#47: Erika Kullberg is a successful corporate lawyer who quit her six-figure job to start her own online business.
In this episode, we talk about why she took a 99% pay cut to become a content creator, how she’s building multiple streams of passive income, and what it took to make her first viral video on YouTube.
If you’re the type of person who wants to build your own online business from the ground up, this episode is for you.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- how she planned for the big reset in her life;
- how she transformed the negative feedback she received when she started her own business and used it for an opportunity to grow;
- why you need to make your goals mission-based; and
- her philosophy behind content creation.
I was living like a broke college student because I really wanted that financial freedom and that optionality of getting to save up enough money, that I could take the big risk of leaving the law firm and leaving that stable income to pursue and create something that I wanted to create where I could feel like I would have an impact on other people instead of just using my degree to help these businesses. (03:22)
I just wanted to feel like I was making a difference. I don’t mind working hard. I don’t mind the long hours. I enjoy it. But there’s a difference between working long hours and not really seeing what you’re doing. (05:43)
Hearing that “Erika” and “inspiring in one” sentence never happened in all of my years in the corporate world. So the fact that I get it regularly now is just like, that’s what’s calling me. That’s what gets me so excited to wake up every day and do this and make these YouTube videos and work on my online legal business. (06:22)
I think as a content creator, you really have to listen to what people are interested in and what people want. (12:17)
The thing with passive income is I realized that people love to talk about their success after they’ve hit their success. That’s why you see people on YouTube saying I made $200,000 on YouTube. Well, people don’t like to talk about is when they’re not successful. And right now, at least when I started in January and probably now, too, I’m not that successful…I’ve taken a 99% pay cut. That’s not comfortable, but that’s what really helps people. Because if people are only seeing that I make $200,000 on YouTube this month, there’s a disconnect between where they are versus where that person saying I made $200,000 on YouTube this month is. You have to see the process from the beginning. (12:23)
Be consistent. Make your goal production-based. That’s what’s going to get you to success on a platform like YouTube. You just have to keep grinding. Don’t get emotionally invested in the number of subscribers you have, or the number of views. (15:38)
Connect with Erika Kullberg
Youtube: Erika Kullberg
Ep. 47: Erika Fullberg
So within the span of eight days, I went from having a channel of around 2,000 subscribers to 20,000 subscribers. And I went from not even being close to being monetized on YouTube, to being able to run ads on YouTube and making like $700 my first day of running ads on YouTube.
Welcome to Content Heroes, everyone. We're back with another great conversation to help you better profitable business on your own terms by creating content online. Our guest today is a successful corporate lawyer who quit her six figure job to start her own online business. We talked about why she took a 99% pay cut to become a content creator, how she's building multiple streams of passive income, and what it took to make her first viral video on YouTube. If you're the type of person who wants to build your own online business from the ground up, you'll definitely want to stick around for the rest of this episode. 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.
Here with Erika Kullberg, who is a lawyer and content creator. And I'm very excited about this conversation. Erika, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Thank you for having me.
So I love your story. I want to start with you talk about that you were high-paid lawyer in the, in the corporate world and you realize that something was missing. Can we talk about that? Can we dig into your story here, because I'm really curious to know about that transition from the corporate world into the content creation world for you.
Yeah. So my story is basically, I was working at this corporate law firm doing mergers and acquisitions and basically helping these huge billion dollar companies grow even bigger. And at some point I started to feel like, wow, I'm not really making an impact. And the reason I went to law school was I wanted to help people and help change people's lives. But really as a corporate lawyer, all I was doing was helping these corporations just become bigger and there was kind of an emptiness. And also I hated that I didn't have control over my time. I was working a hundred hour week, which is very standard in corporate law, but it was just exhausting. And I felt like I just wasn't doing anything that I was happy with in my life. And I knew I really wanted to make a change, but it was terrifying because I had worked so many years and, you know, to get into these big law firms, these corporate law firms, you have to be top of your class. That requires lots of studying. And I felt like I had worked so hard to get to what I thought was this dream job. And what's really the top of the top where you can get to in this legal world. And I got there and I had this fancy apartment and this big salary but it just didn't feel right. Like it felt so empty. And I knew I wanted to make a change. So I think I realized I wanted to change probably one year before I actually quit. I worked really hard. I paid off all of my student loans so that I didn't have to worry about that. And I worked really hard to just live really frugally, even though I was this high paid lawyer, I was living like a broke college student because I really wanted that financial freedom and that optionality of getting to save up enough money, that I could take the big risk of leaving the law firm and leaving that stable income to pursue and create something that I wanted to create where I could feel like I would have an impact on other people instead of just using my degree to help these businesses.
I love that. I'm really curious to know what was going through your head when you realized that you needed to make that change. So you said that you came to that conclusion and you spent the next year kind of preparing for it, but when you were there, when you're ready to take that leap, what was going through your head at that point?
I definitely second guessed myself. I was wondering like, okay, is this going to be a great thing to do? Am I going to look back and be so proud of myself? Or am I going to regret this and regret leaving? And it's especially hard because in this prestigious legal world, I had my bosses telling me when I put in my two weeks notice saying that you're going to regret this. Like you have a chance now to change your mind and we won't mention it again. You're going to regret this. You're making an impulsive mistake. And so not only is it tough that I was kind of questioning it, but to have other people in the legal world telling you that you're doing something wrong, it just made it so much harder. But I hit a certain point where I just knew in my gut that it was the right thing to do. I needed to do it, to make myself happy and to try to make the world a better place. And when you have that gut feeling that intuition and the fact that I had saved up enough to be able to be comfortable with that risk, that's when I knew like I had to do it.
So what are those first steps look like for you, I guess, and maybe we should back up a bit here because we talk through where you were. So you're a really high paid corporate lawyer. You realized that you needed to change. What was the thing that was calling you? Like where were you headed? What was the change that you needed to make?
I think the big change that I needed to make was one, selfishly, I wanted to make myself happy because I was very unhappy working these hundred hour weeks and feeling like I was just a piece of the puzzle and wasn't really making a difference. And two, again, going back to this impact thing, I just wanted to feel like I was making a difference. And I think I don't mind working hard. I don't mind the long hours, I enjoy it, but there's a difference between working long hours and not really seeing what you're doing. I, since I was doing mergers and acquisitions, like you see the deals on the cover of Wall Street Journal or whatever, but that's not really satisfying that didn't really help me feel like while I'm doing something in this world versus now I'm working actually the same long hours. But now I have people telling me, hey, by being so transparent about how you're going to build this business and make passive income, you inspired me to go write out my passive income goals and hearing that Erika and inspiring in one sentence never happened in all of my years in the corporate world. So the fact that I get it regularly now is just like, that's, what's calling me. That's what gets me so excited to wake up every day and do this and make these YouTube videos and work on my online legal business. Like that is the really cool thing about what I'm doing now.
Love it. So when you made that transition, what did those first few steps look like? Did you kind of ease into the content creation side of things or did you just go all in.
That's fantastic. You hit on something there that I think is so important. A lot of people get hung up in that place of being afraid of being judged and being afraid that they're not going to be good enough and they never get started. What I heard you say was that the way that you pushed through that was that it wasn't about you. You were focused on the people that you were serving. You were focused on making an impact. There's a ton of stuff out there about like imposter syndrome, this idea that, you know, we tell ourselves that we're not good enough or that we're a fake or, you know, we don't belong here and people get stuck in that. But my mentor taught me something, a phrase that I will never forget. And it just helped me through that so many times. The phrase is stop asking, am I good enough and start asking, what does the world need? That's exactly what you did there. And that's what you use to push through that barrier and really put yourself out there. Even though, like you said, you were completely not comfortable with it. You felt like that you didn't do a great job, at least compared to the way you felt like you should be in your head. And you even had people giving you some negative feedback and you did it anyway. And I think that's just amazing. So I'm curious to hear more about how that content creation process went for you. So you said that you started your YouTube channel mainly focused on finance. Has it stayed in that category? Have you branched out to other things? What is the growth looked like for you?
So my YouTube channel is finance based. That's about personal finance. One of the things that I definitely have pivoted that I never expected to talk about when I first started the channel, I thought I would just be talking about budgeting and investing is I started talking about passive income. So I've been very transparent and it's my goal to be transparent about what I'm making, doing YouTube, doing my online legal business. Because I think the more transparent you can be when you're talking about money, the more it'll inspire people to maybe see that there's potential and maybe be willing to leave their comfort zones. It's so related to personal finance. I pivoted maybe two months after I sit at the channel, realizing that I wanted to also open up my journey of creating this passive income. So that's just one of the things that I've branched out to, because I think as a content creator, you really have to listen to what people are interested in and what people want. The thing with passive income is I realized that people love to talk about their success after they've hit their success. That's why you see people on YouTube saying I made $200,000 on YouTube. Well, people don't like to talk about is when they're not successful. And right now, at least when I started in January and probably now too, I'm not that successful. I started at $0 and most people don't like to share that because of course it's embarrassing for me to go out there and say, I'm making $0. It's embarrassing for me to put out an update two months afterwards for my passive income update and say, I've only made like a thousand dollars. So I've taken a 99% pay cut. That's not comfortable, but that's what really helps people. Because if people are only seeing that I make $200,000 on YouTube this month, there's a disconnect between where they are versus where that person saying I made $200,000 on YouTube this month is. You have to see the process from the beginning. And that's why I realized that I could kind of pivot my channel a little to document my process from the beginning so that people can see, like, it's not that you're going to get instant results because I think that's the problem with people only being willing to share about their income after they've reached success is that it gives people this illusion that you're going to hit instant success. And then when they don't see overnight success in two months, three months, four months, they get so discouraged. So that's one of the things that I really wanted to branch out to on my channel.
I love that. I am always a fan when people are transparent and show the whole journey, not just the bright spots. If you don't mind sharing now, what has that journey looked like for you in terms of revenue and subscribers and all of that?
Of course. So at the very beginning, in the end of January, I put out this video titled how I'll build $200,000 of passive income this year. And of course at that point, everything was zero. And then in February, it was $587 total. And then in March it was $825 total. So you see the slow progress and then actually something neat happened right around the end of April. I wasn't monetized on YouTube. So just as background to get monetized on YouTube, which means to be able to run ads on your YouTube channel, you have to have a thousand subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time. And while I had hit the thousand subscribers, I didn't have nowhere close to 4,000 hours of watch time. I think I had around 2000 hours. So I was of course, starting to get a little discouraged. This was right around six months into my YouTube channel end of April. And then YouTube decided to put my video just on the home feeds of people. And so I had my first semi-viral video and that was super exciting because then right after that, I put out my next one and that also did really well. So within the span of eight days, I went from having a channel of around 2,000 subscribers to 20,000 subscribers. And I went from not even being close to being monetized on YouTube, to being able to run ads on YouTube and making like $700 my first day of running ads on YouTube. It just goes to show you that - be consistent, make your goal production-based, don't focus on the views or subscribers because that's what's going to get you to success on a platform like YouTube. You just have to keep grinding, don't get emotionally invested in the number of subscribers you have, or the number of views. Because I went from, I want to say maybe a hundred thousand views total over six months to now, just in the last two weeks, I have 1.5 million views on my channel. So it just can change very rapidly, but you need to always focus on production-based. My goal from the very beginning, I launched my first video, October 31st of last year. My goal was always no matter what, I'm going to do 52 videos. One video a week, even if only my mom is viewing my video each week. Like that was it. It was just 52 videos, no matter what. And I stuck with that. And then of course, like right as I was about to hit six months in, I had that for a semi-viral video and things kind of exploded from there.
That's amazing. That's such great advice like that is where a lot of people, I mean, you and I were talking about this before we hit record a bit like that's where a lot of people give up is in that three to six month range. You know, I had Miles Beckler on the show and talked about like, that's the danger zone. It's where you've been doing it long enough where it's not as exciting anymore, but you haven't been doing it long enough to really start seeing results. And so it's hard to move through that. But I love that you focused, like you said, focus on production and getting that momentum of just that weekly habit of whatever I'm doing, I'm publishing a video this week. I don't care if anyone sees it, I'm just forming these habits and I'm getting my process in place so that it comes naturally to me to produce this content. It's exact same thing I did with the podcast. I started the podcast like October 22nd of last year, right before your YouTube channel. And it's been the same thing where in the very beginning, it's easy to get discouraged because there's not much traffic. Like there's not a ton of listeners, a ton of downloads, a ton of views on your videos and whatnot. But if you can ignore that and most of the people that I've talked to who are successful, especially in the YouTube and the podcasting side, they've all said, yeah, I just completely ignored all of the stats and like the first year, and just focused on putting out content and getting better and improving over time. And that's what I've done with the podcast. That sounds like that's what you've done with your YouTube channel. And it's interesting that there seems to be that hump where you get over that six to nine month mark, and you start to see that momentum really start to pay off and slowly build, in your case, having something go kind of semi viral and really just like exponentially grow your views and subscribers is fantastic. I'm curious, would that one video that YouTube picked up and it got bumped up in the algorithm, do you think that that was just dumb luck? Or did you think that there's some strategy behind that, on your part that helped you to pay attention to that video?
Well, the interesting thing is when you're a very small content creator, the cool thing about being in that period is you can actually take risks and you can experiment with different things and see what works and what doesn't. So for that particular video, I usually do evergreen content. So content about how to create a budget and stuff that will be relevant a year from now. And I've had shied away from the trendy topics. But for that video, I decided, okay, there is a very trendy topic in the personal finance world right now. And it's about these $1,200 stimulus checks. And so let me try to do one trendy video, and then let me also try to change the title and do something I've never done before, which is at the very beginning of the title I put: Llawyer explains... and then I put something like the stimulus check or something. And so those were experiments that I had never done on my channel. One, doing something trendy and then two, putting right in the title that it's a lawyer explaining this to you. And then I went to sleep as usual and I woke up and it had a crazy number of views. And I was just like, wow, what happened? So I think it's a combination. I mean, it's a combination of experimenting, it's combination of trying new things. And you also, obviously putting a lawyer in there is social validation. People might be more inclined to click on the video if they see that you're a lawyer or a CPA or have some kind of title, I don't know. And then also a lot of it is luck. I'm not some genius here who knows how to make a semi viral video on YouTube. A lot of it is just like, I think YouTube saw that I had been consistently producing content related to money and personal finance. And then this topic was trendy. A lot of people were searching for it. So then somehow it decided to display my video. And then of course other things come into play, too. So one thing that I did is most YouTube creators will actually try to elongate their videos to over 10 minutes, because when you make a longer video, that's over that 10 minute mark, you can actually put mid-roll ads. And then you'll make probably three or four times more on ad revenue than you would if you make a video under 10 minutes. But I didn't like that approach. Of course, I wasn't even monetized. So it didn't matter to me. And I was just like, I don't like blabbering on for very long. I don't like wasting people's time. So let me just get them the information that I need to. So that video that I created was two minutes long, which you never see on YouTube because everyone on YouTube is trying to get over that 10 minute mark. So I think that's also something that helped us. Like I didn't care about ad revenue. I just cared about getting people the information they needed in a very succinct manner. And so that probably also contributed it to it, I think. And even now that I am monetized and I could be making three or four times more on ad revenue, if I had those 10 minute long videos, I still keep my videos between four to seven minutes right now because people seem to like that. I don't try to add all this extra fluff into the videos and just get straight to the facts. And I think that's working for me and I as always like, if the focus were money, of course I'd make it over 10 minutes, but the focus is just trying to help people. And so my videos are very short right now, even though it's probably not a good financial move on my part.
So one of the things that we had talked about a bit before we recorded was you said that you're attempting six income streams at once as an online business owner. Can you talk more about that? Because I'm really curious about first of all, why and what those streams are and how you're managing all of that.
Okay, sure. I'm going to read them out to you because it's not like I can remember this off the top of my head, but the very first one is Plug and Law, which is my online legal business. The second stream is YouTube ad revenue. The third is sponsored videos on YouTube. The fourth is affiliates. So just affiliate marketing in general. The fifth, unfortunately I hate to break it to you, but the fifth is actually on hold right now. The fifth was going to be an Olympics ebook. I actually live in Tokyo, Japan. And I thought that would be fun to make an ebook about the Olympics for people coming here who wanted to know the cool things to do in Tokyo, but for obvious reasons that's on hold. And then the sixth is just partnerships. So I refinanced my student loans, but so far, so I thought they would be a great partnership just as part of my brand in the future, because I love that I refinanced my student loan. So those are the six, which I guess now are five.
That's awesome. So let's dig into your online law business because your YouTube channel is focused on finances. My guess is there, isn't a clear correlation between that traffic and your online law business. So what are you doing on that side to get traffic to your website.
For the online legal business, right now it's just mainly been through organic Facebook outreach. I'm in a bunch of Facebook groups and occasionally I'll post, Hey, I have a free legal guide about how to protect your online business. And then I'll get 50 or 70 messages in my inbox of people wanting that free legal guide. So right now it's just been very organic to be quite frank. I need to focus more on the online legal business, because I think when you're trying to attempt your income streams, five or six different income streams, you should actually portion your time out based on how much you expect to receive from those and the legal business just in my 2020 passive income goal. I said that I wanted to make 177,000 from the legal business versus 15,000 from YouTube. So that's really how I should be allocating my time. The reality is these YouTube videos takes so long. So unfortunately it's skewed towards, I've been spending probably more time on YouTube recently, than my legal business, but in an ideal world, I need to work a little hard on the legal business, but right now I'm working on for the legal business. Obviously, as you know, SEO is very important. So I've been working on blog posts and just like with YouTube, any online business that you create, SEO is going to be important, but SEO is also not an overnight success. You're not going to see results overnight. So the blog posts that I'm creating today might start paying off for me six months from now, but it's not going to be instant results. So right now I'm really in the grind phase where I'm working on these blog posts, trying to get on podcasts, trying to make my message known on Facebook. And then obviously on my YouTube channel, I think there's not a direct correlation between personal finance and online legal business. But eventually I think there will be some overlap because the people who are interested in making money online and these passive income streams, a lot of them are going to do online businesses. And when you have an online business, you need these privacy policies to protect yourself. You need these disclaimers to protect yourself. So hopefully there's going to be some overlap at some point between people who recognize me from the YouTube channel. And then when they do have a legal need and want to protect their online business and start up a website, maybe they'll think of me and come to Plug and Law for that.
Yeah, that makes sense. So, Erika, I'm really curious, especially as you've made this transition from the corporate world into the content creation world, how are you approaching content creation? You know, one of the things you talked about was being consistent. And so I'd love to hear about your approach to being consistent with content, how you've been able to do that, but also just your strategy or philosophy behind content creation as a whole.
Yeah, that's a really good question. To be honest, like six months ago, I didn't even know what content creation meant or what a content creator was. If you would have told me that when I was at the law firm, I would be like, what are you talking about? This is all quite new to me. But when I think about what I've learned in the past six months of being on YouTube and also working on this blog for Plug and Law, I think really I've walked away from it with four key takeaways that I've learned in these six months. So the first that you just touched on is really consistency and making your goal production-based. Again, just don't base it on the views or the subscribers or the number of people who view your page or the downloads on your podcast. Really make it production-based. Say I'm going to create one podcast a week for a year, or I'm going to create one YouTube video a week for a year, no matter what. So that's the first one is just really make it production-based. The second, that I've learned is you have to have this willingness to adapt and pivot. So it's very easy to get narrow-minded and focused on this is what I think people want, but actually that's not the way you have to do it. You have to be able to listen to what people actually want and then pivot and adapt based on that. So if I create all this content thinking, this is what they need to hear from me, but actually don't listen to what people are saying in the comments section, or don't listen to what people are saying in my Instagram, like to me, that's a bad content creator because if I'm creating my content as a service to the people, but not listening to what the people actually are curious about, that's just not the way to go. So I think that the second thing that I've learned is just have this willingness to adapt. Don't let your ego get in the way of preventing you from pivoting and listen to what the people, what your market wants. And then the third thing, this has been probably the hardest for me, is to be okay with the no's and be okay with the rejection and the judgment. I mean, when I first started and I had people telling me, like, you're not going to be taken seriously. You can't be a lawyer on YouTube. You can't do this. It's really hard. Like I'm not going to make it sound like that was easy. And there are nights where I just felt so discouraged because I was getting this negative feedback and I knew I was getting judged. And I knew that when I put out this bold $200,000 goal, and then I put out an update two months later and I had only made like a thousand dollars. I knew people were just going to like secretly, probably be laughing at me and be like, wow, why is she still doing this? And also, why would she publicly announce that she's only made a thousand dollars when she said that she was gonna make $200,000. But you have to be not afraid of judgment and being okay with those nos. Because even if I get 99 nos, I still have hope that there's going to be that one 'Yes' on the hundredth person that I asked. So just be okay with that. And don't worry about it so much. Don't let it affect you as much as I know, it's easier said than done. I realized that with content creation, you're putting yourself out there and you're putting yourself out of your comfort zone. But with comfort zones, the first step is the hardest. The very first YouTube video launch was for sure the hardest made me so nervous. I don't think I slept that night. But then every step out of that comfort zone, every step further out of your comfort zone, you take, it just gets easier. Like it just gets so much easier. So you have to think like, if I do this now, if I take the first step, that's going to be really hard, but that second step will be easier. And then that third step will be even easier than the second. So you have to get that in mind. So that's my third one is just being okay with no's and rejection and judgment and pushing forward. And then my fourth one is making your goals mission-based. I think even though I have this monetary goal of $200,000, that's not the true thing. I always say, if I cared about the money, I would have stayed at my six figure job. That's the obvious part to me. So if you're doing content creation for money, I think that's how you're going to get discouraged easily when you're not seeing those results in three to six months and you're going to quit. But if you're doing it for something greater than money, for a mission, for you, it's educating people about content creation and talking to content heroes. For me, it's educating people about what they need to protect their online business and educating people about personal finance. Those are my missions and those drive me so much more than money drives me. And I think if you make your goals, mission-based instead of based on a set amount of money, you want to make you're going to succeed because ultimately, I mean, we talked about this at the beginning before the conversation, like ultimately what you see for the people who have succeeded in this space of content creation, they're not overnight successes. They've put in the months, the years of effort into it. And they've pushed through, even though they were getting judged, even though they got a thousand 'No's', even though their channel didn't get as many views as they hope, even though they're not making that much money because they had this mission of there's something greater than money in this and they were able to stick through. So those are my four, just to summarize, since I went off on a tangent, the first is be consistent and make your goal production-based. The second is be willing to adapt and really listen to why your audience wants from you. Third is be okay with the 'No's' and rejection and just push forward. And then the fourth is to really have a mission behind what you're doing, make sure that you feel like you're having an impact and that's why you're doing it and not for the money.
That's fantastic. I love it. Erika, I've thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. I've been really inspired by your story. So thank you so much for coming on today and sharing it with all of us before share with everyone where they can find you online.
Awesome. And we'll make sure that all of that is linked up in the show notes for everybody listening and to everyone out there until next time. Go be a hero.
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