Ep. 5: Full-time blogging (with Lauren McManus of Create and Go)
When Lauren and her business partner Alex Nerney first started blogging, they quickly realized that their initial product wasn’t selling because, well, no one wanted it. They hadn’t figured out who their customers were yet, and for the first six months, they didn’t earn a dime. In this episode, Lauren shares how they turned things around in their second attempt. They discovered the best way to drive traffic to their blog and learned that their customers weren’t who they expected. By 2019, they’ve grown their online business into two blogs—Avocadu & Create and Go. In combination, they earns six figures a month while Lauren travels the world.
Today’s guest: Lauren McManus, Create and Go
“It’s so important to tell your story and to be a part of your content and what you teach, but you have to be so open to the fact that you could be teaching people who are nothing like you.”
Lauren McManus is a former CPA turned blogger, and she and her business partner Alex Nerney run two successful blogs together. Their first blog, Avocadu, is a health and wellness blog that teaches women how to lose weight. After earning six figures with that blog in their first year, they started Create and Go, where they teach others how to start and monetize their own blogs.
What is Create and Go?
Create and Go is a platform that teaches you how to build an online business that can support you, retire you, and enable you to live the life that you desire.
Where to find Lauren
Read the full transcript below.
Lauren McManus: I was an accountant. I didn’t know anything about Internet marketing or any of this stuff or about writing content. I thought that I hated it, but over time, as I became more passionate about growing my business, I learned how to do all that stuff too. And so everything can be learned. You just have to take the right steps, at the right time, and focus pretty hard on on all the different aspects of your business. But learning how to do each one intimately, whether you have a business partner or not, I think that’s the only way to really be able to grow.
Melissa Guller: After their first blog flopped, Lauren McManus and her business partner Alex Nerney quickly realized that their initial product wasn’t selling because well, no one wanted it. They hadn’t figured out who their customers were yet, and for the first six months, they didn’t earn a dime. But today, Lauren is here to share how they turned things around in their second attempt. They went back to the drawing board and they figured out the number one way to drive traffic to their blog. They learned that their customers weren’t who they expected. And by 2019, they’ve grown their online business into two successful blogs that earn well over six figures a month while Lauren travels the world. Learn how she does it on today’s episode of Everything is Teachable.
Announcer: Welcome to Everything is Teachable, the podcast that takes you behind the scenes to learn how everyday creators have transformed their skills and passions into online courses and businesses. To introduce this week’s episode, here’s your host, Melissa Guller.
Melissa Guller: Lauren is a former CPA turned blogger and she and her business partner Alex Nerney run two successful blogs together. Their first blog, Avocadu, is a health and wellness blog that teaches women how to lose weight. After earning six figures with that blog in their first year, they started Create and Go where they teach others how to start and monetize their own blogs. Hey Lauren, welcome to the podcast. Hey Melissa. Thanks so much
Lauren McManus: having me. I’m so excited to be here. Can’t wait to chat. I know we’re catching you just for the briefest moments between your travel. So I’m happy that the timing worked out for us. And I thought to kick things off, we could just go kind of all the way back to the start and maybe you could tell us, you know, how did you get into blogging in the first place? Yeah, of course. So I, I had a crazy kind of story, but probably one that a lot of bloggers I think could, could really relate to ’em because I was working your typical nine to five. I was an accountant, a tax accountant at the time. And by the point that I quit my job, and just in those first few months I had just gotten my CPA license. I was, I was definitely set on, I’m climbing the corporate ladder, but at the time my business partner, Alex Nerney, he was a personal trainer and he actually didn’t have kind of your traditional route.
Lauren McManus: He was a personal trainer since college and just kind of never wanted to do the nine to five. And He’d also sold his first ebook out of college. So he had all these ideas right. And I was like, great, cool for you. I support you. But yeah, I just, I was, I was pretty set in my life. Um, and he wanted to start a health and fitness website because, you know, he was already teaching people how to do it in real life, but he very much wanted a passive income. And I honestly just kind of got into it myself by just helping him work on like little things. Like I would watch him struggling with wordpress and trying to make images look good on his website and you know, it’s Kinda like, Hey, can I, can I help with that? Like if you just move that over a little bit, um, you know, cause I had that like type a personality and that’s honestly the only way that I really kind of got into it.
Lauren McManus: I was a Vegan for two years, so I was super into health and fitness and all that stuff. Like we definitely, that was a passion that we shared and uh, I really just kinda started helping him a little bit. And, yeah, that’s how, that’s how our first blog started. It was just nights and weekends and we didn’t really know what we were doing at the time, other than we had something that we were passionate about and we wanted to teach others how to do it. And we started kind of creating content and just building this first blog and our first attempt kind of failed. Um, but it, it evolved over that first year and in the first six months or so, uh, we still weren’t making a done, but we knew by that point we had a little bit of traffic and we, we were so passionate about it and we knew that this is something that we wanted to do and we had saved up enough money that we, we quit our jobs.
Lauren McManus: Um, it, it was about, I think a few weeks after my CPA license actually came in the mail. I had just gotten licensed and, and, and we quit because we said, you know what? This is, this is important and we need all of our time to spend on it. And we quit our jobs and we moved to Seattle because Alex, his dad had an empty house up there at the time and yeah, every hour, every hour was spent on this blog. And within the first month we had turned our first profit and it really just spiraled from there. We were able to double our income for the first five months of blogging full time. So in the early days, right when you were quitting, you said you hadn’t yet made a dime? No, no, we hadn’t. At that point we had begun to drive some Pinterest traffic, so we had just begun to build our email list and get a little bit of traffic and uh, you know, I don’t know if, to be honest, we, we had, uh, we had created a product that didn’t work, that didn’t sell at all.
Lauren McManus: So we kind of went back to the books at that point, focused on traffic, on our email list first. So at that point we hadn’t made any money whatsoever. We just, we just had people that were somewhat interested in our content. And so I think just having the real like real people there, even though they’re not buying from you yet, but having people actually reading your content and signing up for an email list that that was enough to let us know that like, okay, we have something. You know, we just need to figure out how to monetize it.
Melissa Guller: That’s a really great point. That early readership and having people come back to your site, like real humans who are enjoying what you do, that is a really good sign that you have something valuable or that they like hearing from you. And so even though you weren’t selling, like you said, at least you had a tiny hint that maybe you are onto something.
Lauren McManus: Yeah. Yeah. I think there’s so many people that don’t even get to that point, right? They create a bunch of content and they have a blog, but they aren’t able to create an email list or get people to sign up for it. So if you have people there like you, you have something, you just need to figure out how to translate that, you know, into. Yeah. And just something that will make you money, you know, whether that’s a course or, or you know, so put ads up in their blog, like there’s so many different, there’s different ways to monetize, but like the most important thing is having people there.
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] and once you had those early, early people there, what was the first way that you started earning money?
Lauren McManus: The very first way. So just to like back it up. The first, uh, the first thing that we, we did try to create our own product. It wasn’t quite a course, it was more of like an online diet program, an ebook essentially. And we created that on the very, this very first blog that we had that ended up kind of failing. And the problem was at that point we didn’t have readers, we had just barely begun to start driving traffic and, you know, trying to create an email list. But we, we start, we create a product kind of right off the bat. And we essentially didn’t know who our target audience was or what, what they’re interested in. We didn’t know anything about them. And we, I guess we assumed we created products for what we believed people would want. Right? Cause we were at the time we were 25 and Dallas and I’m young and trying to be healthy and that was who we thought we were talking to.
Lauren McManus: Right? So that ended up, we created a products but at the time to build it and nobody bought it. Um, and so that was kind of what ended up happening with this very first blog. And the first, this is the first two, three months of, of us blogging while we were still working full time jobs and we ended up scrapping that. And then we said we were not going to spend all this time until, until we have those first year or years until we can figure out who they are and what they want. And so that’s kind of what happened with the second blog, that Avocadu that we still run today. We started getting the readers and what we first did to monetize as we started out with affiliate marketing. So we sold affiliate products to our audience rather than creating our own, because we didn’t want to take the risk just yet until we knew a little bit more about our audience and what they’re interested in.
Lauren McManus: So we’d started out actually just with simple Amazon affiliate links across our site. Uh, you know, we made a, we made maybe a hundred bucks or so with that. Uh, but we quickly realized that that wasn’t going to make us a ton of money anytime soon. You know, it was gonna be more of like a supplement, a supplementary way to make some income. So yeah, we found a couple of a, a few affiliate products that we thought matched our audience and we tried on a few and um, you know, a few of them didn’t sell too well, but a couple of them did. And that’s what first let us know kind of what our audience was interested in. You know, we tried out recipes and workout programs and a weight loss program and a yoga program and it turned out that weight loss and yoga were kind of what people were most interested in.
Lauren McManus: And, yeah. And so once we had that interest, we thought, okay, you know what, this is what we need to create products around. This is what our audience is the most interested in. And not only that, but through all this trial and error during this process of building an email list and starting with traffic first we learned that our audience was not made up of people like us who are 25 and young and just trying to kind of stay fit. They were actually 40 year old women who had children and had tried tons of different diets in their lifetime. And you know, we were able to create this, this target customer based on the feedback that we were getting in our content and our email list. And this helped us tremendously when we were ready to actually create that product. Yeah. I’m really curious maybe for people who are on the more beginner end of their creating process, how did you figure out who your customers were?
Lauren McManus: So yeah, I love, I love this question cause it’s uh, it’s just so it’s one of my favorite things. So email marketing, the building, the email list was, was monumental. It was, it was the reason why, uh, starting out with that was the reason why we’re able to get success that quickly focusing on traffic and then turning that traffic into subscribers because that is where all of the, of the testing for all this, all these different ways to monetize. We tried a few different things that didn’t work, but having an email list and having the people there, the number one thing that we teach our blogging students to do in our courses is to with that is to start building that relationship. But especially just from that very first email, right? That first email that they get when someone opts into your list, just asking a simple question at the bottom like, hey, how are you?
Lauren McManus: What’s, what’s the number one thing that you’re struggling with when it comes to, you know, insert your niche problem, you know, there. So for us it was, what’s the number one thing that you are struggling with it when it comes to losing weight? You know, let us know, like we’d love to hear from you. And just asking that simple question at the bottom of our email list, we got just a flood of responses constantly and it wasn’t just like, Hey, I don’t have time to go to the gym. It was, hey, I am 40 years old. I have two children, I’ve tried five different diets this year. Nothing is working. I have this sickness or this illness. It was people wanted to tell us their story. They want, they wanted help and they want, they want it to be heard. And from all these responses we were able to pick up a lot of commonalities between, between all these people and yeah, get an idea of who exactly we were talking to in what they wanted help with. And that helps everything, right? It helps you create a course or a product for these people, but also know how to market that course to those people because you know exactly what they’re struggling with.
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] and like you said before, it wasn’t who you thought. It wasn’t people who were exactly like you and Alex. And so I imagine if you hadn’t done that, done something so simple as asking people what they needed help with. I mean, who knows how stuck you could have been for how long?
Lauren McManus: Yeah, I think, I think as content creators, we, we tend to project ourselves in, in everything, right? And, and it’s so important to tell your story and to be a part of your content and what you teach, but you have to, you have to be so open to the fact that you’re teaching. You could be teaching people that are nothing like you. You know, Alex and I could’ve stuck with this target market of 25 year olds, um, you know, in the phase of life that we had been in. But what ended up happening is that we started driving traffic on Pinterest and we created different types of content just to see how people responded to it and what would become most popular. And what ended up happening partly am sure because of the demographic on Pinterest too. As we ended up with this, this, uh, audience of people reading our content that were completely different than what we had originally sought out.
Lauren McManus: And you can choose to remain only true to those people that you want to reach, but you could have a much harder time monetizing if you end up with a totally different market that wants something different. And so we were open to that changing, you know, we were interested in uh, yes, helping people but, but growing an online business, you know, and then one that makes some money. So we did follow where that interest was and it ended up being something completely different than we had originally thought. But it has opened the doors to everything that we’ve achieved since
Melissa Guller: I think that’s so important and maybe not said enough about online business. You said you have to be open to changing. I think a lot of people see fully fledged online businesses and assume that they’ve always been that way and that’s always how they were intended to be. But I think a lot of them started off much differently and are evolving constantly over time. Probably in ways that the creator couldn’t have imagined at first. Like you and Alex probably couldn’t have imagined what you are working on today. Back when you first started that initial blog.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, for sure. I know Alex had always had a hope, I guess I would say maybe a dream of getting into Internet marketing in some way because he had, because he had, he had sold that first ebook out of college. But yeah, it was more of just like, you know, we started with health and fitness cause it was what we knew. Right. We both, we both had a business in a business, a background in business because I have an accounting, I was an accounting major and then Alex was also a business major in college. So we had that background already and, and, and I think that that was something that was a bit unexpected too because what ended up happening is as we grew this health and fitness blog, I thought that I was his person that was not creative at all. Right. Alex is more of our ideas and creativity.
Lauren McManus: Like he started off doing all of the writing for our email list and our first blog. And now I actually do all of the writing for everything. And uh, and I, and I, I do graphic design now and I kind of came into and came into this and what we both found too is that when we were growing the health and wellness blog, Avocadu, we both, the part that we loved the most was not teaching people how to lose weight. It was, it was the business side of it. It was increasing our sales and conversions. And, you know, if we could make this little tweak on our sales page, our sales would immediately go up. Or if we were able to make this change with our content, our traffic would go up and then our sales would go up. So all that stuff is what really we were, we, we loved the internal parts of it. And that’s kind of how creating goes started as well as I teaching other people those strategies that we learned to grow our business. Um, and yeah, it just, it all just kind of evolved over time. It’s really, it’s really crazy.
Melissa Guller: Yeah. It is a little crazy to think about online business at all. Sometimes. Like the fact that you guys started a blog and then it’s grown out into a couple that we’ll talk a little bit about. I mean, stuff like this didn’t really happen even a decade ago, which is why I think it’s so important to learn more about how people like you and Alex got into this world of blogging, which by the way can actually make money if you know what you’re doing. Because I think that’s a pretty big misconception that Oh, blogging can’t possibly earn money.
Lauren McManus: Yeah. I think people, they just don’t really understand it. Um, it’s just like, oh, so you just like put content out there and it’s like I run a business like it’s not like, and there’s a lot of people who don’t treat their blog like a business and those are a lot of the people that, that struggle to really grow it and to make money from it. But we try to encourage people from the, from the very beginning to treat your blog like a business. We, we started out, we invested quite a bit in the beginning. Um, and I don’t think that everyone has to do that and I think it’s important that you invest money in the right things. And what happened with Alex and I is that we started a health and fitness website and we didn’t really know that we were bloggers at the beginning or really we hadn’t identified with that term yet because we hadn’t really found anyone that was doing it like we wanted to do it or we didn’t really know what we’re doing.
Lauren McManus: Right. We just wanted to make money online. So we researched everything from webinars to launches. We took courses on things that we didn’t need at the time because we hadn’t quite identified as bloggers yet. But the important thing though is that we did invest money. We, we invest money in, in courses to learn more about different ways of monetizing. And we didn’t hung out free software and free information, you know, all hours of the day. Like we spent money on quality information and treating our blog like a business from day one. Like, that’s the reason why we were able to grow so quickly in the moment that we did make any money, we were able to immediately double it because of all that, all that investment that we had made up front. And so yeah, I just, I think it’s really important for people when they’re getting started to find a person or two or a company or two that they really believe in and that’s already doing it successfully and to invest, invest a little bit into learning from that person. Um, because if you try to do it on your own or based on free information, you know, it will end up taking you a lot longer.
Melissa Guller: Yeah, I think that’s great advice. I mean, I think that’s why people buy online courses at all. Right? There’s this big question, oh, couldn’t I learn this for free? Couldn’t I just Google it? But the amount of time it’ll take, like you said, to sift through so many different options and figure out what works and what doesn’t. I mean that’s so much time wasted when you could have spent money and invested in yourself to learn from somebody who really knows what they’re talking about. So that’s what people want. They want a shortcut to an outcome.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, for sure. Creators always reserve their best information, the information people that pay for it because for Alex and I, we invested quite a bit of money at it at the beginning to learn all this stuff. So you know, for us, selling our courses now on everything that we’ve learned, like that’s our way of getting that money in that time back that we invested into our business. You know, I always believe that you, you can still get there with free information, but it’s going to take you a lot longer and you’ll get there a lot faster. Paying for this, for the strategies that the people are charging for
Melissa Guller: And speaking actually of all the strategies that you and Alex had learned, I know we’ve mentioned Avocadu and how that was your first successful site that you grew. I’m curious, at what point did you come up with the idea to start creating go and then maybe we can start talking about that a bit.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, for sure. So we ran the health and wellness bog Avocadu for a year and we took that for, you know, from zero to six figures in a first year because once we, once we got to figure it out, we were, we were really moving pretty quickly. And creating go was, yeah, it started at the time we had just were, we had just taken our first international trip, so we were kind of head head down in our business for the first year. And then we decided to take our first trip to Nicaragua with a group called the Wifi tribe, which is the group that I still travel with today. And we know we were traveling and we were like, oh, this is this, this life is just crazy. We can’t believe that we are in Nicaragua right now working on this health and wellness blog and it’s paying for us to travel.
Lauren McManus: And we felt just so far from, from the nine to five and in the office and the old life, we wanted to teach other people how to do it. And we didn’t exactly know quite what that looked like yet. I accept that, you know, we knew what really worked for what we had learned with Avocadu over the last year. Uh, and so we decided to actually start with Pinterest traffic. The Pinterest traffic to our blog was, was the biggest reason why we were able to get everything going so quickly. Why, why it started kind of spiraling because we were able get a lot of traffic from Pinterest and that traffic was what allowed us to test out all the different things, to get so many email subscribers on our list and to test out different products, different ideas, um, and that sort of stuff. And, and we wanted to teach other people how to, you know, how to start, you know, kind of with that Pinterest traffic.
Lauren McManus: So the very first course that we create on creating go and we need to Create and Go by the way, because for us it was kind of like, just to sum up everything that we had done. It was like, you create great stuff and then you just go, right. So we, you create great content and, and then you go, go travel. The goal was the travel portion and at the time we thought that we were going to be, you know, he’s big trouble. Like we thought that travel would be a huge part of our lives. So it’s turned out to still be a really big part of, of my life. Um, but anyway, that was kind of what it started with. And we, uh, we created the Pinterest course and people loved it and it was like, but they didn’t have any other pieces of the puzzle, right.
Lauren McManus: People, we had started to publish our income reports and Create and Go and people wanting to know how we were doing it. And so the very next course that we created was our, our six figure blogger course. And that was on how to create your own online courses. And so, yeah, so that was because our, our online programs were the made up the bulk of money that we made online. So we taught people how to do that. And then we just kind of created the other courses from there on affiliate marketing and all of the different strategies that we used to our business and our courses. That’s kind of what they’re all based around is really kind of opening up what we learned in that first year to taking that first blog to from zero to six figures. So it goes through all of the different strategies that we used, you know, what works, but also what didn’t work, what people shouldn’t waste their time on.
Lauren McManus: And so yeah, that’s, that’s kind of, that’s kind of what creating go is. It’s, it’s how, uh, you know, how we’ve achieved this lifestyle. I know you’ve mentioned Pinterest a few times. I’m curious maybe without, you know, of course giving your whole course away. Why do you think Pinterest was so successful for you guys compared to any of the other tons of options out there? Yeah, that’s a great question because people don’t understand Pinterest, they just don’t get it. Um, at the time we like I think most new bloggers, you know, with our first blog, we create a Facebook account. We created an Instagram account. We didn’t, you know, we created the counts for all the different stuff. And then you know, you try to post on Facebook or post an Instagram and it’s like just crickets, right? You can’t just get organic traffic immediately from those sources.
Lauren McManus: And we had actually heard from a company called digital marketer, we heard on a talk, you know, maybe three years ago, four, almost four years ago now, we heard a talk by them. And they had, they had been experimenting with some niche websites on Pinterest. And I remember what they called it at the time they called it. They said, Pinterest is a dumb Google basically because a Pinterest is a search engine at heart, like Google. But the algorithm is obviously not even remotely as complex as Google’s is. So you can, you’re able to get somewhere to youtube as well, that they’re less competitive and it’s easier to rank for content on those platforms compared to Google. And uh, the other part about Pinterest is that there’s a visual aspect of it too. It’s not just about ranking in a search engine. You also have the visual side of it, like Instagram or Facebook or other platforms, revision image as well.
Lauren McManus: So you also have that side of, if you can create great images, you can help get your content seen. But honestly, the biggest part of it, there’s a lot of, you know, reasons like that, why Pinterest is great, but it’s really great for driving traffic to blog posts. When you think about, when you think about Instagram, Instagram is really great for building trust and being a face behind your business, right? And insight to your personal life. And it can also be great for E-commerce, but it’s very visual. People aren’t clicking things, they’re aren’t clicking your stuff on Instagram to go to blog posts to read about something long. I mean, it happens, right? But that’s not the point. And Instagram’s not set up that way. You can’t just link a picture. You can’t drop a link, a clickable link, you know, in the comments. Right?
Lauren McManus: It’s not meant for that. Uh, the same with youtube. People love to watch videos and it’s a great place to build trust. You can drive traffic elsewhere, but it’s not set up to get people off the platform. In fact, youtube suggest it makes you suggest other videos and things when you do have links because they want people to stay on the platform. And people that are generally on youtube want to keep watching youtube videos. Pinterest is different in that. And because it’s a little more like Google in that people are on there searching for ideas, information. And when they find it, they immediately click on it and when they click on it, they’re taken immediately to your blog post or wherever you want them to go. So when you offer up information, like you know how to lose weight fast, people are clicking on it because they want, they want to read something, they want to read. You know how you’re going to solve that problem. So I just, we believe that it’s just so great for actually just driving traffic to blog posts. Um, know and from there you have an email list you can link to products and that sort of stuff. But yeah, that’s the like, that’s why you know, on top of it being easier to rank for content, you can get con, you can get traffic quite a bit faster. On Pinterest. It’s really ideal for bloggers
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] I think that was a really helpful explanation. I’m not sure if many listeners have considered just how different each social media platform is because I think these days the advice is just be everywhere, be everywhere your customers are, have all the social media platforms, do all the things. But like you said, people are on Pinterest searching for information. And then I also noticed, you mentioned like Instagram and Youtube, they want you to stay on the platform and I don’t think that’s something I had realized for a long time. But those social media platforms, their goal is to keep you there. But with Pinterest it’s kind of fundamentally different. Like you said, people are expected to leave their site and to find valuable information. So the mindset of somebody going there is totally different.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, I totally agree. People are so obsessed with Instagram and Instagram followers these days. And like the funny thing is I just, I just laugh because it’s like, if that works for your business, like that’s, that’s great. Like, and it, it, it can be a great supplemental, you know, traffic source for some people. But like our, in Alex Knight as still our Instagram accounts don’t have that many followers. We don’t use it as a traffic tool. I post about my travels, you know, and he posts about his personal life, you know, and, and we have a lot of our students follow us because they want to know more about, uh, about our personal lives. Right. But we’ve never bothered with it. Like our, our time, money and other resources right now are going into platforms that, that will help us grow a lot faster than Instagram. Well, and, um, so people are just like, you know, but yeah, I have 5,000 Instagram followers and I’m like, great, but what, how, how is that helping your business?
Lauren McManus: Like do you feel that there’s a direct translation to your traffic increasing or to making sales? Cause if there is then that that’s great, you know, keep pursuing that. But if there’s not, then need to let that go. Let the followers go because the numbers don’t, the numbers on the outside, your social accounts don’t matter, right. If it’s not translating into traffic on your blog and sales, you know, and your bank account, then at the end of the day it’s not doing you as good as other things that you know, that might be. And so, um, yeah, we, we really just paid attention to the traffic numbers and that’s still kind of our thought. You know, it’s like those, those traffic sources can be great if they’re actually bringing you traffic. But if you’re doing it just cause it makes you feel good to have Instagram followers, like that’s fine, but just know that that’s why you’re doing it. Right.
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] that’s great advice. I think that the follower account is, uh, like what we call a vanity metric. Like it’s a number that could look larger, could look impressive, but to your point, if it’s not actually bringing your business income, then what good is it really serving you?
Lauren McManus: Right, right. And I social proof does matter. I mean, Alex and I ran Facebook lite campaigns to our Facebook page just literally because people do click on your Facebook page and if you only have 50 followers, they might think that you’re, they don’t want to invest their money with you. Right. Because you, you aren’t as big as you as you seem or or whatever. So social proof does matter for that reason. But yeah, I still believe though, you have to know what, what the reason is. Right? So if you’re going after growing your followers or growing your traffic, just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and it’s bringing you the, the value that you’re seeking from it.
Melissa Guller: Yeah. And there’s probably an upper limit, right? Like one of our former Teachable coworkers, Morgan, who is wonderful and used to manage our social media. She used to talk about what’s the legit number? Like after you hit a certain follower account on any platform, then your business or your profile looks legit. It looks people would trust you and maybe you don’t need a million followers who really does, but probably zero is too few. Maybe depending on who you are, five or 10,000 could be plenty.
Lauren McManus: Right. I totally agree. We, we ran the Facebook like campaign to get ourselves, you know, up a a thousand or two and then we let it go. We didn’t spend any more money on it. We literally just did it for the social proof. Um, and, and that was it. You know? So yeah, you have to figure out, you have to know when, when, when to invest the time or when to let go and uh, and that sort of stuff. For sure.
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] well, speaking of your time, I know we’ve talked about some of your businesses and how they’ve grown, but I’m also curious about your time outside of work. So kind of, even in the earliest phases, what does your family and friends think about you starting to blog and earn money online?
Lauren McManus: Um, yeah, so my family, they were family and friends were pretty supportive. Um, all things considered. My, my dad is a, is very corporate and structured and he wasn’t super pumped when I first told him because again, I had just gotten, just finished my master’s degree, just gotten my CPA license and, and worked quite hard for it. And he was like, wait, what? You know, both my parents are very supportive of following your dreams. My mom more so my dad is more like, follow your dreams, but like be practical about it. Right. You follow your dreams in the direction of a bank. Yeah, exactly. Um, yeah. But, uh, the, the one thing though that which I think helped is that my dad, uh, he kind of sailed around the world in the maritime industry before he sewed down to the nine to five corporate life and took that corporate.
Lauren McManus: So my dad has seen most of the world already. Uh, and he got to do it at a very young age. And you know, when I told him, you know, dad, I, I th this is why I want this. I want to be able to travel before I’m, I’m 75 and retired. You know, I, I want it, enjoy it now. He was like, okay, I get that. And I, and, and I think having a plan mattered at the time. I, I hadn’t quite got my job yet. You know, I told him the plan to quit the job, but Alex, I didn’t have a plan. We were able, thankfully, to go stay rent-free for a few months. Um, and we had about a year or two’s worth of savings to be able to live off of. So we did have a plan. The plan was to kind of, you know, if this doesn’t, what’s given a year, if this doesn’t work in 12 months, um, after quitting our jobs, like we’ll go back, you know, because a year out of, out of the, the regular workforce isn’t that big of a deal.
Lauren McManus: And so just knowing that we did have a plan and we were, you know, we kinda knew to say we didn’t know what we were doing but, but we, we had a plan to return if, if it failed. He was pretty supportive. Um, Alex’s parents both own their own businesses so they were even more so supportive of, of uh, on his side and our friends didn’t, the, the friends were probably the toughest part because they didn’t really get it. Uh, they were supportive because they loved us. But when we stopped hanging out in the weekends, the nights and weekends, we still, you know, go on. At the time point of Brunch was our favorite thing to do with our friends. And because we were all 25 in Dallas at the time, no kids or anything like that. And we stopped hanging out with them a lot. And then we moved to Seattle away from everyone to do this.
Lauren McManus: And that was where you could tell, and even for the first couple of years, you could kind of tell them people were asking you about it, that like they were asking to be polite, but they didn’t really get it or understand it. It was only our very, very, very close friends that really I think kind of got it and understood it. And you still get that today, right? I mean, I tell people that I blog and they’re like, but you make money from that, you know, a, I still get that question all the time. Um, so yeah, I think I just tell people like, you gotta just, you gotta know that you’re, you’re doing the right thing for you and explain it to your family and friends the best that you can. And if they don’t understand, you gotta just let it go. Cause I think that the people that are closest to you and love you the most, we’ll always, we’ll always support you, you know, and any other negative influence you have just to kind of let go and know that like you’re on the right path, you know?
Melissa Guller: Hmm. That’s great advice. It’s tough too with an online business because there’s not something you can really point to as much and say like, look at this thing that I built, look at this office full of people or look at this product that I’ve physically developed. I think it’s a lot harder in a lot of ways to prove the worth of an online business. And the fact that to your point, it is a real business and not just a website.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, I, I totally agree. Because our online world of teaching people how to lose weight and start their own businesses, it’s not, uh, it’s not a part of my life that any of my friends, family or friends, you know, are really a part of the people that I travel with a little more so because they do work remotely and they kind of understand a little bit better, but the average person doesn’t. And I don’t think that people really started to believe that Alex Knight were doing anything really of worth or, or, uh, or were successful at all until we started traveling around the world because they were like, okay, well they have to be making a decent income to be able to do that. Um, so I think that that was, that was kind of when people started to begin to understand for at least us when we started traveling.
Melissa Guller: Hmm. That’s interesting to hear. But I actually did want to talk about travel. So that’s a nice segue because you’ve, you’ve achieved something I think a lot of people crave or dream about, which is the ability to travel the world. The phrase digital nomad, I feel like is very popular these days. So I’d love to hear more about like, what does that actually like to be working and to travel around the world.
Lauren McManus: Yeah. Yeah. It’s, um, it’s pretty crazy. It’s, it’s because I literally gotten a flight from Managing Columbia yesterday morning. I flew into Toronto where I am now and I leave Toronto this afternoon to head over to Lithuania in Europe. Um, and that’s just kind of kind of my life right now and I’m just recording this podcast between that stuff. But it didn’t always look like Alex Knight and troubles been a part of our lives now. It was about, it was the first few months after we were able to monetize Avocadu. We, uh, we took our first trip, um, and for the first couple of years that looked, it was, it was very sporadic traveling because I will say that trying to grow your online business while traveling is really difficult. [inaudible] guys, it depends on how you’re traveling, but for us, we were traveling with Wifi tribe and a wife I tried was very much work, you know, kind of nine to five showers, like during the week.
Lauren McManus: Everyone has remote jobs and works during the week. Uh, but we have a lot of funds in the nights, the weekends together, but at the time helps NY or trying to grow our business. And honestly, every, every hour that we were putting in, we were getting, we were getting that value back, right? So even taking off nights and weekends to do a lot of fun stuff was difficult for us. It was difficult for us to, to lead a balanced life because we, we knew that if we just kept at it working really hard for a little bit longer, we could get it to the, you know, to this next level of making this next level of income to where we didn’t have to worry about our budgets as much, like while we travel. So really what at the beginning will take for us was we would go away for a month, like go to Nicaragua with Wifi tribe and then we would get an idea for a course or they’d be this big next step in our business that needed our time and attention.
Lauren McManus: And we would go back home for three, four months and we would build a couple of courses, you know, we’re content or take these next steps. Uh, and then we would, you know, get home. We would kind of feel that comfortability of being home and we want to travel again. So then we’d go away from there a month or two. And the first couple of years kind of looked a little bit like that. And then this last year, you know, Alex took a trip. Uh, he did the 50 state, he did all 50 states in the u s um, and he had already done a lot, quite a bit of international travel growing up, whereas I had not really done my first international trip outside of Mexico and Canada was was just a couple of years ago. Um, and so I wanted to do the international route. So we, we both kind of went on these journeys and traveled for a long time and I’m, I’m still out.
Lauren McManus: I just hit my first official year of travel and living outside of the u s uh, about a month ago, at the beginning of July, but only now are we able to do this kind of stuff because we put in so much time to growing our business. Now I can travel without worrying about my budget and I have, I’ve hired people to help me run my business so I don’t have to invest, you know, every single minute into all these different things. So it has taken us some time to get here, but I’m so I watch a lot of people trying to travel as a digital nomad and full time while trying to start or grow their online business. And my advice to them is always to try to find, even if it’s while traveling, like go go somewhere into some cheap country by herself, uh, and grow your business first focus that time because if he tried to do it with a group of friends or in the more distracting environment like I have, it’s going to take you far longer and be far more expensive. So it’s taken a while to get to where I’m at now, but it’s, it’s a really, really great place. Now that I’m here
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] I think something critical that you’ve mentioned a few times is the amount of hard work that has gone into this and that even while you’re traveling, like you said, a lot of you are working kind of standard ish, nine to five hours. I think there can be a misconception that online businesses run themselves. It’s the whole, you’re sitting on a beach and then boom, a sale appears and I haven’t done anything at all or lifted a finger kind of mentality. And maybe at this point, after you’ve put years of hard work into a business, sure you could be earning sales during the day, but there’s been so much going on behind the scenes and actual work hours that it’s not just happening with the snap of a finger.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, I agree 100%. Um, in my travel groups, people are always surprised by how much they watch me work, you know? Um, and I, I do think I work harder than quite than most people that I encounter on my travels. Um, and there’s a reason for that. You know, that’s why I’m so successful is because I do put in the work and we never want to make this lifestyle look easy. I think people look at me and they think that I’m just this travel blogger from the outside. They think I’m kind of like a travel blogger that just, you know, go somewhere and puts a piece of content out of, you know, and like that somehow it makes me money and it’s like no. Like I, I have a whole team that I’m running now and I work, I work a lot to make sure that everything is running smoothly and it can be very passive if you wanted to.
Lauren McManus: But we personally love growing our business and you know, we, we love the growth of it and we love reaching these new levels of success that we had never thought of before. So for us we would prefer to put I we both love to work too. I’ve always been that way in every job I’ve ever had. I just, I am a hard worker and now it’s just so happens I love what I do too. So you know, people are like why are you working this morning? And I work on the weekend trips sometimes and I pull up my computer in the morning cause I really just want to see what’s going on in my business. Like what, you know, what’s happening. Cause I really enjoy it. Um, and, and you can make money while you sleep it. The, the beauty of is that you can, you can choose your own hours. Right. I would still recommend the most bloggers, like you need to put in a work and in the beginning more than a nine to five for sure. But you can do it flexibly, right? You can do it while you’re traveling, you can do it from home. If you have kids, you can spend more time around your kids. You know, it’s a lot more flexible but it’s still a lot of work.
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] and it’s clear to me even just hearing you talk about your business, it’s obvious that you enjoy what you do. And I think that’s so great that not only do you enjoy the topics that we’ve covered like online business topics or fitness, but like you said earlier, the actual business of running all of this seems really exciting. And like you’ve found something that’s a great fit.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, for sure. In our business. Alex, I’m in such a great team because he’s more of like our ideas guy and like forward thinker and I guess of my background in accounting, um, I have a very type a personality too. I, I’m kind of the executer I run all of our internal operations and all that stuff. That’s kind of like my, my side of the business. And yeah, I really, I really do enjoy it. And I think the difference between, I, you know, I’ve traveled now with so many different remote workers and digital nomads doing so many different things. You know, everything from running a business the way that I do to just to doing, uh, you know, engineering like online or, or coding or some people work for real companies and they have calls every day with their teams, you know, over in the United States or other places.
Lauren McManus: So all kinds of different stuff. But when you run your own business, I think that’s why, that’s why I work so much harder than a lot of people and why I opened my laptops on weekends when other people are kind of like, you know, 5:00 PM on Friday, shut it. Don’t open it until Monday. Um, is because for me an hour or two, you know, if I’m working on something important, like that immediately provides value to my business but also to my bank account. Right? I see I’m in control of my income, so when I work more, I make more money. It can lead you down a slippery slope of working too much. For sure. Alex and I have been down that road, uh, many times. We know we’ve been workaholics and haven’t had a balance, but we do enjoy the work and you know, we’re building something that we believe will support us for many years to come.
Lauren McManus: But yeah, I think that that’s, it’s different when you’re in charge of creating your own content and creating your own income is that you do tend to work a little bit more because you see a direct correlation, you know, to hours put into, to the sales that you make. It makes total sense. And something we haven’t specifically talked about yet is the fact that you do have a partner in this business. So how is it having a business partner versus say going at it alone, do you think? I think, I know, I know that it’s been really great for us, we, because like I explained just now, you know, Alex is this ideas person and uh, and I’m more the executer and I think that is like the perfect pair, the perfect business relationship. Um, in, you know, we’re, we’re, we are often at odds because we do think very differently and so we have to kind of work through that.
Lauren McManus: Um, but I, I think that we also split our income, right? So I know some, some full time bloggers that are, they’re doing everything in their own and they’re making great money. Cause they don’t have to split it with anyone. Right. But I think that the highs and the lows have also been so much better just having someone else there, right. The, the lows are not quite as low because you’re not in it entirely alone. And the highs are great cause you have someone to share it with. Blogging can be kind of lonely because when your friends and your family don’t understand what you do, when they don’t understand the milestones that you hit, you know when you do achieve success. Um, so having someone to share it with like in that is really great. But I, I, I, I know that finding a business partner is really tough.
Lauren McManus: I watch other people try to do it and they don’t, they don’t, there’s not as much trust there and it be difficult. But with blogging you’re really, you have to learn everything on your own, right? You have to learn sales and customer service and content creation and marketing. You have to be your one man team and you have to learn all that stuff or hire it out. And I’ve watched people try to hire that stuff out from the get go. People are even like, you know, I’ll miss our blog but I’m going to hire a writer. And I’m like, well that’s, that’s what you are as a blogger year. You’re hiring out the one thing that kind of makes up what you’re doing. Um, so I think that hiring people out to help you is important if your skill set doesn’t lie in certain places.
Lauren McManus: But I do think it’s important for everyone to start learning everything on their own. You know? Uh, Alex and I were able to split up some of that stuff, but I’ve learned how to do everything that he has done in the business and kind of vice versa. Right. I already said that he wrote all of the content cause I thought it wasn’t good enough. Right. But I learned, I learned I was an accountant. I didn’t know anything about Internet marketing or any of this stuff or about writing content. I, I thought that I hated it. But over time, as I became more passionate about growing my business, I learned how to do all that stuff too. And so everything can be, can be learned and just think that you have to, you have to take the right steps, the right time and focus pretty hard on, on all the different aspects of your business. But learning how to, learning how to do each one intimately, um, whether you have a business partner or not, I think that’s the only way to really be able to grow.
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] that’s great advice. Plus, if you never learn how to do little things on your website to write, to support a customer, I don’t know how you’d be able to communicate with somebody else about how to do that as well. So even if it’s just you doing it at the beginning and then as you grow, like you said it is, it can be very helpful to outsource some things. At least if you’ve done it before, then you have empathy for the person who’s going to do that for you, for your business.
Lauren McManus: Yeah. I think you ha you have to be able to, I was just having a conversation with my friend in Columbia about this and you know, he wants to, he’s trying to hire a marketing, you know, cause he doesn’t really like it or know much about it, but it’s, you know, you can hire out marketing, but if it’s like someone can be a good marketer in general, but if they don’t, if they don’t know your business and your audience, they’re not going to be able to market very well to them that you’re going to be the best person to be able to do that. And I think that you have to have some baseline of learning, learning how to speak to your audience through your content, through your marketing, through the products that you’re selling. You have to at least have some kind of baseline to be able to kind of manage an out, like outsource that to someone else, but also manage that to make sure that they’re doing a good job. So I, you know, and that’s like why in our blogging courses we teach, we teach everything, right? We teach every aspect of our business because as a blogger, I do think it’s really important for you to learn to learn every aspect of it to some extent before you try to get any help with it.
Melissa Guller: [inaudible] and then like you said, you were not a, but now you have become the writer and maybe it’s something that was a skillset you wouldn’t have guessed that you could have.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, definitely. I actually, I love it now and you’ve got to find, you gotta like find your place in it. Right? Because I don’t think that I love to right now because I just love writing in general. It’s just not, it’s not really my, my kind of personality. It’s not a task I’ve ever really enjoyed, but I love it now because when I write content now, I envision it from the standpoint of like, how will this help my customer succeed? But also, you know how sometimes it’s, how will it make me more sales? Right. I think of it from this marketing standpoint of like, if I write a better email, I will convert and you know, x amount more people from that email. It’s immediate money into my account. Right? Or if I, if I am able to write this portion of my course better or better explain or show someone something in my course, I’ll be able to help them make money faster or lose weight faster.
Lauren McManus: Right. We’ve had people in our weight loss program now who’s over a hundred pounds in a year with our, with their programs. Yeah. And it’s just, it’s incredible. So you know, making, make like writing, running your, the, your content, whether it’s paid content or free content, writing that better, you can see immediate results either you know yourself or with your customers. Um, so that, those are the things that I think about when I write. I don’t just write because it makes me feel better and it’s some outlet, you know, like I write for those reasons and those are the reasons why I love to write now, you know, and that, that grew over time, you know, with our success.
Melissa Guller: Yeah. That’s really incredible and great advice too, to think about not just what the activity I’m doing, but what’s the purpose? How will this help somebody else? Or how will this help my business? Or ideally, probably both, you know. Right. For sure. Well, before we wrap up, I’d love to know what does your business look like today? What are you up to or what’s coming up next?
Lauren McManus: Yeah, for sure. We are, right now we’re really focused on building our team. Um, again, because we, we invested so much time and it was a two man team for so long, but where we have hired a few people to build our team, we use slack as a tool to communicate online, which helps, especially because Alex and I travel a lot and you know, our team is all remote. Um, and we have for use a sauna for project management. So now we’re, it went from Alex Knight, texting, emailing, talking, um, in growing our business that way to, you know, now we have these online tools to manage projects in time, um, and communication between our team. So we’re really focused right now on tightening up all that stuff internally so that we, Alex and I can better focus our time on the most important things. And um, for me that’s definitely, I want to be more present.
Lauren McManus: I want to be more present with my customers. I don’t want to just be told from the people that I on my team that, oh, hey, this person got these awesome results. Right? Like I want to have Facebook lives in my, um, I want to do more like why webinars and stuff. Like, um, I also want to do more outreach like this. I want to be able to communicate more with Teachable and with tailwind and convert kit in these companies that I believe in that had been such a monumental help to my success. Like, I want to build those relationships out to, you know, show my customers, like how important this stuff is to your growth too. So yeah, I, I’ve had my head down for, you know, for three, three plus years, um, growing all the stuff internally. But for me it’s now more of a challenge to actually get out of my computer and have real conversations and be on camera and, and that sort of stuff. So that’s where my focus is right now and I’m pretty excited about it.
Melissa Guller: Yeah, it is interesting to hear you talk about how you can connect with people more because I think, like you said, a lot of early stages are getting traffic and getting more and more people and building up a certain kind of quantity threshold. But at a certain point, unless you stop and actually start a conversation with people, it can start to just feel like numbers on a screen. But with technology, there’s so many ways that you can really feel a personal connection to people, whether it’s video, like you said, or just even simple responses to emails these days when people respond to your, what’s your number one problem? I feel like there’s a lot of ways to get a personal touch in.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, for sure. And it’s been difficult for me because I had this horrible fear of being on camera and stuff really from the Gecko. Alex was always kind of doing our youtube channel and that sort of stuff. And I hated being on camera. I even, I hated my voice even in our courses. It was, it’s been a really hard thing for me to overcome. But you know, when I first started doing like live webinars with convert kit, I was terrified at first, especially cause I’d be traveling, my Internet connection wouldn’t be great. And I was so focused on how, how I came across to them and then I would get this feedback when people are like, oh my gosh, this webinar helped me so much. Thank you so much for doing it. And I could tell that they loved that personal connection of like actually finally seeing my face and communicating with them in a different way about their problems.
Lauren McManus: And, and I realize like, oh my gosh, I’ve helped so many people through, through doing this, you know, that that’s why I’m starting to love it now. And I’m focused less on how I come across or whether my internet connection is perfect because it’s a life and I travel and it’s never going to be perfect. And that to me that’s a way that I’m, I’m getting a lot of personal growth now is like getting out of my comfort zone and building these relationships and kind of doing all this stuff. Um, and I’m, I really enjoy it. I Love My, I love my business and I love talking about it. So yeah, I’m really excited.
Melissa Guller: Hmm. It sounds like you have a very exciting, not just few months, but really like an exciting future ahead and for people who do want to, you know, keep in touch or learn more, where can they find you?
Lauren McManus: Yeah, I mean go to Create and Go.com. That is our, um, it’s our blog where we teach people how to start and monetize blogs. If you’re interested in weight loss, uh, it’s Avocadu.com like Avocadu, but what they knew and yeah, we also have a Facebook community that’s free. Um, and I would encourage anyone to check out our youtube channel, uh, Alex’s on there with all kinds of videos on, you know, on our lives and how to know how to start blogs and, and learn more about what we do.
Melissa Guller: Perfect. Well, I’ll put links to everything in the show notes as well so people can check everything out. And so, Lauren, it’s been a pleasure having you. And before we go, do you have any last words of wisdom or maybe inspiration for anyone listening today?
Lauren McManus: Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I can say really it’s just to focus. Find how you can focus. We live in this world of insane distractions and at any stage of your life, you know, whether that’s your family that’s distracting you or your friends or the travel, you know, whatever that is, find the place that you can focus because our unwavering focus on the end goal and having to make those sacrifices of not traveling as soon as we wanted to or not hanging out with our friends. That was what, or, or not, not buying that new pair of shoes or whatever, you know, uh, saving our money and investing it in the right places. And, uh, really just investing our time and every ounce of time that we had was the reason why we were able to succeed so quickly. So I yeah, just keep your eye on the prize and know that like it will come, but, but you should make it your number one priority no matter what. So just intense focus.
Melissa Guller: That’s great advice. Well again, Lauren, thank you so much for joining us. I’m sure listeners really enjoyed and learned a lot just from hearing about your story. So thank you again.
Lauren McManus: Yeah, thank you so, so much for having me. I’m so excited.
Melissa Guller: Thanks so much for joining us this week! You can learn more about Lauren, Avocadu, Create and Go, and Teachable in the show notes at teachable.com/eit5 now, before you go, make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you can receive new episodes right when they’re released. And if you’re enjoying the show, we hope you’ll leave us a five star review in Apple Podcasts. Reviews let Apple know the great listeners like you are enjoying our show and they help us reach an even larger audience. So thank you so much for your feedback and support. On behalf of Team Teachable, we hope you enjoyed this episode about full time blogging with Lauren McManus. We’ll see you in the next episode of Everything is Teachable.
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