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Ep.131: How this social media storyteller and strategist travels the world while supporting small business owners with Natasha Samuel

In this week’s episode, I speak with Natasha Samuel who is a social media strategist and educator.

Natasha is the founder of Sol Studio, an Instagram creative studio that specializes in storytelling and strategy.

Listen on to find out how Natasha teachers how to effectively use social media in order to shine online!

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Show Notes:

Debbie:

Hey everyone, thank you so much for being here. I’m really excited to speak with Natasha today. Hey Natasha, how are you?

Natasha: 

I’m good. I’m so excited to be here.

Debbie:

Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Natasha:

Yes. So I am the founder of Sol Studio, which is an Instagram studio and we focus on storytelling and creative content. And I was really inspired by my time studying abroad while I was in school and it really inspired me to want to have a business and a career that could let me work remotely when I can and have freedom with taking time off. So, that really keeps me inspired and really helps me live really fulfilled. So that’s kind of my “why and how” I got into what I’m doing.

Debbie: 

And you are definitely an expert when it comes to social media. How did you pick this to be your expertise?

Natasha: 

Yeah. So, I actually started in Journalism and then I majored in Public Relations. I was learning a lot about digital marketing and the internships that I took and kind of my time in college. And I found that I really enjoyed copy, I really enjoyed creating images, crime relations, and telling a story. Once I kind of started learning more about Instagram when it was really taking off, I realized it was kind of the perfect vessel for that, especially for personal brands and small businesses. So, that’s kind of how I transitioned; the experiences I got in journalism, marketing, and really just found my place with Instagram because at one time in my business I was doing all of the things, just trying to serve as many people as I can. But once I was kind of like, “Okay, what am I really good at? What is my sweet spot?” and also just like, “What do I enjoy most?” Instagram is just what stood out to me ’cause I also personally love using it, which really helps.

Debbie:

It’s kind of a hit or miss with a lot of people, right? You will hear people complain about it and some people will swear by it. But I guess it’s just using it in a way where it’s not just about counting your followers, it’s really about doing what you need to do to increase revenue for your business too and doing it wisely.

Natasha: 

Absolutely. I always like to preach, being very intentional with your time on Instagram, whether it’s what you’re consuming, who you’re following, but also what you’re putting out. I genuinely think social media, in general, comes a lot down to mindset because if you’re thinking that you’re dreading it, you’re not getting clients from it – it’s not a great place for your business. That definitely reflects in your content and it may even be why you’re not seeing the results you want. So, I feel like having fun with the platform even though Instagram throws wrenches in my day-to-day when I’m managing client accounts and just with all the new changes and stuff. But I always just try to embrace it and kind of it as an exciting, fun thing versus like dreading it. So, it’s just always kind of shifting that mindset around it.

Debbie:

There’s always this misconception. I would say that that you really need a ton of followers, tons and tons, thousands and thousands. What are you thinking about that thought process from a lot of people? And sometimes they just give up. They don’t even try because of that.

Natasha:

Totally. So, even a really amazing Instagram guru, Elise Darma, she mentioned how the more her accounts grown, the less her engagement has gotten, the more spammy account she’s attracted. And just overall the fewer people that follow her are actually even seeing her content. So, if you look at the statistics on like micro or nano influencers, for example, the smaller amount of followers you have maybe a thousand, maybe even just a few thousand, you’re more likely to actually engage and create real connections that you know you can actually make money from, really create relationships from, and collaborations from versus if you have thousands of followers, it’s even a lot harder to really connect with them on that level where you can see those types of results.

Natasha: 

So, I feel like it’s almost a blessing to have smaller accounts. I mean the more my accounts grow and I’m kind of like, “stay small, stay small” ’cause I love my community and I love how I can manage all of my DMs and really be interactive. I think always focusing on that community aspects really makes it where the numbers almost don’t even matter. And of course, numbers are really important when you’re looking at what type of content works and if you’re growing and reaching the right people. But I always find that almost the more followers you get, it can almost be an hindrance to you.

Debbie:  

I love that you are thinking about the total opposite of what most people are doing because you have so many strategies now on how to grow your social media account. But I can definitely vouch for that. Once I hit 10,000 after that, it was really hard to keep people engaged. Because like Elise, I love Elise, she is really right when it comes to that. There’s just, I don’t know, maybe they’re doing something with the algorithm, I have no idea but you’re right, the fewer people are definitely seeing your content. So, I am with you on that one, Natasha, keep small and keep them engaged and give valuable tips and lessons for them because you will keep them there.

Natasha: 

Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.

Debbie: 

Now, when you wanted to start this business, because it really is something that a lot of businesses are doing, how did you decide to do this and what were the first steps you took to create this?

Natasha:

I actually started while I was still in college. So, I had the idea when I came back from my first or my second study abroad trip and I was kind of with my current internship that I thought would be my full-time job afterward and they broke up with me and I was like, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?” And so, I really sat down and was like, “what is my real dream job?”, had a little bit of a crisis was like, “what am I going to do for the rest of my life once I graduate?” And when I kind of sat down and started thinking of how I love creating content and I love creating relationships with clients and business owners and supporting them, I was like, “entrepreneurship might be a route that I really want to consider”.

social media storyteller

My mentorship with my first internship, she actually had her own business and she always had kind of encouraged me and put that seed in my head at the time I was like, “that sounds absolutely crazy.” But once I kind of mentioned the idea to her, she was like, “Let’s do it. I’ll even give you your first client. You definitely need to pursue this now.” So, ever since then I built my brand in a month and then I was pretty much like part-time school and then full-time in my business until I graduated. So it was pretty much a whirlwind.

Debbie: 

Well, that is a really great process that you had and you had a mentor to help you with it. And while in college, that’s wonderful that you were able to do that and kind of had this journey laid out for you before you even graduated, which I know a lot of people are panicking when that happens. I know, I did; I was bawling, crying like, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do with my life now? I don’t have school to fall back”.

Natasha:

Yes. Even I had that moment as an entrepreneur because all my friends are applying for jobs and their path was looking so different than mine and I was like, “Oh my gosh, am I actually doing this?” And even just that transition from being a student entrepreneur doing both and then being a full-time entrepreneur right after – that was hard. Having to support myself with my business, just me right out of the gate, like adulting times a million pretty much. It was definitely getting a lot of learning lessons from that. So, I definitely had that panic too. I can definitely relate.

Debbie: 

So let’s elaborate more on that panic, Natasha.

Natasha:

Let’s talk about it full on. When you become an “adult”, you don’t have that path set out for you like you were saying. And so figuring out how is going to have like health insurance, how is going to support myself and pay rent every month? What was important for me to invest in and what wasn’t important for me to invest in? What conferences should I go to? There are so many things when you create your own money but you also are the one investing back into yourself in a completely different way than if you have a career and you have benefits and all those different types of things.

Finding that balance was really hard from the money standpoint, but also just from the balance standpoint ’cause of course, while I was a student entrepreneur, I was just hustling. Like I was in the library, whether I was doing work or I was doing school, I was just always working when I had the time and I had to make sacrifices so I could really build my business to a point where I could go full-time. Once I was full-time, I had no boundaries. I would work all the time, day and night. I would even wake up in the middle of the night and work, it was just to the point where I was so anxious around it and I really ran myself dry because there was no off-time and it’s almost like I created the opposite of the freedom I was trying to achieve. So, I really had to sit back and be like, “Okay, what do I need to do to take care of myself and make this to a point where it’s longevity and I’m not going to burn out?”

And that’s when I really started taking my self-care really important. I started meal prepping, I started having strict office hours, communication boundaries with my clients, and using things like downtime on my phones. I wasn’t scrolling on Instagram, engaging for clients in the middle of the night, like really creating boundaries. It was really important for me to find that balance so I could kind of get out of that crisis stage. I still have that every once in a while; there are launch periods that are always crazy or when you’re adding a team member, there’s always going to be those seasons and entrepreneurship. But that period after college definitely taught me the importance of finding that balance and not running myself dry with my business.

Debbie:

It’s really, really hard to find that balance and I think most entrepreneurs can definitely agree with you on that one, Natasha. It definitely happened to me and it takes over your whole life, especially in the beginning. But you know what? I feel like it’s kind of what we have to go through in order to learn what works and what doesn’t with us. And even now we have an assistant and other people to help us, it’s still hard to not find more work ’cause I think that would mean you have less work because you have other people doing those other tasks. You try to find more things to do and you’re like, “this is not right”, right? This is not right that I’m working less now. What’s happening? I feel really lazy. So, let’s try not to do that.

Natasha:

I can relate to that in so many ways is like figuring out what are the really important things that are moving your business forward and what am I adding on? Just because I have the idea and it seems really fun cause a big difference.

Debbie: 

Absolutely. It’s just really finding out and I think because of the process that we had to go through, the grind we had to go through, you really find that out. So, it is necessary, I believe in the beginning some people may disagree with me, but I think those people already succeeded in other businesses and they know their process already and they’re able to work less. But if you’ve never had a business before, you’re going to go through the grind. Don’t feel bad. Sometimes you feel like nothing is happening and you’re just working to work and believe me, that’s happened to all of us. But you keep learning.

Natasha:

Yes. I completely agree with that. It’s just like enjoy and embrace the hustle while also being super self-aware and taking care of yourself and learning from every lesson. Every single thing that might seem like a setback is going to teach you so much in the long run.

Debbie:

Yeah. Now, speaking about setbacks, what has been the biggest one for you, Natasha, and how did you handle it?

Natasha:

The biggest setback, even just when said that the first idea that came to mind is actually when I launched my course right after college, by the way, like a crazy person. When I launched my first course, it didn’t sell initially, it just didn’t, and I went into it knowing that I’ve heard courses take time, they’re not always perfect the first time around like it won’t always click and sell that initial time. So, I went into it really like nourishing my mind and I was like, “This is a learning lesson. It’s not going to be perfect.” Even afterward, when the launch happened, I wasn’t sad about it. I learned so much about making a course. I pivoted the platforms I was on, I changed the type of content I was creating in my courses.

I changed the layout, I revamped everything. So, now, a whole year later when I relaunched my course, it was a really successful launch. I even surpassed my goals with it, which was really amazing. Even though it seemed like, you know, people were like, “Oh my gosh, you had an unsuccessful corresponds, you didn’t sell anything.” That is horrible, that’s my nightmare. But that was honestly one of the best learning lessons. It also taught me as a marketer for when I’m launching things for my clients. I learned a ton from that even from helping my clients in that perspective. But it really gave me a lot to learn from. Whenever I’m launching something, I’m working on something new, like knowing it’s not always going to be perfect, but to really just put it out there and put your hard work into it and always think of it as a learning lesson and never as a failure.

Debbie: 

Yeah, I am definitely a big believer in that. The more you fail, the more you learn and the more you’re going to get better because of that for sure. Now, Natasha, what were the three biggest lessons that you learned from that setback, from launching and not selling anything?

Natasha:    

The biggest thing was definitely to do my research a little bit more before launching things. I always say, “launch things perfectly,” but I wish I would’ve researched the different platforms and stuff a little bit more. And then, I also think I wish I would’ve learned more. I wish I would have been a student of more courses before. And that was one thing that I feel like really helped me with this course launch. It’s not necessarily the content I was learning, but just learning how different educators teach different types of slideshows they have, different types of ways of delivering information. That really, really helped me.

And another big thing is when you’re planning a launch, really be prepared to show up and give it your all because with launch periods, you put all this time into creating a course or a product or whatever it is, but it doesn’t end when you’re launching. Like I showed up every day, the week before my launch, I created tons of video content. I was really adamant about making sure people knew exactly what I was launching and that I was super passionate and really believed in it. So, really taking that time to give myself the energy and give myself the time to prepare when it came to that launch period I think really made it where that was more successful. So that really is something I’m going to use now for all my launches moving forward.

Debbie:        

If you don’t show up, then why should your audience and your potential clients as well?

Natasha:   

Yes.

Debbie:  

So, now. When you first started this business, did you save anything before doing it? Did you have a budget and how did you stick to it and make it last?

Natasha:

Like I said, in college, I was still getting like financial aid pretty much. So, I did not have really a budget or had nothing saved up. I mean if anything, I was in debt from school pretty much, but kind of what I did is I bootstrapped a lot of things. I had a lot of skill sets which really helped me. So, I’ve always built my own website. I’ve always done my own email marketing, my own design pretty much until I did a little bit of a rebrand a year ago and had some help with that.

But I’ve always just bootstrapped the things I know I was really good at and tried to keep my expenses low when it comes to tools and everything I was using because when it came to all the tools I was using for my clients, most of them were free. So I had a really low overhead when it came to my expenses. And that’s something I still do. I’m always looking at my subscriptions. I’m always looking at the tools I’m using and always looking to see how I can use better tools to help me where the money I am investing back into my business is really moving it forward. It isn’t just something that I want to invest in and look spun out the time or just look pretty on paper. That’s been really how I’ve been able to kind of keep a lot of my profits from my business is just making sure I’m investing in the right things, even though I didn’t necessarily have money at the time to really help support me and my business.

Debbie:

That just goes to show you that you don’t need a lot of money to start a good and successful business because when you do a remote business, you don’t really have anything really most of the time to spend on. And most of that stuff you’re using your manpower, your time, your energy, and effort. I think the most we spend is our energy in the beginning, but that’s the beauty of it, right? I mean it’s a lot to spend. Because your energy is definitely very valuable, but in the beginning, you definitely need to do that to get the most out of it and to learn from it.

Natasha: 

Absolutely. I completely agree with that. And even sometimes making sacrifices I think really can set your business forward in the long run. I decided to move home for a little while and really be able to not put that financial stress on my business and on myself while I was in that scaling stage. I know some people that might mean, getting a part-time job so you don’t have to worry about money because of course, we have to support right ourselves. So, I think sometimes making sacrifices, they’re really hard. But that has also really helped me to be in a place where I’m pretty much booked out, I’m working on all these new exciting projects, and have a VA now. So, all these things… Definitely a year ago, I was not in that place, so I had to make sacrifices to get there.

Debbie: 

It’s definitely something that we all need to do and I think it’s a smart way of doing it because otherwise you’re going to spend money that you don’t have and then you’re going to be in debt and you’re going to be screwed if you do that. And I always say, “Don’t spend money yet unless you’re making money and means you’re doing it right.”

Natasha: 

I agree. I think there are some things that are definitely worth investing in, but I think especially in your initial stages is like just make what you can and then invest that back in your business. Don’t open up a bunch of credit cards, don’t go into debt, don’t feel like you need to spend 5K on a coach. Make sure you’re really just getting the systems down and I think that’ll really help you. So, I could not agree with you more. Always try to avoid debt if you can. Not that it’s bad but I think that using your money in a smart way.

Debbie:

Do you use any tools online that you use to track where you’re spending money, saving money, and all of those things to just make your life easier?

Natasha:

Yes. So, when it comes to money tools, I love my invoicing tool, Wave. That’s actually what I do for my bookkeeping as well and it’s a free tool. I use it for invoicing, reoccurring invoicing, updating, uploading receipts, all of that stuff. That’s a really great tool for invoicing and getting your money. But the main thing for budgeting is Mint – it’s a really good app. That is free and you’re going to have different categories. You can set different budgets for everything and it lets you know if you’re over or under budget. That’s a really helpful tool.

And the other thing that really helps me with money is MileIQ. It’s an app that actually tracks your miles. And Initially, I was like, “Well, I don’t need to track my miles. I’m not a photographer or someone that actually travels for work.” But when I was really looking like going to coffee shops, going to meetings, going to networking events, going to client meetings, and photoshoots, all of those are miles you can write off. So, having something that automatically tracks it for you and you just have to label if it’s personal or business has been something that really helps me as well with managing and tracking my money.

social media storyteller

The biggest thing that I wish I would’ve done sooner definitely gets a good tax accountant and definitely separate your accounts. I cannot believe it took me so long. But having separate savings accounts for your different goals, for your business, and for your taxes and having separate checking accounts for your different expenses, whether it’s personal and business makes your life so much easier in the long run. So, those are like the main things that really helped me with my money.

Debbie: 

You don’t want to be doing that last minute. Two o’clock in the morning, you’re ripping your hair out because taxes are due tomorrow and you don’t want to be fined.

Natasha: 

Exactly. Actually the scariest part of entrepreneurship sometimes for most people is thinking about taxes. Like I have to pay the government but I don’t get anything in return. Like no, it’s scary. But being prepared definitely helps.

Debbie:  

Those are such great tools that you gave us, Natasha. And I’m going to check out a bunch of those ’cause I haven’t seen those. I definitely use Mint though. And I’ll check out other ones that you’ve talked about. Let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life. What legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

Natasha:

That’s such an amazing question. I feel like I definitely want to be kind of remembered as a positive person. I feel like when people message me that my story or my post just like made them smile or made their day brighter. That’s always something that’s been really important to me as Sol Studio is you see the yellow, you see the sunshine, and that’s really something I want to exude and I want that to be something I’m remembered for. And just someone that really served, really helped, and impact a lot of people, I feel like that’s really something. Through educating and even just through my Instagram, just any way I can support other people, I really want that to be something that kind of be a part of my legacy. Looking back is that I was really able to give back in a lot of different ways through my community, and speaking and stuff. So that would probably be my answer.

Debbie:  

That is such a great legacy to leave and you’re definitely doing that, especially on Instagram and I’m really excited to talk to you for our extended interview where you’re going to be giving us a lot of your tips and tricks on how you can actually land clients from Instagram. And also create content while you’re busy and you’re on the road. So I’m so, so excited for that, Natasha.

Natasha:

Me too. I love it. Getting clients on Instagram – that is my jam.

Debbie: 

So, what are you currently working on that is really exciting to you?

Natasha: 

Yes, so I am working on courses which have been the most exciting thing for me lately. After launching my other two courses, I’m working on a new course on stories, working on a collaborative course with a friend about productivity and batching, and working on some awesome Instagram resources. So, those are kind of the most exciting things going into a new year and kind of into a new season is just really focusing on education and speaking events, and all the different types of things. So those are like things that are just really making me excited lately.

Debbie:  

Well, there are so many things that are definitely going to be happening. So, we want to be kept informed with all of the things happening with you. And if our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?

Natasha:

Yes. So, you can find me on Instagram @solstudiomarketing. And that’s pretty much my ad on any other type of social media, but that’s definitely the best place to keep in touch with me. And also my newsletter, you can join through my Free Toolbox, which has a lot of tools and tips that I really love, but I’m always talking to my newsletter and hanging out with them as well, those are the two places to get in touch with me.

Debbie: 

Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Natasha, for speaking with us today and telling us about your incredible story. We really appreciate it.

Natasha:

Thank you so much for having me. I love this conversation.

 

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH NATASHA WHERE SHE SHARES HOW TO USE INSTAGRAM TO LAND CLIENTS AND DO CONTENT CREATION WHILE YOU ARE ON THE ROAD. 

 


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

 

 


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