Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to be successful. Just ask Laura Roeder, founder of Roeder Studios, and the popular website LKR Social Media. She has made a career of selling social media training courses to small businesses looking to grow and develop their online presence, and with nearly 38,000 subscribers, I’d say she has locked onto her own formula for success.
Laura got her start as a web designer, where she developed an interest and growing expertise in the tools of social media. In 2009, she made the decision to translate her informal sharing and consulting with her design clients into the focus of a full-time business creating online courses to teach others what she had learned from her own experience. Her first offering was a course on leveraging Twitter to help your business, one that she still sells.
The key to Roeder’s popular approach is to keep things easy going and personable. “It’s social media – you don’t have to take it so seriously, you can’t screw it up too bad.” She advocates taking it one step at a time, learning at an easy pace, and incorporating the tools into daily practice in a way that feels comfortable and realistic. She also keeps it lighthearted and fun, something that makes learning any new skill easier!
Clearly this approach has been a hit. In the three years since she’s started her company, she has become widely regarded as an industry expert. She and her program, LKR Social Media Marketer have been featured in publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Bloomberg News and the LA Times, she has presented at such well regarded industry events as South by Southwest Interactive, BlogHer, and The Social Communications Summit, and in 2011 she was honored at the White House as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under 30 years old.
Laura’s company has been entirely bootstrapped, providing her not only with her greatest challenges, but opportunities to use limitations to her advantage. Having started as a service business, they benefitted from the standard practice of being paid (at least half) up front, an approach very suited to early reinvestment in their growth. Also, their online courses are low cost to produce, relying on existing training platform technologies with little overhead. She has grown her national staff (now totalling 6) slowly, most of her people having started as either interns, part timers or independent consultants. Working from their respective homes around the country without a brick and mortar office, they’ve been able to further reduce costs and maintain flexibility for everyone.
Her business model is well suited to the profile of her clients, many of whom are also developing internet or service based businesses. Interestingly, many of them are women. Roeder suggests this may be due to the fact that women are comfortable learning from other women, especially in an environment where no one is made to feel that their questions, however basic, are stupid. However, she continues to target a broad market, and enjoys a wide diversity of industry verticals represented in her client base.
Most rewarding has been the way her courses are able to make such a large impact on the small businesses who seek her advice. “Just a few clients makes a huge difference for a solopreneur.” She also loves “the freedom, flexibility and creativity of running a small business” and loves that she can spread that to other people. “Social media is do it yourself marketing and you don’t need a big budget.”
With Social Media Marketer, Laura and her team have created a complete library of social media training courses, covering topics ranging from how to use the various platforms (Twitter, FB, Pinterest, etc.) to how to track them and measure ROI. In addition, they’ve created a feature that allows participants to get feedback from LKR team members, industry experts and other community members. This and the fact that their online courses are regularly updated have distinguished Roeder’s company in the marketplace and contributed to their ongoing success.
Laura’s advice to new entrepreneurs (aside from the wealth of info offered on her website) is, “Just get started. I see so many people spending years and years and years planning…” But as many other entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed have indicated, you really don’t know how things are going to work until you try them out. Fortunately, with this type of online business, you can start really small, see what it’s like, and then build from there. Sounds like a plan to me!
Listen to the full interview here:
Deborah Oster Pannell is a writer who specializes in the arts, culture, special events and creative projects of all kinds. As Director of Communications for the tech start-up eventwist, she also manages their blog. Some of her favorite work is featured on modernlifeblogs.com, lizkingevents.com, and her own blog, shesaysyes.wordpress.com. Currently she is launching Project Mavens, a literary, editorial design collective, with partner & writer Lillian Ann Slugocki. On Twitter @projectmaven.Subscribe to the Podcast