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Ways We Work

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Ryan Robinson

Marketing at CreativeLive

Ryan Robinson is an entrepreneur and marketer whose free online course, Launching a Business While Working, can teach you how to start and grow your business while working a full-time job. He is also part of the marketing team at CreativeLive in San Francisco.

What do you do?

Primarily, I'm charged with marketing for all of our Money & Life classes here at CreativeLive. The Money & Life channel is our second biggest audience driver for the website. We started with Photography and Money & Life has been our second biggest win, where we've had people like Lewis Howes, Tim Ferriss and a bunch of other Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs teaching classes. That's the channel that we really see having the most opportunity.

I specifically do partnership related marketing, and pretty much anything that we think will drive new audience members. Generally speaking I do marketing, that usually involves a lot of writing which I enjoy, our blog is a big contributor to building our audience so it's great to have that feedback.

What do you find most rewarding about your role? Most challenging?

Most rewarding I would say is actually getting to see these things we produce called Student Stories. We'll usually pick someone who has taken a class here in the studio, live and in-person and we'll follow up with them on how their experiences have been a few months down the road and see if any of the classes have had any strong impact on their business or their life. We had one that was part of a photography class and he had taken this class "Getting Your First Freelance Client as a Photographer". He was able to take a tangible plan from this class, develop a strong template for reaching out to people and build up his portfolio and was able to quit his full-time job. Seeing stories like that is really awesome.

I would say the most challenging part of my role is the number of meetings that we have. Particularly for my role, I interface with everyone in marketing, everyone in content creation and I'm part of the whole process of a class from idea to creation to how we market and promote it. On any given day I have a minimum of 2-hours of meetings, but some days half the day can be a meeting. The mental stop and go time in between working and meetings can be tough to manage. Before every meeting I want to mentally prepare and know what I'm talking about - that often helps. Then decompressing after the meeting too. When I walk out of a meeting I usually have a giant to-do list so I need to go back and translate that into actionable items I can complete. Prioritization becomes a really important skill.

How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry/field?

Online I follow, Product Hunt of course, and then I'm also an avid reader of blogs. I follow Neil Patel, Noah Kagan - there's a long list.

How do you determine what classes are going to be the most successful with your audience?

That's a great question. It varies per channel for sure. In Photography there's a big "cult of personality" thing going on in that industry. With that channel it's really about grabbing the big fish and creating content with them, the photographers that everyone wants to hear from. The same goes with the Money & Life channel. There are types of people who are just magnets, Tim Ferriss is a good example. So creating classes with people who already have a large audience is almost always successful.

Every year we also send out a survey to our user base and simply ask them what they want. We give them a list of over 25 different topics, just in the Money & Life category alone, that they can check off and we'll prioritize based on that feedback. Right now the most popular topics really seem to be things related to creative writing, online marketing, and growth hacking. It's a lot of predicting and following trends but sometimes just asking people is the best way.

What are your top five applications or tools?

To Do - This is how I manage everything that I need to do on a daily basis. Even big objectives I'll map out list after list within the app. Every morning I'll prioritize everything that's in there.

Mailbox - I like Mailbox because of the whole zero inbox methodology of just getting s*** out of your way and dealing with it at the time that you think you can. That really helps.

Google Drive - There's just no way to function without Gmail, Google Docs or any of those apps.

Trello - We're pretty avid users of Trello here.

Slack - We recently underwent some painful changes to slow down the email volume here and Slack was amazing for that.

Best way to stay on top of email?

Email is a huge part of my day, just because of the sheer volume I receive. To deal with that I use Mailbox to trigger things that I deem not super urgent to be answered later in the day, or the next morning. Usually I will answer emails in the morning after I've prioritized the day. The biggest aid is really being able to time-trigger emails in Mailbox to times when I think I can deal with them.

What is your best time-saving trick?

I would say honestly just not doing certain things that don't provide an actual return. There are some things that you just really don't need to do. For one, email. We have a lot of group chain emails here with 5-10 people on them and I'll just let other people respond that the email is more suited to. Just not doing so much allows me to focus on things that I'm a lot better at. However, having the ability to do that can hinge a lot on your manager or boss' buy-in to what you do.

What does your workspace look like?

Structure of your typical day, how do you divide your time?

We can have some extreme timelines here sometimes. So at least three days a week I'll try to get in to the office by about 6:30 and bang out as much of my creative thinking as possible before 9.

The mornings are usually pretty heavily stacked with meetings here and then after lunch there's a better opportunity to work on ongoing projects, and do outreach. I find that I have a lot of time to reach out to partnership prospects or different content creators in the evenings, but I don't want to be emailing them at 6pm so I use a tool called Boomerang for Gmail. I use it to queue up an email that will send the next morning.

Days when I come in at 6:30, I'll leave at 5pm at the latest. Otherwise, I'm usually here until 6-8pm depending on what needs to be done and what current timelines look like.

Why do you do what you do? What makes everything worth it?

Both my job and also the type of company that CreativeLive is, is very aligned with what I'm interested in personally. Two or three years ago I wrote an e-book on how to use this e-commerce site for businesses. The site was called Fancy, sort of like Pinterest but you could physically buy the things you see right on the platform. I wrote an e-book series geared towards small business owners on how to market their products on Fancy. That actually did fairly well, I sold a few hundred copies on my website and have since made it free as a type of lead generation. From there I started doing more types of instructional courses and classes. Right now I'm creating some classes that are geared towards helping people start a business while they're still working a full-time job. That's something I think a lot of people our age are interested in.

So my personal interests are right in line with what CreativeLive is doing. The greatest extra benefit of my role is that I've gotten to interact with all of these people that I personally look up to. Making a lot of interesting contacts is a big benefit.

What is the greatest piece of career advice/wisdom you’ve ever received?

I would say the number one thing would be goal setting. You have to set goals, otherwise you'll never achieve anything. Set a target goal and then break it down into the little things you can do to reach that goal.

The second piece of that is discipline. Getting up early and to work early can make all the difference in how much you accomplish in a day. A lot of people think they want to work for themselves or be an entrepreneur but not always when it comes down to the real work.

Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?

I would really love to see Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt. That dude is non-stop. I'd love to know how he gets everything done.