This week we're highlighting a service-based entrepreneur who has concocted her own awesome style of consulting and brand formulation. With a heavy focus on "brand chemistry" and doing what you want (and getting paid for it), Shenee Howard of Hey Shenee rejects boring and flips traditional business consultation on it's head.
Listen to the Full Interview
1. What is Hey Shenee?
I teach branding and business development classes and workshops on my site, heyshenee.com! Really, Hey Shenee designs digital products and workshops made to help you do the work you really want to do and get paid for it.
2. When you’re not working, what do you do?
Netflix, board games, whitewater rafting? I heard you’ve been experimenting with some new hobbies lately!
Well, I just recently got a bike and got it fixed up, so now I’m officially a member of the Austin biking community! I also just started a rowing class, which has been a whole new adventure and inspired a blog post.
Some people might call me outdoorsy, if you will. (Not really.) I’m also working on a web series called Did You Meet Any Boys, based on my adventures dating as a 20-something entrepreneur here in Austin, TX. That’s debuting soon!
Yeah, Shenee likes to stay busy, doesn’t she?
3. What’s the first thing you’ve ever sold?
Is there a good story there? I know you’ve gone through a few iterations of your business.
The first thing I ever did was, I think, resume design in late 2010. Actually, I graduated college in 2010, so I guess the resume was beginning of 2011, and I couldn’t find a job. The way I got started in business is that I graduated and I was looking and looking for jobs, and it just wasn’t working. Nobody was really hiring in my industry (my major was in multimedia publishing). Since I couldn’t find a job, I decided to go out on my own.
4. Who do you work with and what pain points do you address?
Mostly, I work with women entrepreneurs - I have the occasional man in my classes, but it’s mostly women.
(Photo by Chris Guillebeau at the Pioneer Nation conference March '14)
I think the biggest problem my customers and clients have is that they’re just procrastinators. There’s so many things that they want to do, but for whatever reason, they don’t do them. I think that’s the number one pain that I solve; my focus is always on action-oriented materials and helpfulness, not super fluffy or anything.
5. What makes this audience special?
I work with a lot of women who are kind of Type A and very on their game in other parts of their lives. They’re really great at their job, they’re perfectionists, but they’re struggling with their business. I think that’s what makes my audience unique because I don’t really work with people who have lots of excuses or are just wallowing. I do really well with women who know there’s something they want to do, and they sort of know why it’s not happening, and they need someone to come in and connect the pieces for them.
6. What tools / software / apps do you use to run your business?
What is the platform your business or business’s site created on?
Self-hosted... Wordpress is where it’s at!
What services or apps do you use to market, advertise, and promote?
We use Facebook ads for advertising, and we promote on Twitter sometimes too, and of course I have a Facebook page. We use Hootsuite to schedule stuff usually, MailChimp for newsletters and email marketing, and we used to use OptimizePress for landing pages. (We don’t really use it any more, but I still think it’s a great tool!)
What services (if any) do you use for customer support?
I love HelpScout! My Happiness Specialist, Sera, usually manages email, but sometimes I want to jump in. So HelpScout makes it easy for me to be like, “Yes, I’ve seen this,” or for her to note that she’s seen it, and for us to tag notes on things and communicate with each other and customers more effectively. We get 20-30 emails every day for questions like, “Hey, do you do this? Could we do that?” That doesn’t include our regular customer/client emails, because I run a membership/mastermind-style program, and of course, they have questions too.
Trying to handle it all within Gmail just doesn’t work, it gets out of control. So we use HelpScout to tag everything, put everything into categories and folders, and we can pull up a specific customer’s email history...it’s great!
What do you use for internal productivity and communication?
Other than HelpScout, we use Asana and we love it! We shopped around a lot for project management tools and it seems to be the one that works the best. We use Google Docs for that too. If we have a meeting, we’ll start a Google Doc and the agenda and notes go in there. For my own personal productivity, I use sticky notes (the desktop app, not the actual post-it notes) and AnyDo.
Are there other interesting software, gadgets, or hacks that you use?
We actually do use Google Docs for quite a lot. My students have documents that they need edited or refined, so instead of going back and forth through email, we do collaborative work inside Google Docs. They get homework every week through Google Docs.
Past that, I’m pretty old-school. I use Trello, sometimes, to sort of visually organize my thoughts. Cold Turkey is probably my number one product in the world -- it blocks your social media or any emails and you can’t unblock it. There’s literally nothing you can do, you can turn the computer off and on, it doesn’t work. You’re all, “It’s an emergency!” and Cold Turkey will be like, “I don’t care.” For some background music I use Spotify. Those are some of my favorites!
7. What are the three trends to watch for that will define this market in a year?
One trend that I really love is letting people unlock things through referrals. Untorch is one example of this. Basically, the way it works is that if you get people to sign up for a thing, you get that thing for free or earlier than other people.
It really unlocks a key part of customer behavior that hasn’t been tapped into much yet, which is the idea of wanting to be the first to get something and get it sooner. It takes advantage of the impatience of the internet, which is brilliant.
The second trend I’ve noticed, that I don’t like, is sort of shame-heavy pop-ups. Where the options are things like, “Do you want to do THIS and improve your business? Or do you want to keep going the way you’re going and not have any money?” It’s definitely a trend and I’m curious to see how it plays out. It’s a really traditionally salesy technique that you see with a lot of male bloggers in business categories. I imagine it’s very effective, but it makes me wonder what the line is?
I also wonder how effective it is because the problem with high-pressure list-building like that is, what’s the use of a big list if you have a high refund rate or if they don’t buy your stuff at all? Anyways, I think it’ll be interesting to see how it comes into the female entrepreneurial markets since it’s such a masculine-seeming tactic.
Branded Viral Video
The third trend that I see, and I think it’s just going to get bigger, is branded viral videos. These videos that are super, super sharable that have never been connected to anything are going to start being associated with brands. Like that video of strangers kissing for the first time that turned out to be an advertisement.
8. What does a successful day of working at your business look like?
I try really hard to keep my workdays to 4-5 hours a day (which I’ve written about before). I’m in a launch right now, so this just isn't realistic, but for the most part, my day looks like:
- An hour or two of admin stuff
- An hour or two on writing and content creation
- Another hour on supporting my mastermind group
And then that’s my day. During a non-launch time, I’m usually able to maintain that pretty well. Part of that is because I have a lot of my stuff outsourced, graphic design, ad management, and so on. Sera is my only actual ongoing contractor, but I try hard to effectively outsource other projects and tasks.
9. What apps, tips, and tricks do you recommend to help out with workflow?
Manage your personal workflow
AnyDo and Trello are my two for my personal workflow. And I’m a huge proponent of a three-item to do list. For me, I think this is a contributing factor to my business as a whole, because I adopted this habit pretty early. Knowing exactly what you’re doing going into the day makes a huge difference. You know those days where you show up and you’re not sure what you’re going to do, you wind up wasting a lot of time.
But if you know what three things you need to get done today, when you do them, you can either go work on other things or you’re just done. Most of the time, you’ll go work on something else, but you know the things that absolutely needed to get done, got done.
Beyond that, name everything, date everything. Clear labeling makes things so much easier for my workflow. I used to be bad about that, sometimes I’ll still find something in Google Docs called “This has stuff in it that’s important to you.” And I’m like, “What?! That could be anything!” So I’m trying to get into a habit of clearly labeling and dating everything, and that’s also super important in team communication.
When it does come to team communication, not being "blamey" about things. I don’t know if that’s strictly related to this question, but it’s huge when you have people working for you. Let them know they made a mistake and that’s okay, this is what we do next, as opposed to just walking in like, “What the heck?!”
It’s a lot easier if you’re like, “Okay, why did you do that?” or “What happened?” It makes a safer space and I think the work is better overall when you approach it from that way.
Have a system
The typical stuff like having systems, having a way to do everything, and having all of that recorded. This is how we do our newsletter, this is how we put up a social media post, this is how we do everything. That way, if you hire a one-off freelancer or an ongoing contract worker, you just give them the doc, and you don’t have to spend hours trying to help them figure out how to do it.
10. If there was one thing that would make running your business easier, what would it be and why?
Is there a hypothetical non-existent dream software, more time, money, a Segway, anything?
I want something that takes my thoughts and dumps them into organized lists where I can see the scope of everything! Like a mental project manager, but then when you assign things over to your actual project manager, they already know all the information. Something that regularly takes out the information from my brain and organizes it would be awesome. Wouldn’t it be cool if you’re working on a novel and you can just think up the outline and then have it recorded?!
11. Do you think any of your personal quirks make you a good fit for this type of work?
Definitely. One of my quirks is that I have to finish things. If I do something or decide that I’m going to do something, I do it. If I really want to do something, I just decide I’ll do it and then do it. I think it’s hard because sometimes you end up jumping around and working on different projects, but I think it makes me really suited to do my job, because I do what I say I’m going to do.
I think another personal quirk is that I have a really big imagination and I’m a huge daydreamer and thinker, so I can apply more of my personality and me to my brand.
12. If you could go back in time (before your business was started) and give yourself business advice, what would it be?
If something feels like a “no,” you don’t have a reason to make it not a no.
This is the only one I have for me -- I feel like the other stuff was important for me to learn on my own. But so many times we get on the phone with someone or we talk to them about working together on a project, and we don’t know why we don’t like it, and we don’t ever think that’s enough of a reason to not do something. But it totally is--that’s our instincts telling us no.
That’d be my number one piece of advice, if it feels bad, if you’re like, “No, I don’t want to do that,” it’s okay to not do it, and the money is going to come in some other way that’ll work better.
13. What are your top three pieces of advice for aspiring service-based business owners?
Don’t take yourself too seriously
We’re not curing diseases, this is just the internet.
You get so stressed out and tweaked out about the internet (and I was like this, too!), and what’s on it, and who’s going to see it. And most people couldn’t care less or they’re too worried about themselves. It’s like in high school where you think everyone’s looking at you and everyone cares, and maybe some people do, but most people are too focused on their own shit to worry about you, too.
If you want to do something, just try it.
It’s not going to hurt you. People aren’t going to show up with pitchforks. If people can recover from major crises, celebrities recover from huge scandals all the time, you can recover from putting up a stupid blog post or sales copy that doesn't work.
Here are the apps and solutions that make HeyShenee.com possible.
|Software / App Name||What It's For|
|Wordpress||Website hosting platform|
||Customer Service / Emails|
||Conversation / Tasking|
|Google Docs||Notes / Client Documents|
|AnyDo||Personal Task Management|
||Visual Thought Management|
|Cold Turkey||Distraction Avoidance / Productivity|