Michelle Knight

Ep. 369: Build Your Personal Brand Through Storytelling with Michelle Knight of Brandmerry

I'm so excited to introduce you to this week's guest on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, Michelle Knight of Brandmerry!

Michelle Knight is a mother, wife, world traveler, and storyteller. She is the founder of Brandmerry, where she supports entrepreneurs in branding themselves online, marketing their message, and creating more income and impact. Michelle focuses on teaching the power of storytelling to create an authentic brand that allows them to show up as they are, build a loyal community and experience time, financial, and location freedom as a result of their work. Michelle left her 9 to 5, retired her husband, built a multiple-6-figure-a-year business, and became digital nomads all within 5 years of building her business. Michelle has been featured on CNBC, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Authority Magazine.

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Shannon Mattern: Hey there. Shannon Mattern here and welcome to Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, a podcast that brings you side hustle success stories, motivation, and actionable advice to help you go from side hustle to self-employed without taking a pay cut. So I started side hustling back in 2014 as a web designer and after several months of undercharging and over-delivering, I decided to quit doing one-on-one web design work and started teaching people how to do it themselves instead. And what I didn't expect was all of the students who just wanted to hire me to build their websites for them. So I fixed my broken freelance web design business, got it profitable and sustainable. And then I was finally able to replace my six figure income and quit my day job. So on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, I not only share with you my ongoing business journey, but I also bring you stories of successful side hustlers who started from scratch just like you, and have gone on to replace their paycheck and create six and even seven figure online businesses.

Shannon Mattern: So if you're a do-it-yourselfer or a web designer, I have got tons of free resources to help you build a profitable, sustainable, and scalable business. So head on over to shannonmattern.com/free to get your hands on them. Okay. So let's go ahead and dive in to this week's episode. Welcome to episode 369 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. And I am so excited to introduce you to today's guest Michelle Knight. Michelle is the founder of Brandmerry.com, where she supports entrepreneurs in branding themselves online, marketing their message and creating more income and impact. And she focuses on teaching the power of storytelling to create an authentic brand that allows them to show up as they are and build a loyal community. Michelle, thank you so much for being here. Can you share a little bit more with our listeners about who you are and what you do?

Michelle Knight: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. So I started my business as a side hustle, which is absolutely perfect. When I started Brandmerry, it was just three months after my son was born. And like many of your listeners I'm sure, you saw a possibility of something online, which took me down a rabbit hole of information, where I realized that people were making money not in a nine to five. And I really wanted that. At the time I didn't want to necessarily leave my job. I wanted to still have my creativity. So I spent the next, you know, eight months building my business while working my nine to five and raising a brand new baby. It was an adventure, I'm still paying for it, but it was a lot of work. And, during that time I really struggled to make money. I felt like I was doing all the things that I was being told, but something just wasn't clicking. And right about the eight to nine month mark, I was getting ready to leave my nine to five because I had already said, look, I got to go all in on this or it's just not going to work.

Michelle Knight: And I realized that how I was showing up in what I was doing felt really disconnected from who I was or the story that I wanted to share with the world. So I started diving deep into story work and kind of redid my brand, redid my message, everything. Started signing clients almost immediately. And I was like, okay, wait, hold on. We're onto something here. And continued to just ride that momentum for a solid year. I hit six figures in a year and I've continued to grow. I'm five years into my business today.

Shannon Mattern: That is awesome. And I have so many questions about that early journey. Because I can relate to starting the business and trying to be someone that I was not because I was like, oh, I have to be this version to be successful, like corporate vanilla buttoned up professional Shannon, which that's why I was leaving my corporate job. I almost felt like I was like living a double life, right? Like, oh, I'm this person here and I'm this person here and I'm this person here. And none of it feels good and none of it was authentic to me. And when I like finally just let that go, it got easier. So I'm curious to know from you, what was that disconnect for you when you're like, I'm doing everything I'm being told, but it's not working. What was that disconnect for you?

Michelle Knight: Yeah, so I realized that what I was being told around branding was very surface level. And so what I ended up doing was started looking for inspiration outside of myself. And that meant that I created a brand that pretty much looked like what everyone else was doing at the time. So for me, it wasn't the corporate, it was the heels and the pink dresses in front of an Eiffel Tower when I was coming up. You remember! So I started to kind of mirror that. I mean, my website was like pink and baby blue and gold. And if you see my brand today, it is dark and muted and it has a very fall vibe and I'm very adventurous and I go hiking, and all of these different things. And I didn't really realize that not only was I doing that with my brand, but I had been doing that for a really long time personally.

Michelle Knight: And so when I started diving into this, I realized that there was just so much of my story that I hadn't really allowed myself to tap into. And that's why I wasn't able to pull it through my brand really easily. So when I started doing that work on who I was and what I wanted and my mission and the different quirks about me and the different things that I like to surround myself with, that's when everything started clicking. And not only did I have a brand that felt really good, but then I wanted to share it with everyone. Whereas before, obviously I knew something was up because I didn't want to talk about my brand because I didn't want anyone to see it.

Shannon Mattern: Like, I feel kind of like a fraud because I'd never be wearing high heels standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Ever!

Michelle Knight: Right! And we had a joke my first year of business, like that whole thing about branding. And then my second year, you know, I started talking more about my journey and how I started. And then about in 2018, I went to the Eiffel Tower with my family and I put a picture of me in front of the Eiffel Tower on my website. And I was not in a dress or anything. I was wearing my son and it became this whole thing in my community that like, I did have a photo, but it was like my version of The Photo.

Shannon Mattern: I love it. I love it. So you start your business. Eight months in you start really tapping into your authentic self and story. And you start booking clients. I'm curious to know, if you know, what was the shift for them? Oh, I've been following you, but now it's time.

Michelle Knight: I'm so glad that you brought that up because when I tell people I started signing clients, a lot of people think I started to do something different with my marketing, but I didn't. All of the clients that I signed in those first three months were following me for a while. But again, I just wasn't saying the thing. And I think what it came down to was messaging, which I believe is such a core part of branding. I didn't believe what I was saying was I could ultimately help my audience with. Because again, I was just looking at what everyone else was doing. It was like, oh, this is what seems to be working, let's just go that route and say that. And my audience, people can tell that disconnect, you know, if you believe it or not.

Michelle Knight: And so I think that was really the thing. Because I had a Facebook group, I had a freebie, I was doing videos. And I have a picture of the video that I think changed at all when I finally put my new brand out there. I came home from my nine to five, I was feeling so inspired. I went live and some person who I had calls with before just booked and signed up, you know? And so for me, it was really the messaging and really believing in the messaging and focusing on how I was going to ultimately support my ideal customer and getting exactly what they wanted.

Shannon Mattern: I think that what you just said, not just the messaging but believing in the messaging, is the key to everything. Because, yes, I can think back to when I was first starting and I was like, I know I can help people with this, but I haven't helped them with it yet. So I feel like I can't say it this way, so I'm just not going to say it at all. And I'm just going to dance around it and, you know, maybe possibly this. And yes, looking at what everybody else is doing and trying to adapt to that or whatever, and not really just taking the time and the space to figure out what does feel authentic to me that I will shout from the rooftops all day and not feel bad about.

Michelle Knight: Absolutely. And I think too, again, I was mirroring what I was seeing online. And those people were obviously further ahead than I am just getting started. And so I was sharing things that weren't really at my level. I was trying to market something that I wasn't actually offering. It was more like hopeful that I'll eventually figure it out. And when I started focusing on what I did feel confident in and what I did know, you know? At the time I was working in communication for a nonprofit, so I really knew how to use social media well, I knew how to brand, and I knew how to start a website on Squarespace. And so that's what I ended up just backtracking and starting with, just saying I'll help you get your brand started and start showing up on social media. I didn't promise to use any other platform at the time or even X amount of money. And when I made that switch, it was just like a whole alignment that just started happening. And people started to really believe that this is something that I could help them with.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. I also worked in marketing for a nonprofit before I started my business. Isn't that crazy? Like it's so aligned. Yeah. And for me, I can really relate to that when I'm finally like, okay, I'm not going to try to help you with everything. I'm just going to help you with this one thing that I know I can really, really deliver on like crazy and stop trying to teach you the things that everybody else is teaching you. I know I can teach you, but I'm just copying everybody else. Right? Even though I have that, 'I think I can do it', I still just feel like I'm just saying the same things everybody else is saying.

Michelle Knight: Absolutely.

Shannon Mattern: So you are super confident in that specific skill set. You started to get clients. Then what happened?

Michelle Knight: I wanted to really prove to myself that this would work. And so one of the things that I did in the beginning is I focused on just serving one-on-one clients. And I made a goal to fill my one-on-one with 10 clients, which I know now that's too many,10 one-on-one clients by March of the next year. So this was about December. So I was giving myself about three months. And so during that time, I started to realize that the things that I was really good at, the things that I was bringing to the table that weren't offered in the industry, I started to recognize the gaps that were happening in branding specifically. And I really stepped into owning this whole brand storytelling element and attracted a lot of people who were interested in that. So I started refining what it is

Michelle Knight: I was offering, my messaging. It just kept evolving until I was like, all right, we've got something here. And then I rolled out my first course, which was all about branding, and then a group program that ultimately helped entrepreneurs from branding on. And that was really important to me because I feel like I was going into branding wanting it to be perfect from the beginning. And so much of branding, and as a brand strategist I can say this, it's evolution. You don't know what you don't know, and your brand is meant to evolve and you're supposed to fine tune and get even more niched down and specific as you go. And that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't have really challenged myself to put my work out there and just get started. So that was an interesting period of time, because I felt like I was finally kind of stepping into that next level. And then I basically ran with it for the rest of the year, for as long as possible.

Shannon Mattern: I love that you brought that up about, I don't know if you said the words 'I gave myself permission', but you really did give yourself permission to grow and experiment and evolve even the way you started with one-on-one, then to group, then to, a course. And I think I put so much pressure on myself, and I know my listeners do too, that they want to have every single duck in a row for the business for what it's supposed to look like in five years, today before they ever start. And have the perfect website and the perfect funnel and the perfect emails and all of the things. And that they're just going to launch this thing and it's going to work and it's going to be the way that it was the first time you did it the first time you do it. And that's just not there yet.

Michelle Knight: No, and I think it's a hard wake-up call because, especially when it comes to branding, we don't want to revisit our brand. We don't want to redo our website. I totally get it. But as a business owner, we have to. Because things change all the time. You're changing as a business owner. Your mission is probably adapting as you go. Don't even get me started on how marketing changes every single day, you know? And so we have to really be open to this evolution and adaptability. I'm a recovering perfectionist. I'm still going through the process. I probably will forever. And that was something that really affected me in the beginning. Because I absolutely was like, if this isn't perfect, how could I put it out there? But then I started to realize from a marketing data perspective, how do I know what to change if I don't put it out there? And I don't have that response in that feedback. People will tell you. You'll see from your numbers, you'll see how easy it is to sign clients for a specific program, kind of where you should be focusing your attention and how you can make those small adjustments. And if you don't do that, you're just going to sit in your head forever and nothing's going to happen.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. Or you'll launch to crickets and then never take the next steps to find out why. You'll make it mean that you suck. You're horrible person. You need to start over. At least I'm talking about myself anyway, back in the early days where I'd be like, I'm going to launch this product. And I did no research, and I stayed in my head and waited until I thought it was perfect. And then I put it out there and then I didn't get the response that I expected. And then instead of gathering data, after that point, I would be like, well, this sucks. I'm going to rebrand and start over. Just repeating that same vicious cycle all internally, right? I know I'm not alone in this. I used to be so embarrassed that I would do it. And I'm like, oh my gosh, this is part of it. This is part of the story and part of the journey.

Michelle Knight: Yeah. And I have people who come to me all the time who are like, it's not working. I need to rebrand. It's not working. I need to rebrand. And I'm like, you know what? There's a point that you've reached where your brand feels good as it is, and now it's about experimenting and marketing. But so many people stay in that branding phase forever and just keep revisiting it and revisiting it and don't branch out to marketing. Because marketing feels really scary, you know? How do you do it? Where do you show up? All those different things And I think that staying in that branding phase can be really detrimental to business owners. And I've seen it happen time and time again, that I typically urge my clients to give them 30 days to figure out their brand and then start putting it out there and then be open to tweaking and adjusting based on the marketing.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. And it is. It's just reframing how you think. You've got to put it out there and gather data and make adjustments and don't expect to get an A+ when you turn it in.

Michelle Knight: I think it's so funny because I thought that too. I was like, I'm going to build my website and then suddenly people are going to know who I am. And we say here at Brandmerry, 'you do not build it and they will come'. It does not work like that with your website. You have to have those strategies in place to start sharing it. And I think when I was really starting and I had comparisonitis and imposter syndrome and all those things, I'd see what other people were doing and I'm like, well, they got it, they seem to be figuring it all out. So what's wrong with me? Why isn't this working? And that's another reason I love the story because we have to remind ourselves that they're at chapter 25 and you're at chapter one. And we don't know what went on with them behind the scenes. Because not everyone likes to talk about it and share where they were at. And we have to really remind ourselves that you're not expected to get it right out of the gate. And, full transparency, there's a lot of pieces to running a business. It's not as simple as just being like, well, I'm going to do this. And then suddenly it all happens.

Shannon Mattern: And also with that comparisonitis, we're also making assumptions that these people are actually successful. It's like, oh, they're launching something. They're on social media, they're doing this. And we're making assumptions that it worked. And that's not even necessarily true. And like you said, people aren't always super transparent about what's working and what's not, and they're just trying things. And so you're looking at what everybody else is doing and assuming that they're just knocking it out of the park or getting the results that they want. You really have no idea. And so it's just so fascinating, those early stages. And I love that it's sounds like, and I don't know, you tell me, you're on a mission to help people understand what that earlier stage is supposed to look like.

Michelle Knight: Yeah. Especially when it comes to branding. Because I just always just thought of branding as the initial step. And if you don't do it in a way that feels good to you, then you're constantly going to be spinning your wheels over and over again. One of the things I talk about a lot is a sustainable business. And I see a lot of people who build businesses that might make a lot of money on the outside or have a huge following, and then they disappear and then we get a message that they were completely burnt out. And I never wanted to build a business that way. My whole goal was to build a business that allowed me the time freedom. Like I just got back in two and a half months from Greece with my family. And we lived in an RV for two years. And that has never been a goal for me to run myself into the ground constantly. And I think that comes back to branding. Building a brand that feels good to you and being really clear on what you want and the lifestyle that you want and how you want this business to be. If you skip that, it's not just how you look online, but how you feel on the inside.

Shannon Mattern: Absolutely. So tell me, how did you go from where you're running a group program and adding a course to 'I'm living in an RV for two years and I'm taking two and a half months off in Greece'. I mean, that's amazing. Tell me more!

Michelle Knight: One of the first exercises that I did when I started my business, the group that I was in was like what do you really want? What would your new life look like? I mean, we've all done this. And we got really specific with it. I was like, I want to go to Whole Foods and buy my groceries every week.

Shannon Mattern: At 10:00 AM on Tuesday when no one else is there.

Michelle Knight: Yea! After yoga! I just knew exactly what I wanted. And one of the things we knew we wanted was to travel. We were already the people who would pack all of our vacation days into a two week period and go for two weeks to Ireland or do whatever we could during that window. And we knew we really wanted to do it more often. So I had been building my business with that intention anyways. And then in 2018 we had traveled a bit because possibilities kind of open up in that way. And around the same time, unfortunately, we lost two family members to cancer. And this wasn't our first round of that. We lost my brother12 years ago. And so we kind of just looked at each other and we're like, what the heck are we waiting for?

Michelle Knight: You know? Why are we waiting? So I do what I do best which is look at the numbers and figure out how do we make this work? And my husband ended up retiring from his retail management job. And we sold our house and our car and everything that we pretty much owned. And bought an RV and a truck and we started traveling that way. And so that was really kind of the entry into that. And we did that for about two years. And then obviously 2020 threw a curve ball at everyone's travel plans. And we came back to Missouri and just decided that what we were going to do is take longer trips. So this year we've done Hawaii for a month. We went to Greece for two and a half months. We've been to St. Croix. And we're able to do that because of the business that I created. And ultimately the chance that we took that we got real ballsy there for a minute and it's worked out.

Shannon Mattern: I love it. I am thinking back to when I quit my day job in 2018 and I felt so scared, but so confident that I will do whatever it takes to make this work because I am not going back. I'm not giving up my freedom. I'm just not willing. There's not an option. There's no option. And I think some of that scrappiness, sometimes that's my kryptonite that I just cannot give up on something that I should be closing the door on and moving on to the next thing. But it's always worked out. But it's one of those things where it feels scary because it's outside of the box of what society has told us what the "good life" is.

Shannon Mattern: And I just can't even imagine going back to that. And I try to get my husband, I'm like, come on, come to this side. Because he still is very much like paycheck is security and I like having a corporate job, and I'm like, that's amazing. And I'm still just chipping away, come with me, come with me to the dark side. Because I love to travel and everything. And I'm like, oh, but I also need you to have the vacation to be able to do that. I love that you guys are totally on the same page about that. I don't know, the RV thing sounds super dreamy to me. We have one and we're like weekend warriors. And when we built our dream house in 2019 and we lived in it in the driveway of this house for 10 days in the gap. And I was like, yeah, no. I don't think I would want to do this full time.

Michelle Knight: It was an interesting experience. You know, our goal was always to just do it for one year. Basically we saw it as a way to break the ties to our nine to five grind. That kind of life. Like what you said is that sometimes that ballsy action is incredibly important. I think a lot of clients feel the need for security of their job, and as a result of that sometimes don't put their business in a place where it's getting a lot of energy. And I know that that's not an option for everyone, but I will say that me making that jump did light a fire under my butt to sign clients. And like you said, I was going to do anything that I could. And when we brought my husband on I lit another fire under my butt to make that happen. But, yeah, with RV, we loved it. But yeah, I don't think we'll do that again.

Shannon Mattern: So we bought it for our wedding gift in 2012 and we love it, like weekend warriors, longer trips. And then since we stayed in it for 10 days, I think we've been in it one time. We're like, okay, well we'll get it back out. But it's just one of those things.

Michelle Knight: The hardest part I tell people all the time is traveling is so dreamy. RV life. I did love it, right? It beats the grind any day. Traveling overseas. Amazing. But internet sucked. That was the hardest thing. So l'm at a place in my business where I recognize that and I don't want to give up my travel freedom. So we're really restructuring my business so that I'm not doing a lot of one-on-one coaching anymore. And I have a membership now, called Brandmerry Academy, and that is where I teach the branding and the marketing. And that is something that I really only have to do video twice a month. And when we were in Europe, it was super easy because I knew those days, I made sure we had wifi. And so that's one of the things too, for me, was sustainability as again, I've always been really clear on what the ultimate vision is and I will adjust things in my business to get to that vision rather than compromising or sacrificing. Like, I feel like we should be offering this. And I feel like I should be doing this. I feel like I should be here. I just don't have an interest in that at all.

Shannon Mattern: I love that you're building your business around your life instead of the other way around, because that is the surefire path to burnout, and I've been up against that a few times in my journey. And that was the fix. Okay, how do you unwind this? How do you get clear on what you really want, especially when you're an entrepreneur and what you really love is business and doing that. And then sometimes I have been really guilty of kind of losing sight of everything else and just fully focusing on that. And then you're like, where did my life go? This felt really rewarding, until it didn't. And because I didn't have these guardrails in place, and you are creating constraints. I love that you're creating these constraints. So how do we creatively still serve and have the impact and create what we want to create around these non-negotiable things of how we want to live our life.

Michelle Knight: Yeah. And I think that's, again, to bring it full circle, that's just all part of that branding process, you know? There's a big part of your brand in being clear on what is the vision? Where do you see it going? And of course, it's something you're going to revisit every year. I'm in the thick of it right now, you know? Because we're making this switch and I'm like, all right, we got to get really super clear on what does this look like? How is this gonna work? And so you have to revisit, you always have to check in with yourself. I think sometimes when we're just going with the motions of our business, you know, we're posting our stuff in social media, we're writing our blogs, we're serving our clients whatever that looks, making content, we forget to check in with ourselves. And then, like you said, we skirt or dance with burnout a little bit. And we're like, Hey, this does not feel good anymore. How do I fix this? And so, yeah, full transparency, that's going to keep happening and you're going to have to check in with yourself. Again, the evolution is just so important. It's not a 'set it and forget it' type of lifestyle for sure.

Shannon Mattern: Absolutely. And one of the things that I always ask myself is would I coach a client to run their business the way that I'm running mine right now? If the answer is big fat no, I need to change something. Right?

Michelle Knight: I'm an efficiency expert. And so that's something that I have to check myself because I can make anything work smoothly. That's one of our super powers. But then I sometimes I'm like, wait, but do I want that to work? I've just mastered this whole process, but is that really what I want? I can make it all work. But again, I just have to constantly be asking myself, is this what you want? Is this what you're seeing online? Are you sure you aren't being infiltrated with other information about what you should have and what you should want? And one of my best pieces of advice that I've used since the beginning of business is I will mute social media. I will mute people. I love you. I send you all of my blessings, but I'm doing this for me and my boundaries and my sanity.

Michelle Knight: And usually this time of year, I was just talking with my husband, it's like full hibernation for me. I'm like, I'm not going to do anything right now. And therefore I don't always have the most creative ideas with content. And I found that if I'm getting that outside input that I didn't ask for, you know, just from scrolling, then it makes it even harder. So I will just really kind of stay in my zone for this month and the next month so that I can make sure that I'm speaking truly to who I am and my brand, because it's so easy to just hear outside messages and be like, oh, I got to do that. I got to pivot right now.

Shannon Mattern: Full disclosure, I do not follow anybody on social media. I do not scroll Facebook or Instagram ever. I don't watch YouTube. I rarely listen to podcasts other than maybe one and it's not business. I used to. I used to consume all that content. And that's one of the reasons I love doing this podcast because I do get to connect with other people in a really deep way and have connected conversations and things like that. But when it comes to the information that I take in, I get scattered and pulled in a bunch of different directions, pulled off my game, feeling inauthentic, feeling like I should be doing things that I don't need to be doing. And like you, it's like a self-protective kind of thing to be like, I want to authentically contribute to the conversation what I'm here to contribute and not just regurgitate what I'm hearing other people say.

Michelle Knight: Yes, absolutely. And it's hard to do because that's the nature of online. And I love that you do that. I make my husband laugh all the time because I have a YouTube channel and I don't watch You-Tube. I don't want to just sit and watch YouTube videos on the time. Like first off, let's talk about that. But I get this question a lot from new entrepreneurs when they're like, well then how do I learn? How do I get the information? And I think that's such a valid point. And one of the things that I did was I found the person that I clicked with in that season. And then I turned off all the other information and I really followed my gut and said, this is the person that's going to help me right now. Most of the time I would invest in whatever they were offering to serve that part of my business. And then if I felt like I had outgrown that relationship, I would move on and find something else. And that is something that has always served me. I'd rather invest my dollar than my time and my energy and my sanity trying to just opt into everything and scroll everything and do it for free. Which, again, has always been something that I think has always served me in the long run as well.

Shannon Mattern: I couldn't agree with you more. And I think there are these stages. There are stages that I went through. There stages I see other people go through and I'm like, please let me help you shorten the stage where things are not working for you. You'll go through it, but it can be a lot shorter for you than it was for me. You just don't know what you don't know and you're navigating the early stages. I could not agree with you more. In the beginning I had a very .....the scarcity and abundance mindset is so cliche, and whatever. And I hate talking about it like that, but I had a very, um, I would say 'employee' mindset back in the day where I'm like, oh, this is the only amount of money I'm going to get,

Shannon Mattern: and if I spend it, it's gone forever. And I don't know if I'll get more money. There was this whole black and white thing. This is what my bank account balance is. And if I spend this on a mentor, it's just gone and it's not coming back. And I didn't think like a CEO in terms of 'return on investment', 'making investments'. What's the right investment to make? This money is actually coming back to me when I make smart investments in the right mentors and tools and things, instead of being cheap and DIYing and buying courses that really didn't help. Because I didn't have any other feedback outside of all the broken stuff in my brain that I was trying to put into a course framework that was never going to work because it was broken. I just think back to that version of me, I'm like, if only I would have believed that the money that I spent was on its way back because I was investing in the right things. I would have gotten so much farther, faster. Now, me today, I'm like, oh yeah, I'm all in! $20,000 for a coaching program. No problem. Because I know I'll make that back in the first 30 days and then multiply it by 10 in the next six months. And it's just a no-brainer. But it was an evolution to get there.

Michelle Knight: Of course. And it doesn't just happen, you know? And that's one of the things that I have also always done. And sometimes I scare people when I tell them because I'm super transparent. I'm like, you know, I've spent close to six figures, maybe more, for coaching. And that freaks them out. And I'm like, well now I make almost three times that in a year. And I can say with 100% confidence that I don't think that I would have gotten where I am. I mean, I'm scrappy. I would have figured it out. But would I have gotten there on the timeline that I experienced? I don't think so. Because again, it just goes back to the ROI. The money is great, but what's the time ROI. How much am I actually saving myself to have someone tell me how to set up my website? How much am I saving myself to have someone explain SEO to me? You know, all those different things. Of course we can figure it out. That's what the internet is for. But how fast do you want it? Because that's always been a huge driving force for me.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. And someone to tell you in your specific situation and your business and mentor you through your unique thing, which is different than the other person next to you. And I think the other thing that making big investments feels like is what it felt like to quit my job. It's like, I'm putting something on the line that I care about. Right? And it has to feel like a certain amount of stretchy to me and uncomfortable for me to really go all in on it as if I just quit my job. Because otherwise it's like I bought it in a moment of maybe self-doubt or something and not really looking at like, this is really where I want to go. This person's going to help me get there. I see the path. It's a stretch. I'm all in. I'm all in on me. You know? And so every time I create one of those opportunities for myself, it's exponential growth.

Michelle Knight: Oh, absolutely. And you bet your buns, if you put down $10,000 or $20,000, you're going to show up. You're going to do the work. And I think that's a big piece of it. Today I don't necessarily invest in mentorship in that way, because I've stepped into the CEO role. I really understand how to make decisions. I have those pieces in place. But that first year, and I tell my clients all the time, I really think that there's nothing better than getting outside of your head and having someone guide you through the process. So that, like you said, you're not in your head. You're not second guessing yourself. I work with so many brand strategists I get messages every day where they're like, I'm a brand strategist. Does it make sense to work with you? And I'm like, okay, first off, you're not the first one. Second, they might be really good at their craft, but they struggle with seeing it in their own business because they're too attached to it. And when we can bring someone from the outside to look at it from an outsider's perspective and say, actually, this, this, this, and this, the clarity hits and they're like, great, I'm ready to run with it. Which I think is just incredibly powerful.

Shannon Mattern: I love it. So tell me how you work with people now. You know, we've mentioned your evolution. How can people work with you now? And what are some of your favorite transformation stories from the people that you've worked with?

Michelle Knight: Yeah. When does this podcast come out? Because I'm in a transition now! The main way that people will be able to work with me in 2022 is through Brandmerry Academy. So Brandmerry Academy is my baby that I've been building for two years and is going into its next stage of evolution where it will be the ultimate holistic approach to running a business, from branding to systems to marketing. And I recognized a long time ago that I'm really good at strategy. But you know what? If you don't really believe in the strategy, if you are struggling with showing up, it doesn't do any good. So the academy, for me, it was really important to bring in other experts and build the team around that.

Michelle Knight: So my very first client ever, who we've stayed in contact and I've worked with her. She works with mindset with entrepreneurs and we have a high performance coach in there. And so my goal is to focus on the sustainability of running a business and all the things we talked about today. Right? And making sure the foundation is in place so you can continue to run with it. So that's really going to be my main offer. I offer coaching and all of that kind of stuff inside of the program. And regarding transformations, some of my best friends are former clients of mine. And to really see inside what's happening, not just on the surface, has been so fun for me. So one of my clients that I started working with in 2019, I believe, she went from just running locally custom marketing,

Michelle Knight: creating flyers and things like that, to completely moving her business online. She just launched a membership site regarding social media. She's got a podcast with thousands and thousands of listeners. Her goal was to buy a van with her partner and start traveling. They just bought the van. For me, the transformation stories I love, aren't just what's happening in the business. How did your life change? How did you start to really step into what you said you wanted to step into when you started your business? And another client that came Brandmerry Academy are two midwives, that I have the privilege of working with, who have an in-person practice, obviously midwifery, and their goal was to build sustainability where they could take off an entire month where they could rotate weeks. And they did that. They just hired another midwife. They have figured out their systems. So they get to take off an entire month and they get more time with their family. And one of them just bought an RV and they take weekend trips. I definitely have a clientele for sure. But for me, that's always been the biggest goal. How can your business support your life that you're creating, not compromising your life to grow your business.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. And I think that is the most important thing. And there's not a whole lot of programs out there that I've come across or that I've heard of that are really providing that holistic look at not only ownership, but like how is it fitting into your life? And so I think that is just so important. If you're listening to this podcast and you're newer to business, I think both of us would be like, please consider looking at the whole picture and starting with how you want your life to look like. And those 'ideal day' exercises, they might seem really cheesy, but they're probably one of the most important things that you can do to make sure that you're crafting your business around your life and then making sure that you're following mentors and enrolling in programs that actually care about that piece. And they're not telling you like, oh, you need to go live every single day for the next six months to grow your business. And you're just not aligned and you're burnt out and you're frustrated.

Michelle Knight: Yeah. I have clients inside of the academy, which focuses a lot on evergreen marketing. People who are burnt out from social media. So we don't focus on social media inside the program. We focus on SEO, Pinterest, YouTube, different things like that. And I always say, you know, choose the program and the platform that works for you. There's no one fits all approach to marketing. We've seen that. I mean, if you look at anybody, who's "made it", they've all done it a different way, but they did it in a way that felt good to them. And I think that's so important when you're, again, just circling back, when you're creating even your marketing plan? How do you want to show up? What feels good for you? Do you love to write? Then blog! Blogging is not dead! Surprise! Do you love video? Go do video! But be in it and commit to it. And, of course, feel good from the beginning. And that's when things start to work. When they feel like you're constantly pushing and pushing and just trying to make it work in your business, that's when you are like, oh, that's why people aren't signing up with me. That's why, because every video I make I look like I'm miserable because I f-ing hate it, you know?

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. People can tell when your heart's not in it. People just can tell when your heart's not in it. So I've run multiple programs in my business. And it took me a long time to let the one go that was the one that was like, my ego wants to make this work, but my heart is not in it. And over here it's working and my heart is a thousand percent in it and it's easy and I love it, and I'm all in. And it's effortless and it's lucrative and it's amazing. So it took my ego a long time to just be like, it's okay to let this go. This one that's not working in any way, shape or form, you know? And you're doing people a disservice by wasting their time. So, close it down, let them go to find that right person. And go all in where you're going to be passionate and happy and having a way bigger impact. And it took me a long time to get there for sure. But it permeates when you're not happy with something that you're doing.

Michelle Knight: Absolutely. And what I tell people all the time, look at it like a pie graph, right? If this thing is taking 50% of your time and energy and you don't like it, and this side is taking 50% and you do love it, imagine how much faster you can grow if you gave it 100%.

Shannon Mattern: Exactly. It's crazy. Right? It's crazy. But when we get wrapped up in our own minds, without that external perspective, sometimes you just don't see it. And that's why I think mentorship is so important and finding the right people and finding the right programs and really making sure that you are not just buying into someone because they're a guru or whatever, but that it's because it feels really aligned to you.

Michelle Knight: Absolutely.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. I could talk to you all afternoon about all the things because we have so much in common, just in terms of our background and how we got here and our philosophy. Unfortunately we can't talk all afternoon. I have a couple more questions for you that I ask everybody that comes on the show. And the first one is, and we've talked a lot about this already, but thinking about that newer entrepreneur, that newer side hustler just getting started and they're having trouble getting traction. They're just like, I want to do the thing kind of like you back in your first eight months. What advice would you give that person?

Michelle Knight: So I always say, go back to your brand. You know, you might feel it's done, but do a little self-audit. And the areas that I always recommend auditing are how specific is your niche? Are you solving a very specific problem that someone is having? Because the more specific you can start in the beginning, the better off you'll be. And then you can get broad as you get older. We see it all the time. People who do conferences and coach and sell journals and have like bodywash, I don't know. You know what I mean? Like you could go big as you have a following. So definitely your niche. What are you bringing to the table? Who are you serving? Ideal customer work is a pain in the butt. I get it. I do it all the time still to this day. But it's so necessary because if you're not clear on that, then your messaging is going to suffer.

Michelle Knight: You're not going to know where to show up. You don't know how to market. And then your messaging, which for me, is ultimately how you communicate who you are and the purpose of your brand with your ideal customer in a way that has them going, this is the person for me. This is exactly what this program or this product or this service will give me. And they can see it with clarity. And those are the three areas that I always recommend. You know? So many people think branding is your logo and the colors and the fonts. Those are just pretty. If there's no weight to it, then you just look like everybody else and sound like everybody else. So do a little brand audit. If you feel like you've done it before, because I know so many people are like, I have my brand. And then if you haven't started, start with those pieces,

Shannon Mattern: I love it. And yeah, like logo, colors, fonts, it's all the icing on the cake. You need the cake.

Michelle Knight: Yeah. You have to put all the ingredients in the cake for the cake to work. I always use an ice cream sundae as an example, or a banana split. The ice cream on its own is good. Your brand on its own is already good. Then you get to add the toppings. But the toppings on their own tastes like crappy little sprinkles. You don't want to just taste that!

Shannon Mattern: No one likes sprinkles by themselves. They're nasty!

Michelle Knight: Because a really strong brand can get you clients. It can do that. And then you can elevate it and escalate it through your marketing.

Shannon Mattern: I love it. So the final question I have for you is, and I ask everybody that comes on the show this question, what belief about yourself did you have to change to get where you are today?

Michelle Knight: Ooh. I think the belief I had about perfectionism specifically. So I'm trying to think how to word it. A belief about myself. Right? I had a belief about myself that if I didn't look perfect from the outside, if I didn't sound perfect, then it wasn't good enough and no one would buy or no one would do anything. And I struggled with that for a really long time. And there's still moments in my business where I'm getting ready to put a video out and I'm like, oh my God, this is ridiculous. You know? Or I am historically not great at spellcheck, right? I have Grammarly. I thank the Lord for Grammarly. But I used to get messages all the time from people on my email list that are like, I'm unsubscribing because you missed these commas. Or I'm unsubscribing because you spelled this all wrong. And I had to get to a point where I could say that's okay. You're not for me. And so I really had to change that belief that Michelle showing up perfect would somehow make it all work. When it turns out Michelle showing up imperfectly, actually brought in the right people who needed that transparency and that authenticity. So that's been the biggest belief I had to let go of and challenge. Definitely hard.

Shannon Mattern: So, so powerful. So it has been amazing talking to you this afternoon. Can you let everybody know where they can go to connect with you, learn more about you, Brandmerry Academy, and all of the awesome things that you're doing?

Michelle Knight: Thank you so much. brandmerry.com is my website. And that's a general hub for all of my information, links to my YouTube channel, my podcasts, I have a blog. All the things are there. And Brandmerry Academy, as we mentioned before, is just a holistic approach to running an online business. It's a membership which includes branding, marketing, systems, all the good thing., And you can learn more at brandmerry.com/academy for that.

Shannon Mattern: Awesome. Well, thank you so, so much for being here. It was a pleasure talking to you. Everyone, you can go to shannonmattern.com/369 to get links to all of the things. And yeah. Thank you so much!

Michelle Knight: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

Shannon Mattern: To get all the links to the resources we mentioned in today's show, head on over to shannonmattern.com/podcast. And if you're a non-techie do it yourselfer, or if you're a web designer who wants to turn your side hustle into a full-time income, head on over to shannonmattern.com/free, where I've got loads of resources for you to create a profitable, sustainable, scalable business. Thanks so much for listening and we'll see you next week. Bye.

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