Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne Schwamberger

No matter how many talented authors we interview, I'm always surprised at the new ways each of them chooses to market their books and make them a success.  Ruth Soukup, best-selling author of How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul, and just today, Living Well, Spending Less, 12 Secrets of the Good Life, shares 7 great tips on marketing your book and turning it into a best-seller.

She discusses timelines for traditional publishing versus self-publishing, strategies she's used for growing her blog, what's working for her with Pinterest right now, and the development of her course, Elite Blog Academy.  Most of all, I love Ruth's story of setting a huge goal for herself: earning a full-time income blogging and bringing her husband home from his job.  3 years into her blogging journey, Ruth accomplished her goal, and her blog and business continue to grow on a daily basis.

Ruth is so kind, down-to-earth, and of course, chock full of great advice!  If you're struggling to figure out what having the good life means for you right now, we highly recommend that you check out Ruth's latest book.  It's chock full of great advice and encouragement.  As Ruth says, "You can do it!  You can do it!"  I hope you leave this podcast feeling pumped up and encouraged to keep working towards your biggest dreams and goals.  We believe you can do it too!

On the Podcast

01:41 - From Shopping Habit to Blog Success
04:31 - No You're Not Stupid. Ruth Says You Can Do It!
06:39 - Ruth's Favorite Books (+ how they help her get more done!)
11:03 - 12 Secrets of the Good Life
13:35 - Traditional Versus Self-Publishing
17:54 - The Birth of Elite Blogging Academy
19:22 - 7 Tips for Launching an Amazon Best-Seller
26:08 - What is Bookbub? + Why You Should Care
26:58 - The Making of an Online Course
31:50 - 4 Strategies for Blog Growth
36:55 - The Perfect Pin - Ruth Explains All
39:50 - A Day in the Life of a ProBlogger
42:35 - The Big Leap
46:18 - A Funny, Messy Mom Moment!

From Shopping Habit to Blog Success

In 2010, Ruth and her family had recently moved to Florida from Washington State. She was missing her friends and family and felt lonely as a mom with 1 and 4 year-old girls. She spent a lot of time wandering Target or the mall and going shopping. She was spending more than she should have, so fighting about money became a common occurrence for Ruth and her husband. Finally, they took drastic measures, and Ruth was on a really strict budget.

Not knowing what else to do with her time, and needing an outlet to hold herself accountable, Ruth decided to start a blog. She hadn't read many blogs before, so as she began, it was as if a whole new world was opened up to her.

Ruth realized that there were people who made a full-time income from blogging, so pretty early on, she set that goal for herself. She told her husband she was going to be a blogger so that someday he could quit his job. He told her multiple times that her idea was dumb - you can't make money with a blog.

No You're Not Stupid

Ruth knows from experience how easy it is to get discouraged in the early stages of blogging when everyone else tells you that it's just plain dumb and doesn't make any sense.

Ruth's pick-me-up when she felt discouraged was Darren Rowse's book: ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income.  She read it at least 50 times in her first 6 months of blogging. "Darren says I can do it, so I'm gonna do it!" Ruth would tell herself.

The best part? Ruth got to meet Darren in person last summer. Even though she was a complete spaz and star-struck for the first time in her life, Ruth says that Darren was so nice. It was great for her to tell him in person how much his book meant to her.

As a successful ProBlogger herself, Ruth says, "I love now that I have that opportunity to be the voice for other people saying you can do this! you can do this! even when everybody else is telling them to quit."
(We love it too! Your story is such an encouragement to us, Ruth!)

Does everyone around you tell you that your dreams of a full-time blogging career are crazy?  They're not!  It's ok to fail, but just keep going!  Learn from Best-selling author and blogger Ruth Soukup.  She shares her tips for growing, sticking with it, and marketing your books.  Hit the link, press play on the podcast player, and listen while you get some work done!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Ruth's Favorite Books

Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy - The book is all about avoiding procrastination and tackling your biggest and hardest task first thing in the morning. You'll get more done by tackling the hard, more long-term projects first and keep your momentum going. (Sarah lives by Brian Tracy's advice too!)
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - This book discusses creating good routines for yourself. It takes a different part of your brain to do something that's routine versus something that's new, so if you can build strong habits, you'll be able to extend your discipline and ultimately accomplish more things.

12 Secrets of the Good Life

Ruth's Newest Book, Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life  is all about discovering what it means to create the life we've always wanted.

Ruth used to think that the good life was about the celebrity lifestyle - big houses, private jets, fancy clothes, and more. Many of us have a similar idea that the good life is about all the stuff we can acquire. That's what marketers, retailers, and everyone who's selling to us wants us to think.

Ruth's own realization, in praying for change, is that "the good life has nothing to do with those things. it's not so much about what we have as who we are as people."

Each chapter discusses a different secret of the good life. Everything from goal-setting to saving money on groceries, setting a budget, learning contentment, and de-cluttering are covered. Every chapter revolves around the theme of what the good life really means and how we can get it for ourselves.

Are you struggling to figure out what your calling is?  Ruth's new book  has great advice.  Hear her story of finding her calling as a full-time writer and blogger.  Trust us, it's full of plenty of bumps and people telling her that her dream was stupid!  (It wasn't.)  Click the post, and then press play on the podcast player so you can listen while you get things done! | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Traditional Versus Self-Publishing

The main drawback for traditional publishing is the very slow timeline attached to the process.

Ruth shares her own timeline for Living Well, Spending Less versus Blogging for Profit:

  • January 2013 - worked on book proposal for several months
  • Agent began pitching to several publishing houses
  • The proposal + pitching took 6 months
  • During the wait time, Ruth wrote How to Blog for Profit (it took her just 3 months!)
  • As she finished the How to Blog for Profit manuscript, she heard back from publishers and got offers for a book deal.
  • Ruth signed with Zondervan because they offered her a 2-book deal
  • She self-published How to Blog for Profit using KDP Select on Amazon in September 2013
  • Began writing manuscript for Living Well, Spending Less and turned it into Zondervan in January 2014.
  • Ruth has been waiting a whole year for her book to come out in stores!

As you can see, self-publishing runs on a much faster timeline. The only limits are really your own writing, editing, and formatting power! A book about blogging or any other topic that changes quickly, would be silly to publish in a traditional format. Self-publishing allows Ruth to make updates and changes to her book at any time. She's already added a 2nd edition for How to Blog for Profit because things in the blogging world change quickly.

The Birth of Elite Blogging Academy

After writing her book, How to Blog for Profit, Ruth did consulting with other bloggers, and discovered that most of them had questions about the same things. They wanted someone to walk them through the process of growing a blog, step-by-step. She created a course to solve that problem.

Elite Blog Academy Covers these Questions in Detail:

  • How do I refine my message? How do I know if what I'm presenting is the right message for me, for my audience, and a message that the world wants to hear?
  • After I've refined my content, how do I find people who will read it? How do I find new readers and grow my audience?
  • Once I've grown my audience, how do I monetize the content that I've built up?
  • How do I grow my business? How do I start looking at myself not just as a blogger but as an entrepreneur?

Ruth Soukup with her family having fun.  Learn her 12 Secrets of the Good LIfe and how she's grown her blog into a massive success.  I love listening to these podcast episodes while I work.  The player is embedded right into the post!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

7 Tips for an Amazon Best-Seller

Ruth talked with publicist, Ashley Buffa, who specializes in e-books, and she gave her great advice on launching How to Blog for Profit successfully.

The 7 Factors that Led to a Best-Seller:

  1. Get at least 25 reviews on Amazon before launching
  2. Ruth mentioned the book on her blog, and many other bloggers wrote about the book as well.
  3. Offer an introductory sale price on launch day
  4. Ruth's book was accepted on BookBub.com who shared news of her introductory sale.
  5. Ruth is part of many Facebook groups for bloggers. On launch day, she mentioned in the groups "hey I wrote this book, and it's on sale today if you want to grab it."
  6. Make sure your book is really helpful. People will always share great content.
  7. Once your book makes the Top 100 in its category on Amazon, the site will take notice and start marketing the book for you. They'll email people who buy similar books and recommend it to shoppers on the site.

All of this happened on Launch Day - September 25, 2013, so that led to a huge blitz of sales and views for her book on Amazon. How to Blog for Profit hit #14 on Amazon's main list and it was #1 in the Blogging category for a year.

Ruth shared that they sold 1,400 copies of her book on the first day. Making a best-seller list most likely depends on the day and which other books you're competing against, but 1400 sales and at least 25 reviews before launching is a great reference point! How to Blog for Profit consistently stays in the top 10 for blogging books.

We can also attest to the fact that people are STILL talking about it! Many of the guests on our show have recommended Ruth's book as their go-to resource for blogging.

FYI: Ruth got plenty of reviews by reaching out to her email list of bloggers who participate in her Thrifty Thursday Link Party. At that time, she had about 500 bloggers on the list. She wrote to them hoping that 40 people would volunteer to read her book for free and write a review for her on Amazon.  After sending the email, Ruth had 200 responses within minutes. She knew at that point that there was probably a good market for her book!

What is Bookbub?

Bookbub.com is a site that features books that are on sale for the day. They have over 1 million people on their email list, and they send out a book list to their subscribers every day.

You can customize which email is sent to you based on the book genres you're interested in, so as an author, it's a great way to get in front of book buyers who are interested in your niche.

The Making of an Online Course

Ruth shares that it took twice as long to develop the curriculum for her course, Elite Blog Academy, than it did to write her book, How to Blog for Profit.

There are 12 units in the course, and every single unit goes way more in-depth than the book. Each unit has multiple assignments and is very hands-on.

After the curriculum, Ruth wrote scripts for the videos that accompanied each of the 12 units.

Then they filmed the videos, set up the website, email system, shopping cart, and tackled all of the technical stuff. (Ruth outsources these tasks!)

The course took 9 months of development. It was the biggest investment she's made into her business so far in terms of both time and money.

The first session of Elite Blog Academy was launched in September 2014. Ruth expected to enroll maybe 100 students. Instead, they enrolled 700 students, which was the max capacity for their first run!

The feedback has been incredible for the first group. They have a forum where they can connect, and they're sharing amazing success stories. In just 2 months they're seeing double and triple numbers in traffic and income growth.

FYI: Ruth will open the course again in the Spring, and you can sign up to be notified when it opens.

Struggling to market your book or grow your blog?  Ruth has you covered!  Learn 7 new tips for marketing your way to a best-seller.  Learn what Ruth is doing right now to kill it on Pinterest.  Click the photo, then click play on the podcast player in the post to listen to her interview while you get things done!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

4 Strategies for Blog Growth

Ruth has used multiple strategies through the years to grow her blog. She shares 4 things that have worked well for her at different times.

  1. Content - Start by having fantastic content. Your content must solve a problem and provide value to the reader.
  2. SEO - Optimize every post to include the keywords you'd like to target. Ruth optimized every single thing, even at the very beginning. Eventually Google took notice. When the TV show extreme couponing came out 6 months after Ruth started blogging, her series called The Beginner's Guide to Coupons was the first search result for "how to use coupons".  Suddenly, Ruth went from having no traffic to over 5,000 people a day on her site.
  3. Pinterest - Ruth became active on Pinterest early and saw a huge spike going from 100,000 pageviews per month to over a million per month due to Pinterest.
  4. Facebook - There was a phase when Facebook was really big for Ruth. She went from 30,000 visitors a day to 50,000 visitors a day by being active and sharing content on Facebook.  (Having trouble with Facebook?  Crystal Paine shares the Facebook strategies that are working for her.)

"Part of blogging," Ruth says, "is being aware of all these different areas for potential growth. Ride the waves as they come, and never put all your eggs in one basket."

The Perfect Pin - Ruth Explains All!

With Pinterest's Smart Feed, having fantastic content is even more important. Pinterest is selecting certain pins over others and weighing some things more heavily depending on the strength of the Pin. It's imperative to have the perfect pin for every post.

The Perfect Pin has 3 Main Elements:

  1. Content - Solve a problem, and make the reader want to read Right Now. (You don't have to solve world hunger, it could be a greasy hair problem! Or, if you're a food blogger you can solve the problem of what's for dinner, and provide that sense of urgency too.)
  2. Image + Graphics - Your photo is your cover. It has to grab people's attention. (Again, though, it's the content that will make those new readers want to keep reading.)
  3. Description - Explain the problem you're solving and why the reader should read your post right now. Be compelling; draw the reader in.

(Grab more Pinterest Strategies from Melissa Will + Crystal Paine)

A Day in the Life of a ProBlogger

Ruth's typical day starts around 4 AM. She has a cup of coffee, writes her list of what she needs to accomplish for the day, has devotional time, sometimes goes for a run, and then dives into her work. Ruth uses that early morning time as Eat That Frog time. She works on big projects, such as books or other content to write.

Her husband wakes up at 7 and gets the girls up. From 7-8 she helps her husband Chuck get the girls ready for school.

Chuck is a stay-at-home dad and keeps everything running at home for them. Ruth knows that having a stay-at-home parent is a luxury. She's so blessed to have him to focus on all the details that she would forget.

When Chuck takes the girls to school, Ruth goes back to work from 8:30 - 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. Evenings and weekends are reserved for family time.

Struggling to market your book or grow your blog?  Ruth has you covered!  Learn 7 new tips for marketing your way to a best-seller.  Learn what Ruth is doing right now to kill it on Pinterest.  Click the photo, then click play on the podcast player in the post to listen to her interview while you get things done!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

The Big Leap

Ruth's husband wasn't always a stay-at-home dad. He was an aerospace engineer for 30 years, but he hated his job. In April 2013, the Soukups made the leap as Chuck left his job to be a stay-at-home dad while Ruth's blogging career would support the family.

At the time, Ruth's blog was growing, she was homeschooling her girls, and they all knew something had to give. Still, it was a risky move. The blog was making money, but not at the level that it is today.

Being completely debt-free (including their house!) along with owning a rental property and some other investments gave them the freedom to take the plunge.

Once Chuck came home, Ruth was able to focus 100% of her energy on the blog and business, and it grew so much more than it ever had before.

Ruth went from a solo show to hiring 2 full-time assistants who work in-office with her, and she has many contract employees as well.

Ruth Soukup dishes on life as a full-time mom blogger, what's working for her right now on Pinterest, and how she marketed her book into a best-seller.  Click the post, then press play on the podcast player so you can listen while you work!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

A Funny, Messy Mom Moment!

You'll have to tune in to hear Ruth's funny story of getting the house ready for Thanksgiving....and the catastrophe that can happen when kids and dogs are involved!

Stay in Touch with Ruth!

LivingWellSpendingLess.com
EliteBlogAcademy.com

What were your takeaways from the podcast?  Most of all, I was encouraged that Ruth was once a newbie just struggling to grow her blog too.  With tons of hard work, constant learning, and persistence, she's become a huge success!

And of course, Sarah and I learned some great strategies for marketing a book.  Did we mention that our first book is coming out in February?!  If you're on our email list you'll be the first to know :)

~ Beth Anne

 

Direct download: Episode206220Ruth_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:18am EST

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

Have you had a blog for years? Is it something you do for fun, or are you secretly hoping that one day things will take off and it will turn into something more? Sarah Mackenzie is proof that blogging for fun can absolutely turn into something more with intentional work, focus, and the creation of a fabulous product.

Just one year ago, Sarah decided to take her blog of 4 years a bit more seriously. She began writing with more intention, and she surveyed the readers she had to make sure the topics she wrote on were making a big impact.

As Sarah continued to write on a topic close to her heart – homeschooling -- she started digging deeper into the concept of teaching from a place of rest. What started as a blog series quickly turned into a book. What started as a book quickly turned into a group of products – the book, audio interviews with experts, and a printable journal. What started as another blog series quickly turned into a podcast on reading aloud to your children. 3,000 sales and 100,000 downloads later, Sarah has a successful book and podcast to add to her name.

Hear her story to learn excellent advice on marketing your book, developing an affiliate program, and many other great tips and tricks you might not have considered.   It's obvious from all the laughing in this interview that we had a great time interviewing Sarah!

On the Podcast

01:34 – Blogging for Fun
03:03 – Making the Most Impact
04:42 – Writing a Book
06:33 – 3,000 Sales
12:25 – Reaching Bloggers
13:22 – Affiliate Program Tools
14:04 – A Unique Way to Say “Thanks”
15:13 – A Tip for Amazon Success
16:48 – Book Sales: The Stats
20:12 – Tiered Pricing – Does it Work?
24:01 – How She Does It
25:48 – The Art of Idea-Taming
30:49 – How to Find Help + What Tasks to Delegate
33:58 – A Great Tool for Podcasters
36:04 – 100,000 Downloads
38:06 – Sarah’s Favorite Biz Tool
39:16 – A Funny Mom Moment

Blogging for Fun

Sarah started her blog, Amongst Lovely Things in 2009 to document what she was doing in her homeschool. It was a casual, chatty blog for her, family, and friends. Sarah quickly realized how much she loved blogging, and for five years, she’s never taken more than 5 days off from writing.

On Thanksgiving of 2013, Sarah decided to be more intentional in growing her blog.

Making the Most Impact

Just after Sarah had her set of twins. (Did we mention she’s a Mama to six children, ages 12, 11, 9, 2, and 1 year-old twins?!) she realized she didn’t have time to blog endlessly, so she needed to make sure she was writing about the things her readers loved reading about.

After surveying her readers, Sarah discovered that their favorite topics were the same ones she most enjoyed writing about. She let gluten-free living and photography posts fall by the wayside, and was able to focus on the blog posts that made the most impact.

(I think this is a great lesson for all of us. None of us should really spend endless amounts of time blogging. How can we focus and truly make the most impact?)

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

Writing a Book

Sarah admits that she never set out to write a book. She was moved by this idea of teaching from a place of rest and being at peace with the kind of homeschooling mom that God had called her to be. She didn’t want to be anxious, frenetic, and constantly running at 100 miles per hour.

As Sarah set out on a journey to discover what it meant to teach from rest, she began to write about it. She launched her blog series in February of 2014, which is classic burnout season for most homeschooling parents!

Her audience responded well to her series, so Sarah just kept writing. At that point, she realized that she might have more than just a blog series on her hands. She might have a book!

3,000 Sales

Sarah sells her book in two places: On her website as a PDF, where she also sells 2 companion products, and on Amazon as a Kindle book.

Sarah believes that her 3,000 sales came from the help and promotion of many bloggers she admires along with loyal readers. Here’s how she got them involved in her book launch.

Sarah sent her book to about 40-50 bloggers whose readers might be interested in the message of her book. She simply sent them an email letting them know, “I have this book. I thought it might bless you.” No strings attached.

Only if the bloggers responded back saying they enjoyed the book or wanted to share it with their readers did Sarah write back and tell them about her affiliate program, send them a link to sign up, and offer for them to give a copy of her book away for free on their blogs.

In addition, Sarah sent her book to 150 of her most loyal readers. These are the people who always leave comments on her blog or that she chats with via email. Sarah really wanted her long-time readers to just have her book for free. Again, these same wonderful, loyal readers would probably be the group who would go out of their way to leave Sarah a review on Amazon or spread the word about the book.

Sarah sent this emails out to both groups about 1 month before the book launched. By the time she officially launched, she had about 10-15 reviews on Amazon. Many people in the homeschooling sphere were already talking about the book and creating buzz.

Sarah says the launch strategy became much bigger than herself:
“It was sort of like a big ripple, like I just tossed the rock in and it kept going.”

Reaching Bloggers

You won't leave a great impression when your first interaction with someone is you asking them to promote your stuff.

Sarah recommends engaging other bloggers in conversation on their blogs and on social media. When you finally reach out and say, “Hey I have this thing,” they might actually take a look at it.

Sarah’s pretty convinced that many of the bloggers she emailed didn’t even look at her book, but that’s ok. It only takes a few influencers to start the conversation before it generates some buzz.

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

Affiliate Program Tools

WP Affiliate – a plug-in to create affiliate links and track sales. The program tells Sarah how much she owes each affiliate at the end of the month, and she can pay them through Paypal.
WP E-store – made by the same people as WP Affiliate, and Sarah used to use this as her payment system
Gumroad – Sarah’s current checkout system

A Unique Way to Say “Thanks”

Sarah did interviews with four experts in the field of homeschooling, and those interviews made up the audio companion to her book. All of these individuals took the time to do interviews with Sarah out of the kindness of their hearts.

As a way to say thanks, Sarah offered these four individuals a 75% commission on their affiliate sales of her book. This turned out to be much larger compensation for each of them than Sarah could have ever offered up front. It’s been a really fabulous way to show them how much she appreciates them.

For reference, Sarah’s other affiliates receive a 30% commission for each sale they refer.

A Tip for Amazon Success

“Reviews really have a huge impact,” Sarah says. “You don’t need a ton of them. People just need to see that others have purchased your book and enjoyed it.”

Amazon recommends books more often when those books have higher ratings and more reviews.

Book Sales: The Stats

Sarah’s book sales come primarily through her own website. When the book first launched, she sold 5x as many on her site when compared to the Kindle store.  However, as things progress, those numbers are evening out.

Sarah has sold 3,000 copies in just 6 months since her book launch.

Tiered Pricing – Does it Work?

80% of Sarah’s sales on her site have been for her combined package:  the e-book, journal, and audio companion.  The rest of her sales are often for the journal and audio companion, and Sarah believes those sales come from people who bought her book first via the Kindle store.

It’s encouraging to see that customers are not opting for the most affordable option, but rather the option that provides the most help and value.

Sarah says of her journal that she wanted her book to not just be an inspiring for a day and then be put down and forgotten about. She wanted to make a difference in readers’ lives. The journal helps readers translate her writing into a different way of looking at their day, a different way of looking at their kids, and a different way of looking at their homeschooling calling.

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

How She Does It

Although never a self-described morning person, after Sarah had her twins, she realized that if she wanted to write or be creative, she’d have to get up early to do it. Sarah gets up at 5 AM to write each day.

On the weekends, her husband gives her a couple of 3-hour time blocks to work.

Sarah tries not to fit too much work into the edges of each day, because it’s hard for her to focus on homeschooling the kids or homemaking when she has a million ideas in her brain!

The Art of Idea-Taming

Sarah confesses to having a million ideas swirling around in her brain at all times. (I can relate!)   To keep the ideas in check, Sarah keeps a blackbound journal close to where she is at all times. When she has an idea, she writes it down.

If she tries to hold the idea in her head, she’ll either completely ignore everyone around her so she doesn’t lose it, or the idea will be gone forever.

Sarah’s journal is bursting with all sorts of ideas, and every once in a while she’ll look back through it to remind herself of both the great ideas and… the not-so-great ones.

Sarah read about Ryan Holiday’s Notecard System.  (Looks pretty great, actually! I might give it a try!) but this wasn’t a great solution for her. She’s got too many little ones around who might actually eat those note cards, or the note cards became a tool for trapping spiders instead of ideas.

When she’s on the computer, Sarah uses Scapple.  It’s brainstorming software for those who are into mind-mapping. It’s made by the people who created Scrivener.

How to Find Help + What to Delegate

Sarah is currently at the early stages of bringing on extra help in her business. She’s relying on the community of podcasters and bloggers she already knows to recommend great people who can edit her podcasts or provide other support.

In terms of delegating, Sarah puts tasks into 3 categories:

  • Things she’s good at
  • Things she’s not so good at
  • Things she dreads doing

The last two categories can likely be delegated!

A Great Tool for Podcasters

The SmartCast Player is a $30 plug-in that will automatically play your most recent podcast episode.

You can style the widget to match your blog’s colors and fonts, and it’s mobile responsive.

This simple little sidebar widget lets people know immediately that you have a podcast, and they can try a sample right away.

100,000 Downloads

At the time of our interview with Sarah, she was just putting out her 14th episode of her podcast, and she was closing in on 100,000 downloads! That’s astronomical considering the number of episodes!

Once again, Sarah never intended to start a podcast, but she was trying to find a way to get her readers more excited about reading aloud to their children. Her Read-Aloud Revival Series on the blog wasn’t taking off as she’d hoped, so she started a podcast to bring the revival to life.

Sarah had no idea she’d love podcasting as much as she does. (It shows! Sarah has a natural talent for it!)

Sarah’s Favorite Biz Tool

Sarah’s favorite tool for growing her business is listening to podcasts! (We’re big fans of podcasts too ;)

She loves that she can gain a skill while she’s doing other things throughout her day like going for a walk or folding laundry. There’s so much that can be learned, even as a busy mom who can’t devote 100% of their attention to something.

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

A Funny Mom Moment

We interviewed Sarah a few months ago, so you get to hear about her 2 year-old’s take on a trip to the pumpkin patch. It’s super cute!

Stay in Touch with Sarah Mackenzie!

AmongstLovelyThings.com

Direct download: Episode206120Sarah20Mackenzi_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:40am EST

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test

Does the thought of working with your sister make your eyelid twitch a little?  Over and over, Sarah and I hear from other Mompreneurs about how impressed they are that we work together.  "My sister would drive me crazy!" they say.  The truth is, sometimes Sarah and I do drive each other crazy, but when we interviewed Jess Piestrup and Whitney Acheson of Moody Sisters Skincare, we discovered we weren't alone.

Despite the craziness, working with your sister can be a wonderful way to grow a business.  Chances are, you each bring different strengths to the table, and there's no one who will love you, quirks and all, quite like a sister will.

Whether you have a sister or not, there's so much to learn from Jess and Whitney's story.  They've figured out how to cater to their target audience with a strategy that we think is pure genius!  Beyond that, they routinely find MORE members of their target audience by partnering with bloggers.  Hear all the details about how they achieve success, plus some funny sister antics too!

On the Podcast

01:59 - How Solving Skin Problems Became a Business
05:48 – From Hobby to Full-time Gig
07:50 – Using Test-Panels to Skyrocket your Success
10:43 – Blogger Outreach: Where to Go + What to Do
15:09 – Getting Great Photos
17:11 – A Photography Secret You Should Know About
19:09 – The Best Source for, well…. Sourcing things!
20:43 – A Moody Sisters Setback (+ how they recovered)
22:59 – Tips on Teamwork
26:01 – How to Work with Your Sis (without going crazy!)
29:13 – The Tool that Kicked their Business into High Gear
31:37 – Adorable, Fun, and Crazy Mom Moments

How Solving Skin Problems Became a Business

Whitney has struggled with allergies and skin sensitivities for many years. It was difficult to find any skin-care or hygiene products that she could use. Even simple things like washing her face were a struggle!

Whitney’s sister Jess chimed in with advice on using essential oils and making products at home. The sisters met on weekends to create new products and test them out.

As they worked and created, they thought to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a business where we could create different bath salts or skincare products?”

As they honed their skills, they realized that their products were pretty great! Whitney set to work designing and printing little labels on her InkJet printer, and soon the sisters took things from a crazy idea to an Etsy shop.

The Moody Sisters received orders their very first day on Etsy. At that point they knew they could turn their skin-care hobby into a business.

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test panel of loyal customers.  Hear their advice on how to partner with bloggers to not just gain more exposure but more sales.  Plus, they've got a top-secret product photo trick to share!  Hear the interview with these talented mompreneurs at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

From Hobby to Full-time Gig

From October of 2010 until May of 2013, The Moody Sisters continued to treat their Etsy shop like a fun hobby. They spent those years putting their feelers out there to see what people liked, what they could make well, and what their identity would be as a business.

As their sales started growing, getting together once a month to make products wasn’t cutting it anymore. Both Jess and Whitney were spending a lot of time on the shop while balancing other jobs. Jess was working full-time in the corporate world, and Whitney was working for another company from home. Life was getting too chaotic to do both jobs well.

At the same time, Jess’ family was considering a move across the country. She wasn’t happy with her current job, so that along with the growth of the business made both Moody Sisters decide to go all in and make their skincare biz their full-time gig.

How a Test-Panel can Skyrocket your Success

When you run a business online, it’s often much more difficult to figure out who your target market is and find a way to get in front of them. You don’t have the luxury of seeing each customer walk into your store and give you immediate feedback on your products.

Jess and Whitney came up with a killer solution to this problem: They created a test panel!

Picking from some of their most loyal customers, they asked these ladies if they’d be willing to answer questions about the business and test new products.

This test panel of fabulous women helped the Moody Sisters determine what new items their customers wanted and in what directions the business should go next.

They’ve been a tremendous help to Jess and Whitney, and in exchange, they receive credits for products from the Moody Sisters that they already love.

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test panel of loyal customers.  Hear their advice on how to partner with bloggers to not just gain more exposure but more sales.  Plus, they've got a top-secret product photo trick to share!  Hear the interview with these talented mompreneurs at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Blogger Outreach: Where to Go + What to Do

Connecting with bloggers has been huge for Jess and Whitney’s business. They share several tips on how to find the right blogs and what to do once you’re there.

Where to Go

  1. The Moody Sisters always start by asking their customers about their favorite blogs and what they’ve been reading lately. Chances are, if their customers are reading those blogs, their friends and other members of their target audience are too. They do polls with incentives on their Facebook page or they ask their test panel for recommendations.
  2. They look for blogs themselves. Since Jess and Whitney embody their target market, they know that analyzing what they enjoy reading or what their friends are talking about is a great strategy. Whitney says that if a blog isn’t appealing to her, she’ll pass on a partnership. If she’s not interested, chances are her customers won’t be either.

What to Do
Since Moms often purchase based on feedback from other moms, Jess and Whitney find that reviews are much more valuable than giveaways for their business.

Whitney says, “The most valuable content we can have is having someone get a product of ours, try it, absolutely fall in love with it, and want to tell the whole world, because you can sense their enthusiasm and their honesty in the review.”

When a reader already trusts that blogger, she’s more likely to give the products a try too.

Getting Great Photos

Once the Moody Sisters decided what colors, look, and feel were part of their brand, they knew they wanted a professional photographer to take their photos.

They asked a friend who typically does family photography if she might attempt product photos for them. Samantha Witt gave it a try and continues to do an amazing job taking all of The Moody Sisters product photos.

Jess and Whitney send Samantha boxes of their products, backgrounds, props, and huge lists of what they’d like, and Samantha does the rest!

(We recommend this technique as well.  Beth Anne’s friend Ariel has taken all of the outdoor, lifestyle photos in The Amateur Naturalist shop.)

Psssst! A Photography Secret

How do the Moody Sisters achieve the fun, but natural feel of their Skincare Products through photos? They have a secret source!

They buy vinyl photography backdrops from the SwankyPrints Shop on Etsy. There are thousands of options to choose from!

Recently, Whitney purchased some 12 by 12 squares to tie in the feel of their brand with their Instagram account. How smart is that?!

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test panel of loyal customers.  Hear their advice on how to partner with bloggers to not just gain more exposure but more sales.  Plus, they've got a top-secret product photo trick to share!  Hear the interview with these talented mompreneurs at brilliantbusinessmoms.com
We love how fun Jess and Whitney are!

The Best Source for Sourcing things!

Jess and Whitney are part of the Indie Beauty Network. They obtain their business insurance from the network, but the group provides support in so many other ways too.

There’s a private Facebook group that’s full of other men and women with independent beauty businesses. There are soapmakers, candle makers…. you name it!  There’s always someone who’s willing to help them to find suppliers for new ingredients they want to try, or find the same supplies at a better price.

It seems that no matter what venture you’re part of online, developing relationships in your niche is so very important.  (Anne + Abby both speak to the integral role blogging buddies have played in their success!)

A Moody Sisters Setback

When Jess, her husband, and their daughter decided to move across the country, The Moody Sisters thought they had developed the perfect plan to move forward with their business.

Jess was supposed to take over product production and shipping from her new home in Florida. Whitney was going to handle online listings and customer service.

Once Jess arrived in Florida, the sisters quickly determined that product production would not be an option there. Cosmetics are highly-regulated in Florida, and you cannot make anything out of your home that has to do with beauty or skincare.

The sisters scrambled to find a way to move forward. All of the supplies were shipped back to Cashmere, Washington where Whitney lives, and they had to re-structure all of their job duties.

Tips on Teamwork

So how did Jess and Whitney move forward and decide who would work on which tasks?

After listing out every single task that had to be done each week or each month, delegation was based on 2 Factors

  1. What does each sister enjoy doing the most?
  2. What is each sister realistically good at doing?

The Moody Sisters have broken down tasks like this:
Detail-oriented Jess handles the details of each product listing, checks for grammar and accuracy. She’s also great at customer service, so every email from customers gets funneled right to her.
Effervescent, Idea-Girl Whitney tackles new strategies, social media, and some aspects of branding and design.

(Sounds like a great way to figure out how to delegate. This might apply to your blog or business and the team you’ve assembled too!)

moody-sisters-mysterious-mom-online-entrepreneurs

How to Work with Your Sis

Always full of crazy, big ideas, Whitney says, “Jess having to reign me in on a daily basis is probably mind-maddening.”

Yet Jess admits that without Whitney, they wouldn’t have a business at all. “She comes up with the awesome business ideas, and then I just try my best to make them work.”

(Jess and Whitney’s relationship sounds so similar to Sarah and mine that we were cracking up! I have to say, it’s wonderful to work with someone whose strengths are so different from my own, and someone I can be incredibly honest and open with. We might not have a business without me, but our business would have no direction or focus without Sarah!)

A High-Powered Business Tool

Jess and Whitney use ShipStation to fulfill and ship all of their orders. The program can pull orders from both their Etsy shop and their Squarespace site. Product information can be entered and saved so that every time a given product is ordered, the program automatically assigns it a shipping weight.

ShipStation also sends out email notifications with the attached tracking number. The whole process is automated, which makes the Moody Sisters’ job so much more enjoyable.

Adorable, Fun, and Crazy Mom Moments

With Jess having a fourteen year-old and Whitney having an 18 month and a 6 year-old, there’s always something crazy going on with the Moody Sisters’ kids! Tune in to hear the latest.

Find the Moody Sisters’ Great Products

MoodySistersSkincare.com

Pin this post so you can reference the Moody Sisters' Great Business Advice later!

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test panel of loyal customers.  Hear their advice on how to partner with bloggers to not just gain more exposure but more sales.  Plus, they've got a top-secret product photo trick to share!  Hear the interview with these talented mompreneurs at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Direct download: Episode206020Moody20Sisters_mixdow20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Have you ever considered a daily deal site for your small business?  Amy Gabriel makes hundreds of sales by partnering with Jane.com to get more eyes on her products and gain new customers.  Learn how Amy has grown her handmade business through daily deal sites, and how can you do it too!  Brilliant Business Moms Podcast featuring Mompreneurs each week.

Have you ever considered being a vendor with a deal site as a way to expand your business? If we're being perfectly honest, Sarah and I had never considered the idea! We wrongly assumed that deal sites were only for larger companies or manufactured items. After talking with Amy Gabriel of Gabriel’s Good Tidings, we discovered that many small, handmade businesses sell on deal sites as well.

For Amy, they’ve made the difference between supporting her husband through grad school versus struggling to get by. They’ve put food on the table for her family, and helped her husband to accomplish his goals. After listening today, maybe you’ll discover that deal sites would be a great fit for your business too.

Psssst!  Amy was not only generous with her time and great advice, she's sharing a generous deal with all of our Brilliant Business Moms listeners!  Grab 50% off in Amy's shop by using the coupon code BrilliantBizMom.  Now through December 31, 2014.  How sweet is that?!  Thanks, Amy!

On the Podcast

01:54 – How Amy Got her Start
05:58 – Daily Deal Sites: 2 Factors to Consider
09:22 – Developing Relationships
12:06 – Quantity – How Much is Too Much?
13:30 – Making a Profit
14:56 - On Productivity
20:58 – Her other Half
25:26 - Jane.com Insider Info
30:13 – Details on Inventory
31:24 - How Making Friends can Grow your Business
35:55 – Using a Giveaway to Gain Subscribers
38:01 – What to Include in Your Newsletter
40:56 – Business Advice + Books
44:07 – How She Does It
46:46 – Amy’s Funny Mom Moment

How Amy Got her Start

Amy has had a sewing machine for as long as she can remember. Her mother and grandmother worked with her as a teenager to teach her the basics. She helped her grandmother sew her prom dress, and in college she sewed curtains and pillows. Sewing is something Amy has enjoyed as a hobby for years.

In 2012, Amy’s husband, Mallory, wanted to go back to school for a master’s degree. He and Amy both knew that for this to be possible, Amy would have to provide most of the family’s income. Amy and Mallory have two children, ages 5 and 7 years old.

For quite a while, Amy worked outside the home and had her Etsy shop on the side. After experiencing the 2012 Holiday Season on Etsy, and then learning about deal sites through a friend, Amy’s business really took off.

Daily deal sites became the bread and butter for her business, because she was able to get her products in front of a much larger audience, and sell large quantities at one time. Now, Amy’s business provides at least 75% of their family’s income.

Amy's adorable lip balm holders
Amy's adorable lip balm holders

Daily Deal Sites: 2 Factors to Consider

Amy notes two important factors to consider before signing up with a particular deal site.

1. How streamlined is their process for working with vendors?
Jane.com recently set up a vendor portal, which makes it easy to submit your product photos, bullet point the item’s details, lay out quantities and pricing, and then hear back yes or no. If a deal site isn’t organized or streamlined, you’ll spend much more time sending emails back and forth.

2. How much traffic does the site get?
There are many daily deal sites out there. You want your product to get in front of the most people at one time, because you’ll get a bigger return on your investment for all the time you spent taking photos, refining the contract, etc. Check out the site’s social media presence and connect with other vendors to discern their sell-through rates.

Developing Relationships

Sarah and I were curious about the process of “getting in” with a deal site. Is it difficult? What’s involved?

Amy confessed that for her, getting in was easy and she believes this is because her product, lip balm holders, had not been featured on any deal sites before, and deal sites weren’t quite as big when she started 18 months ago.

Amy offers these points for getting started:

  • Keep in mind that your information is going to a real person, not a computer system. Be personable. Introduce yourself.
  • If you have a mutual contact who sells with that site, let them know.
  • Give them as many details about your product and pricing as possible up front. This makes it much easier for them to say yes versus them spending more time trying to get more information from you. For example, let them know what price you can offer for the deal, and what percentage off your retail price this would be.
  • Include what quantity you can offer. (Jane.com has minimum quantities of 50 for handmade items and 100 for manufactured items.)
  • Once you’re accepted for a deal, it’s fairly easy to keep re-booking and simply hone your price point and quantities.
Amy's home office - where she gets the occasional visit from a princess.
Amy's home office - where she gets the occasional visit from a princess.

Quantity: How Much is Too Much

Jane.com is always open to higher quantities from their vendors, so that’s the good news. However, Amy recommends starting small at first. Get your feet wet, figure out shipping and tracking first, and then book a larger deal when you sell out.

FYI, Amy’s biggest sale was 630 lip balm holders in November of 2013. (Wow! That’s a lot of sewing and shipping to do!)

Making a Profit

With a smaller ticket item such as a lip balm holder, Sarah and I were curious about making a profit. Amy accomplishes this by buying her supplies at wholesale cost since she sells hundreds of items at a time. She can purchase supplies by the thousands and maintain a healthy profit margin.

On Productivity

How does Amy manage to sew 600 lip balm holders at a time?! She offers several tips and tricks.

  • Jane.com allows 14 days from the day of your sales to make the items. Amy generally takes advantage of the entire 14-day period.
  • She divides her holders by thread color and sews with the same thread color on a given day
  • Amy makes a game of sewing by laying out, for example, 2 chevron plus 1 polka dot, and repeating this little pattern over and over to help her change things up.
  • She listens to podcasts, audiobooks, or music while she’s sewing to keep her brain engaged.
  • Sometimes she sets a timer on her phone and resolves to sew for 30 minutes straight. She won’t look at her phone or allow any distractions until the timer is up.
  • She sets small goals for herself like sewing 30 holders in the next 30 minutes.
  • It helps that her product has simple, straight lines. The process can get boring, but she can make the holders very quickly.  (Amy’s personal record is about 40 holders in 30 minutes!)
  • When Amy receives a massive order, she calculates the total number of sewing hours she’ll need to complete the order. From there, she divides that by 6 (giving herself a day off) so she knows how many hours she needs to spend sewing each day.

Amy Gabriel of Gabriel's Good Tidings shares how she uses deal sites like Jane.com to grow her handmade business.  Learn how she's turned this business into a full-time income, and how you can do it too!  Weekly interviews from Work-at-Home-Moms at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Her Other Half

Amy knows one thing for sure: her business wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the help of her husband.

Although he hasn’t learned to sew (and since he’s graduating in December, it probably won’t happen!) but he knows how to cut materials, pin things together, finish the lip balm holders with hooks, and ship items.

Amy says that Mallory blesses her so much, because he’ll be gone all day working at an unpaid internship and then classes at night, then he sits down with her while they talk, watch TV, and finish each lip balm holder together. (They sound like an amazing pair! We love husband and wife teams!)

Amy Gabriel of Gabriel's Good Tidings shares how she uses deal sites like Jane.com to grow her handmade business.  Learn how she's turned this business into a full-time income, and how you can do it too!  Weekly interviews from Work-at-Home-Moms at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Jane.com Insider Info

Jane.com takes 25% of the total sales price as their commission. This is much higher than Etsy, but in exchange, your products are seen by thousands more people.

Typically a deal runs for 72 hours at a time, and Jane encourages more sales by playing on the urgency factor.

Amy loves the torrential downpour of selling with Jane.com versus Etsy, which feels more like a slow drip and a continual to-do list.

Details on Inventory

Amy used to pre-make everything before a deal would go live on Jane.com or before listing it in her Etsy shop. As her volume and business grew, that wasn’t possible anymore.

Jane’s policy is that you must have the item in your possession before the deal goes live. Amy always has all of the materials for each item on hand, but usually she’s sewn only 10% of the items, and the rest of her inventory is at different stages of the creation process.

Making Friends & Growing a Business

Early on, Amy reached out to several other sellers on Jane.com and became friends with them. Her circle has become invaluable as a source of advice and new business leads.

They give each other tips on which shipping systems to use, what label printers are best, and so much more.

They tell each other about new subscription box companies and offer new contacts.

When it comes to boxes, some will pay you a wholesale price for your items, whereas others will want the item for free in exchange for advertising. Both can be effective, but in the past Amy’s family needed the income more than the advertising, so she’s only agreed to subscription boxes who pay her for each item.

Through 2 subscription box companies, Amy has gotten two large wholesale orders. Making friends in your industry is not only a great source of encouragement, but it can help your business to grow as well.

Amy Gabriel of Gabriel's Good Tidings shares how she uses deal sites like Jane.com to grow her handmade business.  Learn how she's turned this business into a full-time income, and how you can do it too!  Weekly interviews from Work-at-Home-Moms at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Using a Giveaway to Gain Subscribers

Amy hosted a giveaway on MoneySavingMom in August. She offered a coupon code that was good for 7 days and gave her new customers 50% off in her Etsy shop.

However, Amy used a genius strategy to not just encourage immediate sales, but retain longer-term customers. She offered a coupon code for $5 off a $10 purchase for anyone who signed up for her email list. She gained many new subscribers this way, because people wanted a coupon they could hold onto for later.

Amy uses MailChimp for her email service provider (we do too!) and she loves it (same here!). Her coupon code gets sent to each new subscriber in her Welcome email.

What to Include in Your Newsletter

Amy sends a monthly newsletter and generally includes 3 things:

  1. New products – Amy showcases new products she has or new patterns and designs to encourage new visits and sales
  2. Discontinued/Clearance Items – Amy incentivizes sales of items that are in limited supply or are on sale
  3. Something Personal - Amy loves to give her customers a glimpse into her life.  For example, she’s done a countdown to her husband’s graduation. There are people who sign up for Amy’s emails just because they like her story and following her family. They want to see what happens next, and they feel more invested in her business.

Business Advice + Books

Amy loves Purple Cow by Seth Godin.   She takes his advice when it comes to offering exceptional customer service and appreciating each customer. She wants people to know how much she appreciates each Etsy and Jane sale. Those sales are how her family has survived grad school. “When you appreciate your customers, they will come back," Amy says.

Her favorite quote comes from Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags.

“We do not have to be non-profits to make a difference in this world. We can be a for-profit business that does things differently.”

Have you ever felt guilty for running a business instead of a charity?  Well, you can still make a difference in the world.  You can be a for-profit business that does things differently.  Quote from Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags

How She Does It

Amy always works at least 10 hours per week, but sometimes, it’s closer to 40.  Her work hours fluctuate based on the volume of sales.

Although she doesn’t prefer to sit at her sewing machine on a Saturday while her kids are out playing with their dad, but she views those sales as a huge blessing for her family.

She loves that she’s home all week with her kids, and she gets to be there after school and do many things that she didn’t get to do when she worked at a traditional job.

Amy’s Funny Mom Moment

Amy’s mom moment will crack you up, especially as we all get ready for Christmas!

Stay in Touch with Amy!

GabrielsGoodTidings.Etsy.com
Instagram: @gabrielsgoodtidings
Facebook: Gabriel's Good Tidings
Twitter:  @GabrielsGoodTid

Direct download: Episode205920Amy20Gabriel_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:07am EST

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