Caitlin Bacher is a social media mastermind who has used different social sites to build a multiple six-figure online course business in less than two years. The blogger and course creator teaches other online entrepreneurs how to replicate her success turning social media into sales.
She kissed the cubicle (in her case, classroom) goodbye so she could spend more time with her family and build a business that let her live by her own rules.
Here's what she has to say...
Ashley: Hey, Teachable Tribe, Ashley over at Teachable. I'm sitting down with Caitlin Bacher. Caitlin is wonderful. We've worked with her in the past. I've done workshops with her. And she has a ton of insight about Instagram and how to build your business. So Caitlin, do you want to say hey?
Caitlin: Hi. I'm happy to be here.
So Caitlin, What do you do? Tell us about your business just in general.
I help course creators use social media as a tool to grow their business.
People ask me all the time, they're like "Caitlin, how are you all of these places?" And the truth is I just love social media. I mean I really just love it.
For me, it never feels like a chore.
I've seen a lot of people. They have all these different social media properties and all of them are struggling. None of them are getting ROI. And I know you've done it a lot different. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, I wanna take a step back to where this all really started. So you ditched that cubicle, that 9 to 5 grind. How did that start? When did you decide the 9 to 5 wasn't for you?
I used to be a public school teacher. So I taught for eight years and when I had my daughter I decided to stay at home for a couple of years.
I stayed at home. And after that, I got into social media management. And I was freelancing. So I still was kind of like I guess they call it a work-at-home mom.
During nap time or whatever, I would do social media management for various clients. And I still felt like I was tethered to Skype, because doing that one-on-one consulting and social media management took so much time.
You know, the whole reason why I went into business for myself was so that I would have a lot of freedom and I would have time to spend with my daughter. But I felt like I wasn't having that.
That's when I decided to launch my first course.
And that took off, and then I was just like "Hey, I love this." Then I just switched to an online course model.
Oh, really? Okay. So I know I've looked up your courses. Wham Bam Instagram is awesome. Everyone loves it. I've been in your many courses as well. Why courses? How did that enter this mix?
It all started because I was doing one-on-one consulting, but I was booked out so far in advance that I couldn't serve everyone that I needed to.
I felt really bad saying, "Oh, yeah, I can meet with you in six months." That just seemed ridiculous.
And the other thing was that a one-on-one consultation is hundreds of dollars, and not everyone can afford that for a one-time meeting so I decided to give courses a try.
I definitely had no clue what I was doing. At the time I had never even taken an online course.
I was like "Oh, I'm just gonna try this." And so I just kind of did it.
The course pretty much wrote itself, because I had been consulting for so long and I knew exactly everyone had kind of the same struggles when they would come to me. And so it was very easy for me to just design a course and say, "Oh, I guess, this is what you need to do." I basically covered everything that we did in a one-on-one consultation and put that into a course.
That's awesome. It sounds like the structure, including the content, was easy. What about actually filming it and launching it? What was your process for that like?
My very first course was primarily text. And the filming, I was never on camera. It was just screen tutorials. I used a ScreenFlow as a tool to kind of record the a little tech tips and things like that.
At the time, I already had a blog. So I was used to writing. And I mean basically, I think what holds a lot of people back is choosing what their course should be on.
Once you pick one thing that you wanna teach, since it's a topic that you already know about, it's really easy to just be like "Okay, these are the steps. And here's how you do every single step." That's basically all it is.
Yeah. I love that. And it is simple. And I think we all make it overcomplicated on ourselves. What about this detail? What about this? It's like, no, you really do know that content. If you've chosen the right topic, you're probably passionate and knowledgeable about it anyway.
I know that your first course had a tone of great results. But I heard this sneaky little rumor that you have another one launching soon. Do you wanna tell me a bit about it?
My Wham Bam Instagram course has been super popular. But I'm moving to an open and closed course model. And so that course is closed.
I do have something new launching that is coming up in August. And it's going to be all about Facebook groups. I'm super, super excited about that.
I've been doing a lot of education with my audience over the last six weeks, lots of free content upgrades, lots of live streaming within my Facebook group, lots of blog posts. And it's been really fun.
One of the things that I think a lot of people forget to do before they actually launch their course is to take the time to really educate their audience on the importance of that topic so I've been spending a ton of time doing that.
Looking for Facebook Group advice from the pro? Caitlin is offering up her Ultimate Checklist for Facebook Group Hosts. Better yet? It's free!
Oh, that's so awesome. I know Facebook groups are one of the first things over here at Teachable that we suggest for people who are looking to validate their idea. It's like finding Facebook groups, give them your lead magnets, do research there. And then when you launch your course, you've got a place to do it, and it doesn't feel spammy. What exactly does this course teach? Is it how to work in those communities, validate ideas, grow your audience through them?
So it's all of that. The thing that I think a lot of people struggle with when they have a Facebook group is, first of all, getting people into the Facebook group.
You need to make sure that it's consistently growing.
The next thing that people struggle with is getting engagement. In order to really get what you need from a Facebook group, you need people to participate. And there's lots of different strategies and tactics that will really kind of help spark that conversation.
And the thing is that, yes, a lot of times people think, "Oh, should I do a Facebook group because I don't know if it's gonna take a lot of time? You know, I'm not sure if it would actually lead to sales."
When you think about it, businesses spend millions of dollars on target market research, right? A Facebook group is a way to do that for free, because you can funnel all of your ideal customers into it, and you're listening to them talk.
In a Facebook group, people don't just talk about how great everything is going for them. They talk about what they're really struggling with. Without you even having to prompt them, they're telling you what all of their pain points are.
So creating content for social media, for your blog, for content upgrades, and then once you validate that idea, eventually your course, that whole process becomes incredibly easy.
And so you're able to create an Instagram post that really speaks to your target market. Oftentimes, when I make posts on Instagram, I'm taking something directly from my Facebook group. I'm answering a specific question that someone asked. And then our Instagram, people are like "Oh, how did you read my mind?" It's like "Well, I just listened."
And it's not the same. I know a lot of people are active in other Facebook groups, and that is a great thing to do. But it's not your target audience. Those people are not all on your list. So it's a big mistake to go into someone else's Facebook group and be like "Oh, what are you struggling with?" And they'll tell you what they're struggling with. But all of those people are not on your email list. So what are you gonna do? Make a product for who?
It's important that you have your own, no matter how small. That's another thing. I published a blog post this past Monday interviewing lots of different course creators that have small but mighty Facebook groups. People have this idea in their head like "Oh well, you know, I don't really have a big social media following. I don't have a big email list. How is this really gonna be helpful?" And so that blog post goes through it, and they tell you exactly how having the Facebook group has benefited them. It's people that have 100 members, 200 members, 300 members. Small groups, but they're all getting so much value out of it.
I can speak to that as well. You know, here at Teachable, we have the Teachable Tribe. It has been inspiration for a blog post or questions or if we're having problems with our product that we wanna tell people about. So everything you're saying is spot on, and I can vouch for it. And even more interesting, you know, for a while, some people are looking at using Slack for their online community. How about this? This new idea, Slack. Refer your people. We tried it. And it didn't really work for us.
I have a funny story about that. There is a well-known course creator, I won't say her name, but she actually emailed me last night. And she said, "Hey, Caitlin. I'm launching this free course that's going to funnel into a future paid course. And I wanted it to be on Slack. And so I sent out the email. Around 700 people have opted in for it today. I'm so excited. But I only have 20 people on Slack, and nobody's doing anything."
And you know what? Slack can be a great tool for your paid courses after people have already paid to be in your course. For sure, you can use Slack as a community for that. But people that are already on Facebook, people who are already there, and I told her, I was like, "You got to switch this. You got to switch over to Facebook group." And she was like "I know you're right." We were emailing. Last night, she was like "I know you're right. Walk me through the process. Tell me what to do." She's part of Facebook groups, but she doesn't have her own yet.
I just kind of walked her through it, you know, told her these are things to look out for, and make sure that this happens whatever, how to set it up. And she was like "Okay. I'm gonna do this."
You can't replace the kind of excitement that a Facebook group provides especially prior to a launch. I was listening to James Wedmore's podcast the other day, Mind Your Business Podcast, and he was talking about a launch that he did, which was you know, a multimillion dollar launch. And he said that, for that launch, he had the idea that he wanted to have a little Facebook group for that launch. And his entire team was like "No, that's gonna take too much time. I don't know if it's gonna lead to sales," whatever. He was like "Yeah, we're just gonna do it."
So he did it.
And that Facebook group was responsible for 89% of his sales. So he was able to track that back. So that means 89% of the money that he made came directly from that free Facebook group. It's because when people buy, they go in there. They share their excitement. Now, with live streaming, you're able to do a webinar on demand. There's so much potential there. And it's free for you to set up. There's no charge.
I absolutely love that. I think that's very, very true. And yeah, I would definitely recommend to anyone, start getting into Facebook groups. I have a question, though. So for everyone who's just starting out, maybe you're starting with the blog or an Etsy shop, you're just leaving that 9 to 5. There are a lot of social medias out there, right?
Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook groups, and where do you spend your time? How do you decide which one is right for you? And how many should you be working with from the very beginning?
I think that one of the things that I'm interested in is which platforms really develop the most ROI, right?
Because when you're first starting, just like me, when I was first starting, I didn't have a team. I didn't have a social media manager. It was just me. And so I wanted to invest my time in social media platforms that produced the most engagement. And for me, that was Instagram.
Now, I know there's a lot of talk about Instagram algorithm changes and, "Oh, now, not as many people like my posts." That may be true, but you're still getting like 50 likes on a post. Do 50 people retweet you on Twitter? No.
You still cannot compare. Yes, Instagram algorithm may have decreased your reach a bit. But it's still doing way better than anything else. Like when you post on your business Facebook page, do 50 people leave a comment? No, that doesn't happen. People will like your Instagram, right? And I think especially when you are selling online courses, Instagram is a great way to really give value. Start with your blog, say whatever your blog post topic is, and take little snippets from that blog post, and then schedule it on to Instagram.
It's a great tool to build trust. And the same thing goes for your Facebook group. Then after you create that blog post, take a snippet of that and make a little Facebook live presentation, a 10-minute presentation inside of your group.
I guess my advice to them would be to not be shy about repurposing content, because a lot of people feel like "Oh my God, I have to create all new things for everything." But that's not the case. You wanna have cornerstone content and then re-purpose from there.
Yep. And I do absolutely the same thing. It's like I'll write a blog post. The intro becomes the newsletter. My favorite lines become tweets. It all feeds into each other. It works out as a hopefully efficient way to re-purpose everything, yeah.
And that consistency really builds trust. Some people feel like "Oh, but it's the same thing." But I guarantee there is no one person out there that is going to read every single newsletter, every single tweet, every single Instagram post that you do. It's just doesn't happen.
It doesn't. It really doesn't. And so on that note, you know, you've got your business. You're starting out, you have your social media. Obviously, you've taken your business pretty far from that starting place that where most people are at. What would be some big overarching advice for the people who are just getting started?
I think the most important thing is to really think about where you want to go in your business. In that first couple months of business, of course, we are DIY-ing everything. We're bootstrapping. We only want free tools, right?
What's the free way to do this? What's the free way to do that? Now, I guarantee that the people that are at the next level above you are not using free tools.
Nobody grows by doing that.
And so what happens is that people feel like "Oh, well, but I just made $5,000." That's my first $5,000. I don't wanna take part of it and invest in this, you know, paid tool or this paid course or whatever. But let's say you take $300 from that $5,000 you made, whatever, and invest in something, then that is going to allow you to really leverage and grow even more. Nobody has 100% profit margin.
Whatever you have, you're supposed to reinvest that so that you can continue to grow. Because all those businesses, I see so many businesses out there that, you know, they can't make it past the four-figure a month mark. They're getting maybe a $1,000 a month, $5,000 a month or whatever, and they can't move past that. And the reason why is because they're trying to do everything for free. They're not outsourcing. They're not investing in automation, anything like that. So it's like they're not gonna grow. If you don't change something up, you will not grow. And so don't be afraid of that, and don't be so attached to the money, so that you feel like you know you just can't let it go.
Have faith that it's gonna work. And if it doesn't, all right, then you go on to the next thing, right? Like so many failures that happen in a day for me, I cannot tell you over, and it just doesn't matter. Then you go to the next and the next and the next. That's just normal.
I love that, because if you don't, you end up working almost more than you would in your 9 to 5 on your own business. Isn't the point to make your life easier, to set up a lifestyle business, not slave away at a blog or Instagram or social media all day every day?
Yeah, and, of course, we have that hustle period at the beginning, right? I work way less now than I did when I first started, because now I have people helping me, and I've invested in tools that automate everything.
Look to people that are at the next level, and look at the tools and the systems that they're using. And if you want to reach the next level, then start acting like them. Don't be so fearful to invest.
You're not gonna make a lot of money at the beginning. And if you do, you're probably gonna reinvest it. So don't go out to eat. Don't get cable. There's plenty of things that you can cut back on. But the problem is a lot of people don't want to make those tiny sacrifices. And so then their businesses just stay stagnant.
I actually love that. I don't think it's something we've touched on before, but it is. You know, we kind of grew up in this sharing economy where you can get an Uber on demand. You can get anything delivered, especially in New York any time, any day. So making those sacrifices when you start to reinvest that money is hard.
Yeah. And part of it really sucks. That first year of business, last year when my business was really, really taking off, and my revenue kept increasing and increasing, like it really sucks to then have to take a chunk of that every month and be like "All right, Like I gotta give it to this person so they can do that." But by doing that, this year, it's levels above that.
I would not have gotten to where I am now if I hadn't had that hard struggle period where I remember just turning to my husband saying, man, I can't seem to catch a break.
Every time I have money coming in, then I have to reinvest in this.
So tell me where you're at now, you know making the sacrifices, how are you now?
So this year, at the end of the year, I will have probably brought in about $500,000 in revenue with around 75% profit margin. And that's still me investing in lots of people, right, Facebook ads, lots of different things.
And there is really big plans for next year. So it's really gonna take off from there. But like I said before, there's been plenty of times as, you know, of struggle and sacrifice.
We don't have =a big house right now. We still have an apartment, because we are putting money into the business so that next year we can buy like a nice house or whatever.
And what was that turning point in terms of when the business went from "Oh, is this going work? Oh, this feels like a struggle" to "Oh, I just made a real sustainable income."
I don't remember exactly when it was, but I don't know how to describe it. I was talking to my friend Mariah a couple of weeks ago. We were at a conference in Las Vegas.
And we were really, really kind of talking about it. And it's so weird because at this point, I feel like we've both just figured out how to do it. And our systems, by the way, are not identical, because you'll learn as you're creating your own course business, you kind of model it to your strengths.
My strength is social media and building up excitement and doing this open and closed model. That may not be the best thing for you. Maybe you're better with Evergreen.
Maybe you're better with webinars or whatever it is.
But once you find that one thing, the system, which I think for me kind of happened, I think that happened for me this year, maybe even just a few months ago, where I was like "Oh, this is how I do this."
Now, it's very easy to predict what your income will be at every stage, because you just look at the size of your list and what your typical conversion rates are and the price of your product, and then that's it.
Yeah. It's so predictable.
Yeah, it is. People get afraid of having their own business, because it's risky or whatever.
But for me, I feel like this is actually more stable because the success of the business depends on me.
Whereas, if I'm working for someone else, they could fire me any time. For this, it's all on me. And I know that I'll work my ass off to keep myself employed, and so that's actually really stable.
I think it was James Altucher who wrote a really heart-wrenching piece about that, about how a lot of that middle class seems to be disappearing. And is it as stable to try and work your way up in a 9 to 5 as it is to take a risk to be an entrepreneur now when you're getting in early? Well, what do you think?
I mean I don't know. But I do think the other thing is like it's okay. Some people are like "Oh well, I don't wanna do that because I can't afford to quit my day job."
Then I was like "Okay, well, then don't quit your day job then. Just do this on the side until you build it up"
When I first started I had to put my daughter in daycare. We couldn't afford to put her in full time daycare. And so I had to give myself a super tight deadline in order to make X amount of money by this date.
Absolutely. And so for people who start out the side hustle, you know, they're getting going, they're still working, what are the first places you would invest in to make your time a little bit more...leverage your time, really. You know, is that a virtual assistant? Is that someone who just find...where would your first spends be? We've talked about it so much?
So the first person that I hired was a social media manager. And I outlined a lot of the strategy for her. And so I could've actually hired a VA to do that as well. But you needed that and investing in anything that automates.
So like Teachable completely automates the selling of your course, right? So you are literally making money while you sleep. The exact same thing for social media schedulers. I love to use Edgar, that's one of my favorites. I mean if you can't afford a VA for social media, get Edgar. I mean $50 a month right there, cheaper than a VA.
I love Edgar too to get into the nitty-gritty for a second. It increased our organic traffic, like 70%. We just took our old spreadsheet, uploaded it, and instantly we saw growth. We saw organic traffic. We saw a higher conversion rates. It just changed.
Yeah. And the thing is that people always look for short cuts. They're like "Well, I can do that for free if I use like a tool like Buffer. And then I go in every week and like reschedule."
You're gonna go in every week and reschedule all that? That's such a waste of time. Just have it all set up automatically so that you never have to think about it again.
I think as a course creator, you really have to conserve your brain power to focus on the things that are important. If you're sitting down to schedule tweets every week, there is something wrong with that. You're wasting time. You should not be doing that.
What about Instagram? I've seen a couple of things that automate your Instagram posts, but it's not a standard throughout the different schedulers. How do you do it?
I used to use HootSuite, and now I use Later, Later app. And so you can plan in like all of your posts in advance, and then you just get a little push notification. It's really easy for me to, like I said before, just like repurpose bits of my different blog posts or whatever, insert those in there.
I do have an Instagram photographer, so she does all my Instagram photography. And so each month, in Dropbox, she just dumps in all the new photos. And so then I have my social media manager, then schedule all of those photos into Later, and then I go through and write the copy.
Now, I could even outsource that part, outsource writing the copy. But I just prefer to do that on Instagram, because I think it is a little bit more personal.
It's you. It's your brand.
I definitely have my social media manager, you know, write Tweets that promote different blog posts and things like that. For Instagram, that part has to be a little bit more personal.
I don't wanna keep you too long. I'll ask you one more question. For anyone who is sitting there, who's wondering if this is worth it, if they can do it, if they're gonna be the exception and it's gonna fail, or if they have to get lucky to succeed, what is the one piece of advice that you would tell them?
It's not gonna happen overnight. Anyone that you think is an overnight success story, they've actually done so many other things that you probably just haven't heard about that have gotten them to that point. So really just keep your head down and just stay focused on your own stuff and just keep working and keep going. And like something's going to happen if you keep doing that.
You know, if you spend all your time like "Oh well, this person is making 10,000 a month, and I'm only making 1,000, and that makes me feel bad," that's like, again, wasted energy.
Just conserve all of your brain power and put it into your course, put it into your social media content, because it doesn't matter. Like who cares how much money someone else is...it doesn't matter to you, right? You're just starting out. So just keep your head down, focus on your own work, get help when you need it.
Oh, I love that. All right. So everyone that was Caitlin.