The Lead Generation features conversations with today’s entrepreneurs willing to tell the truth about what it takes to be your own boss and why they wouldn’t have it any other way.
In this episode, we’re bringing to you the growth story of Michelle Hickey, a creative entrepreneur and business coach.
Michelle is the owner of Enchanted Prints, an online stationery shop and editor of the blog, Elegance & Enchantment. She is also the co-host of A Podcast for Creatives. When she’s not “working” you can find Michelle exploring new cities, likely in search of typography and baked goods. Originally a New Yorker, Michelle now calls Northeast Florida home, where she lives with her husband, James and their feline family.
In this episode, Michelle shares the lessons she’s learned teaching other creatives how to turn their creative talents into real businesses. We also discuss her favorite email list building strategy, a must-read mindset book, and a few rules to live by.
A slightly edited transcript is below these show notes.
If you’re short on time, here are a few golden nuggets from our conversation and the resources mentioned.
- As you gain success carrying out the activities of your business, you may get the opportunity to turn that success into a coaching business for others wanting to emulate your path.
- You'll move forward faster when you stop letting excuses get in your way, and when you realize you already have everything you need to grow.
- Be honest with yourself about why you may be overcomplicating things. What are you trying to avoid?
- When opportunity knocks, be sure you have the space available to take advantage of it.
- Pick up the book "Unthink" to identify and reverse patterns you may have developed that are no longer serving you.
- Be willing to be a work-in-progress.
- Pat Flynn
- James Wedmore
- Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius, by Eric Wall
Continue the Conversation
After enjoying this episode, what are your top takeaways from Michelle?
And what's one lesson you learned in this episode that you'll take action on over the next week?
Get to Know Michelle Hickey
Bob: Michelle, thank you so much for joining me for this episode.
Michelle: I'm so excited to be here. Thank you for inviting me on. Leadpages fan girl over here!
Bob: Indeed, and you're doing incredible work with it. We'll get into that in a little bit, especially I'm really curious about how much you're using our pop-ups, because I think that's a really powerful tool that not a lot of people think of initially when they're starting to use our software.
But before we get into all that, how are the lives of your customers transformed by what your company does?
Michelle: Sure, so my people are creative like me, and they're the best. And what I do is I help them start and grow online businesses. A lot of them have online shops where they sell their creative projects or they blog about them, and sometimes it's both.
My approach to helping them is really holistic. For being so talented, creatives have a lot of resistance when it comes to sharing our stuff, and I think that's because so many people, we enjoy what we're doing, and then we have a hard time calling it work. Therefore, having a hard time asking people to pay us for what we have to offer.
So, my job is to help them push past all of that. There's no shortage of information and resources on how to market your products or services. So, what I try to do is transform my customers by helping them uncover those underlying issues that prevent them from using all these wonderful things that are available to them. Could I give you a couple examples?
Bob: Please do. I'd love it.
Michelle: Okay. I'm just going to quickly brag on three of my students, because this just happened in the past week. So, one of them recorded and published her first YouTube video, another one launched her Etsy shop, and another one decided that it’s finally time to start raising her rates, and I'm so proud of all three of them.
Bob: That's awesome, and I know that you have joy in all of those, and myself as a business coach for the last 13 years, I can say that that idea of getting people to raise their prices and boosting their confidence to charge what they're worth, man, that surely does make a big different for them.
"I came to realize that sometimes superstars can just feel so far away, and you need that person in between that feels more normal, like a little closer to their own level that can go in and show you what to do."
When Is It Time to Make the Leap into a Coaching Business?
Bob: So you yourself were a creative before you started to show people some of your success. So, why did you make that jump from doing your own work, being creative and working with clients and so forth, and then deciding, hey, I have enough information here, I have enough knowledge, that I want to transfer it as a coach? So, why this business when you started it?
Michelle: I think it's twofold. One is that people started asking me. I'm definitely not a superstar. There are lots of people who have more experience and more success than I do, but what I came to realize is that sometimes those people can just feel so far away, and you need that person in between that feels more normal, like a little closer to their level that can go in and show you. I have no problem sharing my wins, my losses, bringing people behind the scenes and showing them all the things that I've done to get to my level.
And I think that people really appreciate that and see me as approachable, so that was one part of it, but the other part of it is I felt like I couldn't sit on this information any longer, especially a lot of this mindset stuff really transformed not just my business, but me personally as an individual. I can't even go out in a public setting without it coming out in some way. Like sitting next to people in airports, I end up coaching them. It's become a natural part of me, so I'd say a combination of those two things.
Bob: Excellent, and did you ever have anybody recognizing that talent in you and saying you need to do this as a business, not just the creative side?
Michelle: Yeah, I heard it from quite a few people before I actually said – Actually, if I'm being honest, I still have trouble saying, "I am a coach." I don't know ... It sounds like a weird thing sometimes. I don't know if you've struggled with that as well.
Bob: Little bit, little bit. As a former high school history teacher, it took awhile for me to recognize that that was something to do, so I know that there's a lot of people listening today who are members of the Lead Generation who were wanting to take that leap, and recognizing, hey this is something that I can charge money for, be paid well, and improve a lot of lives in the process. So I think that's really awesome.
Use a Mantra to Plow Through Obstacles
Bob: Now, it's not all roses, right, when businesses are growing.
Bob: So I'm sure that you've probably had some obstacles along the way. When you look back at the last few years, what sticks out as something that was a frustration or a roadblock that initially gave you a little bit of a hiccup?
“You have everything you need to do everything that you want to do.”
Michelle: Honestly, it was me. That's why I teach what I do. A lot of us, and I say us because I definitely used to be this way, we like to blame things like the algorithms and the crowded marketplaces and the lack of capital or our lack of experience, when really there's always someone with far less than you do who are out there just killing it. The only reason why they're killing it is because they didn't let any of those other factors stand in their way. So, once I stopped making those excuses for myself, I realized that I had everything that I needed to be successful. It actually became my mantra, if I could share that with you. It's just one simple line, and that is, “You have everything you need to do everything that you want to do.”
Bob: I love it, I love it. It's very similar to mine, which is “Take action, revise later.”
Michelle: I love that.
Bob: You just gotta do things, and then let the feedback of what's going on tell you what to do next. So, I absolutely love your mantra as well. And I think any business owner should have a mantra, should adopt something like that, maybe even have it on their wall or by their monitor, but certainly something they can stick to whenever times are tough.
When Perfectionism Holds You Back
Bob: Was there ever any other mistake that you made? Any specific example of a project that didn't go as well or a product launch or anything like that, and you learned a big lesson from it that in the long one it was quite helpful?
Michelle: Sure. So, I give this example a lot, and I will say ... I will label it as a failed product launch because it never launched. Again, this ties into mindset. Part of my background was in designing principle art, principle invitations, and that became something that people started asking me about.
So, I said, "Hey, I'm going to create a course on this so I can share this knowledge with everyone." And I worked on it for probably close to a year. I wrote out all the content, I created all the slides. I had an editor. I paid people to help me create it. I paid for a platform over a year, and I never launched it, and it was because in my mind, it wasn't perfect. And now, I have launched courses since then, and I actually use that as a case study for failing to launch. I still have people asking me for that information and I'm still sitting on it. I still haven't actually shared it.
By this point, it's so many years later that it's not what I want to be known for or what I want to be teaching, which is why I haven't pursued it. But yeah, guys, if you are creating stuff that's helpful to other people, and you don't put it out there, it's a selfish act when you break it down.
Bob: Couldn't agree more, and I think you speak to this idea of creating something in a vacuum, and taking a lot time to release it, when in fact, you likely could have released a version of it, and then made modifications with that real feedback.
Bob: I see so many people make that mistake of creating things in a vacuum and taking months or years, and then never getting out the door.
Wisdom from Unofficial Mentors
Bob: I'm assuming you've listened to some smart people along the way who've given you some advice. When you think back, has there been any specific advice you've been given about entrepreneurship that has really helped you?
Michelle: Yes. The best piece of advice I ever received was actually posed as a question, but it really hit a nerve and shifted something inside me. So, this was shared by James Wedmore, who I consider to be one of my many unofficial mentors. He asked this question on social media: “What is it that you get to avoid by over complicating things?”
I realized that this was really a mechanism that I had created for myself when I was too scared to go after what I wanted. So now, when I set out to do something and I realized that it's taking me 10 times longer than I anticipated, I call myself out and I try to find the action item that is the simplest, and that will move things forward in the quickest way, and I have an example to share.
Bob: Please do.
Michelle: All right, so the example is this interview. A goal of mine for this year is to speak and present at a conference, and this would be a new skill for me. So, I could have waited until I completed a course or I got certified, but I thought that the best thing I could do would be to start speaking anywhere and everywhere I could. So, once I made that decision and that dedication that this is something that's going to happen, I started noticing opportunities popping up.
I think that when we feel like we're not capable of doing something, all we're doing is focusing on the negative, on like the lack of what we're capable of instead of saying like, just stepping into the role that we eventually want to have.
So Bob, when your email came to me, asking if i would be interested in being interviewed, it was like a "heck yes" for me. And not only that, when you told me that you would like to interview me, I picked the very first date that was available so that I could not back out or create excuses for myself by waiting too long.
Bob: I love it. That's brilliant. And I think that this idea of recognizing opportunity is good, and it snowballs, right. You have a podcast for creatives.
Bob: It’s very cleverly titled, and that's gotten you out there. I saw you because of the Lead Page that you submitted for our 2018 Leadpages awards, and it really caught my eye. It was a really stellar use of our product, and it seemed like you have a really cool story that you could tell. And I imagine that somebody's listening to this right now, and they're going to email you in a matter of minutes and say, "I'd love to have you on our podcast, because blah, blah, blah." And yes, I think in 2019, you're going to find stages open up, because speaking begets speaking, right?
Leave Space for Opportunities to Turn into Gold
Bob: You get more opportunities when you are smart enough to take advantage of them. Also, I think it's important to give space for them. Don't be so overwhelmed and busy that you say no because of circumstance, right? Be a "heck yes," because you make those possibilities come to light.
Michelle: Oh yeah, you just nailed something huge. I think it goes back to that idea of making things over-complicated or making yourself really busy. Really try to call yourself out on that. I think so many times we do that because we're afraid that we're not worthy or we're not capable of actually getting this thing that we really want. So, that white space is huge. It's like, assume that it's going to happen, so you have to leave room for it.
Bob: Excellent. And I'm glad you mentioned James Wedmore. He's a good friend of mine. We go way back, and anybody that has an opportunity to learn from him, remotely or in person, I think does themselves a real favor.
Michelle: Oh yes, he's the best.
Bob: Thanks for sharing his wisdom.
Show Up As If
Bob: Now that you have some advice from other people, I'm sure you are wiser than you were when you first started. If you had a time machine and could go back a couple years to when you were just getting started in your business, what advice would you share with your earlier self?
"If we started showing up as if we were already loved and respected, that act alone garners that response that we're looking for."
Michelle: I would tell myself to stop waiting for permission. This is a cliché, and this is something that you'll hear other people say, but this is true of people who are just starting out and also true of people who have been in business for years. So many of us feel like we can't take action until someone else has given us that go ahead, or someone else has validated our worth. And it turns into a vicious cycle, because we're creating this content and we're sharing it with the world, and we want people to love it and to respect us, but when that doesn't happen like right away, like our first day out there, we get really discouraged and we stop.
And I think that if we started showing up as if we were already loved and respected, that act alone garners that response that we're looking for.
If you want to feel worthy and to have the respect, you have to respect yourself first, and after that there's this magical shift that happens where you're not saying, "Will you like me?" You're saying, "I'm already loved," and that's a really attractive quality.
Bob: Yeah, it really is. You're absolutely right. If you were able to do that to your earlier self, great, but you are doing this for our listeners, so I think that's a good second place.
Michelle: Thanks, I hope so.
Shift Your Thoughts About "Selling"
Bob: I imagine like a lot of creatives, you initially came into marketing perhaps not the same way as the way you feel about marketing now. As a teacher, it was a little bit of a struggle to get my head around selling and all this other stuff. It's not always the case. Maybe it's not the case for you, but how do you feel about marketing today and how has that changed since you became an entrepreneur?
"If I wasn't doing everything I could to showcase those solutions in a clear and accessible way, then I was withholding something that could make people's lives better or easier."
Michelle: Oh Bob, it has changed quite a bit. I am definitely a former marketing hater. I was the person who said, "I don't want to do marketing." I was basically the person who I described when we first started this interview, which is I love design, I have so much fun doing it. I can't charge someone for something that I have fun with. There's definitely a disconnect there, so I definitely used to be one of those people who felt icky about promoting myself and my worth, which again, something we touched on before.
When you break it down, it's a very selfish act. Once I came to understand that it was selfish, it really changed things for me. I began to see that I had something of value to offer, and solutions that people were looking for. And if I wasn't doing everything I could to showcase those solutions in a clear and accessible way, then I was withholding something that could make people's lives better or easier.
And, this isn't just true of the work that I do today. I know it's easy for a coach to say, "I transformed people's lives and their businesses," but even back when I was designing and selling invitations, that might seem like something that's inconsequential, but have you ever searched on Google for something really specific that you were looking for, and then you discovered it, you found it? In that moment, you're not thinking, "Wow, this person is so selfish," you're thinking, "Yes, this is awesome. I'm so glad that I found this, and I'm grateful that it exists."
Just having that in mind, shifting the mindset from "I'm being selfish" to "I'm being helpful" for me has been the key to understanding how powerful marketing is, and how marketing is the reasonable thing to do.
Bob: It is. You’re absolutely right. Our friend Pat Flynn has the t-shirt that I love to wear around the house and at work that says, "Serve first" on it.
Michelle: I love that and Pat.
Bob: I haven't played in a while, but I'm a tennis player, and to me you always serve first in a tennis match, and in order to have that interchange, you have to be willing to step up and serve your audience and be willing to charge for it. It is obviously part of the success for business.
How to Generate More Leads from Blog Posts
Bob: I also love to chat with people about the tools that they're using for their marketing, and you had the opportunity to do a Lead Page that caught my eye. You've been using Leadpages for a while. You mentioned earlier that you're a Leadpages fan girl. How has Leadpages helped you out, and on a secondary level, your blog over at MichelleHickey.design is using our opt-in pop ups really well. I'd love to know how specifically you're using these to market what you do.
Michelle: Sure. So, if I'm being honest, when I first signed up for Leadpages, it was because all the cool kids were doing it. People like Pat Flynn, I basically signed up because I saw how much success he had had in using it, and I wanted to be like him and like these other people. So, I didn't really know what I was doing, but I signed up.
Once I actually got into the system, I turned into an opt-in box machine, and started adding them into every single one of my blog posts. And by that point, I had already been blogging for a few years, so I had lots of old content. I didn't wait and say, I'm only going to put these in my new content. I went back and I made a little spreadsheet, and I said, make sure that there's an opt-in box in every single one of these posts, and yeah, my subscribers started to go up for sure, because going back to being responsible, I still had more to offer them beyond the information that was in the blog post. This was a way to keep that contact and keep that conversation going.
The opt-in boxes were huge for me. And another little trick or hack I can share, this is especially great for people who have old blog content, is to go into your Google Analytics and see what posts are performing the best. And include multiple Leadboxes into that post as a text link, as a box at the bottom, maybe even a banner on that page, 'cause that's just gonna multiply your efforts.
Bob: Absolutely. There's entire trainings that we do just about opt-in pop-ups, and I could talk about them forever, because they are the underrated champion I think for a lot of reasons, especially for bloggers. But you're also using Leadpages for your sales pages.
Bob: Tell me a little bit more about what's been really helpful for you, and maybe a best practices that you've discovered for yourself that helps you generate more sales.
Michelle: Sure, so I'm really obsessed with the Leadpages drag and drop feature for my sales pages. So, my background is in graphic design so the look of a page is really important to me.
In the past because my background was in print design, I had been really frustrated with trying to design my web pages, but on a web platform. And anyone else who's out there listening to this who has a background in print design knows how frustrating it is. You want things to look a certain way but you need to know a formula or code in order for that to happen. Whereas designing on a screen, you just drag and drop. And that's what Leadpages offers you. It's pretty much that same experience, and you can create an awesome looking sales page in three minutes if you need to. Then I like to go a little deeper because those little details matter to me, and since I have a creative audience, I know that it matters to them, too.
So, the best part about the drag and drop, other than from a design perspective is that it has built in integration that allow people to sign up for webinars and even make payments right on that same page, which is huge. The more hoops that your customer has to jump through to sign up for something or to make a payment, you're going to lose these people and the less money you're going to make, the less connections you're going to make. So I love that on my sales pages, there's no jumping from page to page. You literally click on a box and you take your action right there on that same page. It's great. I'm so thankful for you guys.
Bob: Awesome. We love making a great product obviously and championing what you're doing.
Crack Open This Book: Unthink
Bob: Let's change gears a little bit more towards what you are feeding your brain with. Are you reading anything specifically? Are you listening to other podcasts? How is that stuff influencing your business and life these days?
Michelle: I am pretty much always plugged into podcasts and audiobooks. And I could give you a whole long list, but I'll just share what I happen to be reading right now, which is a book called Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius. And it's by Eric Wall, and this book is a sweet spot for me where creativity and psychology overlap. I'm really loving it. This book is encouraging me to peel back the influence that I've had as an adult to help me uncover more of that pure creative soul that existed when I was a kid.
Things have really changed for me now that I'm an adult, and, thanks to the internet and social media, I am surrounded by communities of creative people. But it wasn't always like that. And I think that I'm still carrying around some of those old beliefs that it's not cool to be creative, or people won't take you seriously if you're a creative person, or that you can't make money from being creative. So, this book is really helping to shed all of that to get to your most creative self so that you can put your best work and self out there.
Bob: Excellent. I’m looking forward to checking that out.
There's No Finish Line
Bob: We're just about wrapping up, and I always love to ask my guests this question, as you think of all the things we've talked about, as you go forward in your day and people are coming at you and asking you for wisdom and so forth, what would you say to people is the key to success in starting or growing their business? If you could nail it down to just one thing. I know there's plenty of things that you have to be good at, things you have to choose to do, but for you what has been a real key to success that's transferable for other people?
"The key to success is be willing to be a work in progress."
Michelle: It's actually very closely aligned with your mantra. The key to success is be willing to be a work in progress. If you wait until everything is perfect, you will be waiting forever. So, just start taking action. Listen to feedback, and be willing to keep tweaking, and as long as you keep doing that you'll keep getting better. I like to think of it as: there's no finish line. We have unlimited potential, just infinite growth.
Bob: Love it, love it. As we wrap up, Michelle, I know that there's going to be a lot of people who want to know more about what you're doing, a lot of creatives who are listening who want to learn from you specifically but also just check out who you're doing. What's a good place for people to go to online to connect with you to learn more about growing their own business?
Michelle: Sure, so you can find me on my site, which is MichelleHickey.design is my URL, or on Instagram which is my favorite social platform where I hang out the most, and that is @MichelleHickeyDesign. Or you can listen to me if you prefer listening to audio. I have a podcast that I host with a good friend of mine called A Podcast for Creatives. I know that doesn't sound like a very creative name, but I swear we're more creative than that. Or you can find us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and our handle for that is @PodForCreatives.
Bob: Awesome. I love A Podcast for Creatives as a name. Sometimes SEO and user experience trumps being clever, so really nice name for that.
Michelle, thank you so much for joining me today. I loved our conversation, and I know others did as well.
Michelle: Thanks, Bob. Me too.
Continue the Conversation
What's your top takeaway from Michelle?
What’s one lesson you learned in this episode that you’ll take action on over the next week?
Tell us in the comments section below!