Have you ever looked at someone else's success and wondered, “How did they do that? What's their secret?” On this episode, Laura shares some of the best advice I've heard on how to be successful.
It's both much easier and much more difficult than you'd think.
Success involves clear goals, planning, and unshakeable focus.
Tackle those 3 things, and you're well on your way. Listen to Laura's best advice. Seriously, it could be a game-changer for you.
P.S. Learn how to get great product photos too! Seriously, Laura spills some secrets we've never heard before!
P.S.S. Did we mention that Laura is a fellow Pittsburgher? That alone, is reason enough to tune in 🙂
On the Podcast
01:17 – From Electrical Engineer to Entrepreneur
03:52 – The Importance of Being Focused
05:29 – Great Product Photos (4 Tips)
09:26 – How to Use Stock Photos
12:12 – 3 Ways to Get More Done
14:11 – 2 Ways to Grow
17:09 – Using an E-Course to Add Subscribers
19:35 – Email Newsletters – What to Include
22:17 – Revenue
26:14 – Business + Baby: How Life Looks Different
28:52 – The Key to Getting Things Done as a New Mom
31:22 – 3 Tools that Keep Laura Organized
37:23 – One Simple Step that You can Take Today to Get More Done
From Electrical Engineer to Entrepreneur
Laura has a degree in electrical engineering and worked as an engineer for six years. What made her quit such a stable job to start life as an entrepreneur?
For years she read blogs on how to start a business online. She didn’t have the confidence or courage to try it, but she enjoyed learning all she could about the process. In 2012, she decided it was time to stop letting “fear for no reason” hold her back.
One year later, she quit her engineering job to grow her business full-time.
Thankfully, with her husband’s income, Laura was able to quit her job before her business was earning its own full-time salary. She was blessed to be able to focus on growing the business before they had children.
The Importance of Being Focused
Laura has always loved planners, but she didn’t have the confidence early on to recognize that she could build a business around them.
A few months into blogging, Laura realized that her passion was organizing, and people were relating to those posts on her site. She re-branded her site from SuperSweetLife to IHeartPlanners and has narrowed her business focus around this one topic.
“If you try to pursue too many things, it’s just really hard to become very good at any of them and really turn it into something profitable.”
Great Product Photos (4 Tips)
As Laura says, “Photos are absolutely key and very difficult!”
- Take a LOT of photos. Try out different props and backgrounds to see what works.
- Use natural light (even if it’s two degrees in Pittsburgh in January!)
- Go through all your photos and pick the layout that works the best. Repeat that layout for your other products to save time.
- Use a professional photographer for those products that are key to the success of your business.
Laura found a product photographer in a Facebook group, and she ships her Sweet Life Planner to the photographer internationally each year. The photographer then creates the perfect set-up and takes far better photos than Laura could do on her own.
This plan wouldn’t work if Laura hired a photographer for all of her product photos, but since she does this just once a year, the time delay and expense is worth the end result.
How to Use Stock Photos
Laura employs another unique product photo strategy: She uses stock photos!
Here’s how it works:
- Laura buys stock photos for $15 from KateMaxShop on Etsy
- The photos are made to have blank space so that you can insert your product digitally.
- The shop has photos that match Laura’s style closely, so it saves her time compared to hunting around on huge stock photo sites.
- Your product photos will also look more cohesive if all of your stock photos are from one photographer.
- Kate Maxwell has a video tutorial that teaches how to add shadows to your product using PhotoShop so that the end result is a seamless, natural photo.
- Laura knows that the same set-up at her house would take her hours to create and still wouldn’t look as good, so buying great stock photos is the perfect solution.
3 Ways to Get More Done
- Plan out your week. Laura believes you can’t over-plan! Even though she rarely gets through everything on her list, she’s confident that she gets much more done than if she hadn’t planned her week at all.
- Close out of email and turn off notifications. Those are just distracting you from your real work.
- Follow Kat Lee’s advice of the CEO, Manager, and Worker Bee Hats. Once the CEO and Manager have decided your overall goals and tasks to complete, you need to get into Worker Bee mode and just sit down and get it done.
2 Ways to Grow
Laura feels for those of you who are still in the early stages of growing a business! She remembers when her site had only 5 pageviews a day. (1 from her husband, 1 from her mom, 1 from her best friend, and only 2 new visitors!)
The momentum is really slow in the beginning, but be persistent and eventually you’ll see positive results from your effort.
Laura focuses on 2 Key Strategies for Growth
- Get every visitor to sign up for her email list. (Laura sends out an email newsletter every single week without fail to stay in touch with her audience.)
- Focus on Pinterest for social media growth. (Laura gets the biggest bang for her buck on Pinterest, so she invests her time there versus other social media channels.)
Using an E-Course to Add Subscribers
Laura has a killer email opt-in for her subscribers: Get Organized Once and for All E-Course.
Here’s how it works:
- She set up an auto-responder sequence in MadMiMi (but you can do this for other email service providers as well)
- The E-course is divided into 6 lessons, and they’re automatically sent one week apart.
- Each lesson has one main graphic and a short text.
- The lesson includes simple steps that anyone can take.
- Laura focuses on helping others to change their lives, and she knows this can happen by taking small, do-able steps.
- After each lesson, she asks her subscribers to write back and tell her how they did with the action points.
- Laura asks all of her subscribers to respond to the initial email and tell her what they need help with.
- Either Laura or her assistant responds to every single email.
“It’s really important for them to know that a real person is listening and cares.”
Email Newsletters – What to Include
- Keep it Simple
- Laura writes a new blog post once a week.
- Her post goes out on Thursday mornings, and the email newsletter goes out on Friday mornings.
- She writes a summary of the blog post in the email with a link to learn more.
- If there’s a second post that week, she’ll feature that as well.
- Below the main body of the email, she’ll include a couple of small photo links to products in her shop.
- Although the product photos don’t get a lot of clicks or sales, she continues to remind her subscribers of the great products she has to offer.
- When she launches something big like the Sweet Life Planner, she sends out a special email to get her subscribers’ attention.
- Laura reminds us that it’s important not to get too caught up in the stats. It may seem like things aren’t working, even if in the long-term, they really are.
“Focus on connecting with people and helping them and the rest really does come naturally if that’s the focus of your newsletter.”
Surprisingly enough, Laura’s smallest revenue stream in terms of true profit comes from her Etsy shop. Once she adds in the cost of materials and shipping, the Etsy shop brings in much less revenue than the digital product she sells on her own site: The Sweet Life Planner.
Laura earns some income from ads on her blog or affiliate sales.
Physical products, like those in her Etsy shop are more time-consuming and difficult to keep in stock or handle logistics. However, Laura enjoys the creative process of making a physical process.
The blog, digital sales on the blog, and her Etsy shop all complement each other well, and Laura likes having her eggs in a couple of different baskets.
Business + Baby: How Life Looks Different
Many things have changed since Laura’s sweet baby girl Savannah has arrived. Here’s how Laura has adapted to life as a mom entrepreneur:
- She focuses on getting more digital product sales versus physical products. This way, she doesn’t have to rely as much on items that have a fast turn-around or are more time-intensive.
- She prepared as much as she possibly could before-hand and worked hard to get things done ahead of time.
- She’s brought on more help and is ok with decreasing her personal profits right now. Laura doesn’t want to go crazy trying to do it all. She loves having the privilege of working with her daughter right beside her.
- Her structured work day is gone, and it’s all blended into one these days. It’s a little tough on someone who’s a natural planner, but Laura wouldn’t trade her new life for anything.
“I just think it’s a huge, huge blessing that I get to work with my daughter sitting right beside me.”
The Key to Getting Things Done as a New Mom
Prioritize like CRAZY!
There are things that absolutely have to get done, Laura says, and that’s what she focuses on each day.
“The worst thing to do is to work on something that’s less important just because it’s there and seems fun rather than work on the things that really need to get done.”
(We couldn’t agree more. First things need to come first.)
3 Tools that Keep Laura Organized
- A Physical Planner – Laura believes in the power of writing things out
- Outright.com – Outright automatically links to her Etsy shop and business credit card. It makes accounting quick, easy, and automatic. (Laura let us know that Outright won’t link to Shopify so she’ll outgrow it at some point.)
- ShipStation – If you have multiple Etsy shops, ShipStation can help you to see everything all in one place. In addition, you can set it up to automatically send emails based on the products your customers purchased. For example, Laura has a tutorial video for applying labels and a different one for decals. ShipStation sends the relevant directions automatically. ShipStation can also remember the weight of your products and enter them automatically.
One Simple Step You can Take Today to Get More Done
Go on a Media Fast so you can really FOCUS.
Laura took the Life is Messy BootCamp by Mayi Carles, and realized how much time she spent reading blogs and consuming new information. Although learning new things can be good, it can also paralyze you from making any progress on your own.
Take a break from learning new things until you’ve implemented some of what you’ve learned. We often use learning as a tool for procrastination. It’s easier to read about a strategy versus doing the hard work to put something into place for yourself.
Focus on taking action for a while.
(We couldn’t agree more! Learning is great, but it’s more important to set goals, make a plan, and stick to the plan. The content will still be there waiting for you when you’re ready for the next step.)
Stay in Touch with Laura!
What did you take away from Laura's episode? Will you try a new method to get great product photos? Will you focus on the important tasks first and eliminate distractions?
Let's chat in the comments 🙂
~ Beth Anne