In this episode of Become a Media Maven, I speak with Michelle Dempsey. Michelle is a dear friend of mine and fellow mompreneur who hustles hard… and her hustle translates into dollars.
I call Michelle the queen of self-promotion. She began her career as a teacher, then she started writing for various publications and fell in love with creating content. She was doing it and promoting it so well for herself, that soon to be clients started contacting her. That’s how she started her business, Very Well Written.
In the sixth episode of Become a Media Maven, Michelle talks about how many times her content was rejected and what she did with those rejections to turn it into dollars.
Michelle is also sharing her networking secrets – a form of lead generation many people hate doing, but she has learned to love it and see an ROI from all of those local networking events.
Here is a list of resources mentioned in this episode:
- Michelle on Instagram
- Michelle’s Facebook Group, Mind your own Business
- Pitch, Publicity, Profit Media Class waiting list
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How To Promote Yourself On Social Media To Actually Make Money
I call Michelle Dempsey the queen of self-promotion and when I started my podcast, I knew I was going to have Michelle on.
I met Michelle right after she decided to start her own business. She was just leaving teaching because she was just desperately wanting to be home with her eight month old who she had put in daycare.
“I knew I wanted to be home with her because it was just killing me,” she said. “I was a teacher and had this whole thing about having to be with other people’s kids while mine was at home or in daycare, being cared for by somebody else.”
How to Start Freelancing
That’s when Michelle started freelancing. She had already developed a mommy blog, was writing for Huff Post, Scary Mommy, Mind Body Green, and a bunch of other publications that really put her on the map as a writer.
Her friends and friends of family with businesses started asking for help with written tasks such as new website content or adding a blog to their website. So right around the time when we first met, she had just secured her first paying client to write a blog.
“I met you when you were speaking at a blogger event and I remember being so inspired by you and your way of putting yourself out there, Michelle said about me. “So I just realized there was a community of women doing that. It was okay to just move forth and go for the gold.”
How to Start Contributing to Outlets like Scary Mommy
I feel like so many people want to write for those big, impressive publications like Michelle, so I asked her how she got into that and how she started writing for those bigger outlets in addition to your own?
“I just started submitting my work, she said. “I would stay up late at night Googling ‘how to submit articles to publications’ and anytime I would find a submit email address, I would submit or upload to their platform. I would upload and I got rejected.”
Scary Mommy rejected her about 19 times before they published one of her posts and when they did publish it, it was their main posts of the day. When you went to their website, they got so much engagement in responses, backlash, and all.
There are so many places to get your content seen these days. You just have to do the work and really look into where you want your content to be featured… and just keep trying. There are people behind these publications that actually do sit and read these articles. They are making money off of us giving them content for free. And so it’s really to your benefit to at least try and not give up.
Now, I played devils advocate and said, “A lot of people don’t want to spend time writing all of these articles for nothing if nobody picks them up.”
Michelle reminded me it’s not for nothing. If nobody’s picking it up, you put it on your own website and you link people back to there. At least it’s giving you do website traffic. It’s not for nothing and if it can be on your website and nobody else’s and there are links back to it. It’s out there. It’s in cyberspace. It will get shared eventually by somebody.
“My first foray into having work published was because I kept publishing my own blog content. Somebody shared it and a Motherhood magazine contacted me and asked if they could publish it, so you can’t be afraid to just consistently put yourself out there.”
That leads to why Michelle is the queen of self-promotion because if you throw enough sh*t at the wall, it’s going to stick. You have to be willing to try. Nobody got famous by going to one audition and being denied a role in saying, “Okay, well forget it.” They just kept trying.
Building a Team as a Business Owners
Michelle and I have both discussed this offline because we both have agencies with have team members and when it comes to growing a team, it is so hard to find people who are dedicated and have a good work ethic and that’s why I wanted to ask her about people saying, “Oh, but what if we’re writing for nothing? Then we’re working for nothing.” I feel like that’s so many people’s mindset today.
“I just got off a call with actually one of my team members right before you and I started this podcast and I was complaining to her about how hard it’s been to find team members that take initiative,” Michelle said. I am always taking the initiative, whether it’s even within the realm of what my clients are paying me for that particular month or what I even have the bandwidth to do for myself or that day.”
Whether you think you have the time or you don’t like it, you have to put yourself out there or to try new things to be seen or have the next big, viral posts. It takes initiative and it takes finding people who understand that if you’re going to have a theme, it’s definitely not easy,
I think it’s the hardest part of building a business, especially if you have an agency model like Michelle and I do. But back to putting yourself out there, Michelle started getting some stuff published and then she promoted what was being published. She didn’t just rely on Scary Mommy to share it with their audience. She told your audience, “Look at me, I’m in Scary Mommy,” and she did it over and over and over again.
“I did it over and over and over again to the point where I could feel the eye rolls and I could feel the unfollow buttons,” she said. “And you know, at that point I really didn’t care. Desperate Times call for desperate measures. I was married at the time to my ex-husband. He had just lost his job. It was a struggle. He was looking for something. He was still unemployed. I at that point was home with my daughter making $50 a blog post for other publications and I knew I needed to make money. So I said, screw it. I don’t care what people think. I don’t care if I’m being spammy or annoying. I’m going to put myself out there until I can make a living. I knew my writing was good. Other bloggers, who are now huge big name bloggers in the industry, were reaching out to me like, “Hey, how do I start a blog?”
Michelle can take credit for helping them and now they are some of the biggest Scary Mommy writers.
How to Network Like a Boss
She kept going with it until it stuck… until people were calling to hire her. Apart from that, she was going to networking events – with no business model and only a website, She had Microsoft word and was like, “Okay, I can write for your business” and was meeting business owners and selling them on the benefits of blogging, because at that point, we knew it was essential for SEO and Google rankings, She started landing clients (and pretty big ones).
Now, her business Very Well Written has been able to grow from just blogging to actual content marketing with strategy and social media and brand development. It’s amazing to see how she’s evolved just in learning about what the need is and being committed to learning and growing – consistent self promotion on every level.
I hate networking, so I don’t do it much. I put myself out there enough online that I don’t need to do it, but networking is a huge lead generator and I feel like people who don’t like it, like me, are either lazy or they just don’t do it right. Michelle it right. So, I asked Michelle to tell us a couple of stories on how she went to a networking event, what she did, what she said, and how it turned into dollars.
“I started going to networking events because I was lucky enough to have friends who were in business who belong to different organizations,” Michelle said. “I was meeting people, giving out my business card, etc. Turning that into dollars is going home, sending an email and following up saying, “It was so great meeting you. I’d love to talk about what I do can benefit your business, whether you’re interested or not. Let’s just grab a cup of coffee and connect.”
Taking the pressure off of making somebody hire me really helped. We all hate when we’re at a networking event and the next day we get an email and are already subscribed to somebody’s email list about why we need to buy their health insurance that we don’t like.
Michelle has had more coffee dates with people who didn’t hire her, but she gave them tips. When they had a friend who was able to hire her, they shared her name.
If you put yourself out there enough and help enough people, your name will eventually end up on somebody’s list who wants to pay you and that’s how it’s happened for me.
How to Start Speaking at Local Events
Michelle started noticing that she would go to events and there would be speakers who really had nothing worthwhile to share.
‘If I’m going to go to these events, I want to share what I know,” she said. “Not only am I here meeting people – people get to see that I am educated in this field.”
Most don’t just go to some bad salmon. They get some tips. So, Michelle started hitting up the heads of all these networking groups in her area and offering to speak.
That’s how I started speaking, by saying “Hey, I want to share with your group the best ways women can brand themselves, or best marketing tips for dermatologists, or whatever the case may be.”
Michelle was going there to tell the world, “Hey, I’m a subject matter expert.” That’s why I’m speaking – to make further connections with the people in this group to have this group. Then follow up with me and asked me questions about my speech and to be able to promote on social media that I’m a speaker now. It’s another reason for you to hire me because I know what I’m doing.
“People want to hear from me, so I just took this real aggressive route to making myself seen and heard. That’s what I think people are so impressed with,” Michelle said. “It’s just second nature for me at this point and I feel I owe it to myself. I’m selling people on hiring my company to market them and make them present and seen. I got to do it for myself too.”
What Will People Think of You?
“I know there’s plenty of people who are like, “Oh my God, that Michelle Dempsey. She’s everywhere and it’s enough.” But you know, I’ve evolved past the point of caring simply because I’m doing my thing. I’m growing, I’m supporting my daughter on my own and you know, there’s gonna be plenty of people who hate it or don’t like the what I have to say, but you get to a certain point where you don’t care and you realize how people feel about you is just a reflection of them.”
So much of what we hear from women is – Can I really say that? I don’t want to bother anyone?
Who actually cares who you’re bothering! This is your path. If that person is bothered, it’s because there’s something within them that you know it’s not your job to fix or deal with.
“I hate the whole, “I don’t want to bother anyone” thing and I get that a lot so you know, you can either take my lead and put yourself out there or don’t, but know that if you don’t, you’re not going to grow.”
You can’t control how people feel. Trying to worry about how people feel will sink you into the ground very fast because it’s consuming and it’s useless. It’s like worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow. You don’t know. You can’t change it. You also can’t change how people feel ever.
“You rubbed somebody the wrong way once. It doesn’t matter what you do after that to get on their good side, they already don’t like you. So move on,” Michelle suggests.”
The #1 Way to Waste Time as a Business Owner
Now, let’s talk about wasting time. I get numerous emails, numerous messages on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. People want to work with me, and I did waste a lot of my time – not necessarily on people who didn’t want to spend money with me, but people who just had no clue. I would talk to anybody and everybody who wanted to talk to me – even building them proposals if they wanted one.
At the end of the day, I was not doing a good job qualifying these people. These were people who had no idea what my industry was like. They also were not at a stage in their business where they had money to spend or they were not committed enough in growing their business to want to spend money or they didn’t want to do the work they would have to do after hiring someone like me as a mentor.
So, I was wasting my time getting on the phone with anybody and everybody who sent me a message. Now, I’ll tell you what I do now so I don’t waste my time on the tire kickers. But what does Michelle do to filter leads to ensure she’s not talking to people all day every day?
“I want to be a value to people so that I stay at the top of their list for referrals, but I also have a lot to get through. I’m a single mom and I really only have till 3:00 every day when my daughter gets out of school to make sure things are in order and clients are happy,” Michelle said. “It came a point where I couldn’t meet with everybody. When people do inquire, my first questions are,
1.) what kind of business do you have?
2.) Where are you with marketing your business?
3.) Have you thought about hiring somebody yet? If right away they’re like, well, I’m not, I don’t really have the budget to hire anyone. Then I’ll say, “Why don’t you join my Facebook group? I have started my own Facebook group for Solopreneurs.
It’s really for the ones who can’t afford a marketing team so that they can learn the tips and tricks. It’s called Mind Your Own Business Marketing for Solopreneurs. I’ll direct them there, but if they are on the fence about hiring somebody, what I do is I send them all of my information, pricing, and everything upfront and I say, “Give me your email, let me send you information about how we work, how our prices are structured and what you can expect from working with us.”
I was getting to the point where I was upset that I was wasting people’s time by talking to them about working together when really they had no intention of working with me. It was a waste of my time and a waste of their time.
I now have a Google Doc that I have people fill out and you have to tell me where you’re at in your business along with what you’re ready and willing to do. If you do not fill this Google Doc out, I will not get on a call with you because I cannot spend all day, everyday talking to people who are not interested.
Work ON Your Business, Not IN Your Business
“Christina, you gave me the best advice a few months ago. Work on my business, not in my business,” Michelle said. “That’s been my focus every day now because of you.”
That takes almost more effort if not more than actually doing the physical work because when you’re doing the physical work, you worried about one thing at a time when you’re working on your business, you’re worried about the entire thing all the time. So, it’s a lot.
I told Michelle I said that to her because I knew she was at the point where she shouldn’t be in it. She has a team.
Can I Pick your Brain = the Worst Question Ever
I also want to talk about one other thing that Michelle mentioned and it was “picking my brain”. Now looking back, I am so embarrassed that when I started my business, I would ask people if I could pick their brain. It was so rude and stupid of me to do.
First of all, you cannot get all of the answers you want over lunch or over coffee. Picking somebody’s brain like, “How can I do this and be successful?” Oh yes, that’s just a 30 minute conversation. (sarcasm)
It doesn’t work that way and that’s why Michelle is glad that I said you now charge for that, She started charging for that probably about a year and a half ago.
“If you want to sit down and you want to talk, that’s my time that I could actually be working on my business or I’m making money or looking for a speaking gig or something, so yes, you have to pay for my time,” Michelle said. “If I’m offering value and I do the same thing that you do, if you’re not ready to pay, then there are tons of free resources that I can guide you to on my website and on my blog.”
To sit down with somebody for an hour and spill the beans?I I’ve been played that way before, Michelle said.
“I had a client who fired me two days after they asked to sit down and let me show them how MailChimp worked, In case they want to send something out. Then two days later, they fired me, tried to get back their retainer money, and I was like, “Oh honey, now refer to page two of the contract.”
In her two and a half years, Michelle has never messaged somebody who she never met in person and try to get them to buy into what she do. She will always put herself out there on Instagram and Facebook and say, “You know, today was sh*t. Iwas in the middle of a meeting and got a call from my daughter’s school and I was still able to get her down for a nap and do XYZ.”
So I’m, I’m always showing my effort and my involvement in things and I think that’s a lot different and it’s a much more passive aggressive way, smarter way to show your strength as a business owner and a businessperson and whatever it is that you do, than directly just telling people, hire me, hire me, hire me. Because it becomes white noise,
People do business with people and you can have five people who do the exact same thing, but they do it all a little differently and at the end of the day you’re going to do business with that person who resonates with you more.