Ok, I have a disclaimer. This blog post is really really long. Also, it’s not much about running. Instead, this blog post focuses on how I Run Success Insiders was built. Read on if you want to learn a bit about online business, and its many challenges. There are some lessons in there that you can apply to your running, but you will have to read this with an open mind to understand these. For those uninterested in business but wanting a bit more running chat, I have created a free download for you on the different types of strength training that can help runners. Download here.
And if you scroll to the bottom of this post you can learn the 7 lessons I learnt from building I Run Success Insiders that you most definitely can apply to your running.
Around Easter last year, I set a goal of helping 1000 runners. I knew that my message about strength training to support your running and prevent injury would help so many people, but it was difficult to reach them when only providing one to one coaching. There is a limit to how many people I can coach at a given time, because there are only so many hours in the day, and in order to do my best work, I need to have a break once in awhile.
I had been following some online business experts such as Carrie Green and Denise Duffield Thomas (she has a free 5 day manifesting challenge at the moment, click here to view), and the conclusion I settled on was that the way to reach lots of people and help them through their running would be through an online membership site.
The website content would educate runners about strength training, nutrition, injury prevention and running technique. The facebook group would provide a community to discuss all these learnings as well as general running, and both together would create a group of healthy and informed runners who enjoyed their running more, and got injured less.
So I had an idea that would help me to live my values and purpose of my business, plus give the ability to reach many more people – and as a result of that scale of economy, the cost to work with me would go way down.
At this point, I was pretty familiar with building stuff into my wordpress website, as I had been keeping a weekly blog for quite some time now. But I didn’t know much about a membership plugin (the thing that manages people’s accounts so that the content is protected) and I knew barely anything about producing videos. Neither of these things were insurmountable, but mixed in with a lot of fear, became easy excuses to procrastinate on getting it done.
Then I was contacted via LinkedIn to interview for the role of Goodgym Trainer for Colchester. I got the job, and this became my focus. I really wanted to make Goodgym Colchester a real success, and that meant a lot of effort networking in my local community to make it happen. You can learn more about our work with Goodgym here.
So, my primary goal had a nice distraction, and before long, the summer had passed and I had done very little on my membership site, except to come up with a name and talk to people that it was in my plans. I also had fear about being on a ‘content-creation’ mill. Would I be able to produce interesting and useful information each month, as well as being engaged in the group?
Facebook groups can be a real challenge – a small group focused on a particular topic, particularly if you’ve paid to be part of it can be really great, but often the large groups where anyone joins can go off topic, or have the same topic repeated so many times with 90 different opinions on it but no real clear answer.
Of course it depends on the purpose of the group, but I know I hugely benefited from the Runner’s World Forums a few years back where the topic was following someone’s journey marathon training, and the featured experts were there to answer questions about nutrition, psychology and training plans etc. Other more experienced runners would give advice, but there was usually a clear answer by the end of a discussion, rather than just more confusion.
Anyway, the distraction of getting Goodgym going meant I could put this on hold for a while, and then it was October, which is when my busy season starts as people begin marathon training.
I still felt a lot of fear and uncertainty about starting a full on membership site, but through the summer I had filmed some videos for an online kettle bell training course.
Of course I delayed editing them, as I didn’t know what to do, but it’s amazing what you can learn, and through a course available through the Female Entrepreneur Association I learnt some video editing basics. I know my videos aren’t perfect. I know there is lots that can be improved on them, but it’s not my specialism to make them perfect, nor do I enjoy video editing particularly. I now know enough to get them done, but I’m looking forward to when I can afford to pay someone else to take care of that part.
Anyways, once I got started, I realised it wasn’t as difficult as I had feared, and actually getting the videos edited to a standard I was happy with was quite quick. What wasn’t quick, however, was uploading them to vimeo! Who knew it could take 6 hours to upload a 10 minute video? I found that if I did this on a Monday morning, rather than over the weekend it was much quicker.
I’d set a target date of the end of November to have everything ready for my kettle bell training course, but I was on holiday for the last week of November, so really I needed most done before then. The most difficult part was understanding the membership site plugin and how the permissions worked. This part of the website becomes really clunky to create, because you have to create a page, publish it, assign permissions to it, and then if any pages are linked, you have to keep on going back into the additional ones so that you can insert the links.
I also found that an easy way to make this work well would be a sub menu. I went on to create a sub menu, only to find out that the theme that had been custom designed for my site, didn’t have the capability of having a sub menu so I had to do it in this clunky way.
Really clunky, but I did it, and even had some sales, which was great. Not enough to cover the costs of all the technology required to run it, nor my time, which was a HUGE amount. But that in itself is the nature of running your own business, often you put in a lot of work upfront at the start of a project in the hope that it will pay off down the line. But there are no guarantees.
Actually this is the same for so many things – I put in a LOT of work getting Goodgym Colchester launched, and now, 8 months on, it’s quite a bit easier because of all that scurrying about at the beginning. I’m contracted for approximately 1.5 to 2 days per week, but was easily doing 3-4 days worth throughout the summer to get it to the stage it is now.
My husband started his get fit regime in the summer with healthy eating, and going to the gym or running at least 4 times a week – he experienced dramatic weight loss in a little over 2 months – now he doesn’t have to be quite so strict with his eating or his exercise regime. He knows enough to adjust things when needed, and he’s settled on a level of exercise that isn’t quite so extreme but it keeps him healthy.
And the third example, is my weekly essays at university – I did Geography at Oxford University, and it was an essay subject, which meant very little contact time, but a lot of reading. The way we learnt was to read around a subject in order to produce an essay – there was a reading list provided along with an essay question. That was pretty much it, but those 40 – 50 hours of reading were immersive enough to be able to produce a 1500-2000 word essay each week. You went from knowing nothing on a topic to knowing an awful lot in a very short space of time.
Anyway, I digress, although, interesting to look at the way people can change by learning a lot fast. How can you apply that to your running?
We got to the end of 2016, and I was disappointed that this great idea of I Run Success Insiders hadn’t come to fruition. Now I had the knowledge and the skills to create the website, and the content. So I set a big scary goal, that it would be ready to launch on 28th February. I had even brilliantly planned webinars to coincide, and other marketing efforts that would feed into it.
I was doing a lot of work on my website, and I’d also had feedback on my website that I needed to make it a bit more ‘me’, so I joined the Worditude club to improve my copy. I wrote a new about page. Then this happened – gremlins hit my site, there was strange code all over my sales page, and I couldn’t change it because I kept on getting locked out. At the same time my web host was asking for a renewal fee.
Hang on a second? – I’ve been locked out of the shop window of my business whilst there is basically graffiti all over it, and have been unable to do anything about it for days. Oh, and you don’t know how to help me change those things that Laura from Worditude suggested I change to make my website better, but I should still pay a renewal fee?
Your website host is kind of like your internet landlord, providing you space online – taking care of maintenance etc. What you see visually as my website is my content – its sort of like your belongings that you will keep in the apartment. As I’m creating more content for my site, and would be having more visitors to my site, I needed a bigger space on the internet.
Well I asked around and was recommended SiteGround. And I am so happy to have made the switch.
It was like moving from that horrid apartment on the nasty side of town where the landlord doesn’t fix your water and you’ve lived without hot water for a week, to a bigger apartment in the trendy part of town with a 24hour concierge to help you with any issues.
Seriously, in the first week of being a SiteGround customer, I was able to ask so many questions and fix so many things on my website that had been bugging me for over a year. Plus they do automatic updates of wordpress, and check the site for hacking each week.
Those gremlins on my site with the previous host were probably evidence of the website being hacked, so you can understand just how important this is.
Anyways, I’m planning and building a membership site, switching web hosts, meanwhile still providing online coaching, one-to-one Personal Training, running Goodgym Colchester, and you know, I have friends and family too, and like to see them sometimes. So, February comes around and I have not done all that much on I Run Success Insiders except for planning what the initial content is going to be. Now was the time to concurrently market the launch of the site, and create the content.
I wouldn’t recommend this.
Well, actually I would, I think people like to see what you are doing, but I perhaps would have created a little less content for the launch.
I had a group of testers who agreed to give me feed back on the site as I was building it, but of all who signed up to help, very few were actually able to, either because they simply didn’t have the time, or because they didn’t quite understand what I was asking of them.
Turns out that my messaging wasn’t clear enough or that people didn’t read or didn’t understand the emails to take action on them, which meant I had also created extra customer service effort during the pre-launch period, for people who weren’t paying for the service! However, the useful lesson from that is how important it is for my messages to be clear.
So, the 28th February came around, and I hadn’t yet finished all the content for the March bundle – I decided that people would respond better to having a few days in the club before starting the 30 day nutrition challenge anyway, so that was planned to start on the first Monday of March instead. However, 28th February was the date of my live online launch party.
As I was getting ready for it, I realised a few things – one was that I hadn’t told many people when it was, and crucially, my testers didn’t know about it. I had told them in an email a week before, but you need to send about 5 reminders for these sort of things before it will stick in someone’s head. I think I buried it at the end of an email about a week before, and was clearly relying on the false assumption that everyone was as excited about this as I was
Well, I was really nervous and stressed out on the afternoon, especially as not all the content was finished, and I didn’t know why so few people had signed up, until one of the members told me she’d never got an email about how to sign up.
Then, procrastinating, I decided to go through this shoebox of old things that my mum had given me about 6 months ago. It had things like concert programmes and old birthday cards in it. I honestly have no idea why this was the day I decided to go through this shoebox. It wasn’t urgent, and it had been lying around for ages, but go through it I did, and I got to a pile of 16th birthday cards, and this was one of them:
As you do, I opened it up, and a recorded message from my mum and dad played. It was the first time I had heard my dad’s voice since the day he died, and it completely shocked me. It was like hearing from a ghost. I was literally stunned, and I could feel my heart miss a beat as I completely crumbled and broke down. I could not stop crying.
First off, I was amazed that the recording had survived so long. Then I thought, wow, I have a piece of him back. Then I thought, but what if it doesn’t last any longer and then I lose him again.
Needless to say, in those few hours before the online web launch when maybe I could have saved my lack of invitations with a bit of a flurry on social media, I just didn’t have the inclination nor the energy to do it.
For the first time in my business, I cancelled at the 11th hour. I emailed my list and explained why. Most people gave me the compassion and support I needed, which was great. Others, well, I won’t share about the others! 🙂
I could go on and on about every day of the launch week until the cart closed, but I think I’ve rambled on long enough. Instead, I’m going to summarise this post with some lessons learned.
1 – Not knowing exactly how to do something is not a reason not to start and take action. There are always ways to learn.
2 – Even with the best planning, there will always be obstacles to your perfect plan. Being adaptable to those obstacles is important (when I postponed that online launch, I actually ended up doing it a few days later, and I was super pleased with what I managed to do on the day. There is no way I would have had that energy on Feb 28th – you can view the recording here.
3 – Sending a CLEAR MESSAGE is really important. Just because I can and do read things to ensure I’ve understood doesn’t mean others do. So sending an email with more than 1 instruction often doesn’t work.
4 – Marketing and Content Creation at the same time for something brand new = burnout – I could have planned and set up much of the marketing way in advance, although I know I probably needed a bit of that time pressure to get the content created.
5 – UpWork is awesome! Some of the content creation I was putting off because I knew I would find it really boring, and time consuming. That was writing transcripts of the videos about preparing for running effectively. I posted a job for this on UpWork, and someone in Curacao did the transcripts for me. She was incredibly accurate, very efficient, and a perfect level of communication to help me understand how the work was going. I just wish I had more work for her now.
6 – Despite you being incredibly stressed about this big launch, most people around you won’t get what you’re doing, how much work is involved, or how irritating it is to be asked, “can I still stream live football whilst you’re doing your online launch party?”
That last one seems a bit negative, but this final one is a bit smooshy!
7 – Basically, I’m super proud of myself. A year ago, I had an idea, and now, it’s a reality. I’m able to connect with many runners at once and help them in their running, and to enjoy their running more in a safe space where they can chat about running all day long, without annoying their non-running friends and family, and without the noise of product advertising.
Whilst the group is small now, I just know that I Run Success Insiders is going to be a fantastic group of runners who love their running and through learning more and more about it will continue to thrive and get better and better results.
If you want to learn more about I Run Success Insiders visit: irunsuccess.co.uk/insiders-signup
If you want to learn more about any of the systems and tech I used to create my online members’ club, drop me an email and I’ll be happy to share links.
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Angela Isherwood is the founder of I Run Success
She is a REPs Level 3 Personal Trainer, a Run England Running coach, and a multiple marathon runner. She is a London Marathon Good for Age runner, a Boston Marathon Qualifier, a parkrun Run Director and Trainer for Goodgym Colchester.