Kelly Cairns was on maternity leave from the National Health Service, and she found herself getting restless. She started looking for work-from-home jobs in the pre-social media era, and started landing gigs through online forums. Along the way, she learned how to make the most of technology and build online businesses.
Now, at The Tech Angel, and through her membership, the WordPress Academy, she helps tech-scared female entrepreneurs find the confidence they need to put their businesses online. She helps them narrow down their options, simplify their workflows, and conquer their fear of technology.
Today, Kelly joins the podcast to tell the story of how her boredom as a young mother became the fuel she needed to transform her life, how she turned her learnings as an aspiring entrepreneur into the tools so many women like her needed, and the beauty of letting go of your fear and going all-in on what you really love.
- How Kelly created a membership to help carry her through a period in her life when she wasn’t going to be able to work.
- How Kelly determined exactly what her audience needed as she geared up to launch her membership.
- How Kelly’s membership provides people with face-to-face meetings, mentorship, coworking, and coaching sessions.
- What happens when you stop being afraid of things that aren’t true.
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- “People like us do things like this.” – Seth Godin
TranscriptRead The Transcript
Shelli Varela: Kelly Cairns, welcome to the It’s a TRIBE Thing podcast. Buddy, how are you feeling?
Kelly Cairns: Yeah, I’m feeling good. We’re ready to go.
Shelli Varela: Anybody who helps make tech easier is an angel in my book. So, I’m super stoked to share with everybody what you do, and the honest, profound ripple effect of what that means in so many people’s lives. So, I’ll let you take it away, if you don’t mind, and start with who you are, what you do, and who you serve.
Kelly Cairns: Yeah. So, it’s funny you say the angel because that’s exactly how the business name came about. Somebody was like, oh, yeah, you are my true angel, and I was like, that’s a product’s name. And yeah, so my business is called The Tech Angel, and I work with female entrepreneurs, tech-scared female entrepreneurs, who just need the confidence to go. You know what? I actually can do this, I actually can put my business out there online, and I just simplify the tech that they need because there’s so many options out there. And I just say to them, “You know what? This is what you need, this is how you do it. Away you go.”
Shelli Varela: Well, I know we were talking about how sometimes, when you post an answer in a group like, say, a Facebook group and you’re like, hey, I need help with insert tech problem here. And what I have found is oftentimes, you will get so many different answers, you’re more confused than you were before you ask the question. You’re so far behind, you think you’re first. And it’s not helpful, but I think for those people that have the gift and the knowledge and something they want to share with the world, they can’t do it without someone like you.
So, if you were to take us back to the very beginning of your story, I know more people that are afraid of tech and reluctant to use tech or overwhelmed by it, at least than not. How did you come to this originally?
Kelly Cairns: So, I was working in the National Health Service. I did have a little bit of a tech background, but it’s totally different back then to what it is now. And so, I was on maternity leave. I had two little boys under the age of two. It was crazy looking back, you’ve been just like…
Shelli Varela: So, that was a good idea?
Kelly Cairns: Yes, I thought it was a good idea, but on top of that, my family were 300 miles away. So, not only did I have two children under two, I was doing it by myself.
Shelli Varela: Right.
Kelly Cairns: You’re crazy. And yeah, so it kind of happened because I was on maternity leave for a whole year and just introduced it, and it was like a whole year without using my brain. And every time I was meeting my friends, all I could talk about was how much sleep I didn’t get, how many nappies, the contents of the nappies, and I was like, oh, my God, who have I become? Who have I become? I’ve gone from like this amazing job that I had, I was like a team leader for the dentist in our area to reduce myself down to talking about the contents of my baby’s nappy. I was like, I know I have to do something with this.
And so, one day, I just Googled working from home admin jobs, working from home, and I started out as a virtual assistant. So, the term virtual assistant wasn’t a thing in the UK. I think it was very much new in the US, and it was pre-Facebook, pre-, I think, Twitter literally just started. So, it was pre-social media, what we know now. And so, I just kind of just networked in online forums and just started getting jobs. And that’s kind of how The Tech Angel was born.
Shelli Varela: So, when you look back at following your gut, just really not having all the answers, and we chatted about this earlier and what I said to you is I find a common theme in people that are successful in having recurring revenue membership sites is they don’t always have the answer, but they tune into, I don’t know, but this feels like a yes for me. So, I’m just going to jump in my parachute and free fall. And it’s like…
Kelly Cairns: Yeah.
Shelli Varela: Yeah, you can’t steer a parked car, right? You have to get it moving somewhat and then navigate your way through it.
Kelly Cairns: Exactly. You’ve just got to do it because the thing is, I’ve never bought a business before. I always worked in corporate, I’ve always worked in local businesses. I didn’t have it. I probably still don’t really in some sense, I just do what I love and I just do it and I just wing it most days.
Shelli Varela: That means slogan right there, I just do what I do and I do it.
Kelly Cairns: Just do what I do. And so, yeah, I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t know how to build a website. I didn’t know all of the tech. In fact, I didn’t know any of the tech. I had no budget. I just needed to use my brain so that I wasn’t this mushy mother with two children under two. So, I had to learn it all. So, I understand how difficult that is. And I didn’t have the benefit of going into, I say a benefit, but it’s probably more of a hindrance than anything else. I didn’t have the benefit of going into a Facebook group and asking a question, how do I do this? So, I had to figure it all out by myself and spent a lot of money, wasted a lot of money. I just navigated it because I just had to, I just had to.
Shelli Varela: Your business is called The Tech Angel, but your membership is called the WordPress Academy. How did you segue from being a virtual assistant who is doing basically all the nuts and bolts behind the scenes on the website forum to now being in a position where you’re teaching people how to build a website or how to not be scared or how to borrow your confidence until they have their own?
Kelly Cairns: Yes. So, it was– I know we talked about this, and I can’t really think of an alright, kind of like, oh, my God, I’m going to have to do this now. It’s just been a natural progression and a natural transition, if you like. And I did have a membership before my now membership called WordPress Academy. And before that one, I was always a virtual assistant. I always did, as you say, the nuts and bolts behind the business, but I found myself just working all of the time and not making as much money as I wanted to. There was no scalability, because there’s only so many hours in the day.
Shelli Varela: Right.
Kelly Cairns: And there’s only so many hours you can build. And I was like, no, I need to do something else other than this because I want to grow. I’ve always been ambitious. I’ve always wanted more. So, I did, but coinciding with that, there was a time, like, I think it was three years ago, and I was fully booked with clients. And I found myself in a position where I needed to have surgery on my spine, which was very, very scary. And I was like, I have worked 10 years on my business, building up this like a really amazing reputation. And I’m going to be out of action for 12 weeks at a minimum, and I need to keep bringing money in.
So, at that point, I was like, well, what can I do? And I thought I could build a membership site because this is the teaching side of me that was coming out because I was already doing tutorials for clients. So, if they were asking me how do I do this? It was easier for me to just do a quick video than to email them instructions. So, I already had a massive catalog of stuff.
Shelli Varela: Got it.
Kelly Cairns: So, I thought, I’ll just shove all of that into a membership site. And it worked, but obviously, last year, doing TRIBE, I realized that stuff is not what people want. So, even though that was successful, the retention rate was really, really high. So, I would lose or low, even I would lose people as fast as they were coming in. And it was because…
Shelli Varela: What is it that you learn from TRIBE? So, you said, people didn’t want more stuff. What did you find people did want?
Kelly Cairns: They wanted support, they wanted a community, they wanted the answers, they wanted the transformation, and they wanted just to know how to do it. They just needed to know how to do it. They didn’t want to go onto Facebook and get bombarded with loads of answers and conflicting advice. They didn’t want to spend hours on Google. And I know you hate that all the time when people do sales pages and stuff, don’t spend hours on Google, just come to me, but the reality is that’s what people are doing, and they don’t want to do that. And I learned that they just want to be shown how in a simple way and get the transformation and get the confidence in doing whatever it is that you’re showing them.
Shelli Varela: Yeah, I love listening to you talk about what you do and more specifically, the people that you work with, because I believe what you actually do is you translate dreams into reality. And that might sound profound, but I actually believe it’s fairly accurate because there are all these women sitting on gifts and knowledge and passion. And the truth of the matter is underneath that, as a human being, that has to do the big, brave, scary thing. And you could fail and you could fall and you could be embarrassed, but these people have something that they want to share, a gift they want to share.
And tech for so many people, myself, absolutely included, is an encumbrance. And when you enable people and embolden them and make something clear and simple so that it’s like just do this, this, and this, just do the things in this order, in this way, and you’ll get this result. What you actually do is enable them to create that business, to turn it into a reality, but the other side of that, if there isn’t someone like you, is it doesn’t just cost these people their dreams and their business and whatever that looks like, it costs the person that is doing the brave, bold thing that stepped out, that was scared, and that didn’t know, if it doesn’t work out because there isn’t a someone like you, it costs them confidence, it costs them embarrassment, feelings of failure, like what you do is actually quite profound. Would you be willing to share with us your favorite piece of feedback that you’ve received from one of the ladies in your class?
Kelly Cairns: Yeah, and you know what? You’re absolutely right. And I think we forget that when we build a business, when we build a membership site, we forget about the impact that we do have on our members. And like I always say to my members, it’s not about building your website, it’s about what that website is going to do for you and being part of the membership, what does that do for you? And like that really hit home last year because COVID came about and obviously, I built, I did my founding member launch during COVID last year, this time, last year, during Stu’s free workshop. So, it’s exactly the same time as last year.
And I had one of my founding members, I found she’s a mature lady, and she found herself single for the first time in her life. She found herself, not only single for the first time in her life, but single…
Shelli Varela: And alone.
Kelly Cairns: And alone, truly alone, because we weren’t allowed, we were locked up because of COVID. So, she was truly, truly alone in the truest sense. So, she had to deal with not having her partner with her and had to deal with being alone, and then also, the horrible things that were going on around us, so like all of the death that was going on around us. And she said to me that she was so grateful that I had the academy and she joined the academy because she wasn’t alone anymore, and she had the community. And it wasn’t a big community at the time, I think we had about 23 founding members, and everybody was just so amazing. And we all just supported each other throughout that period.
And she said, I’m not alone anymore, and I know I’ve got people to talk to because at the time, I was also, I still am running regular face-to-face group Zoom meetings. In fact, I’ve got one tomorrow, because I feel that you do have to think that it’s not just about what you teach in, it’s about the people that you teach and they’re real people. So, you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. And it’s really important, and I also think it’s really important for, like you own membership, that you communicate with people on a much personal level, that they’re not just names on a screen, and that’s what makes it powerful. And we do that. And we did, we came together a lot.
And we now have coworking sessions, which is nice. And so, we get together once a month. We just put on our Zoom, we all do our own stuff, and we just get together in a way that you can’t at the minute because of COVID. We’ll have group sessions or have groups or coaching sessions, but sometimes, we don’t even do coaching, we just get on and chat to each other because that’s what people want and that’s what people need. And she came in, and she didn’t know what the difference between a website was and a blog. She didn’t know what a blog was. She didn’t have a clue about the technology. Now, we were like nearly a year on, so the 8th of May, it’s like a year anniversary for the membership. It was amazing.
She’s now going to launch two websites all by herself, which is insane. And they look amazing, like it’s not the fact that you’re just putting together a website, you’re putting together a website that looks amazing. I’m convinced because I think anyone really can put a website together, but it’s putting together something that works.
Shelli Varela: Well, it’s funny you say, like if you look at people that have achieved any level of success versus those that got stuck or stalled or whatever that looked like, and I’ll use myself as an example. So, in my other life, I’m a firefighter. And when I declared to the world that I was going to be a firefighter at the time, I was a 108-pound manicurist with no skills, no knowledge, no experience, I wasn’t big enough, I was like the world’s most unlikely firefighter. And it was 30 years ago, so there were also no women in firefighting.
And I’m going to tie this back to what you said, because what I experienced is what I’ve witnessed countless times since then. When I would say my big scary dream to my 20-year-old friends, they would say, oh, whatever, Shelli, like we’re going to go to the pub tonight or we’re going to do this, so, just come. And I’m like, well, I can’t, because I have to do my thing. And I have to work in overtime shifts so that I can learn to cut apart a car, whatever that is. So, every time I would say my dream to those people, it just seemed hard because the response was just like that’s ridiculous. Like, that is just such a huge boulder to push up a hill. It’s probably never going to happen, but then subsequently, I started taking night school courses in firefighting and I was surrounded by people who were going in the same direction as I was, who believed the same thing I did.
And in that environment, working in overtime shifts so that you could take all these extra courses, that was commonplace. And so, that’s what I love about memberships, and it sounds like that’s what you’re saying as well. And Seth Godin says it best. He says people like us do things like this. And when you’re surrounded by people who are the people like us doing things like this, then those achievements become commonplace. They might not be commonplace out there in the regular world, but in your group of people, in your little club, in your TRIBE, those achievements are commonplace.
Kelly Cairns: Yes, absolutely. And it’s funny you say that because I’m always, not so much now, but I remember when I first started out, a family member said to me, like he was a tradesman. And I said to him, well, my plans were about– this was a little bit down the journey when I realized, well, actually, what I’ve, well, according to Google about working from home doing admin, I can actually turn this into a business. So, it was a Christmas party at home. And I said, like, I’m leaving my job. And he’s like, what, you’re leaving your job? Yeah, I’m leaving my job because I can’t do both. And this is my passion. I just haven’t got any interest in what I’m doing anymore. And he turned around and said, who’s going to pay for you? Who’s going to pay for what you’re doing? And I was just like that really, really knocked my confidence. And for a while, I thought, you know what? He’s right. Who is going to pay for me? But I just did it anyway, I just did it.
And it’s funny because the same thing happened with my WordPress Academy membership. I sucked at my idea for three years because of that fear. And it was like there’s so much information out there, there’s so many free groups out there. WordPress is free anyway. So, why would somebody pay me? And it was only until I did the workshops last year that the penny dropped and it was when I spoke to that lady who said that she posted in the Facebook group and she just needed the answers, that’s why people pay you because they want the community as this lady in my Facebook group. She just needed people around her that she could just bounce off and have company and they just need the answers and they need the results. So, that’s why people pay. So, now, I’m like, that’s why people paid me. Now, you look at me. You can’t say that now. It’s like, yeah…
Shelli Varela: Right. So, we’ll just tie that back for anybody else who’s listening right now. What I’m hearing you say is you are afraid of a thing that turned out not to be true. And the way that you show up and the way that you teach and the way that you support in the community that you have is the reason people show up.
Kelly Cairns: Exactly.
Shelli Varela: If people are looking to reach out to you online and be part of your community, where is the best place they can find you?
Kelly Cairns: They can– I’ve got a Facebook group, and if you just go into Facebook and just type in The Tech Angel, you’ll find me. My website is called KellyCairns.co.uk, and you’ll find all of the information on there, but yeah, just give me a quick search on Facebook, and I’ll pop up.
Shelli Varela: Amazing. We appreciate your time. And thank you so much for, first of all, what you do for translating dreams into reality and for stopping by and sharing your amazing story with us.
Kelly Cairns: Thank you. You’re very welcome.
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