- How Sarah broke the cycle of boredom and found a business that ignites her passion all the time.
- What Sarah learned on a business retreat that gave her the power to scale her business – and why she immediately gravitated to the membership model.
- Why you don’t need a course to launch a membership site.
- Find out what Sarah does on her two-day intensive workshops.
- How Sarah continues to provide ongoing, personalized support within her business, without cannibalizing her revenue.
FREE Guide – Launch & Grow a Profitable Membership SiteReady to reclaim your time and attract more monthly paying customers? Our step-by-step guide will show you how to build a membership site that turns your passion into recurring profit. Click here to download!
- “I just knew that I couldn’t do what I was doing anymore. I had reached a breaking point. It had now been four years since that first ‘What do I do? How do I get out of this trading time for dollars?’ I was just stuck for years.” – Sarah Masci
- “I think for me, the biggest thing was knowing that it didn’t need to be all done at once. I just knew that all I had to do was take those first steps.” – Sarah Masci
TranscriptRead The Transcript
[INTERVIEW] Shelli Varela: Sarah Masci, welcome to the It’s a TRIBE Thing Podcast. How are you? Sarah Masci: Good. How are you, Shelli? Shelli Varela: I’m awesome. I am excited to talk to you today for a couple of reasons. You have a really awesome journey but I personally find it inspiring because you are a person who is essentially, in my opinion, a professional problem solver such that you target what your audience needs and gives it to them in a way that ends up being a gift for them. So, thank you so much for being here. Sarah Masci: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to talk about my journey and how I got started with all of this. Shelli Varela: Awesome. Can you start with who you were before you were an online businessperson and what your personal story looks like that led you to who you are now? Sarah Masci: Yeah. Sure. So, I have been in this online journey for about 14 years now and I know that because I started when my first son was born, and he’s going to be 15 in a couple of months. So, I was working in corporate. I was in energy management not doing anything related at all to what I do now. I was crunching numbers and analyzing utility bills for a living. And then my son was born and once I realized that I was only spending about an hour-and-a-half a day with him after work because my husband would get him up and take him to daycare in the morning, I would pick them up at daycare, and then he would go to bed an hour-and-a-half later. And I realized that life was way too short for me to be doing anything that did not light me up and that did not give me an opportunity to spend more time with him and just my family in general. So, that first year with him, I made it my mission to figure out a way that I could work from home and still support the family financially but be able to be home with him. So, kind of I’ve been through a lot of different businesses over the years. I’m not going to go into detail on all of them but it has ranged from I owned an online store, I was a blogger, I was a partner in a media and PR company. I owned an Etsy business. I had a very successful Etsy shop for several years. And then through all of those businesses, I was getting asked for help with design, like people were asking me to design a logo or, “Can you help me?” or I would go to a trade show and I would set up my online store products and people would love the way everything looked and it was also cohesive and everything just matched and it worked really well. So, people were asking me for that kind of help. So, eventually, I think it was about 2009, 2010 I decided that I kind of took a look back at everything I had been doing all of these years with all of these little online businesses and I realized that the reason I kept jumping from business to business was because what lit me up more than anything was creating a brand and bringing it to life and sharing it with the world, through the internet, through social media. I loved more than anything just the process of choosing colors and creating a logo and choosing fonts and kind of putting it all together and actually creating something out of it. But then all too often, I would get bored like a year or two later with a brand and I would decide that I wanted to create something new. So, finally, that’s when I realized, okay, I need to be doing this for other people so that I can be working on helping other people bring all different businesses and brands to life. That kind of took me through up until about 2014. I was just doing that, just designing logos. I eventually got into website design. I did fabric design, pattern design, marketing collateral, signage, all of those things, you name it, graphic design, website design. All that kind of stuff. So, that was until about 2014 and then I kind of hit a breaking point. I had four children by that point so I had four babies over the course of all of those businesses and I realized I was just working all the time. I was constantly trading dollars for hours. I had four kids at home. You do the math. They were all kind of babies, newborns, toddlers. They were little for all of that time and I realized that the whole reason I started this was to spend time with them. And yet, here I was working all the time. So, that’s when I realized I needed to do something about it. So, do you want me to keep going on my story? Shelli Varela: Yeah. I’m curious to know like how did that transition to you being a course content creator and a membership site owner now? And how has that changed that situation that you just talked about with your four kids? When you have this overarching reason that you start something and then you are knee-deep in it, you’re looking around going this isn’t what I started, because the situation has changed for you. So, I’m wondering if you can share how that transition happened. Sarah Masci: Yeah. So, I reached that breaking point. It was 2014 and that’s kind of right around the time that I started getting into the world of business like Facebook groups like up until that point, I was an online business owner, but I wasn’t that involved in social media and networking with other online business owners. I really didn’t know anything about like business coaches or online courses. I mean, I had taken like an online course and web design so that I could learn how to do what I did for my clients but I didn’t know anything else about like growing an online business. Until I discovered like a few Facebook groups with other mom business owners talking about business coaches and all of these things and email marketing lists and lead magnets and things that I had never even heard of before. And so, I was… Shelli Varela: You’re like, “What did I get myself into?” Sarah Masci: I was like, “An email list? What do you mean? How big is my list? I don’t have a list like all of my clients were just referrals like that was how I survived for all of those years.” So, anyway, I started getting more involved in networking with other business owners, and I realized that I needed a business coach to kind of give me some guidance on what to do next to help me like figure out, do I raise my prices? Do I create a course? What do I do? So, I invested in several very good coaches, I went on a business retreat, and it was actually on that retreat that was in 2016 that I discovered I was doing all of these things but the one thing that truly let me up was branding and that was the one thing that I really wanted to be known for and I wanted to have a greater impact. I did know that and all of the other people at the retreat were telling me, “You need to teach this. You need to teach your brand new skills so that you don’t have to be doing it for everyone. Teach them how to do it and then your problem is solved.” And so, I thought so but then came home to realize I still had a full roster of clients. I was still working on client work around the clock. And so, how do you create a course when you have clients that need you that are paying you round the clock? Shelli Varela: And not to mention the four kids. Sarah Masci: And not to mention the four kids in the house and the husband and all of the other things. And so, I still spun my wheels for two more years just like trying to figure out, okay, how do I create this course? I did start running right after that retreat. I actually did come home and run a five-day challenge in my private Facebook group, private group not paid where I just gathered a bunch of business owners and said, “You guys want to learn how to create a brand mood board? This is how I started all of my branding projects and I would love to show you guys how to do it.” I had no outcome for that challenge. I had no course to launch or nothing. There was nothing at the end of it. It was just to show people how to do it. And I actually ran several of those challenges and taught probably 1,000 people how to create a mood board and didn’t sell them anything at the end of it. I just ran these challenges because they were fun. But what it validated for me was that I was capable of teaching and people were capable of learning what I had to teach. So, then that brought me to all the way to 2018 when TRIBE came into my life, and I don’t even know how I heard about it. I think I got an email from James Wedmore about TRIBE or Stu and so I jumped on his live video series and was immediately hooked like I knew in my heart that creating membership site would be the way to move forward because it didn’t feel as heavy as creating a course. I was like, “Okay, I can do a membership site,” because people were talking about the beta membership site and the founding members and I thought to myself, “Well, if I don’t have to have anything created, and I can just get people into this membership then I can create as we go,” and that felt a lot easier to me than creating an eight-week course. Shelli Varela: What was the monologue going on in your head when you very first had that aha moment? Sarah Masci: The monologue was recurring revenue. Like I just knew that I couldn’t do what I was doing anymore. I had reached a breaking point. It had now been four years since that first like, “What do I do? How do I get out of this trading time for dollars?” I was just stuck for years. Shelli Varela: How are you feeling then like as a human being? Like, you’ve got four kids. You had this dream. You’ve launched it. You’ve done all the work, all the things. You’re exhausted. You have clients. What was the cost that you paid for that? Sarah Masci: I mean, I was just feeling exhausted and drained and just very overwhelmed, extremely overwhelmed, tired, stressed, and I knew that I needed to find a better way. And I couldn’t go on living that way. I couldn’t continue to support my family and be the mom, be the person that I wanted to be if I was going to be working one-on-one with clients for the rest of my life. And don’t get me wrong, like I loved design like I still love design work. I love working with my clients but not at the expense of having zero free time. And, yeah, not being able to… Shelli Varela: What’s funny because originally at the top of the chat, you said you were in energy management, originally. And when you first got that tweak that you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so overwhelmed. I have the kids and the husband and the business and I’m exhausted,” and then you hear about membership sites, it must have almost in some weird way been that sort of that switch in gears when you’re like, “Oh, right, energy management, recurring revenue, ease, something new, something different, manageable, you know, quality of life,” and dissipating some of those feelings you were talking about. Because you’re like, I know, some people will say at the beginning, “Oh, this sounds too good to be true,” until they explore a little bit deeper and they’re like, “Man, so I can just stay in my zone, in my skills or my talent or my experience, the thing that I love to teach and share and get paid month over month. Yes, you can.” Sarah Masci: Right, right. Yeah, I think for me, the biggest thing was knowing that it didn’t need to be all done at once, like, I just knew that all I had to do was take those first steps and I had already ran that Mood Board Challenge so many times so I knew it was validated. I knew that all I would need to do is run another one of these challenges, and then just sell the membership as my idea on the back end, like cast my vision, share what I believed the membership was going to be and was going to consist of. And so that’s what I did and that was only three months, two-and-a-half months after joining TRIBE. Shelli Varela: That’s incredible. Like, good for you for taking action, but also just for everyone listening, if you ever hear the term back end membership site, it essentially just means that you go through the course first. So, it’s kind of like everybody gets to speak the same language and then I see a back end membership site almost as like the maintenance toolbox to accompany the course. Sarah Masci: Right. Yeah. Well, actually, but when I launched it, it wasn’t a back end. It was just a membership. There was no course. So, that’s where the story gets interesting is I actually launched the membership. So, I had about 25, 21 people in my first launch and then went on and launched it again and created the content with those founding members. But what happened was, as I was going through it, I realized that I was creating my course through the membership. So, that course that I had wanted to create for two years but never had the time to create, it kind of came through me through the membership. And six months later, I had a course in my hand that I didn’t even realize I had just created. So then at the end of last year, that’s when I pulled that course out of the membership and made the membership be the back end. So, now my students go through the course. They learned the core branding, they learned how to create their core brand identity and then they go into the membership right afterwards. And that’s where they can continue to implement. They have the community. They get the feedback from me. I have guest experts, interviews, all that stuff in there as well. Shelli Varela: I love it. I love too that you are an innovator and you look at what does my community need? And then you find a way to give it to them. Can you tell us about your two-day intensives and what you have coming up with that? Because what I completely applaud you for is you’re somebody who keeps moving forward and oftentimes, like you’ll hear me say like you can’t steer a parked car, but if you just start moving in the right direction, all of a sudden, you can see around that corner, you’re like, “Man, I would have never known that otherwise,” and it oftentimes spawns this amazing idea that you wouldn’t have had or you wouldn’t have the ability to engage with otherwise. Sarah Masci: Yeah. So, my one-day intensives are like the other half of my business. I ended up dropping all of that client work that I was doing because of the membership, because I had recurring revenue and course revenue now coming in through the membership that I had just created. I was able to just kind of step back and look at my client situation, my one-on-one client situation and I realized that my time was better spent focused on building my membership and my courses and not just building somebody else’s dream five days a week. So, I was like, “Okay, how can I do this?” And there’s a whole other story that goes along with how I came about this one-day intensive model. But basically, what it comes down to is now that I have my membership and my courses and the revenue coming in from that, I only work two days a week on client work now and I do that through a one-day intensive model. So, I have a client on Monday and a client on Wednesday, typically, not every week. Usually, about six of them a month and I just do these one-day design intensives whether the client needs branding or web design, or whatever it is, I do that one-day project. And then what that triggered was other designers asking me how I do that because they all of a sudden saw that I had more money and more free time now because of this new model and they wanted a piece of that as well. So, that’s when I decided to launch a beta course on how for other designers or done through service providers, how to set up and structure a one-day intensive offer so that you can work less, make more, and have more free time. Shelli Varela: That’s the thing, right? People think that they need to have everything figured out but would you agree that your members or your community people will tell you what they want and just ask you to give it to them? Sarah Masci: Yeah. So, when I created that course this past summer, I mean, this summer, actually, I got a waiting list going, I had people joining my waitlist. I had close to 100 people on the waitlist, who were interested in learning about this one-day intensive model. And all I did was email them and say, “What questions do you have? What do you want to learn? If you could ask me anything, what do you want to ask me?” and I took all of their questions and that is how I created a six-week course for them. And we just finished up the course a couple of weeks ago and it has been amazing. And now my next step is now I want to create another membership for this whole new audience of done-for-you designers and service providers who want to learn how they can scale their one-on-one business using courses and a membership in addition to their one-day intensives or whatever it is, but basically I feel like people are seeing that it’s possible. You don’t have to stay stuck in this one-to-one client situation. There are ways out of it and you just kind of have to inch your way through it. It’s not going to happen overnight but as I look back on the past two years and all of the little things that have happened over the course of the past, not even 18 months, I can now clearly see how each thing was connected to the other and how everything has led me to where I am today. And like you said, like, it is absolutely without a doubt because of taking action like just taking those steps. I could sit here and stay stuck and stay indecisive and analysis paralysis, but that’s not getting me anywhere. And so, yeah. Shelli Varela: And oftentimes people stay needlessly stuck because, in their minds, they think, “Okay. Well, it needs to be perfect. I need to have it all worked out.” And my response to that is what if it were just easy? Because people think it needs to be so hard but what if it were just easy? What if your people are going to tell you what they want, and then just ask you to create it for them? People hear that and say, “Oh,” but it kind of is like they will, you know, love on you and trust you and ask you to help them with the thing they need. Last question, if you were to give somebody advice who was thinking about starting a membership site, what would you tell them? Sarah Masci: My number one thing is to just get started. Like you said, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Start with a beta or a founding members membership or a beta membership, whatever you want to call it. Just get started with it. Validate your offer. So, don’t spend a lot of time worrying about creating every detail. You don’t even need to have your success path created because you’re not going to even know necessarily the entire success path until you have people in the door and you can actually talk to them. And find out what their needs are and address their needs head-on without trying to think about what you think their needs are and just giving way over. Shelli Varela: I love it. Awesome. If people are looking for you online, Sarah, where’s the best place for them to find you? Sarah Masci: They can find me on my main website. It’s BrackenHouseBranding.com and from there they can get to my Mood Board Challenge, which is super fun. I run that a couple of times a year. So, that’s in there. They can also get to my one-day intensives and they can learn more about my course and membership. Shelli Varela: Amazing. Thank you so much for your time, buddy. We appreciate you. Sarah Masci: Thank you, Shelli. [END]To learn more and get access to all episodes, visit our podcast page!