Stevie is an ex-lawyer turned social media marketer. She has spent the past ten years spent working with some of the biggest brands in Australia on marketing strategy and social media, most recently as the Head of Marketing at Place Estate Agents.
Stevie is now the owner of Stevie Says Social, a social media consultancy which provides training, strategy and management services to service-based businesses looking to lift their social game.
She write extensively on the topic of social media, and has had her work featured in the likes of Social Media Examiner, Smart Company and Business Chicks.
To listen to the full interview on iTunes click here.
You can listen to the full interview on Stitcher click here.
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Now here is the transcript of the podcast.
Ingrid: Hello and here we are today with Stevie Dillon, good morning Stevie?
Stevie: Hi, how are you going?
Ingrid: Great, thank you. Thanks so much for joining us and I know you’ve got a pretty fantastic story for our listeners today. So, Stevie Let’s just start, what business are you in? What is your business?
Stevie: So, I have a business called Stevie Says Social and it is a social media strategy training and consultancy business specialising in service-based businesses.
Ingrid: It’s just such a terrific title isn’t it, Stevie Says Social, it just all works doesn’t it? So, when did you start this business?
Stevie: So I officially started in November last year as a fully-fledged business but had been running a blog called Stevie Says Social since, since the beginning of last year and never actually ever intended for it to be a business as quickly as it was but it kind of went from being a blog to having clients asking me about my services and not actually knowing what my services were and then going from that into sort of putting services together, taking on clients and launching in November last year.
Ingrid: That’s fantastic. So, you’ve kind of answered the next question about sort of how it happened, why did you start your business?
Stevie: So, I actually used to be a solicitor back in the day, a lawyer, and went from that into digital marketing and honestly just found my calling. I love it so much and worked for about 10 years in different digital marketing roles, so I worked for the Queensland Reds and worked at a real estate agency in Brisbane which I loved and so was there for sort of the last four years and just got to the point with that role that I wanted to do something more and kind of had in the back of my mind that I wanted to start a business but sort of thought that it would be something that it would be five years down the track. And it kind of got first tracked which is so amazing when I started the blog at the beginning of last year. So, it was kind of really a natural progression I guess from transitioning out of my full-time job while I had the blog and then kind of enter the business so that’s briefly how it happened.
Ingrid: And then what did you actually want, what did you want from the business from day one, what was it going to give you, that was different to what you were doing previously?
Stevie: Yeah. So, the biggest thing for me is I’ve always wanted to do something for myself and I don’t think ever really knew what that looks like whether it was going to be a business or whether it was going to be something that was a hobby that would occupy my time. But I’ve always been super passionate about work, and even when I was working in a corporate job, it wasn’t a matter of I’m just going to work and it’s kind of you know it is what it is. So, I don’t know, I just think it’s quite funny that it’s happened the way that it has and in terms of what I get out of it now, it’s doing everything that I was doing in my corporate job but doing it for myself rather than doing it for someone else which is so cool.
Ingrid: It is so cool indeed. So, has there been a moment where you actually realised you were in business that it was a real thing?
Stevie: Yes. So, I was in Europe in August last year for a month and prior to that I had gotten a couple of different inquiries from people saying what sort of services do you have in terms of social media? And then just when I was overseas, really randomly for some reason, inquires really snowballed, so I went from getting a couple inquiries to four or five inquiries a week with people saying what are your services, how can you help me with my social media and it was only then that it clicked for me that oh my gosh! This is something that I really need to start taking more seriously than I was and it’s when I got back from Europe so I spent a month travelling around and sitting on beaches trying to work out whether I wanted to take it full time but I came back and kind of went you know what, Let’s take this seriously Let’s put it all together and started taking on clients.so I guess it became really real when I first took on my very first client and worked with them from start to finish and went on from there.
Ingrid: Oh, that’s so lovely, it’s one of my favourite questions in the interview series because everybody has a different point. So, for you, those inquiries made it feel real.
So, given that you do what you do, and you help people with social media, how … and I guess you’ve kind of had answered this question but just how do you know what customers want, how do you know they want what you’re offering? Clearly, they’re making inquiries. But it is still more than that, isn’t it, you still need to be able to provide what they are looking for.
Ingrid: How do you know what that is?
Stevie: it’s quite interesting with social media, and maybe it’s every industry but it’s because I’m in social media but it is such a saturated industry so I just know from looking in Facebook groups and things like that, every time somebody puts out a request for, a recommendation for a social media manager or someone to help them with social media, it’s like a hundred people that come back and offer their services out. So I knew that there was a demand probably the different thing for me is that I needed to be really mindful of the fact that because there are so many people offering those services, I really needed to be able to differentiate myself in terms of my niche and what my offering was, so really honing in on service based businesses because I understand them really well and just being able to I guess set myself apart.
It was never really about demand, because that was always there. It was about making sure that where I was positioned in that big glut of social media people, it was right for me and it was right for in terms of my price point and what I had to offer.
Ingrid: I guess that your expertise
Ingrid: You’ve been a service provider, so as a lawyer, you know what the professionals want and it’s different to someone who’s a plumber… every different industry has different needs
Ingrid: It’s very smart to choose an industry that you’d like, that you know and that you want to work with.
Stevie: Yeah. And I think the difference as well is that there’s not a lot of people that are really going all in on service providers, and it’s so different in terms of social media and content and digital, the way that you need to structure it for those sort of industries, it’s worlds apart from something like eCommerce or product-based business and it’s something that I really understood really well, I understood the value of things like content marketing and doing things to establish yourself as an expert and somebody that people can get to know and can trust and that’s a completely different skill set to other types of digital marketing
Ingrid: The fact that you built your business from your blog which is about content marketing, it’s about the content and opinion and people getting to know you.
Stevie: Exactly the same thing and honestly that’s what I say to clients. These days it’s pretty much exactly what I’ve done with my own business in terms of really regularly producing high quality content that helps your audience. When it all comes down to it, that’s literally what every other service-based business needs to do if they want to succeed and it’s kind of cool to have as a bit of case study over the last year kind of going.
it’s a longer-term play but this is what I have achieved on a smaller scale in the last year for myself, and that’s the potential for you a well if you really invest in it.
Ingrid: And it does, it shows having your own business as an example is terrific.
Stevie: Yeah, totally.
Ingrid: So a funding question. So as you said you’re not a product but you are selling your service, you probably didn’t need to establish much, but how do you fund a business in those early days? You had clients right from the very beginning, but was there … and then how do you fund expansion, where does money come from?
Stevie: So I make it sound like I made the jump really quickly but to be honest, I probably never would have done it without a bit of a safety net so probably the biggest benefit of being a service provider is that you don’t need a whole heap of stock and there’s not a lot of start up costs. And I was really really mindful of the fact that I needed to replace my income with client work before I left which … because I’ve been building up I was able to do. But in the background, I’ve been saving consistently for a fairly long time and have … and out of a, I guess a nest egg or like a pillow I guess to support myself over the first at least six to twelve months of business which to be honest is so important in terms of peace of mind it allows me to take on the clients that I want to take on, wait for the right clients, it allows me to really price myself right from the offset and not really have to be worried about client work and a consistent stream of income so.
so I guess for me I funded it through my own savings but I would highly recommend anyone that’s thinking of starting out, have some sort of nest egg to rely on. Even if you don’t use it, I’ve never used it, but it’s the peace of mind. You know what I mean?
Ingrid: It is. I call mine a buffer balance-
Stevie: Yes. I like that.
Ingrid: So when I calculate what, what you need for six months. I love your expression the pillow that you can rest on. Because it’s that idea of having I say sort of six to twelve months like you said, because it does give you that freedom and I love your language there about it allows you to choose which clients you work with. Because so often what can happen is people get desperate, and they’ll just grab and then when you’ve got the wrong clients, now you’re doing work that’s not fulfilling, it’s just such an awful cycle isn’t it?
Stevie: Yeah. And it would be hard to come back from as well. Having the luxury of being able to build up to where you want to be early saves you getting six months down the track and realising you’re not where you want to be and then having to go back and start again, there’s so much value in that.
Ingrid: So much value. So and just as in the side, was it difficult to be rigorous about your personal savings? Was that.
Stevie: Yes. A hundred percent. So I have a … probably in the last, I was actually talking to a friend Chelsea at Cash Full Stop about this a little while ago, and talking about how it wasn’t until about two or three years ago that I really started to take savings seriously and honestly I think it’s just growing up a little bit more realising that you’ve got priorities around wanting to potentially do something for yourself or buy house or that sort of thing. And, I had to get really disciplined about making sure that I was always saving first and it took me about probably a year to get into that consistent pattern of doing it. But honestly it has paid off so much.
And it’s a lot easier to do when you’ve got a full time salary as well, so I got into the habit of doing it and now it’s not like have a consistent salary every week but I can still do the same thing in terms of every payment that i have come in, saving a percentage of that first, putting it into a bank account where I don’t even touch it, I don’t even have it attached to my normal bank account because otherwise, I’d transfer the money, and just having it sitting there as a nest egg.
Ingrid: And that is such a … that’s the gift isn’t it, that you have it at over there in another bank account, in another bank even that it can’t be, it can’t be accessed easily.
Ingrid: Thank you. Thanks for being so honest and open with that. So finding new customers, so do you actively look for customers Stevie or do you, are you getting a good flow of customers? How do you find, well how do they find you or how do you find them?
Stevie: Yeah. So I am really, I wouldn’t even say lucky, because it’s what I probably, it’s what I recommend to other service providers is establishing yourself as an attraction business and what I mean by that is by producing really high quality content, giving your best advice away for free without fear that’s it’s going to not have people come to you because it actually for me it’s had the opposite effect. So I consistently produce 3000 web blog posts every week, I’ve just started a podcast and all of that stuff takes a lot of time but what it’s meant is that overtime, I’ve literally had a pipeline of clients that are my people so people that I really do want to work with come to me and say, “you seem to know what you’re talking about because of XYZ” or “I relate to you because I heard you on the podcast”, or whatever and it’s almost like I’ve heard the interview for the work before they even pick up the phone to call me.
So that’s kind of how it’s rode out for me and literally I’ve never done any what I would call traditional advertising and it’s all been content marketing and social media which probably makes sense because I work in social media.
Ingrid: Now Stevie, let’s have a… unashamed, let’s plug your podcast right now so anyone listening is on a podcast so they need to jump over to iTunes and find your podcast which is called …
Stevie: The Stevie Says Social podcast.
Ingrid: That’s Stevie Says Social podcast-
Stevie: Ground breaking.
Ingrid: Alright. Ground breaking. And I think you’re up to about episode five or six already aren’t you as we are recording this?
Stevie: Episode four. Yes.
Ingrid: Episode four. So-
Stevie: it’s a whole new world, it’s really exciting. I love it. And I love that I get to out and interview different service providers and talk to them about social media and so, so far so good.
Ingrid: So far so good. Okay so pricing, and you can either tell us what you charge or not like it, that’s not really the point of this question, this question is how do you decide a pricing strategy and for something like this, people, we know that social media could cost this much or this much. How did you, how did you decide your pricing strategy?
Stevie: So honestly, to be completely frank, that has been the hardest thing for me as a business owner because it’s not something that people talk about, it’s generally not something that people will put on their website or it’s just, it’s not readily available out there and one of the hardest things we have something like social media is that there are so many people that are pricing themselves too low and there’s an expectation amongst some small businesses owners that they can get a certain level of service for, for almost no money. So it’s something that I’ve found really hard and to be honest it’s why originally in terms of my service offering, I decided not to go down the track of social media management because it’s so over saturated and there are so many people doing it for, in my view, not enough in terms of the amount of work that goes into it. So, I kicked off with social media strategy and social media consulting and I think the value in that is a lot more sort of clear and readily, sort of evident.
But it’s something I’ve, I’ve really struggled with. I priced myself way too low for my first social media strategy. It was an amount that I thought was great but it ended up taking me two weeks and I’m such a perfectionist, but it was 8 o’clock until 6 o’clock every single day refining it and making sure that it was perfect and. And literally form there, literally my strategy has been shifting my price in line with the amount of hours that it’s taking me and pitching it to clients and honestly having a client that says yes, validates it and then you go on from there, and that’s honestly been my trial and error strategy.
Ingrid: And I did hear, I’ve heard, I can’t remember whose strategy it is, it might be Gary Vaynerchuk or somebody’s, where they said, “Get three Nos before you stop putting your price up.”
Stevie: Yeah right.
Ingrid: Until. it’s somebody, I can’t remember whose it is but it’s, put a price, and if people start saying yes then you know you’re okay so go up a bit, and then until you get Nos consistently then you know you’re in the right ballpark.
Ingrid: Particularly when you’re actually talking to your absolutely ideal clients, to get a no from someone who’s not really your ideal, doesn’t really count the same
Stevie: That is so, it’s such a good point
Ingrid: Thanks. It’s the “yes” that’s the validation isn’t it?
Stevie: Yeah, and I think that that’s the big thing as well, you will have people say no … there’s such a difference between social media posting for example and a really comprehensive social media strategy and if you get a no from a particular person sometimes it doesn’t mean that your pricing is off, it means that they’re not looking for that level of service so they’re not your people so that’s something that I learned as well.
Ingrid: And I also think ‘No not now’, for some people particularly with what you’re offering, they can do this much, and this is the same for lots of different other businesses as well not just something like yours where as they might think I can do this myself, and so people go off and try to do it themselves and then they realise how much time and energy they’re spending trying to do it themselves when in fact if they would get somebody in who knew what they were doing, it might physically cost more in dollar terms, but in effort, in agony in time, it’s totally worth every penny and more in fact.
Stevie: And that’s so funny actually, because that’s often is the case, so I’ll, in terms of a strategy, I’ll even do a strategy for a client with the option for management afterwards. And they’ll want to do it themselves and then it comes about that it takes so long and its so time consuming and then, then they’ll see the value in it potentially-
Ingrid: They’ll see the value.
Ingrid: Stevie, probably a bit early to be asking you, but do you have an exit strategy, are you thinking about where this goes? Is this sort of a business to give you a lifestyle or are you building up to have multiple … does it have an end point?
Stevie: Yeah. So, I’m not one of those people that is building a business with the intention of selling it, I think I’ll probably work forever and I actually really passionately love doing what I’m doing so for me what I can see is I would love to get to the point where, just training and strategy is something that I’m really building to the point where I’ve got and online offering and that sort of thing and then potentially building the management side of it up so that I’ve got a small agency as well. I don’t really want to exit it. I’m really passionate about it and want to do it forever.
Ingrid: You sound like, I feel kindred. Because I feel like that as well. I just love what I do and just want to … I can’t imagine not doing it anytime in the future
Stevie: I feel so lucky and grateful to be able to do it
Ingrid: I know it is, it’s such a lovely feeling isn’t it?
Ingrid: But it’s interesting you say how you were in the corporate world because I was the same, I loved being there, I loved what I did. You always have good days and bad days, but I pretty much enjoyed it. I was a great employee to have because I loved being there, and I loved helping, and I loved being on projects.
Stevie: I think it’s about loving what you do as well because I did come from law where I was never ever passionate about it and I did the work, but it was always like I never enjoyed going to work, I never enjoyed doing it. And then literally to go from that into something that I loved so much, I was so grateful to be able to do it and just wanted to be there all the time
Ingrid: And get paid for it
Stevie: And just love it. You know what I mean. Totally.
Ingrid: That’s right. Okay. So Let’s look at some reflective questions. What do you wish you’d done differently at the beginning? So it’s somewhere around August September, you were travelling, you came back, you started to take on clients, I think you’ve said there’s one there that you maybe didn’t charge enough money for what you did. But is there anything that you’d like to have done differently from the beginning?
Stevie: Yes. Because it’s probably coming back to bite me at the moment and it’s having the time to get really set up with systems and processes so that when it gets really consistently busy, what I’m finding and making time for it at the moment which is great so I’ve kind of blocked out February to get myself sorted with that. But really having a systems and processes to make life easier for myself because what I’m finding at the moment is I’m doing things really manually, things that could be automated I am writing out the same email, five times a day, because I don’t have the time to make it a template and literally just like sitting down, getting all that stuff sorted so that when it gets busy, it’s just rolling out and it’s not stressing me.
Ingrid: The thing is, you’re really only a few months in so taking stock now is fantastic. But you’re right if you don’t do this, then in a years time you’re still doing the same email five times and probably 25 times by then
Stevie: I know a hundred percent.
Ingrid: And that’s not the best use of your time
Stevie: Not ideal. No.
Ingrid: Not ideal. So and this is a slightly different question. Is there something you wish you’d known from the start? That you’ve come to realise in the last few months that if you’d known that back then, that that would have been helpful.
Stevie: Probably the biggest thing is not thinking that I could do it when I first started out even as a blog. So I really never really had the confidence. You know what, it wasn’t even the confidence, it was that I never thought or gave myself the time to start, to really go all in on it and think that I could make it a business. That’s hands down the biggest thing because I think so many people, not just myself but even friends that I have still working in corporate at the moment, they kind of look at me and they say “You’re so amazing, you’ve started a business. That’s so great”, and it’s like “You can do it as well.” It’s probably just that kind of realisation a little bit earlier on.
Ingrid: That it was something that you could potentially do.
Stevie: Definitely. And just to back yourself and it’s not a pie in the sky thing, it’s something that you can really actually do if you just work bloody hard.
Ingrid: But I think there’s a lot of “work bloody hard” and that’s part of it is that you do and I think there’s a lot of people think that’s it’s actually going to be easy. You’re going to be sitting at home or sitting at the beach and it’s
Stevie: So not that-
Ingrid: So not that-
Stevie: You actually, you have to be okay to be working three times as hard as you ever have before
Ingrid: That’s right. To give yourself that freedom.
Ingrid: Stevie who apart from you, obviously you back yourself and you can either name names here or you can talk in generality. Who has been of greatest assistance to you and to your business?
Stevie: You know, probably the hardest thing I have at the moment is that I don’t really have anyone around me that is in a similar boat or that has done something similar that I can bounce off, and to be honest it’s something that I’m finding really hard because obviously my partner’s so supportive but he doesn’t understand the ins and outs of what I’m doing. A lot of my friends aren’t doing the similar things so I think I’ve actually winged to my partner Jules recently about it, so don’t really have anyone to bounce off.
Ingrid: It can be quite lonely can’t it?
Stevie: Yeah, it’s actually really hard and it’s really hard not to have anyone that can give you tips around, things like pricing and how to set yourself up in systems and processes and that sort of thing. I did a full day coaching session actually with a lady that’s just amazing. I interviewed her on my podcast just recently as well and she was great in terms of mapping out the year for me and working together to do that. But, but that’s one thing probably that I just wish I had more people around me that were doing a similar thing.
Ingrid: And I think that sometimes with the co-working spaces or joining a community, that’s why those communities do so well. Isn’t it?
Stevie: Yeah, yeah. And it’s something that I would love to do actually kind of in the near future. Because the other thing with working from home can be quite crazy when you’re used to being around people all the time so.
Ingrid: I sometimes say to people because I run a programme for it, it’s getting started in the business, and I sometimes say to people, “You know that person that you walk into the lunchroom and they’re in there making a cup of tea and you turn around and walk out, there’s that point where you’ll actually will be quite happy just see them, talk to them.”
Stevie: So funny. I love it.
Ingrid: So Stevie that said, about missing corporate or that work place environment, who gives you feedback, and where do you get feedback about your business and about yourself.
Stevie: That’s probably another thing that’s where at the moment would really love someone to give me honest feedback on different aspects of what I’m doing. I’m so lucky and grateful to have amazing friends and things around me that are huge supporters but I would just love to have someone come in and say, you know what, “You should probably do that differently”, or just really honest feedback on things like, every aspect on what I’m doing really but that again is probably is one thing that I’m missing at the moment and wish I had because you don’t know I guess until you get that constructive feedback where you can improve and I feel like at the moment I’m just playing a little bit blind and I would love someone to come and tap me on the shoulder and say “Maybe work on this” or “Work on that.”`
Ingrid: So finding that community is very important isn’t it?
Stevie: Totally. Yeah. Definitely.
Ingrid: So Stevie you’ve eluded to a few of your characteristics. But what are the three key characteristics that you have, that you believe you have that have made you successful?
Stevie: I’d say probably the biggest thing for me and I wouldn’t know if it’s a characteristic or not but I’m really mindful these days of the fact that without being too airy fairy about it, our life is really short, and that it’s really important to do the things you want to do now. So, I don’t know if it’s a characteristic but it’s definitely something that at the moment I’m really driven by and just kind of going for whatever it is that you want to do. Whether it’s business or whether it’s going in travelling or whatever it is. I think that’s something that’s driving me at the moment. Other characteristics, I don’t know, you’ll have to ask my mates.
Ingrid: I think your enthusiasm and passion really turns out
Stevie: I suppose to be honest that’s what’s driving me at the moment because I’m working so hard and I don’t feel like it’s a chore, it’s something that I wake up everyday and feel really grateful to be doing and love it so that’s something that’s definitely driving me at the moment and probably the fact that I work hard, I don’t mind hard work.
Ingrid: Yes. Yes
Stevie: it’s never been something that’s been an issue for me so that can be a great thing and it can also sometimes be to my detriment so.
Ingrid: But as you said, it’s because you love what you do so much that it doesn’t even feel like work as such.
Ingrid: So you’ve got your old friends, your mates who are still working in their jobs and they’re saying to you, and you’ve eluded to the answer to this question already, but they, somebody says to you, “I’ve got an idea for business, what do you think?” What do you, what do you say to them, what do you say to someone who thinks they’d like to start a business?
Stevie: That they should go for it one hundred percent just start and do it I honestly think that so many people spend so much time in this cycle of thinking about it and then the week gets away from them and then the next week gets away from them and then the year’s gone and nothing happens. So I honestly think that you just need to go for it, take a small step towards whatever it is that you want to do. Honestly for me, I literally just wrote a blog post and put together a squarespace website and then I wrote a second blog post and then I wrote a third and it went from there. And I honestly genuinely, so passionately think that if you don’t just take a little step in the right direction then you’ll never ever do it and you’ll always wonder.
And it’s the best feeling, I can honestly love doing what I’m doing and then just be so cool for other people to have that feeling as well.
Ingrid: And is that expression, “don’t die wondering” as you say. Life’s fragile, it could be over in a blink and it’s not that you want to live your life thinking “I could be dead in a minute”. It’s that idea that it is fragile, and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do while we’re here.
Stevie: I don’t know, it just sounds so airy fairy but we’re so lucky to be here and we may as well make the most of it.
Ingrid: Well and so lucky to live in Australia where we have such abundance really, we’re incredibly lucky aren’t we?
Ingrid: Stevie thank you so much for your time, now I just have one last question and it’s a general question. Is there anything else that you’d like to add. Stevie Says Social is your website, it’s your podcast. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the audience or anybody else who’s listening? Because the people listening to this podcast are people who are thinking of starting a business, they’re like your mates there who’ve still got jobs, or they’re people who are getting started in those early days. So, is there any last words of wisdom you have for them?
Stevie: Yeah. I mean it goes back I guess to what I tell my clients in terms of we are so, so lucky to live in a time where you can really easily build up your own thing yourself using things like social media marketing, using things like content marketing. Even 10 years ago, that wouldn’t have been possible and we may as well make the most of it because there’s so much opportunity for us to really whatever it is do what we’re passionate about.
Ingrid: Just, and just do it.
Stevie: Just do it.
Ingrid: Get that, get that, that nest egg and a pillow.
Ingrid: I think you’re a terrific example of someone who had the side hustle, there’s a lot of people experimenting with it as a side hustle first or seeing what they can do and then making the leap at some point. You don’t have to quit yet.
Stevie: You just have to jump at a certain point.
Stevie: I could have kept going for easily another year to two years and wondered whether it would be okay. You need to make an educated leap because at some stage you just need to jump off, see what happens and go from there. And honestly, the worst thing that could ever happen is that you go back to the job that you had before, I mean it’s not so bad.
Ingrid: And at least you’ve tried.
Ingrid: At least you’ve tried. Okay. Stevie thank you so much for your time today. I’ll put the links through to your website and podcast in the show nights. If anybody wants to make contacts with you, they can and thank you.
Stevie: Thanks Ingrid.