Nikki Elledge Brown is known online as The Communication Stylist, and she’s the creator of A Course About Copy. She’s a proud military spouse, mom, former park ranger and college professor who built a multi-six-figure business in under 18 months by helping entrepreneurs communicate with clarity and confidence.
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Nikki: Indeed, I am.
John: Yes. Nikki’s known online as the communication stylist, and creator of A Course About Copy. She’s a proud military spouse, mom, former park ranger, and college professor who built a multi-six figure business in under 18 months by helping entrepreneurs communicate with clarity and confidence. Nikki, taking a minute, fill in come gaps from that intro, and give us a little glimpse in your personal life.
Nikki: All right. Well, just like you said, I am a mom, a military spouse. Currently, as the time we’re recording this, I’m 36 and a half weeks pregnant with our second little boy, so I’m super excited and thankful about that. It’s definitely gonna be shaping the goals that I have for 2016 and kinda the outlook that I have because things are about to get a little crazy around here.
My 4-year-old’s pretty well established. He’s going off to college in the fall, basically, so things are about to change. It’s gonna be good, though.
Yeah, in terms of my business and what I love to help people with, the heart of it all, whether I’m talking about communication and copy, or public speaking and video and helping people, my main thing that I’m passionate about is just encouraging people that they do have something worth sharing, and that they are capable of being their own spokesperson, basically.
John: Fire Nation, if you’re not on Nikki’s newsletter list, I highly suggest getting your little booty patootie over there because not only is it gorgeous, I mean, it’s beautiful, it’s just that perfect color teal, whatever you would call, but it’s just so well-written. It’s something you wanna be studying as entrepreneurs, Fire Nation, of how to communicate.
Now, Nikki, you were on episode 1064 of EO Fire, so a little over 100 episodes ago, you graced us with your presence, and you’re back now as part of this part of this kinda special 33-day campaign we’re doing for the Freedom Journal to bring past guests that are just having outstanding success on EO Fire, again, to talk about how they set and accomplish goals. Let’s just kinda kick this off with you sharing with Fire Nation, why are goals important to you?
Nikki: I’m pretty sure I first heard the idea from Michael Hyatt when he says something like, “We’re never happier than when we make significant progress towards a goal that means something to us.”
I totally agree because if I don’t have a dream, a vision, and slap a deadline on it to make it feel real, then I just feel like I’m floating through life aimlessly. There’s something to be mindful and be present in every moment, but you do need to have something that you’re working towards to be able to feel that satisfaction.
To me, goals make life more exciting just by adding some focus and encouraging you to take ownership of where you are and to actually think about and dream about where you wanna be.
John: Yeah, I have actually mentioned this on the last number of episodes during this Freedom Journal campaign, and I’m surprised because it’s so fitting, but with what you just said, Nikki, it just brought it to the front of my mind, and that’s the great quote by Earl Nightingale that both success and happiness is the gradual realization of a worthy ideal.
It’s not getting to the finish line of some goal, it’s actually the gradual realization of it. Having that goal out there, and then gradually accomplishing that goal in the course of the Freedom Journal over those 100 days, and then making sure that it is actually a worthy ideal, not just any ideal but a worthy ideal. Love that you brought that up, Michael Hyatt is actually one of the 33 as well.
Nikki: Oh, how cool.
John: He’ll appreciate you quoting him that, no doubt. What I kinda wanted to shift to is smart goals because we can always just kinda throw a goal out there and say, “Yeah, I wanna lose weight,” that’s my favorite random goal that I’m using these 33 days, like, “I just wanna lose weight.”
That’s never gonna work for obvious reasons because smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Now, all of those are important, Nikki. I know you’re a great cook. You understand you need all of the ingredients to make an amazing –
Nikki: I’m a word recipe person. My husband will laugh out loud when he hears that.
John: That’s great. I was actually just going on a complete guess, I have no idea, so that was great. Obviously, we all know that all of those are important, all five of those. What one do you wanna share with Fire Nation that you think is important that you wanna kind of highlight for any number of reasons?
Nikki: I’m going with time-bound because someday ain’t a day of the week. Everybody loves Walt Disney, and Disney said, and I’m sure lots of other people say it because it’s kind of just a Captain Obvious statement, “Everybody needs deadlines,” and it’s true.
I am a world-class procrastinator if I do say so myself, and I did say so myself, but especially in this last trimester of my pregnancy, I’ve had certain things that had been lingering on my list for weeks if not months, but now that I have the time-bound due date of an actual human being, it’s funny, “Oh, look there, I have an interview with John. Let me make sure that I’m prepared for it. Okay, the morning of, let’s do this.”
You have to have a deadline to get things done, otherwise, you will just keep pushing it back, pushing, and pushing, and pushing, and pushing, and then it doesn’t get done. Then what happens? Then you feel disappointed, and you didn’t get to where you wanted to go, and life is short.
John: Someday ain’t a day of the week, Fire Nation. Truer words never been spoken. What brings to the front of my mind when you’re talking about that, Nikki, is Parkinson’s law. Tasks will absolutely expand to the time that you, and that’s you, Fire Nation, will allot them.
Nikki knew that she had a talk with me today at 11:00 a.m. That’s Pacific time. Who knows what time it is in Hawaii. She had a talk with me, and so she knew that she had to get prepped for that call by that specific time, and so guess what she did. Just like she knows she’s going to be giving birth at a specific date, give or take a few days, so she has so get certain things done before then. Guess what? She will.
Parkinson’s law is real. Time-bound is great. You’re actually the first person thus far, Nikki, to choose time-bound, so thanks for mixing it up.
Nikki: Oh, let Parkinson be my middle name.
John: Speaking of your middle name, you have quite the journey. I love how proud you are of being a military spouse, me having served as an officer in the US Army for 8 years. That means a lot to me when the family steps up and just takes a lot of pride in that, so again, thank you for your service as a military spouse, and to your husband for his service, of course, to this country, and really, to this world.
Let’s kinda shift now to a Nikki story, to a story of a time that you set and accomplished a goal at some point. Let’s just get specific with this and take it away.
Nikki: Okay, so I was thinking about this a lot, obviously, from the time that you invited me to do this. Thank you very much, by the way.
Nikki: It means a lot to be invited back. I know I’ll be in great company, and I’m excited to listen to the rest of the series. The one I can think of that really was probably the smartest goal that I’ve set and just gone after with reckless abandon so far was hitting six figures of revenue, so over $100000.00 in revenue, in my first year of business because obviously, that’s specific, that’s a number.
It’s measurable because it’s a number. Was it attainable? Well, it freaked me out for sure because months before, when I started my business, and I think I shared this in our first episode, I had been making paychecks of the heart, like $14.00.
If you averaged out my faculty paychecks, it was probably more like $10.00 for the courses I was facilitating online. Yeah, that seemed like a lot, but then I thought about my business record and how I made $21000.00 in my first six weeks because I just finally just put myself out there.
I knew it was possible, so it was attainable. It scared the pants off of me, but I knew it was attainable. It was relevant because I didn’t know why. It wasn’t really even about the money because I didn’t even pay myself because I didn’t have my accounting stuff figured out until after the first year was over, so it wasn’t like, “I need this money right now,” it’s kind of just the frosting on the cake, or the sprinkles on top.
I felt like it was supposed to be part of my story. Now I know why because I have this dream and this vision in 2016. I don’t know what it’s gonna turn into, but something called Your First Year, and just to help people, especially moms, who want to be able to work from home. If you’re gonna ignore your kids, you wanna be able to do it while you’re just 5 feet away as opposed to 50 miles away at a whole commute down the road.
Part of that is my I having, and I’m like, “Hey, that’s gonna be great on a book jacket.” It does give me credibility, so now I see why it was a relevant goal. It was absolutely time-bound because I knew that the end of my first year, it was gonna be March 2014.
Basically, I had made, when I set this goal, it was two years ago, it was December 2013. I had about $56000.00 in revenue so far from my first eight months, which came 100 percent from working one on one with people.
John: Hustle, straight hustle.
Nikki: Yeah, yeah, one on one. I started off $199.00 an hour, and then at that point, by the end of the year, when I closed out the one on ones, I was doing $499.00 an hour. Then I had to shut it down because I knew I needed scale. As my buddy David Simon Garland says, “Punch dollars for hours in the face.”
I needed to create my course, and I knew I couldn’t do that and continue the one on ones, so that was how I set the goal. I time like, “Okay, I’m gonna actually just do this. I’m gonna create it.”
My buddy Amber McHugh has this plan-a-thon that she runs every November, and it’s still up. It’s free, and the videos of great and inspiring, and you can still see where I wrote down what she calls the Big Kahuna Goals, and I wrote it down on this paper that my son had scribbled on like, “Okay, hitting six figures in my first year means no big deal, just need to make $45000.00 in the first three months in the year, chump change, whatever.”
I had never made that much before, but I knew if I actually put this course together and it was a $1000.00 course, then I had a shot at it at least, so I went for it.
John: Wow. Fire Nation, she just walked us through all of the smart letters in very sequential order. This is the power of setting smart goals. I love the idea, Nikki, of your first year. I mean, way to put it out there on EO Fire, just way to put to out there in the universe.
This is something that I love talking to Fire Nation about, is you have to put things out there in the universe. You have to say things, and things just start to come together. I mean, the actual first episode of this series is with a past guest that I had, Nikki, Richie Norton, where I had just been talking about the freedom journal, but his company product was the perfect fit that was gonna take the freedom journal and make it a reality.
I said, “I’ve been putting this out there forever, and now you’ve come to me. You’ve been drawn in,” so what is that thing, Fire Nation, that you want to put out into the world like Your First Year is for Nikki, and like that $100000.00 goal that she had, and being very specific about that?
Let’s kinda continue this story, Nikki because you accomplished that goal. Take us to the launching of the course, the sales starting to roll in. Take us on that journey with you and how it felt. What did you do next?
Nikki: Yeah, it was crazy. Like I said, I mentioned Amber’s plan-a-thon. She talks about 90-day goals, and I also love Todd Herman and his 90-day year, and just the idea of – and like you’re doing with your Freedom Journal, with the 100 Days, instead of just getting overwhelmed by the big vision of, “Where are you gonna be three to five years from now?” it’s good to kinda have a general idea, but what are you gonna do now?
I had a 90-day plan, but at this point, again, husband, military, he had been on the other side of the country for most of the year, and we were gonna be home for the holidays, and so stuff just kept getting pushed back.
I had a 90-day plan that I had worked on, but in reality, again, Nikki Parkinson Elledge Brown, I was like, “I’ll just wait until I do it.” I told people I was gonna do it. In December, I was like, “Look, I’m going to launch this course.” Public accountability is my frenemy, and I told my people, who I had a list of probably about 1200 people at the time. Now it’s almost 20000 two years later, but I had 1200 people.
I was like, “Look you all, I’m gonna launch this course. This is gonna be the date,” and then just little by little, I had to put my money where my mouth was and actually get to work. The first thing I did, I had it all outlined because it was based on the work that I had done with my one on one clients plus just my background in communication studies, so I had it outlined, but I didn’t actually create the course until after I had launched it.
I was creating the launch videos, I have a free video series that’s still available today. I recorded some of it while we were at the Navy Lodge in Groton, Connecticut visiting my husband, and I had my MacBook on my suitcase in this bathroom/closet where I was literally just recording the video, the voiceover part in there.
I documented it all there because I’m a digital memory hoarder, and so I just kept taking little steps. One day, I was actually like, “Just, again, I need accountability, and also need to know that somebody wants this for sure.”
One day, I put in the email, I put a PS link with a PayPal link, “Course isn’t created yet. I don’t even have the syllabus kind of written, but if anybody wants to buy it, I just have a feeling someone does,” and the first five people of the founding class signed up. Most of them were people I had worked with one on one, and that was such an amazing feeling because I was like, “I love you guys.”
I’ll never forget, I sent them individual little emails that were a certificate of, “Woo-hoo, thank you so much.” You never forget your founding members.
Then, at the end of January is when I started the videos. I was totally, again, crazy. I was literally recording the videos as I was sending them out the next day, but I had given dates, and I was like, “I’m just gonna do this thing.”
Then, when I launched the course and opened the cart, I had one sale that day, one sale. Again, we were in Connecticut at the time when I opened the cart. It was all snowy outside, so we were having fun, and I couldn’t be too disappointed, but I was like, “Okay, this isn’t gonna get us to $45000.00. This is not how it’s gonna go.”
I decided to focus on gratitude for the people who were in there. A lot of people were like, “Oh, don’t start a Facebook group until you have so many members because it’s social” –I’m like, “Who cares? I think it’s cool. People love to be the founding members and to be in on the ground floor because they get more access to you, they get to shape the future of the program. I’m all about it.”
I just started to love on, I was writing notes in the snow, “Welcome to a course about copy,” just focusing on the people who were there. Little by little, we kept getting more, and more, and more. I kid you not, I was right on the button as I was removing the cart link.
I closed it on Valentine’s Day, and then that Sunday, again, first launch, I’m confused, “Wait, how do I actually close the cart? What do people do?”
I was unlinking the order form from the sales page when I got an email from Lauren Bradley in Australia. She was like, “Oh no, it’s Monday. Am I too late,” whatever. She was literally number 50, and that had been kind of my goal in my mind, was to have 50 founding members.
Again, somehow, we had 51. That snuck in the next day, but I was like, “That’s really fine.” I’m like, “Class, she has a tardy pass, this is okay. Please welcome Lauren as a member.” We kicked off with 51 members, and I think that put my at about $115000.00 to ride into the sunset of my first year in business, and it was insane and crazy.
The coolest thing was what those numbers represent, which were people who had put their faith in me and put their hard-earned money in my bucket to deliver some value for them. We just had a great time going through if.
I was like, “Oh great, 50 people. I guess I should record Lesson 1 because I told them it would come out on Monday,” and so that’s what I did. I cranked out two lessons a week.
You asked, “What did you do next?” I hibernated. I just shut down for a few months because I was super triggered by triggering other people. Some people hate people talking about money at all unless you’re publishing a full on income report like someone I know who does that, which is great. Even then, some people find it tacky. You just can’t please everybody.
John: Ew, never.
Nikki: It was hard to me to accept that. I wouldn’t to talk about it, I wanted to share, I wanted to win, but I was just really triggered by triggering other people. I think it just kinda put me into a little hibernation.
It was really exciting at the time that night when the cart was closing. I was in Texas. My sister was staying with me in Texas and she was asleep. Everybody was asleep, so I did a cartwheel in the living room [inaudible] [00:16:50], like, “I feel like I should celebrate. This is a big deal. This just happened.”
My Pandora station was playing this song that I love called Oceans by Hillsong United, which is this spiritual moment because I’m like, “Wow, this is really cool.” A business that sparked just because I had the idea that focus on the word faith, and then everything else that that has led to since, and again, especially thinking two and a half years later, it blows my mind, everything that’s happened since then.
John: Fire Nation, that is how you tell a story. I mean, I can picture right now Nikki just fading away into the sunset doing cartwheels in the dark, all of these things, just so real, so alliterative. That’s the way you tell a story. Nikki, just take a couple minutes here. Break down four us – actually, I’m gonna give you 30 seconds. What’s the one thing that you are most fired up about right now?
Nikki: Building a naptime empire in 2016.
John: Naptime, baby. I’ll let you expand a little about on that.
Nikki: Because I’m gonna have a little one, who finally is taking naps again, but like I said, things are gonna be crazy. My heart is to help other moms and dads who want to be able to be there while their little ones are napping. You can build an empire in between, and I just wanna prove that it’s possible, so I’m gonna be our guinea pig and case study.
I really just wanna scale my business while we have another little one, leave the breadcrumbs, and show people how to do it, too. Your First Time in Nap Time Empires. That’s what I’m excited about for 2016.
John: Love it. Well, Fire Nation, we have some breadcrumbs to success coming up in the freedom round, but first, we’re gonna take a minute to thank our sponsors. Nikki, are you prepared for the freedom rounds?
Nikki: Let’s do it.
John: Why do you feel most entrepreneurs fail to set smart goals?
Nikki: It’s scary. I mean, it stinks. When I don’t meet a goal and you have everything set on, “This has to be the number, or else I failed,” if that’s the approach you’re taking, then of course it sucks because it stinks if you don’t. It’s really hard to bounce back if you feel like you let yourself down, and that letting go piece is tough.
That’s why personally, for me, sometimes that I’m like, “Oh, I really don’t wanna say that out loud because if I don’t hit it, I don’t wanna be disappointed,” so there’s a dance, yeah.
John: What is one action that you, Nikki, take daily that brings you closer to your current goals?
Nikki: Keeping in touch with biz buddies and teammates that I trust because I’m about to step back a bit as which do have this new little guy any day now, but just knowing that they’re still on board caring the load and helping me carry the vision, it just helps me keep hope that it’s all possible.
John: How important is accountability for you when setting goals?
Nikki: It’s very important, but I do have a love-hate relationship with it. Accountability can also stink and take the fun out of any project because if you decide that it’s something that you don’t actually wanna do, but you just keep doing it out of peer pressure just because you said you would, then, again, whoa, you’re wasting your life right now just because you told someone you were gonna do something, and now you really did change your mind. There has to be a balance.
I would just choose wisely which projects and goals you share and with whom because you don’t wanna take the fun out of a passion project. Again, I’m leaking my Your First Year and Nap Time Empires, but I have no idea what they’re gonna be. I’m not gonna put a timeline on them. In my mind, they’re something that will somehow take shape in 2016, but we’ll see.
They’re precious to me, so I’m not willing to be like, “He’s everything I’m gonna do, and here’s the deadline.” Sometimes, you gotta do that, though because it can certainly help you move farther faster and has definitely done that for me and my business. It’s also led to me pushing myself to the stage of burnout more often than I would ever care to from here on out.
John: That’s where the R, relevant, comes in, Fire Nation. You set up a smart goal, it has to be relevant to you. What’s relevant is to Nikki is not having these hard timelines on these things, and that makes that goal relevant. As you go forward, if a goal becomes less relevant to you or non-relevant, then you need to make an adjustment, a pivot, a switch.
Nikki, you might have kinda slid that in there, but I picked that up. I wanna highlight that for Fire Nation. She very classily used the word whom as opposed to who, so Fire Nation, you know Nikki knows what she’s talking about when it comes to copy.
Nikki: Hey, thanks.
John: Nikki, let’s talk about a book that you’ve read, not the Freedom Journal because I know that you would love to pump that, but we’re not gonna do that now. When it comes to setting and accomplishing goals, is there a book you’ve read that you think would be powerful?
Nikki: Well, I have two. One’s a cheat. Well, they’re both kinda different. One is a book, but it’s not really about setting goals, but I know that you are also involved with Pencils of Promise, and I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy of Adam Braun’s book, The Promise of a Pencil.
I just love it because it is super inspiring and actionable, and it’s about how he turned a pencil and an idea into a for-purpose empire that is changing lives all over the world in all different ways. I totally recommend The Promise of a Pencil for anybody who hasn’t read it. It’s, again, indirect. It’s not about necessarily setting the goal and going for it, but it’ll totally inspire you to do that.
The second cheat that I have to plug is Todd, again, with his 90- Day Year program because I love how I was a different spin on goal-setting and making sure that it is a context that you’re working within and not just this is a one-size-fits-all model, basically, of getting through and getting to your goals.
I love how he talks about turning potential into actual performance because that’s my biggest thing. My biggest fear, probably, isn’t failure, but it’s just not reaching my full potential because I just feel like there’s a lot that’s possible, and so I wanna know that I can actually do this. I really appreciate his approach to helping people actually pleasure and achieve those goals that they’re setting.
John: Adam Braun is amazing. He actually preceded you by four days, Nikki, on the Freedom Journal right here. He was just four episodes prior to your episode going live, so I know a lot of Fire Nation’s already heard his episode because we have partnered with Pencils of Promise, and every time we hit a new funding goal during our Kickstarter campaign, I am personally donating $25000.00 on behalf of you, Fire Nation, and your awesomeness to build a school in a developing country, which is so cool because Adam is just the man on every level.
Nikki: Love it.
John: Nikki, I want to end today on Fire with you sharing a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say good-bye.
Nikki: Okay. Parting piece of guidance, I can’t really ever stray from it, is just to remember whatever doing, it’s great to set goals, it’s great to have a vision, it’s great to have high expectations for yourself for sure, but you have to remember, everyone who’s probably been coming through your earbuds right now with John would agree with is that it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be shared.
If I were a pull string doll, that would be one of my things that I say all the time because I have to say it to myself, too. Again, when I just wait to the last minute to do everything, then it really isn’t gonna be perfect anyway, but that’s the pointing. You just gotta start and get in there.
Pull up your sleeves and get your hands dirty and just get moving because that’s the momentum. That’s what the gonna get you going, is when you actually just start. Just take little baby steps, and little by little, you’re gonna look back and be like, “Oh, look at that, look at me. Look what I did. That’s pretty sweet.”
Then, everywhere you can find me is Nikkielledgebrown.com, acourseaboutcopy.com, and just about everything slash nikkielledgebrown. If you happen to misspell it, then Google will kindly correct you, so come find me.
John: That’s the beauty of three names, it really just makes Google just find you a lot easier because very few people are putting their three names out there.
I wanna say, Fire Nation, that you know this. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with NEB and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, just type Nikki in the search bar. Her last episode on EO Fire plus this current one will pop right up, and you can get all the links we’ve been chatting about today.
Of course, go directly to nikkielledgebrown.com or acourseaboutcopy.com to check out her awesomeness there. Nikki, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation told. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Nikki: Thanks, John.
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