trying to cater to everybody wasn’t working. I quickly became known as the Kickstarter girl, and every time someone would find out that their friend wanted to do a crowdfunding campaign, because I had done Kickstarter, they’re like “Hey, you need to talk to Khierstyn,” so I saw really quickly “Oh crap, maybe what my friend [inaudible 00:12:40] is saying is true that I need to niche everything down because people just keep coming to me for this one thing. I just leap of faith, I did it, and it’s five or six [inaudible 00:12:50] my business in six months by doing that and focusing.
Chris: Okay. What I find most interesting about that is with all this advice that we need to choose a niche as consultants, what we don’t talk about very often is that for example in your case, you didn’t choose your niche so much as you accepted the niche that you had already found yourself in even though at first you didn’t really want to be there, and I think a lot of consultants could probably do the same thing if only they could get over their own resistance to the idea that maybe they already have a niche whether they chose it or not.
Khierstyn: I actually was looking for something because I was giving this advice to a friend where you have to pick a niche, and they’re like “I don’t know how to pick one because I like doing everything,” and I don’t remember what I said, but in terms of picking your niche, it’s finding the balance between what people keep asking from you, it’s finding what you’re most passionate about, and the third thing, what you can get paid the most to do. If you can split all your jobs into the kind of clients you work with, into the kind of jobs you’re doing for them, into even the cost breakdown of how much you could charge or something versus leverage your time versus all that stuff, and find the sweet spot in the middle for that, that’s where you find your niche. I don’t know, if I hated crowdfunding, I don’t recommend anything who was me a year ago, to say “just because everyone wants you to do crowdfunding, you hate it, but you should do it anyways.” You need to keep yourself in mind with what is your endgame with it and make sure that you love designing websites for vets or whatever.
Chris: Right. I like the fact that you explicitly call out the one factor, can you make money doing it. I know plenty of people, they get into this business because “Gee, I really love designing websites” or “I really like writing Ad Copy” or “By golly, I just love writing web code,” all right. Then maybe at that other level you say “Gee, I’m really interested in the real estate market,” or “Gosh, I really just love serving attorneys.” Okay, well that’s fine, can you make money doing those things? Will you make money doing those things? I think that’s where a lot of us go off the rails. Sure, you enjoy the actual technical activity you’re doing, but where’s the profit? Can you find the profit? If you can’t, then clearly something needs to change. Maybe it’s you’re niching, maybe it’s your messaging, maybe it’s something else, but it’s often pretty clear that something needs change, and I suspect that a lot of the times we’re either in denial or we just don’t know what to look for, we don’t know what heuristics to use to determine if something needs to change, and if so, what it is.
Khierstyn: Have you read the book Built to Sell?
Chris: I have, yeah.
Khierstyn: So good. If anyone’s stuck, I recommend reading that book because it’s told like a story of someone who he runs a graphic design agency doing logos, websites, copyright, everything, and going through how he focused his business and systemized it to a point where he made … profitability-wise went up. All that stuff, it’s a great read.
Chris: Yeah, it’s good stuff. Really all he did is again, he acknowledged the one thing he was doing that accounted for the vast majority of revenue, which I believe in the book was logos, and systemized. You know what it is? It’s basically [inaudible 00:16:32] consulting at that point.
Khierstyn: Yes, it is. That’s a good way to see it.
Chris: Right? I’ve been experimenting with that a little bit around my shop, because I’m one of those folks, I struggle with niching because I’ve been really successful running a generalist agency, so I look at niching, and I understand all the arguments, I understand why you won’t actually suddenly lose all your business and be turning everybody away. I understand why it would work, but I just don’t have a huge impetus to go hard on it because things have been so successful as a generalist agency, but I know lots of other people, they’ve tried the generalist thing and for whatever reason they haven’t been able to make it work. If things are working well, okay fine. Go get your paper boo boo, don’t mess with it if it’s working. But if you’re struggling, come on, you’ve got to change something. The story in the book was they were starting to struggle, they weren’t enjoying the business, and they figured out that one thing. They kind of were already niched down on logos anyway, that’s where all the money came from.
Khierstyn: Yeah. I find too that if you’re just starting out finding that sweet spot, you can always add services later, like what’s to say that I’m not going to consult someone on watching a store on Amazon post-Kickstarter. Nothing’s to stop me from that in six to twelve months except my experience doing that, but right now I’m just like “No, I focus on this one phase, and then I know people who I can offload you to.” If you get really, really, really good at one thing, you can once your reputation goes through, then you can add services as things go on.
Chris: Yeah, I agree. I want to back up just a little bit and drill down on something you mentioned, that when you went to networking events, you would give advice to anybody and everybody. That actually sounds pretty good. That whole provide value for free early on. Do your networking, get to know people. I’m curious, what kind of networking events were you attending? Number two, is that how you ended up closing your initial state of clients as a new consultant?
Khierstyn: Yeah, I was on a two-year working visa in the UK, and I was trying to be a normal human being by trying corporate. I didn’t want to do the risky entrepreneur thing anymore, so I got a job working in sales, and after three months I wanted to kill myself. Not actually, maybe I shouldn’t say that, but I just really was hating my life, I didn’t like how I didn’t have a lot of freedom with the company, and after three months I was like “Screw this, I’m quitting.” I had some savings in the bank and I quit my job. I had no idea what I wanted to do or what I can get paid to do. I’m just like “I need to commit to being an entrepreneur 100%,” so the first thing I did was I gave them my resignation and then that night I went to Entrepreneurs in London, which is London’s largest meetup group for entrepreneurs, and I just started talking to people to find out what it was that they were doing. I didn’t have an end goal, I just wanted to hear their businesses and maybe it was something I could get involved with.
It’s funny, that first event I went to, I don’t remember which MLM company was there, but it’s like this one company was doing a massive launch in Europe and there were about six MLM people there and I was like “This is not the event I like.” I ended up checking out a few others, and I would go to three or four events a week to try to meet someone to figure out hopefully they would say something that would prompt some idea in me.
It’s funny because you make it sound like I intentionally would sit down with people and give them free advice and that was an end goal of mine, but I didn’t have … at that point when I was just giving advice, I didn’t even realize that I can get paid to consult. I wasn’t trying to become a consultant, but I had this really annoying tendency of Chris if you come to me and say “Oh, I’ve really wanted to lose weight my whole life or run an IronMan or start a business, but …” and then the excuses come in, it’s my natural inclination to be like “Oh no no, let’s look at this, let’s make a plan because you can do that. You could start here,” and that’s how I naturally dive into conversations with people. Side note, I struggle with people who say they want to do something but don’t actually take action or want to take action because I just have this tendency to do whatever. That’s just how I was.
I would hear these entrepreneurs struggling with “I don’t know how to get clients,” and because I knew how to do that, I’m like “Oh, what if you” whatever it was. Eventually, a couple people came back and they’re like “So you used to do this, right? Would I be able to hire you?” At that point I was like “But I don’t know how to be a consultant,” then I realized that I did because I consulted a franchise so why can’t I just apply the same system and skills that I learned there to other companies. That was a turning point for me, and then here we are.
Chris: Nice. Intentionally or not, you ended up building a network of people to whom you were a known quantity. You built trust, you build rapport, you developed relationships, and lo and behold, these people came back and ended up hiring you. I think that that is pretty indicative of how most of us really get clients when we start out. A lot of freelancers are out there, they’re like “Dude, I have to get my social media game on point and I have to blog and I have to set up an automated marketing funnel and this and that,” and I’m always telling them “No you don’t, it’s day one. What you need are relationships.” I always get looked at like I just sprouted this second head, but when we’re starting out especially, that’s where all the stuff flows from. Nobody starts consulting in a vacuum.
Khierstyn: If you want to go online, I struggled with this, there is this guy, this egotistical … he’s this 20-year-old entrepreneur that hated me so much in the UK, he’s named Stewart [Mayland 00:23:06], he’s really successful for his age, but his ego is ridiculous and he would just tear me apart on social media when I first got started.
Khierstyn: Yeah. Not crowdfunding, this is before crowdfunding, this is when I had my brand, when I had no idea what I was talking … I just didn’t know what message I was trying to convey. I just thought “I need to go through the motions of writing a blog post because that’s what I’m supposed to do according to these gurus.” The thing is when you’re just getting started and you don’t really know what your specialty is or what people want to hire you for, how are you supposed to have a blog content strategy? It’s weird, because you just like “I don’t get it, what are you trying to say? It’s great that you taught sales people, you apparently are a business strategist, not a sales coach, I don’t understand.” He had a great point, and it wasn’t until … I didn’t do much on the podcasting side really until crowdfunding and then finally I was like “I get it, this is what people want, this is what I love,” then it took off for me there because I had a content message that was in alignment with the work that I was already getting paid to do.
Chris: Okay, now that’s huge. I want to unpack that a little bit. Number one, you were primarily unsure of what exactly you wanted, number two you were unsure of how to communicate that, number three it sounds like you had some clients, you had some traction, but I’m guessing that you would not characterize yourself as killing it at that point. What was it that kept you in? Especially when you’re facing this withering criticism who has apparently “made it,” what is it that kept you in, what kept you moving forward, what stopped you from just calling time of death and slinking back to a corporate job?
Khierstyn: Because I tried the corporate side twice and I knew that after only lasting for three months, I couldn’t do it. I had to figure it out. I think it was the decision to just quit my job and risk going in debt. I just had to commit to myself because I am an entrepreneur at spirit and I think I’m completely unemployable. I had to make it work. Yeah, maybe the Stewart thing, had I not had major success offline and seen how to run a real business and have impacted hundreds of entrepreneurs that way, maybe if I didn’t have that experience, and I’m just going online, I would’ve let his criticism get to me, but I knew that I knew how to run a business and even if everything crashed and burned online, I’d just figure it out.
Chris: Right. How long did it take before you got those … rather, between the time when you got those ad hoc clients from your networking activities and when you started doing crowdfunding and making it work, was there a long span of time in between those two?
Khierstyn: I think it was like 14 to 16 months.
Chris: Okay. During those 14 to 16 months, did you continue to rely on networking and on exploiting your own network to find work, or did you experiment with the other either scalable or non-scalable marketing techniques to bring potential clients into your … I hate the word funnel, it’s just annoying, but I guess that’s what it is.
Khierstyn: In this 14 to 16 months is when I was experimenting online. I got all of my business from networking while I learned the online side. Again, it’s really hard to sell something if you don’t know what your audience wants and you don’t even know what you’re doing to help clients because I was literally doing everything. I was helping a company build an offline sales team, I was helping an app get sales remotely, I was advising on funnel strategy, it was all over the place. I don’t know, it’s really embarrassing what I started off online as because it was really just learning as I went.
Chris: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m curious, were you earning fairly well during this time when you were experimenting online but you were working with your clients you’d acquired via networking? I know a lot of freelancers who primarily go into online marketing because they feel like they have to, but I know more than one person who’s earning 100 grand a year simply via work that they acquired through their network.
Khierstyn: Yeah, I was making enough to pay the bills and live comfortably, but it wasn’t by any means what I wanted, and I think that had I … I don’t know why I didn’t choose to stay offline, but I think if I had committed to offline and getting business through word of mouth and all that. I’d have a very different business to what I have today, but it’s because I wanted to go online that I think I cut my income a little bit because I wanted to make sure I had the time to spend building that.
Chris: Right, that’s smart. It sounds like, I don’t know if you could’ve articulated at the time, but it sounds like you were conducting your business in accordance with some of the goals that you shared earlier with me in the show, and again I don’t know if you could’ve articulated those goals at the time, but you clearly were working in service of something bigger than what was right in front of you.
Khierstyn: Yeah, I think too one thing that hindered my progress back then is I didn’t sit down and really map out where I wanted the business to go I’m just like “Oh, I’m living in another country, I’m living comfortably, paying the bills and whatever,” but I wanted to go online, I didn’t sit down and really commit to what that would look like or how that would change my life. I think what’s really changed is because I got traction … It’s almost like because I got a lot of traction in the Kickstarter space, that’s what really forced me to take it seriously and set the goals and figure out what I want my empire to look like, but because I didn’t get traction in one area before, I didn’t really take it seriously so I just lived comfortable if that makes sense.
Chris: Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. It’s very easy to get caught in the zone of being comfortable enough, but still you went through … you walked through the desert for 14 to 16 months trying to make your online presence work, trying to make your online marketing message work, and it sounds like you eventually got it. Do you remember the first moment, the first online marketing activity, the first bit of online messaging that you put out into the world that clearly connected?
Khierstyn: I think there wasn’t one specific moment. With the podcast, I think as soon as I … It was a couple moments. As soon as I changed from entrepreneur and cut to crowdfunding and my audience definitely got cut in half, but my audience went from trying to be a [inaudible 00:30:37] to a very niche hyper-focused crowd, and I started to see major engagement when I became one of only a handful of players in a very big space for one. Secondly, I finally got my opt-in or my lead magnet that people wanted that started getting really good conversions was my checklist that I created because Nathan Chan of Foundr Magazine begged me to make it, and finally that’s the one time I was like “You know what, instead of guessing what my audience wants, why don’t I ask them or take feedback from a question or something and just do it.” That checklist, I’ve received so much feedback from it. I think the moment for me is really understanding the power of listening to your audience and giving them what they ask for. That’s been a bit of a game-changer for me with how I do stuff.
Chris: Right, that’s powerful. I had a recent experience that was very similar to that. Before I started this podcast, I’d been blogging for about 10 years, had built up a bit of a mailing list, and very similar to what you did, I read a survey. Straight up, it’s boring, it’s old-school, but hey surveys are powerful and they still work and that’s why people still do them. I went right down the numbers, what are your pains, what are you worried about, are you this or that, are you thinking about this or the other, and that group of answers really informed the way I do my coaching now. It really informed the decision to even launch this podcast, it informed a lot of things on the marketing to other freelancers side of the house. If anybody out there has got even a little bit of an audience, a little bit of quiet deal flow happening, a little bit of a following, engage those people, talk to them, ask them questions.
I think a lot of the time, Khierstyn, we’re afraid to ask questions for whatever reason, whether it’s introverted geek tendencies or insecurity or imposter syndrome, I think that the folks who invest in our work, I think they love when we ask them questions. I think they’re happy to fill us in on what’s troubling them because once we have a little bit of trust built up, they know damn well that we’re probably going to find a solution to whatever’s ailing them.
Khierstyn: Yeah, I agree. It’s funny we’re having this conversation now because up until Sunday, so like five days ago, I had resisted getting on the phone with anyone because I’m like “No, I have to protect my time because I’m not getting anything else done.” I am going through this chicken-egg scenario where I want to scale my practice and I don’t know how to do that. I kept guessing at what kind of offers my list wanted, so I pitched one. It tanked. I asked them why and then I realized that there was a bit of a combination of an offer that I wanted to do. I was at a Mastermind last week and I asked “How do I survey my audience to pull out what they need?”
Jaimie Masters being in the crowd, she was [Johnny Duance’s 00:33:49] mentor and Grant Cardone’s and stuff, and she was like “Don’t do surveys, I have a program that you can use to get your list on the phone, validate, and sell back to them something that they specifically want.” I was like “All right, whatever.” I went through the course, I decided to bite the bullet and get on the phone with people. I had about 35 people come back to me saying “Yes, I would like a phone call to talk about this program and give you my feedback.”
I got on the phone, I told them “I’m not looking to sell you, but if I think it’s a fit, we will set up another phone call.” I dug into “What are your big frustrations, what are some resources you’ve gone into online, and where do you feel online,” blah blah blah, and all that stuff. At the end I was like “Do you want to hear about the program if I think it’s a fit?” I was like “Here it is, and here’s the price” and they were like “Okay.” I tore out some objections from them and I said “Do you want to set up another call to actually go through this and see if it’s a fit?” Now I’ve done that and I’m actually launching a crowdfunding accelerator because of this, because it was exactly what people wanted and I’ve sold like 25% of it in the last two days just from doing this. I would say this is by far my most successful launch, and it’s actually something people want.
I really wish I got on the phone with people sooner because it’s amazing how much money you’re leaving on the table by … you don’t know how many people on your list want to work with you but they just haven’t reached out yet. It’s been a bit of a game-changer I think.
Chris: That’s huge, and congratulations for that because again, a lot of us, for whatever reason, we’re really averse to talking to the people that we hope to sell to. Once these people are already in our orbit, they’re already on your mailing list, maybe they’ve already bought something from you, the trust is there and we just need to acknowledge it and act on it in ways that can hopefully work out to be a win-win, so that’s good. Congratulations for that, that’s a strong move.
Khierstyn: Thank you.
Chris: I want to talk a little bit about … There are a couple of things that you mentioned that I want to drill down on. Number one is when you talked about you want to grow your practice, you’re not sure how, it sounds as though launching this accelerator is one way to do that. The other thing that you mentioned was protecting your time. I think those two things are linked. The wanting to grow in scale and protecting your time, I think those two are linked maybe moreso than maybe one would think just by hearing us talk about it. Do you have any sense that you’ve been successful that you may have boxed yourself in, that your client list would resist the idea of you scaling up and hiring people to work with/under you, do you think there’s any chance that your clients would say “No no no, I only want to work with you, Khierstyn, directly you?”
Khierstyn: Yes, that is exactly what happened. They’re like “You know …” because when I tried to sell a course, the difference between the accelerator and the course is the one-on-one time now. The course I was like “I can make a six-week video series you can work through at your own pace” and everyone came back and was like “It’s not the price, I just really need someone who I can send my video script to and get feedback on it,” which is me. As part of me hearing objections, this is why I don’t think I’ll be able to do a high-level flagship course and why I need to do a high-level accelerator because what people are really paying for is the ability to get tailored campaign advice from me. I’ve had to integrate that into the accelerator and the conversations I’ve been having because that came up with every person who’s like “I really want to work with you, but my big concern is getting lost in some big membership group. I don’t want that, I want you.” It’s like trying to get creative with how much of your time you’re going to give versus being able to scale that in some group setting.
Chris: Yeah. I had a feeling that may be the case, number one because I’ve been there and number two because that’s a big part of what I do is I go into my clients’ businesses and I just kind of look at them with the x-ray vision and I find the pieces that are working in contradiction to one another and where the processes are broken down and they say “Oh, I bet this is this” and there we go. So that is a [concern 00:38:26]. Number two, knowing that, and it sounds like you’re already aware of that, this is more in the vein of both protecting your time, have you identified any parts of the process, clearly not the client-facing parts, but any parts of the process internally, operationally, where you can break pieces off of the process and delegate those while maintaining your client-facing duties.
Khierstyn: Yeah, it’s about systemizing as much as possible. I need to look at value I bring to the table and I can’t outsource to someone, and that’s any sort of advice. That’s where I’m having problems scaling myself because a launch has so many parts. A launch has a video story where it has to be looked at, a launch has copywriting that needs to be positioned properly, a launch has all these things. That’s been the cog for me, so I’m in the middle of … in a perfect world in a couple months, I think I’m going to be getting a creative director who will be able to look at things that don’t rely heavily on Kickstarter strategy but would be like looking at the copy and making sure that it checks certain boxes.
think there are two phases of agency. One is the advising and one is the doing. We can split that off by saying, if part of the advising and say copywriting, I can systemize what kind of documents need to be written for clients and what the outline of that document for copy looks like. Then I can make sure that every time we have a new launch, I can say “Copywriter, here are the documents in the systems, go write it,” but what I would ultimately like to do is have a creative director to then be able to look over that and protect the quality because right now I’m doing both advising and I’m doing the quality control, and something has to give there in the future.
Chris: Yeah, that’s tough. I’m in a spot similar to that myself. I’ve got a team of two that are assisting me, so no code gets shipped out of this place unless I cast my eyes on it and vouch for it before it goes to the client, and that’s cool while the team is just three, but back in the day the team was much bigger, and I’m trying to build back up to that and I’m very rapidly getting to the point where it’s not going to be sustainable. So, I feel your pain on that. I’m curious, do you have any particular strategies in mind for managing that whole process? Do you have any particular tools that you like to turn to for managing projects? You mentioned pomodoro earlier that your friend uses, are you a fan of that, what kind of hacks do you use internally? Maybe not with your clients, but just internally to manage your own work especially now as you contemplate bringing on help?
Khierstyn: I’ve invested in a project manager, which she manages me basically. She was recommended to me by a really good friend who said “She’s the Asana queen, you need her” and I was like “Okay, I don’t need Asana but whatever.” Then I brought her into my business and I really needed to look at what I badly needed to be able to move my business forward and I need someone who can basically figure out what my problems are and figure out what systems have to be built to leverage me better, because that’s my big problem right now is leverage. So, figure out what systems we need to build to save time and leverage, build the systems, then implement and manage. That was a combination I badly needed, and I needed someone really competent who I can trust as a COO or something.
I found her and started working with her and she’s been a major help. Some of the hacks we use are Asana to manage everything. What I’m now doing is I’m theming the week, like we’re on a big systems push right now, so systems are like “What does our sales system look like to make sure we’re getting the right people on the funnel. What does the content system look like, what does the client onboarding system look like?” All these things just to … We’re just increasing quality across the board, so we can’t just say we’re going to attack all this at once, we need to say “Okay, week one we’re doing this” and at the beginning of the week “Here are the five things you’re doing throughout the week to do it,” then we action those in Asana and the next week we say “How did we do, are we down that check? Let’s move on to the next thing.” I think it’s planning, it’s breaking down the system, then it’s using Asana and time management and productivity stuff to actually do it.
Chris: Okay. What about the other side of that, not the internally-facing things, but the client-facing work that you do? Do you use any particular tools to interact with your clients to manage the client-end of the engagement or is that all phone calls and email?
Khierstyn: It’s a bit everywhere right now. I have a … because I don’t work with a ton of clients, I keep a friend approach. We have a chat on … we’ll have a client chat discussion room on Skype for random questions throughout the week. I got them on Asana so they can see a high level of each project and then we get them interacting with anything that they need to do for deliverables. Internally I use Slack. I guess to answer your question, it’s a combination between Skype for quick stuff, email for anything that doesn’t require a major response but agreements or graphics or whatever, then I just keep Asana for the project timeline, and then a shared Google Drive for any collaterals or whatever that we need to be sharing.
Chris: Okay, it sounds like a lot of collaboration tools on the client end of things but not a lot of automation tools, is that right?
Khierstyn: Not yet, literally doing that now because I can’t skill without it. I know this is your podcast, but what is your favorite automation tool?
Chris: I’ve got to say that so far it’s Drip. I started out on MailChimp and I moved to ConvertKit, and both of those served their role in my business’s growth, now I am on Drip. It sounds super simple because it’s just “Okay, you’re automating email, big deal,” but for client onboarding, being able to pull somebody in through a form and send them through some kind of an automation workflow, that’s huge. Having somebody on the list and being able to drip out certain kinds of information to them according to the certain set of parameters, that’s huge. That saves I don’t know how much time, it’s got to be hours per week because it saves me from having to click through and analyze and formulate responses to emails that happen in every single client project. A lot of the stuff gets to happen by rote now, and I’m only looped into the system when human intervention is needed, and that’s big because at a certain point, maybe you’re stuffing everything at a Basecamp, maybe you’re stuffing everything into FogBugz or BugTracker.net, what have you, but at a certain point a human being has to interface with all that stuff and there are so many things in a project that a human being doesn’t necessarily need to be in on, at least not on both sides.
Drip is my go-to these days for managing anything that’s either client-facing or mailing-list-facing. For project management stuff internally, not so much automation but more collaboration. I guess it’s kind of the opposite of how you’re doing things. I’ve got most of my automation facing the clients and most of my collaboration facing inwardly toward my team.
Khierstyn: Yeah, that’s cool because most of my automation right now is through ActiveCampaign with my list, but I don’t do any … I have zero client onboarding process apart from a checklist from things you need to get from a client, so I’m literally building that as we go. I’ll definitely check out Drip because there are a lot of automations that we could take humans out of, which would be nice.
Chris: Yeah, I love Drip. They were just rolling out automations back when I was on MailChimp, but as nice of a service as MailChimp is, I just didn’t have that much confidence in it. I’ve met Rob Walling in person, he used to live just up the road a ways here. We met at some of the local tech events. I trust him, I got to see close-up what he was doing with his operation, and when the time came I felt really good about what they were doing over there at Drip. Now they were acquired by Leadpages, so they’re all out in Minneapolis right now and they’ve got the resources of Leadpages behind them, so I feel very, very good about the long-term future of keeping my stuff on drip.
Khierstyn: Yeah, that’s cool. I’ll definitely check them out, so thanks for the plug.
Chris: Yeah no problem, no problem. Good tools are hard to come by sometimes.
Khierstyn: I know.
Chris: We’re moving toward wrap-up here, we are about at time. I want to make sure that everybody can follow you online if they want to. I’ve got you on Twitter @khierstynross and your primary URL is crowdfundinguncut.com where you can grab the exact strategies Khierstyn has used to crowdfund over $1.5 million. You know what? You might need to update that headline, I’m sure you’ve got to be way over that by now.
Khierstyn: I’m just saying multiple seven figures because technically some of the campaigns are in demand, which means they are continuously raising money, so I like the $1.5 mil, but that’s powerful, I think I’m going to change it to multiple seven figures, but I need a clickbaity title.
Chris: No shame in that, no shame in that. I love clickbait as much as the next guy. Is there anyplace else online … Oh, your Crowdfunding Uncut podcast, is that also available on crowdfundinguncut.com?
Khierstyn: Yeah. Just click on the podcast or you can go to crowdfundinguncut.com/blog and you’ll find it there.
Chris: Fantastic, is there anyplace else online that listeners can keep up with you and your projects?
Khierstyn: No, I’m doing the odd guest posts here and there, I have one coming up in Sumo soon, but no I think crowdfundinguncut.com is the main hub right now. I just like to keep it simple under that brand, but in the future I’m sure I’m going to be adding a personal site and all that stuff.
Chris: Fantastic. Okay, well Khierstyn, thank you so much for sharing your story with everybody and I love the tips and operational strategy stuff, that’s really valuable and I’m thankful for that because a lot of us just gloss right over that, so thank you for sharing with us today.
Khierstyn: Yeah, no worries. Thanks for having me.