This is a transcription of the Launch Yourself Today podcast interview with Rachel Pederson (aka The Queen of Social Media), the founder and CMO of the award-winning social media marketing agency The Viral Touch as well as the founder and CEO of Social Media United, a leading online university for those aspiring to become successful social media managers and strategists. Her students have each had their own tremendous success, securing clients, growing their skills, and leaving their 9-5s.
Rachel is a top social media marketer and consultant, worldwide viral sensation, leading authority on story-telling through social media and Facebook ads. Rachel’s journey began in 2016 while working in her 9-5 (actually, it was an 8-5) day job. Within 6 months she replaced her income and built a clientele that she loved working with. Rachel is also a mother to 3 beautiful children and wife to her supportive husband.
Rachel, thanks so much for taking some time to hang with me today.
David, I’m so excited to be here. We’re going to have a blast.
For those that aren’t necessarily familiar with your story of your transition from working in a corporate environment to working for yourself, would you mind giving us some background and tell us a little bit about that?
Absolutely. I am still a pretty new entrepreneur. I’ve only been doing this fulltime for three years and my history is not related to marketing. I actually used to work fulltime as a hairstylist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was a colorist, specifically. One day a client came in and she said, “My husband has this company and we need some help with our social media.” My immediate thought was, “Oh, I can’t charge somebody to help them.” But as she started to talk, I realized that her knowledge of social media was pretty minimal. She kept talking about Twitter being Tweeter. She would say, “This is my Tweeter account. I have to figure this out.” I started to think, “Okay, I think I can help her at least.” Maybe I don’t know everything about social media, but if I can help get her on the right track, beautiful.”
So, I went to their house and started helping them for $15 an hour. The thing that was a big breakthrough for me, was this realization that I could do this. I could actually learn social media and help people and get paid for it. That’s a win-win. That sounds amazing. So, I took a huge leap of faith, I didn’t leave my nine to five, but I jumped into marketing. I had no degree. I had no formal experience and there was really no real reason for a marketing agency to hire me. But I jumped into the agency world and I actually became a marketing strategist for a digital marketing agency in Minnesota.
I did that for a little bit and went from one job to the next but then I realized, “Okay, I like marketing. I just don’t like doing marketing on someone else’s terms. What I’m really craving is waking up when I want to. Spending time with my kids. Being able to go to fieldtrips.” It was actually when my daughter was sick two days in a row and I got written up at my nine to five, that I realized, “I’ve got to figure something else out, or else I have to learn how to play by the rules. And I think I’d rather figure something out, than play by the rules.”
So, I started securing clients on the side but I was not prepared for what happened. I thought it would give me a side income and that maybe someday it would turn into a viable business. But within six months I had fully replaced my income from my nine to five with clients on the side. I had to make a decision and it was really tough. I didn’t know that this was something that people did all the time, but I left my nine to five job. Just a few months later, I increased my revenue and income enough to bring my husband home from his nine to five as well.
That is amazing, was that purely focused on social media management?
That was purely focused on social media management. There was a little bit of, “I’ll help set up some emails,” or an occasional blog post. But I didn’t understand all of the technical sides of blog posts or emails, I just knew how to help a little bit. So, that was not focusing on anything crazy advanced or Facebook ads. It was just mostly organic social media.
I have found in working with clients, if they have nothing or even something that’s really bad, they’re just looking for any help. You don’t have to be this mega-expert in order to help them. Like you said, she was talking about “Tweeter”. She just needed somebody that was two steps ahead of her.
Exactly and I think that was a really good intro for me. At that time, there wasn’t really a common theme of people becoming social media managers without any experience. I hadn’t really seen it done, especially not by anyone like me; a mom, someone with no formal experience, a hair stylist and completely unqualified. I hadn’t really seen that happening regularly. For me, it was this realization of, “Okay, I’m going to have to blaze this trail and see if I can do this.” They were a great starting place. Even though it was $15 an hour, that was awesome and a great place to start.
Why would social media management be a great option for moms or dads who want to stay home with their kids? Maybe somebody today is thinking, on the way to their job, “Oh, my God. I’m dying here. I’ve got to play by the corporate rules. I’ve got to play by this bosses’ rules. I want to make my own rules.” So, besides playing by your own rules, what are some of the reasons why social media management might be a good option for them?
I’ll just relate it to my story and this was so crazy because I remember this moment when I realized, there’s no freedom in corporate. Not the freedom I’m looking for. I want to be able to be there for my kids. I want to be able to go meet them for lunch if I want to. I want to be able to see them after school on days where that’s allowed. I want to take them to their sports. I want to be able to do this stuff. Even if it means I can’t always do it, I at least want the choice.
I remember every day my husband and I would come home from our nine to five, which for me was really more like eight to five and for my husband it was more like nine to seven. It was really crazy. We’d get home and we were so tired. I remember just thinking, “Are we just going to be exhausted every day for the rest of our careers and come home and barely be able to get dinner together, let alone have time to bond?” Forget family dinner/cleanup/getting laundry. I felt like we were constantly playing catch-up, let alone never getting ahead. The great thing for me was, when I started to work for myself, we were able to spend time with our kids in the mornings. We were able to spend time with our kids in the evenings and that’s actually even changed very recently. We were able to go on trips and work on a trip. For example, if there’s a great deal on Groupon for a trip to Seattle for the weekend or the week, we could do it. We don’t have to ask a boss. We can take the kids, head on over and I can work without even dropping a beat. There was just this beautiful freedom of, “I can spend more time with my kids. I can spend happier time with my kids. And my kids get to see me as I’m doing something I actually enjoy.”
You said some things have changed recently, where you’ve gotten to spend some more time together in the afternoons or evenings?
Yeah, so this is a big change for us. One thing I did, that not everybody has to do, is I actually built two businesses at the same time. I actually do not recommend this for most people. Not everybody wants an agency that does a million dollars a year with a whole team of people in an office. That’s one of the things that I did build. But I kind of took a step back and said, “Okay, what do I really want now that we’ve built two companies that do a million dollars a year each?” Which of course, is not what everyone has to do. “What do I really, really want?” I realized that while my kids were getting great time with their grandma, who’s our fulltime nanny from nine to six, I needed some more time with my older kids; Dakota and Delilah, who are eight and four.
So, my husband and I talked about this quite a bit, “What if we brought the girls home at three o’clock every day? And let them, not necessarily spend time with us, but spend time near us and see what we’re doing. Let them learn about entrepreneurship and hear conversations.” So, every day after school, our kids come home at three and they’ll oftentimes read a book or play on their iPad or watch a movie or do something in my office. But they’re right here, right by me. That extra time of a little cuddle or a snuggle before a call and that extra time of them getting to hear the lingo of business, it’s actually really, really special and we’re loving it.
Are they asking questions? “What did you mean when you did this, Mom?” Or, “Why are you so passionate about that?” Give me an example.
Well, I’ll say first and foremost, Delilah is just like, “You’re the boss.” That’s all she says, “You’re the boss Mom. You’re the boss.”
Yes, exactly. So, it doesn’t really click for her quite yet.
I love those names, by the way. Dakota, Delilah, what’s the third name? It’s got to be a D. Come on, give it to me.
It’s Dominic, yes.
Yes! That’s awesome.
So, we’ve got Dakota, Delilah and Dominic. Dominic does not come home at three, for obvious reasons. I still have to get work done and to be honest, and with him being 11 months, it’s just not very productive for me. But Dakota became incredibly fascinated. She is fascinated by the world of building your own platform and she wants to so badly. But I’m first teaching her how to film videos, be confident on camera and how to edit videos. She’s actually been diving in and learning graphic design and video editing on her own, with no help from me. That’s been really, really rewarding to watch as she’s developing skills that I didn’t learn until I was 25. It’s amazing.
That’s so cool. Let’s say somebody is thinking, “I want to dabble in this. I want to maybe take on getting a client, but I’ve only used social media accounts for my own personal usage.” What are some of the mindset shifts that they might need to go through in order to make that jump from personal accounts to managing someone’s business account?
Some of the things that are interesting about social media marketing, is that Universities don’t know where to start. Universities only know how to approach it with a traditional marketing approach. But, one thing that’s kind of fun to keep in mind, is if you’ve ever had a snarky or an interesting or a fun or creative post on your personal profiles, then you probably stand a chance at social media management. Meaning, if you’ve put up a picture of your kids that sparked a conversation. Or you asked a question that got a bunch of answers, that’s kind of an indication that you understand how social media works.
Some of the companies that are killing it, include Chipotle and Wendy’s. Oh my gosh, Wendy’s is just slaying it on social media. I guarantee you, that wasn’t taught in college. It’s somebody who said, “Hey, I have a funny answer to that,” and suddenly it took off. So, if you’ve ever had something creative or interesting or a fun thought, then you probably stand a good chance at being a social media manager.
Those things seem to be a bit more on the risky side, rather than, “Hey, we’ve got a special two for one deal at whatever mom and pop restaurant.” As you’re managing your own clients or you’re thinking through that, how do you do manage the more straightforward approach versus always trying to push the envelope? What’s your opinion on that?
Great question, and we don’t push the envelope all the time. I know that seems really intimidating to some people, but when I first started, it was very straightforward. As in, “Check out this awesome blog post with recipes you’re going to love.” And I realized that a lot of what we do is just as simple as not being overly sales-y. So, your job with social media, is just to nurture and foster social conversation. If you have ever shared a recipe, think about how you shared it. A company could do the same thing. Or, if you have a picture of happy customers, is there something that you can come up with that explains that picture? Maybe it’s as simple as, “Caption this pic.” You can actually keep things going without being overly controversial. We only do that when there’s an agreed upon controversial stance from a client or an aggressive or pushing the envelope kind of approach. But we definitely don’t do that regularly. However, once you start managing social media, you realize the more creativity you can put into it, the more fun you’ll have, the better results you’ll get and the more your clients will rave about you.
Can you give us an example of where you had an idea that you felt might be pushing the envelope a bit and your clients were a little nervous about it, but you were able to negotiate for them to actually move forward with it? Can you give us an example of something like that?
Absolutely. I had a client in my first year of social media management and I said, “Is it okay if I create these little whiteboard videos with your products?” Now, keep in mind, I have no idea how to do a whiteboard video and I had no idea how to do any of this, but I know that there are free apps that can put pictures together. The client was like, “I can’t imagine how that would look. It just really doesn’t sound like us.” And I said, “No, it will be cute and it will be classy and it will be fun and sweet and people will love it.” And they said, “Tell you what, why don’t you create it and we can see how it goes.”
So, I created this little ad. It’s in front of a whiteboard and it just says, “A gluten free love story.” And it’s these two products that meet and then end up embracing and then suddenly a bunch of little mini products pop up. So, I was like, “Okay, it’s kind of risky. But also, not really. It’s creative, it’s fun. Let’s see if they like it.” So, I brought it to the client and they absolutely loved it. They were like, “This is so fun. This is well done.” And it was just as simple as taking a bunch of photos on my phone and compiling them together into a video.
Wow, great. So, somebody says, “Alright, I want to take that first step. I want to think about getting a client, but I don’t know where to start. Where would I even look for a client? What would I say to them? How do I know what to charge? What am I delivering?” What would be the first steps that you would walk them through?
First and foremost, I will say I’ve broken down a lot of this in some free places. So, if someone’s thinking, “It’s not clicking yet, I don’t understand.” I explain all of this on YouTube and on my podcast – I actually have a podcast episode called 73 Ways to Find Your First or Next Client. I give away a lot for free because I know that once you experience it, you’re going to be hooked and you’re going to say, “Oh! I want to be a social media manager. This is so fun!”
The very first thing I recommend is approaching people who own businesses. That is one of the biggest misconceptions about securing clients. Most people think that you go to the marketing department to secure a client. It doesn’t work like that. You actually want to deal directly with the decision maker, the CEO, the president, the owner, the founder. That’s where you are actually going to start. How you find those clients is totally up to you. It could be at your local BNI or Chamber or it could be a conversation you have in a line at a Starbucks. Anywhere that you meet someone who owns a company, that’s a place where you can secure a client. I personally like to find a lot of clients on LinkedIn.
So, they can head to your YouTube or your podcast to check out that specific episode that’s called 72 Ways…
Well, in the podcast I say, “Okay, maybe it’s not 73, but it’s like 42. I just made up a number and we’re going to go with it.”
Okay, so a lot of ways.
Exactly, I share a lot of that in my podcast and I share a lot of that on my YouTube channel. But actually, this was something that accidently came about; I had tons of people asking me how to do what I’m doing. I didn’t want to tell people that I can get them to leave their nine to five job, because that seems like a lot of responsibility to take on. But I did believe that I could help people secure their first client, or their next client. So, I actually created an entire program, that teaches people how to become successful social media managers. So, now we’ve actually helped a lot of people leave their nine to five using exactly what I teach.
So, these new social media managers, they’re jumping in but what are the pitfalls that you’re seeing as you’re teaching people to be social media managers? What are those hurdles or pitfalls that they just tend to fall into that first six months or year?
Oh, man. The common pitfalls that come up are, number one: imposter syndrome. Everyone says, “I feel like an imposter. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of running social media.” But what they don’t realize is there are a lot of people with bad intentions, who are actually in the marketing space. Who only care about themselves, who don’t care about their clients and who don’t care about their work. The fact that you feel imposter syndrome, says that you care. So, it’s actually a good thing that should be celebrated.
Another one I see is, people working for free. I don’t ever teach to work for free. That’s not a part of my model. It never has been and never will be. And then number three, I see social media managers who are just starting out or people considering being social media managers who are thinking, “I have to charge $200 or $300 a month because it’s my first client.” It doesn’t actually work like that. The market actually allows us to charge $500 per platform, $1000 per month for management and it goes up from there. Those are the big things that come up over and over again.
Imposter syndrome, working for free and charging too low of an amount of money.
How would you encourage someone to overcome that imposter syndrome? To just say, “Stop thinking that way,” that obviously doesn’t work. How do you help people process through that?
When I help people process imposter syndrome, I help them recognize what those lies actually are. I think sometimes when fear or doubt or feelings of not being worthy are swirling in our head, it’s hard to step back and actually approach it, because we haven’t even identified exactly what those thoughts are. I’m a big believer in stepping back and saying, “Okay, let’s actually listen to those thoughts for a second and write them down. What are they? And are these things you’ve experienced before in a job? Perhaps when you had a new promotion?”
One thing that’s interesting when you become an entrepreneur, it’s like you’re constantly promoting yourself. You’re constantly able to secure a new client, make more money. And so, just like in a nine to five, when we experience those panics of, “I just got a promotion. I have to learn new things. I’m scared. This is uncomfortable.” You’re always facing that when you’re an entrepreneur. It just becomes normal at some point.
There’s always something in front of us that’s a new challenge or a new opportunity. And of course, with each challenge comes an opportunity. You’ve been doing this for three years fulltime, was there a point at which you felt like, “Okay, I’m okay. I’ve got my feet underneath me. I’ve got a handle on this.” At what point did you begin to feel that way? Or do you still not feel that way?
I actually like the second part of that quite a bit. I will say that there could have been a lot of points where I felt that way. But I’m somebody that likes to always take on bigger challenges and try something scary or harder. I like to challenge myself. So, if I find myself sitting in a zone of comfort, that now becomes very uncomfortable for me. That’s when I know I’m not in the right place. Now, that’s not the case for everybody. Some people are going to say, “I’ve finally got a handle on this. I feel good. I’m confident.” Great, that’s wonderful. That would be the moment where I’d be like, “I’ve been sitting here for too long. It’s time to keep moving and keep progressing.” So, I will say there were a lot of opportunities to feel that, but I didn’t really let it sit.
I get bored in those moments and my wife’s like, “Why are you doing that? You could have just stayed right there and just enjoyed the moment.” I did enjoy the moment for a couple of minutes, but then I start to think, “Let’s build this. Let’s create this.” And why not? I do find that the faster I pick up and go to the next challenge, the easier it is to keep the momentum going and the easier it is not to live in that imposter syndrome of worrying about what’s coming up next. The longer I sit in between leveling up, the harder it is to level up, because I can psych myself out. I’m just like, “Let’s go. Let’s take it on. Yes, it’s going to be big. Yes, it might be scary. But why not? Let’s go!”
Okay, so now that I’ve got my first client, I also have a fulltime job. I need to be managing this or posting or connecting with people during the day. How do I do this? How do I do all of this at the same time?
Great question. When I was working in my nine to five, keep in mind, I’m not somebody that teaches to burn your boats and just leave your nine to five. I don’t believe in that, because a lot of us have families and kids and mortgages. I think it would be irresponsible for me to say, “Just go. Dive in,” because everyone has a different journey. So, for me, I worked and built my entire clientele on top of my nine to five. I was waking up early and working in the morning. I worked over lunch. I worked in the evenings and on the weekends. I know that sounds like a lot of work and yes, it was. But I just had this belief that if I did that for six months, or however long I needed, it’s better to spring through it, than to deal with the marathon of constantly being in limbo and constantly being unhappy. So, for it me it was like, “How fast can I get results and get out of this nine to five?” So, it’s not forever, it’s just a season.
You have a program that you alluded to earlier, called Social Media United. From what I understand, it’s a first step beyond your free resources where people dive in to learn social media management. Can you tell us how that might be helpful for our listeners?
Absolutely. Social Media United is the program I wish that I had when I first started. I remember I was frantically Googling, “What does a proposal look like?” “How do I create a content plan?” “How do I build my clients?” Everything was new to me. So, when I started to help other people build their own social media businesses, while still running my own agency, I thought, “What can I do to shortcut the process for others, so they don’t have to learn by failure, but instead can learn with tested and proven templates and processes and trainings?”
So, over a weekend, you can actually learn so much that you’ll be thinking, ‘I actually know a lot about social media. I can go out there and talk the language of social media managers.” It’s a really great opportunity for those who want to take a next step and who want to get serious about it. It’s not a crazy expensive $3000 or $10,000 program or even $40,000 a year like some Universities are. It’s something that is there as a resource for you when you’re ready to start really picking this up and making it happen.
Would you say Social Media United would be beneficial to somebody who maybe isn’t looking to start an agency, but just looking to grow their own personal social media platform?
You know, I’ll be totally honest, it is possible. We have some business owners who join and say, “Oh my gosh, this is the secret weapon of business owners. Because I’m learning what social media managers are learning.” But that being said, it’s very tailored to social media managers. I wouldn’t say it’s recommended for business owners, but you can still learn from it. It all depends on how you learn. I’m the kind of person where I can learn from something that’s not designed for me and still learn. I can learn from anything. But if you’re someone who’s like, “I take things very literally and if you explain it to me as if you’re speaking to my client, I’m going to struggle,” then it’s not for you as a business owner.
And you have a special offer right now. It’s seven days access, is that right?
Yeah, seven days access for just $1.00.
One dollar, seven days access. They can go to www.joinsmu.com. We’ll obviously put that in the show notes, but you can go there for more information. And of course, they should also check out your personal website www.rachelpedersen.com.
Rachel, any final words or wisdom or encouragement for somebody who’s kind of thinking this might be something they’re interested in? I just think this is such a powerful opportunity for people. Moms who have stay at home kids and who are looking to make extra money. They’re already using social media; this is just leveraging it to generate income. I think this is a great thing for moms.
Oh my gosh, it’s a game changer. We’ve had over 5000 social media managers go through this program and every day I’m hearing stories of our members saying, “I covered my mortgage payment with one client.” That’s a gamechanger. Or another, Nicole in SMU, she said, “I paid for my groceries. You don’t understand, that freed us up and allowed me to breath.” There are some of my students who will hit a $5000 month. Or even, the big elusive, crazy goal of the $10,000 month. It is totally doable. The greatest part is you get to decide exactly what you want your social media management to look like. Is it a part-time thing that helps you to pay for activities? Or is it something that’s going be replacing your nine to five and become something you’re incredibly passionate about?
For a lot of people, an extra $500 to $1000 a month is a huge amount of money. I live in Southern California and $1000 won’t even get you a room. But in other areas of the country, $1000 is an entire mortgage payment.
Yes, absolutely. I remember back when I was a single mom, I used to always go with my dad and we’d give blood plasma for an extra $240 a month. I mean, we would spend hours giving blood plasma so that we could make our ends meet. If I had known that social media management was an option, I wouldn’t have to deal with all these track scars from giving blood plasma. I wish that I had known that this was available to me, but I’m so proud to make it available and known and supported for others.
Okay, before we leave, for those who are watching this on YouTube, show off your finger nails. I commented on them when I first saw you. Tell us about them.
Well, I’ve got Cinderella, blue sparkly nails. I do my nails however I want to. I go get them done usually once a month and the last ones were gold sparkly and these one’s are blue sparkly. They’re perfect. We’re actually in the middle of a big, big travel season. So, we travel for business and for fun and with family. Here’s one thing that’s so fun. So, these might be the color that they are when we go to Santorini, Greece. We’re taking our kids, my in-laws and our team and we’re meeting up with a bunch of people and teaching them there. One of my favorite things is, when I go get my nails done, I think, “What color can I get, that I couldn’t get in my past life?” And I go get that color. I always choose a color that wouldn’t necessarily be acceptable in the corporate world, just because I can. That freedom is amazing.
Rachel, thank you so much for taking some time to impart your wisdom and your energy. I love your passion and I definitely think people should check out Social Media United. You have a lot of great resources available. Thank you.
Thank you so much for having me, David. This has been a pleasure.