Welcome to the Podcast Production School Student Income Report Series!
We’re super excited to share the amazing things our PPS students are up to in their businesses.
Why share student income and success? Great question! Gina shared her income reports for the first two and a half years of her VA journey – she stopped as her business model changed and they were no longer relatable to newer virtual assistants.
But we know that income reports and student success stories are super motivating and encouraging to read through, so we wanted to share them with you!
In this series, we’ll learn about where each of our students is in their business journey and their plans for future growth.
We looked for students who were already kicking butt and taking names working in the online space. That includes everything from landing their first clients, to making a considerable amount of extra cash each month by running a full-time podcast production services business, to scaling over time.
Meet Michelle Wells. ?
Hi, Michelle! Tell us about yourself.
Hey, Guys! My name is Michelle Wells, and I’m a wife to one and mom to six.
All those kids eat a lot, and so about four years ago, I started a quest to supplement our income and at least help pay for groceries. I homeschooled and wasn’t willing to give that up, so finding a way to work from home became my obsession.
I wish I could say that my journey was a straight shot from there, but honestly, I was all over the map. My first attempts involved buying cheap stuff at yard sales and selling for more on eBay. Although it was a great learning experience, it wasn’t a comfortable fit and not a reliable business model for scaling up.
But all great journeys involve lots of ups, downs, and detours that impact where you end up, and what you learn along the way. And mine was no different. One thing I discovered was I needed more “tools in my toolbelt.” The best way to expedite that was to purchase a course (or courses) that would give me the ability to step into some new spaces—enter 30 DOL to Freelance Writing, and my first introduction to Gina Horkey.
I took the course and within a month had two writing clients. Wow! This was cool, and the dream to pay for groceries—and maybe more—began to take shape.
Tell us about your business.
Fast forward three years and several courses later—read, a more equipped “toolbelt”—and I now own a content creation company with my daughter. Our tagline is:
Grow Your Business With Exceptional Content
Words. Design. Audio.
And yes, you guessed it, Audio refers to content creation in the form of PODCASTS.
How did you decide to start offering podcast support services?
Not trying to earn any “brownie points” here, but three years after taking my first course, I still read ALL the emails that Gina Horkey sends my way. Last November, when I saw the email about the new Podcast Assist course she was offering with Mel and Hailey, my curiosity was piqued.
I’ve never been much of a Black Friday shopper, but I was feeling the need for another “tool,” so I purchased the Podcast course on that legendary shopping day
And how long did it take you to earn your course investment back?
I was fortunate to already have a client that I had been working with, helping him to create content through blogs, video scripts, and some additional VA work. In the time we had been working together, he had come to trust my opinions and direction, so I pitched the idea of branching out into the world of podcasting — and keeping the timeline transparent, I pitched the idea BEFORE I purchased the course.
He agreed that it sounded like a good idea and so I bought it and set to work right away learning the material. We decided that — come hell or high water — we were going to launch a podcast in mid-January. (Just a side note, I’ve since learned, and recommend to newbies to launch only after you have 3-5 podcasts ready to go.)
Since I help him with two podcasts/month and I have my hands in every step of the way, I probably do about 10 hours a month.
“So I earned back my course cost in less than two months!”
What was your biggest fear before you started your business?/Adding new services to your repertoire?
I tend to be the opposite of someone who gets “analysis paralysis.” When it comes to diving into new services, my approach is usually to jump out of the plane, and THEN figure out how I’m going to land. Although I’m not recommending this to anyone, I have to say that I don’t get stuck in fear about starting.
However, I do sometimes struggle with “imposter syndrome.” I have a genuinely supportive family, and when I start to head in that negative direction, they stop me in my tracks and point back to past successes. I’m thankful for that.
I’ve also found that the BEST way for me to move forward is to keep learning and fine-tuning the services I offer.
What was the most challenging part about getting started?
Since I’ve always considered myself a bit technically-challenged, (it’s my generation) and I knew NOTHING about mp3s, mp4s, .wav files, etc. that part of the process was the most intimidating.
Navigating through that part of the course the first time felt like I was in a dark room, looking for a bobby pin.
How did you overcome that?
But I went over those sections several times and then just started to feel more comfortable as I went through the action steps. “The knowing is in the doing,” as my hubby always says.
What has been your biggest success since you’ve started?
With my podcast client, we started from scratch — like seriously — he didn’t even know what kind of podcast he wanted to create. But with a lot of brainstorming and collaborating we came up with a gameplan and then executed it step by step. We repurposed a lot of his older content and within a short amount of time, published 9 podcasts! Recently we passed the 125 downloads mark. Woo Hoo!
I’d say my personal success is that I LOVE how I’ve learned to edit an audio file! To me, that is totally out of the realm of other things I’ve done. Creating show notes, marketing the podcasts — even creating the artwork in Canva — all seemed like areas that were similar to other client work.
But if you had told me a couple of years back that I would know how to take a cough out of someone’s pre-recorded audiotape, I would have been flabbergasted (I’ve always wanted to use that word).
Can you tell us about your highest paying project?/ What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m only working with one Podcast client, the rest of my income is from a combination of writing, optimizing website copy, virtual assisting, social media management, and a bit of email management from several clients.
“My highest retainer client at the moment happens to be the one that I do the podcast for, and my invoice to him last month was for $1225.00.”
(By the way, with that one client, I can pay for groceries. ? )
I continue to confidently pitch podcast clients that I learn about in the Podcast Production School FB group and I also talk to current clients about this form of content creation. As a result, I have 2 possible future clients that may materialize in the next month (with Covid-19 decisions are made a little slower).
What are you looking forward to most over the next 12 months?
I’m super stoked about the potential I see in the Podcast world, and I really enjoy the work that is involved in assisting a client through the process. My goals definitely involve building up this side of my business.
Right before all the COVID stuff happened I was able to get a professional website up that reflected my new PODCAST offerings and partnership with my daughter. I did hire someone to help me with it, but of course, I wrote all the copy, which saved me some money.
Last month I finally made my business an official LLC. And in the rest of 2020, I will continue to lay down all the processes of a legit business and I hope to build my services up enough to give both my daughter and me a healthy income.
Update: 3 Months
Hey, Michelle! How are things going?
Business has stayed steady despite the challenges on the planet. As I hear about others struggling due to the repercussions of COVID, I’m thankful for three realities in my business:
- Rock-steady RETAINER clients.
- Small projects from past HAPPY clients.
- Referrals leading to NEW business opportunities.
And as I write this, I have to admit that offering several services — even though the “wisdom-of-the-day” says to niche down — has been a good thing during this CRAZY time.
Later I’ll show you a graph that breaks down all my services and what each is bringing in, but suffice it to say, I’m glad I don’t have all my eggs in one DIGITAL basket.
Let us know how you’re progressing with last month’s goals.
Building up the Podcast side of my Content Creation Business is one of my top three goals. Although I didn’t earn any more podcast-specific clients in June, I did “polish up” my podcast offerings. So I’ll take that as a WIN.
I’ve been creating PDFs for my client to send out to the people he interviews. For example, in Canva, I designed a branded PDF that gives interviewees creative IDEAS for “The Best Practices for Podcast Distribution.” This handout allows them to get the most mileage out of their interview and hopefully gets our podcast in front of more people.
I plan to repurpose these templates with other Podcast clients too. ?
Tell us about last month’s income.
The month of June beat out May by about $100. Not a ton, but I’ll take it.
I’m a visual person, so I decided to create a graph showing the breakdown of my services and the income they each bring in.
Three things to note:
- Podcast production is my 3rd highest earner, and it’s the newest service that I’ve added!
- Every one of these services, I’ve only learned AFTER starting my journey of being an entrepreneur.
- Small numbers DO add up over a month.
What are your goals for this month?
I’m still going after another Podcast client. Let’s go, JULY!
Additionally, even though I’ve BEEN offering Social Media Management for the last year, I’m always interested in leveling up my results. I purchased the latest course by Horkey HandBook that focuses on Social Media for Virtual Assistants. So my goal is to get through it and start applying any new tips and tricks to my current roster.
How do you plan to reach those goals?
This next month and the last is all about staying FOCUSED in the midst of a very loud remodel in our little home. We decided to enclose a porch to give us a bit more space. And it will be GREAT when it’s done.
But I have to admit it’s been difficult to feel productive with all the different trades showing up every day. Each interruption compounds on the usual distractions.
Since I have to be here to oversee everything and make sure my 120lb mastiff doesn’t eat anyone ?, heading to a coffee shop is not a good solution.
BUT. I. WILL. PLOW. THROUGH.
Planning out my day the night before is one of the best ways to hit the day running. And it keeps my goals always on my radar.
What do you think is working well in your business right now?
At the beginning of April, my daughter and I decided to make it official and open the doors of Creatives Collective Marketing, LLC—TOGETHER.
As much as you LOVE someone, you never know how things will go when you become co-workers, colleagues, associates, partners, etc. And if you both approach decision-making differently, which we do, it can get interesting FAST.
But I can say with all transparency that our mom-daughter business venture is working well. There were a few “growing pains” in the first month but we seem to be in a good rhythm now.
Update: 4 Months
“Shell, I’m SO proud of you. You’ve created something (a legit business) out of nothing. And that’s a big deal.”
Michelle! How are things going?
I’ll give you the good news first.
Business was good this past month. It beat out June by about $500 and was the second-highest month of 2020. YAY! ?
The not-so-good news is that one of my larger retainer clients is being greatly impacted by the school and sports shutdowns. He has to make some hard decisions about his business, and one of them is to reduce our monthly retainer agreement.
I saw it coming. And I realize that it’s part of being an entrepreneur—for him and me.
Even though it means a significant drop in what I can count on each month, I’m strangely not worried. Opportunities are all around.
Remind us about last month’s goals.
Last month I set the goal to gain another podcasting client and finish my Social Media for Virtual Assistants course. The competitive side of me (and Type 3 Enneagram) would like to “fudge” a bit here and say that I accomplished both.
BUT, this is about being transparent and painting an accurate picture, SO I confess that I did NOT reach either of those goals.
There WERE opportunities to try and snag a new Podcast client from the leads in the Podcast Production FB group, but I’m starting to be a little choosier about what I take on. (I get accused of saying YES to too many projects.)
Looking for clients that are a GREAT fit is my new mantra. I think that this mindset only comes after building confidence in my services and is a “luxury” I have during only certain seasons of life.
Regarding my second goal—finishing the Social Media course—I dropped the ball, have no excuse, and plan to pick it up again this month.
Did you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish this month? If so, tell us more! If not, let us know why not.
So no, I didn’t reach those goals, BUT I did something pretty cool with my podcast client.
My baby brother, John, is a professor and author and recently came out with a book called Athletes Breaking Bad. My client interviewed him on his podcast, The Sports Family Corner.
So I GOT to edit out my brother’s umms and ahhs… and as he said, “make him sound smart.” Plus, I wrote the show notes and promoted the podcast, which gives his book more exposure.
It was fun and made this “big sis” feel pretty darn cool.
Tell us about last month’s income (pics please!).
Here’s a ?? visual breakdown of the types of work I do for my income. If you saw my report last month, you’ll notice that my Design Work, Newsletters, and Brand Consulting all went up. It was a reflection of one new client. I created an email capture (Design Work) for her and will be sending out a monthly newsletter starting this month.
The revenue from Podcast Production lost its number 3 spot, but it remains a “favorite” in the tasks that I do.
What are your goals for this month?
I have to revisit exactly what I set out to do last month—obtain another podcasting client and finish my SM course. I don’t want either of these to fall off my radar.
What is your vision for reaching those goals?
I’m going to talk to current clients and other local small business owners I have a relationship with, to consider launching a podcast. It is a fun way to create content, and the cost of entry is relatively low. I don’t think it’s a hard sell.
Up to this point, I’ve just been relying on the leads from the FB group, but in August, I plan to be a little more proactive about gaining another podcasting client.
And in regards to the social media course…I’m going to block off time each week and see it through. Announcing this to you all makes it a bit more compelling to check it off my list.
What is one thing you’ve learned in the last four months that you want to share with other online entrepreneurs?
The freedom to choose how to spend your time is worth the risk and pressure of starting the entrepreneurial journey. I began mine four years ago, and I’ve had all the ups & downs. I’ve shed all the tears. I’ve celebrated the victories. And I’ve put in the long hours.
But, every morning I get to decide what time I start, when I end, and everything in between.
This year when we did our taxes my hubby paid me a compliment that I won’t soon forget. He said, “Shell, I’m SO proud of you. You’ve created something (a legit business) out of nothing. And that’s a big deal.”
Update: 5 Months
Hey, Michelle! How’re you doing? What’s up?
It’s CRAZY to think we’re fully into the second half of 2020. Right? It’s definitely a year we’ll probably all remember—more than others.
My fam and I are doing well. With three teenagers in the house, taking online courses, I don’t feel as “isolated” as I can sometimes feel—working in my digital space—cuz they’re all spread out working on laptops, too. There’s comfort in numbers.
Catch us up on last month’s goals.
I’m excited to announce that I obtained another podcasting client! Woohoo!
This has been a goal I’ve been working on since April or May of this year. Once I had figured out all the aspects of producing a podcast with my INITIAL client, I KNEW I wanted to build this side of my business.
A few months ago, I pitched a potential client posted in the Facebook group. (Thanks, Gina, Hailey, and Melanie! ?) We had some great interactions, and I was pretty confident we were going to move forward. But ultimately, he and his partner decided that the timing wasn’t quite right.
I wasn’t too disappointed because I believed the opportunity might come up again.
And it did!
Last week he reached out to me because his podcast has grown, and now they’re better positioned to hire some help!
Did you get done what you wanted to get done last month?
Yes! I’m writing up a proposal to help this client—hence building the PODCAST side of the biz.
I also threw out the claim last month that I was going to COMPLETE my Social Media Management course—STILL working on it. But I’ve made some progress. ??
Tell us about last month’s income (pics please!).
My income was a little less than last month, but only because of how projects fell. In other words, I’ll get the expected amounts when some projects finish. Two of my website copy projects were put on pause because the client has struggled to get the info to me.
Next month will show an increase in my PODCAST income. Excited to see what that will look like. Fingers crossed!
What are your goals for September 2020?
Whenever I take on a new client, I have to spend extra time learning about their brand and figuring out how best to serve them. I’m sure that will be the case for me during September. My goal would be to establish some good processes working together so that moving forward is smooth for both of us.
How do you plan to achieve those goals?
My daughter and I will get on a Zoom call with this client to work through the details of moving forward. He lives in a different time zone, and since we can’t meet over coffee (which I like to do with local clients), we’ll have to do the next best.
Good communication, talking through expectations, and listening are all things that have worked with other clients. I like things to feel professional BUT personal.
What is your one year from now goal for your business?
My daughter will be getting married early in 2021 and will be leaving to live in another state. ?Although we could still work together on our business, we’re both trying to figure out what will be the best scenario for her as she looks to develop a new community and start a new phase of life.
So honestly, I’m not sure what I will be doing next year.
I’m not worried, though. I have two options. I could scale back once she leaves and only work with the clients I can comfortably take care of. Or, I could look to hire someone else to work with me and continue to build Creatives Collective Marketing.
In the meantime, I’ll be praying about the best direction to go. There’s always opportunity if you’re willing to be open and flexible.
Update: 6 Months
Michelle! Wow… six months in. What’s going on? How are things?
Yes, it’s crazy how time flies! And the last six months of the year always seems to move even faster. ?
September has been very busy. As I mentioned last month, I was able to obtain another PODCAST client.
Whenever I begin working with a new client, there’s a learning curve, so everything takes longer. My daughter isn’t involved in the podcast side of business yet, so she hasn’t been involved with the heavy lifting. There have been some early mornings and late nights, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I am super excited about working with this new client. They produce two podcasts a week, and I feel like we are a GREAT fit.
And my income from podcast production has more than tripled. ??
Remind us of last month’s goals.
Last month I anticipated the extra work with this new client, and my goal was to lay down some processes that make working together easy. We’ve been doing that. I had to learn a new platform (Descript), but I love it.
My immediate goal with all new clients is to “WOW” them with what I “bring to the table.” I want it to be super easy for them to cut me a check each month.
This most recent client hired me to edit and create show notes, and I strive to scale up those two areas from where they were before hiring me. Additionally, I offered up some marketing ideas and created some branded templates to help them improve their podcast promotion.
Now that you’re six months down the road, where do you see your business heading?
As I’ve mentioned before, out of all the different services I offer, assisting with podcast production is probably the most fun for me. I want to continue to build this side of the biz. Learning how to navigate the Descript platform just reminded me that I have so much more to learn in this field, and I want to become even more specialized in the technical side of things.
What are your long term goals?
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the entrepreneurial journey is a PROCESS of fine-tuning and learning.
There are services that I offer that I don’t enjoy doing. I know that’s part of any job, but I want to get to a place where I can do more of what I enjoy and say “no” to the spaces I’m not interested in pursuing.
When you start, it IS important to take on many (if not all) of the opportunities that come your way. Financially it often makes sense. But there is also a lot of learning about yourself that happens. And that is priceless.
Long term, I want to become a little more specialized and have the financial freedom to pick and choose what my business looks like.
How do you plan to accomplish those goals?
I plan to get more and more specific in my skill sets. Instead of trying to learn “all the things,” I’m going to do a deeper dive into the areas I love. If you haven’t noticed, you can practically get a “college degree” off of COURSE work and Youtube.
And I’ll continue to pitch clients. I mentioned a while back that the “knowing is in the doing,” and I wholeheartedly believe this. The most learning for me has often occurred when I take on a new client that needs something that I’ve never done. Having a bit of pressure to learn how to help them has probably been the best way to build new skill sets.
What have you learned from sharing your experience with us on the blog these last six months?
I’ve loved sharing my experience because I know how VALUABLE it was for me to read entrepreneurs’ stories. There’s something so relatable and inspiring when others transparently share their personal journeys.
But it’s also been helpful for me to take the time to think through MY adventure. BUSYness has a way of keeping us oblivious to our gaps and blindspots. When we intentionally give thought to communicating lessons to others, it can be very eye-opening.
Thank you so much for sharing such valuable tips, insights, and your personal story with all of us. In the spirit of fun as we send you off, write a note of encouragement to others looking to you for inspiration in five words or less!
Be patient and intentional, daily.
Want to get paid to support podcasters or learn how to launch and grow your own podcast? Check out the Podcast Production School course here.
Michelle Wells is a Business Storyteller: She firmly believes in the power of a story and helps companies tell theirs in an engaging, fresh, and organized way. The result is the crazy-effective content—in words, design, and audio, that a business needs to grow.
Visit Creatives Collective Marketing to learn more!