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Andrea Vahl: [00:00:00] Have you ever felt like you are working so hard, but things are just not happening for you? You’re not in the flow. Doors aren’t opening. Everything feels like maybe it’s a struggle. Well, you’re not alone. And my guest today is going to really dive into her varied path and talk about following your heart.
Sarah Clay has done a lot of different things in her life and we’re going to talk about how she landed on LinkedIn training and what led up to that. Tune in.
Hello, dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration, mindset, and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
Hello, everyone. It’s your host, Andrea Vahl, and I am here with the [00:01:00] fabulous Sarah Clay. She’s a LinkedIn expert and among other things that she’s done, quite the varied background, but I’m excited to have you on the show. Sarah, welcome.
Sarah Clay: Thank you so much for having me, Andrea. When I got your email, I was so excited. Thank you.
Andrea Vahl: This is so fun. So fun. So if you guys are on LinkedIn, you may already know Sarah because she has tons and tons of followers there. She gets so much engagement. But if you aren’t on LinkedIn, you have to go connect with her. So Sarah is a LinkedIn trainer for companies and entrepreneurs. She runs LinkedIn workshops.
She does keynote speaking. She’s an employee advocacy expert, and she loves keeping LinkedIn simple. So that is great. And I am excited to dive into how you fell into that and how you developed that and how you got [00:02:00] started with that later in midlife.
Sarah’s journey from aspiring lawyer to film producer to social media expert
Sarah Clay: Hang on, I’ve only got half an hour. It’s such a weird thing how it happened. So, my first foray into the world of work was trying to be a lawyer. And I thought, because I’m from a very big family and I’m the only girl. In fact, there are my brothers and I, when we were little. There are six of them. And I decided that I was going to be the clever one, and not my brothers. And so I thought how can I impress my dad, show him I’m really clever, I’m going to be a lawyer. Now, for somebody who doesn’t really like sitting and learning stuff, I don’t know why I chose that, it was not a very clever thing to do.
But I did, and I got part way through, and decided this really isn’t for me. Binned that. And I ended up, for some complicated or very kind of weird things, [00:03:00] running, or producing TV commercials and music videos and things. And I loved it. I did that for years and years and I absolutely loved it.
Bossing people around, organizing people, working with mostly men, as the film industry was, probably still is. And what was interesting was I really tried hard to be a lawyer and I really pushed and pushed to get into certain firms and the doors didn’t open, but the minute I decided, Oh, these film people are quite cool.
I want to be one of them. Boom. It was there, the doors opened and I got an amazing first job. And I thought, actually, this is the right thing. I worked in the film industry for years and then had the kids, as you do, and wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. And the local real estate agent and I had become friendly-ish from buying and selling houses in the area and moving around.
And he came up to me one day and he says, “You’re not working at the moment, are you?” I said [00:04:00] no. He said, “Are you looking for something?” I said, “Yes, the kids are gone, my two oldest have gone to school.” And he said, “You want to come work for me?” I was like, not really. I don’t really want to be a real estate agent or an estate agent as we call them here.
He said “No, I just want you to come and maybe look after the office a bit and do some bits, just a couple of days a week. Do you want to do it?” I was like, okay. And it was such a great job. I could sit at my desk and I could watch my little son at playgroup when he, his playgroup is a sort of nursery, it was across the road.
And I remember sitting there watching, thinking, this is fun. Then I started looking after their marketing. They threw me in and they said, “Actually, our marketing, we don’t really have anybody who does our marketing. Will you do that?” I was like, yeah, okay, whatever. Taught myself how to do it. Ran their marketing department for six years.
Then got headhunted by a film company to run their PR. And I said to them, [00:05:00] I’ve never done PR before. And they said, that’s fine, we’ll help you. You know how film is, you know how to make a film. I was like, okay. So I did that.
Andrea Vahl: Mm-Hmm.
Sarah Clay: It was all very weird. But with these two jobs, I was looking after their social media as well.
And we’re going back a few years now. And I realized that social media was the way forward. Did not like PR at all. So I thought I’m going to focus on the social media side of things. So I quit working for the big, haunchy film company and trained to be a social media manager and set up my business, Sarah Clay Social. Actually it’s not here, it used to be here, Sarah Clay Social.
How Sarah navigated a strategic pivot from offering social media services to teaching LinkedIn during the pandemic
Sarah Clay: And day four, I got my first client and it just went on from there. And I had my agency running people’s social media for them. And then I started teaching people how to do their own social media as well. And started to use LinkedIn.
Andrea Vahl: Mm-Hmm.
Sarah Clay: I started to get clients [00:06:00] from LinkedIn. And I thought, I like this. I like it a lot. I posted once and got a client.
I posted again and got another client. So I thought, right. And then somebody said to me, “Can you teach me how you do that? How you do LinkedIn?” I though, “Okay, if you like.” I scurried off, did some training, came back, taught them how to do it and started to put myself out as LinkedIn training as well as all the other stuff.
And then lockdown. And my clients were 85 percent hospitality.
Andrea Vahl: Mm-Hmm.
Sarah Clay: I lost them all overnight.
Andrea Vahl: Oh yeah.
Sarah Clay: So I was like, okay, what can I do with this? I am now a LinkedIn trainer. Revamped all my social media, everything and decided to go out as a LinkedIn trainer. And that was that.
Andrea Vahl: That’s amazing. And I love the fact that you, first of [00:07:00] all, knowing you, I can’t imagine you as a lawyer. I , Not any offense, you are so bubbly and personable and fun, and that’s not the normal image I have of lawyers. Just but I think it’s great and interesting how the road for that was so much harder and when you switched, everything was easy.
And I think sometimes we ignore those markers in our lives. We’re like pushing up this difficult hill when there’s an easy path where all the doors open and and it’s hard to sometimes see that. So that’s great. That’s great that you did that.
And how fun that what you went to school for and then what you did in multiple careers was nothing really related. So you know, I think we sometimes get hung up in that too. So that’s [00:08:00] awesome. And you can be self taught and get clients four days after you open your doors.
Sarah Clay: I mean, that was crazy. That was an opportunity that sort of popped up and I thought I am having that. That’s what I want. And I had to work quite hard to get it, but I did get it.
But you’re so right about the opening of the doors. And this is what I tell my kids, just go with your heart, do what you want to do, and it will work for you. If you want to do it badly enough, you will work so hard to get it, and it will be the right thing.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. There just can be an ease about it. And that’s nice to pay attention to those signs because we don’t always do that. I tend to think a little bit more in my head too much like, all right, we’ve got to do this. This is what we have to do. But no, it can be more like, what is my heart telling me? So that’s great.
Why Sarah wasn’t scared by the reality of losing all of her clients overnight
Andrea Vahl: So talk about the whole getting through the [00:09:00] pandemic with this, all of a sudden all your clients are gone. What was that like? How did you work through that and get through that? That’s clearly a scary obstacle to being self employed and I think that’s what so many people worry about being an entrepreneur, is that it can be like that: just clients disappear. And how did you deal with that?
Sarah Clay: Yeah, it’s hard. And actually, this year has been a really interesting year for me. 2023, I’ve had my five most profitable months this year. But I’ve also had my two least profitable months since trading. That’s crazy, right? And that’s the kind of the cycle, of being an entrepreneur and having your own business, you have to be able to be resilient financially, but also emotionally and psychologically to be able to cope with that. Because it’s not easy, is it?
When suddenly nobody loves me, nobody wants what I’ve got, and obviously [00:10:00] financially. So yes, what happened? Of course, when we went into lockdown for many people was awful really tough. And when it all happened, 85 percent of my clients just said, because a big chunk of them, I think about half of them were all owned by one particular brewery, all the pubs. And they said they’re just closing.
And I said no, you don’t have to do that. You can stay open. You can do takeaways. You can do things online and you can maximize this. But I think because of the way that the grant, the government grants were working and the schemes to keep paying people, you either had to be trading or not trading and they couldn’t risk it.
So they said no, we have to close our doors. Fine. So off I went. And I had this one client actually in Ireland, a fashion brand. And she said, I just can’t afford it. I’m just too nervous. I can’t afford to keep you on. And she actually engaged her son [00:11:00] to take over looking after her social media for her.
And I taught him how to do it. And they won an award for best innovation in lockdown. It was brilliant. It was wonderful to see. But for me initially that. Was I scared? I wasn’t actually that scared because I knew I had this other sort of thing up my sleeve. If you like the training.
Andrea Vahl: Mm-Hmm.
Sarah Clay: Of course, what happened was everybody wanted LinkedIn training.
Everybody needed it, because nobody really knew how to use LinkedIn then. So I was training people left and center. And I really wasn’t charging much at all because I felt I was new, so I couldn’t charge lots of money to people, and I was giving loads of my time. But it helped me learn, and it also kept the income coming in, just about. So no, I wasn’t scared. I don’t think I get scared. I think I embrace the [00:12:00] challenge actually.
How to ride the waves of unpredicatable income as an entrepreneur
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, and that’s great because it does. You do have to ride these waves and it’s interesting that you were talking about your five most profitable ones and your two least profitable. I was actually just reviewing my year just before we got on this call and I was watching the rollercoaster of months. And what I’ve learned as I’ve come along here is that there are just certain months that are going to be way down.
December is always a very down month for me. But that actually works for me. I’ve learned over the years that I take December off in my mind where I’m just not doing a lot of promotion, and I’m resting or doing other things, or I just was traveling.
So I think, with that, knowing that there are just cycles and having buffers in place so that you’re not maxing out on your expenses. So that you’re [00:13:00] depending on the highest highs is the big secret to being an entrepreneur, because you need to have a little bit more buffer to ride some of the waves.
And the cool thing is you can make your own. Luck in so many ways. Like you can launch a new training or launch something new and open your doors or raise your prices or whatever to help offset some of the rollercoaster ride.
Sarah Clay: Absolutely. Yes. Because for me, it’s August and December are terrible. But terrible in terms of income. But actually, I had surgery at the beginning of August, and I had made that decision. I was not going to work in August anyway.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah.
Sarah Clay: Although it wasn’t actually as bad as I thought it was going to be, in terms of income. But I think psychologically, as you say, once you know those cycles, you can work in them and you can use that time to record a whole lot of YouTube videos or sort your content out for the next months [00:14:00] or whatever it is.
The advantages Sarah had in launching a new venture during her midlife vs. being in her twenties
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. So what kind of benefits do you think you’ve had launching something new in, in midlife? I mean, you didn’t have any experience launching a course. You had never done a training course. What kind of things have been helpful for you starting later rather than when you’re in your twenties?
Sarah Clay: Oh, gosh, I don’t think I could have coped with this in my twenties. I was far too reckless. I mean, the experience of life. So since I was in my twenties, obviously I’ve done formal education, but I’ve studied some photography, I’ve learned a couple of languages to a certain degree.
So all of that experience I think helps. But also just life experience, dealing with people being able to read people better when you’re older. Just maybe being a bit more sanguine and not being so [00:15:00] reactionary and just thinking, hang on, what really do I need to do here?
And maybe the ability to take a step back. But on all the things, the life skills that we learn as we grow, having three kids, negotiating, that’s a good skill. Nobody taught me that. Actually, they did teach me it at law school. I guess I did learn negotiating, that’s a great skill to learn.
Patience is another one. All of these things that you learn as you’re growing up and maturing and just being able to handle situations differently. I think it’s a skill. And it becomes less about yourself. It becomes more about what you can give to others. For me, definitely.
And I think maturity has helped me come to that point. It’s looking at how I can help others rather than me, me, me. And I think that’s something I still see when I look at younger people. They’re so wrapped up in themselves. And it’s not a bad thing, I mean it’s just a case of how they think.[00:16:00]
But I think as you grow older, you start to look at the world in a wider perspective and other people’s needs as well.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, there definitely is less ego that comes into play with, when you’re younger, you’re trying to prove yourself and maybe there’s more drama. It’s more like, oh, the world is ending kind of thing. And, as we get older, we know now I’ll be able to get up tomorrow and get things rolling. It’s not the end of the world. So that’s great. I love that. I love that you learned more negotiation skills from having children than being in law.
Sarah Clay: Absolutely, a much more, much more practical application.
Sarah’s advice for making decisions about where to focus your energy as an entrepreneur with limited time and resources
Andrea Vahl: It’s a masterclass in negotiation. That’s great. It’s interesting and I like to hear this from other people, who especially are in [00:17:00] social media and launching courses and things like that. How do you make decisions about where to focus on as an entrepreneur? There’s lots of things you can be doing, right?
You could be launching more courses or you could be launching high end masterminds, or this or that, or writing books. How do you make the decision on what to do next? When you have only so much time in your day and probably, I don’t know what your team is but I know my team is very lean and it’s not like I’ve got a lot of people to delegate things to.
So how do you make those decisions on what to do next in your business?
Sarah Clay: Oh, good question. So I did, I launched a membership and an online course and did all of that kind of thing and realized this year actually has been a big shift for me. So I realized actually I could give a lot of value to bigger companies and try to focus on this whole aspect of employee [00:18:00] advocacy, because I think it’s really important.
And it’s something I didn’t realize, but I’m very passionate about, about trying to get whole teams onto LinkedIn. Because I’ve been teaching entrepreneurs how to do LinkedIn, since I started teaching LinkedIn. And I love teaching entrepreneurs. I absolutely love it.
And I’ve honed down my program now that I have only have 10 students at a time, because I find if there’s a whole big group of people, it just becomes less manageable for me, because I like to work quite deeply with people. I will only have 10 people on my program at any one time, so I run it four times a year. And some people say to me, “You’re, you could have more on.” I went no, I like 10, it’s nice. I know it now and I know how it works.
It’s very easy for me to run that. And it’s always a delight, but realizing the potential of working with bigger companies and getting their employees. And this has been a new [00:19:00] discovery for me, really. And it’s tougher. It’s tougher to break into. It’s slower because, companies take longer to make decisions, as they should. But I know it’s going to work.
And it is working. And I’m passionate about it. And for me, I think, we have to love what we do to be able to sell it. And I remember a friend of mine ages ago, she said, “Oh, I want to set up a cake shop doing singing and eating cakes or something.” And I said, “Why don’t you just do the cake?”
She goes, “Because I’m not passionate enough about cakes. I’m passionate about singing. And that’s why I want to do this.” And it didn’t actually work in the end, but I do think we need to love it, to love what it is that we do. If we love selling whatever it is, it doesn’t matter, then you can create anything and sell anything.
But for me, my baby. It’s my baby and I want to make it mine. And I think that’s what is the driving factor and it should be the driving factor for anybody really just to do the [00:20:00] thing that they love. Hopefully they can find it. And that will, it’s like anything, as I was saying, if you love it, it will work because you’re so passionate about it.
Andrea Vahl: You make such a good point about being able to sell something you love. And I think people feel it when you’re not excited about it. And I think it’s Zig Ziglar who said sales is excitement transferred.
And I think that’s so true because if you can get excited about something, other people who are curious about it and wondering about it, feel your excitement and can see that it can work for them as well. Or they, that they are gonna get the value from it ‘because they know they can feel your excitement, definitely.
Sarah Clay: For sure.
A time in Sarah’s business where things went sideways and she had figure a way to move through it
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. So tell us about a time in [00:21:00] your business where something went wrong and you had to navigate through that. Obviously the pandemic was something. But is there a time where a planned thing didn’t go the way you thought it would. And how did you move through that?
Sarah Clay: Oh, good question. I think when I first set up my first membership and my expectations were just all wrong. I was on Stu McLaren’s course, and he’s just brilliant. And he’s one of these people whose energy just rubs off on you, his passion and excitement.
And it really does. And he held this online conference, and it was so late for me all night and they want you to turn up in branded gear. I can’t even remember what it was now. So I went and ordered a pair of purple pajamas because I was there at night. [00:22:00] We were all there waving flags at three in the morning and it was brilliant.
And his enthusiasm really rubbed off on me and his membership is huge. So I thought, yeah, I can get 60 people the first time around. This is going to be amazing. And of course, I think I got 15. Which, when I think about it now, actually that’s not bad.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah.
Sarah Clay: This was years ago, and I didn’t really have a very big audience then anyway. And I was quite disappointed with that, but of course it grew over time. And it grew and grew, but I did see that at the time as a failure, and then other people in the group were saying, “I got eight members, isn’t that brilliant?” And I was like, oh, okay, this is what we’re doing here. This is fine. But it did feel like a failure for 48 hours or so. And then I thought, actually, no, this is good. And as I say, it grew.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, I love that because it is so true and I’ve definitely learned over the course of my business as well is just managing your expectations is huge. Because you can really get set up to be [00:23:00] disappointed about something and it’s very hard because you’re comparing yourself to someone else. Obviously, Stu’s had his membership for years, and other people’s businesses are so different and their audiences are so different.
So it’s very hard not to compare yourself to something else that’s out there. And that’s definitely one of the things that has happened to me. And even just recently, I was trying to launch a mastermind and we got a few people who were interested, but just not enough to have a group.
And so that was disappointing. Even now, even with a large audience, things don’t always work. And so it’s always challenging to manage that expectation and say it’s just feedback. It’s not failure. And it’s hard. For my first membership, I launched it just six months after starting my business. Or less, it was a shorter time. Three or four months actually after starting my business, and I got three people.
So that actually, for [00:24:00] me, I got hooked though. I was like, “Ooh, I can sell stuff. I can make money out of nothing online.”
Sarah Clay: It’s verified, isn’t it? If you’ve sold one, it’s verified that somebody thinks it’s of value.
Sarah’s visions for 2024
Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. So, this has been so fun. And so next year, what’s your vision for 2024? Focusing more on the advocacy? What do you have coming up?
Sarah Clay: It’s quite incredible because I have bookings. I have two big bookings in January. I have a client starting already at the beginning of March, and I have another client who’s booked in to start in the middle of April. And these are consultancy clients. So teaching them initially and then staying with them as a consultant to keep their advocacy going. So 2024 is already looking quite pretty for me.
I’m okay, but definitely [00:25:00] more of that. And that’s what I really want to focus on. And I’m thinking, and I’ve actually started doing some more agency stuff for people as well and helping them create content. Because I’ve now got a team of content creators as well. Back again, the agency days, which is fine because that’s what people need.
And that’s what I love about, and you must find the same, Andrea, with having a small team. You can be a ninja, you can change and swap around. And what I realized was with the advocacy thing is going into companies, teaching them how to do it. But actually, if they haven’t got decent content to advocate to their employees, they haven’t got a hope.
So, now got a team that can come in and help with that as well. And I’m really excited about that prospect.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. That’s something that can lead decisions, right? When you see the hole in the market, you’re like, we can’t make something out of nothing. So now they need this, it’s like serving the client with the next right [00:26:00] product or service that you have available. Awesome, that’s exciting.
Sarah’s favorite quote
Andrea Vahl: So as usual, I love to end our time together with a favorite motivational saying or inspirational quote for our listeners. So what do you have for us?
Sarah Clay: Wow. So, years and years ago. It must be 30, I’m thinking. I had a little film case, tiny little film case thing. And I put a quote in there and I know how long ago it was, because there’s a picture of my mother in there. My mother is no longer alive, so she died many years ago.
And the quote, I cut it out from a magazine and it was in there and I keep it in my drawer and every now and again I come across it and it says, “I’m afraid of nothing apart from being bored.” And it was by Marilyn Monroe And I think, as an entrepreneur, [00:27:00] there you go. I think, It’s about moving forward.
It’s about constant change, embracing change and to keep me not from being bored because that would just kill me.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, and that’s the other great thing about working for yourself is that you can pivot and change and follow the thing that is pulling you forward. That is more exciting. And I do feel like it allows for the ability to never be bored because you can always kind of switch things up and do something slightly different. So I love that.
Connect with Sarah
Andrea Vahl: So Sarah, this has been so fun. Thank you so much for your time. Let our listeners know where they can find you and connect with you.
Sarah Clay: Oh, this has been amazing, Andrea. It’s so lovely to catch up with you. So yes, come and find me on LinkedIn.That is the place. I am on Instagram, but not really. LinkedIn, just come to LinkedIn, type in [00:28:00] Sarah Clay. And if it’s purple or orange or both, it’s me. Basically.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yes, great branding. And definitely go connect with Sarah. She’s awesome. She delivers so many great tips and fun, little engaging posts. She’s got lots and lots of great things for you. If you want to learn about LinkedIn, go to her website. We’ll have all the links in the show notes here.
So thank you so much, Sarah.
Sarah Clay: Thank you, Andrea. It’s been wonderful.
Andrea Vahl: Yep. And I’ll see you at Social Media Marketing World.
Sarah Clay: You will indeed.
Andrea Vahl: Okay, bye.
Sarah Clay: See you.
Andrea Vahl: Hope that was helpful, and make sure you grab the free guide Top Tools for Late Starters on the website at LateStartersClub.com and let’s turn dreaming into doing.