Jenna Soard of You Can Brand is a design fanatic, branding expert and recently inspired blogger with an impressive list of credentials. From being a branding professor at the University level to the senior graphic designer at Nike, it's safe to say that Jenna knows a thing or two about branding.
In addition to being a kick-butt brand designer, Jenna is also an accomplished course creator. Jenna makes launching a course look easy - with a history of launching while traveling around Europe. #Goals.
Here's what she has to say...
Hi, Teachable Tribe. It's Morgan from Teachable. I'm here with Jenna Soard of You Can Brand, and we are going to ask her a few questions about her and her business. Hi, Jenna.
Jenna: Hey. Thanks for having me. I'm super-excited to be here.
Oh, absolutely. Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Jenna: Yeah. So again, my name is Jenna Soard. I'm from youcanbrand.com, and I am a branding and design expert. I am also a former university professor. I used to teach at the University of Oregon, go Ducks, and I was a former designer at Nike, working on Nike Tennis as a Senior Graphic Designer. Now, I teach entrepreneurs all over the world how to design their own business as a brand, and I just recently added to my portfolio of things that I do, teaching people how to have courses online. I bet you can guess what my favorite platform is.
Morgan: Amazing. So your background is so impressive. I encourage everyone who's watching this to go even just tread her About Me. It's so incredible. Can you tell us a bit about how you decided you wanted to create your own business?
Jenna: Yeah. So I decided that I wanted to create my own business way back in high school, actually. It's so funny that you asked this question, because I was just thinking about this today, about how at such a young age, I was at the age of like 16, that I started my first licensed business. I mean, even before that, like in third grade, I was selling things on the playground. So I think people can be naturally inclined to want to have businesses. But I also think it's something that you can be trained in and you can fall in love with too.
So for me, it was a natural thing, and I think it's because I came from a family of entrepreneurs. My mom is an entrepreneur, my dad is one, both grandparents on both sides. So I never really experienced anybody working a normal job. When it came time for me to work a normal job in high school, I think I worked at Burger King my first job, and Baskin-Robbins, and I worked at a car dealership and I was doing all these things, I really realized right away that having somebody tell me that I could only make something per hour didn't motivate me to want to work harder. It made me feel like I was in jail.
So I figured out right away that, why would I want to give my time and energy to a business, when if I could have my own business that I got to decide how much money I was going to make? I got to decide if I was going to have a raise. The harder I worked, the more money I made and that never happened in any employment job I ever... I don't think I've ever gotten a raise or a promotion, because I don't know how to be an employee at all. But I give myself raises all the time.
So I definitely think that becoming your own boss is one of the best things you can do and there's no time that's too late to do it. Like if you've been working for Corporate America for the past 10, 20 years, or whatever, just note that you can actually start to do things right now to become an entrepreneur, and I highly recommend doing it.
I love that so much. I feel like a lot of people have kind of that limited mindset, where they're afraid to get started or they've got something holding them back. But when in reality they can just go off and do it, and be super-successful. That's what incredible about online entrepreneurship.
Jenna: Yeah. For sure. I totally think that's the case. It's just been such a magical journey. I think that when you work for yourself, because you are the boss, you want to impress yourself. Impressing somebody else is like, "Who cares?" But you're like, "Wow." You get into these contests with yourself like, "Okay. I've gone this far. How much further can I go, or how can I take things to the next level?" So what I've discovered, I've never experienced anything that's more satisfying. It's amazing.
That sounds amazing. So with that said, what's your favorite part about being your own boss?
Jenna: Well, most recently, I just came back from a two-month trip to Europe where I actually was launching my signature program, and this is... Okay. So keep in mind, I've been in this particular business for two years and it was quite the trek to get here. I don't expect anybody to be able to do this part overnight. But I was really diligent about wanting to have a freedom-based lifestyle, and I'm really interested in keeping things super-simple.
So I think what's awesome about this is that what I'm about ready to tell you, I did without any assistance and I didn't do it with... Well, I maybe did have a Facebook Ads person to help, and I did have a launch manager to help. But I had done a very similar launch, about six months prior, for my signature program while traveling Europe, and both ways I had super-successful launches.
So it was kind of interesting, actually. Because when I look at getting the extra help, I actually made about the same amount of money when you break down the costs or whatever for both. But my first launch I had for my signature program while I was traveling Europe happened in November, and it was a $64,000 launch. It was double the size of the biggest launch I had had in two years before that, and I thought to myself, "Well, why is that happening."
Then, it occurred to me that in all other times in my business I had been kind of panicky about making money and about launching. I decided that I was going to do this while on vacation and kind of think of launching as something I was going to do in the evenings, and I was going to have fun all day, a launch in the evening, and have no attachment to the results. I just wanted to make sure that I could pay for my trip. That was my only goal.
When I had my biggest launch ever, I was like, "Okay. I'm on to something here." Part of that came from having an amazing system like Teachable, because Teachable integrates with ConvertKit, and ConvertKit and Teachable work beautifully together. I had gone from Infusionsoft and doing things on WordPress and pulling my hair out, and not able to do things. So I really fell in love with travel launching.
Then, most recently, I had my second biggest launch ever at $103,000 while I was traveling Europe for two months, and it was another totally care-free launch. All the work was kind of done, because I had launched it before. I was just showing up for webinars and facilitating students a couple times a week in office hours for the course. It's been an absolute dream, because I don't ever feel stressed out anymore, which is amazing.
That is amazing. That sounds like the most fun launch I've ever heard, traveling around Europe, launching a course. I love that so much. So what did your process look like? How did you get to courses for your business, and how'd you create them? What did that process look like for you?
Yeah. So it actually started way back, when I was working as a professional designer. I realized that I really disliked the disconnect between the client and the designer. It was like we were both trying to read each other's minds. Trying to read the client's mind to figure out what they want. They're trying to communicate what they want, but they're telling me all the things that are not translating.
Part of the reason why this happens is that when we're talking about a visual process, verbally communicating doesn't really work. What I might consider luxury, somebody else might consider not luxury, or vice versa. So when somebody says, "Yeah. Well, [inaudible 00:07:55] luxury," there could be a million interpretations of that. So I really was wondering, how can I get clients and designers to be on the same page. So that was kind of the seed of my course developing.
Then, the second thing that I discovered was that nobody understands what you want more than you do. If I could empower a client to be able to actually do some of the preliminary design work, such like putting together mood boards or finding colors and fonts that they liked based on a guided process that actually would get them to think like a designer, that they could either design for themselves, or they could hire a designer and get what they wanted. That was kind of the seed of the first signature program. It's been really successful.
Check out Jenna's Biz and Brand Roadmap to start learning how to create a cohesive brand and biz yourself!
Very cool. It's actually a really cool backstory how you were able to get everyone on the same page. I love that. So on kind of changing in a different direction, what's been the biggest struggle you've had in creating and maintaining your own business, and how did you overcome it?
I would say, it's mostly understanding how pieces fit together. I mean, I think any new business person, when they look at the amount of technology that we have to learn... [inaudible 00:09:09] LeadPages and ConvertKit, and Teachable, and [inaudible 00:09:14] Illustrator, and all of these different things, and then adding onto it social media platforms like Meet Edgar. How does this all work, and how do you turn your website into a lead generation machine? I think that for people who are service-based businesses that are selling to email lists, that is like the number one struggle.
I think that it has taken improvements in technology. It's taken trends being developed with millions of data points of figuring out what works and what doesn't. Keeping up on the trends, and creating a system of from a lead turning into a student or customer and maintaining and growing that is probably the biggest struggle, for sure.
Yeah. There is so much that goes into it. It's so impressive when people are doing it, and doing it well. You mentioned a bunch of different programs that you use, and I heard Meet Edgar is in there. We love that for automation. Do you have any tips for automating your business, so it can kind of, parts of it, run in the background?
Yeah. So one of the biggest benefits of working with Teachable and having it integrate into ConvertKit was how fast things can go. When you actually connect those two things and somebody purchases from Teachable, and how it instantly gives them access to the course, and they instantly get an automated email, I used to do all that stuff manually. So I think that having that piece automated allowed me to be able to do it while I was traveling, because I didn't have to worry about somebody waiting for 15 minutes to 5 hours before they were going to get access to the course. So that was a really big one.
I would say automation through ConvertKit just in general, with having kind of automated courses when you can have somebody opt in, and have a nurture sequence where you welcome them to your community. And they're getting valuable content from you over a month, or however long you set it up for, without having to manually have to think about broadcasting to an entire audience all the time. I mean, I think that automation is really good.
Then, with webinar platforms, I've been all over the place with them and some of them are more automated than others. I love the automation of Webinar GM Studio, but I disliked the amount of tech flaws with it. Now, I'm on a system, I use Zoom for my webinars. Actually, I use Zoom Webinar, which is a service that Zoom has. I love that it only takes me one minute to set up a webinar or less, but I dislike the fact that they don't have any automation setup with it. So I have to do all that manually in ConvertKit, which is totally fine.
So I think that technology is just constantly improving. One of the things that I love about Zoom in particular, which is the platform you and I are talking about right now, is that I could be in Europe where the internet would be kind of terrible, and I would still be able to reach huge webinars of people without losing quality and/or sound, or having them get kicked out. So I think that as time goes on, all that stuff adds to the quality and the credibility of your brand, for sure.
That's awesome. I love hearing about different ways you can automate your business and make things run more smoothly. Because I know it can be very overwhelming when you're first getting started, and there's so many different things coming at you. So your business right now is going awesome, doing great things. I want to know a bit about some plans you might have for the future.
Well, thank you for asking that question. It's so funny that you mention this, because that's why I'm in New York right now. I'm at a hotel, as you guys can see. I was a part of the James Wedmore Mastermind. I don't know if you know who he is, but he's a big person in the internet marketing world for videos, and he has a Mastermind. So I was here planning the next year of my business.
One of the things that I discovered was the importance of being the CEO of my business. A lot of times, people will be working in their businesses but not on their businesses, and they'll be doing tasks that are really like $10 an hour, or $20 an hour, or $100 an hour jobs. When, if you're going to be the CEO of your company, you really need to be hiring managers, not assistants. Because assistants, you have to train and manage, and managers will make sure things get done. So I think that just a reformatting of my business and how I'm dealing with certain aspects of it.
Like instead of me learning Facebook Ads, now I'm getting a Facebook Ads person who's an expert in that to do everything so that I don't have to spend 100 hours trying to learn Facebook Ads. I think that that's the biggest internal changes that are happening in the future. But the second thing, in terms of products that I'm developing, I have two signature courses. One is to learn design, and one is to learn how to create your own courses.
The one that I did on how to create your own courses is called the Course Launcher. When I developed and launched that program in April, that was $127,000 launch. That was the biggest launch I've ever had. It was the easiest launch I've ever had. I discovered that the reason... I didn't know that this was going to happen. I expected because I beta tested it that students would have success with it. But when they actually took it, I want to say out of the over 100 people that joined, 60% of them launched their courses within three weeks and I had never seen this sort of results before.
So I asked myself, "Well, why is this happening more so than this other program I've been running for two years?" The result that I came up with was that James Wedmore had taught me about something in regards to making things so step-by-step that there's no room for failure. That you don't actually allow your students to make very many decisions. You actually have them go through the process, and through the process they learn how to do something, and then they can go beyond that later.
So I did that with this course. It was the least amount of videos I'd ever done, it was the highest success rate I had ever had, and the students were beyond ecstatic. For some reason, they didn't need me and it was so weird because I was so used to hand-holding with my other programs. Doing complicated things like Photoshop and Illustrator, the learning curve is much harder with the design program.
So what I learned from doing this Mastermind is that now I've got the Course Launcher, that's the super-successful course, and I've got Launch Your Brand, which is very successful, but with a huge learning curve because of these difficult programs. So I decided to come up with a more automated step-by-step version of my design program so that I can actually step into the flow and breathe, and not be stressed out about that more time-intensive program.
So what I'm working on over the next 10 days in this hotel room is I'm turning my design program into a very step-by-step, anybody could do it, and it's really addressing one part of my target market that I was kind of ignoring. Which is my design program usually was going for the aspiring designer, but I wasn't addressing the fact that there was get-it-done entrepreneurs that were desperately seeking my brand guidance, but they didn't want to learn Photoshop and Illustrator. So that's what I'm working on, a more automated design program.
That sounds super-exciting. I know so many people have trouble with figuring out design and all of that. I'm really exciting to hear about how that goes for you too.
Yeah, I am too. It's going to be super-fun.
Yeah. That sounds like it. That's awesome. I won't keep you too long but before you go, I just want to know if you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who might want to be where you are six months, a year, two years from now.
Well, the first thing I would say is definitely choose a topic to teach or a business area to teach that you're really passionate about, that you could never get sick of. Because you're going to be working in this topic and with these potential clients for hopefully a really long time. Hopefully, you want to keep working with them. Some of the mistakes that I see is people will try to chase where the money is and not go with where their true passion is. Then, it comes across as not being very authentic when they're out working in their business. They get super burned out, because it's not filling their cup up.
So I'd definitely start with that. The second thing is if you can find a way to take your lifelong expertise or your own success in something, and turn that into a program or a business. That's going to be better than starting with just something you're interested in, but you don't have a lot of expertise in, because it takes so long to become an expert. It takes hundreds of hours. So if you already have some business foundations in your corporate job or with a hobby you've been doing for 20 years, you're going to have some foundational things that people want to learn from you about what your expertise is in that particular skill.
Now, if you consider yourself not an expert at anything, then of course start with something that you absolutely love. But you want it to be something so amazing that you could just study it for 100 hours a week and be totally fulfilled. [inaudible 00:18:30]
That's great advice. That's awesome. Okay, everyone. That was Jenna. She's great. Go check her out. Thank you, Jenna, for your time.