In a perfect world, we wake up every day motivated to do our work because it’s something we love. As online entrepreneurs, we are at an advantage: If we discover that we are no longer eager to get down to business, we have the freedom to shift our focus to something we are passionate about and make money while we’re at it! Today’s guest is on a mission to help solopreneurs generate passive income by monetizing their passion.
Ronisha Shead founded Bizzell Development Solutions with the intention of assisting online entrepreneurs in developing eCourses and workshops. An authority in the area of digital product creation, she has ten-plus years of experience creating online courses for companies like IBM, Dell, and United Healthcare.
Ronisha began her career in academics as a professor of composition and writing, developing classroom and digital courses. After seven years, she became weary of the college scene and transitioned to corporate training. Eventually, Ronisha realized that she could make more working for herself, and Bizzell was born! Her newest venture is the Moms That Hustle blog, an enterprise that seeks to help moms start a side hustle or add passive income to their business with a digital product. Today, Ronisha shares the lessons she has learned in developing her business, how she landed her first clients, and her best tips on connecting with your audience. Listen and learn to monetize your passion with a digital product!
How Ronisha landed her first few clients
- Facebook groups
How Ronisha’s pricing model has evolved
- Charged going hourly rate early on (clients at different stages in course creation process)
- Now teaches people to create digital products themselves
Common challenges people face in creating content (i.e.: online course, ebook)
- Weary of technology
Lessons Ronisha has learned in developing her business
- Help clients get clear on what they want
- Engage your audience early
- Build a list and share free content so people are interested when you launch a product
Ronisha’s tips for connecting with your audience before a product launch
- Establish a 90-day process
- Blog on the topic
- Offer free video training on one aspect
- Send your list a weekly email, use feedback to develop product
- Provide free complementary content leading up to launch
The benefits of being a solopreneur
- Learn as you go what you like, dislike
- Can make changes to fit current needs
The importance of self-reflection
- Make sure your focus is your passion
Connect with Ronisha Shead
Ronisha Shead is a digital product expert with over 10 years experience developing eCourses or online courses for large businesses. She created Bizzell Development Solutions to help small business owners and entrepreneurs develop their own courses. Now with her new blog, “Moms that Hustle” she enjoys working with moms who want to start a side hustle or want to add passive income to their business with a digital product.
Laura Pennington (Host): Welcome back everybody to the Better Biz Academy Podcast. As usual, I have an amazing guest who’s going to tell you more about how she started her own business and is still at it with over 10 years of experience developing e-courses and online courses for large businesses. My guest tonight is Ronisha Shead. She created Bizzell Development Solutions to help small business owners and entrepreneurs develop their own courses. Now with her new blog, Moms That Hustle, she enjoys working with moms who want to start a side hustle or want to add passive income to their business with a digital product. Welcome to the show.
Ronisha Shead (Guest): Hi. Thanks for having me. I’m so excited.
Laura: I’m so excited to talk to you. I just wrapped up doing a summit about online courses and why people need to create them but I’d love to know your story. How did you get into this specific industry?
Ronisha: I’ve always – it’s funny because I taught for so long, I was a professor. So, for many years, like maybe 7 years I taught English, college level composition and writing and I started developing my own courses. They literally would tell me, “Here’s a book, create a course, you’re teaching it in the fall.” And so, that’s how I really got started developing my courses. From there, online was picking up. This was probably in 2005/2006 maybe, and then I had the green light to create online courses and I became an online instructor. I did that for years and then when I got kind of wary of the college scene and being a professor, teacher, I went into training – a corporate trainer. So, I also started developing training courses for companies like IBM, Dell and United Health Care, and Humana. So, I did that for a couple of years but then I started thinking, “Why am I doing this for other people? I need to do this for myself.” This makes more sense. So, I started kind of being like a freelancer. I was just contracting and getting contracts and developing courses for other companies. And then I wanted to even kind of scale it back. I like working with people one-on-one so I’m like, “I want to help entrepreneurs create their own courses.” I’m all about passive income and I know some people don’t believe that it’s possible you can have passive income but for me, online courses is basically that for me. That’s what I’ve been experiencing. But then I just thought it would be fun to teach others how I do it, how I’ve been successful at it and it’s just my livelihood. It’s fun, it’s fun for me.
Laura: And having fun with your job is kind of an ideal situation to be in. I feel like that too and I know a lot of other people who work for themselves feel that way. And your story is so interesting because we actually have quite a lot in common that I didn’t even realize until we started talking. But I’m in the midst of my PhD program and I was on the path to become a professor and kind of became a little disillusioned with it – my advisor at the time who had put in so much work and so little of his day was actually spent teaching and it was more about committee meetings and administrative work and I just kind of realized this isn’t for me. This isn’t really what I want. And so, I left the traditional educational world. I used to teach 7th grade as well. I left that and launched out on my own. But in a way, online courses still allows you to have that teacher mentality or be reaching and helping people. So, when you’re first getting started, like a big challenge for a lot of people running their own business is getting those first couple of clients. So how did you do that when you’re saying, “hey, I’ve got this great educational background; creating curriculum and courses really is my strength.” How do you land your first client?
Ronisha: Well, this is odd. I landed my first three clients in a Facebook group. So, you’ll be surprised that, you know a lot of folks say, “oh they have restraints now in groups. You can’t post everything.” And I wasn’t really posting other than commenting on a couple of threads and telling them what I did and I would be glad to help them. Somebody had a question. I think one of my clients had a general question about “oh I don’t know how to do an outline for a course” and I just told her how to do it. And she inboxed me. It was like, “hey can you help me further?” And I was like, “sure.” And that’s basically how it started. She became my first client – and she was an accountant. I still talk to her today – but I developed like a small eight module course for her because she just didn’t have time to do it or maybe she just didn’t have the time to sit down and get me to teach her to do it. But that’s how it started. I found her in a Facebook group.
Laura: And that’s one of those ways that you begin to realize that there’s a need for a potential service or product is when you have people who are continuing to come to you with the same desire and I’ve kind of been doing this online course creation for my students but also it’s something that I don’t publicize at all but occasionally my clients will come to me and say, “hey you’re already creating our content. We’d really love to do a course about xyz; have no idea how to do it.” And then once we start talking about it, you kind of realize like, “hey I actually do know quite a bit about this.” And it’s just so exciting to watch somebody’s idea go from this, “hey I have a title for a course” all the way to the finished product where it’s being launched and their students taking it and having a great experience. So, you had a couple of clients, I imagine at that time you probably really hadn’t formalized a package or something like that. So how did you deal with that when you’re talking to new potential clients, figuring out where exactly they need help because I’ve found that people seem to be all over the place. Sometimes somebody is like, oh I have an outline, I’m just stuck figuring out a timeline. Other times you literally have the person who has an idea and they don’t know where to go from there. So, how do you determine and kind of package how you’re going to help people?
Ronisha: So, that was the hard part and I learned that kind of like the hard way because so many entrepreneurs that I helped needed – they were at different stages over the course creation. So, what I would do – early on what I did was I would kind of just base it around the going rate kind of as a contractor type. Because it’s just like being a virtual assistant, you have a rate per hour. So I started that at first because I found myself working many many hours creating courses for people. So, I kind of did an hourly rate and then after that, with anything that you enjoy, you want to have a little wiggle room and some freedom and I wasn’t getting a whole bunch of that freedom because I was just course developing, course developing, course developing, talking to clients. So, I decided – that’s when I kind of got the bug for, okay I need to teach people – a large amount of people – at one time how to develop their own courses and then kind of give them my advice as far as if they have questions, if they’re running into trouble because that was very labor intensive. So, I didn’t even have a chance to work on my own courses or blog or doing the other things that I enjoy in my business. So, I’m still developing courses, I don’t do it as much. I like to teach others how to do it. I think that’s my jam. And that’s what I focus on now more. And not only just courses, digital products like e-books. I’m into anything that you can put online and show people. That’s what I’m into and helping folks develop those things and specially lead magnets and how to create quick lead magnets and Canva – I mean, not only have I developed courses, I’ve also done some design work and things because sometimes I work for companies where they needed textbooks and I needed to put in images, so I’ve done a lot. So, I’m kind of like scaling a little bit and finding out more things that I can do to help people, that I enjoy doing because I don’t ever want to feel like bogged down, “Oh this is so much work.” I want to help people but I also want to be happy doing it.
Laura: And that’s a really important mentality to have in business because the second that it starts feeling like work, it starts to feel like a J.O.B. again and you’re like, I did everything I could to get out of that. I don’t want to recreate my day job basically at home doing things that I’m not crazy about. And it sounds like you’ve had a lot of the really common experiences for entrepreneurs. You start off charging hourly, you realize hey this isn’t always working out perfectly and I’m putting a lot of time and energy into these hours creating things for other people. And that’s when you start to have these ideas about maybe switching up what you’re doing or getting into different aspects of the course creation process. Do you feel like there are common challenges that people have when it comes to creating content? Whether that’s a course or whether that’s an e-book, I’m sure you’ve interacted with a lot of people who are in that process who are hiring you for help. What are the challenges they’re having when they come to you?
Ronisha: The most challenges that I see is that they’re just doubting themselves. A lot of it is just fear. I mean, because even we all have fear. I have fear, I’ve had so many years of experience doing this but sometimes you do question, “is it good enough for my client”, “is my client going to love it” and they always do but I think the common thread for most of the people that I’ve talked to is they just second guess their knowledge and I’m like, don’t do that. You’re the expert. You have the knowledge that people want to hear; and secondly, they’re a little weary of technology. How am I going to develop this e-course? Is it complicated? What about video editing and all those things? And that’s another thing that I typically have issue with. But my approach to developing courses is simple. I remember my first course which is me talking on a camera phone. It was video so it’s not as hard as people think. I think if you just put something out there, get it out there, you’ll be surprised how much folks enjoy it and appreciate what you’re doing.
Laura: Yeah there’s an old saying one of my mentors used to share a lot which is “perfect is better than done”. I think a lot of times we get this idea, “oh I don’t want to put this course out there until every aspect of it is perfect.” And I remember, like you, the first course that I did, it was so bad. Like I’m amazed that people went through it. I recorded it on a really cheap headset and mic so you could hear every time that I shifted in my seat or where I bumped the microphone. And I was like, oh my gosh how annoyed would I had been listening to this course. But yeah, your students take it and then you make improvements and you get feedback and you shift from there. So, it’s really a growth process with anything that you create. Even with this podcast, there’s been so many learning points. So, I’m curious for you, what have been those learning points for you. I know you talked about all the hours that you put into course creation. Has there ever been an experience where you maybe had a difficult client or you had a project where you learned a lot of lessons and implemented that in your business afterwards?
Ronisha: Yeah I’ve learned a lot of lessons. The first lesson dealing with my clients – some clients – is them just not knowing what they want. So, you know, you’re developing a course and you’re recording and you’re editing and you publish it and it’s finished and then someone looks at it and they want to add additional things to it and they want to take this out. That was for me in the beginning, I was like, “oh no! I spent 20 hours on this and you want me to redo this?!” Because they didn’t know exactly what it would look like. They didn’t really know what they wanted. So early on, that was an issue but when I started developing my own courses, I realized how much I needed to engage my audience, Laura. I realized how much I needed an audience. So as far as list building – because again, like I said, I’m all about passive income – and in order to do that you have to sell to people who are warm to you. So, they know you, they know you’re going to give good information, and they’re ready to hear from you. So, I learned early on how to prime my audience. I didn’t always ask them to buy this or ask them to buy that. I started building my list, sending out my blog or sending out free content I thought they would enjoy, and that they needed. And then, when I would launch something, they would be interested in it. And I would say that for anybody trying to sell a course to really really focus on your list building, focus on your people, your tribe, folks who really really want to hear from you, make sure you’re giving them good stuff so that when you’re ready to launch and you’re ready to sell your course, you’ll have buyers. Because we’re all here to make money so we need people to purchase our things. I learned that early on, like within 6 months being in business for myself.
Laura: That’s one of those lessons that’s absolutely crucial because I think a lot of people see the potential in online courses. I mean, e-learning is just one of the fastest growing industries in the world today and with companies like Teachable or like Udemy, they’re making it easier than ever to do these things. A lot of people see the potential and they see that end product of creating the course, earning income from it etc. which is great but you can’t forget about that early process of forging a connection with your audience. So, I’d love to know, how do you do that? How do you prime your audience well in advance of giving them any opportunity to pull out a credit card or submit a transaction through PayPal? How are you making connection with people?
Ronisha: I think that for what I do, I kind of start early on. I do kind of like a 90-day process. And I know I want to launch something way in advance so I start blogging about it, I give free video training regarding it. I’m always talking about it or one aspect of it. And what I do as far as my list, I literally send them something. I try not to bog down people because I know how I am with my email, so I send them something weekly, sometimes maybe twice a week depending on what I created because sometimes I’m really excited about what I’ve done and I wanted to share it. But I literally just start weekly, sending out information to them, telling them, hey this is what I have. Asking them to reply to me if they have any questions or concerns or what are they struggling with as it pertains to this online course. Is it planning? Is it launching? And I get feedback and I use that feedback to develop what they want. And that’s key too, I think. Sometimes we develop courses because we say, “oh people need this” but it may not be exactly that. It maybe something else so you really want to know from your audience what do they need; you want to create and then they’re going to buy from you. But, like I said, it’s a process for me. It’s like a 90-day process, maybe even longer where I just start sending things out there; free things, things that are of value that I feel that they need and they would enjoy and then I go from there.
Laura: I love that process because you have to form a relationship with people so they know, like and trust you. And it’s important that it all be aligned, right? Right before this call we were talking about I’m working on a course about how to launch a podcast in 30 days or less. So the audience that I’m working with that, it wouldn’t be appropriate to sending them other offers about time management or some other course or free things that I’m working on leading up to the launch of that because it doesn’t really have that much to do with the end product so when you’re creating a course, you’ve got to do that backward look and say, okay, my product is xyz, what are the other complementary subjects or the one-o-one level materials that I could provide to somebody to prime them to get thinking about this topic to see that I’m an expert in talking about it, to get them excited for when the actual launch rolls around. And I love that; I think that works really well for freelancers too who are trying to figure out what kind of service or product do I offer to my clients. Ask them, see what they need. We often get this idea in our head of like you said, my idea for a course is absolutely perfect but then you put hours and hours into creating it and then you launch and you hear crickets because hey, that wasn’t actually what your audience was interested in; and that can be crushing and lead you to not create a course again for a while. So, ask them. They’re great market research, it’s also engaging with your audience directly. So, I’d love to know now kind of like what is next for you. You’ve already talked a little bit about this evolution of your business, how it’s changed a little bit in the last couple of months. What do you see as kind of the next version of where you’re going?
Ronisha: I’m really loving my blog, Moms That Hustle, because I feel so good talking to people who are similar, who have children and they want to know how to start a business and I feel comfortable showing them my journey initially and I still feel comfortable showing them my future and what things to come because I’m still in the process, I’m still working as an entrepreneur so I still want to share those experiences. But I see myself trying to build more courses to help a larger audience. I’m all about helping more people and also going back to working one on one because initially I said, oh no, one on one it’s so much time to work with somebody one-on-one but then, I just found out I lost a lot of the connections that I made with people when I worked with them one-on-one. They became my friends so we would talk and so I’m kind of – it’s like I’m kind of going back to the beginning a little bit. And I think having a goal in your mind – in my mind is to help people. So, whatever that help is, whether it’s one-on-one, whether it’s larger courses, I think that’s what I want to do. When I kind of go back, I fight myself a lot. This is a bad part of being a solopreneur. You kind of go back and forth with yourself and you’re basically learning as you go; what you like, what you don’t like, and then what you may like again, what you may not like again. So, I just realize as I’m just continuing to grow and continuing to learn from others because there are so many wonderful people out there, with so much information. I’m learning just as much as they’re learning from me and I think it’s awesome. I think it’s an awesome platform to be an entrepreneur now in these days because you just meet so many wonderful people with so much information, so much knowledge. It’s just great.
Laura: There’s such a great lesson in there and on the one hand, I’m happy I’m not the only one who does that constant back and forth where you abandon an idea and then 4 months later you’re like, no I kind of miss that and do it again. Because it happens all the time. I feel like in my business I go through cycles where I want to be super super busy and I’m fully booked and then I just get tired of that and I’m like, okay for two months I’m just going to kind of scale back and reduce my income. And then inevitably it just comes around again in these ebbs and flows. I think the important lesson to draw from what you said is that there are no entrepreneurs who have it just figured out. Like they don’t just realize that their business is successful and go okay this is like crockpot, said it and forget it, never going to come back to this again. But you’re constantly questioning and evolving and meeting these new people or seeing something new like the wave of online courses might inspire you to create your own. And there’s just so much to take away from that. Do you have any favorite resources or books that you turn to often?
Ronisha: Wow, yeah. I like books where – for me, motivation and just being patient and knowing that this is my path. Not only do I like to read things about starting my business and the things that I’ve read coming in as a new entrepreneur but making sure it’s my passion. I’m driven by my passion. So, I’ve been reading a lot of books where to find your passion, what are you here to do, why are you put on this earth. Because I feel like if we don’t have that, we don’t have that drive. We don’t have that motivation because I’ve had periods in my business where I’m like, okay, I got to do this. I got to get up and I’m always searching to make sure that my passion is where it should be and making sure that my focus is my passion. And if it gets off, then I always switch gears, like you mentioned earlier, I’ll go back and forth and I’m questioning myself, “is this what I really like? Is this what I don’t like?” But there’s also the books I’ve been reading recently. I even created a quiz and I’ve been having my list – I send it to my list for them to take just to make sure that they’re really working in their passion because at the end of the day, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you’re not going to really give it 120% that you need to. So, that’s another side of my business that I’m really really focused on. I wrote a blog about it. I wrote a blog about 5 ways to ensure you’re passionate about what you’re doing. 5 ways to build passion back into your business if you’re losing it, if you feel like you’re being sucked dry or you just feel like something’s missing. And it was the five actual tips that I created for myself to make sure that my passion was where I needed it to be to make my business successful.
Laura: That’s so important to continuously reflect back on because it’s so easy to get in the day to day mode of marketing your business and assisting clients and creating things and putting out fires. And if you’re not reflecting back every so often about, hey is this still what I’m passionate about? Do I still really love this or is it time to shift gears a little bit? You can so easily get stuck if you’re not thinking about that. So, I love that advice. I think it’s so smart to be aware of that and receptive to changing things. It’s all about adapting.
Ronisha: Well that’s why I pared down from – I was Bezzell Development Solutions working with small business owners and solopreneurs but that’s why I pared down to mompreneurs because that’s my passion. I’m a mom, I have four children – two adult children and two children in high school – so I really connect with mothers who are really passionate about their lives, their children and their significant others and really trying to forge a life, a good life, for themselves and their families. And that’s where my passion was and that’s why I separated my business from my new blog because that’s more my niche and that’s important too. Knowing who that person is and I found that person, I actually helped that person and I literally create my blogs and my courses for this one person. Her name is Ramonia, she’s a client of mine. And she’s my ideal client and we all have our ideal client, what they look like, how old they are, what they do for a living, what they want to do in the future? That’s who I think of when I’m writing my blogs, that’s how it comes so easily to me when I’m developing things. I think about her; I think about her needs and that’s how I cerate.
Laura: I do the same thing. I have that avatar. I made it off of a real person, too. I’ve had this client of mine, a law firm owner that I worked with for three years and just every aspect of his personality as well as the way he runs his business, it’s like I want to work with like 50 of this guy. He’s so easy to work with and so every time I do that call, that initial call with someone, I am measuring that person against him. Like, do you like this person? And the same thing with the marketing, like you talked about. Speaking to that ideal client, what are their pain points? What are the questions they have that’s leading you to their blog? And I just think it’s so important because if you focus on your ideal clients and you’re providing them a tremendous amount of value, those people will flock to you. It’s like you’re putting it out in the universe like I want to work with this person and all of a sudden they’re showing up and the onboarding calls are easy and it’s just so enjoyable for both people when it’s the right fit.
Ronisha: Yes, she’s a Health and mindset and it’s funny because – I don’t know about you but when I work with my clients and they have a specific niche, I learn from them, mindset and she has all these things that she does and teaches about mindset and I was so interested in that. But working with her has really been wonderful. And I’ve met many people like her because that’s who I want to help and that’s who I focus on in my business.
Laura: So, cool to be able to talk to you and hear about so many of your great tips and I can definitely hear the passion that you bring to working with your clients and course creation. I’d love to know, where can people go to learn more information about you.
Ronisha: Well, I’m all over social media. First, my website is BizzellDevelopmentSolutions.com and from there you can find my blog Moms That Hustle, where I tailor it down to moms and give moms tips on how to start their careers or start their businesses or start their side hustles. It’s hard not to want to help everybody. This my career. This is my issue. I always have this so I have that too. So, I’m sure there’s tons of information for anybody who wants to learn how to start a course, learn how to build their list, learn how to create a digital product. There’s tons of things that I have on my website.
Laura: Awesome! Well, I encourage everybody to check that out. Obviously by now you’ve learned a lot from her. I know that I certainly have. So, I just want to thank you for being on the show and being such a great guest.
Ronisha: Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed it. It was fun.
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