Behind the Scenes of The Content Experiment - The Content Experiment
small business, business development

Behind the Scenes of The Content Experiment


Life is a journey. Business ownership is a journey. And sometimes, it’s even a roller coaster. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into creating this business—and quite a bit of anxiety also. Sounds familiar? I’m sure it does.

I’m giving you a little peek behind the scenes of The Content Experiment-—a bit of where it started back in 2007, how it’s grown since I left my day job in 2013, where we are now, and where I hope to be.

The last thirteen years have been quite a journey. Today I’m sharing with you some of my most valuable lessons, realizations, and even mistakes. I am so excited to share my business anniversary with all of you and grateful that you are here to share the journey!

Listen in!

Mentioned in This Episode:

Transcription

Abby Herman 0:08
Hey there, and welcome to Episode 123 of the Content Experiment Podcast, a podcast that supports the idea that content and marketing are ever moving targets in any business. And it’s okay if you don’t feel like you’re doing it. All right all of the time, you have permission to experiment with little tweaks and changes in your content, to find what works for you, what increases value for your audience, and what grows, your business, and most importantly, what feels good for you. I’m Abby Herman, content strategist and coach for online business owners who are ready to make a bigger impact online. I firmly believe that success isn’t about what big marketing brands and so called gurus think is the right thing. It’s about you and your business, your lifestyle, and, frankly, your values and belief systems, you get to do business in a way that works for you. Now, this episode is a bit of a special one, I am giving you a little peek behind the scenes of the content experiment, some of where it started back in 2007, how it’s grown since I left my day job in 2013, where we are now and some things that are coming up.

Abby Herman 1:23
So before we get started, I want to say that I had someone send me a very rude email a few weeks ago, telling me that I talked about myself too much. And at first I was angry. And honestly, I started questioning myself and what I’m even doing here, but then I remembered why I do this podcast and why I share my story. So when I started doing freelance writing, and even when I went full time to truly grow a business in 2013, I struggled to find the help that I needed at a price that I could actually afford. And I’ve talked about it a little bit on the podcast before I’ve talked about it on other people’s podcasts, I was told by a coach who will remain nameless that if I didn’t invest 1000s of dollars to fly her to me. So we could work together and do a half day intensive or a full day intensive, I don’t honestly remember what at the time, I couldn’t even afford to pay my rent. And I told her I was not going to go into debt in my business to pay for her. And she basically told me that I was going to fail. Now, a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into my business. And it’s been a lot of tears. I’ll be honest, some anxiety too. And as I was going through all of that, this is probably 2014 early 2015, I vowed to myself that if I was able to grow and be successful and actually make a living, that I would share what I learned with others at a price tag that they could afford, because I didn’t have that.

Abby Herman 3:02
And I wanted other people to have that. So that’s where this podcast came from. And that’s where the content mastery lab my membership community came from as well. If someone can learn from my mistakes and my own experiences, then I feel like I will have accomplished my goal of helping others. So yeah, I do tell stories from my personal experience. I include them in my emails, I include them here on the podcast, and I share stories and lessons that I’ve learned from working with clients and spending time online. I know that it’s helped a few of you, and I plan to keep on doing what I’m doing. I didn’t respond to the rude email, but I will remember it. And to be honest, the day I received the email, I was really not in a good place. Personally, it hurt. And I’m all for constructive criticism. But there’s a good way and a bad way to give feedback. I hope I never do that to someone else. And anyway, all of this is to say that this episode is about things that I’ve learned in business and what has driven me to where I am today. I love hearing other people’s stories, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I hope you do too. And if you don’t feel free to skip this one, no hard feelings. Now, before we get started, though, if you are new to the podcast, thank you so much for being here. I really work hard to make sure that this podcast is full of no nonsense support, to help inspire you to get your message out there and give you the actionable steps that you need to make it happen so you can get on with business your way. If you like what you hear, hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss another episode.

Abby Herman 4:44
And again, thank you so much for being here. If you’re a repeat listener and haven’t left a rating and review yet what’s what are you waiting for? I’d be so grateful if you would take over to your favorite podcast app and do just that. And before We get in to the meat of the episode, I want to let you know that this episode is brought to you by content mastery lab, my membership community where we talk about content creation, idea generation, market research, social, social media strategies, and all of the mindset blocks that get in the way of our own visibility plus a whole lot more and a lot of community and accountability. Sometimes, it takes some time to be brave enough to share our message. And sometimes it takes some time to get the message right. In the lab, we focus on little tweaks and changes in our content to get the best ROI of our time. Our time investments because big sweeping changes take a lot of time, effort and money and they don’t always pay off like we expect them to stop floundering with trying to figure out all of it yourself and start creating content with a confidence that you’re on the right path, you can join us monthly or quarterly or commit to a whole year for extra one on one time with me. And quarterly planning parties. We work through your content together in an intimate group, head to thecontentexperiment.com/lab for more information and to sign up you can use the coupon code podcast to try out your first month for just $1. Okay, let’s get into the meat of things here. I’m going to talk you through some of the things that I’ve learned in my last 14 years of business, eight of those being full time. So the first thing is that you really have to experiment with things.

Abby Herman 6:41
Back on episode 100. And Episode 84. I talked about changing my business name to The Content Experiment, and how content is all one big experiment. I’ll let you go back and listen to those to get more on that. But I mean, shoot you guys, I think life is an experiment. Business is an experiment, right? What I’m doing right now in business is wildly different from where I started in 2007. Back then my primary motivation in my business was to make money. That’s it, because honestly, I needed the income. Now, of course, I still want to make money now. But I have grown from doing curriculum development in the education space. And what I like to call, “content on demand for content Mills”, which are companies whose main mission is to produce as much content as possible for their clients. So I’ve gone from that to growing an actual business with a team. And through it all, I’ve tried out different packages, different services, different ways of marketing myself. And it’s never once been perfect, because once you find that perfect content and marketing combination, that perfect business combination, chances are, it’s going to get outdated, or you’re going to want to tweak your messaging or an offer might look a little different.

Abby Herman 7:59
So learning to adapt, and change, experimenting with little things is a great way to stay relevant and successful. It’s so important to not throw away a ton of time, money and energy into something that you think will work or sell and instead, take small steps toward that bigger goal. I’ve seen so many clients decide they want to do something big, only to have the audience not buy it, or they didn’t have the bandwidth to maintain it. I’ve done some of this myself with a few big idea flops. And I’ll save those stories for another time. So the next thing that I have done that I think I’ve done well, and not necessarily by choice, but I still have done it well is slow growth. I started freelance writing in 2007, and went full time in my business in 2013. But I didn’t hit six figures of revenue until 2018. And that was like just barely. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I worked hard. And I worked a lot. My slow growth wasn’t entirely by choice. But my business has always been the only income in my household, except when it was also at my side hustle. And I took a big enough risk quitting my day job. I was a single parent coming from a teaching position where you know, historically teachers do not get paid very well. And I also had quite a bit of student loan debt at the time. I couldn’t afford to make big investments in my business when I first left my day job and I’ve only recently been able to or felt comfortable with making good large investments in my business right now. So I took it slow and I watched other people grow really fast and I thought oh my god, I’m never gonna make it.

Abby Herman 9:54
Why can’t I be there in my business? It’s not fair. And then it would go down this rabbit hole. feeling inadequate and less than with all of the negative negative stories that we tell ourselves, I am sure that you can relate. And you probably have told yourself similar stories. But here is a secret that I will share with you. I still tell myself those stories sometimes. And also, this isn’t a big secret. But what you’re looking at on the visible public facing side of a business, any business is not actually the reality behind the scenes, we all have garbage and gunk to clean up behind the scenes. And I’ll get to some of my own and just a little bit.

Abby Herman 10:38
Another part of my slow growth is it took me into my 13th year of business to hire my first employee. I had contractors before, but it took me a really long time to realize that what I needed was employees and certain roles. And then I needed to learn how to onboard them properly, if I wanted to keep them around. I’m still working on this one, I have talked to before about onboarding, virtual team members, virtual assistants, contractors, and failing miserably at that. So that is part of the gunk that I am currently working on cleaning up so that my next hire doesn’t necessarily see all of the mess that some of my current employees have seen. And they know what I’m talking about. I want to let you know that through all of this slow growth, and even though it’s been really frustrating at times, I have realized and I hope that you understand, too, that it’s okay to take it slow in business. overnight successes are a myth. And even if someone does make six figures magically, in their first year, my guess is that the strain on their personal relationships, their finances, their stress levels, you name it, really paid the price. I’m finding that as I’m growing my team, there’s so much going on behind the scenes that you can make your team members and yourself crazy. And it behooves everyone to get the back end in order before adding it to the team or adding new offerings. And even it behooves you to let some things go, which I’m going to talk about a little bit later.

Abby Herman 12:22
Something else that I have learned. And I don’t know, I kind of feel like this has been ingrained in me from a really young age after watching my dad run his own business when I was growing up. But something that I feel like I need every business needs is a customer service attitude. And this is something that I feel like has served me really well over the years in my business. One of the best things about being a business owner is that you get to call the shots and you get to do things your way. However, at the same time, I do feel like we in the online space have gone a little bit overboard with this, all the talk about boundaries and setting your own schedule and blocking time. And all of that is all well and good. But I think that there’s a flip side to that that we don’t often consider. So let me explain. I love that I can make my own schedule. And I can choose to batch my days if I want. Last year I tried out only doing client calls the first and third week of the month and doing my own CEO work at the second and fourth week of the month, or something like that. I don’t actually remember the actual weeks. And it worked to a point. But I also found that client calls were sometimes Lanigan weeks that I quote unquote, didn’t do client calls.

Abby Herman 13:46
Now I meet with all of my one to one clients monthly in some cases and weekly in others. And I had to recognize that a really strict calendar on my part wasn’t always going to work for my clients. Now, do I just say well, that they’re just not a good fit for me. I know that some business owners do take that approach, but I don’t. So basically what you’re saying when you put up these really firm boundaries is if you want to hire me and you can’t fit into my schedule, then it must not be important for us to work together. And boundaries are important. Yes. But as a business that provides a service to clients. It’s also important to be of service to them. And that means being flexible, approachable and available. If you are a b2b, your clients have businesses too. If you’re a b2c, your clients have lives too. They have their own calendars that they’ve curated to meet their needs. So I think it’s important to take a look at that and to make sure that your boundaries aren’t so firm that they eliminate people from your life or from Your business, just a thought. On the same note, do you know the saying the customer’s always right? I’d like to add that and say the customer’s always right, even when they’re not. Now what do I mean by that?

Abby Herman 15:12
Well, as a professional, I’m an expert at what I do. When we create content strategies for clients, I approach them with a different mindset and knowledge base that my clients have. I mean, we all are sometimes a little too, inside our own heads about our own businesses, it’s hard to look at things from an outside perspective. I also know best practices when it comes to creating and publishing content for myself and for clients. Because I know these best practices, I know when I want to break those best practices and just do things in a different way, you know, experiment, because best practices may not work in every instance. So think about it from the perspective of a medical doctor who knows that one treatment will work for an illness, but also that doctor knows that at the peak, the patient has a reaction to that medication. So the doctor prescribes something totally different. Sometimes a client has a really clear idea of what they want their content to look and feel like. And that’s great. Sometimes what I think is best, and what the client thinks is best don’t align. And that’s when I say the customer’s always right, even when they’re not, and use the opportunity to have a conversation with a client and educate them. Or imagine this, let them educate me on why they want to do things a certain way. I don’t really believe that there is one single right way, or wrong way to do most everything.

Abby Herman 16:43
There’s really a lot of gray area in business. And I think this goes back to experimenting with different things. I think approaching business, and working with clients from a place of service is always the best policy. And when you find someone who doesn’t respect the boundaries you have in place, then it might be time to let them go. But remember, boundaries can be a little flexible, and think about your boundaries from your customers perspective. All right, something else that I did that has been valuable in business is getting support from coaches to team members to biz besties. I’ve said this a lot on the podcast, we’re not meant to do this alone. I don’t think humans were meant to do life alone. Now, I don’t have a clue how to service my car, I don’t think I should be trusted to cut my own hair. I’ve tried. I need someone to do my annual exam. For me, I’m not about to raise my own chickens for food, though I have loads of respect for people who do that. We all rely on other people to help us get through life. There are people who are experts in cars and cutting hair and medicine and farming and agriculture. That’s not me. So I need to pay other people to do that. For me. It’s the same in business, we need people on our team to take care of the things that we don’t know how to do. And by team I mean contractors, employees, business, friends, coaches, agencies, software that we use, and so on. To survive in business, you need to invest time and money into these people and services and tools so you can have the support you need. I talked about this more in Episode 117, where I talked about surrounding yourself with the right people. So I will let you go listen to that for more.

Abby Herman 18:40
Alright, now the last thing I want to talk about is probably the thing that was definitely the thing I’ve done most recently, and I think it’s the thing that will help carry me into my next year five years of business, and it’s letting things go. I think that there’s so much talk or pressure into doing all of the things in your business, like blogging weekly, and having weekly YouTube videos and showing up on Instagram, Instagram Stories every day and going live on your Facebook page at the same time every week. And and and and there’s so many ads, right? There are so many polls on our time. And I really bought into that early in business, like bad. Another thing that I feel is sometimes too much is the need to connect and join programs and groups to stay in front of the right people. And yes, absolutely. I think that this is important. Yes, we need connection. But there’s a time and a place for this in business. years ago. I let go of feeling like I had to blog every week and publish regular YouTube videos. I switched from podcasting because that’s what my audience wanted. And I know this because I asked them by the way. I didn’t plan to start a podcast house, but I’m so glad that I did. I put my energy into the things I know work for my business. And I don’t do the things that don’t work.

Abby Herman 20:09
Now to a point, it’s still a work in progress. But there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything. One year and I can’t remember what year it was, maybe 2017, I probably had 100, virtual coffee chats with other business owners and an effort to grow my business connections, and get to know other people. It was great for that stage in my business. And I rarely do coffee chats. Now, though, I do a lot of cold pitching to people to be on the podcast. So I kind of consider those interviews to be coffee chats, I learned so much. And I love that connection that I have with them. But we don’t actually have to do it at all. You pick and choose the content that works for your business, ask your audience about it and find out what works for them as well. You decide what works, you decide who you want to connect with, you decide the time that you have to connect with other people, and see how it fits into your life and what you’re doing in business. And if it’s not serving you, you can let it go. Something that I realized just a month or two ago is that I was really overextended on commitments that weren’t helping me move toward my own business goals. I knew I needed to let go of some things so I could free up my time to focus on my business back end, so that I can continue to grow. Because my business is my livelihood. It is the only income in my household. So I let go of some networking commitments.

Abby Herman 21:43
And I gained back several hours a month, hours that I have since turned around and blocked off as CEO time for myself. And that kind of brings me to as before we close up here a few things that are going to look different here at the content experiment in the coming months. So thank you for sticking around through this. I’m going to let you in on a few secrets. I have been batching podcast episodes over the last maybe month or so so that I can take some time away from interviews this summer. It has been a lot. And as of the day that this is released, I have enough podcast episodes recorded to get me through the beginning of September 2020. So what is that three months of episodes? I love doing the interviews and getting to know other business owners and sharing those conversations with you. And there are some really good ones coming up. I’m so excited for you to hear them. I’m adding to that you might remember back in quarter one of this year, I had almost all of the summit speakers on the show. Then we switched back to so and we were publishing two or three times a week every week. Then after the summit, we switched back to about six episodes a month every Monday with a guest and every other Thursday, a solo episode in September of 2021. The podcast is going to turn two years old. And with that birthday, I’m going back to just weekly episodes, one episode a week, sometimes a guest episode and sometimes a solo episode, we may move to another day of the week, I’m not quite sure yet I have a few months to figure that out.

Abby Herman 23:31
My goal is to give myself some space in my business and to give my team some space. We have been working really hard to get these episodes out. And we know it’s valuable and we’re not going to stop. But it is okay for us to slow it down a little. And speaking of slowing down, I have some personal changes coming up in my life. Well, one big one. I’m moving in late August, early September. I’ll share more about that later. But basically I’ve sold my house and I don’t have a new place to live yet. intentionally. It’s okay. So the early fall is going to be a bit hectic. In addition to screwing our client base and taking care of some of the backend stuff and working on the membership and all of the other things that need to be taken care of. As I was thinking about planning the content experiment summit 2.0. It was a little muddled in my head and I was afraid to commit to any dates. I actually moved the dates around because I had planned to do it. So the week of September 20. I was uncommitted to that and bumped it a couple of weeks. And then I realized I really don’t have to do this. A fall 2021 summit just does not make sense for my life and for my business.

Abby Herman 24:53
Now. I have really big ideas for the content experiment summit 2.0 That’s going to happen. And I want to do it right. So I made the decision to hold off until the spring of 2022. And you can expect the next summit then and it’s going to be a good one. So if you were looking forward to that next summit, it’s coming just not yet. And that’s it. Life is a journey. Business ownership is a journey. Sometimes, it’s also a roller coaster. But through it all, I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has played a part, from clients, to team members to biz besties, to family members to podcast guest coaches, to accountability partners, to anyone who follows me on social media, and anyone who has had any hand in the content experiment, the business. It has been so much fun and so much work. And I don’t think I would change anything for all that I have learned. Thank you so much for being here. I really do appreciate it. Now, if you found value in anything you heard here today, I would love it if you would share it on social media. Give me a little shout out business anniversary shout out take a screenshot of the episode on your phone and share it over on Instagram stories. You can tag me at @AbbyHerman and @thecontentexperiment. The more you share, the more we can continue getting this podcast into the hands and the earbuds of more business owners just like you who need to hear the message that they are not alone. Until next time, take care.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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