Learn how Christie’s empathy and genuine interest in helping people has filled 16 online courses.
How we met: Christie teaches classes online on design and branding. I took her class Polish Your Online Brand and was so impressed with her genuineness and amazing natural teaching abilities that I had to find out how she created her online community.
Her business: Jewels Branch
Where she lives: Sullivan, Missouri
Christie teaches courses on online design and branding. I loved one of her courses (Polish Your Online Brand). I wanted to know how she makes it all happen, because I’m interested in doing something similar.
Polish Your Online Brand takes some of the elements of her other courses and puts it out there for free. She provides daily worksheets for 7 days that help business owners get at the core of who they are and how they want to present themselves. She offers it because people want to learn how to do design, but the WHY behind it is missing. Once you know your purpose, it’s easier to do the technical parts.
Christie gets people to sign up for her courses by blogging, Facebook ads, emailing her list, doing one-on-one sessions for free, and helping people in groups.
The bigger thing that Jewels Branch does is helps people with design and branding. She has 16 courses at this point, and started with a course on ebooks, and added on the other courses, which teach Photoshop, doing your logo, headers, graphics, Canva, PicMonkey, Pages, Word, and more. Every time she runs a new course, she launches it by writing blog posts and going on social media.
Christie has been a graphic designer for 20 years. She recently started teaching because a client told her that she’s a natural teacher.
She has a journalism degree and spent many years working in publishing. She wanted to work for herself when her kids were little, and she had clients all over the world. Then she got into the online business thing and started helping people by designing for their businesses. Then a client told her she was really good at teaching and she hadn’t really thought about it, but decided to give it a go. Her mom was a teacher and she thought you had to be born knowing how to teach, and she didn’t want to teach second graders, so it wasn’t on her radar. But after hearing from her client, she decided to give it a try. She still does design work, but now she teaches it as well.
Just like a lot of the entrepreneurs I’ve talk to, Christie gives a lot up front and know what she has to offer
She used to do a lot of free calls, especially when she first started. She would say that she’d be on Skype from 9-10 and people could go on and ask her questions. 3 or 4 years ago, people were really hungry for that stuff. Some were people they knew and some weren’t. Some were lonely and wanted someone to talk to, and some had specific questions. She would also give people a free review of their ebooks as well. Then people would sign up for the course. It was never a hard sell. She still doesn’t do hard sells, but she will mention what she is offering.
Even when it comes to building an email list, it’s not about the NUMBERS but about the RELATIONSHIPS.
Christie has less than 1,000 people on her list and has 400 people who have done a course, which is a crazy ratio for an email list. She only started doing courses 2 or 2.5 years ago, and when she was doing the one on one stuff, she didn’t need a large list.
It’s hard being in the entrepreneurial world, and seeing that people can send out one email and make $60,000, but she likes knowing the people she is working with. She likes knowing about them, and what they’re doing, and why, because she can serve them better if she knows where they’re at. People all come in at different points, and it’s really about meeting people where they are.
She’s an introvert, and she says if she suddenly had 10,000 people on her list, she’d have to go hide somewhere. The growth has been at a rate that she can handle. As long as it continues to grow, she’s happy with the slow steady march approach.
When trying to build a Facebook group, it’s a challenge, because it doesn’t start as a community, but as a few people. I asked Christie how she built hers.
I asked how to deal with it when you start a Facebook group, how it’s hard to build it slowly, and she said just start. As for the numbers, it’s less about that than about why people are there in the first place. For Polish Your Online Brand, people are there to work on their brand, so the community isn’t the main focus.
She’s taken other online courses, and she thinks it’s super helpful, but for Polish Your Online Brand, it’s very self driven, so while the group is helpful, it’s secondary for most people. The first time Christie ran a course with a Facebook group element, two years ago, there were 30 people in the course, and it was a very tight knit community. At that time, people were hungry for the community. But now there are so many Facebook groups that it can be overwhelming. People are over communitized, and are like, “I can’t handle another group!”
She’s always built relationships online. She has also met some of the people she’s met online in person at conferences. But because she lives in the middle of nowhere, building community online was really important.
Christie doesn’t have a strategy for building relationships online, she just helps people who need help.
She’s empathetic, so she picks up on people that need a boost. She’s comfortable communicating online and in Facebook groups. It’s not a numbers game, but about helping individual people, lifting them up and supporting them.
When it comes to approaching people, it’s about knowing where our boundaries are. She asks herself, “Does this feel good?” and if it doesn’t feel good, there has to be another way to do it. And for her a lot of that is being available and of service. She says there are a couple of trains of thought. Some people are happier being straightforward at sales. But part of the beauty of working for yourself is being able to do things in a way that feels good to you.
Christie is already involved in communities where people who need her help hang out.
She’s taking other courses, and questions about design come up all the time, so she’ll pop in and out and participate in the groups. It’s very much an organic kind of thing. Part of it is continuing to show up.
She says, “It’s the Survivor thing: outwit and outlast. And the outlast thing is huge. It’s about consistency in being there and being there and being there. That slow steady kind of thing.”
It’s important to know where to hang out online. It differs from business to business.
Her primary platform is Facebook. She uses Twitter as more of a broadcast channel than a conversation channel. And Pinterest is more about curation. Facebook is where she’s most comfortable. Her husband is a techie dude, so Twitter is a better channel for him.
When it comes to building successful relationships, you just have to keep going.
Keep going is her final advice – you can get advice from everyone, but you just have to slog through. You will be surprised at where it’s going to go. Be open to the possibilities, and just keep going.
- As Dory in Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.” Christie emphasized the importance of continuing on and being open to possibilities, which is essential for people who are trying to build a business.
- Knowing how to give value and then doing it genuinely is something that has come up again and again in these conversations, and Christie does it really well.
- Relationship building should feel good. If you’re doing something that doesn’t, take a step back and see how you can change your approach.
- When it comes to email lists, there are so many courses on how to make them grow. But maybe we’re missing something essential – the potential for building real relationships with our subscribers. For Christie, her list isn’t just a bunch of email addresses, but real people, many of whom are students, who she tries to genuinely understand and help.
Christie wants to connect with:
Business women who love learning new skills and who want to learn graphic design, branding, and software programs like Photoshop, Pages, Word, Canva and Pixlr so they can build their own brands and digital products.
Christie can help you by:
Helping you brand yourself online, and teaching you the different programs to create your online presence. Check out her courses here.
1 step you can take to grow your network today:
Take a moment to think about what you’re comfortable with in regard to relationship building. Connecting online or in person? Selling or helping? If something feels uncomfortable to you, don’t be afraid to shift your approach.