Every so often you meet someone who seems like she’s a born teacher. Someone with the smarts, the organizational skills, and — let’s not forget, the patience — to teach.
Helena Denley is like that. In almost every aspect of her life she is in “teaching mode.” And her clients, students, and family all benefit from her gift.
To reach a wider audience with her educational efforts, Helena began using online teaching tools many years ago. They’ve permitted her to build a worldwide audience and maintain the flexibility she values in her life.
Helena’s story is this month’s Hero’s Journey feature. We’re tapping the collective wisdom of our community members to bring you reports from the front lines of the content marketing world. See all the Hero’s Journey posts here.
Read on as Helena shares her tips for moving from a service-based to a teaching-based online business.
A dynamic duo online and off
Helena Denley: My business is WP Website Coach. It’s a place for solopreneurs and small business owners to get help with their WordPress-based websites so they can move to the next level in their businesses.
We currently offer a group of interconnected one-on-one services (digital strategy, web design, “tech rescue,” monthly website care, and website reviews).
Plus, we have a WordPress training membership site and a web design course for solopreneurs.
My husband and I work in the business together and bring our life skills to all our client interactions.
Warren is a senior business analyst with more than 20 years experience with big corporations. I made my first foray into solo business almost 20 years ago.
We both know WordPress intimately. Warren is more technically minded and I’m more design-oriented, but we are both very focused on using WordPress to produce the best business outcomes for our clients.
We make ourselves accessible and we treat our clients’ websites as if they were our own. We take the time to explain why we do things the way we do.
We’re really passionate about doing things in a way that sets our clients up for future success. Business is challenging enough without having to worry about issues with your website (especially at crucial times).
Those practices empower our clients to make better decisions, rather than crowdsourcing answers from Facebook groups.
Our business is currently completely online. We live by the beach in the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia and we have clients in Melbourne, around Australia, in the U.S., and in the UK. That’s the beauty of having a digital business.
Next year, we’ll probably run some in-person, small group events in Australia. We’ve talked about it for a few years now, so it may be time to take the plunge.
Freedom — from grief, constraints, and rigid schedules
Helena Denley: I’ve never been a corporate-job type of person. I’ve always craved the freedom to make my own choices and the space to follow my passions.
The path to our current business was like walking through a maze — sometimes with narrow passages of painful thorns and other times with wide, green pastures full of sunshine.
In 2002, when our first child got seriously sick (at the very young age of six months), our world started to crumble a little. Seven months later our world crashed down around us when she died unexpectedly.
It was an enormous wake-up call and pushed us onto a completely different, and somewhat unconventional, trajectory.
I filled my time up to try to make the grief subside.
I studied homeopathy. We traveled to Europe and rediscovered a little of our passion for life again. I immersed myself in personal development, studying neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and eventually started working as a business and life coach.
Life coaching was okay for a short while, but I soon found a new passion when I decided to create my own website for my coaching business.
I quickly set aside the coaching and learned everything I could about creating websites.
After experiencing the inadequacies of static websites, it wasn’t long before I found WordPress and then Brian Gardner’s Revolution Themes (which later became StudioPress).
That was 2007, and it marked the start of our current business.
The following year our son was born.
With a new view on life, thanks to my NLP training, we decided unschooling would be the path we would take. Of course, that made building the business even more important because I needed the freedom to be at home and be the “unschooling mum.”
I definitely became unemployable.
What inspires me now is helping other women on their journeys — getting them set up with professional websites, teaching them how to use WordPress to sell their services, and supporting them on their paths to freeing themselves from restrictive jobs.
Hitting the ceiling and moving beyond it
Helena Denley: Our challenge is to truly move into being business owners rather than using our business to create jobs for ourselves.
We had focused on providing services that required our ongoing involvement (things like web design and “tech rescues”). That meant we didn’t have the flexibility to step away from the business without our income drying up.
It’s frustrating to hit a ceiling on business growth.
We constantly had deadlines to meet and we still wanted to bring in more customers.
Plus, business time was flowing over into family time and sleep time — not a great way to be living day to day.
At the beginning of 2015, I attended a conference in the U.S. where one of the speakers shared his company’s approach to innovation.
One month a year they would stop work on all current projects and immerse themselves in new creative projects. The idea was to see if anything “stuck” and would be worth pursuing.
This was a lightbulb moment for me. I sent my husband an email and told him we’d be taking February off from all client work and focusing on creating a course.
It was scary and exciting.
Scary because we would be delivering the content live each week. We were at the mercy of our webinar software (which did actually cause a few minor hiccups), and there was no editing out any mistakes. Nothing like a little adrenaline surge to keep you going!
Exciting because we were finally making the leap into creating something that would allow us to serve more clients than we ever could when working with them one on one.
Gathering learners around the WordPress fire
Helena Denley: After spending years answering WordPress and website questions in other people’s groups (for free), a few months ago we finally launched our own membership site and community, the WP Library.
People who join the library have access to short, easy-to-follow, how-to videos for WordPress and some of our recommended plugins. They can also ask questions and they get direct access to us in a private Facebook group.
This is a much more sustainable way for us to provide answers to all those WordPress questions, while still providing individuals with help for their specific issues.
In the new year, we’ll be expanding the library to include video training for individual Genesis child themes.
The Rainmaker Digital products Helena uses
Helena Denley: We have been long-time users (and big fans) of StudioPress Premium WordPress themes — even before it was called StudioPress. In fact, we use Genesis child themes for all the sites we create for ourselves and our clients.
We use the Rainmaker Platform for our web design course, which we are currently updating and planning to release again in the coming months.
I’m also a member of Digital Commerce Academy.
Find Helena Denley online …
- WP Website Coach (main site)
- WPLibrary.online (WordPress Library)
- HelenaDenley.com (personal site)
Thanks to Helena for appearing in our Hero’s Journey series.
Do you have questions for her? Ask them in the comments.
We’ll be back next month with another story to teach, inspire, and encourage you along your journey.