Saying YES to Being a Fully Supported CEO with Michelle Clayton

We’ve all heard the conditioned messaging about how to achieve success:

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! No one’s going to work as hard or care as much about your business as you. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

If you’ve been struggling with this mindset and haven’t allowed yourself to be fully supported in your business, then this episode should help change your mind. I interview my client Michelle Clayton, who’s the founder of and a member of The CEO Collective. We discuss how she finally stepped into her CEO role by surrounding herself with support and made mindset shifts in her business that allowed her to get out of the feast or famine cycle that traps so many entrepreneurs.

On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

5:18 – Your branding can affect your ability to show up in your business the way you want. How?

9:03 – What happened when Michelle decided to increase her pricing?

13:16 – Your pricing communicates certain things about your business, product, or service.

16:02 – Michelle has undergone another big shift in her business while in The CEO Collective. It’s something I’ve often discussed on the show.

20:07 – How has Michelle’s role as CEO changed? And what did she do to stay creatively inspired when the well ran dry?

26:46 – I ask Michelle a couple of lightning-round questions to wind down the show.

30:08 – Michelle discusses why anyone on the fence about joining The CEO Collective should just go ahead and do it.

36:12 – I recap some key things about how Michelle pulled her business out of the feast or famine cycle.

Mentioned in Saying YES to Being a Fully Supported CEO with Michelle Clayton

Racheal Cook: You've heard me say it before, the biggest challenge so many women entrepreneurs face is that feast or famine cycle. If you have been in a situation where your best month ever is followed by your worst, or you feel like each time you finally finish up with a bunch of clients, you're starting all over from scratch to fill your client docket again to get more people to purchase your products, programs, or services, then you are going to want to listen to today's interview. I am talking with Michelle Clayton, founder of Let Her Fly, to talk about how she finally said yes to stepping into the role of CEO surrounding herself with support, not only in her business, but as the leader of her business.

Are you ready to grow from solopreneur to CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook. I've spent the last decade helping women entrepreneurs start and scale service-based businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

One of the biggest challenges I see again and again and again is that women entrepreneurs tend to have a harder time asking for help and getting support. I don't know about you, but this has been a lifelong lesson that I keep having to learn again and again and again, that it's okay to ask for help at home. It's okay to ask for help from my family. It's okay to ask for help from my team. It's okay to ask for help from my peers and my colleagues.

This is something that a lot of us have to practice. We have to practice it because there is so much conditioning and messaging that we all have faced that says the way to success is to pull yourself up from your bootstraps, that no one is going to work as hard or care as much about your business as you are, and if you want something done right, you should just do it yourself.

This conversation today is going to change your mind. If you have been struggling with these mindset challenges and you haven't been allowing yourself to be fully supported in your business, in your life, in your community, you're going to want to continue listening. Today I'm talking with one of our amazing members of The CEO Collective and an incredible brand strategist, Michelle Clayton.

Michelle is the founder of Let Her Fly where she helps capture her client’s personality and expertise in a clear, cohesive brand that feels just like them so they can attract more ideal clients, looking like the professionals that they are, and confidently step into their next big thing. She knows firsthand the insecurity that comes from outgrowing your brand and the positive impact that the right one has on your confidence and your bottom line.

In this conversation with Michelle, she really let us have an amazing look into the last couple years into her business as she started saying yes to more support on so many different levels, and as she started making some shifts in her business that would allow her to get out of that feast or famine cycle that so many entrepreneurs find themselves trapped in. If that sounds familiar to you, the struggle to get out of the feast or famine cycle, the question if you can get support if you're in the feast or famine cycle, and how you can get support, this conversation is going to be such an insightful one.

Hey, CEOs. Welcome to a very special conversation with one of my clients and friends, Michelle Clayton of Let Her Fly. I'm so excited to have you here today with me, Michelle.

Michelle Clayton: Thank you, Racheal. It is so great to be with you today. I'm looking forward to our conversation.

Racheal Cook: It's so awesome to have you in The CEO Collective because you've been in my world for a while, and I love it when people who I've been in a relationship with for a while as far as of working together as one of our clients, I start to see these big shifts in people's businesses happen pretty quickly when they're put into The CEO Collective and we're all cheering each other on and supporting you and making these big, sometimes scary, CEO moves.

That's why I wanted to bring you on today because you have taken some massive action in your business and I'd love for you to share with everybody a little bit about that. But before we get into some of the big steps you've taken over the last year or so, can you just tell everybody a little bit about what you do at Let Her Fly?

Michelle Clayton: Sure, yeah. I am a brand strategist and designer. What I do through my studio is I help women who are ready to up level, and as I say, look like the pro they are. Most of my clients have been in business for two to three years, sometimes longer and sometimes less, but usually that seems to be the sweet spot and they are still using their visual brand from when they started.

It's generally DIY, Fiverr, or something, which is completely appropriate when they're starting their business, but now that they're ready to up level and grow, what they say to me is it doesn't fit anymore or it doesn't feel like them anymore. It's not resonating with the right audience, so it's time for them to rebrand. Then when we do that, then they're able to grow whatever their next big thing is, because it's different for different people, but it positions them for that next level in their business.

Racheal Cook: I love that. I love that you have that specific ideal client that they're a bit into their business and they're at the point where their brand is actually holding them back a little bit.

Michelle Clayton: Exactly. It may not even be literally holding them back but they feel it. Their confidence is squashed and they know that they could do so much more. Their clients know them for this really high level of service or product and they're just not living up to that because they feel like it's holding them back.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I see this often show up when I'm working with clients and they start to have this feeling of almost like website shame or brand shame where they're like, “I want to send more people to my site but I'm a little embarrassed because it doesn't look as good as I'd hoped.” This turns into this whole cascade of challenges for them because then they stop going after big visibility, they stop putting themselves out there, they become really hesitant to pitch themselves to bigger clients or bigger opportunities. Having that brand that doesn't fit anymore is like being in your 40s and wearing what you wore in high school. You've just outgrown it and you want something a little bit more elevated and more where you are right now.

Michelle Clayton: Yeah. They start spending a lot of time tweaking the things. They start trying different stuff, different colors, different fonts. They get distracted by trends, competition, and all of that, instead of just really stepping into who they are and being able to take the next step. They just waste a lot of time I find.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I absolutely see this too. As we know, inside of The CEO Collective, constantly tweaking is not a CEO level task. This definitely falls under the $10 an hour, $100 an hour category. This is where you have to work with somebody who's an expert like Michelle because when they get that chance to sit down and work with you, you aren't so emotionally attached or right in the middle of everything so you have this different perspective of how they can represent themselves in a more elevated way.

Michelle Clayton: Exactly.

Racheal Cook: I love that. In your journey in this work, I know that the last couple episodes I did were all about the three major ways to grow your business and it was about increasing prices, about getting more clients, and then about customer lifetime value, those clients coming back to you. I wanted to start with the first one for you, which I know was intense. Increasing your prices, this was a big lever to pull in your business, but tell us a little bit about what happened when you decided it was time to actually do the price increase.

Michelle Clayton: Yeah. The funny thing about that, you and I have talked about this, is that was never even on my radar. It just hadn't occurred to me until you asked me, “Michelle, when was the last time you raised your prices?” I had to actually go back through some documents and find it had been well over two years since I had done that. You're like, “It is time. It is time to do this.” Once I did that, I felt just out of integrity to my own clients. I gave them a window of time that I was going to honor the pricing that it was, and then at a certain date, it was going to increase.

There were a lot of things going on at the time but that did help book me out for many, many months in advance because they wanted to take advantage of the pricing while they could. That helped move things, again, as we've talked about the feast or famine cycle, it helped move out of that a little bit in some ways.

Racheal Cook: I think this is so key. I just want to make sure we're really explaining what you did here. You did a price increase, you announced to your existing community that, “Hey, the prices are going up. If you want to book in at the existing rate, you have this limited time to go ahead and book in.”

Michelle Clayton: Yes. I only sent that to my email list, my subscribers. I didn't put that out on social media and all that because I feel like those are my inner circle and they get priority treatment or special treatment, and so that went just to them that they knew that that was coming.

Racheal Cook: I love that. I think this is such a smart way to leverage that email list because if people know that these types of announcements are only going out via email, it gives them that reason to jump on, to make sure they're on the list because they're getting the update about when price increases are coming, they're going to be able to save that money by booking you early, and you also send out just amazing great content along the way so they get all these amazing resources around their brand and how they can be showing up in their brand. I love that.

That booked you out pretty far in advance. That was such a great thing to see because you were like, “Oh, my gosh. I'm booked out months in advance.” Had that ever really happened to you?

Michelle Clayton: No, it hadn't. I would book a month or two, I think maybe three was the most at the time, but that was rare. That was not the norm at all. I was very much in the feast or famine. You serve the clients, you forget to do the marketing, and then you finish serving the clients and you haven't done any marketing and then you're back to an empty calendar and trying to figure out where the next thing is going to come from.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. This is such a common challenge, especially for businesses like yours. You're delivering a done-for-you service, takes so much bandwidth, and so it's really easy to be all in thinking about client-facing stuff and then the marketing just takes the back burner when you're trying to take care of your clients.

This was such a great way for you to increase your prices, increase the number of clients you had on your docket, and you did take a deposit from all of these people as they were booking in. It wasn't just like, “Oh, yeah. I'd like to start.” It was like, “Okay, great. Here's your contract. Here's your start date. Here's the deposit, so you are now locked in at that existing rate.” I love that.

Then the next group of people knew nothing but the new rate you were putting out there, which is great. I love that. What was the impact of increasing rates aside from being booked out? How did that impact your business?

Michelle Clayton: That's a good question. I think it positioned me a little bit differently in having more of a premium service. I was already known for that within my readers and followers, but it just reinforced that a little bit maybe, of “I really do trust her. I know that she knows what she's talking about and she's going to deliver what she says. I'm going to be really happy with the result.”

Racheal Cook: Pricing is a great way to position your brand. I think this is something that, again, we end up so close to it. Because we're in our business, it can be very emotionally challenging to get through the pricing process. But I know that when I'm out there shopping for services, there are definitely price points where I'm like, “Oh, I don't think they're going to deliver what I'm looking for because they're way too cheap.” Then there are other people who are way out of what I would consider my price range.

But pricing can be such a great way to communicate to your potential clients that this is a premium level of service. This is not for beginners. This is not for DIYers, this is a higher level service for the people who are truly ready for it. I think you communicating to the people who are truly ready for it is so key to you maintaining that premium brand yourself because they know it's not for everybody. You have to have some criteria.

Michelle Clayton: Yeah. I tell them that up front. When I have clients or potential clients come to me that are just new or they don't have regular income coming in yet, I tell them straight up, “Please don't hire me right now. We are not going to be a good fit. You need some more information. You need to do this for a little while longer and come back in a year or two and you'll see at that point.” It's hard for people to realize that at the beginning I think, but once they've gone through it, then they see.

They respect that I would say, “I'm not just here to take your money. I want this to be a really good service and it should last you for a really long time. Branding, as you know, is not something that you want to do every year or two. This should last you at least five years,” I tell them. If you don't have at least a couple years under your belt of knowing where you want to go next and how you want to grow, how can you build something for the future when you don't have that information?

Racheal Cook: I love this so much, and staying in that integrity builds so much trust. Even if that person isn't ready for you the day you're having that call, they circle back a year or two down the road. That's what you've seen is that people are starting to circle back when they are ready.

Michelle Clayton: Yes, for sure. Sometimes years later, it'll be three, four years that I have been connected to them and then they finally know, “Okay, now it's time to go. Now it's time to jump.” Then they're just already primed and ready to make it a great process.

Racheal Cook: I love that so much. What else has happened for you over the last year as you raised your prices, you started getting booked out much further? How else did you see your business shift when you were going through this process with us inside of The CEO Collective?

Michelle Clayton: I think the other big shift for me—and it may not be a big shift for a lot of people but it was for me—was actually hiring help. It all goes back to that feast or famine, when you don't have the bandwidth to do the marketing, to schedule the blog post, to onboard and off-board clients the way that you really want to, finally getting some, even just part-time help, for me was huge. It started with bookkeeping. I got my bookkeeping off of my desk, which was huge.

Racheal Cook: Another $10 an hour activity. You can hire that out so inexpensively.

Michelle Clayton: They love doing it. Bookkeepers love doing books. I found a great bookkeeper to do that. Then just about a year ago, I hired a creative assistant part-time. Right now we're at about 20 hours a month. The key for that for me was in the previous months to that, I was logging—well I've always logged my time. That comes from my ad agency days where you have to log billable hours for clients—but I would log client time, I wasn't logging the other time: the marketing, the writing, all of those things.

Once I got really intentional about logging that, I knew, “Okay, I'm spending 20 hours a month on these four activities, or whatever it was, and I really believe that there's probably someone out there who could do this just as well or better than me and that will then keep the marketing activities happening while I'm doing the client work.” That all came around the same time as the price increase, so having all those working together was huge.

She's been amazing having that help of knowing that twice a month, there are news letters going out, there are blog posts getting posted, there's social media stuff going out into the world. That was huge. Things are always running in the background while I'm still doing really good client work. That was a big shift for me.

Racheal Cook: I love this so much. I think so many people are hesitant to hire someone to step in and support them in this way. It can often feel like, “Well, no one can write my email the way that I would write it,” or “No one can post on social media the way I can.” I think what's amazing is when you've been in business for a while—again, it comes back to brand—your brand is more established, you have a clear brand voice, you have a clear perspective, you have clear messaging and content that you focus on. If you are crystal clear about that brand, someone else can step in and start supporting you with it.

You also have all these assets they can pull from. You've had all these different assets you've been posting on social media for years, you'd written emails, you've done some of these things before so someone can step in and go, “Okay, I'm going to help her post with social media. Let me scroll back and read through everything she shared and then make a game plan out of that so that we can continue to be consistent with it.”

Michelle Clayton: Yeah. It does take some time. It takes time to onboard someone and get them familiar with how you do it. I had good processes already in place, specifically with client onboarding and off boarding. But I was still the one having to do the stuff, so even just having someone else hit send, set up the invoicing, and all of that in the system that already existed, all those kinds of things were huge in addition to the blogging, the newsletters, the emails, and all of that. There are so many pieces to it.

Racheal Cook: It's so important too, because one of the biggest challenges I see for entrepreneurs when they start getting some support is they don't know anymore where they should spend their time or energy because they're like, “Well, I used to do all these things and now I have other people doing these things, so what do I do?” They get confused and they either start going backwards and getting in the way of the people that they just hired or they just sit there and spin their wheels and they're not exactly sure what to do next.

How did your role as CEO of your company change as you started putting these people into place to support you?

Michelle Clayton: It gave me that time that you're talking about. I was still working too many evenings and weekends and time that I didn't want to be working doing, like you said, those $10, $100 an hour activities, so it gave me the time to not feel like I was cranking out 40 hours a week of work just to keep the ship afloat. I had more bandwidth for more creativity with client work, which was really important for me and why people hire me.

Once I could get out of all the little piddly things and do more of that, the creativity was better. Then it gave me space—and you guys do that for us in The CEO Collective—of what's next, what do we do next for marketing or for publishing assets, and those kinds of things that I just didn't have that bandwidth for before when I was doing all of the things by myself.

Racheal Cook: I think one of the biggest things people don't realize is that as you start building a team, one of the most important things for you as the CEO is actually protecting that white space. Because a huge part of our job is actually thinking time. It's making those connections, it's having that time to be creative in some other way because that's how we can figure out the bigger picture challenges that are going on in our business, or we see a bigger vision for our business than maybe we could envision before.

But that doesn't come from more doing, it actually comes from having more open space in your calendar so that you can go live your life and do other things. Then you'll just find you get more inspired, you're more creative when you sit down to work, you have new insights and ideas.

Michelle Clayton: Yeah. I realized that at the end of last year, because last year was my most consistent year. I had a branding client every single month for—over 12 months because it wrapped around the year before—but many, many months in a row. I got to the end of 2021, I was like, “Okay that was a lot. That's a lot of output creatively to constantly be generating new ideas.” Even with that extra help, I went, “Okay, I need even a little more white space or I need to invest more of my time in creativity so that I had more to draw on.”

My creative well felt a little dry is what I had told people right around the end of the year. Going back and going, “Okay, I need to take some of this time and really use it in a more creative way and refill that well so that I can keep doing the work that I really love doing. Otherwise, I've got nothing to draw on. It's not fair to my clients, it's not fair to myself either.”

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think this is so amazing. What creative things did you tap into to help you stay inspired?

Michelle Clayton: In the beginning of 2022, I started going through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.

Racheal Cook: Oh, so good.

Michelle Clayton: Which, as a creative, as the stereotypical creative, I had never gone through that before. I'm just in a constant rotation, I'm just about done that 12 weeks, it just took me a little more than 12 weeks and I'm probably just going to jump right back into it again. I started taking a pottery class in a nearby studio here. I'm looking at some other things. It's not about what's marketable or what can I make money at, it's just what fuels me and feeds me, and having those reserves to tap into. It's been really fun to finally take some time and do those things.

I think part of that was the pandemic too. You couldn't go take a class. Everything was closed, you're restricted. Or even the activities you did, you couldn't do them in the same place or in the same way. So now having some of that freedom again has just been really fun. I'm really enjoying it.

Racheal Cook: I love that so much. The Artist's Way, y'all, is a game changer for creatives. I consider myself a creative. So much of what I do is just content creation. When I find myself slowing down as far as ideas for the podcast or new trainings I want to create for people, that's when I know I actually need to press pause and take a little mini sabbatical from the business because I find the best ideas when I'm doing a project that has nothing to do with my work.

It seems so counter-intuitive because I think we're just trained in so many ways that we're supposed to be like nose of the grindstone, cranking stuff out, but that's not how creativity works. Creativity needs time to breathe and it needs other inputs that aren't exactly what you're specialized in. I love that for you it's the pottery class, it's The Artist's Way. For me, it happened to be organizing a closet.

Michelle Clayton: I love doing that too.

Racheal Cook: Putting some wallpaper up in my house. Home design is becoming my creative outlet right now as we're doing some renovations, but I end up with all of these insights. I'll be in the middle of doing something and then I always have to keep a notepad by because I'm like, “Oh, that would be a great piece of content to do.”

Michelle Clayton: Even parallels between what we're doing separate from work, whether it's the organizing the closet or whatever, to “Okay, how does this relate to business or how does this relate to branding?” There are a lot of those connections. I find them all the time. But if I haven't taken the time to do anything other than my job, I miss those.

Racheal Cook: It's so easy to miss them. I think as you work with more and more people, it becomes even more important for you to be keeping that creativity flowing. Because it's true, when you're working with people and you have new clients coming one right after the other, it takes a lot of bandwidth to hold space for people in whatever capacity you're holding space for them. In your world, it's the branding creative process, in my world, it's more of the coaching side of it. But it does start to drain your energy if you're not constantly refilling it.

I hope everybody is really listening to that. When you take on more clients, it's not just that there's more work, it's also that you have to level up how you're taking care of yourself. You have to level up how you're filling your own creative tank here, how you're making sure that the ideas don't run out. They will run out if you just are that nose to the grindstone. You will burn out and feel like, “I don't want to take another client right now. I don't have anything left to give.” I love that.

Well, thank you so much for sharing some of your journey behind the scenes with us. As we wrap up this conversation, I would love to ask you a couple of quick little lightning round questions. Let's see what I can come up with. First, of all the things you've learned in The CEO Collective, what is the one CEO habit or mindset that has made a biggest impact for you?

Michelle Clayton: I don't know if it counts as a habit, but the community of being able to show up, whether that is celebrating wins or commiserating over difficulties, all of those things, I found there has to be a place for me to go with that. That's what the Collective has been for me is a place where I feel supported and I can come as I am. I don't have to pretend that things are okay if they're not okay. Or if you're celebrating, you're not bragging, it's not like, “Oh, can I actually tell people this?” It's like, “No, they're really excited for you for this too.” That's been big for me.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think that is such an important CEO habit because women tend to very much feel isolated as we grow in business, as we grow in leadership, it's really easy to feel like no one understands what I'm going through. That isolation can lead to so many other challenges, but you have to have that community, that support system to lean into. It's so important. I think that's a very CEO level habit to develop is leaning into a support system. I love that.

What has been your favorite part of the experience overall?

Michelle Clayton: Oh the in-person quarterly retreats for sure. Now that we're finally back to those, I've been to both the last ones. It's one thing to connect on Zoom, and you and the team do such a great job of facilitating that for us, but when you actually get to be in person and hug each other and have a meal together, that for sure has been the icing on the cake.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think there's something magic that happens when everyone's in person. I remember when we first had the December retreat after all this time of not being able to do in person, the energy in the room was just overwhelming because it was pent up “I just want to talk to you” energy. It's almost like we didn't really have a traditional retreat, it was more like we just needed a big everybody-together moment because people were craving it.

Michelle Clayton: They were, we were. I know it was supposed to be this planning session. We know that Racheal leads us through this process and all that and we're like, “Forget the planning. We just need to see each other.” The planning happened too.

Racheal Cook: The planning happened but it was after the laughing and hugging and sometimes crying about how hard the last couple years have been. It's been amazing to see that part. That's the part that, when we designed The CEO Collective, truly was meant to be around the in-person experience. Then when we had to take that away for a couple years, it was really, really hard. But I'm so thrilled to have it and I love seeing everybody in person. It always just fills me up so much. I love that you're willing to travel all the way down from Canada to be with us for those.

Michelle Clayton: Yes, I love it.

Racheal Cook: For anyone who might be listening to this and is on the fence about joining us inside of The CEO Collective, what advice would you share with them about this experience?

Michelle Clayton: I would say just do it. First of all, just do it. If you are looking for a community where you need support, you want support, you're not sure what your next steps are, it's been such a great experience for me. As you know, this is year two. I'm in my second year of that because the first year was so great, why wouldn't I go for another round? So I would say do it.

Your team is great for answering questions. If people are like, “I don't know if this is the right fit for me,” or “My business is different, will this work?” I know you guys always answer those questions very honestly of, “This is who it's for. Maybe this is who it's not quite a right fit for,” so they can always reach out to you and ask. But it's been great.

I had someone ask me recently, “Okay, so because we get access to all of Racheal's stuff in the vault, all of her training, all the teaching, have you learned everything you need to learn and would you still do this again?” It's not just about the learning, as we've talked about, it's the community, it's the support, it’s when you hit this hiccup or whatever comes up along the way, because things are always coming up.

There's always going to be next level, next devil, the next situation that you hit. It has been my go-to place for where to get that support, where to get those questions answered. There's always other people who've been in that same situation and they say, “Oh, I did this and this is how I got through it,” or “This was something I tried,” or “Here's something that might work for you.” It's just been amazing for that. My advice would be just do it.

Racheal Cook: Even like you just said, we have so many trainings and resources available for all of our clients, but it's one thing to watch those, learn what to do, see what to do, it's another thing to actually go out, do it, and implement it for your business. I remember you were sitting here the last CEO Retreat and we were talking about you were going to send out some emails to promote your next available spots, and you said to me, “Is it going to bother people if I send out more than one email?” I was like, “No, you're not bothering people. Do you see how many emails we send out when we're opening a spot? People want to know when you're available. They might miss it.”

It's that difference between knowing what to do and actually following through and doing it. You need that sounding board, that reassurance, and a little bit of coaching around how to apply it to your business. It's not one size fits all. That's my favorite thing about delivering this. I actually love that we have such diversity and types of businesses and industries because that keeps me creative. It always has me thinking about “How can we take this cool thing from this business and apply it over here?” That's where the innovation and creativity is for me.

Michelle Clayton: Yeah, that's the fun part.

Racheal Cook: That's the fun part. I love it. Michelle, thank you so very much for jumping on with me to talk a little bit about your amazing lessons over the last year and a half or so. I want to make sure everybody knows if you didn't catch at the beginning of this conversation how amazing Michelle is at all things establishing an up-leveled brand when you've outgrown your starter brand, your baby brand when you were just getting started and you're really ready to go all in, she is such an amazing resource.

Recently, you released this guide that has just blown up. I don't think you anticipated how much people were going to love this. Can you share what that resource is and where people can get it?

Michelle Clayton: Yes. It is called Plan Your Best Brand Photoshoot Ever. It's a 20-page guide, everything from A to Z. Prior to having Let Her Fly, I was in corporate for years, ad agency world, and all of that, so it is my 30 years of being on photo shoots with clients, my own clients, agency clients, everything from what you need to know before you even look for a photographer, to how to find the right photographer, what to wear, all that. We tend to focus on “What do I wear? What I do with my hair?” But there's so much more to it than that.

Then at the end, okay, you've got great photos, how do you use them to boost your SEO? How do you upload them to your website? Not technically, but there are things you need to do first before you just slap them all on your website. It is basically everything you need to know to have a really great photo shoot. They can get that from my website at is the link for that.

You can download that for free and send me any questions that maybe didn't get answered in there. It was going to launch last year and spring turned out to be a much better time because all of a sudden people are actually thinking about doing their photo shoot, things are opening up, restrictions are mostly lifted, at least for now, and it's spring, so a lot of people have found it really helpful. It's been fun to watch that release out into the world.

Racheal Cook: It's been so fun to see people respond to it and just the excitement people are feeling. I truly feel like we're coming out of this almost hibernation over the last couple years and people are ready to freshen things up, level things up, and it was such perfect timing for you to release that. It was just so incredibly valuable.

If y'all are listening and you're thinking, “Okay, I think I'm outgrowing my brand. I'm a little embarrassed of it. It's not fitting me right,” I want you to head over, grab that guide, check out Michelle at Let Her Fly. She is amazing and the brands she has been putting out have just been so gorgeous. I just appreciate you so very much for jumping on with me today, Michelle.

Michelle Clayton: Thank you so much, Racheal. It was a pleasure to be with you.

Racheal Cook: Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this conversation. If you didn't have a chance to take notes, I want to just recap some of the key things that Michelle was able to do in order to pull her business out of that feast or famine cycle and do that without burning herself out because she brought some support in behind the scenes.

One of the first things we talked about was pricing. This is so crucially important. You've probably heard me say this before on the podcast, but I'm going to say it again, inflation right now is at an all-time high. If you have not adjusted your prices, at least 10% in the last year, then you are actually making less money than you did a year ago because inflation is driving all of our expenses to go up. This hits our bottom line. It hits our family paycheck so quickly when all of the expenses we have to cover are increasing but we're not paying ourselves any more.

Pricing is one of the fastest ways you can shift your business, one of the fastest ways you can grow your business. I love that Michelle talked about how she realized it had been too long since she adjusted her prices but she used it as an opportunity to get booked out for way more time than she ever had experienced. She didn't just put people on a waitlist. She went ahead and said, “Hey, if you want to work with me, if you sign a contract and get a deposit in, we will get you scheduled in my calendar and you will be able to get your brand complete at the old pricing.”

That is such a game changer and such a smart strategy to make sure that if you are going to do a price increase, you're allowing your existing client base to take advantage of a small window of opportunity to lock in their existing rate. So incredibly smart and I hope everybody really, really takes that to heart. If you have not adjusted your prices in more than a year, you might want to go implement that strategy. Even if it's a 10% to 20% price increase, it will help make sure that you are able to continue your business and your life at the same level you were before. Please, do not ignore that key strategy.

The next thing we really talked about was how she got out of the feast or famine cycle. She was able to do this, one, by getting booked out, by booking herself far out in advanced. She didn't have those deep lulls in time where she didn't have clients in the door where she didn't have revenue coming in. In fact, she had an experience of having a client to work on every single month which she hadn't really experienced before. I think that is just so, so incredible and that pricing adjustment helped her to get booked out.

But also, she was so smart when she got to the point where she had some clients in the door. She knew the reason she hadn't truly been booked out before was because of the inconsistency in marketing. By taking a little bit of that revenue coming in and investing back into a support person, a virtual assistant who could help her get that marketing out there more consistently, she was able to really help make sure that long term, she wouldn't find herself in that position again.

I think that is something all of us can learn from. It's really easy to look at hiring support as, “Well, this is another expense. Can I afford it?” But here's the thing, if that support person is helping you to free up your bandwidth, like when Michelle hired the bookkeeper, so that she could then go after those higher level marketing and sales activities, or they are helping you to stay consistent in those marketing and sales activities, that is going to help pay for itself.

You want to shift from thinking about hiring support as just another expense to “This is going to allow me to now focus on the higher level work that is truly going to grow my business.” Such an amazing, amazing insight.

The final thing that I think is also really important is talking about support not just as the people in your team. Because while the people in your team are essential to helping you check off the to-do list and get things implemented, get things done, entrepreneurs need more support than that. We need a support system of people who have been there, who've done that, who are right there with us, who actually understand this journey that we are on.

These are the people who you can lean into when things are challenging and you need support figuring out what your next right move is. These are people who you can lean into and you're just having a really terrible time and need someone to be that shoulder to cry on. These are the people you want in your corner who, because they understand what you're going through, are going to be your biggest cheerleaders when you do the hard thing, when you do the uncomfortable thing, when you make that big move. Having a support system and having a community you can lean into is so incredibly powerful.

If you love this episode and want to learn more about how we work with our clients inside of The CEO Collective, I highly recommend going to check out all of the details, because we are open for only a little bit of time in May, from May 10th to May 20th, for this cohort of CEOs. We will not open again until mid August. If you know that you want to spend the third quarter of 2022 really making sure that you have your foundations in place, making sure that you have pulled those key levers to grow your business, and making sure that you're ready to ramp up to the final quarter of 2022—which is where most of us really see a lot of growth opportunities—then we would love to have you join us. Head over to to get all of the details. Don't hesitate to let us know if you have any questions.

Now, if you loved today's conversation, then keep on listening because I have more interviews headed your way. I can't wait to share with you in an upcoming series from more of our clients about how they are taking the lessons they're learning inside of The CEO Collective and applying them to their unique businesses.

We're not talking about everybody having the same cookie-cutter businesses. One of my favorite parts of running The CEO Collective is that we're a little bit industry agnostic. We love being able to cross-pollinate ideas from one industry to another industry. We don't believe in one-size-fits-all business or one-size-fits-all marketing, but we do believe in solid business foundations that we can all learn from and then tweak, adjust for our specific situation.

If you've been trying to figure out how to make business really work for you, what your business truly could look like as you start to grow it, then I think you're going to enjoy the upcoming conversations happening here on Promote Yourself to CEO. Thanks so much for listening and I'll talk to you next time.