As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Trafford, Digital Content and Business Strategist.
Erin Trafford is an award-winning journalist, blogger, consultant and strategist. She is the owner of DIY Passion Media, which encompasses two digital properties: DIYPassion.com, a six-figure lifestyle blog and ErinTrafford.com, a coaching and consulting company (formerly known as The Blog Girl Chronicles). Over the last seven years, Erin has built her lifestyle blog into a multi-channel business, bringing in hundreds of thousands of pageviews per month and generating thousands in passive revenue income. She’s worked with dozens of brands across North America; including Giant Tiger, Home Hardware, Staples Canada, and The Brick to create and develop content and influencer marketing campaigns. Erin now fuels her joy and passion working with women digital entrepreneurs to unleash their stories and the power in their content. She does this via her exclusive 1:1 coaching, group programs and accelerators and her membership club, The Strategy Collective.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Absolutely! A lot of people call me a digital unicorn. I live and breathe both old-world storytelling and new-age digital strategy and I have years of experience in mainstream media (and digital media) doing all of the things.
My journey began as a broadcaster for AM 640 in Toronto. At the time, I was just an intern and I was tasked with covering the Eminem censorship story. It was a pretty big deal for me at the time. That one assignment led me to the kind of broadcast career most can only ever dream about. I got to travel across the country, cover more than a dozen elections, interview three Canadian Prime Ministers, and countless celebrities. I won awards and made a broadcast name for myself.
Until I found myself in Halifax, Nova Scotia as an anchor at Global Halifax. I loved my job, but after spending half of my life in the newsroom, I knew that I needed a change. So I traded my mic pack for a laptop and that is when my journey into digital content entrepreneurship truly began.
While I was one of Atlantic Canada’s most recognized and trusted storytellers, what a lot of people didn’t know about me, was that I was a closet blogger. And I loved it. My content creator story began in 2014 as a hobby at my kitchen table when I launched DIY Passion, a blog dedicated to my love of DIY projects. It quickly became a wildly successful lifestyle blog and soon I was working with brands like Giant Tiger, Home Hardware, Craftsman Tools, Staples and more. I guess you could say I was an influencer before the industry even coined the term.
It wasn’t long before my blog was generating enough income for me to leave the 9 to 5 behind entirely and by 2018, DIY Passion was bringing in more than 140K page views a month. The momentum was so crazy, I had to hire two and a half staff members just to keep it going. And keep in mind — this all started as a hobby project at my kitchen table.
Soon, A LOT of people were coming to me and asking: “Erin, how do you make money blogging?” While I had a flawless system in place, monetizing through strategic display ads, email marketing, affiliate sales, and sponsorships; it occurred to me that I had really figured out how to take blog traffic and turn it into money. And a lot of people wanted to know my secret. So much so, that many were willing to pay for it.
Which is why in 2019, I launched ErinTrafford.com as an official arm of my business and I became Erin Trafford, Digital Content and Business Strategist. Now I work with content creators, entrepreneurs and select brands to create content that connects their brilliance to their digital business goals. I’ve launched numerous courses for bloggers, influencers and now digital business entrepreneurs to teach them actual strategy to turn their content into profit. And I love what I do.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I would say that my “Aha Moment” was when I recognized that business owners were creating content without a bedrock of purpose. They were creating so much content but they weren’t stopping and trying to understand why they were creating the content.
As business owners and creators, there is so much pressure online to create, create, create. And it was becoming very obvious to me that there was content burnout happening in all of the areas that I work in. I was seeing it with bloggers, digital business owners and digital service providers. Consistently hearing them say, “I’m creating content the way everyone is telling me to create it and it’s not working. It doesn’t feel good.”
The moment I recognized that this content burnout existed, I discovered that at the core of every business owner’s content engine, there was no strategy. Yes, they were creating but with no real direction or end goal. Bloggers were doing it too. They were sending so many pitches to brands and not landing sponsored opportunities. Why? Because there was no strategy.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I think the funniest mistake that I look back on and think “What was I thinking?” was related to undercharging. The first time I did any sort of consultation, I charged $200 for the entire day. I quickly realized how much work went into it and how crazy I was to not value my time more. After that moment, I hired a coach and on our first call, she said to me: “You need to have a $5,000 package.” Followed by “You shouldn’t get out of bed for less than $5,000.”
It took me a moment to really dive deep into tying that price point into what I do, but I was quickly able to recognize that the right content strategy and the right guidance — they were worth that and more. There is huge value there. And I had this unique opportunity to help fast track my clients to clarity in their content and discover how their content links to their sales. That is worth so much more than $200.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My vision and my purpose has been and always will be to connect people’s brilliance to the world. I believe to my core that story matters and story should be celebrated. Empowering business owners, specifically women, to take hold of their own stories. That’s where the majority of my success has been. It comes from working with women.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
I demonstrate my company’s values to my employees and my customers every day by showing up as I am. I intentionally show up as the best version of myself every single day, either through coaching calls, on Instagram, on the blog, or in my newsletter.
I’m not afraid of my own vulnerability as a digital service provider. And I try to mirror that for my clients. A lot of the testimonials I have gathered are from women who said they were drawn to my energy and expertise, but more so drawn to my extreme authenticity.
I am not afraid to show up to Zoom calls with no makeup and dirty hair. It’s about what we’re doing. It’s not seen as unprofessional. I firmly believe you should come as you are, your story is all parts of you. It’s just about making sure that you are aligned with those parts of you.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Tell the truth and never be boring. That comes from the newsroom. It’s something that we used to say on days when we knew the news was going to be a challenge to tell. Those days that we knew we had to pump ourselves up and it would be hard to maintain focus or to know what to do next, because the news was changing so quickly.
Often digital business owners get stuck on knowing what to do next. If myself or my clients find ourselves in that place, I always say: tell the truth and never be boring. The truth comes back to your story. This can also work incredibly well in the content sense. Stuck on what to do or what to write? Tell the truth and don’t be boring.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
How about finding myself pregnant in a pandemic? I was ready for 2020 to be a really big year but initially, a baby was not part of that plan. We found out we were expecting and that the baby was doing well in December 2019. I was just cresting on my second trimester when the pandemic hit. Very quickly, I was working from home pregnant, with a three year old and very soon after, two of my biggest brand clients had hard pivots.
I would say it was around that point that I definitely considered giving up. I thought my business was going to die because I thought people weren’t going to understand why my offering was so important in the middle of a pandemic. That people wouldn’t see the opportunity to transition into owning a digital business. I was really worried it would be too hard to make that case.
But what ended up happening, was quite the opposite. I found my stride, and launched my Breakthrough Visibility program. Suddenly, I was flush with 1:1 clients. Shortly thereafter, I launched a wildly successful membership program. In the end, the pandemic didn’t hurt me. And I gave birth to a healthy, baby girl through it all.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Things are going great! I’m now pushing towards offering VIP experiences, something that I wasn’t doing before and my inbox is filling up. I love it. I’m being approached by people at all levels — political, corporate, solopreneurs — all because of how I have positioned myself.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Tell the truth and never be boring. When you’re stuck or find yourself in a creative slump, just tell the truth and never be boring.
- Know your worth. When I think back to how I was charging $200 for a whole day of consulting, I just laugh. I can’t believe I thought that was my worth. If you’re going to create a very successful service-based business, you need to know your worth.
- In the beginning, don’t get so hung up on the how. Just start doing. If you do that, the how will follow. A lot of early-stage digital entrepreneurs get stuck on what or who their niche is. But we don’t actually know our niche until we start showing up in an authentic way. The niche is something that will present itself naturally in due time.
- Don’t get stuck on labels. Just because you can’t define what you do, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. I struggled for the longest time with what to call myself. Am I a business strategist? A content strategist? Again, start doing the work, creating value, serving your customers. You will eventually figure out what to call yourself.
- You need support. I hired a coach before I hired a team. I am always on the lookout for more support (VAs, publicists, coaches) and I make sure to set aside a large portion of my operating budget for education and coaching. I am always supporting and improving myself.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have a very patient husband. As I have been growing my business, he’s expanded his capacity to hold space for me. And I think that is a good indication of a partnership. He’ll ask me if I need a chart paper day and come to my office and act as a facilitator. He recognizes that when you’re operating at the level I’m operating at, finding mindset support is a challenge. I lead so many people through the muck, but I need someone to put my muck on too. In many ways, my husband is the business coach money could never buy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
At this moment, I would love to create some sort of space. Whether that be a retreat center or a digital space. But a space specifically for female entrepreneurs to sit in silence. To allow the silence to fill us up, so we can actually hear what is underneath all of the clutter. If I could create a movement that promotes creating silent spaces for women to uncover their divine energy and purpose? That would be a dream. Because you can’t know your truth until you’re silent and you are steeped in it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?