Join us to discuss the metamorphosis of their businesses, the journey toward their collaboration, and their back-up plan for keeping the paychecks coming.
Carrie: Hello everybody! Welcome to officehours.fm episode # 68. I am your host Carrie Dils doing a special edition today of the Genesis Camp episode. I’ve got two of my favorite ladies. Repeat guests on the podcast with me: Shay Bocks and Jeni Elliott. How are you ladies doing?
Shay: Doing great. How are you?
Carrie: All right. Jeni are you?
Jeni: I’m here. How is everything?
Carrie: Ok. Just making sure we can…yeah…check…check…radio…check. Ok. We are all good. Excellent! Ok. I feel like I flew…I don’t feel like…I literally did fly into this by the seat of my pants. I would like to note I am wearing pants and we took a poll preshow. One of my guests is not wearing pants. I’m not going to reveal to you which one that is. (laughing) Ladies, let’s do a proper introduction… who you are for folks… I don’t know who’s not met you by now but for folks that haven’t had a chance to meet you… who you are and what you do. Shay? I’m going to start with you.
Shay: I was going to say…beauty first. Jeni should go first, but…
Carrie: You all are so polite.
Shay: I’m Shay Bocks. I do digital strategy and web design for creative entrepreneurs…mostly for the bloggers. That’s kind of my biggest product that I’m known for is the Foodie Pro but I’ve also kind of been dipping my hands in other things which is kind of fun. I’m excited to be here. Genesis Camp is just awesome.
Carrie: Awesome! Jeni?
Jeni: I am Jeni Elliott from theblogmaven.com. I do marketing strategy for bloggers. Especially bloggers turned entrepreneurs.
Carrie: Man. It was like you practiced that.
Jeni: Or something.
Carrie: And you’re sipping on a fine evening beverage are you not?
Jeni: I am. I left my four children to their own devices in front of a movie and we’ll see if I get finish a beer before it gets warm. That would be exciting!
Carrie: Would that be first time that that’s happened in awhile?
Jeni: Many many moons.
Carrie: Well cheers to you! I’m joining you with a Shiner (holds it up). It’s a summer seasonal and Shiner is a Texas brewery from a little town actually called Shiner, Texas. It’s very near where they make Dr. Pepper if anybody’s a Dr. Pepper fan. I don’t know. They may not have that all over the world.
Shay: Since you all are sharing. I was trying to be discreet, but I’ve got Yeungling here in a nice little mug. (Holds up a mug).
Carrie: Wait! What does your mug say? Hold that up for us? Success is not for the lazy. I like that. I just saw something that somebody was passing around on Facebook today and it had a little iceberg and it said Success pointing at the iceberg. And underneath the water said…success…this is what everybody sees on the top of the iceberg but what they don’t see underneath the water is all the hard work, all the failures, all the disappointments, all the wins…you know all of those things that go into making something successful. I want to… I have a lot to talk to you ladies about tonight. But first, before I get to rambling too much, I just want to welcome everybody that’s actually tuned in live. Thank you for hanging on and watching… showing up for Genesis Camp. Pretty cool. Pretty cool event. Big thanks to Tricia, Peter and Marci. All the folks behind it because I know that you probably have not slept pretty much. So just a kudos to you. Jeni can relate to that with a newborn baby in the house as she raises her beer.
Carrie: Did you not have a backup? You may be able to slip in a couple before they get warm. I don’t know.
Jeni: Unfortunately, the is one and done tonight. I wish I had more. I figure a one hour party is not too bad.
Carrie: Ok. Well it’s not too bad at all. If this is your first time ever tuning into officehoursfm, thank you. I started this podcast a little over a year ago and it was originally called Genesis office hours. Since then it’s evolved somewhat to not just focus on Genesis but more on the business of WordPress. Typically the show…I get folks to submit questions on Twitter. But since we’re in Genesis Camp we have a neat little Q&A app in here. So if you have questions for the ladies along the way, just go ahead and get that going. So. Who wants to tell me about this latest joint venture that you guys are working on?
Jeni: I will. It was my idea so I guess I have to sit on the hot seat tonight. One of the biggest things that I teach my clients is to take advantage of what’s already working in their business. A lot of times you’re just looking at analytics which is a really popular topic, what are people hitting on. If you can have any kind of free traffic, let’s take advantage of that first. So I had done a blog series a couple of years ago…about two years ago on how to create a media kit. I think it was some kitschy thing like how to make a media that rocks or something. I did that. I saw that it was going really well so I rounded out that content area on my blog and added a couple others. Within a couple weeks I realized that I had inadvertently stumbled on a great source of traffic from Google and so every single day from January 2013 until now, I’ve had somewhere between 250 and 400 people coming to my site looking at stuff about media kits. I’m in the transition right now between…you know I just had a baby, so I’m taking time off of doing client work. Because I have four kids and I cannot be on anybody else’s schedule. So I was moving into the product area anyway. I’ve been working on courses and that kind of thing but once I realized what was still happening with my Google traffic, I said we’ve got to take advantage of this. So I called up Shay and I said that I noticed that there’s something that people are searching for. It’s a mis-match on my blog. They’re actually looking for a media kit template. Of course I didn’t have any templates on my site. But being the next best thing, just ranking for media kits, Google was sending people to me already. So I called up Shay and said Shay, do you want to design a media kit that we can sell? A template that’s kind of one and done. The biggest problem that people have is that bloggers are looking for great opportunities to work with brands. But they end up designing things in Microsoft Word or I’ve seen a couple done in Paint, which is a travesty. And at the same time people are wondering why they don’t get the opportunities that that they want. The big gap there is that they don’t have a great media kit. A lot of times if they’re just getting started with working with brands they also don’t have the money to put into it. So Shay was great and she designed a media kit template in the same style as her very popular WordPress theme – Genesis theme Foodie. And we set up shop. We created a site for it. I’ve kind of been handling the marketing side of things and Shay did the design. So there you go.
Carrie: Awesome! Ok there’s a couple things I want to pick out of there. First, Shay can you describe for people like me that don’t do much marketing what is a media kit? What’s all involved there?
Shay: A media kit is something that bloggers use to attract brands. It’s basically either like a one or two page document that they can either leave at trade shows or send off through e-mail. It’s kind of like a business card for bloggers I guess you would say. And so it shows little snippets about who they are, what their blog’s about, what sponsors can expect from them and how much reach they have with their social media and followers and so forth. Jeni knows exactly what a blogger needs to put in that. That’s why that post that she’s talking about is so popular. It’s because she was giving all the right information about what to put in there.
Carrie: Cool! Ok. So here’s what I want to figure out. So you noticed Jeni… you were just poking around in your Google analytics and you uncovered this little gem of traffic?
Jeni: Yeah. Pretty much. I knew it was there the whole time and I kept thinking I really ought to do something about it because the worst thing in the world is to have a bunch of people looking for something and not find it. But Google still continued to send them to me and send them to me. So I already knew basically because of what people were typing in the search box I knew what they wanted to buy.
Carrie: Ok. Google loves to tell you like 1% of keywords and then it loves to say that the sources…whatever they hide…the keywords that people are coming into your site on. So when you say that you knew what people were searching for and Google kept sending them to your site, how did you have visibility on those keywords?
Jeni: It was just a fluke I think. I was on there one day. I don’t do very much poking around analytics but after taking…last year I took nine months away from blogging. The furious push to finish up a bunch of client work, I was booked out with my design you know forever. So I just took all the time away from the blog. I was sitting down to kind of re-strategize and say if I’m coming back to this what do I need to hit on first? That’s when I just saw that…actually I think it was in JetPack. It gives you the list of what the keywords were for that day…that people had typed in. And so I knew based on analytics that all of the incoming traffic from Google was going to those two or three posts on my blog about media kits. And then I just noticed that there was a couple times people had put media kit template in there. Obviously I didn’t have that.
Carrie: Ok. So the moral of the story for those of you are tuning in or maybe listening to the replay is 1) have Google analytics running on your site. 2) check them out every once a while. I’m no Google analytics buff, but it is interesting to log on and see what’s getting the most traffic. I’ve looked at the posts on my site that are getting the most traffic and they’re not at all what I would expect. I’ve done nothing with that because maybe I need to come to the Brand Magnet and figure out what to do with this crazy traffic. Ok. So there’s so much territory I want to cover. Both of you ladies have gone from client services to doing these products. Jeni, you have been doing this for ages and helping your clients do this. Shay you’ve been chugging along this for a long time. And then you’ve got of course Foodie Pro and then the Garnish course and some products that you’ve been able to leverage for additional recurring revenue. Where…so there’s all kinds of questions all along that whole spectrum that would be really fascinating to talk about. But we don’t have three hours. So could you break down the percentage? Gary asked this question. It the Brand Magnet an additional focus and not replacing your existing brands? Can you give kind of like the picture of where this side venture…maybe it’s not a side venture…where this fits into the overall scheme of your business? And Jeni, l’ll kick it to you first.
Jeni: For me it was just kind of a one-time project that I can do and then sew up. To say that because of the source of the traffic, because it’s Google and Google is absolutely consistent with what they send you…as long as you haven’t been trying to game the system and cheat to get that Google traffic…like I said, I’ve been getting the same amount of traffic for over two years now. So I knew predictably that this traffic was going to be there. This was really a blessing. It’s something that a lot of businesses… you know have to buy their traffic. They have to buy people and I’ve also come into that. So I knew that the traffic source was there. Once we finished this project and I got the marketing funnel set up for it and Shay designed the sales page for it, I wrote the marketing copy. Once we got all of that done this would be a source of recurring revenue. And really the most passive kind of revenue that you can get because it’s a do-it-yourself type kit. It’s not meant to replace any other type of income but really has been supplementing…it’s money now…based on the last two months. It’s absolutely steady, actually down to the dollar amount based on the incoming traffic to my site. So I can guarantee almost…that close to that dollar amount even if I didn’t do anything else will be there waiting for me next month.
Carrie: Interesting. Ok. Shay? How about you?
Shay: That’s great to point out. I was just going to say that really it’s just another way to serve a problem with people that we’re already working with and the things that we’re hearing. With Jeni it was about finding out what was going on in analytics and what people were looking for on her site. But on my side of things, you know I work with a lot of food bloggers and especially now with the Foodie Pro theme a lot of food bloggers come my way. Usually people who are buying the theme are people who kind of want to kind of DIY it themselves. They don’t want to pay someone a few hundred dollars to create a media kit for them. And so, I’ve designed some for clients in the past but this was really a way that I could say look you can get this. You can go pay $50 bucks for it. There are all these tutorials that show you how to do it yourself. They’re learning how to do their own media kit but they’re also learning Photoshop skills and marketing skills and all kinds of stuff along the way. I think it really speaks to the people that we are already working with.
Carrie: I love that. I don’t know if you all caught Troy Dean’s session earlier this morning. You know everybody always says find a problem. Provide a solution. That sounds so easy but sometimes that can be kind of hard. You’re like Ok. What are people’s problems? But they’re your customers. You know exactly what their problems are. I love that you’ve created a way to serve them in a way that’s not taking more of your time. You’re able to kick that on some kind of recurring revenue source.
Jeni: I’d like to add it’s not just figuring out what’s the problem. Oh. People don’t have media kits. Because there’s any number of ways that you could solve the problem of I don’t have a media kit. Part of it is just understanding the psychology behind who these people are. The biggest things holding them back in our case…we decided to just going to focus on the people who were DIY types who did not want to spend an arm and a leg to get something custom. A lot of them are just kind of dipping their toe in the water and seeing how much money they could actually make by working with brands. The other part of it is they know that you need to use a professional tool to get a professional outcome. But they don’t know Photoshop and so this is product that we created kind of synchronized those two sides of it where we don’t just say here it is. Good luck. But we provide that backup support with the tutorial videos to show people. It was actually great for me to create the tutorial videos because I’m not a Photoshop person. I use Illustrator for everything. So I was able to approach this from the point of view of somebody who really doesn’t know much about Photoshop. I just figured out what I needed to know to be able to teach that. They could speak directly to the people who don’t have any Photoshop skills at all. We’ve got testimonials from people who literally did not know and were afraid what it was going to look like when they opened the program. They had no clue. They were able to not only get a successful media kit out, take it to a conference…but then they came back and knew how to use Photoshop to create images for their blog too. So it has to do with understanding exactly what the things are that are holding back that person from getting what they want.
Carrie: Do you see…you know your customers. So you said that they’re DIY. Their budgets aren’t huge. Do you see an opportunity for kind of productizing a service like that? Like Hey! Here’s our Brand Magnet at this price point but you don’t feel like doing that all yourself? Hire us. You know for whatever…10x. Could it involve into that?
Jeni: I’ll let Shay talk about that.
Shay: Yeah. We kind of discussed that a little bit. We’re both very busy with our families and with the work that we do. We have actually been referring that kind of stuff out. There are people who are interested in that. Who want the template but want somebody else to customize it for them. That’s the same exact thing that happens with Foodie as well. We have a whole entire service built around…ok…you bought the theme. We have tutorials about how to customize it. It’s very simple. But some people just don’t want to do it. They want to hire somebody to do it. So we get consistent work in doing that for people.
Carrie: I’m sorry. I awkwardly left the Hangout while you were answering that question. I skated in on the tail end of it. What I think that I heard you say was you are doing some…that does lead into some opportunities for an actual client service. Ok. So we’ve got some…sorry yall… it’s the end of the weekend. Yeah.
Jeni: So this brings up a great point Carrie. That if any time you some kind of do-it-yourself service there’s always going to be people who want somebody to do the work for them. Because money is not the reason that they’re there in the first place. Maybe they’re not necessarily DIY types, but they see some kind of opportunity but they really would just rather pay somebody to do it. So that’s in marketing terms is called a profit maximizer. You can take people who are already interested in this thing and say…Ok. We can provide this extra service above here. You can just offer it to everybody. You would have to price it at a point where it makes sense for you. Those people aren’t the ones who are looking for a very cheap shortcut because the cheep is already provided in the form of the DIY thing. So making sure that you price it high enough to still make it worth your while.
Carrie: Did you actually go through and do customer personas?
Jeni: No. I just know my people. Part of the intake funnel going into my blog is a question. It’s one that you’ll see kind of bouncing all around the Internet. I did it from day one. When I started my blog which was…what is the one thing holding you back from having a successful blog? So over the last two and half years I’ve gotten… it’s above 1300 emails from people, from subscribers that I have personally responded to. So I know I don’t have to guess. I don’t have to make up some pretend idea…oh this is some…this is what I think a person would be like because they actually…because I took the time to ask that question in an automated way up front. I know exactly what they want.
Carrie: Very cool. And then when it came to setting the price point, how did you ladies settle on the magic number?
Jeni: Shay, you want that one?
Shay: Well Jeni came up with the price point. And then I was like yeah, let’s add $10 dollars. I thought it was worth so much more. Go ahead.
Jeni: Well the product morphed as we were creating it. The original idea was just to have this media kit…sorry…this Photoshop template. Then we realized…Oh. Ok if we’re going to make that work we need to do these tutorial videos. Of course that was a big chunk of my life that I took to do those tutorial videos. Then I started thinking…I’m thinking down the sales page but how can I
convey what an amazing value is going to be in here. I said well what if I just took an extra couple days which you know because I have four kids turned into a couple weeks but took an extra little bit and added an email series on to the end of it that actually teaches them principles behind working with brands. We just built it as Working With Brands email course for making the pitch for making the money. It’s literally a five email series. It’s about 1200 words each. Not super long. It’s kind of like writing five articles. So we attached it on the end of it and when I did that, Shay was like this is not a $30 or $40 product anymore. This is like a $60 product. Once we had been through understanding what the full value of it was, the price came can organically out of that. I’ve heard from a lot of people that we should have it a lot higher, but I’m comfortable with it there because of the skill level of a lot of people who are using the Brand Magnet. They already feel a little bit hesitant to buy in the first place because they don’t trust themselves.
Carrie: Interesting. Is there any sort of community behind it? The folks that have bought Brand Magnet…or even remaining connection to you ladies in terms of follow-up?
Jeni: I send out an automatic email to get testimonials that goes on the tail end of the whole email series and everything. So I’ve I been doing the customer support on this one and just the emails back and forth…let’s say somebody got locked out because they didn’t download it in the…you know…expiry window. I’ve had some nice back and forths. And so a couple people have sent me their kit. But my feeling was that this is not the type of project to create a community around, mainly because we don’t want the perception that every single person has the Brand Magnet, because then you’re not different from anybody else. So in this case we decided to say you know I don’t want to say X number of people have already used this and are doing it today. It’s kind of more an independent thing just for people to feel like all I got a leg up on all of the competition.
Carrie: Nice. Jeni, would you like to take over hosting the officehoursfm podcast?
Jeni: No. (laughing) No I don’t.
Carrie: Both of you ladies…I mean my gosh! Just a wealth of information. We’ve got some questions here that…let’s see…oh good. You took a sip of your beer before it’s getting warm. A fantastic question from Peter which quite a few folks have voted up. When you work in a joint venture like this how do you set up the business? Do you run it under one of your companies, or set up a new one? I mean that can be kind of sticky. So how did you ladies agree on arrangement? Yeah. Shay? Kick it off.
Shay: Well, we actually…Jeni once she approached me about it…she was like I think we could split this 50/50 and we could each get something out of it. We both kind of put work into it and we probably didn’t do it the “legal” way we should have. Jeni was just kind of like. Look. You’re a good honest girl. I’m a good honest girl. Let’s just do this. Now at the end of every month Jeni has an awesome spreadsheet listed out with like how much sales she’s gotten and what all the expenses were. And then in the spreadsheet it divides it in half and I send her an invoice for my half. That’s just kind of how we played it out. Kind of like subcontractor situation. There’s a ton of different ways you could do this. So I think everyone should explore it for themselves and find out what’s right in their situation and in their case.
Carrie: Jeni? Did you want to piggyback on that?
Jeni: Just one of the reasons I approached Shay without having to have a bunch of up front contingencies and you know hammering out too many details is that I trust her. Her reputation has gone way before her. She’s really well respected and everyone knows that she is honest and just a decent good businesswoman. So if it had been other people, I might put other precautionary measures in place but because I was just think like…Hey! We’re a couple of ladies with four kids who work our buts off. We can make this easy. That’s just kind of where we left it.
Carrie: Shay? Do you have four kids now?
Shay: Oh no, no! Three for me!
Carrie: I was like wow! When there’s so many it’s hard to keep count.
Shay: That is very true.
Carrie: Well you know Peter? I’m glad you asked that question. I think it’s something I’ve heard quite a bit from…specifically actually out of officehour listeners. I asked them to do a survey recently. One of the things they’ve come back with is…is it’s difficult finding the right person to partner with on a project. Jeni, you touched on something really critical and that is trust. That you trusted Shay. You knew her reputation and you were comfortable going into really kind of a casual relationship with each other…business wise. And I’m actually in a similar situation. So my Winning Agent Pro Theme is a collaboration with a fellow named Rich Hardian. It’s the same thing. Every month he handles sort of the back end financials, an invoice, and cut a check. But here’s the deal. Like I’m just throwing a question…well I’m just throwing out a question. But how…not that you ladies want to break up…but how does that like end? Let’s say for instance that Shay’s done. She’s over it. She doesn’t want to put any more time into it. She doesn’t ever want to think about the Brand Magnet again. Do you buy Shay out? Does Shay just sort of disappear into the woodwork and quit invoicing you? Not to put you on the spot, but how do you…for people listening that want to maybe do a project collaboration…maybe just some practical advice. How do you go into it so you can get out of it if you need to?
Jeni: I think I’m going to have to say that it’s best to consult your lawyer. There is a product out that I’ve heard…I have not purchased it myself… but it’s called The Small Business Bodyguard. I’ve heard some varying things about the woman who’s released the product. I mean that would mean that you wouldn’t want to take it probably too far in that professional relationship. I‘m going to get in trouble for libel now. But what I’ve heard is that there are programs out there that will advise you…like walk you through all of these steps. The Small Business Bodyguard…smallbusinessbodyguard.com is one of those products. It’s a couple hundred bucks but it will put all your legal ducks in a row especially if you working in online business. I remember that it spoke specifically to partnerships and what you need to have in place first. So I don’t have any professional advice there but I would find a professional that has good advice. Because I don’t.
Carrie: Jeni is not a lawyer.
Shay: Yeah. That’s a great answer because I would have no clue what to say to that either.
Carrie: Well Teresa is chiming in on the comments. You’ve got to plan the divorce when you start a business relationship. It’s almost kind of like the prenup. I don’t think like in your case…and in my case too… there’s a lot of trust with the person that you entered into an agreement with. So it is as Jackie said over the chat room; sort of an old-fashioned handshake deal…but I guess I would advise some degree of caution if you want to…there are so many freaking smart people in the Genesis community and an even in the larger WordPress community of course. You see somebody that’s talented. They’re talented in a different way than you’re talented. You’re like; we could make awesome product babies together! You want to be realistic too. This is a business. Ok. How…you know how long… what’s the engagement? Yeah. So I guess the long and short of it is consult a lawyer.
Jeni: There are a lot of things here that don’t apply because this is a special situation. This is a downloadable product. It’s something that they get all of the files at one time…the customer does. And then they can write if they have support questions. We have pretty much between my FAQ page and the tutorial videos that actually walk people through the process…the support on this has been absolutely minimal. It’s mostly been shopping cart issues. Honestly. And Shay hasn’t had to deal with any of them. So she is going to stay married to me in a business sense.
Shay: It’s good that you brought that up too. I was thinking about that when you said I don’t want to deal with this anymore. I have to say, I haven’t had to deal with it. Jeni has pretty much handled everything since the launch. It’s been an awesome situation for me. Although I’m always there if you need me to jump in.
Carrie: And they lived happily ever after.
Shay: Maybe the lesson here is that you go into it knowing what the roles are and who’s going to do what and who’s going to play what part. If you’re good with those roles, then it’s going to work out.
Carrie: I’m so glad you said that Shay because the open communication up front about expectations are critical. Frankly, it’s kind of like a marriage. If you don’t feel like somebody’s holding up their end of the bargain, maybe they thought all along they were doing all the work they should have been. So yeah. It’s good to discuss all those things up front. Ok. We can stop with the marriage analogies and you ladies are free to live in product bliss as long as you may. We have a question that’s kind of along the lines of the business end. But Cheryl’s asking our taxes more cumbersome when dealing with products versus your time or consulting. I’m going to guess that is very dependent upon the state that you live in and what your local government dictates. Any of you ladies want to speak to that?
Shay. Yeah. In my experience it hasn’t changed at all. A digital product for me is just like a service. Anything I make, I’m going to pay self-employment income taxes on just like I would anything else. I know that changes depending on your location.
Jeni: The nice thing is because we’re using Easy Digital Downloads to deliver this product. We have a number of different shopping cart providers that are out here. They do all the heavy work. If there’s somebody who’s buying it in-state from you… for example if someone buys in Alabama, there’s just a little box that I fill out at the very beginning before I sell it that says Alabama residents. Charge X amount of sales tax. Because the tax on digital products is going to start rolling out very soon…I think it’s by the end of 2015. It’s something that your shopping cart provider already handles for you. It’s important to be aware of what’s required in your state and pass it on. So Shay and I…the way it works out is with this spreadsheet, I take out like PayPal fees come out first before we do the split. I’m not having all of the PayPal fees…or all of the taxes…or whatever…come out of my half of our relationship. We get all of the off the top…we get all of the expenses out of the first and then we do an even split after that. So it’s just a matter of knowing what’s required in your state and that’s as simple as doing a little Google search.
Carrie: That sounds pretty much like California. Take the expenses off the top and then split it down the middle. I’m glad that we’re talking about the taxes and thank you Cheryl for bringing it up. Because when I first started in the business, I registered my first DBA…that was back in ‘97 or ’98…I knew nothing about taxes. I didn’t know I needed to collect them. I didn’t know I needed to report to the state. I was thinking on a federal level but was not at all knowledgeable about what was happening on the state level. And it circled back around to bite me sadly more than once in my early days. Once for charging tax when I wasn’t supposed to and had to refund a bunch of tax to some others. And the other was when I had a business that I was no longer… a DBA that I was no longer using…I stopped filling out the annual tax do hickey. All of a sudden I got hit with a $50 fee and I was like what’s this $50 fee. Why do I need to submit? This is not even a business anymore. Well you’ve got to tell them that you’re not in business anymore. So the key lessons that you learn a long the way. Do check into your state taxes…your colony…whatever you are…if you’re…yeah. Sorry. I just insulted every non business earlier. We were talking about colonies earlier.
Jeni: You mean your Imperial leader charges you taxes? Just to make sure you paid yours.
Carrie: Make sure that you get that cash in de niro because the Romans are serious about their taxes. Oh my gosh! Nobody’s taken us off the air yet. I guess we can carry on.
Jeni: I don’t know what Shay would have to say to this, but a big transition happened in my business. A few years ago when I finally decided…I’ve always known that I should use an accountant. I’m registered as an LLC so you file your taxes the same way. It’s like having a sole proprietorship. It means that everything looks like it’s going into your pockets as the single business owner. That kind of left a big tangle of messes. I was worried sick that I leaving a bunch of money…I was giving Uncle Sam more than he actually should have. So I don’t know what my perception had been before. I just had this idea that it’s going to be really difficult to do or it’s going to cost me a butt load of money and I need to keep every cent that I can keep for myself. But literally it was like $300 to have somebody prepare my taxes…to have them print out the forms for my quarterlies…what I need to mail into the State and to the Federal Government on a quarterly basis. What the dates are. So that I know that I have all my ducks in a row and that I can move that off of my plate and out of my brain. So that there’s somebody who is an actual trained professional in charge of managing you know… what I owe and what I don’t owe. So that you five years down the road if I’m audited, I have my rear end covered very nicely.
Carrie: Word. If you’re listening and you are new in business or are just starting out or maybe don’t have your ducks in a row…I know we’re creative, we’re developers…we’re doing all these things and the last thing we want to do is think about keeping the books so to speak. But man! Hiring that accountant is money incredibly well spent. I think I spend around $300 bucks as well, just for tax prep. And being neat and keeping all your receipts and being organized, it takes a little bit of extra effort. If you keep on top of it every month it’s really not that bad and it will save you a lot of potential heartache.
Shay: That was a hard lesson for me to learn because I actually wasn’t paying enough taxes when I first started making money. It came back to bite me in the butt and I’m probably going to owe the IRS for a while. So it’s good to go ahead and get yourself an accountant. Get yourself a bookkeeper and put yourself on payroll in order to make sure you’re staying up on things. I’ve recently gotten into that and I feel so much more relief that all of that stuff is taken care of. And you don’t have to sit there and worry. When are they going to come get you for everything? There’s so many rules. You don’t know what you’re doing.
Carrie: Seriously. Andrew Norcross is probably going to shoot me for saying this but if you know the Norcross’ in the WordPress community…Bree…even though she is not doing full-time now does have a background in accounting. If you ever have a question she is available for hire. I’ve consulted with her a bit. Yeah. So there you go.
Jeni: It’s important to have somebody who understands digital business too. So that’s a really important thing because your taxes don’t work the same way and it’s just having somebody who’s used to dealing with people who work at the digital online level…really it’s not replaceable.
Carrie: Truth. And as Gary was asking in the chat what about EU VAT (all pause and laugh) All right. So anyways I think we just had a connection problem with the Internet so we’re going to move on.
Jeni: This awfully close to being on the record isn’t it Carrie?
Carrie: I’ve actually publicly said that I’m ignoring it. So come after me EU.
Jeni: I know. I’m in a marketing group with some folks are actually from the UK and their big…when all of that started…eight months ago…their big take on it you know as British citizens was they can’t even keep up with the taxes from their own citizens. How in the world are they going to come after people from other countries? So I’ve just kind of been like ok this is not constitutional in the first place. You know taxing something that happens outside of your country’s borders. It’s not constitutional. That’s one of the reasons that we broke away in the American Revolution in the first place. We have no representation with their heads of Government. We don’t owe them any taxes. So I can get up on my high horse but the real deal is it’s completely unenforceable. The United States Government has enough on their plate.
Carrie: There you go. Where Theresa says that none of us who travel to the EU anytime soon for fear of immediate arrest upon arrival. I’m sure that when they stamp my passport it just comes up does not charge EU VAT. Ok. Back to…if we can circle back around to the question of this joint business partnership. Jackie had a question…let’s see…how would you approach if you do not…say you didn’t have something in place originally and then you decided that you wanted…lets see…that you wanted out of that partnership that you did not have a formal agreement on…how would you approach valuing it? So let’s say…Jeni earlier I picked on Shay. Now I’ll pick on you. Let’s say… you’re like Oh. I’ve got eighteen babies. I can’t do this anymore and I want to get rid of the Brand Magnet. So how would you value your ownership…your 50% ownership in that…and then basically have Shay buy you out.
Jeni: Well I would take a look at what the roles had been first. To say you know what is the amount of ongoing work that is associated with that part in the partnership. If their participation in this partnership terminates a bunch of extra work then that they have to do then it’s a different story. Like in our situation, I’ve been pretty much handling everything because there’s pretty much not at all in the first place. You know Shay I would have a hard time coming to her and being like Hey you don’t really have anything to do but I just want all the money from here on out. That’s not what you agreed on in the first place. But there are business models for you how to estimate the value of something. You could take the last three months worth of revenues and say ok I’ll pay you out for six months worth of revenues or your worth of revenues or something like that. There’s not just one set model. It’s really about negotiation. I think the biggest part would be how you approach it with the person and your reasons behind it and making sure that you can keep a level of just respectful professionalism throughout the whole thing.
Carrie: Good. Like not insult them by saying you’ve got eighteen babies you can’t handle a product.
Jeni: Which is completely possible.
Carrie: Ok. I managed to somehow offend all of our international customers and working moms that are working their tails off. So you can pretty much just yank me off the air.
Jeni: No. I have four and if I had eighteen then I probably could not do anything besides like breath and pee every day. That would be like if I had both of those done, I’d be like check. That’s a day of success. I would not be running my business if I had eighteen.
Carrie: There you go. Todoist. I don’t know if any of you use that tool…it’s a little digital to do list…digital to do list…that sounds ridiculous. But I love it. It’s one of my favorite tools for kind of keeping track of what’s going on. But if Jeni used Todoist, all it would say on hers is…Breath. Pee. Breath. Pee. She’d set it up as a repetitive task every day. So I feel confident that you could master that. So. Uh oh.
Jeni: Once you’re a mom, even going to the bathroom by yourself is completely not standard. It does not come standard with the baby. Mine just started crawling and I went in for the first time today. I left the door open just so I could hear what was going on out there and here she comes. Just ambling on in. Hey mom. Whatcha doing? I’m sitting there…I’m never going…it’s going to be like three years before I get to pee by myself again. So you know…peeing and breathing…you have to feel successful if you can do both of those. It’s not a given.
Shay: Even with four kids.
Carrie: Even with your imaginary fourth kid Shay. Oh my goodness. Ok. We actually do have a question. By the way it is confirmed that Jeni is the guest on the podcast that’s not wearing pants. Emily is asking if there are any plans for future products or any additional variations or styles of the media kit? Shay?
Shay: Oh yes. I do hope that we will do that. I think we’ve kind of been settling into things and seeing how things have been going lately. We have talked about doing some more styles. I know Jeni has plans for that as well.
Carrie: Did you want to elaborate?
Jeni: It’s a matter of seeing what are the gaps currently. I took a look at somebody’s media kit after they had kindly sent it to me to look at. I think I promised in the e-mail to them that if send me your media kit once you finish and I’ll give you the high five and cheer you on as you move on to your next thing. So I get to see what people have done with it. Just on a couple. Most people don’t. I noticed that it’s not ideal for people who have like a square aspect ratio or even a portrait aspect ratio for their logo. Our product is better suited for somebody who’s got it horizontal or somebody who wants to type it out in text. So being aware of how people are already using it, that would be the next step for that particular product. We both have a bunch of other things going on and this one’s making plenty of money. So I’m not planning on jumping the gun on this one.
Carrie: Ok. A couple of follow-up questions on that. 1) If I was to pop over…
by the way what is that the urls…brandmagnet.com?
Carrie: thebrandmagnet.com. Do you say who the product is not right for? So that people can sort of self-select it’s not a good fit for them?
Jeni: I think most people just weed themselves out just based on how comfortable they are using Photoshop or the possibility of learning it. What I was saying about it not be ideal for those people with a square aspect ratio on their logo…it is not a big deal. They can move part of it down. What I was saying is that in our next steps of how we would develop a further one that is an area that could have some room. Immediately we could say oh there’s a group of people that would really well served by different design. It’s not that it doesn’t work out well for them because I’ve seen from the look really nice. It’s just a matter of…and then I went back and edited one of the tutorial videos to say hey if you have this situation…if you have a tall logo instead of a horizontal one then here’s how you select that entire folder of layers and move it all down. It’s not that they can’t use it. It’s more that there’s some room to make it ideal for those people with a different design.
Carrie: Roger that. Ok. Shay. I’ve got a question for you and it’s a really difficult one so I hope you’re ready. It involves math.
Shay. Uh oh.
Carrie: I’m just kidding. Well it sort of indirectly does. Gary’s asking do you have a roadmap that relates to the expected or desired income that could replace client work? In other words…I have a personal goal for myself. That in 2015 that client services would only represent 50% of my income and the other 50% would be via products and recurring revenue. Do you have anything like that place where you’re like once you hit the mile marker…peace out of client services. I’m focusing on these products where I can serve multiple people at once? Take it away.
Shay: No. For me…and I’m just going to be really honest here. I’m already at a point where I could say peace out and live off of recurring revenue but I don’t want to. I want to keep working with clients. I feel like working with clients is giving me the opportunity to stay creative, to figure out what they need and solutions that I can offer. It’s not something that I think I would ever want to get out of. But definitely I would want to do more…there’s definitely wanting that percentage. Do I want 50% recurring revenue? Do I want 80% recurring revenue? But I don’t think I ever want to be 100% because you lose something when you do that I think
Carrie: Well there’s definitely…especially in a product like Brand Magnet where these are literally your readership that’s coming through and purchasing the product. There’s a lot of value in staying in touch if you will and understanding who it is that’s purchasing your product. So that makes sense that you know if you keep a toe in client services…you’re also keeping in touch with what your ideal audience wants. All right. Jeni? Did you want to chime in on that?
Jeni: There were two things that Shay said that kind of struck me. The first one is that it’s not like Shay is charging $500 for a website design. So she wants to have recurring revenue…recurring revenue make up a certain percentage. One of the things that having these products has done for her business that I really respect is that it’s enabled her to raise her rates and to provide a deeper quality of service for the people she does work with. So instead of you working with four or five clients a month at a very shallow level she’s able to make the same amount of money working with one client and really serving their needs in a deep way. So that’s the first thing. And some idea of percentages, I wouldn’t set some type of artificial tap on here’s this amount that needs to come from this and this amount that needs to come from this. What it does is that once you have a certain level of recurring revenue to meet just your monthly expenses and what you need to go on. You have the freedom to say ok. I’m going to start turning away all these people that only want to pay X number of dollars and I’m going to focus on working at high dollar value but also high real value in terms of what ‘m delivering just to the people who really want it.
Shay: Jeni you have the right words for everything. I’m serious. Exactly what you just said explained is exactly what I tried to say. But you have all the right words.
Carrie: Yeah! That’s why I want her to be the host of the podcast.
Shay: Seriously. You should have your own podcast or something?
Carrie: She can hardly find time to pee by herself in the day, so we don’t want to ask too much of her. Marci’s hopped on which I think is our queue that we need to vacate the premises. Marci I’m going to let you…you can cut me off when you want to cut me off. But before we go, I do want to say that I really appreciate you guys for tuning in live and asking some great questions. A replay of this will be available I’m pretty sure over on the Genesis Camp site. Genesis.camp and then over on the officehours website… which is just officehours.fm. You can check that out along with some show notes. Marci? Are you waving at me to quit or can I take another question? I’m feeling a question coming on. Ok. We’ve got a question from Carisa who’s asking about project management tools. Shay?
Shay: I don’t think I found the right one yet. I tried just about all of them. I just don’t like them all. I don’t know. I haven’t found one that I like yet. E-mail is probably the best one for me. (laughing)
Carrie: All right. Jeni? Are you getting fancy over there?
Jeni: I just have been using Basecamp when I was doing one-on-one design work for clients. Basecamp is nice because you can lump everything altogether in one place. You only pay on your usage and how many projects that you have open at any time. So for me, I think the $20 a month plan really helped step up the image that I was conveying to my clients. Part of being able to charge premium rates for your work is the way position yourself. And just having that extra tool in place kind of sets my client expectations really high where they need to be. Because if they’re paying what I’m charging them, then they’re going to get something amazing. But it helps kind of elevate their entire experience. Basecamp worked fine for me. I don’t manage an entire team of people like Shay does. Basecamp was great for just one designer to one client. Shay can probably tell us a lot more about which tool is working for a team of people.
Shay: To piggy back on that, I’ll say that I tried out Basecamp as well as a couple of others that allowed the client to come in and see things going on and share documents and stuff. I actually found that the client’s that I work with didn’t like that. They don’t want that kind of situation. They wanted more of a one-on-one handling of their project. So it actually hurt me to try and use a project management system to communicate with them. We do use a project management app called Asana. That’s just for internal communication between me and my team. We have actually started to move client communication into HelpScout. Everybody can still see what’s going on and we can respond when we need to depending on who’s jumping on at that moment. It’s all archived and we can tag it and all of that stuff. It’s not like the typical project management situation that everyone else using.
Carrie: All right. Well Carisa, I hope that was helpful to you. I think that’s probably going to be our last question that we have time for because Marci is giving me the nod. The nod always means wrap it up. With that Marci, I’ll let you hop on and do your thing but you’ve got to un mute yourself first. Yeah you’re still muted. As long as you’re muted, I’m going to keep talking because I kind of like the sound of my own voice. There you are!
Marci: There I am. Thank you ladies. That was really a good talk. I appreciate you Carrie, Jeni and Shay. Yeah I think we all learned a lot about business and how do think up products. I’m sure your products helped a lot of people. So thank you!