#33: Shannon Mattern, host of the popular Pep Talks for Side Hustlers podcast, shares how she was able to stop relying on client work to support her business and instead double down on selling her own products and courses.
If you’ve been trying to figure out how to make the same transition of trading time for dollars with client work to building more passive income with courses and affiliate marketing, then definitely give this episode a listen.
Podcast Episode Summary
In this episode, you will learn:
- how she managed a side hustle with a day job (you’ll never guess how she made it worked)
- how she became her own boss
- the right way to starting your business (Hint: mentorship)
- how she navigated through many transitions and made her business sustainable
- why marketing is easy
But it’s really just about building relationships and it’s not about algorithms and it’s not about paying for ads. Anybody can do that. And that’s what I think is you don’t have to learn anything to reach out to someone and say, Hey, I have something of value that I think your audience would love. Let’s talk. (20:01)
What I think people are missing is that whole opportunity to just create content that serves who you want to help that’s valuable, that helps them accomplish something in their life. (21:51)
Marketing is easy because it really has nothing to do with you. (22:15)
Just learning from what doesn’t go the way that you expect it to go and iterate that over time. You’re going to learn so much more by doing than just waiting for everything to be perfect before you start. (22:50)
Connect with Shannon Mattern:
Ep. 33: Ditching Client Work and Going All-In on Courses with Shannon Mattern
Marketing is easy because it really has nothing to do with you. And when I see people spending so much time trying to perfect their brand and have everything look perfect and they're not really ever putting anything out there, you're doing a disservice to the people that you're helping. They really just need your message. And so I would just say to anyone who is just getting started is to just start. You're going to do so much better if you just start creating that content and putting it out there now and not worrying about everything being perfect. Learning what you can learn from anything that doesn't go the way that you expect. And I wouldn't even call that mistakes. Just learning from what doesn't go the way that you expect it to go and iterate that over time. You're going to learn so much more by doing than just waiting for everything to be perfect before you start.
That was Shannon Mattern, host of the popular Pep Talks for Side Hustlers podcast. And in this episode she shares how she was able to stop relying on client work to support her business and instead double down on selling her own products and courses. If you've been trying to figure out how to make the same transition of trading time for dollars with client work to building more passive income with courses and affiliate marketing, then definitely stick around for the rest of this episode. But before we start our chat, I want to share a review that one of our listeners left us on Apple podcast. This is a five-star review from Imperfectly Ambitious and they said - "This podcast is full of helpful takeaways and powerful interviews, jam-packed with actionable strategies that you can put into place right away to grow your business and content roadmap. Josiah's friendly and professional approach is engaging and will leave you wanting to hear more." Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know what you think of the show. And for everyone else listening out there, if you wouldn't mind doing me a small favor and take a moment to leave a review for the show as well, it would mean so much to me and the team here at Content Heroes. Not only will your review help others find and enjoy the show, it also helps energize and motivate us to keep showing up and serving all of you. Plus your review could also be featured in a future episode. All right, so time to get back to this episode. You're going to love this conversation with Shannon, so let's jump in.
You're listening to the Content Heroes podcast where entrepreneurs, marketers, and creatives share how they build profitable businesses on their own terms by creating content online. And now your host Josiah Goff.
Welcome to Content Heroes everyone. I'm here with Shannon Mattern who is the host of the Pep Talks for Side Hustlers podcast and I'm really excited about our conversation today. Thanks so much for being on the show today.
Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited to talk to you.
Awesome. So let's jump into your origin story and tell us how the podcast came about and what your business looks like.
About five years ago I was in a corporate role at a nonprofit here in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. And I was just like sitting in my office and I overheard this conversation outside my door and I was like doing this report that I just dreaded doing and I just was sitting there, I was like, I cannot do this for the rest of my life. Like I kind of had like this panic attack moment of like is this what the next 30 years of my life is going to look like, like I cannot do this. And that was kind of in that moment that I was just like, I went to college, I did all the things you're supposed to do to get the job, to get the mortgage, to get the retirement account, health insurance, all the things. And I just felt so unfulfilled. It was that time where it was like, you know what, I just want freedom. I want to become my own boss. So I decided to start doing freelance web design. That was something that I did at my day job that I actually loved doing. And I was like, well heck, if I can like do it for us, I can do it for anybody else. So I kinda hung out my shingle, started telling people like, Oh, I'm a freelance web designer on the side, got all the wrong clients, didn't charge enough. I thought I would be able to like trade enough time for money while still working a full-time executive job. I don't know what, I did it all wrong to start with. So I had completely burnt myself out working basically two full-time jobs and I was like, there's gotta be a better way. By that time I had started listening to podcasts on my way to work. Listen to Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income podcast, discovered affiliate marketing and I was like, wait. So I could like teach people how to build websites themselves and make affiliate commissions on web hosting and plugins and all the things that I'm already like paying for to build these websites. I can just teach all of these clients who are like hounding me 24/7 to change this font color, like how to do it themselves, 1000% I'm doing this. So I created a training to teach that and then I had to figure out how to market it because I had had no clue how to do that. So, like we all do when we start online businesses and start creating content, you know, I'm like, how do I market myself? How do I do this? And you just start trying things, right? And so I started doing all kinds of different things to get the word out about my training. I started making affiliate commissions. It started growing. People started spreading the word and overnight I quit my day job, which no, that's not how it happens. But three years later, I had made enough money. I was bringing in consistent income to replace my day job and I quit. So the podcast really became, what's the story of like, how did I actually side hustle successfully for three years. What were all the mistakes that I made along the way? How can I inspire people to keep going when it gets hard? And I had a lot to say about it and then when I ran out of things to say, I started inviting guests on to talk about their story.
Okay, so you're in this corporate job and you realize that you just at a dead end essentially, that you're going down the path. It's not gonna take you to where you want to go.
Which I've had a similar experience. People heard me talk about it on the show. I'm curious, when you were in this sort of side hustle mode, it can really be a grind, especially when you're talking about a three year period of time where you're working to kind of build up enough of a business where you can quit your job. But you're still doing the full-time thing. Like that's a lot of life energy poured into something. What caused you to keep going? Why didn't you give up?
From the moment I started, I just had this belief. I was like, I am going to make this work no matter what. I had that drive, that desire and that belief from, I didn't know how. I didn't know when, I was very impatient in the beginning. I wanted it to be by the end of the year or whatever, but I just had that belief that I was going to be successful no matter what. That really drove me. The other thing that kept me going was I had a really fantastic boss at the time. When at the time that I started my side hustle, things at my company were very different then we had a leadership change and a new boss came on and I was like, well shoot, I don't want her to know anything about this side hustle cause I don't know anything about her. What if she fires me, all this stuff. And we had a conversation where I confessed this job and she was like, that's amazing. I think that that's professional development. Stay here as long as you need. All those skills out there that you're learning as you grow your business are beneficial to us. And so I want to keep you here as long as I can keep you and do what you need to do. And I was like, well, okay, I will take you up on that offer. And I just was so fortunate to be in that situation where I had that support from my boss. She wanted to see me grow as a professional and she was like, I will take all of the benefit of that for our company for as long as I can take it. I think more bosses should be that way.
Absolutely. That's definitely the exception rather than the rule. I'm curious for those who aren't in that situation, what advice might you have for them, people who are looking to move into the online business space?
I think if I could look back over my three years and if I was taking that out of the equation, I would do a few things differently. One, I would have gotten mentorship and help closer to the beginning. I look back and I'm like, I was trying to do it all on my own. I was trying to DIY everything. I was trying to learn everything I possibly could from like every free source out there I could find. I spent a lot of time and money on tactics and strategies that like weren't right for me at the time, trying to make it happen faster. And so if I could go back in time, I would have made a more significant investment in better help earlier on. And I think that that would have saved me a lot of time and a lot of money because for some reason I thought, Oh, I'll just do everything. I'll reinvent the wheel instead of, you know, looking to mentors that could have helped me make it happen faster. But that's kind of my personality, too. I'm like, Oh, the stove's hot, let me touch it, let me touch it and find out for myself.
I totally get that. And I'm one those people I love to learn so much.
Yeah, me too.
And that has sort of tapered off, you know, unlike my twenties an earlier, you know, it was all about, I'm just going to absorb as much as possible. So I had a lot of really theoretical knowledge about a lot of things, but I never really put it into action. And so I understood a lot of things, but I didn't really know a lot of things. And so when I finally took that leap and started my own business and I had to actually do the things. I pretty quickly got to the point where it's like I have enough information, I have enough knowledge of the things that I need to do. I just need to get out there and do it. And like take action because that's how stuff changes. That's how you make an impact. You're not going to create any kind of value in the world just by sitting around and learning about stuff and never putting anything into action. So when you created the podcast, you said originally it was this sort of learn out loud as you're doing the side hustle thing. I'm curious what that looked like in the early days in terms of like what your audience growth looks like and how that really fit into your business overall. Like what has the podcast done for your business?
I started the podcast after I had quit my day job. It was kind of like, Oh, I need to tell this story now of how I made this happen. And I wanted to tell the story to my existing audience of people who I was teaching, like how to DIY their website and things because I was like, I know 90% of them are me like three years ago. And so I want to motivate and inspire them. And so really I made it for myself for like the cathartic experience of just kind of like getting all of that out there in a way that like maybe they weren't necessarily wanting to hear from me through email or through my blog because they wanted to learn the strategies and tactics from me, but I needed another outlet to tell this story and I thought that they might be interested. So a lot of that audience growth for the podcast came from my existing audience in the very beginning of people who are already learning from me. But then of course as you're distributing on different platforms, you get found by people who are searching for different podcasts to listen to on iTunes. I had it as an Alexa flash briefing way back then, so I had a daily podcast. Someone actually found me through that that we formed a great relationship, but then it really began to grow once I started bringing on guests and talking to them and my whole strategy was like, let me bring someone who shares the same audience that I want to serve onto this podcast. I get to talk to them for an hour, which is absolutely amazing, and then hopefully I will do everything in my power to give them everything they need to share this with their audience so that I can just get out there and get in front of more people. It's a slow, I wouldn't want to say slow, but it's, it's just like I want to plant as many seeds as I can. You know, whether that results directly in a customer, which it has, or just a lot of people that are listening and sharing and sending more people my way. I just think that that's really been my whole strategy for growth. So, anyone starting a podcast I think having guests on is like one of the best ways you can grow your audience and you're building long-term relationships, too.
And if you're like me and don't really like to talk that much, it's also a great way to bring value to your audience. Yeah, we'll talk and just listening and asking questions. One of my favorite things to do. Can we dig into what your business has looked like over the last few years? Cause I know you've gone through some transitions, you know, you started as a side hustler. Initially you were doing some freelance web design, transition more into affiliates, affiliate marketing and then you have you started creating your own products, digital products to sell to sort of supplement that. And then now, recently you've made the transition to where you completely set aside the services work and now your products and your affiliate income become the main revenue source for your business. So I'd love to talk about that transition and what that's looked like in terms of how has your revenue grown over the last couple of years and where are you at now? How were you able to make that transition? That's what a lot of people are going for.
Yeah. So you know, I mentioned that at the very beginning I was like, I cannot work with clients and have a full-time job and that's why I transitioned to teaching. And I was like no clients back then. I was like, I can't do it. But what came out of it after like teaching people how to build their whole website, I was like, I'm just going to teach everybody everything I do for my clients. Teach it for free and just get money from all the companies. And then people were like, yeah, I still don't want to do it. Will you do it for me. And I was like, I don't understand this. Like, I'm teaching you how to point and click your way through this whole thing and you still just don't want to do it. So I had a business coach at the time who was like don't just leave money on the table. Learn from your mistakes that you made before make this work, I'll help you set some boundaries now. So I did start taking one-on-one clients back on. So I kind of had this like side hustle of my side hustle, right? Cause what I really wanted to do is teach and engage and help people and be creative and all these different areas of marketing. But then I also had these one-on-one services that I were doing for people. And those took up 80% of my time, the one-on-one services but were responsible for 20% of my revenue. And so I quit my day job and I was like, well, you know I got to keep these big paycheck one-on-one design service, things coming in. Cause I'm kind of scared now that I don't have a paycheck coming in. So I'm going to keep these one-on-one clients and I did that for about 18 months and then I just kind of had this moment. I was actually talking to someone on my podcast. This is another reason why I love podcasts, my podcast so much and interviewing people because I get to talk to people way smarter than me and then they kind of coach me like on the podcast. I'm like, asking for a friend, what would you do if, her name's Amy Eaton. She basically was telling me a story about how she realized she was playing small in her business by continuing to work with one-on-one clients and how she wasn't taking a chance. It just really hit me and I was like, you know, I have been just clinging to this one-on-one client work because I'm scared to go all in on the courses and training and I know just like I knew if I quit my day job and I had all that time to put into growing the business, I'd be fine. I know if I quit this one-on-one client work and I have all that time to put into growing my relationships, my audience, making more offers, I will be fine. So in September of this year, I just shut down the client work. I finished my last client project, started referring people who asked me to other web designers. I'd actually started teaching web designers how to like successfully run their businesses without, you know, wanting to throw their laptop out the window and fire all their clients. Because I think a lot of web designers, you know, you run an agency, it's like when you first get into it you're like, Oh yeah, this is awesome. When you're the one making all the decisions, it goes really fast. You throw a client into the mix and it all goes haywire. Just teaching them how to manage clients and processes and all the things. So I had been doing that, too. That was like one of the courses that I offer. So I was like, you know what, I'm going to send them all my work, the students in that and I'm just going to go all in on this. And I had my biggest revenue month the following month and my revenue just continue to grow month after month after that. And I always told myself, I was like, I can open that back up anytime. This is not an end all be all decision. Just like I could go back and get a job at any time if I ever needed to. Like I always have choices. But for now, this is the one that I'm making. It's the most fulfilling to me. I think that's really what I was wanting that day five years ago when I was like, I'm wasting my life in this Excel spreadsheet in this office. You know, I really wanted to have a bigger impact and that's what I'm able to do now when I'm not spending 80% of my time on one-on-one client projects.
One of the things you do that I love, this has been a trend for a while, but I always respect people when they do this. Putting together an income report, transparent about that. Where are you at now? Just so the audience has a little bit of context. What was your benchmark for this was a success setting aside the one-on-one clients, how did you get there?
I say this in every income report that I do, which I publish on my podcasts, like my baseline revenue is $10,000 a month. And that's what I need to pay myself. What I want to make, pay taxes and pay my business expenses. And I had set a goal. It would be really nice to make $15,000 exclusively from courses and my affiliates. And I had set a goal to do that by March of 202,0 I hit that goal in January of 2020 which was amazing. You know at the time we're recording this. I don't know what's going to happen with the revenue. I'm sure my March income report will be, who knows what my March 2020 income report will look like. I just, I was like, Oh my gosh. I proved that it was possible. And to me I was just like I'm from the Midwest, there was no one in my family that's an entrepreneur. To me, I was just like, I created this. Like I made this and if I can like think that and figure out how to do it, it just feels like the sky's the limit. Right?
Yeah. That's amazing. One thing I'd love to dig into is your marketing and like traffic strategy. I'm curious, where are the majority of your customers for your courses comes from?
It's really interesting. It's a lot of like referrals. A couple of ways that happens back in the day three or four or five years ago, it was just like me being in Facebook groups, Hey, do you need help with your website? Free training all over the place. Then people who had taken the training, they do that for me. I have like an army of ambassadors from everybody that has signed up for that training. They see anybody that has any kind of website question, they're like, go take Shannon's free training. Go take it, go take it. So I call that like a shareworthy freebie where you make something so good that like other people are telling other people about it. So that brings in like 50% of my traffic every month is just people sharing it with other people and then just building relationships. I reach out to other entrepreneurs all the time to be on my podcast, to be on their podcast, to do collaborative workshops, any kind of like swapping our freebies, any kinds of collaborations that I can do to introduce my audience to amazing people. Get in front of other people's audiences who do something similar but not exactly what I do. I think that that's really the two main ways I drive traffic to my site and I don't mess with like I have like a couple of SEO optimized posts. I'm sure I could do more with that. Like very niche topics like moving from Squarespace to WordPress, like building a website for your podcast. That's like two out of like 400 blog posts or like what comes from Google, but it's really just about building relationships and it's not about algorithms and it's not about paying for ads. Anybody can do that. And that's what I think is you don't have to learn anything to reach out to someone and say, Hey, I have something of value that I think your audience would love. Let's talk.
Shannon, I love your approach because you and I were talking earlier, it's easy when you jump into the online marketing online business world to just get lost down the rabbit hole of tactics and everyone's trying to sell you the one thing that's going to like create millions of dollars overnight. That one perfect funnel or the one perfect Facebook ads and all that stuff. You really distilled it down to, well, I think most people starting out really miss, which is the essence, all of it is we're providing value for people, real people. And the way you do that is through relationships. There are varying degrees of that, but no one's going to want to spend money with you unless they trust you. And in order to trust you, like there's gotta be some relationship formed. So I would love to hear what advice you might give to people who are in this phase of just sort of starting out and are wanting to not get lost in all of the craziness of the internet marketing world and build those relationships.
Yeah, I think the most important thing you can do is just start putting your content out there. What I see people doing is trying to build the perfect website with the perfect brand and come out looking like they've been doing this for five years and launch like they want to have all of this stuff done and built and 10 blog posts written and just this whole end to end thing. But they've never even talked to one person yet. What I think people are missing is that whole opportunity to just create content that serves who you want to help that's valuable, that helps them accomplish something in their life. Just like what you said, just to build that trust and engage and interact with them and create for them, it's really for them, it's all about solving their problems, helping them live a better life. Marketing is easy because it really has nothing to do with you. And when I see people spending so much time trying to perfect their brand and have everything look perfect and they're not really ever putting anything out there, you're doing a disservice to the people that you're helping. They really just need your message. And so I would just say to anyone who is just getting started is to just start. You're going to do so much better if you'd just start creating that content and putting it out there now and not worrying about everything being perfect. Learning what you can learn from anything that doesn't go the way that you expect, and I wouldn't even call that mistakes. Just learning from what doesn't go the way that you expect it to go and iterate that over time. You're going to learn so much more by doing than just waiting for everything to be perfect before you start.
Yes. Preach it. I love it. Shannon, this has been fantastic. Before we wrap up, can you share with everyone where they can find you online?
Yeah, you can find everything - my podcast, the DIY web design training, all the things at shannonmattern.com.
Fantastic and we'll make sure that's linked up in the show notes. Shannon, thanks so much for being on the show today. And to everybody out there, go be a hero.
Hey everyone. Thank you for listening to the Content Heroes podcast. I just wanted to take a second and let you know that we have some amazing guests planned for the coming weeks, so if you haven't already, go ahead and hit subscribe so you can make sure to catch every episode. And if you enjoyed today's episode, go ahead and leave a five-star review to help make it easier for other content creators to find and enjoy the show. Lastly, I'd like to invite you to join our Content Heroes Facebook community where you can connect with other online content creators to share, learn, grow, and have fun. To join the group. Just visit contentheroes.com/facebook. Once again, that is contentheroes.com/facebook.
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