How Kayla From Ivory Mix Created A Booming Online Business

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Are you wondering how to make money with memberships and online courses?

Today, I have an incredible interview with Kayla Marie Butler from the popular stock photography website, Ivory Mix.

Kayla shares so many amazing tips for bloggers and small business owners, such as her favorite business tools, what she would do differently if she started her business over, and other helpful tips.  

Let’s get to it! 

Actionable Advice: Before we begin, take action now and download the free How To Start A Profitable Blog guide and learn how to monetize your blog from the beginning, how to save time and money when blogging, and the #1 resource I recommend to new bloggers.

1. Can you share a little bit about yourself and your blog? 

Thanks for the invitation to have me on your blog today, Alexis.

For those of your readers who haven’t met me before, hi, I’m Kayla Marie Butler, the creative director and founder of Ivorymix.com.

When I’m not behind a keyboard or camera and running my business, I’m running a household of 3 kids and a dog alongside my husband whose main gig is to be a great support for me and an awesome stay-at-home dad.

Ivory Mix is a marketing asset and education resource for bloggers and female-owned small businesses.

We create a free mix of content, including stock photography, that first-time bloggers and experienced business owners can use to strategize and expand their online marketing.

2. What first inspired you to start Ivory Mix?

Before Ivory Mix, I was a seasoned professional for over 15 years as an Interior Designer with a corner office and big fancy title.

I had the coveted “Directors” title I had always dreamt of and was overseeing the design, coordination, and execution of multi-million dollar projects from homes to highrises inside and out.

But, I was burnt out. With 3 kids growing up fast, and our household running on my income alone, it wasn’t fun or creative anymore. It had felt more and more like a grind and less like a passion. 

I had always wanted to be a designer but never wanted to own my own business.

I feared instability and wanted everything for my kids that my parents had given me.

I thought I needed a 9-5 to do it. But, it wasn’t until I discovered blogging that I realized I could be a designer, be creative, make my own schedule, and create the life for my kids that I had wanted.

A life that didn’t mean I was gone most of the day.  

I first started Ivory Mix in 2015 as a creative outlet and place to blog about anything crafty.

I had even named it something so vanilla and generic that I could morph it into anything once I figured out my niche. Hence the name “Ivory Mix.”

I’ve been using Ivory Mix’s stock photography for what seems like forever. I personally recommend signing up for Ivory Mix as opposed to a stock photography site like Unsplash. Unsplash has incredible photos, but there are reports of photographers saying their photos have been stolen and placed on the website. You really don’t know which photos are safe to use on Unsplash. 

3. How do you make money from your blog and business?

Today, my businesses revenue is diversified between out stock photos and membership, online courses and education, and some affiliate or sponsored content. I don’t currently host ads on my site.

It’s now been almost 4 years since starting Ivory Mix, and income wasn’t immediate.

It took me nearly 6 months to figure out my niche, my branding, and what it was I was really trying to do before I focused on monetizing anything. 

Side note: Content That Converts is my favorite course by Kayla! I’m not even an affiliate but it’s been so helpful for my business strategy, so I have to share it here.

4. What inspired you to get into stock photography? 

It was during the initial months that I was building out my website on my own.

During the branding process, I had created a moodboard and then started to use my own creativity, design knowledge, and photography skills to build my own small collection of “on brand” photos.

I ended up taking 50+ photos and realized there were too many, and I had used too much red.

So, instead of trashing the photos, I put them up as a freebie on my website.

I still didn’t know that stock photography was a thing anyone could really make a business from.

However, I knew I wanted people to read and come to my blog and that an email list would be key to that growth.

So, I made sure that anyone who wanted to snag these 50 photos could do so in exchange for their email and signing up for my newsletter. 

5. What are your favorite tools to run your business?

Well, speaking of my newsletter, my favorite tools start with ConvertKit.

I initially started with the free version of MailChimp and even grew my list to 13,000 there and began paying for their service.

But, ConvertKit came into my view one day and I saw how simple they made the automation and the organization of subscribers that I had to make the switch.

I keep costs really low and lean in my business, but there are some tools I just have to have in order to make my business run smoothly.

Some of those are WooCommerce with their Memberships and Subscription add ons, Teachable for hosting my online courses, and Tailwind for Pinterest Marketing.

Side note: I use both Convertkit and Tailwind to run my business and highly recommend both business tools. 

6. What would you do differently if you could go back in time when you first started Ivory Mix?

Honestly, if I could go back, I would have done more research before launching a product.

I’m sure anyone who has ever launched their first self-made product before can confirm that it’s hard.

Not only are you doing most of the work yourself, wearing all of the hats, but you’re also putting your most vulnerable self out there. It can be disheartening when you don’t reach your goal.

I remember my first online course launched and I made a whopping $50.

I did so much wrong in the beginning but at the end of the day, it’s what I learned from each mistake that helps me to get better each time. 

On top of that, I would have definitely started outsourcing the easy admin stuff a lot sooner.

Today, I am fortunate enough to have that help, but it sure would have been nice to have it a lot sooner!

7. What’s your best tip for someone wanting to start a business?

Gary Vaynerchuk says it best. He even wrote a book on the topic. “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.” Which basically means:” give, give, give, then ask.”

Businesses that focus on building their relationships through the act of giving have a stronger foundation and more ability to really knock out the competition than those who “sell, sell, sell.” 

Even more than that, businesses with high-quality and high-value free content will always have a stronger sense of who their customers are and what it is they really need because who wants to share lousy free content with their friends?

Businesses go viral because their free content is incredible, emotional, and unmistakably valuable.

Your audience will recognize that and share that with friends and family. Not because the business is cool, but because you make them look good for finding it. Your audience is the hero in the story.    

I built my business on the amazing free content model. I gave everything away for free for the first year before I ever asked for the sale.

It doesn’t necessarily need to take that long, but it certainly made a huge difference in how people got to know me, my style, my products, my consistency.  I still give away my best stuff for free and stand by this as a great starting point for any business.

8. Where can we see more from you?

I would love to meet your readers on Instagram, and for anyone growing a blog and small business and wants to learn more about marketing on Pinterest, I highly recommend you grab my free ebook on Pinterest or snag a seat to my workshop.

>> What to read next: How To Run A Business With An Introvert Personality

Do you have any questions for Kayla?

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