For those among you who have a passion and flair for creating content, a membership community might be something you’ve considered offering.

It’s an obvious way of monetizing your content, sure, but it can be about much more than that, too.

A membership community will allow you to build a close-knit, engaged group where you have direct contact with the people who are consuming the things you’re creating.

Those who are interested in working with you but can’t afford your services will have a cheaper option. For a small monthly fee, they’ll get to know you more and learn from you as their business grows.

A membership community can be a smart option for freelancers who are interested in building long-term relationships and nurturing leads.

My guest in this edition of Kickstart Stories is Julia Day, financial coach to female entrepreneurs and the founder of a brand new membership community, The Independent Girls Collective.

I’ve been following Julia’s work during the run-up to the launch and I was dying to chat to her about all the details behind her exciting new project.

Keep reading to hear how Julia’s built this latest arm of her business from the ground up in just 6 weeks, and what she’s learnt along the way.

 

Hey Julia, thanks for doing this! You’re at an exciting stage in your business right now. Tell us about The Independent Girls Collective – what’s it all about?

Thanks for having me, Sophie! The Independent Girls Community is a membership platform I created to make the scary stuff we face as business owners – managing money, dealing with tax, pricing and all that fun stuff – easier. It’ll also help members grow their businesses.

I’ve learnt so much since I started Easy as VAT (my financial coaching business) that I wish I’d known at the beginning. I want to share that knowledge with others in a way that’s super helpful but also affordable. A membership community seemed like the best way to do that.

Sounds valuable! You gave away a free short course, Discover Your Perfect Pricing, in the run-up to the launch. Now that you’re publishing paid-for content, how do you decide what to give away for free? Have you developed a formula to help you differentiate?

I wanted to give Discover Your Perfect Pricing away free to show people the value they’ll be getting when they become a member of The Independent Girls Collective. I get asked about pricing a lot so it made sense to offer that course for free.

I’m not someone who tries to keep the stuff that’s actually helpful locked away until you pay. I believe that anyone who visits my website, listens to my podcast, or signs up for a free resource should come away with something useful.

My rule of thumb is that general guidance is free, but anything specifically tailored to you and your business is paid for, as that requires specialist advice and research on my part.

If my audience searches my blog they’ll probably be able to find a lot of the information they need. But with the membership, it’s all put together in order, with detailed tutorials and relevant resources, plus I’m on hand to answer any questions.

Launching a membership community, with Julia Day

You told me you were reluctant to adopt the membership business model at first. What were your concerns? And how did you overcome them?

I felt like it was a bit of a fad and I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon. I also had the idea that people would only want to be a member of one community, and why would they choose mine? (Hello imposter syndrome!)

I was very conscious that I wanted my membership to have a lot of practical resources that members could use in their businesses. Most of the other membership communities out there seemed to centre around being part of a Facebook Group. I wasn’t sure whether that was what my audience wanted.

In the end, I realised a membership model was the best thing for both my community and my business. A large proportion of my audience is quite new to business and can’t afford to invest a lot of money just yet. I absolutely love creating courses and content for them to use, so it just made sense! I had to get over myself and do what was best for everyone.

 

Let’s talk about the planning and pre-launch periods. Exactly how stressful was it, on a scale of 1 – 10? And how long has the project been in the works?

On a stress scale of 1-10, I’d say maybe a 6, although it will definitely go up when the membership goes live! But I’ve genuinely loved working on this launch and creating all the content.

I figured out how I could make a membership work and what to include back when I was on holiday in October, so I’ve had a good 6 weeks to get everything prepared and create a buzz.

I decided to give myself lots of time to prepare. I started an email list early on where anyone who was interested could sign up before it launched (to make sure this was something my audience actually wanted).

In getting started, I found it really helpful to write down everything I could think of that I’d need to do before we launched. I used a programme called Clickup to arrange it into boards, so I could see what was completed and what still needed to be done.

During previous projects, I’ve just jumped in at the deep end without hyping the project up in advance, which has been crazy stressful and not very business savvy! I’m very much the kind of person who acts on ideas immediately, but it’s been well worth giving myself adequate time to prepare.

 

Have you had any support?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have three entrepreneur friends who’ve been kind enough to road test the content and community for me ahead of the launch.

In the past, I’ve kept things to myself, but I’m so glad I got support with this. It’s made all the difference.

 

If you were to start the process again from the beginning, would you change anything? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

Not specifically to do with The Independent Girls Collective, but with my business in general. I’d be less shy about sharing and promoting what I do.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to get over my shyness and communicate with people, whether that’s through making friends who understand what running a business is like (that’s you, Sophie!) or promoting my products and services.

If you’re a business, the people who follow you – either via social media, your email list, or even by looking at your website – will expect you to be selling something. They’re waiting for you to tell them how they can work with you or buy from you.

(And that doesn’t mean you need to get salesy or pushy – you just need to be open to talking about what you’re working on). 

You’ve done a lot of outreach recently, including appearing on Liv Purvis and Charlotte Jackson’s podcast, The Fringe of It. Do you find outreach scary? How long did it take you to build up your confidence in that area?

I find outreach terrifying, but I know it’s the only way to get my message out there. I’m lucky in that most of the podcasts, interviews, and in-person events I’ve been asked to take part in came to me. But I have pitched my own articles in the past, which I intend to start doing again soon.


When I first became self-employed, I had a list of people to reach out to who might have been interested in what I was doing. Rather than ask for work, I sent them a resource they might find helpful and introduced myself and Easy As VAT in the email. I found that a good way to build up my confidence because I was reaching out to people without asking for anything in return.

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Last Thursday I hopped on the train to London to meet @bettymagazine and @livpurvis and chat all things money for their amazing podcast, The Fringe Of It! . I genuinely look out for TFOI in my podcast feed, so I was super excited to join Charlotte and Liv on their wonderful show. Let me know what you think of the episode, I hope you love it 💕 ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ #thefringeofit #podcast #girlbossmoment #florals #moneysavvy #freelancelife #moneysavingtips #bloggerstyle #ukblogger #ukfashion #ukfashionblogger #girlboss #budgetplanner #financiallysavvy #moneysaving #london #financialcoaching #financecoach #selfemployed #financialcoach #styleonabudget #ukfashionblogger #girlboss #budgetplanner #financiallysavvy #moneysaving #selfemployed #styleonabudget #budgetfashion

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And what about the IRL events you’ve been taking part in? Do you have to push yourself to get out of the house and meet people?

Honestly, I really do have to push myself to do them and I always feel anxious beforehand.

I love sitting at my laptop and creating things, but meeting a group of people is something I find nerve-wracking, especially when travel is involved. I try to plan a quiet day after an event when possible.

I’m so glad that I’ve pushed myself to get out and meet people. I’ve formed valuable relationships with other business owners and I know that I can do it now.

On a recent podcast episode, you talked about finding the middle ground between the 24/7 hustle mentality (eugh!), and the slow-living approach to running a business. Do you struggle to find realistic representations of what self-employed life is actually like?

Yes! I feel like the only accurate depictions of being self-employed that I see are when I speak to my friends who run businesses.

I think people fall into the trap of thinking that because you can run a business online with minimal startup costs, you can just quit your job and see the money start rolling in. But you have to do a lot of work to get to that point.

At the same time though, when you’re running a business which is based around something you’re passionate about, it really is the best job in the world. Because of that, you don’t really mind the extra work that comes along with it.

How will The Independent Girls Collective help women achieve a more balanced and practical approach to running a business?

It’s about putting the things we spend time researching into an organised, easy-to-follow structure with practical resources alongside.

Members will also get access to a community of other business owners who are all at different stages and can offer support and advice.

Making, managing, and investing money is an integral part of every business, but it’s something many people feel scared to discuss. That can make you feel very alone if you’re struggling with it – I want to change that.

Finally, what plans do you have for the future of your business? Do you have a big end goal, or are you taking it one step at a time?

I’m currently designing an app to help business owners manage their finances. It’ll be available in 2019.

My end goal is to make it the norm for everyone to know how to manage their money well. I also want to break the taboo of discussing money. There’s a stigma around it which makes people feel ashamed and it can keep us from progressing. I want to change that.

Head on over to Julia’s website to find out more about the Independent Girls Collective, or connect with her on Instagram for regular updates.