Ep. 36

Navigating Entrepreneur Burnout with Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and website strategist for entrepreneurs—and also one of Interact’s very first strategic partners.

Kayla comes from a long line of farmers and agriculture workers and is a first generation entrepreneur. Working tediously for hours on end was something that was engraved in her from a young age, but today, Kayla share her story of how she learned to shift her mindset to grow her business sustainably and avoid entrepreneurial burnout.

Kayla Hollatz website: https://kaylahollatz.com/

Jessmyn:
Okay, here we go. Hi, everyone. And welcome back to Interact’s Creator Stories. I am Jessmyn Solana. It’s nice to be with you all again. We have a crazy week coming up. So hopefully, this gives everyone a nice little break in their day. Today with us, we do have a special guest, and I know I say that every week, but this is pretty special. This is pretty special because we have Kayla Hollatz with us today. Hi, Kayla.

Kayla:
Hi, Jess.

Jessmyn:
And the reason why this is really special is because part of her story also ties into Interact story, and probably more so for us and it does for you. Actually, that could be wrong. But it’s pretty crazy because Kayla was one of our very first strategic partners at Interact. We’re just talking about this 2016.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
We reached out to you in 2016, and then you became a more formal partner in 2017. And then when we rolled out our consultants program, you were one of our very first consultants. So this pretty crazy. I’m as usual going to let you tell your whole story about how you got started and your business, what you do. But yeah, I’m really excited to have you here.

Kayla:
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Jess. And it’s been so fun to work with you over the years, because I know that you [inaudible 00:01:28] Interact since the get-go too. So it’s always really fun to feel like you can be a part of the team from the ground up. And when I started my first business, because I actually have had two different businesses. So my first business was really inspired by a blog that I started in college.

Jessmyn:
Wow.

Kayla:
I had no idea that online entrepreneurship even existed. I’m a first generation entrepreneur. So the whole idea of running your business, especially making money online seemed very elusive. But once I started blogging, I saw all of these people who were using their blogs in order to monetize them. And like, “That looks really cool. I bet I could do that too.” So I kept going through college, building up my community, hosting a Twitter chat. If you remember things back in the day when that was a big thing. And that was really just the catalyst for me to start thinking about owning my own business.
So started that first business and did the whole, having three months of savings and then trying to book out three months in advance of clients. And I was able to do that before I officially launched which was to me, I thought, “Amazing. This is what I need to be doing.” So I quit my PR agency job at the time, and just really leaped into everything. But was working way more hours than I needed to. Really burned myself out. And just had a lot of different, I guess, realization moments and aha moments in the midst of that, that made me feel like, “Okay, I think I actually need to shift gears.” From what I was doing in that first business was social media consulting.
I actually called myself a community coach, which is hilarious because any person that I talked to they’re like, “What’s a community coach?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s partly why.” I [inaudible 00:03:13] do as well. My second business, it was because I was trying to make this title and make this thing that didn’t necessarily exist. But at the same time, I don’t think without that business, I would have left into the one that I have now with copywriting. And it’s just so interesting when you look back, you just realize there really are no mistakes in your story. It’s just that everything kind of leads to something that you needed before you can just kind of run. And that’s what happened with my second business.

Jessmyn:
Whoa, I love that. Okay. Something caught my eye or, well, my ears as you were speaking. For those who are listening, we’re also on video. So that’s why I said, hi. You mentioned that you worked more than you needed to.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
You probably felt burnt out or you did burn yourself out. Do you think that’s, I guess, common for early entrepreneurs, especially if you don’t really know what you’re doing? And you’re like, “I actually don’t know where I’m trying to go.” All that stuff.

Kayla:
Absolutely. I think it’s super common. I know that some of it was some of the workaholic tendencies that come down in my family line. I come from a long line of farmers and agriculture workers. So it’s kind of this whole belief that everything has to be hard, hard work. Also, seeing my dad fall into that and really almost… I don’t know if I would say putting him on a pedestal, but just really admiring that about him. Wanting that to be something that was said about me. So I was already seeing that reflected at the agency. And then any time that I wasn’t working 70 hours at the agency, then I was doing my blog on the side.
So to leap into my business, I just felt like, now I just get to spend all those hours at the agency on my own thing. So I was basically working 80-ish hours a week, which is not something that I recommend at all. Because as you can see in my story, it truly is not sustainable. You can do it for a short amount of time, but you can’t do it long-term. And so I think another thing, like you’re saying, with it being so common, I think why it happens too is because as a new entrepreneur, you don’t necessarily know what should take priority. And I think right now it’s even more so that way.
When I talk to my friends who are just starting a business now, or last year, or something like that, it’s really difficult because I feel like they’re bombarded even more about, you need to have an email list that’s huge out the get-go. Or you need to have this huge marketing plan, or you need to outsource literally, everything in your business instead of doing it yourself. And all these different messages that make people feel like, “Okay, but where do I actually start, and how do I try to make something with just what I have?”
And I think what’s difficult is that it’s really nice in those early years to be super scrappy, I’m a huge believer in that. But I think it’s trying to figure out, what should you be scrappy about, and what are the things that are most worth it for your time and experimenting? Because I was somebody that just like to experiment with anything, kind of throwing stuff at a wall to see what’s stuck. But then at the time I was able to see what was sticking, but I still was just doing everything. Because I was kind of in that passion mode where I was just so excited running almost on adrenaline. But I didn’t necessarily look around me to see that my fast pace was affecting a lot of other people in my life, and was actually starting to isolate me too.

Jessmyn:
Wow. I giggled when you said, “I kept throwing things at the wall to see…” Because I think that’s what it’s like. That’s always what is like. You’re just like, it’s the perfect analogy, and it’s just really hard just waiting to see if it sticks to the wall or not. And correct me if I’m wrong, this was more early in your business.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
[crosstalk 00:07:06] actually talked about productivity stuff together too. So at what point in your business where you’re like, “Wow, this is not healthy. I need to do something different.” And then from there, how did you work through the right type of organization or structure to get you to a place where you were still getting all that production done, and all this stuff done for work or for your business? I had another word coming and then I forgot. But how did you go from there to where you are now?

Kayla:
Yeah, absolutely. I feel like that’s the million dollar question, right? With it not being sustainable, what happened? Well, basically I think a lot of people, when they talk about their story they use the word burnout. But I think burnout can look different for a lot of people, and especially, the way that you get there. It’s a journey, for sure. It’s not like I woke up one day and I was like, “I just can’t do this anymore.” It was kind of that slower progression. When I look back at me starting to not necessarily go to as many events, not investing as much in my community. And for me I’m extremely close to my family. So when I started to almost stop… I wasn’t stopping to see my family, but I just wasn’t necessarily going out of my way to go and see them.
That was a huge indicator for me that I was starting to isolate myself, because I just was like, “Let’s just keep going. And I got to make this work.” And in my first year I was creating so much free content, and I think I’m still such a huge believer in content. I mean, we create content all the time together at Interact, but it’s got to be a means to an end.
And if you’re not necessarily focusing on whatever it is that it’s leading to, you just are going to find yourself on this hamster wheel, just always producing. So I think in that moment, I just became a lot more like a machine, or I’m like, “I got to get going. I got to figure all of these things out.” And by doing that, I started to lose some of that human interaction. I also was living and working alone. So it was really easy for me to do that without a lot of extra accountability.

Jessmyn:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kayla:
And just as that started to happen with the isolation, I also am somebody that has been managing my PTSD since college. And so that was definitely a huge part of the reason why everything inside me broke down, was because I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the tools at that point. And I was going at such a fast speed that my awareness that I usually have was kind of falling by the wayside. And so it became much, much harder for me to manage that. I started having definitely an uptick in my PTSD episodes and different things that I hadn’t experienced since college. So I just felt like, “What is going on? I can not keep going at this pace.”
So it really happened to be a moment where I just sat at the end of my bed. And I remember my whole entire apartment was dark, and I just had this really emotional and very spiritual moment of just really surrendering everything that I was doing and feeling like, “I quite literally, cannot keep going at the pace that I’m going. I can’t do this on my own. I need to just be.” And I think it was in that moment that I realized how much of my identity was in work rather than in my faith too, because that’s a huge part of my life and my story. But it’s so interesting. Because if you would have asked me if my identity wasn’t work, I would have told you, no.

Jessmyn:
Yes.

Kayla:
But everything that I was doing was showing that it was. It was always about Kayla Hollatz the brand, rather than Kayla Hollatz the person. And I think also what was happening was that I was so active in my online community that I let that replace my in-person community. And all these different decisions that I don’t think without having that surrender moment and that realization, I wouldn’t have taken a step back. I wouldn’t have been able to look at that. And so ever since then, my life has looked extremely different from that. And that has just been a raw, but very beautiful reminder of what not to go back to, for sure.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. I think it’s so easy to get burnout too, which is what’s more annoying about it. It’s so easy for it to happen. I think my question from here is, what would you say to somebody who might be in the middle of burnout? Obviously, you don’t want to get to that point where you’re kind of at the bottom and you don’t know what to do from here. And you were able to figure it out. But I guess, before somebody gets to that point, if you look back now, could you say that, yeah, there were probably some indications that I was going this way, and I probably did need to change earlier? I just either didn’t notice it or I did notice it and didn’t want to do anything about it.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. I think the biggest thing that I can say is just slow down. Because when you are going at such a warp speed, and I think a lot of times in entrepreneurship, when we look at other entrepreneurs, we almost feel like that’s like a normal speed. Everybody else is just going super slow. But then for us, we have to go pedal to the metal, especially in your first year. So you almost start to validate yourself in that speed. I have to go this way, and this is the only thing that’s keeping this working, when that’s not true.
But yeah, when you slow down, I think that you’re able to start trusting yourself again. You definitely tap more into your discernments. That was a huge thing for me. I just didn’t necessarily always trust myself with the decisions that I was making. But at the same time when you’re going so fast, it’s really difficult to actually sit with a decision, decide, does this actually feel aligned with me? Does this work? Instead of just saying yes to every opportunity. And I think that that’s where a lot of business owners can find themselves in.
And I remember I was just talking to a friend of mine the other day, who, in two months, in the first few months of her true full-time self-employment, she has five different speaking engagements with from scratch presentations to create, and all these different things. And you just start to see certain things too. So I think if you’re able to have other people who are in business that you allow into your circle, then it also helps you, because they can hopefully keep you accountable as well to say like, “Do you actually need to be doing all of that? Can you slow down a little bit?”
But yeah, I think in the end it really just is about pumping the brakes, even when there’s a lot of signs around you that make you feel like it’s really best to just put your foot on the gas. Because it’s hard, it’s a decision you have to make. But I think it’s a really important one, especially if you’re… Like you’re saying, you’re kind of seeing the indicator lights before your engine just completely runs out. Which mine completely ran out in the biggest way. And I just love being able to be around my friends, and to also teach them over time what my own indicators are, and help them find their own because then, we’re able to help each other in that way. Because sometimes you can almost be too close to it to actually be able to see what’s going on.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. I love that. And it’s crazy because recently since doing this podcast and hearing people’s story, a big question for me now when I work with anyone is, is this within your bandwidth?

Kayla:
That’s good.

Jessmyn:
Is the projects that we’re asking you to do within your bandwidth? Because from our perspective, we don’t know what you have on your plate.

Kayla:
Yep.

Jessmyn:
And it wasn’t until I started doing Creator Stories that I was like, “Oh, wow. People that we work with, are working with probably four or five other people, or they have other clients.” And that’s something to keep in mind. And I know I’ve experienced burnout before too, and not starting my own business, but my first job out of college. And so it’s kind of led me up to here where like, “Yeah, I actually also want…” And I wish more people did that when working with other people. Just making sure like, “Hey, is this okay with the time that you have? Do you have enough for this?” So I think it’s good to keep an eye out for stuff. And it’s good to, like you said, have people in your circle to be like, “Oh, should you really be doing all of that?’.

Kayla:
Yes.

Jessmyn:
So my question from here too, because you now make four times what you did in your first business. And clearly, working 80 hours a week wasn’t what got you there. So what did get you there?

Kayla:
Yeah, such a great question. And that actually happened from my first year to my second year. So talk about true change. It was wild. But there’s a lot of different things that happened in the middle of that. The main thing was that, for three months, I just took a lot of time to just cut out all the distractions. Take on a very small load of clients that I had at the time in the social media space. Because I knew that I probably wasn’t going to be staying in that space for very long.

Jessmyn:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kayla:
And just privately allowed myself to process through what was going on. So again, I intentionally slowed myself down. And in that three months, lots of reflection, tons of prayer. I mean, even if you look back at my journals, I think I maybe had four journals filled at that point. There’s that many things going on in my head that I just was not giving them the mental space to really try to find some of that clarity. So that was really important to me in that time.
And I think it was by asking myself all of those questions and becoming aware again, and trusting myself in my discernment again. And almost relearning some of the skills and the different things that I had before that fast-paced had kind of kicked in. And through a series of experiences as well as uncovering some limiting beliefs and some different scarcity mindsets that I had around money. And a lot of things that I think people are listening to and shaking their heads yes, that they understand what that’s like, and maybe, they’re going through it right now too.
But all of that work was so impactful and it created the foundation that I needed in order to even discover that I was going to do a second [inaudible 00:17:30] in business. Because at the time I really didn’t know if I was going to go back to something else, like a full-time job. I had started actually creating a list of a few different job opportunities that I was going to go back to my resume, which I hadn’t done in a year. So I was like, “Oh, man, I guess, I’m going to do this now.” And it was just really interesting.
One of the main reasons why I decided to stay in business was actually that my brother had a case of pneumonia that was really serious. It was around my birthday and I just remember that my dad, working a full-time job, he had to be there. My mom was on vacation, but then what’s going to have to go back to her job. So I really was the only person who was available and even able to help him. And there were so many moments where he needed that direct care a few times every hour. Because if he wasn’t in a certain position, he wouldn’t be able to breathe and we would have had to take him to the hospital.
So it was just a really clarifying moment for me to just remind myself why I was in business. It wasn’t because it’s just such a fun way for me to create all this free content, or it’s all about me feeling passionate every single day. It really was for me in those very serious, impactful moments. I have the flexibility and the freedom to be there for the people that I love. Which again, when I’m talking about the isolation, I think that’s just what really healed my heart in a lot of ways, was because I was almost like, that was one of the first things to go. And then in that moment I realized, “No, this is the why. This is the purpose behind why I’m doing this. Is because I want to be that person who can be with you in times of health or in times of hurt and need.”
And I started realizing like, “Oh, my gosh, the business helps me be that friend that people can call on if they need a ride to the airport, or if they need somebody because their car broke down.” And those all seem like very simple and almost trivial type things. But those are the things that really helped me re-establish outside of just the work that I was doing. Why that I think I wanted to try again with business, which was huge for me, because it almost felt like the safer route to go back to something else full-time.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. Oh, I love that. And something that came to mind too, because when we work with entrepreneurs, or if they’re new entrepreneurs, a big thing is, you want that kind of freedom that you wouldn’t get from a day job. And so when you were talking about like, “Oh, I want to be that person where you can call and say, can I get a ride to the airport?” That’s the whole thing. But a lot of entrepreneurs will fall into that 80 hour work week, then you don’t get what you thought. You won’t have that outcome.

Kayla:
Yeah.

Jessmyn:
So you mentioned journaling a lot.

Kayla:
Yes.

Jessmyn:
I love journaling too. But do you have any specific type of way you journal or questions that you ask yourself? And I’m sure you still do it too. How do you check in with yourself?

Kayla:
Absolutely. I love it too, because everybody has a different way to journal, which is fantastic. Especially in that moment, it was just kind of whatever came to mind. I do a lot of stream of consciousness journaling. I think a huge reason why I do it is because so much of the writing that I do is published online. And I love that about my job and what I do. But it’s really nice for me to have a private space where I don’t have to sound a certain way. I can just let things be on the page. And so that’s why I really like that type of writing where it’s not editing yourself. It’s not even almost thinking about, “Okay, is this something that I would maybe want somebody to stumble upon someday.” Or some of those fears that I hear from people a lot about feeling like, “I can’t journal because maybe, my kids will find it some day.”
But I just think it’s so important to give yourself that space to process. And there are a lot of people who process externally through conversations, and it might be helpful to write notes down. And then you can journal about it later. There are some people like myself who really like to internally process. So it helps to get things down on a journal. So I don’t just go in spirals in my head because I can do that very easily. But yeah, I never really found myself looking online at different prompts, even though I think that those are a fantastic way for you to get started. If you’re not exactly sure where to go or you’re sitting down and feeling like, “Okay, well, I don’t really know what to write about today.”
But I also allowed myself to just journal when I felt like I had anything in my head, or decisions that I had to make. Rather than telling myself I have to journal every single day, and it has to be for this amount. Because I think creating a habit is great, but when it became a responsibility, or a thing to check off the list, I think, that’s sometimes when journaling can be a tough thing. Because it’s not necessarily giving you maybe what you’re looking for at that point.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. Yeah. I see that. And that makes sense. I like that though. I think stream of consciousness too, is nice because you’re just brain dumping.

Kayla:
Yep.

Jessmyn:
And it’s almost like holding everything in and then you just let it on loud.

Kayla:
Absolutely.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. I’ve honestly tried all of the above-

Kayla:
All of the difference.

Jessmyn:
In certain situations, one works better than the other. But I know you also mentioned that your faith is really important to you, and that did help you get through this time too. And if you’re comfortable talking about it, there’s anyone listening who maybe never made the connection that their own faith could help them in their struggles with their business. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Kayla:
Yeah, absolutely. And thank you for giving me the space to talk about that too, because I think so many times in our stories, we can have these spiritual moments, and it can be hard to know, okay, where does that exactly fit in when I’m talking with people that are of different faiths. And I think that’s something that’s so amazing about business, is that you’re able to meet people from so many different backgrounds who may not necessarily have the exact same beliefs or experiences that you have. But I think we can all understand that role that it plays for us. So I know for me, just that act of surrender, and prayer, and really it was kind of coming to the end of myself.
A lot of times in the Christian faith, we talk about it as emptying yourself. It just almost like an exhale. And I think a lot of people are able to find that in meditation and in other formats too, where you’re able to just quiet everything inside yourself, and able to hear that still small voice inside of you. And it was just amazing because during that time, I just really started to tune into that a lot more. And just listening more to the Holy Spirit and trusting what that was. And I remember there was one thing in particular that really made a huge impact on me, and was kind of another catalyst as to why I kept going. Was that, in the midst of all of this, trying to figure out like, “Okay, well, if I want to do a second business, what the heck is that second business?”
And if there’s anything that I’ve known about myself, it’s always been that I just love to write. It was always a part of my career or of my path. But writing was never the core of it, if that makes sense. It was always communication and writing, or public relations and writing, and those sorts of things. So the idea of just being a writer, I had a lot of limiting beliefs around it. So when we were talking about journaling, I tried to explore my past a little bit and pray about it. And just try to understand, okay, if this is revealed to me, where is it that that belief kind of started where I just don’t necessarily feel like I can do something with writing?
And I ended up finding that it was really started with a teacher that I had back in elementary school. I remember she tried to publish some novels, and it didn’t necessarily go how she wanted it to go, and so she continued teaching. And I remember her being the very first person who ever validated and affirmed my talent in writing. And then I also remember her jokingly saying that you can never make money at it, because of course that was her experience.

Jessmyn:
Yes.

Kayla:
It sounds like such a silly thing, but when I traced it back there are so many other experiences in different parts of my life where I’ve had people almost kind of put that starving artist trope on myself. And I think a lot of people listening can probably understand what that feels like too. Because when you are a very creative artistic person, you don’t necessarily always know how it relates to a career or something really tactical. So I think that’s when it started for me, to just continue cultivating that skill, but I never really thought that I could do anything with it.

Jessmyn:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kayla:
So I just remember hearing the Holy Spirit at that time, just saying, “Test me.” And I just felt that all over. And I had never felt something that strong. And I was like, “Well, at this point, what do I have to lose? I’m already a mess going through all of this. Let’s just try it out.” So I remember going to media clients at the time and quite literally telling them, “I’m not really thinking about doing this anymore. Would you guys like to work with me on copywriting?” Because I had already heard about copywriting. There were a few different people that I knew that kind of dabbled in it, but nobody who was really making a solid living at it. But I was like, “I guess, this is kind of what it relates to. Let’s try this.”
And luckily, I had the favor of all of my clients and they said, “Yes, let’s do it.” And I think one part of that too, is being willing to be humble too, in going back to those clients, because it’s hard. It’s hard to go to clients and be like, “Okay, this is my one thing of income still.” Even though as I’ve told you, it wasn’t necessarily very large, but it was sacrificing that in order to try something new.
So I remember after writing the first website for another client besides all the websites that I’ve written for myself in the past, I just was like, “This is what I meant to be doing.” I just had every confirmation in the world that this is what I needed to do. So that’s when I started to get to work behind the scenes. And we can talk a little bit more about that too. Because I did my business plan for the first time, which was such a crazy experience. And just really trying to get things prepared behind the scenes for me to publicly launch, which was a very different mindset change for me. Because I’m typically somebody who just thinks about the launch first, and then I’m like, oh, then I’ll do the private stuff behind the scenes.
But it was again, taking that slower pace to this feeling of, not everybody needs to know what you’re doing right now, and that’s okay. Because this incubator time is allowing you to become the person that you need to be in order to do what you’re going to be doing.

Jessmyn:
I love that you said that because a lot of times when we put something out or we’re planning on, you also get excited. And you’re like, “I want people to know that this is happening.” And then you’re like, “No one knows it’s going to happen yet.” So it’s just in your head that you need to get this out. You people to know about it. So I totally get that. But yeah. Tell me about that process of, you finally started working on your business plan. And for those who are listening, maybe, they’re in it right now or they just don’t know where to start. Talk about that.

Kayla:
Yeah. I mean, even the idea of a business plan, in a lot of ways seemed silly to me at the time. “I don’t have a business background. I don’t know what goes into this. I don’t need capital.” Because I think a lot of times when we think of business plans, we think of people that are trying to get the venture capital, or they’re trying to pitch their business to someone. And I didn’t necessarily need to do that. So my immediate reaction was, “I don’t really know.” But I really felt encouraged to try to do this. And I felt like that would be a more strategic way for me to jump into my business and build those stepping stones, so to speak.
So I remember going into things like, of course your mission statement, your core values, who your audience is. And I feel like all of that stuff started to come together very easily. But it was when I, of course, started to get into the packaging and pricing area where I’m like, “Ooh, this is showing a lot of my mindsets, and some scarcity, and things that were difficult.” So again, I had to spend some time kind of tooling through that and working with it. But just in all of that reflection, I think it was so important to take that time away from everything, and to really be strategic from the get-go of, “Okay. I know what it looks like to not do that. So now how can I set myself up to where… Of course my business is going to evolve over time, but how do I create the best foundation that I possibly can for it?”
So the business plan was really impactful in that way. And actually just about a month ago, when I was doing some of my year end review, I decided to go back to it, because I now am in my sixth year of business, which is crazy to say, now that we’ve been talking about that, which was quite a while ago. But it was really fun to look back at that business plan because I created a little bit of a revised one this year, but it was cool to see how many things I carried over. Some of the things that I changed.
And I think a lot of times people think a business plan is just a document. But for me, I believe that it was the thing that finally gave me some structure, and gave me a reason to just think about this as a business and not necessarily thinking of the starving artist, or I don’t really know what to charge, or I don’t know what people are willing to give me. I’ll just keep creating free stuff because that’s what lights me up. And all of those things where it’s like, there’s something behind that, that you need to get at in order to keep going and building the business that you want to.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. And I love that you said that, because I think that’s a question that comes up all the time is, how much do I charge people for my services? And even at Interact when we work with partners, they’re like, “How much do you charge for this?” And I’m like, “It’s up to you.”

Kayla:
“It’s up to you.”

Jessmyn:
Yeah. “It’s totally up to you.” For people out there who are listening, if they’re kind of in the spot where they’re like, “Yeah, I thought no one would want to work with me if I charged X amount of money. And so I did something lower and that also didn’t work.” What can you say to that process and that strategy?

Kayla:
Absolutely. I think one of the things that I had as a feather in my cap was definitely being able to work with some of those social media clients ahead of time. Because I already had their trust and their support, which was really amazing to me. And I will say that’s a huge reason why I always tell people, even before you start a business, start a community and start making relationships. Because I don’t think my transition would have been full of ease in the way that it was without some of those people. And those people that were willing to trust that I was going into a little bit of a different direction, but that they wanted to experiment with me. So that was really important to me too.
But yeah, just as I was kind of transitioning with some of that and trying to figure out, “Well, what do I price them for this when they’ve been knowing what my price is for this other service of mine?” And so I remember at the time, I definitely didn’t want to work hourly. The reason why was because back at the agency, when I was working there, I had to basically count my life in 15 minute increments. And then at the end of the week, I had to put in all of my 15 minute time slots and it took me so long. It was just the worst part of my job and just felt so tedious. And I never wanted to do that again. So I never wanted to count my hours. So I stayed strong to that.
And so I built a package and I said, “Okay, if this person needs about this many pages of copy and we’re going to try this process with it, for me privately, it’s probably going to be around this many hours. And based on that, what do I want to be paid?” And I remember feeling like, I definitely don’t want to charge such a low rate that I’m not excited to get working on a project. But then, I also don’t want to charge something so high that makes it difficult for me to maybe continue working with this client and building up this rapport.
So it was a little bit more of that question to me at the time, rather than doing a lot of competitor research, which I know some people do too. I think that could be a good way for you to maybe see a range of things. But at a certain point, I think you need to almost treat it like a target and you just throw it. And you’re like, “Okay, I’m just going to start with this price.”
And then, I also like to think about it when I’m working like, does this make me excited to keep working? Do I feel like I’m being really underpaid? And it’s like, you can keep shifting that project to project. But in the end, I think I ended up charging maybe around 1000 for my first five page website. And now, six years later, I’m at 5,000. But it took a while. And again, just increments to keep going up from there. And it just depended on demand. It depended on how my process little by little evolved. I mostly have the same process that I did six years ago.
But it’s just been interesting to play with pricing. And it’s funny because I know we talked about how there are some scarcity mindsets around some of those things when you’re first starting out. And I think a lot of, lot of business owners deal with that. But even in raising my prices from this past year 3,900 to 5,000, I was even going through some scarcity stuff too. Feeling like, “Well, I don’t know if I’m still going to be able to work with clients that I’m going to love. And I don’t know if they’re ready for that.” And all of those different things. And it’s just interesting that the more that you experiment with things behind the scenes before always just having to publicize it everywhere, the more I have found clarity and just treating everything at that experiment and that evolution, because it can be.

Jessmyn:
Yeah, yeah. Question for you, and this is a more of a general question.

Kayla:
Yes.

Jessmyn:
Okay. The one I’m thinking of is pretty much like, if you walk into a store, you look at the price of something, right? Sometimes people associate price with quality.

Kayla:
Sure.

Jessmyn:
Would you say that that’s a similar thing in the copywriting industry? And maybe, that’s why people have a hard time figuring out what their prices would be.

Kayla:
That is such a good question. My gut reaction to that is in some ways. Yes.

Jessmyn:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kayla:
I think that there are people who are kind of in the, let’s say, 1000 to maybe, 2000, or 2,500 range. And that tends to be the person who’s maybe been in business for one to three years. They’re working with other people who are either just starting out, or in their first or second year of business too. So they’re all growing together and that’s definitely enough to get you going. That’s where I started. And I felt good about that pricing when I was doing it, and just raising it over time.
For me, the harder jump was from, I stayed at 2,900 for my packages for website copy specifically, for so long. I just believed, “This is all that people are ever going to pay for this. So I’m just going to keep doing this forever.” And it took a little while to [inaudible 00:37:17] and to meet the clients who were willing to stretch for some of those other budgets. And it’s been a really cool experiment. But I’d say as the copywriter industry as a whole, I think you see a various amount of prices. For me, I work with a lot of creative entrepreneurs, but I also love working with SAS companies, like you guys at Interact.

Jessmyn:
Yes.

Kayla:
So even that is two completely different worlds. So you can look at SAS copywriters and they’re almost charging double to triple with working with entrepreneurs. And for me, I just knew that I loved being able to work with SAS companies because I felt like I was able to impact more entrepreneurs by working with them. And I just loved that world. But then, I never forget about the entrepreneur because I love serving them. And they’re my end person that I love serving.
So it’s been really cool to be in both spheres. But with the entrepreneur side of things, definitely a little bit lower than the SAS world, I guess. But at a certain point, I think prices raise with time. But I would say even more so with notoriety. Because when I started copywriting, there were definitely other copywriters out there, for sure. I definitely am not saying I was a trailblazer in this field. But now, there are so many more influential copywriters that because of that influence are able to charge quite a bit.
So it depends on where you’re at and what feels best to you. Like you’re saying, it’s all an experiment. And really, I think, although everybody tells you to look at the industry, that’s a great way for you to maybe figure out your ranges. I feel like pricing is also such a personal thing. And I had to look at my life, figuring out how many clients do I actually want to manage a month? Because you learn that. How much time do I want to put into things like… This year, I’m changing a lot of my schedule in order to start taking Fridays off. It’s kind of a Sabbath day of rest, which is a huge decision for me, especially when we’re talking about this first year of business.
So you kind of start to realize, “Okay, what pricing maybe do I need in order to fit the lifestyle that I want?” Yeah, I feel like I’ve basically said so many different factors, but it really is something that you have to continue figuring out. If you’re at a place where you can support the lifestyle that you want to, you’re working with clients that you’re really excited about, and you can continue doing it sustainably, I say, you’ve got a great business and continue looking at your pricing. I think in my opinion, that’s the goal.

Jessmyn:
I love that though, because I think it’s not just looking at one part of it. It’s looking at all parts of it to figure that out. And a lot of people struggle with that part.

Kayla:
Yeah.

Jessmyn:
Because it sounds like it should be pretty standard, right?

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
But it also, like you said, it’s a personal thing because it’s based off of you, and based off everyday life. It’s based off what you like to do after work. It’s even based off of the work that you like to do. And I think at the end of it, that’s what’s nice about having your own business is you do have that freedom to price yourself and pick what I want to give people. And-

Kayla:
Absolutely. Yeah. And I think one thing that also helped me gain more confidence in pricing was also gaining a ton of confidence in the way that I get to the final product. Because really at the end for me, it’s coffee for somebody else, it might be design, photography, whatever it is. There’s so much more work and value that goes into the final product than just what it is. So kind of when you were talking about that analogy of going to the shop and buying something, I think what’s amazing about being service providers, freelancers, business owners, is that you get to design your own process as to how you actually get there.
And for me, so much of the reason why I’m able to charge what I do and go into sales calls feeling super confident, even though I would not necessarily put myself up there with like the best sellers in the world, but I can really stand behind my own process. And I really love to talk about the whole client experience, because it’s not just about the copy that they receive, but it’s all of the strategy that goes into the conversions. It’s about the on-page SEO that I do in order for them to have long-term success. It’s all of these different pieces.
And I think when people are first starting out, they just see it as I am doing X thing. And this is maybe what it’s worth to this person. But a lot of are pulling in other parts of different processes and other types of value, that can really raise the price of what we’re doing, if that is valuable to the person. So kind of starts with picking the right audience. That’s actually going to value what you value. That’s a huge thing.
But I just love the emphasis on process and experience because I have some copywriter friends who do amazing work. Some of them do user interviews, which is incredible. Some of them do a lot of audience insights and research. And it’s just so interesting to me because we all have a different, I guess, niche, so to speak, or a different way that we kind of look at copywriting. And it’s not that either of us are right or wrong, it’s just, we get to partner with clients that really love the way that we do things and it makes sense to them. So I just love that aspect of running your own business.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. I like that a lot. It’s something that I say all the time too. It’s like, a lot of the times your customers are loyal to you because of your own personality. And of course the work that you do. They just like you as a brand. And so I think that’s a big thing to keep in mind too. I love that. Nice. So something that I was thinking of in the past, couple minutes, was you mentioned… Oh, my gosh, I just lost it.

Kayla:
You’re like, “The conversation is so good. I’m just marinating-“

Jessmyn:
When I get so into it and then, I totally forget what I was going to ask. Actually, no, no, no. I remember now. So I know you mentioned a lot about limited beliefs, and we even have one of your articles coming out talking about this.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
You talked about experiencing that and I know you journal a lot, but was there anything specific that you talk to yourself about or reflected on in terms of overcoming that feeling?

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. And it might seem like an odd one, but I have talked to other entrepreneurs who have continued to grow their businesses. And it’s one that I’ve heard from them too, which is, just this feeling, especially it was something that was passed down in my generation line. But just this feeling of like money has to come by it being hard. Like money can’t be easy and if it’s easy, it doesn’t feel good. It comes with guilt or it comes with shame, or those sorts of things.
So for me, even though I wasn’t necessarily making a lot during my first year of business, at least I was trying hard. At least I was doing everything that I could. But then in that second year, when I was doing technically the first year of my copywriting business, I was working more like 30 to 35 hours a week. And I was taking on a limited amount of clients and being super selective, like I wasn’t before. And not creating as much free content, and just allowing to make some of those choices. And it ended up paying off. Like you’re saying, I mean four times the income in that realm of time was fantastic.
But it was just so interesting because I just started to realize that some of those limiting beliefs were coming in, which was like, this is too easy. It shouldn’t be this way. And I think even for me just seeing how much my own parents have sacrificed for me, and I know, Jess, you’ve talked about your story too, about how your parents have sacrificed for you. And it’s so difficult because when you start to see yourself almost making more than your parents or having a different life than your parents, those things can start to come in and hit you in a really big way.

Jessmyn:
Yes.

Kayla:
And I just was really thankful to be able to have some very open, transparent conversations with my family about that. And I think that that was a huge reason why I was able to let go of some of those limiting beliefs, was because they were able to be behind me and say like, “This is why we sacrifice. We’re happy for you. We’re glad that there’s something that you do that comes easy to you, that you can make a great living at. Heck, we wish we could do that. That’s amazing.” Those types of conversations, which really helped me. But then I also had to do some of that healing inner work too, of figuring out, why is it that I feel like everything has to be so hard to come by? Why am I not feeling like it’s okay to have things come easily?
So it’s still something that happens for me. I’m noticing now it manifesting itself, and me almost trying to over-complicate things, instead of just allowing things to be slow and simple as I know that they’re best being. It’s interesting how it can look different in different seasons.
But again, being aware of some of those limiting beliefs, and actually doing the work. Some people do with the coach. Some people do at the therapist. I did it mostly with my journal and with people in my life that were my support system. But it can be such an impactful thing for you to do because I don’t think people realize how much it’s affecting their pricing, or affecting even the way that they show up on sales calls, or those sorts of things, until you really dig into it. Because you can say it out loud and it seems odd. But then you start looking internally and go, “Oh, that’s why it’s there.”

Jessmyn:
No, I agree with that. I think too, sometimes you don’t notice it. You don’t notice it’s happening. But like you said, it can impact your actual work.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
And it can impact how people see you and all that stuff. And I think it’s something that a lot of people go through because it’s there and it happens, and we wouldn’t be talking about it right now. And I remember when you first mentioned it to me, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s a really good topic.” That’s a really good topic to talk about because it’s some part that I haven’t explored yet either. And I haven’t [inaudible 00:47:35] to talk about it.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
I’m in this whole thing of like, let’s talk about the hard things, because there’s probably so many people out there who are feeling this way, or thinking this way, and they think they’re alone in it. They don’t think other people are experiencing this. And it’s so easy to go online and see everyone and be like, “Oh, yeah. I’m doing great. I’m doing awesome-“

Kayla:
Yeah.

Jessmyn:
Like kicking off. But there is still that part where they got there. I love that. I love that.

Kayla:
That’s awesome. I do know a few people that started out as entrepreneurs and that’s been their track, but a lot of us started out as more like traditional employees. Sometimes from the corporate world, sometimes from small business, startup, all those different places. So I think when that comes to you, I think a lot of times we start to grow this skill of negotiation and trying to figure out, “Okay, what is it that I can get from you? And you can get from me?” And those sorts of things.
But I think one of the huge mindsets that entrepreneurs also need to learn is that, it’s okay for you not to negotiate. It’s okay for you to say, “This is my package. This is my price. This is the reason why it is the way it is. And if it’s not necessarily a fit for you, I’ll totally help you find somebody else where it’s a good fit.” I would love to just tell entrepreneurs who are listening, you don’t need to go through the draining energy of trying to accommodate every single person’s small need.
I think it’s important just to remind yourself that you need to have confidence in what you’re able to provide, what you’re able to give, how you do it. And after that, just bring that confidence into how you’re presenting things. Because I think that that is the mark of a really great business owner. Is not necessarily having the best sales process or being everywhere on every single platform. But it’s just feeling really confident in what you do. And I think that can also help you feel a little bit more confident like we’re talking about with the pricing. Just because of some of those other things that lead you there

Jessmyn:
I’m 100% an accommodator. It’s something that I’m working on. But I’m totally an accommodator. It’s not my favorite thing. And it’s something that I didn’t notice I was doing until someone was like, “Why do you keep accommodating these things?” I’m not going to say what.

Kayla:
Yeah, Yep.

Jessmyn:
I was just like, “Oh, my God. I do that.” And so now I’m starting to notice when I do it.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
And I physically tell myself, “Oh, my gosh. You are accommodating, stop doing it.”

Kayla:
You know what’s wonderful about that though? Is I’ve noticed that about myself too. I’m a little bit of a people pleaser. And I can have boundaries in different things in place. I have it in my head or I’m aware of it, but actually acting on it, like you’re talking about, is the tougher thing. So what I’ve actually done over the past couple of months is creating a schedule, and a very specific timeline and process that actually doesn’t allow me to accommodate to the amount of things that I’m actually almost tempted to do.
So if I have one piece of advice for you it’s, maybe, trying to create some structure for yourself that doesn’t allow you to necessarily bend to the ways that maybe you don’t want to. I mean, it’s great to be flexible and that’s a huge reason why we do what we do, but it’s flexible to a point.

Jessmyn:
Yeah, no, I love that. Okay. Talk to me about that because you mentioned it a few times, mostly in the last week. And so I’m assuming it’s fairly new.

Kayla:
Yes.

Jessmyn:
You fix your schedule to, you don’t work Fridays. And I remember you telling me, you only do calls on Tuesdays.

Kayla:
Yes.

Jessmyn:
Talk to me about that. Oh, my gosh, I’m sorry. This is a long episode. How does that affect the way you work now? Whether positive or are you still figuring it out?

Kayla:
Yeah, I’m definitely still in the work in progress stage with it because I’m, again, in that experimentation mode where it’s so funny how some of those same things can come back. I was really hoping last month to get everything reflected on my website and do all these updates. So everybody knows what I’m doing. And I ended up deciding to pause on that and just tell myself again, “You can experiment with things behind the scenes, because if you don’t like the schedule, and you don’t like what happens next, it’s nicer to be able to change that before you publicize it to everybody, that this is what you’re doing now.”
So it’s been kind of a fun experiment to do behind the scenes. And what I love too, again, with having such strong relationships with my clients and with the people that are coming in, is that, they’re totally down for me saying, “Hey, I have Tuesdays as my only call days.” Or, “Hey, I’m going to start not necessarily working on Fridays.” And what’s so great is I think as entrepreneurs, we think that that is not okay to do. Like, “There’s no way that my client’s going to be okay with me saying this or putting this structure in place.”
But I still have yet to meet a client that goes, “If that’s the best way for you to work, I don’t want you working in that way.” Because I think in the end, as long as things get done, you meet your deadlines, you’re present for your clients. I don’t think that most people care exactly how it comes about. And I think that’s one of the great things about being an entrepreneur.
So with me creating that process, it was me trying to go back and say, “Okay, what are the most important things to me? I’m missing Sabbath. I used to have that. Now, I am married. My life looks totally different, and I need that in my life.” So I’m like, “Okay, if it’s hard for me to fit that in on the weekends like I used to, let’s fit it into the workweek because I can do it.” That’s awesome.
I’ve also, definitely, learned over the years that I do so much better work when I have one day that’s set aside for all of my calls and meetings, and little admin tasks that I can do in between, rather than trying to fit all of that into every single day. Oh, my gosh, Jess, I can’t do it. Every so often I can take a later call. I know sometimes you and I will do a Wednesday call at two or three or something like that. And I can do that because that’s when my brain starts finishing up for the day. But the idea of taking it any time that somebody wants me to, and then trying to go back into my writing work, which takes a lot of focus, energy, it’s just not going to happen. So that has been a huge change for me.
And I think even just giving myself the permission that I can do those things and reminding myself, my clients are going to be very excited for me because it’s also inspired some of them to start looking at their processes again and going, “Okay, this is working for me, but is there anything else that I can be doing that maybe helps me in the meantime?” And just building it around yourself is just such a beautiful thing. Because I think in a lot of ways we can maybe feel like that’s selfish. I told myself that before too. But in the end, if it helps you serve your clients better, why would you not try and do that?

Jessmyn:
Exactly. And I think too, what comes to mind with that is because most of, I guess, the world, the country worked from home in the last year, it is something that people are paying attention to because it all matters, right? If you can switch from call to project, or switching from one project to the next, all of that ties into the end outcome of if this project comes out successful, or all that stuff.

Kayla:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jessmyn:
So I love that you do that personally, when you’re like, “I only do Tuesdays.” I was like, “Perfect.” At least I know that I’m going to talk to you on Tuesdays.

Kayla:
Absolutely.

Jessmyn:
Yeah.

Kayla:
And I think it’s being confident enough to communicate it too. Because even in my head, as I’m creating all of these things, it can be easy to push it off and to tell yourself, “This person’s going to think I’m weird.” They’re going to be like, “Oh, I guess, 2021 means new Kayla.” You just start to tell yourself all these things that are not true. And like you’re saying, it makes it even easier, because people are able to know exactly when they’re able to get ahold of me. And of course I’m available through email every other day. But if you make those changes and don’t necessarily communicate them with your clients, I think that’s where things start to go awry because people don’t necessarily know what to expect from you.
And I know I actually I’m somebody who DIYs almost everything in my business. It can be a good thing and a really bad thing. But I actually hired a designer to do some welcome guides for me for the first time. And it’s so funny, I’m six years in business and I’m now finally having a true welcome guide for my people. But I was just reviewing it this morning and it was so cool just to see, my studio communication, and my guidelines, and the whole timeline, and a calendar view, like I’ve wanted for so long.
And it’s just been really cool because I feel like you just constantly are reinvesting in your business. You’re evolving it. And for people who are listening, there might be some who are stay-at-home parents, who do their business as they’re taking care of their kids, depending on even the age, it can look different. And there might even be college students who are building a business on the side and fitting it around their schoolwork. It’s just amazing to me how, no matter what business that you are creating, you’re going to have to figure out a process and a system that works for you. And I’m somebody who’s not system-minded at all.
If I could just be big ideas person and allow other people to do the details, I’d love it. Sometimes it’s important for you to be a part of building that process too. So it’s been a really good, challenging, and stretching time for me. But I feel like I’m thinking about my business in a whole new way. Because it’s not just always about, what serves the client at the end of the day, but how is it that I can do something that serves me to serve them? If that makes sense.

Jessmyn:
I love that a lot. I think that’s important to keep in mind.

Kayla:
Yes.

Jessmyn:
I mean, we talked about a lot. And thank you so much for sharing your story. I don’t have any other follow up questions. But I do have two last questions that I like to ask everybody, and I totally forgot to warn you about them.

Kayla:
Oh, well, you’re just going to get my real answer. I love it.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. Okay. Before that though, do you have any last minute stuff that you want to talk about, or that you have in your story that you think is really important?

Kayla:
Yeah. Honestly, I just want to thank you, Jess. And the rest of the Interact team. I mean, you guys have been such a huge part of my business career really, in a lot of ways, because we’ve been working together for so many different years. Whether it’s me being a consultant, or a partner, or I’ve been a content writer on your team for so long. So it’s just been really fantastic to see how content has even evolved with Interact too. And I love that you’re doing this podcast, you’re the perfect person for it. And I just wanted to thank you for having me on and sharing the more unfiltered part of my story, because I think that’s where things get interesting, right?

Jessmyn:
Of course. And it’s so funny because I remember early on when we first started working with you, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, we got Kayla Hollatz.” I think it’s funny because now, I work personally with you all the time. But I’m tooting your horn right now. And that’s okay. I was like, “This is so awesome.” Not that I don’t think it’s awesome now, but it’s just funny. You’re just such a successful person, especially in the copywriting business. So it’s nice to look up to you and I’m glad everyone gets to hear your story.

Kayla:
Well, I appreciate that. I love that now you can see that I’m totally just a random human that just talks with my hands and makes things happen, right?

Jessmyn:
Oh, yeah. Okay. So the last couple of questions that I have first one is, tell us three things that people wouldn’t normally know about you.

Kayla:
Oh, my gosh. If somebody is looking at me on Instagram, they might not necessarily know that I’m six feet tall. That is a thing. I meet people at conferences and they’re like, “Oh, high up there. I did not know that were tall.” So that’s one thing. What are some other things that people might not necessarily know about me? I am really obsessed at the end of the day, if I can, to give myself a little pack of fruit snacks. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just like, if I ever need motivation, or if I need to just tell myself, “Okay, keep going, keep going.” I just give myself some fruit snacks. It’s like I’m five years old.

Jessmyn:
Do you have a specific? Fruit snacks is a brand, right?

Kayla:
Yes. Because I get either the Welch’s or the Mott’s kind. If you’re in my friend group, we all have like, okay, which one is better? My husband, I think likes Welch’s. I’m a little bit more of a Mott’s girl, but yeah, it just depends.

Jessmyn:
It’s interesting though, right? How you gravitate towards a specific one. That’s why I asked. Because I was like-

Kayla:
Yeah, absolutely. And then another thing, I used to be a huge choir kid in school.

Jessmyn:
Oh, really?

Kayla:
So when I talk about writing, that was something that I did in class. But outside of class, I sang in every single choir that was available. I used to sing four to five hours a day. And it’s unfortunately, not as much of a part of my life anymore, because I have very severe vocal damage, which… Hey, I’m still talking and speaking, and all of the things. But yeah, for singing, it definitely is difficult. And I miss that part of my life. But interestingly enough, that vocal damage was a huge reason why I started to lean into poetry, and writing, and sharing things online. So-

Jessmyn:
Ooh.

Kayla:
Everything has a story.

Jessmyn:
Yeah, it does. And happens for a reason.

Kayla:
Yes.

Jessmyn:
That’s why I like asking this question.

Kayla:
Yep. And there you go. Off the top of my head. There you go.

Jessmyn:
Last thing that I have. If you were able to go back in time and talk to yourself at the start of it all, what is a single piece of advice that you would give yourself?

Kayla:
The first thing that just pops into my mind is just slow down and trust yourself. Yeah, that is just the mantra that comes to mind. So if anybody’s listening, I’m sure that they’re getting the sense of that from our conversation. But I hope that it just comes across as almost an affirmation that’s being whispered over you like, “Slow down and trust yourself. You’re going to be okay.”

Jessmyn:
I love that a lot. It’s a good one to end the episode too. Well, thank you so much. And thank you to anyone who is listening. Yeah, hopefully you guys get a good kick out of this one. I know it was long, but we had a lot to talk about.

Kayla:
All of the things.

Jessmyn:
I know, all of the things. It’s so funny because when I did my interview I was like, “Oh, my gosh, am I talking too much?” That’s what podcasts are for.

Kayla:
It’s so true. It’s so true. And people can listen to us times or something too, so they can get through it.

Jessmyn:
Exactly. Exactly. All right, guys. Well, I will see you next time. Thank you again, Kayla and goodbye.

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