We all have expertise on certain topics that could be of help to others. You may not realize that your current job or hobbies could be leveraged into a successful online business. Jocelyn Sams is proof that this is the case. In fact, she and her husband Shane have had a 6-figure month in their online business.
Talking with Jocelyn has taught us that if you focus, work hard, and keep going, six figures can absolutely be achieved. Jocelyn and her husband have transitioned from being teachers to working full-time in the online business space.
Jocelyn is a certified library media specialist for grades K-12, and her website is ElementaryLibrarian.com. She has a blog, podcast, and frequently does webinars where she shares great advice for elementary school librarians. This expertise has paid off in the form of lesson plans for elementary school librarians that Jocelyn sells on her site.
Listen to hear her incredible story, along with her best tips for growing your audience and becoming a pro at sales without being “salesy” about it!
On the Podcast
02:17 – From 11 Cents to a Successful Business
06:25 – Turning a Problem into a Solution that Others Will Pay for
09:49 – Growing Your Audience (4 strategies that Jocelyn uses)
13:36 – The Power of Webinars (plus Jocelyn’s best practices!)
18:57 – A Six Figure Month (yes, month!)
20:02 – The Tipping Point
23:38 – Jocelyn and Shane’s “Flipped Lifestyle”
26:29 – Hiring and Training Virtual Assistants
32:50 – Jocelyn’s Favorite Online Tool
33:54 – How to Grow Your Business (Jocelyn’s best advice!)
35:35 – Should You Walk Away? (3 Factors to Consider)
From 11 Cents to a Successful Business
Jocelyn’s husband Shane started listening to podcasts about growing an online business while he was mowing the lawn one day. He was so excited about everything that he was learning, that he stopped the mower, ran inside and told Jocelyn all about it.
Knowing that Shane is a “shiny objects” kind of guy, she smiled and nodded and assumed that he’d be onto his next big thing soon.
This time, things were different. Shane created some websites, and he kept researching and learning all he could about making money online. He was convinced that he could prove to Jocelyn that this would work.
Despite a lack of early success, Shane stuck with it and kept going. One night, as he and Jocelyn were relaxing with their computers, he started screaming excitedly that they had made 11 cents!!! Someone had clicked on one of the Google Adsense Ads he had on a site.
Jocelyn said that this was a lightbulb moment for her in thinking, “woah, people will actually give you money online.”
She thought to herself, “If he can make some money, then maybe I can too.”
Turning a Problem into a Solution that Others Will Pay For
Jocelyn was an elementary school librarian, and her principal had been asking her to create some very specific lesson plans that met national standards. She didn’t have time to work on these plans during the school day.
She wondered if there was a way for her to purchase lesson plans, edit them a bit to make them her own, and save herself a lot of time and effort.
She started searching and couldn’t find what she was looking for, but she knew that if she had this problem, chances were there were other librarians with the same pain point.
Over the summer, she created ElementaryLibrarian.com to test the idea that she could sell library lesson plans online. She knew in the back of her mind that if the project completely failed, at least she’d have the lesson plans ready for herself when she returned to school in the fall.
When Jocelyn set up her website, an email opt-in box was one of the first things she added. She had learned from Shane that collecting emails was very important for an online business.
For her email opt-in offer, Jocelyn gave away an entire MONTH of lesson plans for free! Essentially, she wanted to see if people were interested in the lesson plans and get them onto her email list.
After she gauged interest and had quite a few people who wanted her lesson plans, she went to market selling the second month of plans.
When Jocelyn first started selling, she only had two months of lesson plans completed. She continued creating more lesson plans throughout the school year. Jocelyn essentially worked two jobs that year. One, as an elementary school librarian, the second as an online business owner, and let’s be honest, the third and fourth jobs as a mom to two young children!
(We think Jocelyn’s strategy of just creating one small product at a time was so smart! She didn’t kill herself creating a year of lesson plans before she proved that the market for her product existed. She created each month of plans only after she knew that there were customers ready to buy.)
Growing Your Audience
Jocelyn shared 4 Killer Strategies for growing your audience online. The best news? They’re all free!
- Build your email list – Most online experts agree that this is the BEST way to get people to come back to your site. Jocelyn also grew her numbers by offering an amazing opt-in for her subscribers (a whole month of lesson plans for free!)
- SEO strategy – Jocelyn used Google’s Keyword Planner to figure out the best phrases to target related to her niche. She took the process one step further by searching for those terms on Google, then finding a way to get a link back to her website on those other top-ranking sites. For example, she’d leave a thoughtful comment with a link back to her blog, or if it was a wiki she’d add her website’s information.
- Pinterest – Jocelyn found that many of the results that appeared in Google related to elementary librarians were actually Pinterest boards. She decided to build a solid presence on Pinterest herself, and ensures that all of her blog posts have a Pinterest-friendly cover photo.
- Social Media – Jocelyn would remind her email subscribers to follow her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter as well. (The more often you can get in front of your audience, the better!)
The Power of Webinars
Jocelyn shares that she and Shane are still new to webinars, but hosting them has been wildly successful for their business.
Her tips and best practices for Webinars:
- Use Google Hangouts on Air (you can schedule the hangout for a given time)
- You can send a link out to your subscribers or followers for them to join the hangout.
- Leadpages has a custom webinar page that allows you to create a webinar box at the top and a chatroll in the bottom so participants can chat and ask questions during the webinar.
- Prezi allows you to create a powerpoint presentation but with more options such as embedding Youtube videos. You can also create a link to the presentation, which Jocelyn likes to make available to everyone after the webinar is over.
- Jocelyn runs a sales special during the webinar, so there’s an incentive to “buy now”
- She never makes the webinar all about her products. It’s about the attendees’ questions and how she can help them. She focuses on what they can accomplish together during that hour.
- Jocelyn mentions her products for sale at the beginning and end of the webinar. (The content in each webinar focuses on all sorts of topics that would be helpful to librarians such as setting up self-checkout or utilizing student volunteers in your library.)
- Jocelyn gives away 2 door prizes during her webinars. The first door prize is for someone who completes some sort of social sharing for her (retweeting, pinning, or commenting on a fb post, whatever they decide for that webinar) There’s another giveaway for someone who purchases during the hour. So again, there’s an incentive to “buy now” in the hopes of winning something extra.
A Six Figure Month
Jocelyn and Shane had a huge product launch in the summer of 2014. Their goal was to have a six figure summer of sales between June, July, and August. Instead, they accomplished their goal in July alone!
Jocelyn confesses that sometimes their business and life still doesn’t seem real! They see themselves as just “regular people” who work really hard and don’t give up.
The Tipping Point
After Shane and Jocelyn had been doing business online for about a year, they had their first five-figure month in July of 2013. In August, they almost tripled their July sales!
The year before, they essentially had two full-time jobs with teaching and running their online business. They both knew that they were forfeiting their quality of life to grow their business.
In August of 2013, Shane and Jocelyn gave their notice and quit their jobs as teachers. Jocelyn confesses that she left a job that she really liked, but at the same time, she knew that if she wanted to have more time with her family, it was the right move for them.
What Does Life Look Like Now?
Shane and Jocelyn get to work when they want to (and play when they want to!)
They travel more frequently and do a lot of work on the road. They use childcare during the week, but they take every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off to have 3 solid days as a family.
Jocelyn’s advice for those who are trying to grow an online business?
Don’t lose heart. Hang in there, because something good might be waiting for you just around the corner.
Jocelyn and Shane’s “Flipped Lifestyle”
With their recent success, Shane and Jocelyn have been fielding many requests from others wanting to know how to start and grow their own businesses. Since there are only so many hours in the day, they started their own podcast and website dedicated to helping others achieve what they’ve achieved online. You can find it at FlippedLifestyle.com
Hiring and Training Virtual Assistants
Shane and Jocelyn use O-desk to find virtual assistants. They list job descriptions and wait for people to respond. After that, they do a basic Skype interview with their top contenders to see who will be a good fit for the job.
To train their VA’s and save themselves a lot of headaches, they create screen capture videos to explain exactly what they want done. Then, when the VA has questions, they can refer back to the video.
Jocelyn also tries to give her VA’s repetitive tasks that don’t involve a lot of independent decision-making to make the process run more smoothly.
She recommends Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker * to help you get started in hiring help online.
For website design, Shane and Jocelyn use Jocelyn’s sister Andrea Whitmer at Nuts and Bolts Media
Jocelyn’s Favorite Online Tool
Canva is a graphic design website that has so many templates to help you create cover pages, facebook ads, or just about anything you might need. Jocelyn says that it’s super fast to use and create something great.
Jocelyn’s Advice on Growing a Business
Focus on one thing at a time.
Jocelyn believes that simply getting things done is the most important thing. There are a lot of people who want to work on one project for a little while, then float to another project, then come back to something later. When you work like that, it’s difficult to fully complete a project or to really do it well.
She and Shane set long-term, short-term and immediate goals for their business. Based on those goals, they decide what they’re going to work on next.
Should You Walk Away?
Although Shane and Jocelyn have experienced great success online, she shares 3 factors to consider if you’re on the verge of giving up.
- Time – If you’ve given your current project plenty of time to grow, it may be time to pivot and try something new.
- Place – Maybe you haven’t been talking about your site in the right places or advertising in the right places. Make sure you exhaust every possibility here before giving up.
- Communication – Maybe you haven’t been framing your product in a way that gets inside the minds of your customers. (Are you showing them how you can solve their problem and providing clear benefits?)
Jocelyn thinks that paid strategies will likely tell you more than free ones. If you’re paying for people to see your product and they’re still not buying it, that may indicate that the market is not there.
A Business Book to Help You Define your Customer
Jocelyn recommends Start with Why by Simon Sinek *
The premise of the book is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. She says that the book will help you to define your ideal customer and solidify what you should focus on moving forward.
You’ll have to listen to the end to hear Jocelyn’s Funny Mom Moment, courtesy of her five year-old Isaac!
Where Can You Find Jocelyn?
(*asterisk denotes affiliate link. We use affiliate links for products that we have personally used and loved or products that come highly recommended from business moms we trust)
I love Jocelyn’s advice on just focusing on one thing. What’s the one thing you need to do to grow your business right now. See how we’re focusing on one thing.