Akta [00:00:00]: Are you feeling overwhelmed as a creator? Do you feel like you always need to be growing your audience or launching new products? Chances are you need systems in your business.
Sara [00:00:10]: The more you have to complex your system or feel like you need to, the less time you have to actually create and work on things.
Akta [00:00:17]: Sarah Loretta is a founder of SYSTMS™ and she helps creative entrepreneurs to scale and streamline their business. In this episode of Creators on Air, we talked about the common challenges creators face and how you can make the creative journey easier for yourself.
Sara [00:00:32]: I think with creators there's kind of two pain points that I've noticed a lot. So I work with creators on a one on one basis. A lot of creators come to me know are launching a product and need help with paywalls and systems and templates, right? So if they need like notion templates or Canva templates, because I actually, as a total side note, pivot, whatever. I owned a design agency for four years before I moved into creative ops, but I kept getting clients all the time who were like a logo is going to make me all this money, but didn't really have the operations or the experience to back up what they were launching. And I even see that now with creators where there's this constant, I guess you could say like fear or struggle or need even to always be launching courses or products or you have to monetize every single thing in your life. And I think a lot of creators do themselves a disservice to have multiple skews, to also even to not have a fine line of what is their creator life versus what are their hobbies. So that's kind of the first thing. And then I think the other side of that when it comes to experience is there's so much copying and pasting going on.
Sara [00:01:45]: And I know a lot of people are going to hate me listening to this episode, but it's fine. But I see a lot of people that are launching products that really, how do I say this? God, people are really going to hate me. But it's fine. I think a lot of people that are in the creator space are afraid to deep dive. I've seen so many products, so many coaching programs and courses and evergreen models where you then get into the community side of whatever that product is and everything is so surface level. And I think it's either a, because creators don't have that deep, deep level experience to back up, hey, I have a question about this, or I want more information about that. And so their entire product is like, if we're thinking about an iceberg right. It's like just above the water, and then they never touch anything below that.
Sara [00:02:40]: And I think alongside of that is because in the crater space, it's like, no, you need to have a low ticket offer. That's how you're going to make so much money. And don't overstep that boundary of what you're charging, because you want people to spend more money with you. And I've heard from several people in my community, oh my God, I've gotten more value from your $60 product than a $7,000 coaching program. And that's not how it should be. If you are a creator, you should want to over deliver no matter what. But I think kind of a follow up to that is I think a lot of creators kind of came into the creator space because they went viral or something. They just kind of hit like a gem, right? They hit like a really interesting space online.
Sara [00:03:27]: And they've never taught in their life. They've never produced content in a variety of ways that matches what it takes to truly learn from somebody. And I think if more creators. I was on a podcast recently, and we were talking about a book that I'm writing, which surprise everybody. I'm writing a book, but it's this idea of permission to explore and permission to make mistakes. And if you have a really strong, confident audience and community behind you, it's okay to experiment with them and to say, hey, I want to launch this thing. I don't know if it's going to work, but please give me your feedback. I'm open and being willing to say, hey, I want to pivot and manoeuvre so you get a better experience.
Sara [00:04:12]: I think more creators would be way more successful if they did all of those things and then on top of that, build the systems and the processes to make it a little bit easier.
Akta [00:04:24]: Yeah, definitely. I love your answer, though, because I was kind of expecting kind of the typical answers, like burnout or managing their time, but you've almost kind of found the reason why people are having burnout in the first place, and it's because they're trying to constantly launch things and grow their revenue streams and all of that stuff. But I guess something that a lot of creators want is to scale their businesses. So bearing in mind the challenges that you see, what advice would you give for creators who want to scale their business?
Sara [00:04:55]: I told you before we got on that I have very spicy opinions. I think. Yeah, it's like, so many people are so focused on always creating content and always marketing and being ahead of the game, and it's like, why are you not giving that attention to the community that's already committed to you? And we're not talking Twitter. I'm not talking, like, public community. I'm talking, like, personal one on one connections. And I think that's kind of where I tend to stray on the agency one on one work side. And I've carried that over to my creative side because I've been 100% referral for five years. I've never marketed my business, and I'm set to do 500k this year on the one on one side.
Sara [00:05:50]: And so there's a lot of things that I think when you choose to switch and say, I'm done doing freelance work, I'm going to go 100% creator. Or maybe you're coming from a nine to five and switch over. I feel like people switch something in their brain and they're like, none of that skill set matters. I'm not carrying anything forward. And it's like the skills and experience that you build in those other opportunities are 100% valid and need to be utilized when you come over to the creative side. And so building a referral network with your audience, being willing to get on a call, whether people paid for it or not, to just learn what their problems are and learn about who your audience is, because we can all sit here and be like, oh, my God, my niche. I only work with so and so. And it's like, okay, but what is the human side of people that are in your audience? Where do they live? What do they believe in? What are their hobbies? How can you connect with somebody on a one on one basis that has nothing to do with what you're, I get, you could see my, like, I have tons of art, tons of things.
Sara [00:06:59]: I'm a huge rocky fan, love the Godfather, and this is a huge talking point for me. And so it's like, hey, what's your favourite movie? Like, do you like chocolate? Do you like coffee? And then following up on that, because at the end of the day, yes, people can spend money and you can do invoicing and subscription, but we're all humans and we're all struggling. And sometimes you have to break that down in order to scale your business and not be afraid to let people know who you are. You have to be willing to just reconnect with your audience regardless of if they've paid for the program already or not, and call it a day.
Akta [00:07:41]: Yeah, definitely. I love that. So how has that translated on your creator side then? How have you kind of monetized, I guess that audience, what does it look like?
Sara [00:07:52]: A couple of different ways. Like I mentioned at the beginning, my mission is to make business education accessible to everybody. And so I always give my best stuff for free. I get people in comments all the time on medium articles that are like, I can't believe you're just giving this out. And it's like, well, what am losing if somebody needs a template? I was on Twitter the other day, and I just happened to share my to do list, which if you saw that tweet like insane for the weekend, and somebody was like, oh, my God, what are you using? I'm like, it's just a table in notion. Like, happy to make it for you. It's nothing crazy. And I had ended up making the template and gave it to the person, like an hour later, and they ended up dm’ing me, and they were like, I can't believe you're so willing to give information.
Sara [00:08:39]: It's like, well, why not, right? And so I always lead with free first. And then I have built a very tight knit group of people that have honestly been with me since the beginning. I launched a course, God, like 2018, and it was how to communicate with your clients. It was on Trello. Insane. Like, you think about the tools. I literally launched this course on Trello. It was wild.
Sara [00:09:07]: And those six people are what I call kind of my board of directors for my community. And so anytime I'm thinking about monetizing something or I'm like, hey, I'm struggling with this. How can I make it better? Those six people I always go to, because they just happen to be in my audience. I trust their opinion. And they've really allowed us to build not just like a teacher to student relationship, but really, like, we constantly contribute to each other type of, type of space. And so started this newsletter, and every week I was putting out templates and thoughts and deep ideas, and I said, hey, is this even like, do you guys even want this? And they were like, honestly, Sarah, I think it's time for you to monetize. And I'm like, really? It's just a newsletter. I don't really want to do ads.
Sara [00:10:00]: So what are you guys thinking? And they actually helped me put together and build my content subscription. So we all sat in, like, a coffee chat for a couple of hours, and I said, what would you guys be willing to pay? How can I add value here without adding more to my plate, necessarily? But also understanding that you're looking at content from other people. So how can I make it where it's like a quick turnaround? You take what you need and go. And we literally built my entire project, my entire content subscription together, which I don't think a lot of creators do. Yeah, I don't sit here and I'm like, okay, I'm going to build this thing and hopefully it sells. I genuinely have a group of people I go to for everything, and so I monetize that. And with the idea of business education being accessible, there's three plans basically that you can subscribe to. The first is free.
Sara [00:10:52]: You get like one to two newsletters a month. Just like tapping into things that I wanted to show and teach. And then the next level is in real time. So it's $17 a month. You just get weekly newsletters from me. And then the $47 a month plan, you get a community component which is called testing buddies. And you basically get matched with a different member to help look at your processes, see what works, see what doesn't from like an outside perspective. And then you get access to the entire archive.
Sara [00:11:20]: And I have never marketed, I mean, I talk about it a little bit online, and I'm close to 100 members and I launched it in June. Wow. And they're all pretty much on that top plan, which is really cool. So I have that every week. It's like, what do you guys want to learn about? I'm happy to teach you about anything. And I think part of that, too, is that I'm not afraid to be transparent. So for me, monetizing something or adding it in as additional value, it's like, again, what do I lose by not sharing this information? Who is it going to hurt? It's going to hurt me because I'm just sitting on shit. For what? For what reason? Yeah, that's behind the curtain of it all.
Akta [00:12:04]: It's amazing, though, because I feel like I hear the term building in public so often, but I actually don't see that many people really like what you've just said. Really doing it in the way that you have. That's really cool to see. And you talk about systems and processes a lot. What does that actually mean? And why is that something creative? Why is that something someone creative should be caring about?
Sara [00:12:29]: Yeah. So I think a lot of creatives are left brain, right? So the creative side of you is like, oh, my God, I don't want to be put in a box because then I'm not going to be as creative. But I kind of come in as like your really mean older sister who's like, I have been there and I know if you don't do like, you're not going to do great. And so my perspective on systems and processes is more of being first kind of phase one is understanding that anything can be a system. Everything is a process. I actually was in a call with Jeff Felton. I hired him to help me write my welcome sequence. And we were just like chit chatting and he was like, well, I don't have any processes.
Sara [00:13:13]: And I'm like, well, how did you just onboard me to this coaching call? How did you take the payment? And he goes, oh, I didn't realize because as a left brain creative, those words are very corporate. I've heard that a lot, like systems and processes don't make me feel like a creator. But then when you start putting those in place, you realize, oh, I have all this other time now to create. And so when we think about our systems and processes, it's really that simple. How are you taking payments? How are you delivering an offer? How are you? I don't know. When we think about onboarding someone to a program and you're like, do these three things, join the community, introduce yourself. All of that is a process because you are walking somebody through. And I like to explain it as like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, right? Like how do you make a PB and J? Right? You take out the bread, you take out a knife, you put the peanut butter on.
Sara [00:14:09]: And so when you're thinking about your processes, it's literally, it can be that simple. You don't have to overcomplicate or overautomise. You really just have to think about if somebody's coming into my circle, they should no longer by the end, have the question of what do I do next? That's how you should attack a process, is every single step should be answered. So there's no more what do I do, why, how, et cetera. But yeah, and I think a lot of tools make a lot of that easy too. Like if we think about like Passionfroot, for instance, right? So there's a process there. You post what you want sponsorships on, somebody clicks the availability, they put in the request, you accept, then you pay. All of that's a process, but it's built into the UI, so you're not thinking really about it.
Sara [00:14:55]: And that's what I think can make a lot of creators successful is building processes that they don't necessarily have to think about until it's time to do an audit and a feedback loop and figure out how to improve it further, which I recommend people do every 90 to 60 days.
Akta [00:15:12]: Oh, wow, that's a lot. That's very brief.
Sara [00:15:15]: Yeah. Every 90 days or every six months, depending on how often. If it's evergreen, it should be consistent. But if you're live launching, do it at the end of every cohort.
Akta [00:15:27]: Yeah. And when you're auditing, what are you looking for?
Sara [00:15:30]: Everything. There should not be a limit. So I actually just put out an article about this, that your audit loop, you should be one. To be successful in building your systems, building your processes, auditing it, you have to take yourself out of the mix, put yourself in your audience's shoes. So I like to tell people, kind of the process is pretend you are a student or you are whatever you call your audience for your offer and go through it completely unbiased, have a fake email account and go through and document. Like, oh, this link is wonky. Or there's so many clicks here. How can I reduce the click throughs? So like a great example of that.
Sara [00:16:10]: If you're on a sales page, like a landing page, there's always a button at the top that jumps all the way down to the pricing and skips all the content. Right. And then you then have to click to check out. So there's a whole other step. So could you a b test only having that top button directly go to checkout instead of clicking again? Do you lose people? And so you really want to be looking at what's broken, what's wonky. Maybe there's grammar mistakes, maybe emails are getting sent out too late, not fast enough, and really taking the time to improve your product in the most finite ways. It doesn't have to be massive overhauls every time you audit. But I know for a fact I just audited my workflow of the month, which is my content subscription.
Sara [00:16:55]: And I'm like, man, nobody really utilizes this channel in circle, so why do we even have it? So then I went to the community and I was like, hey, is this even useful to you guys? And everyone was like, yeah, we don't really care. So it's like, cool, I can get rid of that. And we don't need all this extra noise around. So you can audit even in that way too.
Akta [00:17:16]: And what about internal systems? So things that your audience aren't really seeing, but it's part of your workflow and part of your creative process. Do you audit that as well?
Sara [00:17:25]: I do. I go through changing my daily planner probably every six months. I rebuild my notion account every six months because I think as creators in any capacity, whether you're doing freelance work, whether you have digital products or you're just getting in, your experience is always changing, right? Every single thing you do adds knowledge, adds skills, adds experience. And so if you are consistently in a workspace, like we're just using notion as an example or even ClickUp or whatever that you built three years ago, it probably doesn't work for where you're at now. You have to be willing to kind of mold that and change. And so internally, I always tell everybody, and I know that the productivity bros listening to this are not going to like me for it, but you don't need a complex system. You don't need to break your back over building a second brain or having all of, why do I need to track how many friggin water glasses I drink a day? To me, that is added noise that takes away from the bigger picture. And so I tell everyone, dumb it down, dumb it down, and then dumb it down some more.
Sara [00:18:36]: Because the more you have to complex your system or feel like you need to, the less time you have to actually create and work on things. Like my daily planner is literally a simple table in notion, and I use emojis to check off what I do. I'm not sitting here relooking at my to dos from three months ago because they're not important. Click go, and that's all you should do. So, yeah, that's my opinion.
Akta [00:19:04]: I like that. I like how simple it is because I always get worried when I talk to people about systems productivity. Like you said, that they overcomplicate things. How important is it to have you use notion? You're like a Notion expert. How important is it to have everything kind of in one place versus scattered?
Sara [00:19:23]: Yeah, I go back and forth on this answer. People ask me all the time about this, and I want to say, it depends. Right? Because notion, and I have said this very publicly, notion is not a fix for, one, for everybody, and two, for what you need. You may have to add on other tools, but the key is that you're being strategic in order to be successful. Right? So you're not just building because, okay, I get a lot of clients who are like, I have to be on. There's this FOMO component because notion is so popular. And when we get into the strategy piece, it's like, well, actually, you don't really need notion. There's no reason for you to have this crazy tool custom built because what you have actually works.
Sara [00:20:10]: It just needs to be cleaned up a little bit. And so I think it really just depends on what you're offering and where you also want to take your business. So notion is a knowledge tool. If you don't really need an extensive wiki, you don't have a big team. Maybe a tool like slight is better for you. Or maybe you don't need Airtable because you don't need crazy data points. Right. All you need to know is maybe five data points, and then you don't need all these extra features.
Sara [00:20:42]: So it really just depends. It honestly just depends.
Akta [00:20:46]: So when you're working with clients and you're figuring out what they need and what their priorities are, how do you kind of figure that? How do you know how to prioritize?
Sara [00:20:58]: Yeah. So I go through, I've built my strategy session similar to Google Sprint's model. So we have a starting point, we have checkpoints, and then by the end, we get to the finalized. Actually, they don't do the full sprint with me, I should say. So kind of the first step is they do a workbook, and it's like, hey, what is your team dynamic? What is your processes? What are processes that you don't have? So a great example of that. Every single client, I'm not lying when I say this, every single client I work with has never had an offboarding process for their clients or their community. They just don't have one. And it's like, why? How are you getting testimonials? How are you getting feedback on how to improve? Right? And so, without fail, that is one process I build for every single client, which is, like, wild to me.
Sara [00:21:50]: I'm the offboarding girl. It's totally fine.
Akta [00:21:53]: I've never considered offboarding even. That was like, oh, okay, that's a thing.
Sara [00:21:58]: And so I take that workbook, and I custom tailor a strategy session for teams, and it really just depends on how big your team is. But I tell everyone that all of your key players should be in the phone call with me. So CEO, project manager, even an assistant. Right. Honestly, I don't work with teams larger than ten, so I prefer to have the entire team there because everyone's workflow matters and is important. And I found over time that many people in c suite positions don't know what the workflows of somebody lower on the totem pole, so to speak, is and what they do. And so it's really important if I'm going to build out a workspace for you and audit your tech and pick what you should be doing. Everyone needs to be involved.
Sara [00:22:45]: So we go through a four hour session. We sit, we laugh, we cry, we get really deep into it, and then I go through and I audit everything. So I, with my clients, I have unlimited access to all of their tech. I sign an NDA with every client, and then I sit and I look at everything, and it's like, why are we switching to this tool? You just didn't know this feature existed. Like, I could build this out and save you a bunch of money by just editing what you have. And then I go through, I give them a visual roadmap. We talk about automations, how to improve them, what to templatize, and then I build it out. But now that I'm productized, I'm 100% retainer.
Sara [00:23:21]: I don't do custom proposals anymore. And so we do kind of that foundational build, and then we go through and we say, okay, what other kind of support do you need? So I have one client right now who actually, as a creator, hates onboarding and offboarding their audience. And so I actually come in and I do that. They do the sales calls. I onboard their person, right? Make sure that we've got all their documents, we've got everything for them. And then my client solely focuses on deliverables. I handle the feedback loop, and then I offboard those clients. And so it's kind of like a conversation like this.
Sara [00:23:57]: Very unbiased. I have nothing to lose from the conversation. And so it's like, hey, what could we have done better, right? I don't have that emotion because I'm not connected to the deliverables. I'm like, oh, we sucked at this. Or, hey, you wish communication was better. Cool. And then I go fix their processes and I improve them. So I'm managing the entire feedback loop for my clients.
Sara [00:24:17]: And the same thing with people with products that hire me. I do very similar on that side, too. So that's my process. Yeah.
Akta [00:24:24]: And do you feel like if you have really good systems in place, it almost affects the ability, like the need for a team, or do you think teams are important regardless?
Sara [00:24:35]: Yeah. So I have had several clients in the past six months that have hired me and fired their entire team after hiring me. Yeah, that's been fun. No, because the big thing, part of that audit, too, is tech roles, right? I do a lot of chart review. I do a lot of who's doing what, because what I have found with people when I get hired for systems and processes is that they have three virtual assistants. They've got four editors, they've got two project managers. Just very strange, like multiple hands in the pot because the systems aren't there. Lot of grey areas of we don't really know who's doing what.
Sara [00:25:17]: I have a client right now who she wants to hire an executive assistant. And I met with her, and I'm like, I don't think we should do this. Because you don't even know what the systems are, what is even needed. Why do you need an executive assistant? Right? Because if we process out the stuff that you feel like you don't have time for to do the other things, once we process them out, you're going to have time to do these other things. Right. So then it becomes a question of, do I not have time for it or do I not want to do it? And I want to delegate. So I do a lot of that kind of strategy with my clients. I have a client right now, too, that I'm helping him exit as CEO.
Sara [00:25:58]: He just hired me out of the blue, and he's like, yeah, process out my role so I can just own my company. I don't even want to be the CEO anymore. And I'm like, who said I had this experience? I could do this? I didn't know I had it in me. But processes are processes. It's just a matter of, I think my thing is that I am not an emotional person. I'm a very black and white analytical thinker. I believe in reason and reality. And so it's really easy for me compared to when I owned my design agency, I was so invested, right? Like, oh, my God, so and so doesn't like my work.
Sara [00:26:33]: And you get very attached to what you create, which is 100% okay. But on the system side, it's like, no, if we don't improve this, you're going to fail. And that just is what is. You're going to sink or swim. That's it. And I think I very much have nice way of communicating that with creators so they can maintain their left brain, and then I come in as the right brain and just do what I got to do so they can be more successful. Not to say I'm, like, ego driven, but I'm definitely very good at what I do.
Akta [00:27:02]: It's good to know it. It's great to know it. I'm really curious, especially in terms of the creator side. I feel like creators set a lot of goals, and we're constantly looking at our analytics and stuff like that. How do you approach goal setting and analytics and data? And all of that sort of stuff.
Sara [00:27:20]: Oh, you don't? I don't set goals. People are really going to tack me for that. I would say I set very vanity metric goals. I'm not sitting here, like, mapping out the quarters and mapping out the years. And I think for me, it's because even though I've been doing this for five years, I still feel like such an infant in the creator space. Right. I've had some kind of viral moments, but I don't have a massive following. Right.
Sara [00:27:49]: So I have the ability to explore and make mistakes and pivot if I need to without a huge following, to have to apologize to the one on one side. I've always said I just want my bills paid, and I want to have a good life for my dog. It has been more fruitful than anything. My partner and I just bought six acres. Like, cash mostly. Things have been going really well, and that's, like, I'm making more money than I ever thought was even realistic for someone who grew up in East Cleveland and her dad went to jail. I came from a very tumultuous childhood, and so for me, I'm like, oh, my God, I have bank. I am the richest person in the world.
Sara [00:28:37]: That's just my mindset. And so I have a goal of five clients minimum at all times, which I have 14 right now. So clearly, I'm doing wow. Right? Yeah, I'm tired, girlfriend. I am tired. But then, on the creator side, I don't want to be a full time creator right now. I think I'm still learning and gaining that experience to feel like, okay, I have enough of a backbone to maybe make this a full time reality. But I've always said my goal is, I don't care what the money looks like.
Sara [00:29:07]: I don't care how big the audience is. But if I can't spend five minutes, if somebody needs it with them, like, in my audience, if I can't spend five minutes a day with them, then I'm doing something wrong. And I have not built a business that I am proud of, and that's really my only goals that I set. Well, the last thing I will say, I'm very particular. I take six weeks of vacation every year. It is a hard rule. And so that's kind of the only other goal is, like, make sure I plan that out. But, yeah, I'm chilling.
Sara [00:29:38]: Other than that, I'm chilling good.
Akta [00:29:40]: And it's amazing how well you're doing as well. Good. Yeah. It doesn't seem like you're stressed.
Sara [00:29:47]: Yeah. And I think a lot of that, and I think this goes back to creators, too, is like, I don't harp on things that aren't working. I wanted to launch this course last year and put it out into the universe. Got people's opinions. Everyone was like, oh, my God, this is brilliant. Didn't sell a single seat. So I was like, okay, dope, how can I change this? I'm not going to keep selling something that's clearly not working. And even with offers, too.
Sara [00:30:13]:Why fight the grain? To make what? To make money. If you're miserable, what is it? Why be miserable? And I think when you are honest with yourself and when you are transparent and open to pivoting and giving yourself permission to explore, I think you don't need to necessarily set goals because it will all just fall in line and come to you. But you have to have that door open. True. I'm not saying you have to manifest, but be honest with yourself.
Akta [00:30:46]: Yeah, definitely. So if there was a creator who came to you and they're feeling really overwhelmed by everything they're doing, what advice would you give to them?
Sara [00:30:56]: I would say, stop. Just take a week and really think about why you're doing something. What is the importance? And if you cannot have, what's the saying? Oh, my God. If it's not a hard yes, then it's a hard no. Or I don't know what the phrase is, but if you really can't sit here and say there is purpose and you are happy doing it, then cut it. No one's going to gab. Some people might be sad, but nothing is permanent. There are almost zero.
Sara [00:31:29]: There's a few decisions that are absolutely permanent, but nothing is permanent. You don't have to continue to be miserable. You could literally shut your entire business down and do something else like I did last April, shut everything down, called it a day, and regrouped. And I'm the happiest I've ever been since doing amazing. So, yeah, I would say, just like, breathe everything will be okay, and then pick yourself up, pull those bootstraps up, and be more honest with yourself than you think you're being. Be hard on yourself. All this grace stuff, giving yourself grace, I think is. But that's just me personally, I think it's like, if you want to create a life that you want, you have to be brutal with yourself and you have to be willing to do the work to wake up at 05:00 a.m.
Sara [00:32:18]: Or go to sleep at 02:00 a.m. Whatever it takes to get there. And the first step with that is cutting out everything that you don't love and calling it a day. Wow. Sunset. I love shit. There's no point.
Akta [00:32:31]: I love how blunt you are. I love how blunt you are. I love how real you keep it. It's really, really refreshing. And it reminds me of NASA I came across of yours, which is about your pricing method, because.
Sara [00:32:43]: Oh, sure, yeah.
Akta [00:32:45]: Because you actually said in that don't charge your worth, which I think is just so interesting because all I've heard since being a creator is like, know your worth, charge your value kind of thing. So what is your approach?
Sara [00:32:57]: Yeah. Okay. So I come from the non-profit space where you have no worth. Right. You are working eight roles. I mean, when I quit, I worked in a non-profit for about eight years. And when I quit, I was single-handedly running three departments on my own, and I was 25. Yeah, I quit the day before my 26th birthday, which is, like, wild to me.
Sara [00:33:21]: I was like, I am not turning 26 here. There is no worth. You get paid virtually $0. You're doing good work at this non-profit, but there's so many politics and crap that you forget that you have a skill set and that you are experienced and knowledgeable. And so when I came into the freelance space, which I started freelancing out of spite, and it's a very fun story because this is part of it, too, is like, oh, my God. At the non-profit I worked for, I don't think I ever made more than 30. I think I took home, like, $32 an hour. I never made more than 40k ever there.
Sara [00:34:00]: And so I couldn't find a new job. Everyone was like, you wear too many hats. You're going to get bored here. Like, literally interviewed at Trello, and they were like, yeah, you're going to be bored here. You do too much right now. And I'm like, but I'm saying, I don't want to do this much. Please just hire me. And so I was also getting extremely bullied by senior staff there.
Sara [00:34:21]: And so out of fight, I went to all of our partners, and I was like, hey, you don't have me on your team. Can I come film or create something for you? I started out doing video and creating courses and stuff for other non-profits, and I landed 40 clients in my first six months. And I didn't understand how actually skilled and experienced I was. And so in my mind, I was like, well, I'll just charge what I make at this non-profit. So I was charging, like, $30 an hour and it was nice because in my mind I was like, okay, I'm breaking even, right? Like I'm making exactly what I'm making here. And if I quit tomorrow, I can easily see that my bills are paid. And I think that in that same step, in that same breath, that freelancers can't really put a value on their worth because one, if their skill set has never been validated, how do you know what you should be charging? And two, in a really negative side, it's like your skill set might not be there, but you think you're owed a million dollars. And honey, you got a lot to learn.
Sara [00:35:23]: And so I think when you take that emotional value perspective out of it, let's look at the hard numbers, right? What do you need to pay your rent? If you have a car payment, how much do you need to make so your car doesn't get repossessed? And so in that article that you're talking about, I have this whole method called the pricing pyramid where your lower ticket offer should pay your lowest bill. So thinking about your car payment, right? I was dumb. I bought a jeep and it was like $500 a month. I was stupid. It was the dumbest decision I ever made. And so I had to sell one day rate a month to make $500 to pay for my car. And then your middle offer, which I call like your most popular offer, right? So if you're doing branding or websites, like whatever you charge for a website, that should cover your rent plus that other bill and then your top tier, your VIP offer, maybe that's like a top tier coaching program or something, that should cover everything plus 30% because you want to profit, you want to be starting to do your savings. I don't even talk about taxes because everybody's tax brackets are very different.
Sara [00:36:28]: In Texas, we don't pay income tax. So I have a different tax saving model than someone, maybe in California would, right? My taxes aren't as high. And so the idea is everything you offer should pay a bill. Now, I think that that's harder with people who are just doing digital products or like an open, closed door coaching program. You have a very different model from that, right? Because if you're launching a cohort once a quarter, maybe all of your bills for three months is like twelve k. Okay, well then how many seats do you need to fill that way? So you're taking that goal, breaking it down into super actionable numbers and then planning from there. But now that I'm productized, I basically honestly, like one client a month pays all my bills. I am not a spender.
Sara [00:37:13]: I don't really eat out. My biggest expense is my climbing gym. I pay $100 a month to go boulder and I use it. But for me, I keep my expenses really low because in a very pessimistic way, I know that freelancing could end tomorrow. And it's like, okay, what am I going to do? I have to have some money put aside or whatever. And even, like, things come up that you don't plan right. We weren't planning to buy this property. We just happened to look on Zillow and it ended up being a really great deal.
Sara [00:37:44]: So we're like, oh, I guess we're doing this now. And luckily I had savings that I didn't even have to really think about because I just don't spend money. So I think that when it comes to pricing again, you have to be realistic. You can't live in this dream world that if I charge my worth, everyone's going to also validate my worth. It's just I don't think what you see for yourself necessarily. Other people do very easily, and that was a very long story, but I think context is important.
Akta [00:38:15]: No, I think it's great. I think it's amazing that you've actually given practical advice because I feel like the charge you're worth is a little bit like airy fairy. And what does that mean? How do I do that? Whereas your advice is actually numbers based. Like you said, you've got that very logical mind, so I guess it makes sense that you've come up with that. But, yeah, I feel like that's really helpful. I'm going to end with a quick fire round now, which I feel like will be very fun with you. So, yeah, just answer with the first thing that comes to mind, starting with, what's your favourite thing about being a creator?
Sara [00:38:50]: My community.
Akta [00:38:52]: Nice. What's something that gives you the most inspiration for what you create?
Sara [00:38:59]: Oh, God. I'm not good with quick fire. I will say inspiration for what I create is seeing people who don't want to go below surface and seeing the opportunity to actually rip band aids off and not have to apologize for it. As you know, I'm very well known for.
Akta [00:39:19]: It's a good answer. I love it.
Sara [00:39:20]: Yeah.
Akta [00:39:22]: What's a tool that helps you the most as a creator?
Sara [00:39:26]: As a creator, I think publicly, Twitter/X, whatever we're calling it, but then internally notion.
Akta [00:39:37]: Okay. And what's something that helps you with your creator work life balance?
Sara [00:39:40]: My boundaries. I am very particular. I don't start my day before 10:00 a.m. I don't take calls except one day a week. And so that maintains my energy because I'm not being pulled in so many directions every single day. So my boundaries really have helped me. I mean, God, I have three newsletters. I've got a paid subscription. Everyone's like, I don't know how you have all this time.
Sara [00:40:05]: And it's like, because I'm mean, I don't talk to people every day. I sit here and I focus. But, yeah, my boundaries, for sure.
Akta [00:40:14]: Amazing. And what's one piece of advice that you'd give to other creators?
Sara [00:40:18]: I will say, I think just, we keep talking about it, but permission to explore. Try something. If you're like, oh, I want to try this, or, I love how. I don't know. So and so makes a video. Why not try it? You don't have to have an audience in order to create stuff and build the experience. There's always this constant, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? As a creator, do you have the audience before you build? Do you build and then have an audience? And I think, stop caring if 100 people are following you. That's 100 people who care about what you're having to say.
Sara [00:40:55]: They are valid. Use them to build the experience. Stop waiting. Oh, my God. I have to make ten K months. Oh, my God. I have to have ten k followers. It's like, why? 100 people are great.
Sara [00:41:08]: I would much rather have 100 engaged, beautiful people than 10,000 passive people that you have no idea who they are. So, yeah, that's what I would say is just, like, whatever your audience size is, use it to your advantage and just have fun. Stop making creative stuff so difficult. It doesn't need to be. Or complicated.
Akta [00:41:34]: True. Good advice. No, thank you so much. It was actually not what I was expecting. I don't know. I came into this call expecting a completely different conversation, and it's been really. Yeah, I don't know why. It's like, when I hear systems, I think of following all the rules, and I feel like this call, you've kind of broken a lot of the normal creator rules that we hear, you know what I mean? And I think that's really refreshing.
Akta [00:42:02]: But also, I feel like it will be a relief to a lot of people to hear something different to what we're always being told. So, yeah. Thanks so much for coming on.
Sara [00:42:10]: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. This was fun. We should definitely vibe again.
Akta [00:42:16]: 100%. We'll definitely do it. You can find Sarah on Twitter, YouTube, and her agency SYSTMS™. And if you're a creator doing sponsorships, check out Passionfroot. We help you to streamline your entire workflow. I'll see you in the next one.