How to Build Your Online Business – the Laura Roeder Interview

At 26 years old, Laura Roeder is making about $15,000 a month in consulting fees and has launched online coaching classes that bring in tens of thousands in revenue.


Laura RoederToday I want to profile how she is building a successful online business
through information products and working with clients via the web. I am FASCINATED by how the web has removed barriers for businesses:

  • That we can learn from others without leaving our homes.
  • That we can grow businesses without leaving our homes.
  • That we can grow as individuals without leaving our homes.

So you can see, I have a real fascination with not leaving the house! But seriously – the opportunity that we each have to achieve our business and personal goals is so much closer than we think, and what people like Laura are doing is just incredible. I had a chance to speak with her, and below are key points from our chat.

In 2008 Laura transitioned her career from a web designer to focusing on online social media training and consulting. This change occurred because she kept listening to client’s needs and noticed a pattern, a common need that wasn’t being met:

“When I started my own business, I found I was always giving my clients advice about online marketing, social media, and how their website fits into their overall marketing plan. I thought is what a web designer should do, but I discovered that most web designers don’t do that. My clients told me that other designers never asked them those sorts of questions.”

“I had the realization in late 2008 that people would pay me just for the social media side, which just seemed outrageous to me. I think this is how a lot of people feel about whatever they’re good at – you take it for granted. Now I see what a big need there is.”

At this point Laura made a big decision, the type of decision that is life changing. Instead of slowly evolving, she jumped in with both feet:

“I fired all my web design clients because I knew that if I didn’t totally get rid of that, I would still be in that business model, which is not what I wanted to do. Then I had to make money with social media.”

Since she didn’t know how to break into working with big companies, and loved working with small businesses, she created her business to better cater to them. To get her initial clients, she started with what she had, and built from there:

“I moved to this online training program model that allows me to make money with lower priced programs that are appropriate for a small business. I loved it, but it was a struggle. I didn’t know any business owners. I found all my clients through networking events, which is a great way for any business to start a client base and to grow. A lot of people aren’t willing to do it. When people see you are a normal friendly human, being, they will hire you.”

Soon, Laura found she needed to make another evolution to her business, scaling her services:

“The thing about most service businesses is that you are always starting over. That’s what was so frustrating. I would get a client, and maybe spend a month or two chasing that client, trying to get the final contract signed getting ready to do that work. So you’ve got that long process, then you do the work for them, and then after that contract is over, it’s like you might as well not have done anything. You’re back at square one, and then you have to bring in a new contract. It’s a neverending cycle. I wanted to explore new models for new business, because I feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

Through people such as Eban Pagan, she learned about online training programs as a business model, and made another big leap:

“I just gave it a shot. I see a lot of people who take courses like this and they pick and choose, or they aren’t willing to do it. I just took what I learned and tried it out. Some is exact, some is my own spin on these concepts.”

“I Learned the concepts of how do you craft programs that people really want to buy that have effective marketing baked in, how do you figure out what people want, how do you make the learning effective so people in the program actually take action.”

In March 2009, she created her first program: “Your Backstage Pass to Twitter.” She explains how she came to the decision to launch this product:

“I just gave it a shot. most people, as simple as it sounds, that’s the part that’s missing because they spend so much time analyzing or saying ‘this isn’t going to work for me,’ or ‘I have to get something established before I do that.’ I tell people this with social media all the time: you just have to jump in. The way to start using Twitter is to just create an account and start talking to people. You don’t have to have a perfect website first, you don’t have to have a Facebook fan page first, you don’t have to figure it all out before you create an account, you just have to jump in and give it a try. That is the only way you will make progress. I never really get how to do anything until I experience it for myself. You can read about it all day, but you don’t internally see how it works until you do it yourself.”

I asked her what she would do if no one signed up for her products, since I know that fear prevents many people from launching their own. She explained how even failure gives you great lessons:

“That’s the beauty about info products, nobody knows if no one is on your call! It’s a scalable business and a super low overhead business. That’s an excuse a lot of people use, being scared if no one signs up. But honestly, who cares if nobody signs up, you are going to learn a lot about the process by just doing it, and you’re going to learn a lot about what you can do better next time.”

Luckily, Laura did have people sign up. One of the most interesting points she made had to do with how she found her first customers:

“When I launched my first course, I had a list of people from my web design business, maybe 300 people, maybe even less, and they were all local in Chicago, and had all shown interest in me as a web designer. A lot of people overthink their own stuff, and would say these people were interested in me as a web designer, not social media stuff, and that’s what I thought at first, that I would have to start all over.

“But I realized, this is really not that much of a leap. These are small businesses interested in doing stuff online, and now I am targeting small businesses interested in doing stuff online, so let’s just send this out and see if they are interested. They can always unsubscribe. I also find a lot of people on Twitter, and I have a weekly newsletter that has gone out since the beginning of 2009, which has been a big way for me to grow my community. I always tell people, you have to start with what you’ve got, with where you are. I had a few hundred people, they were all in Chicago, and all sort of interested in a different business, but that’s what I had at the time, so that’s what I started with, and it grew from there.”

And grow it did. She was off to a great start:

“The first launch I made around $3,000, and the program cost $97. I thought that was astronomical. I used to spend so long trying to get one contract for $3,000. When I did websites, I would usually charge between $1,000-$2,500 for a site. And again, after that contract was over, I was back at zero. So to be able to make the money from one contract, and make it online with something I could sell over again, I was just thrilled. And, it worked. Anything that works, you can scale up. So once that happened, I knew I would forget about corporate consulting and make this my business model.”

Having good success so far, she moved forward with an even bigger launch, continually looking to scale her efforts:

“My next step was to keep growing my audience, so for me that was to keep doing my newsletter, to blog, and Twitter is the biggest one for me. 35% of all my traffic comes from Twitter, and that traffic does convert to buyers just as well as all the rest. Twitter has always been a big channel for me. I use Facebook differently, to connect with people who are already in my world.”

“What I did next was launch my next program called “Creating Fame” and that is one that will open again this Fall. It’s my really my big picture overview on how to create fame, which is to use social media to become the number 1 go-to person in your field. That came out of the work I did with a friend of mine who is an actress. Out of my work with her, I saw I could use those same strategies for myself for making myself “famous.” This was my first real launch.”

“Doing a launch is an enormous list builder and attention builder. If you Google my name, there’s so many blog posts that have been written about me from content from launches. A big reason why Creating Fame was so successful was not from my existing audience, but the new list I built just from the launch alone. Creating Fame was a $27,000 launch, which is insane, and way more than I expected. It’s such an intense process – just putting out my very best content and going full force for a month. I’m not going to say it’s as easy as just putting out great content, and you’ll sell stuff. I’ve learned a lot about selling from other people. It’s hard, but it definitely paid off.”

“I had about 40-50 people sign up. It was an 8 week online class with a live webinar each week. I like to do everything live and then record them to sell after the fact. I like the energy of doing things live. A year later, I still talk to a lot of the people who took that class. What’s really cool is that I see a lot of them talking to each other – they formed their own Facebook group and connected on Twitter. It’s a great value-add that people can connect with other like-minded businesses. A lot of people from Creating Fame still talk all the time.”

Over time, Laura has found that each of these launches have added up to a nice little product library:

“Along with Creating Fame, I created two programs that are my most popular: Zero to WordPress Blog and Zero to WordPress Website. I realized if people took the class, but didn’t know how to do there website, it would be useless. So I created these as bonuses that later became standalone courses to sell. Over time it create a good little product library to sell:

  • Creating Fame
  • Backstage Pass to Twitter
  • Zero to WordPress Blog
  • Zero to WordPress Website
  • Zero to SEO

For this Fall she is working on relaunching Creating Fame, and a new program partnering with Marie Forleo.

But that’s not all, in the Fall of 2009, Laura re-approached private consulting and coaching:

“The next big step for me was to get serious about doing private coaching and consulting. I now do 6 month contracts, I started with 3 month contracts, and it sold out in 48 hours. I had 15 spots for one-on-one coaching. Evidently, people had really been waiting for that. My consulting is less about social media – that’s only part of it. A lot of my clients are people who have businesses and are just looking to market them better online. I charged around $1,000 a month and they get regular calls with me and unlimited email with me. Honestly, I’m moving less and less towards that being a part of my business model – I really want to have more of my focus be on the online programs. It’s the whole thing about leveraging your time – getting more people in and doing Q&A’s with a larger group.”

Overall, it is fascinating to see how Laura has evolved her business, and how she has found personal value and business revenue by working with what she had, and having the confidence to simply move forward with an idea.

Laura leaves us with one final thought as to how businesses need to think about using social media:

“Just learning Twitter is not useful, you need to know how Twitter fits into your sales strategy and marketing strategy.”

You can connect with Laura on her website or Twitter.