Design Smackdown: Building a Website that Sells in 25 Words or Less

Design Smackdown: Building a Website that Sells in 25 Words or Less

I broke my toaster yesterday, and it’s the stupidest story you’ve ever heard. But I’m going to tell you anyway because at its core is a lesson we all need to learn about good design.

The toaster was my husband’s, which he’s had since before we were married four years ago. It’s beautiful, it’s sturdy. It toasts 4 slices at a time and allows you to choose from 5 different settings so that you can defrost your bagels while warming your bread and not ruin either one. The LED displays the time so you know exactly how much time is left. It’s a premium toaster.

Except for one fatal flaw: the tabs that you press down so you can actually toast the bread? They’re plastic. They’re just glued on to some skinny metal legs.
Which I know because yesterday when I went to make toast by pressing down on the lever–as you do– the damn tab came right off in my hands!

Without it, you can’t press the toast all the way down, and there’s too much strain for glue to be helpful. I know because I tried after the first one broke off six months ago.

I now have a perfectly wonderful toaster, and no way to use it.

Design For Form and Function

Whether you believe that form follows function or function follows form, we can all agree that function matters.

To design a beautiful, practical toaster that breaks when used to do the very thing it was created for is to design it badly.

To build a website that is beautiful and functional requires skilled design. And with websites, a skillfully designed website cannot be accomplished without excellent copywriting.

There are so many wonderful platforms today that can build beautiful websites for people. They’re well-designed, professional-looking and customizable. There are so many beautiful websites that look impressive and slick but you can’t find a damn bit of information you’re looking for. Or you can, but it isn’t clear and intuitive. You stumble over the writing.

Great web design doesn’t leave copy to the end. It integrates it into the design process from the beginning. The copy–the words, the phrasing, the language–you use on a web page are both the structure and the embellishments of your design.

Get it right and you get your goal.

Get it wrong and a whole lot of people leave your site frustrated and empty-handed, perhaps never to return.

Like form and function, copy and design go hand in hand.

What does a good copy-design relationship look like?

Copy and Design, Hand in Hand

Good designers know that website visitors don’t read every word on a web site. We scan pages, using the hierarchy of design to orient us. We view headlines (big and bold), subheadings (smaller, bold), keywords, visuals and layout to take us down a page and to glean information.

When a web page is difficult to scan, users tend to click away from the page, opting for an easier site. When information is hard to find because of poor design, we click away then too. There are billions of websites  on the internet right now and more created every second. If your website is difficult to read, to navigate, why not go find a better one?

Presenting information in a quickly digestible way is crucial to the success of your business.

Your job as the designer, then, is to make the page easy to scan.

As copywriter, write copy that blends in, that supports the design, that guides the user through the page–and do it all without ever being noticed.

There are four elements you must follow to have a well-designed, well-written (ie beautiful, functional, non-frustrating) website:

  1. Good balance of text and copy. Sites that are too word-heavy are difficult to read, and highly unattractive. Sites with too few words are often missing important information.
  2. An effective call to action (CTA) The call to action should be so natural you don’t even realize the call was made.
  3. Clear menu headings (including words and structure). Your visitor isn’t there to think about where to go, but to be led to his destination. Lead the way. Make navigating intuitive.
  4. Straightforward copy. Concise, economic, efficient. Words are for function, not decor.

We’re going to break down all of these elements using real examples in a segment we’re calling:


Two sites are going to faceoff in a competition of great design. The winner gets me as their customer.


Squarespace vs. Wix


1 squarespace 1 home

Wow. There are 25 words on the page, but it looks like there are no more than 7. I see immediately how beautiful and sleek Squarespace can make a website.

Balance. It says exactly what I need to know and not a thing more. “Make your own website” is a 4-word summary of the product (bonus points for efficiency) and their pitch (3 words!) changes periodically (“make it beautiful”, “make it loud” etc), reflecting the platform’s versatility.

CTA. I’m invited to start a free trial, and immediately assured that I won’t even need a credit card (a question that immediately popped up when I saw “free trial”). It doesn’t give details, just quietly removes the barriers. Perfect.

Navigation. At the top I have three clear options and I don’t have to think at all about what each one does. I scroll down and see “Trusted by” and don’t bother reading the rest because the layout makes it clear that this is a well-established, widely-used, trustworthy site for people of all industries.

1 squarespace 2

Copy. They highlight four benefits of using Squarespace (design, marketing, online shopping, all-in-one platform) and there’s not an extraneous word to be found. All the copy is focused on me and how Squarespace will achieve my goals. The visuals are effective at answering the “how” and the two options “Get Started” and “Learn More” (with Get Started being more prominent–I just want to click it!) are effectively designed to get me to yes.


2 wix 1 home

Balance. Just for comparison, I counted the number of words on this page: 32. It feels like there are a lot more words here than on Squarespace’s homepage, and they’re not all that valuable. Like, what does “stunning” mean? Squarespace showed exactly what it meant by “beautiful”, “loud”, “fresh” and the blinking cursor drove home the message of customizability.

“Wix unites beauty and advanced technology to create your stunning website. It’s easy and free.” None of that is bad exactly, but they already used “stunning” and, like, do we need advanced technology? The only thing that really matters to me is “It’s easy and free.” That’s what needs to be front and center!

CTA. Get Started. I like that. It gets right to the point and without scaring me off.

Navigation. I have to think about what I want, what part of the menu to click on. I see now why Squarespace decided to forego the header menu and to focus instead on four main benefits. In this case, visual is way more effective.

Copy. These descriptions look twice as long with too-small font that makes me not want to read. The pictures don’t support the text (Why the spreadsheet? Why the review? And what do they have to do with code?)

2 wix 2

It’s jargon-y. You have to explain wix code to me. It may be a small barrier, but as long as it’s there, I can trip.

When I scan Squarespace’s page, I can pick out keywords like “marketing” “online store” “grow your audience”. I can’t do that with Wix.



Target vs. Walmart

3 Target 1 Home

I immediately notice: Easter. Pickup. Search. Save. Take note, those are four keywords that help me navigate without thinking. The colors are attractive, the visuals uncluttered, and the search bar at the top is prominent. I don’t have to think about how to get where I want to go. I just scroll down.

Balance. Initially I thought there were very few words, but now I see there are two menus at the top. (Take note: it’s excellent design when you can trick me into thinking the page is less crowded than it is.)

Very few words, and mostly action-oriented: “spend” “save” “get”. The pictures show me what I may want and the words tell me why it’s a good idea to buy.

CTA. Get the deal is perfect. I always want a deal! It supports the rest of the page, and I almost don’t notice that the deal means I have to spend first.

Navigation & Copy are where this site shines. I want to show two examples.

3 Target 2 news exclusives

You could say this in two words, “news and exclusives” but here’s what’s clever about their approach. Saying “news on exclusives” makes it clear that it’s newsworthy, and it elevates Target’s brand a smidge by showing it’s not the same old stuff here day after day. It also keeps readers engaged because who doesn’t like to be in on the scoop? Also, Target is a brand that does exclusives. I want to know what and when the next one is, and Target wants to remind me of that competitive edge.

3 Target 3 Featured

Featured categories is so economical. Great use of color, clear images, and words. I can find what I want just by looking at the pictures, or I can read the text. Well done.


4 Walmart 1 Home

ACK SO MANY WORDS. My eyes don’t move easily in any direction, and I’m not sure where to look first. It takes some brain power to orient myself and decide where to go.

Balance. I don’t know where to go, so I just keep scrolling. The featured products have LOTS of information: reviews, number of reviews, number of stars, a small title, sometimes info on shipping. All that information makes me think and process, and that’s a drag in online shopping.

CTA. Is there a CTA here? I feel like I’m shouted out from all directions.

4 Walmart 2 categories

Navigation. “Show all categories” is a barrier, and we don’t want barriers. I was going to comment on Walmart’s lack of order here, but when I went I looked back at Target’s to compare, I realized they didn’t have any either. It was just an illusion. Let that be a lesson to you.

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4 Walmart 3 showcase

Copy. Yes! Finally they did something brilliant. The images are clear and so is the copy. They support each other in giving me direction. I want to start a DIY and paint my walls and cook my food.




5 Apple 1 home

Full disclosure: I’m a devoted Apple fan, and this is why. Their work is so clean and beautiful. This website is just about perfect in every way. Its visual, letting the products speak for themselves with just a few words sprinkled throughout to support the visuals.

Balance. They’re advertising ONE THING, but by showing just a peep of the iPhone 8, they make it clear that there’s more to scroll to. At the top is a header menu in case I want to look at something specific. But, it’s black and white and stays in the background–no distracting me, no competing for attention, no burdening my brain with extraneous thoughts or decisions.

CTA. It’s rare to find a site that doesn’t use CTAs and even rarer to find one so seamlessly integrated. Notice that though the entire image is a link, there’s still a CTA, but it acts as a selling point, a benefit, instead of a call to action. Geniusly executed.

Navigation. Just like with the products, you don’t have to think at all here. Scroll down and click on what’s most beautiful. But, if you are looking for something specific, there’s a discreet little menu that follows you around. You only notice it when you need it.

5 Apple 2 home pod

Copy. Homepod tells you to watch the film, to fill your curiosity about this little-known product. I love that “freedom calls” doesn’t say anything explicit about water resistance or the sim card. It’s all implicit in the visuals. Showing the five watches supports the tag line.

The site is filled with clean visuals supported by short sentences that are packed with power. It’s so easy to look around, understand what I’m seeing, and to spend money


6 Samsung 1 home

Immediately I’m presented with a choice: Do I want the 9 or 9+? Which means that already I’m having to think and process. A well-designed site is so intuitive you don’t even have to think.

Balance. This is a word-heavy home page. It’s not terrible, but as with Wix, the copy isn’t supporting the visuals so much as competing with them.

CTA. “Learn more” sounds boring and I’m already bracing for a pitch. As a general rule, you should avoid “learn more” always. Keep your CTA benefit-oriented.

Navigation. A lot of information is being thrown my way, and in no particular order. When I scroll up for the menu (barrier!), I have to read every word of the submenu to know decide (barrier!) where to go.

Copy. Look at this.

6 Samsung 2

I’m only going to point out three barriers. I welcome you to add more in the comments.

  1. Try it the Galaxy for 30 days. Sounds like a benefit, but the subtext is, “you may not like it and just in case that’s true, we’ll make it easy to return.” Thumbs down.
  2. The camera. Reimagined. Tells me nothing about the camera or why I should care that it’s been reimagined. Also, you’re trying to sell me on a camera by showing me a black square.
  3. Do more with your Galaxy S9 and save on accessory bundles.* What more can I do? WHY THE ASTERISK??

Samsung undercuts its own products over and over again.


The Secret? Always KISS

We talked about copy and design going hand in hand. Now it’s time to KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

  • Keep your sites people-centered (not product or business-centered).
  • Remove barriers. Make it easy for your people to buy!
  • Use engaging visuals and brief but powerful phrases. Discourage thinking. Encourage moving.
  • Let your product do the talking

It’s much easier to critique sites than to build them great in the first place. But looking at different sites in terms of what’s effective, what’s frustrating, what’s easy to navigate, what compels me to buy–and what doesn’t–can inform our design decisions.

And also our shopping decisions.

Congratulations to all our winners! I’m off to buy some stuff.

Ira Glass Created a Radio Show That is (Still) More Popular Than The Bachelor

Ira Glass Created a Radio Show That is (Still) More Popular Than The Bachelor

SXSW is in town March 9-18! We’re shining a spotlight on four speakers and their work that revolutionized our world.

Ira Glass is the creator and host of This American Life, a radio show that first aired in 1995 and not only paved the way for podcasts, but almost single-handedly ushered in an era of live storytelling.

Glass brought a new voice to radio–literally. Now we’re used to podcasts where people talk to each other conversationally, casually. But if you’ve ever listened to news radio of any kind, you know that “radio voice” sounds decidedly un-casual. Broadcasters also had deeper, more resonant voices while Glass has a higher-pitched nasal quality to his speech (listeners have complained about his voice for years; Glass takes it in stride).

This American Life (TAL) aired in 1995 as Your Radio Playhouse (it became This American Life the following year) and earned its way to national prominence through cold calls, enthusiasm and original marketing.

He talks in this interview about how they exceeded their initial goal (they wanted to be on 60 stations by the end of the first year but got on over 100) and that they did it using two clever tactics:

  1. To stations who picked up the show, Glass and his staff would mail a Snickers bar. Such a simple idea, but they stood out because no one else was doing anything like it.
  2. They created entertaining promos for local stations to air during their pledge drives, which are famously boring for listeners to bear. So, Glass’s proposition to station owners was: pick us up because we’ll make you money. He and his staff came up with funny promos that delighted otherwise-suffering listeners (nobody enjoys a pledge drive) and the plan worked! Glass says half of the first 100 stations to pick up TAL did it because of the promos.

Glass has hosted the show for over 20 years now–over 600 episodes–and has never gotten stale. It’s heard by over 5 million people each week via both radio and podcast. (To put that in perspective, in January, the same number of people tuned in to watch the season premier of the Bachelor.) It consistently made the top 10 for years, and more recently has been bumped out by its own shows. Last year, one of its own spinoffs S-Town beat it in the rankings.

Radio people aren’t known for innovation or business savvy (perhaps unfairly?), which makes Ira Glass that much more remarkable. He is constantly pushing the boundaries of what radio (and storytelling) can do.

You’re Terrible At What You Love. Do It Anyway.

When he was 19, Glass began an internship at NPR as a tape-cutter. It’s almost unfathomable in this digital age, but radio programs used to be edited by literally cutting tape-recorded segments together–and throwing the ones that didn’t work into a literal trashcan (instead of an icon of one).

It turned out to be great training, though. He made great connections with the staff, got great at editing (and great radio is all about editing), and began his career reporting.

If this were an ordinary story about a successful figure, right here I would begin detailing how Glass had always loved radio and writing and had followed his passion into the NPR studios that day. It would trace his path from lowly, tape-cutting intern to senior staff reporter. It would highlight his incredible, innate talent for storytelling. It would likely be embellished with childhood anecdotes about winning storytelling contests, or working on his school paper. We would look back on his life and know that he wa destined to be the king of radio.

But this isn’t that story. In fact, it isn’t even close to that story. For when glass started out, he was a horrible reporter.

I feel like I should say that again. When Ira Glass, the undisputed king of modern radio, started out as a radio reporter, he was horrible. So horrible that it took him years to get good.

Many years, in fact. He says it took him longer to get good than anybody he’s ever met. For most of a decade, at least, he was bad. How bad? Take a look at this clip from his eighth year as a reporter.

We love stories of prodigy. We love to be wowed by Mozart, who was writing operas at 12, or Tara Lapinski, who won a gold medal at age 14, or the stories that pop up now and then about 16 year olds going to college.

The thing about those stories is this: they’re not interesting, and they’re not helpful. Because most of us aren’t born amazing at anything. We just slobber and totter around and fall around a lot.

But all of us have something we really want to do.

So what happens when you’re exceptionally bad at the thing you want to do? Give up, right? If you want to be a singer, but you have a lousy voice or no sense of pitch, what’s the point of pursuing singing? You’ll never be great. (Incidentally, Derek Sivers has a great chapter in his book about his own lousy cum amazing singing.)

It is far more difficult to pursue the thing you’re horrible at, but that you want more than anything to be good at, than to go with what comes naturally to you.

Most stories that we tell as a culture are about young people that change the world. They’re about underdogs who win big. They’re about innovators and rebels. They’re about disruptive technologies and overnight successes.

They’re not about people who dedicate decades to one quiet thing. They don’t tell about the 20 years of dedication to the thing you’re horrible at. The stories we hear are about hard work, not heart work.

Glass’ is a story that deserves to be told because it’s the story we all need to hear, over and over again. It is the ultimate tale of triumph. It is a story we could all live ourselves if we want.

It is the story I’ll tell you today.

When Glass was 19, he took an internship at a radio station. The year was 1978. His skill level was virtually zero.

He spent the next eight years learning the ins and outs of radio programming from writing, to editing, to reading stories on the air, to music, transitions, the elements of storytelling, and how to combine them all into good reporting.

At this point, after nearly a decade, he had not gotten it down. He tells us he was bad, and it’s easy to think that it’s his own modesty or self-deprecating personality doing the talking.

But at least one other successful radio producer and reporter backs him up. There’s nothing in here showing any talent at all, she says of one of his stories from the time.

He kept doing it anyway.

In 1990, 12 years into his tenure, he moved beyond producing and reporting to become co-host of a weekly (local) radio program that ran for 5 years.

It wasn’t until 1995, 17 years after starting in radio, that he started what would become This American Life.

He started at age 19. It took him nearly another lifetime to get to This American Life.

What do you badly that you would dedicate a whole lifetime to getting good at?

What if the thing you’re terrible at is the thing you’re destined to be great at? What if all those years of learning are precisely why you end up on top?

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

[I]f you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal, and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.

Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to close that gap, and the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

Ira Glass on Taste

An Incomplete List of All the Times Ira Glass and TAL Changed the Game:

-TAL hosts live shows, which has become normal for podcasts. TAL’s shows, however, are often complete with musical numbers, live dance and theatrical performances. They’re available for download through their website.

-TAL developed its own app where you can access the entire 600+ episode archive and stream anytime.

-Its annual pledge drive is a 1-minute pitch by Ira Glass himself. Each year, they exceed their needs for the show. On years where they don’t need the money, you don’t hear a pitch. They’ve established enough trust with their listeners (and created enough value) that when they ask, we respond. It’s how Serial season 2 was created, and S-Town, too.

-In 2014, they put some of the surplus into creating a spinoff. Serial went on to shatter records and bring podcasting into the mainstream. Podcasts were so new at the time that they had to create a video to teach people how to listen to them.

-TAL was, briefly, an Emmy award-winning TV show on Showtime. It’s currently available to stream and on DVD.

-In addition to three Emmys, it’s won tons of other awards, including the prestigious Peabody 8 times. (Listen to the award winning episodes here.)

-In 2014, they announced they’d be parting ways with their longtime distributor Public Radio International (not NPR, many are surprised to learn) to distribute the show via PRX in an effort to further democratize public radio.

-In 2015, it signed a deal with Pandora to stream TAL and Serial.

-In 2016, resident TAL geniuses developed Shortcut, a way to turn TAL podcast moments into video clips shareable on social media.

-Also in 2015 it changed up its partnership with WBEZ, the station they’d worked under since the show’s beginning in 1995, because they were forming their own production company.

-For a few years, ending in 2017, he toured with two dancers in a show he co-created called Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.

-Glass produced two feature films by comedian Mike Birbiglia, and a podcast to promote the second movie.

-But, even after all that, you may know him best from his advice to creatives where he explains the gap between starting out with good taste but having terrible execution. It’s an excerpt from a (brief) 4-video series on storytelling that you should definitely watch.

I could go on–that’s how influential Ira Glass and his shows have been. Instead, I will leave you with this:

Three Business Lessons We Learned from Ira Glass:

  1. Assemble a great team. Glass is talented, hardworking, and enthusiastic about new projects. Without an amazing team, though, he couldn’t have done half of what is on this list. In fact, the show wouldn’t even have gotten off the ground. Collaborate, cooperate, and trust.
  2. Take creative risks. This is true even if you’re not in a creative industry. Push the envelope! You’ll learn more, you’ll keep getting better, and then you’ll be able to apply that mastery to other areas. By his own admission, Glass started out terrible. He was 19 and didn’t figure out how to sound good for nearly 10 years. It’s no coincidence that it’s only been the last 10 or so years that TAL has really taken off (Glass is nearly 60). It takes time, effort, experience and practice, yes, and risk.
  3. Mastery opens doors. Glass is a master storyteller and a successful businessman. He developed these skills over the years and they paved the way for new, diverse, interesting (and lucrative) opportunities beyond radio. People worry that focusing closes doors but in fact, it’s more often true that getting to the top of what you love is the best way to get into (often by invitation) other industries, fields and opportunities.
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See Ira Glass March 11 @ 3:30 PM

Further Reading & Recommendations

20 years of This American Life has made Ira Glass a seasoned interviewer, but did you know he is also an excellent subject? He’s insightful, interesting and relatable. Here are a few of my favorite essays and interviews:

Q&A: Ira Glass on Structuring Great Stories, Asking Hard Questions I promised he was a good interview subject and now you can see why.

Radiowaves Podcast Interview Probably my favorite Ira Glass interview because it manages to be wide-ranging without losing the listener or being boring. It’s linked above because it’s not just about Glass and TAL, but shares insight about business and marketing that can apply broadly.

Ira Glass’s Manifesto This is basically everything I wrote above but from his perspective and with sound clips that aren’t included here. His path from peasant to king; his advice on pitching (and finding) great stories; and how to tell great stories.

Public Radio and Capitalism I mentioned above his innovation to public radio pledge drive, and how their success there has allowed This American Life has been able to do ambitious shows and create record-breaking spinoffs. Here’s more on the money side of public radio, from Glass’ perspective. It’s worth a read because though he’s talking about radio, what he’s saying can apply to any business.

Ira Glass on Storytelling is a quick 4-part series (total runtime: less than 20 minutes) about how to tell great stories. It includes his quote about good taste. Watch them.

What Esther Perel Teaches Us About Human Behavior Will Change The Way You Design

What Esther Perel Teaches Us About Human Behavior Will Change The Way You Design

SXSW is in town March 9-18! We’re shining a spotlight on four speakers and their work that revolutionized our world.

Esther Perel is a couples therapist unlike any other.

First of all, you can eavesdrop on her sessions via her podcast Where Should We Begin (and you absolutely must).

Second, she offers more enlightening, challenging perspectives on modern relationships than anyone out there. Anyone.

Her first book Mating in Captivity questioned everything we thought we knew about successful long-term romantic relationships. We want security in our marriage, but also intimacy, and eroticism, passion and desire. But the safety, security and intimacy of marriage are often exactly why we don’t experience passion and desire. How to maintain erotic tension over decades of togetherness, child-rearing, and mundanity?

Her second book, The State of Affairs, examines infidelity with the same scrutiny, her advice and her insight completely unconventional.

The thing about Esther Perel is that she is a master of her work. Listening to her podcast, you witness the expert skill she has honed over decades and thousands of hours of sessions. You see the self-examination she must have done to get to a place of such penetrating discernment. In listening to her, you understand yourself better, and how you fit in the world around you.

In web design, we aim to create beautiful websites that are easy to navigate. Our aim is to offer clarity, to make it easy to get to your goal in the site, whether that’s reading a blog, buying a product, or finding contact information. This is a weird analogy, I know, but Esther Perel is a master designer. She knows how to get you from A to B to C efficiently but also humanely. Spending time with her teaches you about your own design.

Her parents are Holocaust survivors. She observed that there were survivors who survived–who simply did not die–and there were survivors, like her parents, who came back to life. Vitality informs her understanding of relationships, and the individuals in them. Of relationships, she says, When you pick a partner, you pick a story. And that story becomes the life you live and the parts of you that become expressed.

It doesn’t seem like a speaker like this has any place on a blog about business, technology, and entrepreneurship, but just the opposite is true. The people we serve, the very individuals we’re catering to, are human and therefore her words are deeply relevant to our work. Better understanding means better design.

But even more than that, we can learn from her way of thinking. She observes the world closely, makes connections and associations and examines her assumptions and experiences. She is constantly improving her craft, studying, teaching, talking, writing, listening to couples and other therapists and experts. She is a master and that makes her an invaluable teacher. Learning from her work will make you better at your own.

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See Esther Perel March 9 @ 2:00 PM

We’d Like (You) to Know Amber Venz Box, Entrepreneur, Disruptor and Innovator

We’d Like (You) to Know Amber Venz Box, Entrepreneur, Disruptor and Innovator

SXSW is in town March 9-18! We’re shining a spotlight on four speakers and their work that revolutionized our world.

I think of Amber Venz Box is smart, savvy, and fashion-forward. In 2011 she leveraged her love of–and good taste in–style and disrupted the retail industry and transformed fashion blogging into a serious money-making machine.

She founded rewardStyle, a platform that allows select (it’s invitation only) fashion, beauty and lifestyle influencers to earn money for the sales they, ah, influence.

She also created LIKEtoKNOWit, which you’ve no doubt seen hashtagged on Instagram. CNBC reported in November that rewardStyle influencers have generated over $1 billion in global retail sales. With LIKEtoKNOWit, the double-tap of an Instagram picture (ie “like”) sends an influencer’s complete outfit details direct to your inbox. Its influence reaches far beyond Instagram (including a deal with Google) and has generated over $700 million in sales.

The best part: Venz Box’s platforms have given thousands of women the opportunity to launch their own businesses. Fashion blogging began as an industry that offered little more than bragworthy perks. Now through affiliate marketing and Venz Box’s platforms, these influencers can earn an easy 6 figures.

She’s given women (because influencers are overwhelmingly women) an avenue to start and run their own businesses, no MBA or corporate drudgery required. Retailers profit, followers are thrilled, and women around the world build thriving businesses.

3 Business Lessons From Amber Venz Box:

  1. Follow Your Talents. Venz Box designed and sold distressed denim skirts in grade school.She started her own jewelry line in high school.In college, she started working at a jewelry store where the owner invited her to sell her own line as well. It wasn’t long before she was making more selling her own designs than she was as an employee ($100,000 according to Business Insider).

    It’s easy to get caught up in “figuring out” what to do with our lives, what business to start, how to make money. Venz Box focused on what she was really good at and getting it out in the world.

  2. Teachers can make sweet money, too. The rewardStyle conference (#rStheCon) is an invitation-only event that brings together influencers and brands. Not only is it a great opportunity for networking and deal-making (which puts more money in everyone’s pockets) but it’s also a way to teach both how to be better at their work.
    Through workshops, panels and breakout sessions, conference attendees learn how to earn even more money. And, the conference itself is an opportunity to make money and get incredible visibility (because of course the influencers are Instagramming everything and the brands are hosting highly photogenic parties).
    Bring people together, show them how to be better at their work (that is, ideally, on your platform) and reap the benefits.
  3. Marry your interests to a money-making industry. Venz Box loved fashion and would likely have gone on to great success continuing as a personal shopper and jeweler. She achieved something far bigger by combining her interest in fashion with a technology platform. Often the greatest innovations spring from unlikely pairings.
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See Amber Venz Box March 12 @ 12:30 PM

How a College Student Transformed a $4,000 Bill Into $40,000 Profit a Month

How a College Student Transformed a $4,000 Bill Into $40,000 Profit a Month

For the month of February, we’re talking all about college student entrepreneurs. Our 4-part series looks at four very different businesses started by studentpreneurs and the key takeaways that can help you in your business. Questions? Suggestions? Want us to feature your business? Drop us a line! anna [at] atxwebdesigns [dot] com.

Who: Zaid Al-Quraishy

What: Online Courses

Where: University College Dublin

The Problem: He wanted to grow his online business.

The Solution: He started selling his online courses on Udemy.

Zaid Al-Quraishy was a college student and entrepreneur when, one day, his car broke down. Repairing it would cost $4,000. Though his online business had generated enough money for him to buy the car, it wasn’t enough to allow him to repair it. He was stuck.

Al-Quraishy is an “ethical hacker”. He isn’t out to take down websites, steal money, or otherwise harm people through the web. Mostly his courses teach how to test security of certain technologies and protect against malicious attacks.

Through his own website, he offered ethical hacking courses for Arabic speakers. He had an archive of videos and materials that had been supporting his student expenses. When his car broke down, a friend suggested he try offering his courses on Udemy. The only catch was: they would have to be in English.

So, he translated his courses and the supplementary materials into English. Then, made more even courses to put on Udemy. What could have been an enormous hassle turned out to be a lucrative opportunity.

He currently offers 8 courses that range in price from $10 to almost $200.

The best part is: he doesn’t have to run any of it. Udemy allows him to not only offer his courses to a (much) wider audience but in showing reviews, ratings, and numbers of students, also does a good chunk of the marketing for him.

He’s had over 130,000 students (and at a minimum of $10 per class, we’d say he’s done all right). Side Hustle School reports he brings in $40,000 per month (all right, indeed).

Top 3 Lessons and Takeaways:

1. Do Your Best, Outsource the Rest. Al-Quraishy grew his business by focusing on his strengths, creating great courses, and outsourcing the rest. Now instead of spending time and energy on the technical aspects of delivering the courses, on marketing and customer service, he can focus on building and improving his courses.

2. Capitalize on What you Know. Al-Quraishy knew all about hacking and was able to package his knowledge in a way that was accessible to others. You don’t have to take a class or learn a new skill to start a business. What are you already good at? What do you already know a lot about? Start there. Then, go back and read #1.

3. Make Passive Income. It’s what every entrepreneur aims for, but not everyone can make money in their sleep. Al-Quraishy’s business was already generating passive income, and he scaled up in a major way by migrating to Udemy (and outsourced a lot of the hassle). If you’re already making passive income, how can you increase efficiency (like adopting a new system or platform) to maximize your profit?

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