Shannon, tell us a little bit about your life before WP-BFF.
I’m that girl who has always taken the safe path. Get good grades, don’t make waves, go to college, earn a degree in Communications so I can work in any industry, get that first job out of college and slowly climb the corporate ranks while paying off those student loans. Meet a nice guy, get a dog, buy a house, get married (in that order)! Until one day you find yourself sitting in your beige office with no windows at your beige desk, doing the same report that you’ve done every month for the past 8 years and start to have major anxiety that this can’t be all there is to life… That you’re 35 years old and you’re still being told where to be every day, what you can and can’t wear, what you can and can’t say – all so that you can take your fixed salary home every two weeks to pay bills and try to enjoy that short amount of freedom you have until its time to sit in traffic again for a half hour to drive 8 miles to work… So all in all, a pretty vanilla, normal midwestern woman’s life!
What inspired you to take the leap from business employee to entrepreneur?
I have always enjoyed building websites. It’s one of the things I specialized in at Ohio State, and that’s the key skill I brought to the table throughout my career. But what inspired me to think that I could do it as my own business was a diet book. I’m not even kidding. I’ve always struggled with my weight and with fitness, so a couple years ago I was reading yet another “diet” book trying to find that magic bullet that would give me a plan that I could fit into my “active social life”. The book is called 30 Day Push by Chalene Johnson, which walks you through identifying your priorities, dreams and goals in the areas of health, home, work and relationships – but the key piece is identifying the one goal that makes all the others possible, which she calls a PUSH goal – when you accomplish this PUSH goal it makes all the other goals possible.
So as I’m brainstorming and thinking about my perfect day and how I really want to live my life and how I would incorporate healthy eating and exercise, a key theme that kept popping up is being in control of my time. Not on a the clock. Being free to work from anywhere, and earn an income doing what I love. So I started to actually tell people when they asked what I did for a living that I was a web designer – and while I quickly discovered that doing freelance web design was just like having more bosses, I was able to come up with a way to empower people to build their own websites while serving as a teacher and a resource for them – and that’s how the Free 5 Day Website Challenge and WP*BFF came to be.
Would you consider yourself a techie or was your background in something else?
I’m a total tech nerd, but I’m right-brained too. I can code, but I don’t speak in code. But I really think whether someone is techy or not boils down to persistence. How much effort are you willing to put into figuring something out? How many times will you try again if something’s not working right? How deep into Google will you search to find an answer? I don’t think people are techie or not techie. I think they are either confident they can learn new things or they’re not. And that’s something that I try to help people with in the Free 5 Day Website Challenge.
What advice would you give a woman who is unhappy in her job and itching to do something on her own but doesn’t have any idea where to start?
I would tell her to write down everything she absolutely loves to do. Then I would have her look at that list, and identify the one thing that comes really easy to her but she knows is difficult for other people. Maybe she’s awesome dealing with difficult kids. Maybe she’s an amazing cook. Maybe she knits amazing things for her friends and family. Maybe all her friends ask her to help them with their resumes.
Then I’d have her think of how she could teach that thing to others online. What type of content could she create to help people that struggle with that thing? Tutorial videos, e-books, systems.
I’d have her write down 10 ideas on that thing a day for at least a week. And then I’d tell her to come and take the Free 5 Day Website Challenge (shameless plug!) to help her build her website, start sharing that information with people for free to build her mailing list, and start conversations with her subscribers to identify what type of paid product or service she could offer to those people. And then slowly over time, she’ll build up enough of a clientele that she can quit that soul-sucking job of hers.
Oh, and this might be exactly what I’m doing at WP*BFF too… 😉
What do you find most challenging about running your own business?
I’m still working full time, so at first I had a hard time making time for it. But once I got that figured out, I started to have a hard time unplugging. I still struggle with that. I also struggle with the right mix of free and paid. I give away a LOT of value for free, and everything I’ve ever read or heard tells me it’s going to pay off eventually – but it’s hard to start and not make money right away. Thankfully I do have a job and a boss that supports my schedule. I’m committed to building relationships and providing value, and hopefully it will pay off later. You always hear of overnight successes but not all the hard work that’s gone into them – I’m still in the hard-work phase!
What is your typical day like? Do you work early in the morning? Stay up late at night?
I wake up at 5:30 and get ready for work. Then I check in on WP*BFF, do James Altucher’s recommended daily practice of expressing gratitude and writing down 10 ideas. Then I go to work where I’m the IT person for professional nursing organization. I’m home by 3:30, walk the dog, make dinner and then by 6 I settle in to work on WP*BFF in the evenings. Or go out for dinner and drinks with my husband and our friends depending on the night… I like to be in bed by 10ish.
What’s your big dream for WP-BFF?
My big dream for WP*BFF is to empower as many women as I can to start their own online business by simplifying one of the most difficult and costly barriers to entry – the website. In addition to the Free 5 Day Website Challenge, I want to hold online workshops, and develop more online courses to create some passive incomes streams. I even envision a weekend seminar some day that pulls together all the experts one would need to get their website off the ground – branding experts, graphic designers, copywriters, business consultants to help with creating and packaging services, and more. I can’t wait to see where I am in 6 months!
Shannon Mattern is a 35 year-old secret WordPress nerd who lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Floyd and their 10 year old Labernese, Grace. Her most favorite thing to do when she’s not at work or working on WP*BFF is to hook up the camper (well, her husband does that part) and head out to Buckeye Lake to go boating with friends or take her 4-wheeler down to Southeastern Ohio to ride ATV trails. When it’s too cold for that, she can found on her couch under a blanket watching questionable reality television. Visit Shannon’s website or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.