Building a Multi-Million Dollar Blogging Empire with Lauren McManus of Create and Go

Ep. 302: Building a Multi-Million Dollar Blogging Empire with Lauren McManus of Create and Go

I’m so excited to have Lauren McManus on the show this week to share her side of the story of how she and her business partner Alex Nerney built their multi-million dollar blogging empire, which they talk about on their website Create and Go.

If you haven’t listened to my interview with Alex back in Episode 227, after you listen to this one with Lauren go check Alex’s episode out because it’s one of the most downloaded episodes of this show (and I’m sure this one will be just as downloaded!)

Lauren basically travels the world because she and Alex can run the business from anywhere, so I think she was in the Czech Republic when we talked right before COVID really kicked up – so our connection was a little spotty at times, but I’m sure you won’t care because she’s got such good information for you today!

Between what Lauren’s gonna share with you today and what Alex shared nearly 80 episodes ago, you’ll never consider quitting on yourself again! And be sure to listen til the end to find out how you can get your hands on their Blogging Bootcamp for Beginners.

Lauren and I talk about:

  • Why Lauren and her partner Alex quit their corporate jobs and started a blog.
  • The different ways Lauren and Alex tried to monetize, and what finally led to their big income payout and continued success.
  • How trying to be perfect is holding you back.
  • How Lauren overcomes her fear of putting herself out there.
  • What led up to Lauren’s first hire on her team.
  • Advice if you are struggling to get traction in your side hustle.
  • The belief Lauren had to change about herself to get where she is today.

My favorite quotes from Lauren:

  • “I think the biggest hurdle is honestly just getting started, whether it's starting your first business, whether it's creating your first product, whether you're creating your first YouTube video or podcast”
  • “It's important to keep moving and just to keep trying stuff out, if something doesn't work, then scrap it and try again.”
  • “Keep taking action. If you keep moving forward, at some point, you're going to get there and you're going to get there quicker.”

Shannon: Lauren, Thank you so much for being here on pep talks for side hustlers today. Can you share a little bit more with our listeners about you and what you do?

Lauren McManus: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me Shannon. I'm excited to be here. I am a full time blogger. I blogged it with my business partner, Alex Nerney. We have a blog called create and go.com and we, it wasn't our first blog. Our first blog was actually a health and wellness blog. And our story is kind of that we, we took this first blog and once we, once we started earning a certain amount of money with it, we had a lot of people asking us about it. And we actually created a course on Pinterest traffic. Cause that was kind of the, the biggest thing that, um, that was like the turning point for us being able to monetize our first blog and, and this spin course turned into this whole other website called create and go where we now teach people how to start and monetize their own blogs through vintage traffic, email marketing, grading your own products and courses. And now we run both of them full time.

Shannon: That's that's so awesome. I love your story. We had Alex on the podcast back in, uh, back in 2018 or 2019, early 2019. And he shared a little bit of the story, but I love to hear the story from your perspective. Why did you guys decide to start the blog? Um, you know, what made you decide, okay, this is what I want to do for my full time career, because you were, you were a CPA or you were going to school to become a CPA at the time. Is that, is that correct?

Lauren McManus: Yeah, I actually had just gotten, I had just passed my CPA exams and gotten my CPA license. Yeah. About a few months before I actually quit my job. So yeah, I have to give Alex a bit more credit for the starting point because I was working full time as a tax accountant at a small accounting firm in Dallas. I was doing tax and audit and you know, I was climbing the corporate ladder and I was kind of okay with that. I was, I was more than okay with that. Um, that was, that was my plan and I was good at it and I did enjoy it, but, and Alex was actually the one that always had this dream of, of doing something else, doing something online. He was a personal trainer at the time and he was already kind of creating his own schedule. And he had decided that, you know, the nine to five life was not for him.

Lauren McManus: So he was the one that kind of got, got started with it. He actually also wrote his first ebook, uh, out of, uh, when he was in college, I guess while the rest of us were, were playing beer pong, whatnot. Um, yeah, he was already on that internet marketing track, but, you know, with his background being a personal trainer and I was actually, I had been a vegan for two years and I just kind of gotten off at stint when I met him. But health and fitness was kind of the thing that we bonded over. And it actually just started from trying to create something online and health and wellness space. We weren't sure what that looked like yet. And we started a website where we created some content where it really sure we are doing, um, but that it kinda spiraled into, you know, he had started writing the content, especially with his background.

Lauren McManus: And I would just help him out with some of the design stuff here and there. And, and the more I started working on it, the more I was just like, this is really fun. I had never thought that I was much of a creative person, especially with my background in accounting. And it honestly just kind of spiraled into this, this thing that we both started working on nights and weekends and not really sure what it was other than the fact that we knew that we wanted to create a full time income from this and be able to quit our jobs. Because if there was a way that we could work on this thing, you know, day in, day out and not have to be tied down to being in an office, um, you know, limited vacation time throughout the year and that sort of thing. And, and we ended up actually quitting our jobs before we were making a dime. We moved up to Seattle and just said, you know what? We have a year's worth of savings. We're going to, we're going to give this thing our all, and if it fails, it fails, we'll just go back and get another job. And, um, yeah, within that first month actually quitting our jobs, we were able to start making a very small profit off of it. And it kinda just spiraled from there.

Shannon: I love that you, you know, we're like, you know what, we're going all in. We're going to try it. You know, if it doesn't work out, I can always go back and get another, get another job in accounting or, or, you know, whatever. Um, and it sounds like that really gave you the freedom to just kind of, kind of go for it. If you have like the fallback plan or did you have the fallback plan? I mean, did you really think like, yeah, I'll go back, I'll go back to, to B being a CPF, this doesn't work out or in your mind where you're like, Oh, we're going to make this work.

Lauren McManus: You know, sort of, I mean, I think I was positive enough that, that I thought, um, you know, we're, we definitely have this mentality of we're going to make this work no matter. And I think that the moment that we actually stepped out of our jobs, you know, like leading up to it, we're thinking about it. You know, we're having to tell our, our parents who, you know, that, that was, my dad was like, are you, are you insane? Cause I had just gotten my master's just gotten my CPA. And um, but, but they were honestly, our parents have both been able to have jobs that allowed them the, um, the freedom or flexibility to be able to travel a lot. So they both understood our reasons for, for, for wanting this life. And they also supported us no matter what. And they were just happy that we at least did have a plan.

Lauren McManus: We said, you know what? We do have the savings built up. Um, you know, we were going to go up to Seattle where we don't have to pay rent. We lived in Alex's dad's house up there for a while. So we did have a solid plan and it wasn't until we actually, I think stepped out of the jobs and, and, you know, and actually start working on every day. That was kind of like, we loved it so much, even before it started making money that we were like, this is it. Like we have to make this work. So we kind of like force ourselves into that, into that corner and did have this mentality of like, at least, at least I did, especially as like, I, I don't know how I'd go to go back now, you know, this, this freedom even working all day long, I'm now working on my own, my own projects and my own things, my own passion projects rather than, you know, doing taxes for other people.

Shannon: Well, and yeah, you gotta think that if you're the kind of person who is going to go all the way through to get a master's degree and get your CPA license, you're going to be the kind of person that's going to figure out how to monetize your blog. Like if you're that driven in anything, you know, you can translate that drive to, to like the bigger dream, right. If you decide to change your mind. So, um, so you saved up a year's worth of savings. You moved to Seattle and you start to make a spa, a small profit from, from the blog. How did you guys monetize in the beginning? And then what did that look like over the next, um, the next few years? I don't know if you're, I'm not hearing you, if you're answering.

Lauren McManus: Oh yeah, I'm here. I just got the internet got really bad. That's okay.

Shannon: I can, I can edit it out. That's fine.

Lauren McManus: I'm assuming you can cut it. Yeah. Okay. Um, okay. Hopefully, um, I, it was really broken up, but you were asking me how I monetized, right?

Shannon: Yeah. Yeah. So I'll just repeat the question and then, um, and then you can dive back in and yeah, I can edit out any weird internet stuff. It's no big deal.

Lauren McManus: Okay. Okay. You just have to let me know if I'm, if I'm breaking up. Um,

Shannon: You're fine. On my end. It was just that, um, there was just silence after, after a question. So we'll, we'll work through it. It's it's all good. So I'm just going to go ahead and ask that question and then you can, you can just dive right back in. Awesome. So you guys move up to Seattle, you start making a small profit from the blog. How, how are you monetizing then? And then what has that, what does, what does that look like now?

Lauren McManus: Yeah, so we first started, honestly, when I first started with affiliate marketing, actually let me go back a step. We tried a few different things that didn't work. We created a webinar trying to sell our first products. It was a weight loss product, and it was a webinar that nobody attended. Um, well, I think about nine people, including both of our mothers attended this webinar to try to sell a product and that didn't end up working out. And so after, after taking the time to grow on product, we went back to the drawing board and we said, you know what? We're not going to spend this time and energy trying to, uh, create a product that nobody ends up wanting. So we started out with other methods like affiliate marketing. So first we linked to Amazon products, all of our website. And then we realized, you know what, this isn't going to make us more than a few bucks a month, um, very quickly.

Lauren McManus: So, um, but by that point we had actually built up our email list and we had started driving quite a bit of traffic to our website, so no money yet, but we did have people there. And so we started actually playing around a lot with affiliates with I'm sorry, email marketing, we created a few different email opt-ins we got a bunch of people on our email list and we started marketing affiliate products to them first. So to just try to really gauge what they were interested in, um, rather than creating our own weight loss product, we targeted a few different other weight loss, affiliate products at them just to see, uh, what kind of products that we're interested in. And it was from this whole process that we actually kind of learned a lot more about our audience and what they wanted, but B we were asking them questions in our emails, such as, um, you know, what's the number one thing that you're struggling with when it comes to losing weight.

Lauren McManus: And when we got answers to those questions, we found that it wasn't just, um, you know, Oh, I don't have the time to go to the gym. It was, it was, we were getting responses back. They were actually like, Hey, I'm 45 years old. I have two children. I just, I work full time. I just don't have the time to, um, to, to go to the gym. And, you know, and so we're getting these, all these different responses that allowed us to kind of create this customer avatar. And we use these things to then create our own product again. But this time we knew who we were talking to and how to sell it. Um, so that was the biggest, the biggest turning point. And, and to be honest, it hasn't changed a whole lot today. These are still the strategies that we teach in our courses on creating go, and we teach our students how to create their own courses. We do teach them to start out with traffic, um, and, and building an email list first, because it allows you to, uh, to get some of that feedback before you try to start monetizing and, um, instill a lot of affiliate marketing and eventually trying to sell your own products. That's really the, the main ways that we still monetize today.

Shannon: I think that that is such good advice because, you know, it's like, we know how we want to help people and we know what lights us up and we know what we're good at. And we know how we think about it. And then we go out there and we start creating content and creating courses and doing all these things, like talking about it from our perspective and our worldview. And we wonder why nobody is paying attention. And, and it's really like, you, you have to understand how your ideal client or your target audience thinks about this. So you can talk about it in, in their words. It's like, um, you know, you have to give them, you know, talk about what they want and then give them what they need, you know, later on and talk about what they want to get their attention, but then give them what they need to solve their problem.

Shannon: And it took me personally a long time to figure that out. Like I would talk about, you know, how to get traffic to your new website. And people are like, I, they, that did not resonate with them at all. They're like, I need to figure out how to market myself. And it's like, Oh, okay. I didn't understand that. That's how you think about it. I'm like talking about something you don't even care about yet, but I think you should care about it. And I think that that's like, that was a big turning point for me too, is to figure out like, Oh, I'm not saying the things that they're thinking, even though at the end of the day, it's going to be the solution. I'm going to give them as the same. Right. So I think that's just so important, important to figure out. So, so you guys had a lot of success with your, with your wellness, health, and wellness blog, at what point, and then you mentioned people started asking you, how are you doing this? At what point did you decide to start teaching, uh, teaching the, how to, with create and go?

Lauren McManus: I think it was really the point when things got pretty steady with avocado. Like we, we had, um, you know, we had our products set up, we had our email lists running. We were getting steady traffic a month. Um, not only that, but we had reached a certain monetary amount. So we had this goal, Alex and I have of earning $10,000 a month. Like that was our, that was our goal that's that was like, okay, once we reach that, we feel okay with the fact that we've quit our old jobs. Um, this is our life now. It was, it was about, about the amount of money that was both comfortable for us, but also, um, you know, comfortable to kind of like leave that those past lives, uh, in our past forever. Right. So, um, so yeah, once we, once we started earning $10,000 a month, um, and consistently after the first like three or four months of earning that much, um, that was when that was when started.

Lauren McManus: And it was also because we had started traveling internationally. By that point, we had, um, gone on our first trip with wifi tribe, a group of traveling digital nomads. And we had a bunch of people asking us about it as well, because they were also traveling and some of them were trying to make money online. And, um, and, and, and I'm going to be totally honest. The getting into the business side of it was always kind of, um, a further plan of ours. We weren't really sure that we'd ever get to that point, but because I, you know, I have a, um, a degree in accounting and my MBA, Alex also has a business degree. Um, and he sold his first ebook again, out of college. So the business side was always what interests interested us the most. And to be honest, it became the thing that we were the most passionate about because this health and wellness blog, it, it went from kind of being like this thing that, you know, Alex number 25 of the time, it would became this like passion, passion project to actually, you know, become, um, to where we were eventually teaching 45 year old woman, how to lose weight online.

Lauren McManus: And, and while that was rewarding in that it gave us the freedom and flexibility to travel and the financial freedom. It, it wasn't the, honestly, the thing that we were the most passionate about was, was the internal workings of it was actually trying to scale our profits and the conversions on, on email marketing and, um, in our sales pages and all that stuff. So these were the things that we were the most Pak passionate about, about learning ourselves. And, um, and yeah, so it was all these things that, that kind of led us to starting this other website, where we were to teach others how to do this kind of how the, um, you know, how to navigate this whole blogging thing. And, and, and we teach from the standpoint of the strategies that worked for us for our health and wellness blog.

Shannon: Yeah. I love that you use that really as like your lab to figure out what is going to work. What's not working, um, you know, and really test all of the strategies that you guys are teaching to people because, you know, there's just, there are, there's a lot of stuff online. You know, this, our listeners know this there's, there is a, there's so many people teaching how to make money blogging and how to build an online business. And a lot of them are just teaching things that they learned from other people, and actually haven't done it themselves like you guys have. And I think that there's just this whole extra layer of credibility. When you learn from someone who can point to, you know, I did it over here in the non how to create, how to start a blog, how to start a business space. And so I can show you what worked over here without it being like, Oh, people, you know, you can only make money online teaching people how to make money online. And I think that's why I'm, you know, I love what you guys are doing over there because you proved it outside of, of that space.

Lauren McManus: Yeah. And I think that was our, really our main selling point for creating gold when we first started is, you know, we, we actually started, we did start with Pinterest traffic again, because it was what we, we knew at the time, but we also created a YouTube channel and the best part about this YouTube channel and something that we try to tell our students all the time is that our YouTube channel, I mean, it's, it's great now, but at the beginning, for the first like two or three years, it was kind of crap. And I mean, I mean that in that, um, it was, it was just the most unpolished casual. I mean, we were in Nicaragua when we first started it and Alex is his, his hair is all a mess from surfing. And he's honestly just reading. Um, it's just like the screen is just like a little picture of him in the bottom corner.

Lauren McManus: And it's really just our blog posts. And he's just honestly going line by line reading our blog posts and, uh, and just talking in more detail about it. They're so unpolished and some would say unprofessional, but I think that that was what our readers actually really connected with because they thought if these people are making this living online, they're creating these videos from Nicaragua and they're, they're, they're, I think their thoughts are kind of like, if they can do it, I can do it because we did just seem like pretty average shows. And we were, so I think that, that, that relate-ability and telling our story and everything that we, that we did has been the biggest reason why we've been able to find success as quickly as we have on the second blog on create and go. Um, and like you said, it's, it's been about sharing our experiences and sharing our story. Um, and we, we did take the time to do that first on this first blog before we started teaching. Cause we're not teaching experience. And like you said, a lot of other people out there are teaching just based on, um, courses and things that they learn, not from actual practice and Apple experience.

Shannon: Yeah. It just, it makes all the difference to just kind of show up and be real and share what worked and what didn't work. And I just personally, like I personally think that that just there's so much more credibility in being like, I wouldn't say everybody should go out there and make crap content, but like at the beginning, like we're not polished. We're not professional. We don't, um, we don't, but we don't have to be right. Like we can just show up and share the awesome information that we have and it doesn't have to be a certain way. And I think perfection just holds so many people back from, from really sharing information that can really help other people live a better life. And I think that's one of the reasons why, um, why I love this podcast so much is cause we get on here and we talk about like, here is the like meandering path that we took to find success and it wasn't a straight line and it wasn't perfect. And it was kinda messy in the beginning and we, we found success anyway and you can too, you know, because you don't have to be perfect from the beginning. So I love that you guys, um, you know, that you just started, you started with what you had and yes, things just get better and easier and, um, you know, more polished over time, but they don't start that way. That's for sure.

Lauren McManus: Yeah. I think the problem is that our, our students and our followers and readers and, you know, the, the average people out there who were us before we started our businesses, I think that they, you know, and I know that they do, because this is what I did as well. It's like, you look at all these people, um, you know, in, in any space, you know, teaching anything, uh, in the world and you see kind of this final product. And like you said, it's very polished and professional and you, you want to be there, but you have no idea how to get there. And it, and it kind of feels like there's just so much distance in space between these two people. And, and at some point you do become, uh, not as relatable when, when you're at that point because, um, people just feel way more fear and scared, um, you know, way more fear to start when, when they're looking at somebody like that, rather than when they're looking at a slightly unpolished version of that, where, you know, that, that person's making the same amount of money.

Lauren McManus: Um, but they can just relate to you a lot more. And I think it's so, so, so important in everything that you do. Um, you know, cause it just helps you connect with your readers better. And I think it makes them, at least with us, I feel like our students, we just have better, a better relationship with them because of it. I think we're a bit more approachable than, than some people. And to be honest, we've also structured our business in that way that, um, you know, in our support groups, I try to be, I do have a team that helps me manage them, but I also try to pop in there on a daily basis because I want my students to feel like they have access to me. You know, I don't want to ever be so big that I'm just completely inaccessible, um, to my students who are, who are the reason why I have my business, you know?

Shannon: Yeah, absolutely. And I just, I think that that's, you know, it just makes it easier to do business, right. When, and don't have to, when you don't have to, um, you know, have everything be so tidy with a bow on top of it all the time. I mean, just practically speaking costs less to do, to, to run a business, you have more freedom, you can go travel, you don't have to be in a studio. You don't have to haul all this equipment with you all the time and, and, you know, just have, have it be so complicated. And I think that's what makes it much more accessible for the new person starting out. I mean, people ask me all the time like, Oh, what do you use to record your videos? And I'm like my iPhone headphones and.com. Like, it's not a big production over here. You know, that's like, let's make it as, as we possibly can, like minimum viable product just, just get started. So I love that. That's how you, how you guys operate. Um, can you share with me some of the biggest struggles and um, so not, not struggles or mistakes, but some of the, some of the beliefs that your students have about blogging and online business when they come to you and you know, how you guys help them transform those beliefs, uh, as they work with you.

Lauren McManus: Yeah, absolutely. I think that the biggest, the biggest hurdle to overcome is honestly just getting started. Um, one of the things that we we don't do in our courses is we don't do a whole lot of planning before you start. It's kind of like, you know, minimum viable product, like figure out kind of what you want to do, and then just start it because no matter what this project, this business, whatever you're starting, it's going to end up drastically changing in the first, you know, six months to a year. Anyway, ours definitely did many times. We, we, um, we, we first had a blog that we absolutely loved the domain name and we spent so much time on the name of this business and we ended up scrapping that blog entirely. It sailed, and we just started over. So, so many things ended up changing over time that, um, and I, and I've seen a lot of other courses and other things out there online is people do all these long checklists and all these initial planning things to kind of help this person create this, this dream business in their head.

Lauren McManus: And, you know, I, while I think that if you can do that in a, in a timely and efficient manner, I think that that's, that's a great thing to do. I'm not saying to dive in without any planning ahead of time. Definitely not. Um, but I think the biggest hurdle is honestly just getting started, whether it's starting your first business, whether it's creating your first product, um, you know, whether it's, you're creating your first YouTube video or podcast, it's, uh, I used to be terrified of, of, of doing podcasts have now been on quite a few over the last year. And, um, I would get the shakes about it, you know, so it's, it's really about just, uh, actually doing the thing, because then you realize that, uh, most of your fears were, were unfounded and it's never as bad as what you thought. So, um, I definitely think that that's like the biggest thing, um, you know, in a business and online business world.

Lauren McManus: And, and again, it applies to so many different things that we have. You know, we, we see some of our students trying to create their first, uh, product, whether it's like an ebook or an online course, and some of them will buy our course on how to, how to go and how to do that. And they'll, hold on, go sit in that information for seven or eight months before they ever actually, um, you know, start typing out what, you know, their outline and actually creating it. And then we found that, uh, when they go to create their second or third ebook, or course they can spit them out in two, three, just back to back because, because they, they now they're not afraid of it anymore. They realize that, Oh, this is actually so much easier than I thought. So, um, yeah, I think that's like some of my best advice anyway. It's just, just to start doing it and cause most of it, you're going to figure it out along the way. Anyway,

Shannon: I could not agree with that more. I think I read a quote somewhere. I can't remember who said it or where I read it, but it was, um, people that learn by doing find success so much faster than people that learn by just consuming more information. And I love that your approach is just like, okay, let's just get started because you can't, you can't no, you can't perfect something in your head. That's what I always tell my students. It's like, you want this to be perfect, but you can't be the one to determine that it's perfect. You know, only your audience and your customers can determine if it's the right thing or perfect for them. So the longer that you sit here and try to perfect, it you're actually like doing the opposite. You know, I just, I, I, I love that. You're just like, just get started because people do.

Shannon: So I teach people how to DIY their website in five days and people will be like, well, I started this process a year ago and I'm like, why, why did you take so long? Because you could literally get it done in like five hours if, you know, if, if you wanted to, and it is it's, it's just this whole, I don't know enough yet. I need to have a plan I need to, I need to make sure that in my mind, this is going to be a sure thing before I even like put myself out there to, um, to risk the failure. And it's just like, it's not failure it's feedback and you have to get it in order to, um, adjust and land on that thing that you love to do and that your clients love that you do for them. And I just, I could not agree with you more that you have to just dive in and get started and just try some things. And I love that. That's, that's your approach with, with your students?

Lauren McManus: Yeah. Yeah. It's just, it's so important. There's a, you know, because there's so many different things that could go wrong and that's what everyone focuses on, you know? Um, I was there too, right with, with quitting my job and well, what if, what if that would have would if people don't listen to me, what if, um, I'm not smart enough? What if I'm not, you know, I'm not professional enough, you know, what if I can't make any money, like all these things and it's like, well, you, you can sit there and think about that to the end of the day, but, um, or she ended up the year, but unless you actually get started, you're never gonna, you're never gonna know. And, and, and the longer you put it off, it's like all those things that you want and all those fears that you have other, all you're doing is making them come true by sitting on this information and, um, and just waiting around, waiting for perfect opportunity to, uh, to arise. You know, what it was yesterday. It's right now.

Shannon: Yeah, absolutely. So what are some of those other, you know, some of the fears that you had, um, you know, you mentioned being on podcasts and be nervous about that. I personally was nervous to start my podcast and interview people, and now it's like one of my favorite things to do. Um, but what are some other, um, other fears about yourself or beliefs about yourself that, that you've really overcome in this whole process?

Lauren McManus: So I think for me, my biggest fears were actually putting myself out there and I'm so thankful that my business partner, Alex, is the opposite of that. He, he had, um, he had a few jobs back in the day where he had to like do cold calls and cold selling. So he was used to getting doors shut in his face and people saying no. And, um, to be honest, he's just so passionate about his ideas that he doesn't have any fear. He doesn't have that fear of negative feedback. And as long as it doesn't hurt him, because it definitely does when he gets it, but he doesn't let it hold him back. And so, yeah, he was really the, um, the guiding force, uh, on, on the start of this whole thing. But I really, when I talked to my audience, my students, especially when I'm teaching my courses and doing things like this, I try to really talk from my point of view because I did not feel that way at all.

Lauren McManus: And it's easy to look at us and think that, Oh, we just are those people that are just good on camera or, or not. And I'm like, no, definitely not. Um, I, when I did my first YouTube video, my face, cause Alex is primarily on, on our YouTube videos. It's just, it's more of his thing. And, um, just for time reasons, he's the one that's kind of picked up that, that project and I've done the Pinterest stuff. And, but I did do a few Pinterest videos, um, in the first few months that we started creating go and I put out, uh, my, my face wasn't even on it. I was just doing like a PowerPoint presentation. And the first day that we published it, somebody commented and said that I had this thing called vocal fry. And, uh, and this sent me down this downward spiral, this black hole of internet searching for what vocal fry means.

Lauren McManus: And I cried, I was, I was, I was upset because I was so scared to do this first video. I was shaking. I had to do so many different takes on it. And I finally got this version that I thought was okay, enough to publish an Alex of course, like just put it out there, Lauren, just put it out there. You'll, you'll get better with time. Um, and immediately I got a couple of negative comments and in ones that kind of, I felt like just attacked, attacked my character. And, um, and that was really tough. I cried and it didn't, it made me not want to put myself out there again. And, um, you know, it's been the same way with pretty much all of the ways you can put yourself out there. Um, Alex was the one that wrote all of our content in the beginning, all of our emails, I was afraid to do it.

Lauren McManus: I said, you know, I'm an accountant, I'm good at the, the operations. I'm not creative and I'm not good at that stuff. And it was only through just practice to be honest practice and a desire to grow and a desire to, um, to help my business. For me, it was like, well, you know what, Alex is too busy to do this. If I can, if I can write this email now and I can blast it out to my email list, um, you know, maybe it's linking my product or an affiliate product. I'm like, I'll actually get immediate money on this. So, um, it was seeing, being able to see those returns for my business that I think kind of pushed me towards starting to put myself out there. And, um, and, and even, even, and this was, you know, we started creating a goal, I think almost four years ago, three years ago now.

Lauren McManus: And, uh, even now I just did my first Facebook live a couple months ago and I was still kinda nervous about it. So I still have those, those fears, but, um, every single time I do them, there are such positive results from it. Um, my, either my students love it or I make some money from it. So that has really helped me overcome those fears. And, um, and, and yeah, they don't ever go away completely, I think. Um, but I think that's good because that your business will always challenge you in that way. Um, it will help you improve those skills and you'll feel so much better afterwards. And, um, kinda like you said about your podcast. I feel the same way when I go on podcasts, I love talking about my business. So I always just give this amazing energy from, from it. And I'm always happy that I did it. And I know that it helps people as well.

Shannon: I, I love that you shared that because I think that people think that, you know, once you reach a certain level of success or audience size or whatever, that it's easy to that somehow it's just easy for us to put ourselves out there. And, you know, for me every time, like I have a hard time just even pitching myself as a guest for people's podcasts. And even any time I want to like reach out to someone to build a relationship or pitch myself, my hands, literally sweat, before I send that email. And I'm like, what is the worst thing that's going to happen? That they're going to like come to my house and like scream at me like for being so inconsiderate as to like send an email saying that I might have value to add to their audience. It's like, I still, um, I still have the fear, but I do it anyway.

Shannon: You know, I still, uh, there are things that I don't do because I feel like I'm going to screw it up or sound stupid. Like I don't do like Instastories. I have no idea what to do there. I was like, I could talk on a podcast all day long. I could do an hour long presentation to my students, but you tell me I have to do an Instastory. And I like immediately turn it into like a bumbling idiot. You know, it's just like, I, there's just certain things that I just don't feel comfortable doing. But at the end of the day, you know, if I had a real, if, if you told me Shannon, here's why you need to be here and why you need to show up. There are people there that like need to hear this message and, you know, they, and I had a real compelling reason to do it.

Shannon: I would just push through the sweaty palms and the shaky voice. And my whole face turns red. Like, you cannot hide it when I'm like nervous and I would just do it anyway. But, and like you said, it does get easier every single time. And that's just, that's just one of, one thing that I want everybody to know is like, almost all of us are scared. There are some, you know, people out there that, uh, that are abnormal and that, that just like thrive on, on that. But, you know, if that's not, you it's totally normal. And you know, another thing is like, I've gotten weird negative feedback too, and it's, and it does it stings and it, and it hurts. But then at the other, on the other side of it, I always think about, you know, Bernay Brown in that message. It's like, if you're not out here doing it, like, I don't care about your opinion. You know, your opinion does not matter to me. Um, unless you're somebody that I respect. And if you are, you would have given it to me in a, in a loving, constructive way and not the destructive way that you did. So, you know, that's what I have to tell myself. Like after the sting, after the sting of it,

Lauren McManus: People on the internet are mean when they're sitting behind their computers and nobody needs to see their face and they don't have to get out there and get on these YouTube videos. Um, they can be real mean sometimes. And I, and what I tell my students, when they're afraid of this negative feedback, as well as I say, you'll definitely get it, but it's going to be the 1% or less it's going to be these, the overwhelming majority is going to thank you for what you did. And that's what you have to think about. And it's honestly a mentality that I still adopt today because I do travel full time. And in the last couple of years, I've actually been mostly in central South America. And, you know, Internet's not usually super strong out there. It's, it's plenty enough to get me by, but when it comes to doing live videos and stuff like that, it's often choppy when I do webinars with certain companies.

Lauren McManus: Um, and I, for a while, it kept me from actually from doing them from doing Facebook lives, from doing webinars. I thought, you know what, um, no, the internet isn't good enough. Like I'm going to cut out. It's going to, it's going to be scratchy blurry, like whatever. And then after the first couple of affiliate webinars that I did with convert kit, it was on email marketing. My students were just overwhelmingly thankful and they were like, you know, I needed this so badly right now. Um, I've been stuck on this one thing. And so all this positive feedback was like, wow. And so now when I hop on these webinars, I'm like, you know what, y'all in Peru, I'm in Bolivia, I'm in Vietnam. Like we're going to try to work with what we got and if it cuts out, if, um, if it gets blurry, it is what it is.

Lauren McManus: And, um, and yeah, and it's the same with the Facebook lives. Like I've done one and for months, and months and months, I put it off because I'd make excuses about my internet connection and whatnot. And now the first thing I do is I hop on and say, Hey, y'all, I'm in, I'm in this country. And my Internet's not super great, but we're going to roll with it because y'all need this information. And at the end of the day, it's like, are you going to withhold this information that your, that your students and audience needs so badly because your Internet's not super great because you're not perfectly polished. Like that's not the right attitude. Um, and it's something that we're just still doing today. I'm so, um, you know, I'm, I'm still operating this way and, and, and it makes me feel a lot more relaxed and like, I can get things done better and easier, and it's better for them as well.

Shannon: Yeah. I love it. It's just like, Hey, let's set the expectation upfront that this could get a little, you know, a little, you know, disconnected or whatever, and then let's just roll with it. Cause it's like, I don't know why. I think my students need for me to be perfect all the time. They don't, they just need the information. They don't need me to think, think that everything's perfect. So I just, I love that perspective. It's just like, yeah, let's do it. And then the other thing, and I want to talk to you about this too. I just want to like switch gears and talk to you about this. They're probably like, Oh my gosh, that's so cool. She's in Vietnam working and doing this presentation for us. So tell me a little bit more about, um, about the travel. So when did you, you know, you guys moved to Seattle and you, you know, get this blog up and going and, and all the things, but when did you really start, you know, kind of just traveling all the time and fitting the work in, into that lifestyle.

Lauren McManus: So Alex and I started traveling, I believe it was, it was a few months, about eight months after we had quit our jobs. And so we spent those first few months building the business, getting a steady enough income. And then yeah, the goal for us was to always travel and to do it while we were young. So we actually, but we also still very much were working like this was not a travel vacation we wanted to do. We wanted to be able to work remotely and work while we traveled. So, uh, so we, we had heard of, you know, various online communities that traveled together work together. Um, remote year was probably the biggest one at the time. And we started doing some research and we actually found a group called the wifi tribe. And that was our first real introduction to international travel and remote working.

Lauren McManus: And, um, you know, I, I actually, I'm still travel with them today. I was in Mexico with them last month, then I'm going to be in Panama with them, uh, next, next month. But why, if I drive is essentially a traveling group of digital nomads that you, you have to have a job to be, uh, some, some kind of job, whether it's a freelance or remote worker, um, entrepreneur, you know, as long as you are working on some kind of project, um, most of the time, cause we generally work about nine to five, Monday through Friday, but we explore different cities and countries in the evenings and the weekends. And, uh, so that was how we first started. We would do, uh, one or two trips with wifi tribe. And then, but then to be honest, we would go home for three, four months because we were still very much in the active stages of building our business.

Lauren McManus: We had the health and wellness blog. We were just starting creating, go and building our courses. And that's one of the things that I do advise to both my friends in the wifi tried to want to start their own businesses or, or even my students, as I say, um, build first build first and then start trying to enjoy some of it because now that, um, so we did that. We did it that way. And then for almost two years now, I've been doing the full time travel. I actually don't, I go home about three or four times a year and I'm only home for about a few days. And about every month I go to a new country around the world, whether that's mostly with wifi tribe, but sometimes I'm with friends that I've met through that community as well. I'm in Poland right now for, um, for a couple of weeks. And yeah, I absolutely love it because I work most days. Uh, but I get to go out and eat at restaurants in different countries and, um, go hiking and go to beaches and mountains and all kinds of stuff on the weekends. And, um, and I will say now that I've built my businesses and I, I have a team to help me run them. And, um, my courses are built. I'm actually able, I'm really actually able to enjoy the traveling a lot more, a lot more now as well.

Shannon: That's just amazing to me. I'm just sitting here like, Oh my gosh, I could talk about this for ever. Um, I want to know how, you know, you had to, did you, you have to build a team to support you while you're traveling. I would imagine just so that you can kind of cover those gaps when unexpected things happen. You guys have built your business to a level that you probably can't be doing, all the things, what were, what were some of the decisions or at what point, I guess, did you, did you start bringing on team members and what did that look like for, for you guys?

Lauren McManus: Yeah, so I will say that, I think that we, well, Alex was, was pushing me to, um, to hire people before I was really ready. And I think kinda, it's just me being a type, a personality and I tend to be like, well, I can do it better though. And yeah, I can, I can do it better and faster. So why would I have someone else do it? And, um, and it really wasn't until things started falling off my plate, my responsibilities, uh, I would forget things or would have to just push back important projects. You know, things like helping out my students updating my courses, uh, things like that would have to be put on hold for longer than I wanted, because I was still kind of getting hung up on doing too much of the day to day stuff. And so it, um, I, I don't know that it was w we definitely could have benefited by hiring someone out sooner, but I also know that, um, for me, it was just, I wanted to make sure that I was ready for that.

Lauren McManus: And, um, and yeah, so the first, the first higher ed that we did have was customer service. And because that was honestly the thing that I was spending the most time on, especially with two blogs, I was doing customer service for both blogs. So we hired out customer service. Um, and then it was just, I think we now have, we have three or four core members of our team, but then we also have a few other freelancers to help us manage a few other things. And we communicate now via Slack. So it's, uh, it's all super organized. And, um, and, and that, to be honest has only been about in the past year, really. We had one customer service manager for a while, and we've only had the other three people in the last year. So building the team has definitely been last year. This past year is kind of big project.

Lauren McManus: And, um, it has been challenging at times, uh, especially, you know, to, to not micromanage and to be able to give him enough responsibility to, um, or more about letting go of my responsibility and giving it to someone else it's, it's difficult for me to do. But I think, like you said, it's, it becomes about, you know, like when you feel that you can't deliver the important things to your business anymore or not on time. Um, I think that that's when, when you, or if you're just stressed, I also was just working too much. Like I didn't build my business to work nights and weekends. Right. I don't want, that's not why I built my business. So it was, it was those constraints that I kind of felt, um, on, on my w on my life, my workload, that, that led me to finally be like, okay, you know what, um, and it was baby steps. It was hiring a customer service manager, and it was pairing out someone to help with these few things and those few things. And so it's a, it's grown over time and we're honestly still working on it right now, trying to, we just started using Trello, which I wish we had been using two years, more years ago. Uh, so yeah, it's still a constant work in process.

Shannon: I, uh, that was a selfish question for me to ask because I'm definitely very type a very much like, Oh, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna do all the things I'm going to get them done. I'm going to get them done. Now I get to do them on my schedule. They'll be done when I want them done. I definitely, um, tried outsourcing, I think way too soon and my business just because that's what everybody said that I should be doing, right. Like, Oh, if you don't have to be the one doing it, then don't be the one doing it. And, um, that kind of, I feel like that caused me to, you know, outsource things to people that I didn't even really need to be doing in my business. That like weren't leading towards more, you know, building my email list or, or more sales or anything like that.

Shannon: So I can look back on that and think, like, not only was it too soon, it was unnecessary, but, you know, I'm, I'm to the point now where I'm feeling like I probably need to start thinking about it, but I'm also very much like I don't want to let go of, of certain things. And, and I don't, I'm not a good at delegating and I do have one team member now. Who's amazing. She helps with the podcast and all the things, but I even hesitate to delegate stuff to her. So it's just something, it's just something I'm working on personally. And, um, I don't know when the time's going to be right, but that's why I'm just glad that you shared that whole experience, because I can totally relate to thinking, like, you know, I can just get the, I can just knock this out and it'll be done and I know it'll be done. Right. And I can check it off the list and then I don't have to think about it anymore. And, um, yeah, I just, I think I'm not quite to the point where things are falling off my plate, but I'm getting quite kinda to the point where I'm working too much. Like I have a big tendency to work too much. Um, I just appreciate that perspective for sure.

Lauren McManus: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's, it's, it's, it's something I still struggle with. Like for me, I have to think about, you know, I'll be, I'll be sitting here doing a task and, um, and then I have to kind of take myself out of it and say, Lauren, why are you doing this? You, you shouldn't be doing this like you, and it's really it's. I think lately, at least for me, it's the pressure that I do have some big projects on my plate right now. And so when I do get caught up in these little things, like I, and some of it, I just, I like to do like graphic design, um, and stuff. And so I find myself getting caught up in spending too much time in some of that stuff. And I, you know, like when it keeps me from, from doing a bigger project, that's going to either make a much bigger difference for my students.

Lauren McManus: Like for me right now, it's updating my Pinterest course. Cause there's all these Pinterest changes happening. Um, or if it's, or if it's, you know, something that will, you know, some, some next big launch that will impact my bottom line a lot. It's, it's when I feel those pressures and think about that. Um, I noticed when I'm getting caught up in other tests and, um, and yeah, it's so hard. It's so hard to, to delegate, but I do well, you know, going back to one of the things that you said, I do think that when it comes to, you know, the outsourcing and wanting to do it, some people do seem to do it right away because your time is so valuable, this and that. But I also think that depending on the type of business that you have and the type of work that you're outsourcing, I think that you need to be careful too, about outsourcing when you also don't have a really good grasp on it.

Lauren McManus: But I think for Alex and I, we did do everything ourselves. I mean, we were all the hats from customer service to sales, to product creation, to advertising, just everything we learned how to do everything, but, uh, and we did work way too much in the beginning. Um, but I also think that it put us in a really good place to be able to hire people for help because we know how the job should be done and we do have expectations for it. So I, especially with, with something like marketing, like I've had people ask me, well, um, you know, what, what experience do you have with, with like marketing? And what I mean by marketing is, I mean, more like, uh, whether it's ads or it could be even, you know, writing, writing, email marketing, um, you know, to, to sell content via email or, or whatnot.

Lauren McManus: Like, you know, it's like, well, marketing is everything that you do. So if, if you want to have someone do that for you, like, I like, they're going to give you some kind of blanket, you know, approach that works for every other business out there. They're not going to know you, they're not going to know your audience. They're not going to know, um, how those things factor in together. So I do think it's important to, to work a little bit too much in the beginning and, um, and to learn your business from the inside out and how it ticks and, uh, and why, how everything works together before you can figure out where other people fit, um, in, in that, you know, on, on your team and in those connections. So I do think that's really important.

Shannon: I could not agree with that more. I think that, you know, knowing what, knowing what you're outsourcing, knowing what you're hiring people to do, um, and, and knowing how all the pieces fit together is, is just, it's critical. And, um, I think there's definitely, there's definitely value in learning, learning all of that stuff. So then you're also not beholden to anybody cause it's your business. And ultimately you're the one responsible for making sure that that it's, um, that it's running the way that you want. So I could, I could not agree with that. More Lauren, you have shared so much advice for our listeners, um, you know, on growing their business and, you know, just changing, changing their mindset around, uh, around growing the business. But, um, what's, what's like one piece of advice you could share with our listeners who, who are just struggling to struggling to get traction, um, in their side hustle and their blog.

Lauren McManus: Uh, you know, other than what we were saying earlier about, about just doing it, I do think that continue continuing to push herself forward, um, and to just never remain frozen. I know that, um, I think the biggest turning point, honestly, for Alex and I, and, and actually going from, uh, really getting that initial traction was the fact that we, we were, we were afraid of failure, but we failed anyway. We were constantly trying out new stuff every week, every month, uh, trying to make money, trying to figure out what was working, what wasn't working. But the important thing was that we never, we were never frozen. We were never frozen in place, uh, and scared or not sure what to do or, or just, you know, just so overwhelmed and frustrated. Um, and we also never over committed to, to one thing, if something wasn't working, we're like, you know what, this failed, this sucks.

Lauren McManus: What's next. I was, it was never just beating down, you know, beating the dead horse. And, uh, I do watch some people trying to turn to the same thing over and over again, because someone told them that it works, but at the end of the day, it's your own experiences that are going to kind of shape this path for you. And so, um, I think it's just important to keep moving and just to keep trying stuff out, if something doesn't work, then scrap it and try again, does it, it, it may have worked famously for many other people, but it doesn't mean that it's going to work for you and your unique, you know, business and style of, of running that business and whatnot. So, um, I think that that's probably one of the most important things is just to keep, just to keep taking action. If you keep, keep moving forward, at some point, you're going to get there. Um, and you're going to get there quicker.

Shannon: I think that is a perfect place to wrap up this episode. Can you share with our listeners where they can connect more with you with Alex, with creating, go learn more about, um, your courses and trainings and all the good stuff that you guys have going on over there?

Lauren McManus: Yeah, absolutely. So our website create and go, you can find us at [inaudible] dot com, but we also have a great YouTube channel. Alex is always on there, um, pumping out new YouTube videos. So if you want to get a little bit more of an inside look to, to our business, that's, uh, and see some of those older crappier videos that I referred to, uh, they're all still out there. So YouTube is another really great place to find us. And we also have a free Facebook group if you just search screen go. So those are all great ways to connect with us.

Shannon: Awesome. And I will link everything up in the show notes. Um, so thank you so much for being here. I really, really appreciate it.

Lauren McManus: Thanks so much for having me Shannon.

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Bio:

Lauren is a former CPA turned blogger, and she and her business partner, Alex Nerney, started their first blog in the health and wellness space. After earning six figures with that blog in their first year, they started Create and Go, where they teach others how to start and monetize their own blogs. She now runs this blog full-time while traveling the world as a digital nomad.

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for this podcast episode! I feel like I need to listen to this every day. It was so inspiring to me as a newbie blogger who feels like giving up most days. I will take all this wonderful advice and put it to good use. Thanks again!!

  2. I think it’s great that Alex and Lauren have been able to do this, and in these uncertain times an online income could be a life saver for some, however the option to go back to work if it fails is not a good backup plan anymore. There are very few jobs. In a short space of time life has changed exponentially. Be very sure before you quit your job. 🙂

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