A Sneak Peek at Erin Ollila’s Business Trajectory with Guest Host Colie James
July 13, 2023
Something wild happened on the podcast this week. For the very first time, I welcomed back a former guest to Talk Copy to Me. But instead of interviewing them once more, they interviewed…me!
Yes, you read that correctly. This week, Colie James who previously joined us on the podcast to talk about customer experience, came back and she took over as the host of the Talk Copy to Me podcast so she could interview me about my business trajectory so far.
I’ll give full credit to Colie for this idea because one day she showed up in my Instagram podcast and said something to the affect of: “Hey, want to interview each other for our podcasts? Isn’t it funny how we always talk about our businesses when we’re on other people’s shows as podcast guests, but we never talk about our products and services and business trajectory on our own shows?” (that was was a total paraphrase of a longer conversation.)
And I was like, yes. Yes, let’s do it. Let’s do it ASAP.
So here we are today, with an episode in which Colie James steals my show and forces me to answer her questions. In this episode, we talk about how I’ve approached pricing my services, why I transitioned to offer digital products and courses in addition to those services, what’s to come for Erin Ollila, and how you can figure out the next steps in your own business, too.
It’s not often I do behind-the-scenes content — should I do more? — so listen in and learn about why and how I make decisions in my business.
Here’s what Colie and Erin covered in this episode about Erin’s business
How Erin started her career as a content strategist and content writer after working in Human Resources and in the mental health field
Erin’s education in writing and what she learned from her MFA in Creative Nonfiction and still uses in her writing career
Why Erin transitioned from being a content writer and SEO strategist for big brands (like the big guys in the Fortune 500!) to working as a content strategist, copywriting coach, and SEO copywriter for teeny tiny businesses (like podcasters and solopreneurs)
Why Erin added products and courses into her offer suite in addition to the copywriting and SEO services she does for clients
How creating a product suite offers leads an accessible price, while building trust and confidence
The offers Erin has in the following product suites: testimonials, content, websites, and podcasting
Quotes from Colie James and Erin Ollila
“I definitely built my business around my capacity to work around raising and spending time with my child.” – Colie James
“It’s easy for a Fortune 100 company to be like, ‘Alright, we’re offering this thing. Here’s all this money behind the marketing and the advertising.’ But when you are a solo business owner or a smaller business, you don’t you don’t have any of that. So it’s an unfair playing field.” – Erin Ollila
Part of this whole online business world that I like to pick on is…prices are such bullshit. Like straight up BS that would never survive in the true traditional normal business world. We’ve created this ecosystem where all of us, myself included, even though I like to think I’m not involved in it, have been brainwashed…the coaching industry and in the business marketing industry has taught us that we can set very unrealistic prices, and just raise, raise, raise, raise raise. We’re just so irrational. Like, this is not how big brands run their businesses, guys.”
“You really have to factor [so much] in. How many vacations do you wanna take a year? That limits the amount of time that you can work. So don’t just compare your salary to industry standards or some fake number that we’ve created for ourselves in this world where we have to worry about, like, recession and all these things, such as customers who aren’t buying. It’s because of all these fake numbers we use to run our businesses. Pick it based on what you want to make and how you can live your best life in addition to it.”— Erin Ollila
“So I am not one to give advice on pricing your stuff. It is something I am constantly figuring out. But I think the best way to approach it is…I say this with one of my closest business friends all the time, “How much money do you want to make? And how much money how much do you want to work? Like, what is your ideal lifestyle?” I’m sure a lot of us would think “Oh, my ideal lifestyle is a millionaire. Yeah, that’s an easy thing to say, [but what do you realistically want right now]?” – Erin Ollila
“I was so tired of saying no to people because they couldn’t afford me, and that felt very against everything I wanted my business to be.” – Erin Ollila
“Having a lower ticket offer…just makes your value ladder more accessible.” – Colie James
“[With] this product suite, they are able to learn my teaching style, see that I’m extremely giving in the content, and I want people to succeed.” – Erin Ollila
“Next best step is the only way that you’re really gonna succeed because you’re just gonna do the right thing, and that’s gonna get you to the point you wanna be.” – Erin Ollila
Alright she isn’t the guest expert today…she’s stole the show and is guest hosting Talk Copy to Me!
In addition to being the temporary host of the Talk Copy to Me podcast, Colie James is a Disney-loving family filmmaker, Workflow & Automations Guru, and the host of the Business-First Creatives podcast. Based in Denver Colorado, her heart pumps in helping photographers & creative service providers automate their sht, reclaim their time and get back to living! She believes “if it does not bring you joy, automate that sht.”
With 10+ years in the creative space, Colie believes every creative deserves to build a business that is sustainable and profitable, and no one should quit their 9 to 5 only to work 24/7 [in their business].
The truth—automated systems can save us all from being overworked and overwhelmed.
When Colie isn’t building killer workflows and automations, you can find her spending some much needed time with her husband, James, daughter Chloe, or [you guessed it] at Disneyland.
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and went on to co-found Spry, an award-winning online literary journal.
When Erin’s not helping her clients understand their website data or improve their website copy, you can catch her hosting the Talk Copy to Me podcast and guesting on shows such as Profit is a Choice, The Driven Woman Entrepreneur, Go Pitch Yourself, and Counsel Cast.
Stay in touch with Erin Ollila, SEO website copywriter:
Learn more about Erin’s VIP Day options if you’d like to learn more about how you can hire her to help you with your marketing
Here’s the transcript for episode 081 all about Erin Ollila’s business trajectory with guest host Colie James
NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.
business, people, testimonials, teaching, seo, podcast, aaron, offer, pricing, product suite, prices, children, marketing, helped, toolbox, feel, product, started, years, copywriter
Erin Ollila, Colie James
Erin Ollila 00:04
Hey friends. Welcome to the top coffee Timmy podcast. Here we empower small business owners to step into the spotlight with their marketing and messaging. I’m your host, Erin Ollila. Let’s get started and talk coffee.
Colie James 00:24
All right, let’s get into it. You may know Erin Ollila as the host of the Topkapi to me podcast. But what you may not know about her is she stole Madonna’s seat at the 2003 VMAs. Aaron, tell me all about this.
Erin Ollila 00:39
All right. So first of all, thank you so much for being on the show today to interview me. I feel a little nervous to be in the hot seat. But you know, it is what it is. Yes, I did steal Madonna’s seats for a little while, actually during the VMAs. I’ll tell you why in a second. But basically, I sat with Jimmy Fallon on the side of Jimmy Fallon and in front of me was Pamela Anderson, Vivica Fox. 50 said and there was one more person I’m sorry. I’m totally forgetting who that was right now. Oh, Eminem. Oh, my gosh. Did you forget me? No. So sorry, Eminem. And the funniest thing is he won a whole bunch of awards that year. So if you want to see me sitting in the seats, you can like see me like jump up from behind him. And I’m like clapping as if I’m like his best friend. Yeah, it’s on YouTube. But yeah, so my friends and I were actually seat fillers. I didn’t even know this was such a thing. No, that was a thing. And again, this was 2003. Guys, I was young lady at the time. So maybe in the past 20 years, they don’t do this, although I would assume they’d have to. When we have big events like this, like the VMAs. No one wants it to look empty. And you have to imagine that all of these seats in the front few rows have to be packed because when they scan to the audience, they want to see people there yet those people are also out there like getting awards, introducing people who are getting awards, and they’re the most important people. So they have seat fillers to fill the entire auditorium or amphitheater or wherever things are, as I mentioned, you know, they were Madonna’s seats. We didn’t know that at the time. And I had this great conversation with Jimmy Fallon about the merits of chewing gum and why wouldn’t we pick like winter fresh over big red over like really big bubble blowing gum chatted with Pamela Anderson about the girl who behind me asked her to talk on the phone to her boyfriend, she must have been another seat filler. But I think that was like an exciting moment for me. Because I’m like, dude, does Pamela Anderson think I’m not a seat filler, because she’s talking to me about this seat filler. Because I don’t tend to get really excited about celebrity, I think they’re humans like we are. But it’s also still really fun to kind of mix in with people who are different from you, right? So it was really exciting. And that was, that was just, it’s just a funny story that whenever I share with people, they’re like, Why don’t you leave with this? And I’m like, I don’t know, because it happened. It was like a total of like, what, 45 minutes of my life and now it’s over. Okay, we
Colie James 03:01
are going to dive in and start talking to Aaron about her fabulousness because as a podcast host. I feel like I’m always highlighting and showcasing my guests. And while I do a really good job of talking about myself and my offers on other people’s podcasts, I never have the opportunity to do that on my own. So today, I am going to be asking Aaron all of the questions, all of the things that you wish that you knew about her as your podcast host. So Aaron, first, assume that none of us know what you do, what your business is like, like, tell me a quick overview about your business goals and what services you provide.
Erin Ollila 03:40
Sure. So I am an SEO copywriter and content strategist I have been since the dawn of time, it feels like I started working in the marketing world specifically in 2013. Oh my gosh, I don’t even think I know 13 or 14. So we’re at like nine or 10 years working very specifically within the world of SEO, copy and content. And I point that out because prior to that I actually have over 20 years experience when it comes to things such as writing and editing and publishing. I have an MFA in Creative Writing I prior to that have written for literary journals, I have my own literary journal. It’s award winning. We’ve had it now over 10 years called Spry literary journal, I will make sure I put the link to that. In the show notes. We publish two to three issues a year and it’s really nice to be able to have kind of like this little part of my heart still within the creative writing world because growing up it’s what I thought I would do. I thought I was gonna be this lady who wrote books and taught college all about literature. And I know you know, because you are a previous professor, but you know, teaching college as great as it is is extremely hard to get into extremely hard to kind of get a tenure track job. And while I was getting my MFA, which is a terminal degree because there’s no PhD in in creative writing, I also met my husband and my stepson at the very same time. So it was like, Okay, so just started this very important relationship in my life am I going to move across the country for a job am I going to just drop all of this. So here I am in the marketing world. And I’m actually really glad that I am here, though, because I think this is kind of where I do best. Because in addition to this writing, and everything, I have a background in a lot of mental health spaces as well as human resources. I worked in HR at a drug treatment center for a billion years before becoming an actual paid writer. And I’ve also worked as a case manager for adults with psychiatric illnesses that had their own departments. And we kind of just helped them however, they needed help. And it was really a fulfilling job. And I say this all because I think this mixture of employee experience slash human experience, meeting psychology is, is my niche. So that translates for me as a marketer as honoring people’s psychographics. And not necessarily like belaying pain points or anything like that. But it was like, how do people function and what do they make decisions for, and then I naturally just fell into marketing, because I’m like, this is fascinating. People buy when you do X, Y, Z, yes. And you know this about that kind of person. And I was lucky to get a really great job as my first paid writing job, where I was trained by some extremely smart people, on all things SEO way back in the day of SEO, when, you know, playing in Google’s keyword planner was like, really fun, and they actually gave you really good information. So it was kind of like gamifying, my work, I would pick out these really strong keywords and be like, okay, so Google, let’s see how fast I can get this to rank. Fast forward a decade later. And here we are in an extremely transformative time in SEO. So it’s been a wild ride these past 10 years. But all of that backstory, really, I think I was supposed to answer that pretty quickly. And I didn’t, but
Colie James 07:02
that’s for podcast.
Erin Ollila 07:04
Thank you. That’s not getting cut everyone. All of that backstory is to say that, when I first started writing in the content world, I worked with everyone from, you know, large, medium sized businesses to Fortune 50 businesses. So I kind of did the content and the SEO. And I learned from especially when it came to like the fortune 500 to 50 businesses that I worked with, like they have budgets, and then those budgets were fine. Like I learned so much about what works, what didn’t work, how to AB test things, how to play with things. But the reason I transformed my business to working with smaller businesses was partially lifestyle, and also what I was realizing in my own business, I didn’t really understand this as I was going through the motions. But when you work for really big brands as one of their writers, you’re kind of acting as like a freelancer of sorts, like, I can’t plan my schedule, around what I want to do, and I can’t control how that works. I get the work when it works for them. And so many times I would kind of get myself in this cycle to making a lot of money and working on these great projects. And they’d end very quickly, not because of any fault of my own, or the businesses, they just would pivot their ideas to try something new and marketing. But also because as I was starting my own business, I was like, what the actual F is all of this shit, like, how do you run a business? I went to school to write words like I don’t even know what numbers are, this is really hard for me. And then I had to do everything in my own business to kind of make it work. So I think it kind of gave me a lot of sympathy for the business owners who are in the similar world as me, but they didn’t have the same skills. So you know, so they were in Facebook groups, and people were coaches, were telling them things like, you just have to write for blogs a week, and you have to do this and SEO is this and show up on social like that. And I was like, You’re crazy. Like, people don’t have time to do these things. And they certainly don’t have the budget to do all of these things. So I think it’s kind of had like that soft spot in my heart where I was like, I think I want to help my friends. Like I want to help people who are kind of going through the motions like I am, as as well as I could because I could see their passions, like I wanted to be part of their world, like they would be doing something really cool or offering something really great. And you know, it’s easy for a fortune 100 company to be like, alright, we’re offering this thing, here’s all this money behind the marketing and the advertising. But when you are a solo business owner or a smaller business, you don’t you don’t have any of that like so it’s an unfair playing field. And not that Erin Ollila even that playing field at all. But I like to think I make it a little bit easier for the people who are not fortune 100 companies.
Colie James 09:50
I know you make it easier Aaron and one of the things is you know when we talk about marketing, and then one step further than that traffic’s its traffic can be directly related to your SEO, I find that those of us that open our businesses, because we’re passionate about whatever our service is for you, it’s writing for me IT systems. I feel like when we do this, we forget that performing the service, whatever it is, is actually the smallest part of the job, once you own your own business, because as an entrepreneur, and specifically as a solopreneur, you are the marketing department, you are the accounting and the bookkeeping. I mean, you are the sales team, and you’re performing the actual service, whatever that is. And so I feel like a lot of us jump into entrepreneurship without thinking of all of those other things. And once you get a handle on your service, and perhaps you do think that what you are offering like you get your pricing in order, because we’re gonna talk about your pricing, I’m not gonna let you skip on that. But once we get that in order, we’re like, Okay, I’ve got this great offer, but no one is buying. And so how can I get my offer in front of the right people who need my service? And that’s where you come in, of course, let’s go back to that pricing, Aaron. Sure. I’m gonna cut you off. Let’s go back to that pricing. So you said that you struggled to like, you know, get it going, because you had no formal business training. So how long would you say you were in business before you got your shit together before you were offering your service for a price that was sustainable, and profitable? And like you felt comfortable in the other aspects of your business beyond the actual SEO and copywriting?
Erin Ollila 11:34
Yeah. So just before I answer that, I want to tell everyone who’s listening that while I told Koli some things I’d like to talk about, and she talked about some things we could talk about, we didn’t plan this episode at all. So anything that you’re hearing is very generative. And I actually am obsessed with that, because I think I perform really well when I’m not planning like, I think it’s from especially in this type of a conversation where I’m being interviewed for my own show, like you’re hearing the answers immediately as they come out of my mind. So just know that like, this isn’t scripted. But I love that question. Because I don’t want to default to I’m lucky because because we all know that like luck helps and privilege absolutely helps. But at the same time, I also have to kind of like pat myself on the back for the hard work that I did. And that’s not something that comes naturally at all to me. But I think I was really lucky at first because the first brand that I worked with was actually Hills pet Hill’s Science Diet if I’m still writing for them, like 800 years later, but that was the first big brand I worked with. And I just started getting paid well by the big brands. So by the time I worked with the little guys, I realized, like, I couldn’t write a blog for $25. Like, that’s just not how it worked. And because of the big guys, I developed extremely good work ethic skills and like practices, right. So I don’t just like sit down and write some some thoughts on paper, I research are a ton of time, I do way more research and strategy work than I do writing. Because writing is something I can do quickly once I’ve done a ton of research and strategy for like SEO and all that. So I came into the small business world, having contents in content strategy skills. And I point that out, because what I also offer clients is copywriting. And that is not the same budget. So for example, a small business owner may be willing to invest in a website rebrand or a website copy as a whole, because that’s the foundation of their business. And it’s very important for them to kind of have that, you know, stomping ground, and very clearly showcase who they are and what they do. So they’re willing to pay for that. But small business owners as much as they think that they support content and understand how important it is they’re not willing to pay for blog post. And I understand that also having a smaller budget than a fortune 50 company myself, but there are ways to kind of get around that. So how long did I get? What did it take for me to get my shit together? The answer is both immediately, like it was together immediately. But the answer when it comes down to how I’ve transitioned from big guy to small guy was marginally and over time, like I’m a big believer in baby step businesses. And by the time this episode goes live, it will be right before my seventh anniversary. So I’ll be working on year eight in my own business completely on my own. And I would say that I didn’t suffer from low prices the whole time. But there were multiple times throughout those eight years. And actually even recently, I’ll be honest with you, where I did a quick competitor research and I was like, Oh, lordy. Like you are so far off from like, where your competitors are like what you have to raise your prices because, again, this business thing, I’m really good at it once I know how to do it, but I have to learn lessons over and over again to recognize that like, oh, I need to pay better attention to these things and I need to put better processes in order. So I don’t know long answer for both, like immediately and very slowly.
Colie James 15:06
It is, but and I think that that point that you just brought up was super interesting in that you feel like you have good sustainable profitable prices. But also you’re away under charging compared to your competitors. So I think that is something that every entrepreneur should ask themselves is, how should you set your prices? Like, should you set your prices based on what they always tell us? You know, what are your expenses? What do you want to pay yourself? Are you making enough to put towards retirement like all of those questions? And then there’s also like, what will the market bear? And what can you charge based on other people that are performing a very similar price to your own? And I mean, I don’t think either one is wrong. I if I was doing it for myself, I probably meet somewhere in the middle, Jen. That’s because, yeah, see, there you go.
Erin Ollila 15:56
Yeah, because part of this whole online business world that I like to pick on sometimes is prices are such bullshit, like straight up BS that would never survive in the true traditional normal business world. Like, we’ve created this ecosystem where all of us, myself included, even though I like to think I’m not involved in it, myself included, has been brainwashed to think that from the coaching industry, and I do love the coaching industry, because I’ve worked with some incredible coaches. But the coaching industry and in the business marketing industry has taught us that we can set very unrealistic prices, and just raise, raise, raise, raise raise, we’re just so irrational, like, this is not how big brands run their businesses, guys, like when I worked with these brands that had huge marketing budgets, they knew their numbers, and they knew like obviously, everything that cola just said, what are cost consumers willing to spend? Or where can we adjust things, but they don’t all of us like hills, just use them. For example, like I really don’t know what the price of food is anymore. But like, let’s just say like a bag of food is like $20, right? They don’t just suddenly say like, well, I guess what all our competitors have 20 bucks. So I’m raising it to 40 today. And then next year, I’m raising it to 80. Like that’s not but that’s how it works in the online business world. And I’ve always just really saw through that and felt frustrated by that. So I see in you know, maybe this is my like, you know, little negative moment, but like I see so many copywriters with little experience charging premium prices, and I feel frustrated because there’s no need to charge like $15,000 for a small business website, when they only have like five pages of copy like that just ridiculous, right? So there is this middle ground that I’m constantly checking of like, are you underpricing yourself? Or Is this realistic pricing because I don’t subscribe to just doing the same thing everyone else does. Yet, where that gets people in trouble. And this does this is marketing is the VAT perceived value, right? So let’s just say there’s five copywriters in a room and you have to choose one of them, all of their pricing, let’s say is $8,000, except for one, and their pricing is $4,000. That person whose pricing is $4,000 is the odd man out now because everyone else has set this standard. So it is this really weird world of trying to like match what other people are doing so that you don’t necessarily seem like the deal is like what’s wrong with this? Like, I remember when we got gutters on our house, and we had like, people come out for a quote. And there was this one company that was vastly lower than the other companies. And my husband and I were just like, yeah, oh, we don’t think we should look at back that company. And who knows, maybe they were like a great company, but it was just a red flag to us that it was so much lower. So I am not one to give advice on pricing your stuff. It is something I am constantly figuring out. But I think the best way to approach it is like I say this with one of my closest business friends all the time, like how much money do you want to make? And how much money how much do you want to work? Like, what is your ideal lifestyle? I’m sure a lot of us would think oh, I my ideal lifestyle is a millionaire. Yeah, that’s an easy thing to say. But, you know, like I one thing that’s changing very much in my business this year is my youngest child will be starting in the public school system. And wait, I know, I’m calling you on day one and being like, oh my gosh, this is what happened. But what you may not know about me is that I’ve actually only worked at home with my children, as the sole parent for my children with zero child care for all of my children’s life. Now I’m married and I you know, the privilege here is that I have a husband, but he does take care of our health insurance. So there’s one thing that I do not have to worry about. And I do have a backup. So he does work at home sometimes, like if I have a kid ever needed to use the bathroom and I was on a call. He could do these things. But I was I am the sole parent of my children when it comes to childcare during the day and at night. But I still run a full time business like I’m not just the freelancer who picks up things here and there. So it’s fine. It It’s overwhelming. I think anyone who like worked at home with children at home during the pandemic probably has a feel for what I experience. But But I bring that back to say that like, even though it was hard, that is exactly what I wanted from my life. Like growing up, I wanted to stay at home with my children, but I’m just that type of person who loves to work. So there was this dilemma when we decided to have additional children, like, what the heck am I gonna do here, like we, you know, we didn’t have enough money that I could just be like, cool, you know, no big deal, like, I don’t have to work. So this little mix that we got ourselves into was working well, for us, I was able to have all these moments with my children I never would have, but bringing it back to pricing, it’s that I designed my life to be this way to make the type of money that I could, which has been really good. While also, you know, homeschooling my younger kids through like preschool and through the pandemic, and you know, taking them on like mom activities and just like soaking up their life before they were able to go to school. So who knows what my life will be like, Come September, like, part of me thinks like, there’s a really good chance I’m just gonna, like, go like cuddle up in bed and just hibernate for a really long time and not do anything once that kids in school. But then the other part of me thinks like, wow, it’s it really is opening up so many doors for me to be able to have like more hyperfocus time and more strategic time when my own business. But again, back to the point, when it comes to how you set your own prices. I say like, you really have to factor that in, like, how many vacations Do you want to take a year like that limits the amount of time that you can work. So don’t just compare your your salary to industry standards, or some fake number that we’ve created for ourselves in this world where we have to worry about like recession and all these things customers are buying, it’s because of all these fake numbers. So like, pick it based on what you want to make and how you can live your best life in addition to it.
Colie James 22:00
So I don’t know that you know this about me, Aaron, but very similar. So I left being a professor and for the first three years of Chloe’s life, I didn’t want to put her in daycare, like I wanted to be home with her. And so I was like, Okay, what am I going to do? I ended up nannying. Oh, a little girl that was only one week younger than Chloe. Oh my gosh, wow. So yeah, I had both of them. They were like twins, for like the first three years of Chloe’s life. Well, actually, I guess it was like two and a half. But then when a spot opened in the preschool that they were intending to put their child in three months early, they went ahead and took the spot and put their daughter in. And then I was alone with Chloe for three months. And then I sent her to preschool. And at the same time, I had opened my photography business. Nickleby was only going two mornings a week. So unlike you, I did not have her here the whole time. But I definitely built my business around my capacity to work around raising and spending time with my child. So I completely understand what you’re talking about. And going back to the pricing. I feel like if everybody knows their numbers, and they know what they need to make, like, you don’t have to have this big, fabulous salary. Like I always tell people, my goal was not to match my husband’s annual salary. I mean, that would have been difficult being home with my child and being the primary caregiver. But what I absolutely wanted to make sure that was dollar for dollar based on the hour, I was making as much as my husband. Yeah. So I was making his after taxes after all that I was making just as much as he was per hour. So that I felt like I was equally contributing. Even if I was at home with her, you know, three full days, well, three and a half days a week. And then she went to school two full days, and then three full days. I mean, we basically ramped up until kindergarten, and then I like you was like, Oh my gosh, I’m gonna be free and no, then I then I was PTA president. And I volunteered in her school today.
Erin Ollila 23:49
Okay, note to self do not volunteer VPC.
Colie James 23:52
Oh my gosh, please don’t do that. Also, Aaron, you are not going to hibernate forever. I do want you to completely clear your schedule for that first week, because it is going to be a little shocker. You’re going to sit in your house and it’s going to be so quiet and you’re probably going to cry. But after that week, you’re going to be like Okay, I’m ready to get back to work. What’s next?
Erin Ollila 24:10
Yeah, no, I completely agreed. And that’s one thing I have built into my business. Like so again, my met my stepson before I married my husband and we he’s been with us half time to full time very quickly. So I stepped into a parenting role like right away. And once I had my first biological child go into the school system. I had these feelings of like, oh my gosh, this is going to be awful. Like I don’t know how to like live without this child at home with me. But that second I got the glimpse of like, a couple of days after her being on the bus and those first couple days were so hard because again, no childcare, barely any babysitting either. Like I’m lucky like my parents will babysit from time to time but like we haven’t had a stranger come and babysitter or nanny helper which would have been glorious. There’s nothing negative about nannies, babysitters anything is just what we chose to do but you A couple days in, I was like, Oh, this is nice. Like this is really, really nice because as much as I love my kids, they talk a lot. And sometimes I think just quiet time. It’s very nice. But yeah, I know I’ll be fine. It’s just it’s a, it’s a huge, it’s the hugest business transition I think I’ve had, because like I said, even when I was working for in my last traditional job, it from a writing capacity, I was with my son, and bringing him to school picking him up from school, if he was sick, I was taking care of them. So I’ve never worked without taking care of someone else. And obviously, I’m very well aware that there will be sick days and there will be things but it’s, it’s going to be wild,
Colie James 25:40
glorious. Glorious is the world. Okay, Aaron. So we’ve talked about your services, and I actually met you through one of your digital products. So how did you transition from having SEO Services copywriting services, into offering digital products? First of all, what was your first digital product?
Erin Ollila 25:59
And the one I think that we met through is the testimonial toolbox? Yeah, that was my first Well, I that’s the one I guess I’ll give credit to for being the first like, the thing about me is we talked about how I have done some homeschooling and I wanted to grow up to be a college professor. And I’ve taught in high school I’ve taught in undergrad I’ve taught in, in post grad classes. So like I have done a ton of teaching. And when I started my business, my tagline was actually write, teach, strategize, because those were the three things I wanted to do. Like, those are the things that I learnt. Yeah, I love that like this little tiny tagline I made up for myself, like on a whim, has really kind of transitioned me through all the phases. I’m, like, stuck with me. But you know, as a business owner, it’s like, you have to kind of keep your head in one direction in the sense. So it’s like, Well, how am I gonna do all of these things at once. And I’ve played around with it many ways throughout my business offering like workshops. And that was a wonderful way to get teaching. But I think the key reason I decided to make products and my business was one of the things that I offer is copy coaching. And that allows me to work with the DIY errs, who really need help with their writing, and they’re willing to pay for help, but they cannot necessarily afford, like, you know, the filler done for them projects. And in talking to that audience, what I realized was, I was really attracting both audiences, I was attracting people who wanted me to do the work for them. But I was also attracting a ton of people who just couldn’t afford for me to do that. And I just can’t hang with that, like I hated turning people down for financial reasons. I tend to give way too much away for free, like you get on a discovery call with me. And I’m constantly like, don’t do the strategy right now, don’t do the strategy, don’t do the strategy, don’t do the strategy. Because this is things like business lessons I’ve learned I just get really excited about helping. So finally, it came down to the fact two things I was so tired of saying no to people, because they couldn’t afford me. And that felt very, against everything I wanted my business to be, but then again, also have to run a business, right? That was one and the other one was I was so sick and tired of hearing people say that they couldn’t get good testimonials like it would drove me actual crazy. Every time I get a new website client, I’d be like, alright, well, what kind of testimonials Do you have? Like, we’re gonna have to figure out where to put them on the page, what pages do use them. And they’d be like, all I really have are so and so is very good at what they do. And I’m like, well, that’s not going to sell anything for you. And honestly, even myself included at first where I would ask questions of my clients. And the answers would be like Aaron’s are really good writer, and I’m so glad that I hired her and I’m like, Well, again, that’s not going to help me either. No, like, that doesn’t convince anyone to work with you. So I transition my own processes to ask for testimonials differently and be a better listener for testimonials. And then again, I got so second frustrated for my clients who just couldn’t get them. But I was like, Alright, I’m, I’m just doing something like I’m gonna put all of this knowledge that I’ve gained, I did a ton of research, way more research than I should have done because I’m not I wasn’t like writing. But that’s how I approached writing doing this course. And then I kind of packaged it all up in a testimonials course. I would say that was the best thing I could have done at the time for two reasons. One, it was really helping people like I get a ton of messages from people who are like, Oh my gosh, I needed this. Thank you so much. Or I’ll hear a lot of people be like I’m actually so surprised how actionable this is like I really thought like it was gonna be this big heavy lifting and changing everything in my business but I could just do this or I could do that and I’m like yes, yes, you can like that is the whole point of the course. But it also built up my confidence right so do I have am am I unconfident in my teaching ability like No, like I’m a great teacher. I know that. But there’s it’s really different from being a service provider to all of a sudden being an educator. So having that great feedback from people it really did help me be like, oh gosh, I’ve got this in the bag and I’m Not conceded. So it wasn’t like, I was like, I could do anything I want. But it did give me the push to be like, what? Why are you holding back like, this is silly. Like you have a lot of things, either almost already created because I do have like, you know, this like, cemetery of like 95% created products in my Google Drive. Because I get I have ADHD, I’ve talked about this many times, I get really excited, I do almost all of the work, and then whatever happens happens and things don’t get completed. But having the testimonial toolbox was really like that push for me to be like, Okay, well, we’re prioritizing this now. Because not only do you feel better about doing it, and you know, the steps to do it now, and you can replicate those steps, but you’re hearing really, really good feedback from people who this is making a difference in their lives. And, you know, I’m an Enneagram, too. So like, all I, my whole life goal is to please other people and, and make things better for other people. So when I could see it in action, I knew I could continue with that.
Colie James 31:03
So Aaron, this is just absolutely fascinating, because of course, we met through the testimonial toolbox, I’m curious how that has allowed you to grow your business, because one of the things about having like a lower ticket, I’m not gonna say low ticket, because sometimes that gets a bad rap. But like having a lower ticket offer is that that just makes your value ladder more accessible, like someone can hop on at a lower rung, and perhaps you can bring them up to your higher offers. Or in your case, I know that you’ve used the testimonial toolbox in order to grow your audience. So other than making an impact on people at a lower price point. What else have you gotten through the testimonial toolbox, or even one of your other digital products,
Erin Ollila 31:44
I would say for me, I mentioned this, like extremely early in our conversation, like I’m not a good self promoter. So I don’t necessary, it’s not my first instinct to like, share about how great it is to work with me or share. But all of these ways I can like help people in their business. So my marketing doesn’t lean on that tenant. But I think that what I love about having a product suite is that there is an accessible price for people, whether they are DIY errs, or done for you people to test me out, right? So like, Yes, I have this podcast, but not everyone is a podcast listener and in truth be told the podcast came after the product, I think or around the same time, right. So if you’re not a podcast listener, if you’re not kind of consuming this content, you don’t know what it’s like to work with me. And I do run a very much referral based business. Again, luck, and you know, having people really like me when they work with me. But that marketing thing is the problem. It’s the mean, not stepping out and being like, hey, look what I have, hey, look what I can do. So when I have this product suite, they are able to learn my teaching style, see that I’m extremely giving in the content, and I want people to succeed. So I’m going to take the extra steps to like really flush it out so they can succeed. And then the DIY errs can work with me on things like strategy, you know, power calls, or you know, I have a magic marketing month where we kind of like, work intensively for a period of time together. And then the people who went through the lower priced offers, it doesn’t mean they can’t be the higher price clients, like I’m helping them with the things they need within their business. I’m not teaching people how to write a website for $100. I’m not teaching people like how to do their content strategy for your $100. Those are things they can hire me for when it comes to like full services. But they can learn about these facets that I’m creating these smaller products for them, to kind of give them that leg up, whether they do it themselves, or they hire me to do it for them.
Colie James 33:44
It gives them the quick wins. But it also enables them to see you in action, which builds confidence in that if they ever need a service, where you offer it, you are going to be front of mind, you are going to be the first person that they thought of, because in terms of testimonials, you help them because I mean, the testimonial toolbox. I know I’ve told you this before so you know, just ignore me when I talk about it. But I feel like you having this product gives people the facet to collect the social proof that can be used in so many different ways on their business. Like it’s not just for your website. It’s for your social media. It’s for when you go on podcast, like all of these things,
Erin Ollila 34:24
email, yes, sales pages, like conversations, whatever, like you need social proof. It’s like this is kind of what you’re talking about social proof, right? Like, I am sharing that I have these things. You are a student of the toolbox. So you have kind of used it yourself. And it’s the social proof that it is okay. Well, all right, if Colleen trust Erin, I can trust her. Yeah, right. And we all need that in our business.
Colie James 34:50
I actually don’t think I know what else is in your product suite. So tell me Well, let’s talk I think I know of like one or two things but like the toolbox is what just comes front to mind because it was a fun First thing that I got from you, and I was like, Oh, wow. I mean, yeah, cuz I was asking for a lot of testimonials. But like, I just felt like the toolbox helped me make sure that I had consistent systems in order to do.
Erin Ollila 35:12
Yeah, so what I actually decided to do, because again, all of the ideas and all of these things partially built, I could have just jumped in and created a lot of things. But I actually decided to this is the wrong word here kind of finalized the topic. So instead of creating all of the different types of things I wanted, I kind of played around in the same topic, testimonials. So for and I’ve created different things so that people can take what works for them. So I have a testimonial trackers, let’s say you’re really good at testimonials, but you have no clue how to kind of organize them. The trackers are perfect for you. They’re super tiny, low price product. I have the testimonial questions. Again, maybe you’re confident with asking, but you don’t know exactly how to phrase it and get the specific questions. You could buy the long list of testimonial questions. I have a new one coming out right now. That’s actually the testimonial swipe. So it’s like how do you ask in an email in many different formats to cool it down. And then there’s the full course which explains like the legalities of testimonials, because this is one thing I see done so wrong. And there are like in the US, like quite literal FTC guidelines on what you can and cannot do when it comes to product reviews and testimonials. And it’s not just the legalities, but it’s the overview. It’s the how to build a system where to actually use these things. So once I flushed out that whole testimonial product suite, because I mean, that’s, you know, that’s the full thing right there. There’s no, I can’t really pull anything else out of testimonials. Although I do have an idea for turning testimonials into case studies, um, which we’ll get into. But in the meantime, if if it’s not live, when this goes live, which you probably won’t be go back and listen to the episode that I did with Brittany Herzberg on that exact topic, I will make sure to share that link in the show notes. But then I moved on to podcasting because like, once I started a podcast, I think most people understand this, you get a little hyper obsessed with podcasts. Because I think I especially if it’s a business podcast, because you really can see how it’s changed your own business and you want that for other people. So something I’ve always been complimented on was my workflows for my podcast. So I have a product that just goes through like podcast workflows. It’s a teeny tiny, tiny price to offer. So I have a new cars about podcasts promotion, kind of just works you through how as a host, and as a guest, you can promote your podcast, because I think everyone here has podcast promotion. And they’re like, Yeah, I’ll write an email. I’ll share it on social and like, that’s it. And it is so far from the truth of the things that you can do with the podcast episodes around. I also have a content wing that I’m building out right now. So I have a blog, a blogging foundations course that people can work through. And I think a lot of people remember earlier I said I one bone topic that I have with the online business world is that they’re like, Ah, I like blogging. I know, blogging is really important, but I’m not going to do it. It can be a lot easier than people make it especially now that we have like, you know, AI tools, and I knew that was coming that can now okay, like I’m not gonna get into that actually, you’ll hear an episode, probably, I think next week about my feelings on whether AI is good or bad. But you can use AI to generate an outline for a blog that will help you kind of in filling your own blanks. Like there’s really no reason why people shouldn’t be blogging at this time. And the blogging foundations course is just an easy way to format and create the outlines for your blog. So they’re very SEO friendly. And then I’m working on some SEO and copywriting things because that’s what people have asked me they’re like, Okay, these things are great. Like, thank you. They are huge in the marketing. Yes, I need them for my podcasting. I need them for testimonials. But you’re a copywriter, you’ve been a copywriter forever Can you just tell me how to write my website so I’m always been really on the fence with that because there’s like we all know I say it depends on almost every podcast episode like there’s no like do this and then you’ll have a perfect website. But I have kind of found a way to give the best insight that I have about the pages of your website in a DIY way. So that’s all coming but I mean like I said I need a little bit of a breath here and it will be coming down the pipeline soon.
Colie James 39:20
I find it absolutely fascinating. So in my opinion, you started at the top and you worked your way down. So you started with like your signature services. And now you are like productizing them if that’s even a word, you’re creating all of these products that are giving people wins small wins, or helping them DIY what you do as your big service. Whereas I did the opposite I actually created my course yeah. For how to do dubsado DIY style with like, you know some guidance and then I was like oh you know what people would probably just pay me to do this for them. Oh my so like so I find it fascinating that your top down and I bought them up Like, I don’t know, and there’s no right way to do it, right? There’s no right way to do it. I mean, both of us are clearly making good money doing both. Yeah. But I just find it fascinating sometimes to think about how people build their office suites, their product suites, their value ladder, because like, some people will start at the top. And they’re like, okay, but I want to help the people. Yeah, at a lower price point. Whereas I was like, Okay, let me put everything into it. And I can’t even say that it’s because you’re not a teacher, because you were, I always felt like I started with the course. Because I missed teaching. Yeah, like, I will never go back to a college classroom, I can 100% say that with certainty and like dedication that I will never go back on that. But I missed it. Like, I miss helping people get wins by, you know, explaining things by teaching things. And so the course really helped.
Erin Ollila 40:50
Yeah, and it makes so much sense for your business, too, right? Because like, what you did was you had your service based business as a photographer, and then you learned this thing that helped you. And you found that, okay, I am a Systems girl, right? Like, I am a Systems woman. Let me say, I know how to make this work. And I want to help the photographers do this. So you use those teaching skills, use the system skills. So it’s really, we did the exact same things, but from a different end of our business. And you know, I think it’s I think the thing I’ve struggled with so long in my business, though, is like, Well, how do I do multiple things, because that’s like, you know, it’s not easily taught you see, some like Lizzie Goddard, for example. She has an everything Paige, she has a ton of offers. And what I love about her is that she can run her business wildly, meaning like, there’s not just one narrow way to work with her, she can teach you about a lot of business and marketing things. Whereas other businesses are so niche down, and that works for them too. And I think that’s just something I struggle with this time like, well, what what is it for Aaron, right, like, here’s what I do I do story, strategy, and S and SEO or search, right? Like those are the three S’s three S’s. Yeah, like in that’s always been the case for when I was traditionally employed when I was getting my degree when I was doing this as a solopreneur. But how can I make that more accessible and available for all of the people I want to work with? And I’ve gone back and forth, like I could have had courses a billion years ago, like I said, there’s that graveyard of courses almost ready to launch in my Google Drive. But I just think I needed to, in this phase of life, teaching children at home raising children at home, the services helped me perfect my craft really become a true expert in what it is that I do strategy story. Search, right. And now though, like, once there’s more brainspace once there’s more ability for me to teach that, I can do that, too. So it’s not just it’s both selfless and selfish, right? Like there is that selfishness of me being able to do what I want, teach, educate, share. But there’s the selflessness of with the time allotted for me, I’m going to make the things I know as accessible to a vast amount of people and not be elitist and only work with people who can afford to pay let me pay me for those, you know, the higher surfaces.
Colie James 43:16
Yeah. All right, guys, this is normally the point where on my own podcast, I would wrap it up and ask my guests where we can find out more information about them. But you guys all know where to find information about Aaron, you can look in the show notes of this podcast, or go to Erin ollila.com to read all about Aaron’s offers and what’s coming in the future, which I’ve had some sneak peeks, and it’s amazing. Aaron, is there anything else that you want to say to close out this episode?
Erin Ollila 43:43
If you’re running a business, and you’re listening to this, and you’re like, oh, yeah, I don’t know what my next step is just just do. I’m gonna pull my whole like love of frozen to in here. Do the next best thing. As Ana tells us in that beautiful side. It’s like, seriously, like, one thing you’ll hear me say over and over again, is I have no clue what I’m doing half of the time, which is really against the truth that I actually have run a very, very strategic, very smart, very successful business. It just feels like I have no clue what I’m doing. It feels chaotic. It feels chaotic. And people don’t talk about that. So if you’re listening and you’re like all of this sounds great. Wow. We’ve learned a lot about Aaron like know, for yourself, like next spec step is the only way that you’re really, I mean, I never say things as strong as that. But like it’s the way that you’re going to succeed because you’re just going to do the next right thing. And that’s going to get you to the point you want to be and that’s absolutely
Colie James 44:35
here, right. So guys, we’re going to end the episode here. Thanks for listening.
Erin Ollila 44:45
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Top copy to me. If you enjoyed spending your time with me today. I would be so honored if you could subscribe to the show and leave a review. Want to continue the conversation. Head on over to Ian Instagram and follow me at Erin Ollila until next time friends
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