Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Christina Nicholson, and I started my career as a TV reporter and anchor. After standing in hurricanes, interviewing celebrities, and working outside more crime scenes than I can count, I left the news industry and got into public relations in 2015.
This is a pretty common move for journalists because we know so much about how a newsroom operates and what makes a good story. Plus, many of us want a better schedule.
My main income is from my PR agency, Media Maven. I have a small team of publicists and former journalists who work with me to pitch our clients to earn press coverage online, in print, on podcasts, and TV. We also create content for clients in the form of SEO-driven blog posts and contributed articles.
When I’m not working on my agency business, I help solopreneurs and small business owners who don’t have an agency budget learn how to handle public relations on their own. I do this through my online course, the Media Mentoring Program, my boot camp, Pitch Publicity Profit, my podcast, Become a Media Maven, and my weekly newsletter.
You can still see me in front of the camera on a freelance basis acting as talent for a satellite media tour for a brand or hosting a morning lifestyle news segment on Lifetime TV.
Today, I average $33,500 in monthly revenue. Most of my expenses pay for my team, the software I use to run my business, and continuing education in the form of coaching and masterminds.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I never wanted to be a business owner. I just wanted to have a flexible schedule because I had two young children, my husband’s work schedule was unconventional like mine was, and we didn’t have family living in the same state as us.
The only problem? No one would let me work remotely in 2015. So, I felt like I had no other choice but to start my own business.
I’ve worked in TV news since graduating college with a journalism degree. Not only did I not know how to do anything else, but I didn’t have experience doing anything else. Transitioning to public relations was a perfect fit because I was still storytelling, just doing it behind the camera instead of in front of it. I knew exactly what to do to help small business owners get more attention without spending money on ads.
Not only did I know what to do, but before I pulled the trigger on my new business, months, I listened to tons of podcasts and took online courses about how to build a service-based business.
I also thought of this venture as a safe bet because the only start-up cost was time… and I’m productive and efficient, so I was excited to finally be making my schedule! But, I needed to make money and I needed to make it fast.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
I knew how to deliver the service I was offering, but that’s all I knew. I had to figure out how to get leads, the process of delivering a proposal, how to follow up, get a contract written and signed, what to charge them, how to invoice and collect payment, and so much more.
This is where the internet was my best friend and I learned so much more than I had in years from entrepreneurs who shared their journey online.
Because I was launching a service-based business, I didn’t need to worry about start-up costs, products, manufacturing, patents, etc. But, I did need to get an LLC and a business bank account. After that, I was ready to offer my media relations services to a small business owner looking to grow.
Media relations was the only service I offered when I started. There is a lot under the PR umbrella, but media relations is what I knew best from being in the news, so that was my sole focus.
Take shortcuts by hiring and working with people who have already done what you want to do. Don’t waste your time with trial and error if you don’t have to.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I didn’t consider myself officially launched until I landed my first client. To do that, I focused on building my brand and practicing what I preached.
So, I was a guest on tons of podcasts. I posted loads of valuable content on social media. I started a blog. But, tons of people were doing the same thing. Build it and they will work great in the 70s. In the 2010s? Not so much.
Luckily, I was able to get my first website built on a trade. A web designer did my site and I handled her PR for a couple of months. Since then, it’s gone through many changes, but having that home base to start with made me feel like I was an official entrepreneur.
That’s when I knew I had to sell to make a sale. It was intimidating to me. I was so scared to have a sales conversation and ask people for money. Looking back now it’s so silly, but it’s a very common fear for new business owners.
My first few clients ended up coming from LinkedIn and Upwork. LinkedIn is where I promoted myself to other business owners and slid into some DMs to start conversations. Upwork was easier because people were posting that they needed help and were hiring a freelancer. I spent a lot of time responding to job postings and undercharging myself to get my foot in the door and get started.
For the first two years of my business, my client load and income were very inconsistent. That is beyond stressful. I wasn’t in the best mindset those first two years because I did a lot of hustling and a lot of hard work, but it wasn’t necessarily smart work.
Once you’re settled a bit and have a grasp on how this entrepreneur thing works, be strategic about what you say yes to and raise your prices.
I was past the point of benefiting from free content online. It was long overdue for me to hire a coach to talk specifics to grow and get out of the day-to-day overwhelm.
I hired my first business coach for $15,000 over one year. I put it on a credit card and told myself I would do everything this coach and her team told me to do because I hate wasting time and money. Not only did I pay off that charge in six months, but I haven’t been without a coach since then. That’s how beneficial and life-changing it was.
The lesson I learned was to take shortcuts by hiring and working with people who have already done what you want to do. Don’t waste your time with trial and error if you don’t have to.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since 2015, I’ve learned so much about starting, growing, scaling, and even selling a business.
In 2016, I started looking for a podcast database for PR professionals. After three years of waiting, I had it built myself. The purpose was to quickly and easily build a podcast media list to pitch to be a guest. It was something I wanted to use myself and serve my clients.
All the other podcast databases were full of millions of podcasts with contact information that wasn’t for guest outreach. So, through all the networking I’ve done over the years, I turned to people who knew how to bring my vision to life - software with only current top podcasts and contact information to pitch to be a guest.
Podcast Clout launched the same month the world shut down because of the Coronavirus in April 2020. Nearly three years later, I lost the passion to grow a software company and sold the business for six figures.
I’m digressing a bit from Media Maven to share this story to emphasize that a great business idea doesn’t mean diddly squat if you don’t do anything with it. I started my Media Mentoring Program with the first module on how to execute what is about to be shared so it’s not a waste of time or money.
You can have the best ideas and most profound knowledge in the world, but if you don’t put it into action, it’s worthless.
I’m a big believer in practicing what I preach. Treating myself as a client and doing PR for myself is what built my business to $33,500/month in revenue.
When I earn media coverage, I get attention from solopreneurs and small business owners. When they reach out to me, it makes the sales process so much easier because before we have our first conversation, they already know, like, and trust me.
When I look at my client list over the years, most of my clients have reached out to me because they listen to my podcast, they heard me on someone else’s podcast, they’ve read the articles I’ve published online, or they follow my posts on LinkedIn.
Instead of relying on a sales team, I continue to create content, speak on stage, and earn media exposure. The best part is that it doesn’t cost any money.
Then, when a sales conversation happens, I take the pressure off by learning about the person I’m talking to and what their goals are. I let them know how my team and I could help, what the fee is, and what the next steps are. That’s it.
Like Ted Lasso says, “Be curious.” When you are curious, a sales call turns into a more enjoyable conversation.
Then, once someone trusts you with their brand and their hard-earned money, you better work hard for them. It’s up to you to underpromise and overdeliver to not only keep that client but end up with loads of success stories to share because you’re blowing it out of the water and hitting all their goals.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, and since the beginning of my business, I’ve been profitable. I follow the Profit First model and don’t approach my finances as sales - expenses = profit. Instead, I recognize sales - profit = expenses. Making this small tweak will help you keep more of the money you make.
Because I’ve transitioned from doing everything myself to being a visionary for Media Maven, most of my expenses are for my team. I have a Director of Operations who ensures the team has everything they need to be successful and the clients are happy.
Reporting to her, I have a team of publicists and content creators. Other expenses include software subscriptions, business coaching, etc.
About 90% of my sales come through my agency work and 10% are attributed to my online course and freelance TV hosting jobs.
Because of my amazing team, I don’t work in my business much. If I did, I would be stepping on their toes. Instead, I work on my business by learning from others around me in masterminds I invest in. I also spend time creating content and marketing myself to bring in inbound leads for the agency and online course.
Right now, my focus is on growing the online business, my podcast listernship, and my newsletter email list. I’d love to help more solopreneurs and small businesses through my boot camp and online course. But before then, they need to get to know, like, and trust me. My podcast and newsletter are perfect for that.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve learned so much from the mistakes I made in the first few years of my business. I’ve also done some things that I would do over and over again. Here are some highlights.
- Don’t be afraid to invest in your business. People pay tens of thousands of dollars for a college education just to get a low-paying job and a boss who doesn’t care about you. Investing a fraction of that into your venture with yourself as your boss is a safer bet.
- You’re not saving lives (unless you are, then breeze right by this one). Tons of things are out of your control. Even if they’re not, it’s most likely not a life or death situation, so don’t drive yourself crazy or lose sleep over things that won’t matter in five years… or even five months.
- Befriend your competitors. The best referrals and industry strategies I get come from people many would call my competition, but I call them my collaborators. For example, I have a weekly call with a publicist who does the same thing I do and we have partnered up on many things over the years.
- Time block or batch work. It’s easy to get in the zone and remain focused when your list of things to do is already pre-determined by what you put in your calendar. When it’s there, don’t move it or delete it. It’s not about how motivated you are. It’s how committed you are. Also, it’s easier to get more done when you’re in a state of flow. Plus, batching will help you save so much time and get ahead when you sit down to focus on one thing and go all the way until it’s done.
- Keep learning from people who are ahead of you. I love to learn new stuff from others who have done things I want to do or that interest me. I take bits and pieces of their expertise and use it in my day-to-day life as it seems fit. Plus, these people can end up being great mentors or collaborators in the future.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
It all starts with my MacBook Pro. On it, I can’t work without my Google Suite of email, calendar, and drive. I love chatting with my team in Slack and engaging with other communities I’m in there.
Here are some others that I also use and visit just about every single day:
- Social Media: Agorapulse
- Email: ConvertKit
- Images/Graphics/Video: Canva
- SEO: RankIQ
- Invoicing/Accounting: Wave
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I am a bookworm and always listen to books when I’m not reading them. Some of my favorites are:
- Profit First byMike Michalowicz is perfect for getting your finances in order so you’re always profitable, no matter how big or small your business is.
- You Are a Badass at Making Money byJen Sincero got me fired up to make more money.
- Building a Story Brand byDonald Miller will help you nail your storytelling and website copy.
- We Should All Be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers is a great story about how anyone can be successful with tons of strategies along the way.
- The 12-Week-Year by Brian P. Moran will have you hitting goals every quarter because of the easy way this strategy is broken down in this book.
- Present Over Perfect byShauna Niequistis a great read if you’re doing too much and need to take a breather because you’re nearing burnout.
- Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker is my go-to book recommendation for anyone starting a business… and I plan to read it again soon!
I have a whole lot more where that came from. Check out my Instagram account @ChristinaAllDay which doubles as #bookstagram a couple of times a week!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I always tell entrepreneurs that they’re never too small to earn media exposure. People have this perception that you can only get on national TV or a top podcast if you’re bringing in boatloads of money, have a big team, or have been around for a few years. That’s not true at all.
I’ve earned clients who are in debt with a side hustle major coverage. Their business status or definition of success didn’t matter. You’re always ready for an audience.
The same goes for putting yourself out there to start your business. Building a business is more than changing your bio on LinkedIn, doing a fun branded photoshoot, or publishing a website. You need to make money. To do that, you need to make sales. To make a sale, you need to have leads. To get leads, you need attention… and you can’t get attention staying a secret. People need to know about you.
So, tell people what you’re doing. Say yes to almost everything. Charge below market value to get your foot in the door, but don’t get stuck there. Once you’re settled a bit and have a grasp on how this entrepreneur thing works, be strategic about what you say yes to and raise your prices.
Remember, you get confidence by doing things. You need to execute. It’s the best way to learn.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Pitch Publicity Profit Bootcamp
- Media Mentoring Program
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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