Abagail and Emylee of Think Creative Collective are our very first featured double Change Makers. The two went into business together when they realized they could go further being partners rather than competitors and have grown like crazy ever since.
You might know them for their beautiful pins on Pinterest, or their huge library of great content (they posted every day for months). The two have their partnership down to a science and run a successful business that includes a blog, online courses, a podcast, and more.
Here's what they have to say...
When did you decide to start a business online and how did you come together?
E: I’ll share why we came together, and Abagail can touch on why we love doing it online. We met in a Facebook group and decided to hop on a call. We loved each other and we were speaking to the same people and we decided at the end of the day to work together instead of be each other’s competitors because we were talking to the same people, we loved the same people, and we had the same goals.
So in a few short months we did what every normal human being does we decided to go into a business partnership and we completely and overhauled our entire business in less than a year.
A: I think why we do it online is kind of an accident to be totally honest. We both previously ran businesses that had an online component but it was definitely more on the side. We ran local based businesses that served local audiences and we decided to find our voice in the blogging world and we started writing first.
That’s before we knew we were going to shift to an online model, but we noticed we were getting an audience and getting people listening to us and growing that list of people. Not only an email list, but a social following and consistent blog traffic.
It just made sense over time to shift who we were selling to because there was more potential people to sell to in the online world than there was in our local based businesses.
So we shifted our business model from a service based, local business type to selling online courses so we could sell to anyone anywhere. It was probably the scariest and best decision we ever made in our business.
It was definitely one of a leap of faith because we didn’t know if it was going to work we didn’t know if we had enough of an audience or the right people or people who were going to buy. It was a little bit of a gamble but we took it and we’re glad we did.
You have so much content on your site - you publish more than any other bloggers I follow. How do you maintain that posting schedule?
E: It’s funny because it’s shifted from posting five days a week religiously for nine or ten months and then shifting to four days, three days, and ultimately taking a blogging hiatus and repurposing all of our old content and not writing anything for two or three months.
Which was an excellent decision because we were on the brink of burnout we were about to be done with blogging in general because it takes a lot of work. We also saw the return and knew it was a foundation builder for our business so we got back to blogging and started writing again. I think one of the best decisions that we made, especially when we were opening up more programs and growing our audience, was taking on guest contributors.
We have people coming on, two people coming on a monthly basis and a handful of other entrepreneurs just contributing when they have content. So this has taken a huge load off of our schedule, but it’s also opened up the variety of topics we can share with our audience. We are not the expert in everything, we will openly admit that, nor do we want to be, so we bring other people on who know things that we just don’t. The speak in a different way and share their stories in a different way. That has helped us truly write what we want to write and it helps us be happy about it and create really valuable posts all the time.
A: And I think the thing that is a bit of a caveat to that is, yes, this is working now, but I don't think we could have had people interested in writing for our blog if we hadn’t spent those ten months growing our traffic and seeing results.
Because now we have people wanting to contribute, they want a piece of that pie, whereas if we had opened it from the beginning I don’t necessarily think they would have seen the value. But we wrote five days a week super consistently and it was mostly about dedication and determination to prove everyone else wrong. They said, “you can’t write that much” or “you don’t have enough content” and I was like, “Heck yes I do, what are you talking about?”
And then obviously it made it so much easier, Emily started guest contributing before we decided to be business partners and it was kind of a trial run for our audience. We were seeing if we could add another voice or if it would confuse everyone or if they’d be excited.
Everyone loved Emylee and it just grew from there and now it’s our people. I think it’s a mesh of people from the beginning and a bunch of new people, and that’s because we tried that swap of knowledge. She was writing two days a week, and then we flip flopped, and it was three and then two and then we switched.
That way we didn’t have to write tons of stuff ourselves, because doing it five days a week one person is a lot of work.
What are your individual strengths and how do you play off of each other in your business?
E: I definitely think we balance each other out, that’s for sure. There are very clear qualities that I think everyone can see in us. There are not a ton that are very so cut and dry as designing for Abagail and photography for myself.
Other than those two tasks, we both have a hand in every single thing that goes out the door. At the beginning, we were proof reading each other’s blog posts, or content, or opt-ins, or outlines or whatever.
We would each get a say in course creation for our audience because that was something both of our names were attached to.
At this point, we’ve fallen into roles. Me, writing a lot of content. Abagail designing, putting the final organization tweaks to things, setting up a lot of the systems because that’s what she’s really good at.
I think we’ve kind of lucked out and fallen into those roles naturally and been able to see that in each other and don’t feel ourselves being forced into a box of something we’re not good at.
A: There are some things that Emylee is just faster at. She can set up a webinar in 15 minutes. It’s not that I can’t do it, but it’d take me a lot longer. A: because I haven’t done it start to finish, and B: because I’m out of practice.
So why go through the struggle that is going to take me so much longer, when if she does it it’s going to get done quickly and efficiently. And vice versa. There are some things that Emylee just won’t touch and that’s fine.
I don’t think it was ever an explicit, “who is going to take on what role” kind of conversation, not that some people don’t need to have that conversation. Some people need that, but Emylee is in my head, she can read my mind 99% of the time so I don’t need to have a lot of verbal communication with her. What she doesn’t understand through my head, we do obviously have meetings and communicate things and talk about it, but it’s a lot of delegation and communication and I think Trello is what holds it all together.
We keep track of who is doing what and when and can communicate well through our project management system.
That leads me to my next question: are there any other tools you use to keep yourselves organized in your business?
A: There are a lot of tools and resources that we use, but Trello has been such a game changer in our business. For us, as a partnership, it allows us to see what the other person is working on almost every minute and every hour of the day.
So we don’t have to be like, “What are you doing right now?” because we used to and it felt a little like, “What are you doing right now? Are you doing anything?” when we were literally just checking in with the other person.
Now we can see that all laid out inside of Trello. We can brainstorm better there, and plan for the future better. We can also have team members in there and they can take over their role and we can see exactly where they are every step of the process as well.
Tremendously has been the biggest game changer to our productivity and growing our team and just getting stuff done.
A: It led us to create our most popular course ever which is about using this program. Trelloforbusiness.com was specifically developed to help people get their whole systems organized and creating a plan that is very implementable.
For the other things, there are a lot of systems we use to automate. They are just working in a very consistent manner without us having to touch them. We outline most of those in one of our brand new free courses which is very cool. Yourbizonautopilot.com we walk you through our favorite hacks and tips and tricks for systems that we use every day in our business, a lot of which have no touch. We put them to work once and they go to work for us or maybe our VA takes care of it and we walk you through it.
E: Our big thing at the end of the day, even outside of Trello, if you can find a way to automate something and everything in your business, try and find those tiny details so you’re not there every second of the day.
You might save 30 seconds a day or 2 minutes a day, but those add up if you’re doing five or ten of those tasks every single day. That’s especially what Your Biz on Autopilot is. It finds those holes and creates the systems for you.
What did your course creation process look like?
A: It depends on what course we’re talking about. In the beginning, it was a lot more convoluted, drawn out, and confusing. We’ve created enough courses at this point that it’s a pretty easy process where we can go from idea to selling in a little less than 30 days.
We could fast forward that and get it out in two weeks, but that would be stressful and a lot of things would have to happen.
E: But we’ve done it!
A: We’ve done it, it’s possible, but I don’t suggest it for the normal human beings out there. But now it’s all about creating an outline and we have a very specific process we go through that utilizes Trello to it’s best ability where we can outline every single task that is required to finish creating that course. And then we talk through the outline and what we want the course to look like, what content we want to cover, then outline slides. I create the slides, Emylee will take photographs for the sales page, she’ll write the sales page.
We’ve definitely delegated tasks, and we know where our roles are. Setting due dates for everything is so crucially important for getting it accomplished. I just finished writing a blog post about this specific thing.
E: After making a handful and seeing what the same things we were doing every time, especially after moving to Teachable, we were able to create the process. We saw what the same steps were every time no matter what we were making.
We copy that process over for every single course we’re making, there might be new steps in the process depending on what we’re making, but if we’re following that same framework every time that’s what helps get it out faster.
A: It’s like 36 initial tasks that we outline and set dates for and then there are definitely things that come into play after that. Those initial 36 things all have to happen on a very strict schedule to bring it all together.
What are your big plans for the future?
A: We have several awesome courses launching in 2017, our first course that is coming out of the gate is “Your Follow Through Method” and it’s all about goal setting and implementation and really getting those goals accomplished so they’re not just something you hope to do some day, but something you can say, “I did it, and I accomplished it, and here’s how I got it done.”
E: We also have a course all about blogging. “Blogging with Intention” is coming out later in 2017 all about processes and workflows so you can be a content creation machine like we were without going crazy.
We just launched our new podcast, the strategy hour podcast, we are very excited about that!
We have a new experience coming out on our website in a few weeks, it’s the dashboard of all dashboards. It’s like bingeing for creative entrepreneurs. You’ll have an all new way to find content a lot easier, and related content all kind of lumped in one. We’re very excited to provide that experience for people.
Any advice for other online entrepreneurs getting their start?
A: My piece of advice is don’t think that your goals are out of reach. I used to go about life thinking these things I wanted to accomplish were things that would never happen in my lifetime and that they weren’t actually possible and that they only happened to other people. Now I just have a completely different mindset about life. I can reach those financial milestones, if I want to write a book, I can write a book. If I want to launch a course, I can launch a course. If I want to run a million dollar business, it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.
I think we talk ourselves into this hole of, we are only capable of so much. But you have so much more potential than you let yourself believe and I just want to give you a big group hug and say, “You can do this.” So whatever your dreams are, just map them out and strive towards them and they will happen eventually.
E: My piece to that is just do it. You cannot reach those goals and those dreams until you start putting things out there. The first program we made, the first course I sold, I hadn’t even created before I sold it.
We hosted webinars when we didn’t know what we were doing, we started a membership site when we didn’t know what we were doing. We learn something and turn around and teach it. There is something that you know that you can put out there. Whether it’s a course, or a blog post, or a mastermind, or whatever. Just do it. You will learn so much by putting it out there that you can tweak that process and make it better and better and better, just do that thing.