Jenny Blake from JennyBlake.me and Life After College and author of Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, is featured in this episode. Jenny shares her story of expanding her brand and online presence through the launch of her new website, JennyBlake.me.
After running a very successful blog for eight years, Jenny launched a new website under her own name, hoping to share new sides of her and reflecting on the various ways in which she helps her clients. Jenny is a sought-after speaker and coach and has personally helped me launch my business and expand my own realm of possibilities.
In this episode, Jenny shares the behind the scenes story about her website launch – why she decided it was time, figuring out who she is with a new story to tell, what went according to plan, and what didn’t work as well as she had hoped.
TOPICS DISCUSSED INCLUDE:
- Expanding past your current niche market
- Branding is more than just picking colors and fonts
- Figuring out what your value is – who am I without that story?
- Fear of not being unique enough
- Commitment to quality when things don’t happen as you’d hope them to
- When to spend money on a rebrand or website launch
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Life After College
- Life After College the Book
- Jenny’s creative director: Adam Chaloeicheep
- Jenny’s Toolkit of amazing goodies and useful templates
- Website Launch Template
- Blog post: Speak Like a Pro
Want to get in touch with Jenny?
MORE ABOUT JENNY BLAKE
Jenny Blake is a bestselling author, career and business coach, and international speaker who helps people move beyond burnout to build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. With two years at a technology start-up as the first employee, over five years at Google on the Training and Career Development teams, and two years of running her own business, Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of organizing information to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business.
Jenny is the proud author of Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want and a blog of the same name. Today you can find her at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body, and business.
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Melissa Anzman (00:00): This is the launch yourself podcast with Melissa Anzman episode number four, featuring Jenny Blake.
Melissa Anzman (00:08): Hello. Hello, and welcome to the launch yourself podcast, career, business, and brand advise to help you be seen, make an impact and deliver at your maximum potential. And now here's your host, Melissa. Anzman
Melissa Anzman (00:26): Hello, and welcome to the launch yourself podcast. I'm Melissa, Anzman your host from launchyourself.co. And today I have one of my favorite people in the entire world. Joining us. I'm so excited to have her. Jenny Blake is our guest today. She is a bestselling author, micro business coach and international speaker who helps people move beyond burnout to build sustainable dynamic careers that they love with two years experience at a startup company as the first employee, over five years experience at Google and the training and career development teams, and two years running her own business. Jenny combined her love of technology with her super power of organizing information to help clients through big transitions, often to launch or elevate a book blog or business. Jenny is the author of life after college, the complete guide to getting what you want and the blog of the same name as well as her new website, where you can find her today at jennyblake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body, and business, and for fun, she teaches geeky yoga class in New York for entrepreneurs.
Melissa Anzman (01:31): I do want to say before I officially welcome Jenny to the show. I mentioned she's one of my favorite people, but she is the most insane mental person in getting me here without Jenny. I wouldn't have my own business. And so for that, I'm always grateful and indebted to her and Jenny, I'm so glad to have you on the show today. Oh, well, thank you so much, Melissa. Likewise, you are one of my favorite people on the planet, and it's so exciting to be here as part of your latest project. So it's been really fun to watch you launch launch yourself. It's such a needed area for, for other people to get assistance and coaching on. Thanks. Thank you. It's funny, Jenny was the behind the scenes of, you know, all of my pondering and hemming and hawing and what's next and helped me really figure that out.
Melissa Anzman (02:19): So she's definitely a, not only just a cheerleader, but also a great brainstorm buddy to get this off. So this is super fun to have you and have a sort of maybe have a girl chat on live radio. So all that being said let's talk about launches. So, you know, I like to define a launch as a specific point when you purposely decided to take action and to fulfill your maximum potential in your career business brand. And you've had so many launches, you've had so many wildly successful launches what, which was your most recent or the one that you want to really focus on and talk about today?
Jenny Blake (03:01): The most recent is launching my website. Jennyblake.Me at that point and that launched in June of 2013. And I had had my first website life after college for almost eight years. So it was a really big deal to think about conceptualized create and then ultimately launch the new website under my own name.
Melissa Anzman (03:23): What led to that? Where were you in your career in the sort of evolution of life after college to say, you know what, I need to do something else I need to grow.
Jenny Blake (03:36): Yeah. W as you know, there are some people who make a career out of the after college speaking to 20 somethings and the after college market, Meg Jay is great reef, an example, she's I think in her forties and she delivered one of the most popular Ted talks of the year on why 20 is not the new 30 and what 20 something should need to know should know in this defining decade of their life. For me, I felt like what have after college, I'm so proud of everything that I had created there, and it wasn't necessarily the exact thing that I wanted to focus on for the next 10 years. So I knew that while I wanted to keep life after college alive and thriving and growing, I, Jenny also wanted to expand and talk about more of the things that I had been focusing a lot of my time on. And that was doing much more of the business coaching and working with other authors and even my love of yoga things that were true in my personal life. That weren't exactly reflected fully on the life after college website.
Melissa Anzman (04:43): Yeah. It's it sort of pigeonholed you a little bit or felt it's that it sounds like it felt like only doing life after college wasn't as fulfilling as all of the things you have going on. Right.
Jenny Blake (04:53): I think it was that in that I didn't feel like it accurately represented what I was actually doing. So I would be giving a speech at a conference for women entrepreneurs. And I felt like when I said it, or here's an example, I got to speak for five minutes at WDS two years ago, it was in front of a thousand people. And I felt, part of me felt like when I said life after college that maybe half the room edited themselves out, that my content or a message, maybe wasn't relevant to them. When in fact I was super passionate about really working with people of all ages and helping to systematize and organize complexity, whether that's around a launch or big goals or business. And so yeah, a little bit of what you said it in a way I felt like it just wasn't big enough, even though it's bounds crazy, same that cause the after college market is a huge market
Melissa Anzman (05:47): Love that it wasn't big enough for you and fitting in what you, where you wanted to take things. So I love that. Once you decided that this was something you wanted to do, can you talk a little bit about the planning process? How did you approach this new idea, this launch where did it start?
Jenny Blake (06:08): Yeah, I had a really brilliant brand strategist named Adam who worked with me from the earliest days. And what's interesting as I thought, okay, rebranding, what colors, what funds, what, you know, what should the website look like? And that was, he really schooled me, but the visual aspects of this were going to be very dead last, that there was so much work to do beforehand on who am I? Who am I serving? How do I want people to feel? You know, so many things about the real depth of who I am and how I work with people that had nothing to deal with what this was going to look like visually. So as I worked on, once I knew I wanted to relaunch and I had set the goal to do this before my 30th birthday, which was in October. So we met the goal.
Jenny Blake (06:58): I had to spend a lot of time understanding, well, okay, if I'm not life after college and I'm not the girl that left Google, what am I, what do I stand for? What do I want the way forward to look like? And I have to say to this day, I'm still grappling with that question. So the, what we temporarily landed on is systems to help you thrive at the intersection of mind, body, and business. And in a way that was the start. But even now I can say it's still not the full story and that doing a launch, it's really, it's an evolution. Sometimes you've got to poke around, play with ideas, get something down want. And then Melissa is, I'm sure you can attest to as well, but long after the launch, you're still adjusting and tweaking and getting feedback. And so it is a very, it's really an evolution. It's not just the, Oh great. You launch, you're done brush off your hands. That's the only thing you have to do for the next five years.
Melissa Anzman (07:58): Yeah. Wouldn't that be great though? Well, not really. We've missed all the fun in between stuff I would think. But one thing that you said really struck a chord with me in that, you know, this direction for you was more than just changing colors, more than just really deciding to do something different. It was figuring out who you are and how you wanted to be presented to the world in a new way. There must have been some sort of fear around that or some deep questions around that. Could you, if you're okay with it, could you share some of those thought processes, that processes that went into that around fear? Yeah,
Jenny Blake (08:42): Absolutely. It, it can be such a vulnerable thing this online world of putting, putting oneself out there. And so for me, I haven't experienced the same of fear when I left Google, which was that for a long time, I felt that my value was that I worked at Google when I would meet people at conferences and say, my, my job is I work at Google and you'd be like, Oh, really? What's the food. Like, what's the culture like? And all of a sudden I felt like I disappeared. I was not of interest. It was the fact that I worked at Google and then I quit and I would talk a lot about leading. And, and again, I felt that people would focus on this thing that I did leaving Google, but who was I without that story? That was what I left behind, but what's the way forward.
Jenny Blake (09:29): And that is a very vulnerable place to be, which is not exactly knowing my place or being able to articulate it. And so the scary thing to me about launching the site under my own name was that was as close to home as ever, you know, that's really about putting myself out there in all regards photography was more prominent, more photos of me, more my story, more of what I believe in. And there's something very vulnerable about taking a stand or saying, this is what I believe in or in my mind, even just somehow having the audacity to think I'm worth it, I'm worth as big space on the internet and you should all listen to my ideas. And so this day, I, I, you know, it's like a healthy humility, but it's like, there are so many of us out there and a fear of mine was just being the same, just being cliche or repeating regurgitating wisdom that had already been said a thousand times. And so my fear of sort of falling into that really propelled me and still does to constantly differentiate and figure out what's missing out there and how I can provide it.
Melissa Anzman (10:47): I love that. Thank you for sharing that. So real, and those are the types of things that I don't think people talk about or even think about when they're going into a launch or redesign or rebrand or stepping out of, you know, this is really what I'm going to do and here's, what's holding me back or here's, what's making me well, hon. So I appreciate you sharing that with us. With that you talked a little bit more about, you know, making sure that you weren't regurgitating. How did you decide that you had new information to share that you were different, that it was worth the risk putting herself out there under your own name?
Jenny Blake (11:29): Partly it was getting feedback from other people and asking around what do you see as my strengths? What do you think makes me different? I had also been collecting a list of people who were in a similar space as me, this kind of like author, coach, author, coach, speaker. And as I would look at their websites, there were things that I admired and wanted to sort of use as inspiration. And then if I had a reaction, like it annoyed me, then I would really inquire as to why, what was I reacting against? Of course, as we all know, sometimes the things that annoyed me were because I was walking a fine line of doing that same exact thing. So it hit closer to home and sometimes it would just annoy me because it represented part of that, just cliche sameness. So I could have that feeling that, Oh, this is so uninspiring, but then I really pushed myself to say why and what would I need to do or say that's authentic to me, but to, to be different.
Jenny Blake (12:30): And so it really challenged me to get much more specific about what I believe in. And just so we're not talking around this, you know, one example in the coaching space, it's like all the things you need to feel fulfilled, like we'll work on something, something, so you can live a more fulfilled, happier life and I'm on board. You know, that's what many of us want, but at a certain point, there are so many people saying that same exact thing that it becomes a little bit hollow. And I find that it's actually not useful for the individual or the potential coaching client to speak in such generalizations because we all have such unique gifts. And so I think the extent that someone can challenge themselves to really articulate those unique guests, does everyone a favor,
Melissa Anzman (13:21): Love it, great sort of branding and marketing advice in there and the truth of really what it is. And what's important when you take that step out there, you may as well do it right. Instead of sort of still behind hiding behind what could be easy. Right. I love it. So with this great big launch, so going deep, digging deep, really reevaluating who you are and what you want to be known for evolving as, as the launch happens, evolving through the process, how did it work? How did the launch work for you? Did it go as expected? Did you run into any obstacles?
Jenny Blake (14:06): Well, true to form. I created an eight tabs spreadsheet. I think I had already had a 15 tab book marketing spreadsheet that Seth Godin linked to long ago. And that was to organize my own crazy brain around the launch process because I was so overwhelmed and I did a similar thing for the website. I knew it was such a big, huge ordeal, everything from design to development, to communications, to the actual launch. And so as I went through my process, I created a spreadsheet that is available on my website. If you just go to Jenny blake.me/toolkit. And so that helped just getting organized, helped always. I tell people around a big launch to drop the need. Perfection. It's not going to be perfect. You will not get everything done. And that's okay. And then a third, I would say understand that it's I'm in it for the long game.
Jenny Blake (15:01): So it was really exciting. There was a lot of feedback day of, and I was so humbled and blown away. People really love the design and the everything. And Adam just did such an outstanding job on the design of the site. And so that was really nice. And at the same time, I kind of go for the long tail. It's one thing to have a big initial push, but my preference is also that people like it enough to share it and keep coming back and subscribe for my newsletter and do things that show that it's not just a flash in the pan kind of a launch. So I was okay with having it be a little more quiet upfront, knowing that I'm really in this for the long haul. And I'm going to keep, hopefully doing mini launches as, as I get continued to get even clearer on my message.
Melissa Anzman (15:51): Yeah. One of the things I love about you, Jenny, I'm one of the many I should say is you and I approach, we have sort of very different fears and approaches to things and I love it because you're just like, why don't you just do that? I'm like, well, because I'm terrified and, and you'd be the same for the things I do. So it's, it's great in that way to sort of have me gut check through you. But one of the things you did do in this vein of fears of mine, but you did very well is you launched your website really big in my opinion. And you know, you just mentioned it. I was like sort of a small, you know, I just kind of got the word out. And for me it was like huge. It was, everyone knew about it. And you did all the right things for a launch. You were talking about it, you were asking for signups before you started, you had, you know, a preview. I think you, you know, showed sort of behind the scenes stuff in your newsletter about it. And to me, I mean, that was a big launch. You got a lot of traffic, a lot of great feedback on the day. How, how do you plan for that? Or was that just sort of business as usual for you and something new and I'm going to share it
Jenny Blake (17:08): Well, thank you for outside perspective, I guess in hindsight, you're right. I did a lot for me. It's a couple of things. One, I'm a sort of funny practical note. I thought the site was going to launch in January. So I started to all this buzz way early and I started the list and it didn't end up launching until June. So I, by just making that somewhat of this calculation, I had this big month of lead time, which might make me look like a very savvy marketer who plans that far in advance. But I will say that I, I love letting people in on the process and it was something I really enjoyed when I wrote life college. I let kind of let people behind the scenes when I had an agent, not even a book deal yet. And, and there was a risk there of, I would fail.
Jenny Blake (17:57): I would not get a book deal and I would have to fess up to this whole list of people, the same thing with the website. I knew that for me, it's actually less scary to launch once I've let people in behind the scenes because they've been following the journey with me. And it's almost like they'll be excited on the day of no matter what, cause they've seen what work goes into it. Whereas sometimes when I try and launch things in more of a vacuum, I'm more nervous because I feel like I have more grounds makeup for were explanation and more almost relationship building around that launch. And so it was fun for me to start that behind the scenes, Jenny Blake newsletter, because the list was so small that I took great comfort in it. My life after college list had grown to about 5,000 and I, I just no longer felt like, Oh, I can pour my heart and full house and be so honest to 5,000 that intimidated me.
Jenny Blake (18:56): And it kind of ideal world. I would be able to do that. And sometimes, you know, I still push myself to do that with life after college, but with the Jenny Blake website, Oh, here we were back at a hundred people and then 200. And for some reason that felt like these are the people that are interested in this next leg of my journey, that they would invest in me and I was willing to invest in return. And so it just felt good. It felt like a win, win. Then they could experience the behind the scenes and learn whatever I was willing to share about the ups and downs. And then I could get that early feedback and encouragement that was really helpful for the day outs.
Melissa Anzman (19:38): I love it. I'm not gonna let you off the hook. One thing though, which is, you know, I love that you just fast up to your original launch date of being in January and eventually launching in June. And it did, it made a great marketing impact which is so awesome that it worked that way. But could you share a little bit around why the launch move? Like what obstacles did you run into through that process? That, that moved the date back, you know, good six months, which in Mo you know, in our world, it's like, hurry up and do, right. So how did, how did that happen and how did you manage that?
Jenny Blake (20:21): Oh, so much is happening at that time in January, I was in living in Bali and then February part of March in Thailand. And I was working full time. Actually I worked every day when I lived there, I went through a breakup that just set me back emotionally, but did keep working through most of that. The design process took longer than initially expected. And part of that was Adam adamant about having an original design. So he, he had a homepage done that looked more like my blog page kind of more like what we're used to seeing. And it was somewhere the end of, end of December, early January said, that's not good enough. And he scrapped it. I was ready to go with it. And he said, it's not good enough. And that's when he came back with the circles that you now see on the homepage.
Jenny Blake (21:12): And so in order to implement that circle, it's called parallax. I hired developers in Nepal. I think these guys were from oDesk. And when I handed the pages off to Nina and Alex, my development team, so they originally, it was set to be due in April, but we had all these extra bells and whistles. And so the development took longer and it just kind of, you know, one thing after another just took longer. But my commitment is to quality period. I knew that January was a false deadline. That's a line I drew in the sand. There's nothing, there's no need to rush any of these steps just to have it out. And so as much as it made me kind of angsty and nervous to keep filling it and I, more than anything, I was just working so intensely on this that I just wanted to be done, but there was so much left to do. And I spent almost the entire month of may even writing and refining all the copy, which was something like 50,000 words, the size of a book, you know? And so there was so much to do that. It took that long, but I was, I was willing to delay as long as needed to get it, to really get it right.
Melissa Anzman (22:33): Nice. Yes. And it's still, I'll, I'll peek the curtain a little back. It, it, it did take that long and the day of wash they were still doing on, which is awesome. Cause you just did want it to make such a great impact and they, and I think it did that and more so it was worth the wait,
Jenny Blake (22:51): Thank you. And your help throughout all of the launch. If you guys don't know who are listening, Melissa was my right hand woman during this entire process and I could not have done it without you. She was in there in the weeds and in the trenches with me right up until something broke on the day of, and lift those right there at every step. So I cannot thank you enough, Melissa, for all of your help.
Melissa Anzman (23:14): You know, I'm always happy to work with you and we, we work together so well and I totally forgot and spaced out about that last day break.
Jenny Blake (23:21): I know, I think I've blocked that out of my memory.
Melissa Anzman (23:24): Totally did until you just mentioned it.
Jenny Blake (23:28): Right.
Melissa Anzman (23:29): I love that. So, you know, it's cool and sexy. I'll just be honest. It's cool and sexy to relaunch and to rebrand and redesign and come out with a new, sexy thing all the time. You didn't write, this was a long process. You'd have a successful blog for a long time before you decided to change directions or pivot or, you know, whatever you want. Expand, I think is probably the better word for it. When is the right time for those listening? When's the right time to do that is rebranding and relaunching for everybody or, you know, what are you, what's your thoughts on that? Having gone through it. Yeah.
Jenny Blake (24:09): Yeah. I'm so glad that you asked because for most people I will say, do not spend your time on this. Like yes, it's important. Yes. You want something to look good and look professional. You can get 80 to 90% of the way there with a professional theme and a logo that you get on 99 designs. And the reason that I say don't invest all your time and money upfront into the brand is you probably, it's just not fully developed yet. And I think it's a misdirection of our efforts for me having what I learned through seven years of life after college now eight, I didn't hire a professional designer until five years in, but I did hone and tweak over time. I taught myself a little HTML and at first it was a hard coded website. Then I used WordPress and various themes. But the key thing that I focused on was creating insanely useful high quality content that someone would want to send to a friend when they were done reading.
Jenny Blake (25:12): And so for, for a lot of new bloggers out there, I think there's too much of a premium on how the site looks and not enough on differentiating through really great content. And so I see, kind of do the minimum to get something that's clean and you don't want it to look scrappy or unprofessional. But like I said, there's so much, so many free resources, Nina cross, even just built a new thesis skin, especially for essentially online entrepreneurs that I think it's better to focus there. And once you feel very clear on your message and your audience and you even are generating some momentum, then you can invest the time and money in a big brand overhaul.
Melissa Anzman (25:58): Great. I love that. Obviously. I agree with that that the, you know, the, in the amount of money that you put inside the look and feel should be proportionate to the amount of income you're earning from it, right. A wise lady named Jenny Blake may have. So I agree. It's it's has to look good. It has to be professional, but it shouldn't cost you five grand out of the gate, because if you're not making that money back from directly from your website activities, then you're wasting your money. Right. Which hopefully, yeah.
Jenny Blake (26:33): It's not necessary. I agree. Yeah.
Melissa Anzman (26:36): Great. Glad we're on the same page there. Yeah. Oh, okay. We are coming close to our, and I promised her that I would keep on time. So one question and then I'll sort of make sure that people know where to find you, but what's next for you. What's ahead. What can we look forward to from Jenny Blake?
Jenny Blake (26:57): Well, I am continuing to get clear on w one of my good friends, Peter Shallard said to me, you know, it's not clear exactly what problem you solve and for homes and I've danced around things like help people move beyond burnout. When term I've been playing with is agile career design, but what I'm working on is it's almost like I moved my business, such that my, it became me like having a site under my own name. People hire me for coaching and speaking because of me, but it's not necessarily clear what the theme is around all the products and services and speeches and even coaching that I offer. So what's next for me is really articulating that outside of myself beyond just me, Jenny, what problem do I solve? And for whom and how can members of my audience really engage, whether that's an individual who's reading or a company who might want to hire me. And yeah, I would say business-wise, I love, love, love, love public speaking. And I have a post going up about that soon. That's my sweet spot. I love it. I'm a have earned a living from it this year, and I hope to continue that. And I also love coaching and I'm looking forward to continuing to work both with individuals. And like I said, with companies and larger groups as well.
Melissa Anzman (28:21): Great. I love that. Obviously I am a big fan of yours. I met Jenny through her course makes sh*t happen, which is still available on demand at life after college. And was so inspired by her that I hired her as my first coach. And yeah, it was great. And during the time we worked together, I knew that launching my business and quitting my job and having real customers and paying clients and all that fun stuff. So clearly I am a fan. And I'm so glad to see what's next and ahead and more great things for sure. Where can people find you? Jenny,
Jenny Blake (29:00): Jennyblake.Me is my main home now. And like I said, if you click on toolkit, there's a lot of great resources that I've used in my own business over the years. And then lifeaftercollege.org is the site that started at all. That's where a lot of the oldies, but goodies are from the last six years of writing the blog. And Melissa has some content on there too, some great stuff from this year on Twitter and that @Jenny_Blake. And I would say those are the main things. And finally, I just want to say, Melissa, it's been so fun to watch your journey, and I'm so proud of you, and it's really incredible to see how you've tied things all with launchyourself.co. So thank you for having me as a guest on this podcast and to everyone for listening.
Melissa Anzman (29:50): I hope you enjoy today's episode with Jenny Blake, her information about rebranding going out on a new track pivoting and expanding her own personal brand was so amazing and very helpful for those of us pondering doing the same thing on a side note. I'm so glad that she was able to share her brilliance with you. Obviously I'm a huge fan. She's the first person that made me believe that being an entrepreneur is possible. And with that, I'll be forever grateful. If you'd like to get the show notes for this episode, you can go to launchyourself.co/session4. Again, that's launchyourself.co/session4. And if you enjoyed this episode, please be sure to subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes and leave us a review until next time.
Melissa Anzman (30:35): Thanks for listening to the launch yourself podcast. Join the conversation at www.launchyourself.co.
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