She's a former teacher who is noticing a big shift happening in the teaching world, with many teachers thinking about moving on and creating something new, either on the side or full-time. So Michelle created reThink Your Lifestyle to help teachers figure out what kind of business they should start based on what they love the most about teaching.
Meanwhile, with reThink ELA, she creates lesson plans for English teachers who want to better connect with their students.
Michelle's become an amazing voice for the English teaching community to help people decide what path makes sense for them. But she's also trying to balance her two brands—and she's not sure how to best manage them both.
We talk a lot about ways to manage those two dichotomies because she's sort of playing both sides at the moment. In many cases that's actually not the right thing to do—but in this one, it actually is. You'll hear why, as well as some of the breakthroughs Michelle has, in our conversation today. Enjoy!
AP 1217: I Have Two Brands and Directions. How Do I Balance and Promote Both?
Pat Flynn: What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to episode 1,217 of AskPat 2.0, you're about to listen to a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur, just like you. And today we're talking with Michelle Waters, who runs a website at rethinkela.com as well as rethinkyourlifestyle.com. And what's really amazing about Michelle's story is that she is a former teacher who is noticing that there's a lot of things happening right now in the world of specifically English teachers, many who are trying to decide whether or not to stay English teachers or move on and try to create something either on the side or another full-time situation and doing that online perhaps.
Pat Flynn: And Michelle's become this amazing voice for the English teaching community to help people decide, which makes sense for them. And it's not like she's saying, "Hey, this is where everybody should go." It's like, "Hey, this is what you need to think about, and once you make that decision, I'm here to serve you."
Pat Flynn: And so she helps people through rethinkela.com with her lesson plans and whatnot, to help them, help English teachers better understand how to untap the power of their students. And then on the flip side, if there is something that is an inclination for an English teacher to want to go and try something on their own, she has some resources for that as well. So we talk a lot about different ways to manage those two dichotomies because, she is sort of playing both sides there. And in many cases that's actually not the right thing to do, but in this case, it actually is. And you'll hear why and how we think through this and some of the breakthroughs that Michelle had here. So here she is Michelle Waters. I hope you enjoy.
Pat Flynn: Michelle, welcome to AskPat. Thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with me today.
Michelle Waters: Not a problem. I am super excited to be here and really happy to have this opportunity to discuss business and entrepreneurship and teaching and all of that all wrapped up into one.
Pat Flynn: I love it. Well, let's talk business for sure, but first let's start with you, Michelle. Why don't you introduce us to yourself and what it is that you do?
Michelle Waters: Goodness. Well, as I mentioned, just a moment ago, I am a teacher. I like to joke around with my students when I'm in the class and tell them, I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was seven and then I forgot for 30 years. And so I became a writer and worked for newspapers, was a published newspaper reporter. And then I realized that wasn't going to work with the two-to-ten shift on the police beat and children; that just wasn't going to happen. And so I decided to stay home, and while I was at home, I was kind of freaking out thinking I'm going to lose everything I learned in college because you know, you don't use it, you lose it. And so I had a lightbulb moment and decided to start at my own web design and hosting company and did that for almost 10 years, and decided that I really liked the part where I got to get on the phone or in my help desk and really help people use the software that I was offering and just make those connections and encourage people.
Michelle Waters: And I kind of thought, "If I could get ahold of people a little younger and convince them to read and to write and to realize that they can be creators of content and not just consumers, then maybe people would have more choices, more options." And I know a lot of two teachers and a lot of people worked with me and helped me see that. And so I wanted to give back. So I sold my company and became a teacher and did that for well, 10 years. I just recently stepped out of the classroom. But while I was teaching, I started a company, an online publishing company where I sold resources. I still am, but resources for teachers who are wanting to rethink how they teach English because just handing kids a worksheet or handing kids, the book that you love, but maybe they don't like isn't necessarily working.
Michelle Waters: And so how do we convince children, teenagers in particular that they need to be reading and writing and it's important and relevant to them right now. So that's kind of my thing. And that's pretty much what I'm doing. And I've got a few other things going on the side as well, which I think maybe we could talk about as we kind of get into our topic today.
Pat Flynn: What an amazing journey. I mean, from reporter to teacher, what grade were you teaching specifically? If you don't mind me asking?
Michelle Waters: I've taught everything from sixth through 11th grade. I spent six years teaching. I started out ninth, 10th and 11th. It was at a small rural school. So I was the English department. And then I later transitioned to eighth, ninth and 10th grade.
Pat Flynn: Very cool. The online publishing company that you have now to help people teach English, where's that at? Like what's the URL?
Michelle Waters: It's rethinkela.com
Pat Flynn: rethinkela.com And so you've had this for how many years now?
Michelle Waters: I started it as a teacher blog. It was Mrs. Waters English. And I did that in June 2012. And then in about 2014, I realized I can create stuff. The lesson plans that I'm creating for my students, there are teachers out there looking for these things. I've got the graphic design skills from having been a web designer and a newspaper editor. I can use those, create these things, put them on teachers, pay teachers, put them on my own website, which has an affiliate program, sell those. So I did that in 2014. I wrote this blog post that apparently teachers everywhere search for in droves on Halloween. And they buy the lesson plans that I have created. And that's kind of been my bread and butter. Did that in 2014. And then in 2018, I realized it's not all about me. And I want to help encourage other teachers to speak out and to have a platform and be able to support them in terms of getting what their lesson plans and their understanding of how to reach kids out there and also supporting them financially as well.
Michelle Waters: So, affiliate program and joint venture partnership, actually. And then we split the profits, which, you're creating stuff out of thin air, everything's profit at that point. And I rebranded to reThink ELA in 2018 and have been running that ever since. And it's been a side gig up until now, but since I've stepped out of the classroom, I'm wanting to make that a full-time gig. But what I'm seeing and kind of get into my question that I have is, education is changing. I mean, there are teachers who are leaving in droves. I'm the member of several groups of teachers that are like, "I'm done. I need to do something else. What can I do? I'm just a teacher. What can I do?" And I'm thinking, "you can do everything. You can convince teenagers to read and write on a daily basis,
Michelle Waters: What can you not do?
Pat Flynn: Exactly.
Michelle Waters: I've decided to play both sides of the fence. I've got reThink ELA, but kind of keeping the same brand and focusing on teachers. Rethinkyourlifestyle.com is my other website. I had a former student who he and a friend of his messaged me and said, "Hey, Mrs. Waters, we're wanting to start a business. Will you help us?" because they knew I had reThinkELA. So I sat down with them in a coffee shop, got them, started, told them, "I don't play a lawyer or a accountant in real life or online. Please talk to one. Here's the steps you need to take and help them through that process." And one of them told me, "Hey I put this out on my social media and people came back to me and said, "Hey, how do you do this? And you really ought to charge people to help them." And I thought, "that's not a bad idea."
Pat Flynn: That's great. So that sounds like one of the side things that's sort of starting to pick up now is to help teachers who are sort of in this transitional period, figure out kind of what to do next should they want to leave the sort of teaching aspect? And is there anything else going on besides this, those two things?
Michelle Waters: I'm actually in grad school and working on my doctorate. I was in the classroom and my professor said, "Hey, Michelle, I'd like for you to be the Oklahoma writing project graduate assistant and my graduate assistant. That would get your tuition paid for." So my $3,700 bill went down to $700 for nine hours of coursework. And he said, "You just need to fill out the paperwork, but you're pretty much already accepted into the doctoral program." And I thought, for reThinkELA, I really need to have that credibility. Having the master's degree has helped. I've already had people say, "Hey, I'll work with you on anything you want to do." I'm like, "Okay, that's kind of a change," but the doctorate I think would really help.
Michelle Waters: Not only just the letters in front of my name, but also the research that I'll have the opportunity to do, the learning that I'll do. I mean, I'm already taking a class this semester that's just blowing my mind, which is amazing. And I love it. I'm learning new things and kind of figuring out another piece to the puzzle of how do we convince kids to read and write right now and to value reading and writing. And not just that, but the reading, and how can we value the reading and writing that they're already doing?
Pat Flynn: Wow. So you're doing a lot, which is amazing. And I'm curious before we super dive into sort of where we might need to shift or might need some help is, how are you balancing playing both sides? "I'm going to help English teachers," but also, "Hey, you don't"—are you cross-promoting those two things? And, if so, how is that working in your head?
Michelle Waters: I am doing some cross-promotion. I've written a blog post on reThink ELA that has tagged, reThinkyourlifestyle. And I've kind of gone back the other way a little bit. I've got a Facebook group that has some people in it, but it's not growing quite like the way I want it to, but we're still early in the game and we're still in the middle of the school year, and teachers are super stressed out. And I know that they're looking for groups of people to help them figure out what their next steps are. They're not finding mine yet.
Michelle Waters: So I need to kind of figure out that piece. How can I get them to that group without spending bunches of money on advertising? I'm making connections through my podcasts with other people who are kind of doing the same thing or have done the same thing, kind of telling the inspirational stories, because not only do the people who are listening to me, need to hear that, but also people in their audience are like, "Hey, I'm really admiring this lady who started her own instructional design company. How can I do that?" She hears my podcast and maybe comes to me for help with that. That's kind of what I've got going on right now. There is some cross-promotion and in terms of just being able to get everything done, Google calendar.
Pat Flynn: Amen to that.
Michelle Waters: Automation and outsourcing.
Pat Flynn: Amen to all those things for sure. And where is the podcast in case people want to check you out since they're listening to this, where they can find it?
Michelle Waters: It's rethinkela.com/podcast is the one on that website. And then rethinkyourlifestyleall.com/podcast.
Pat Flynn: Epic. So where do you want to begin? There's a lot here where might be the biggest struggles or challenges that I can help support you with?
Michelle Waters: I would say one of them is just kind of getting my mind straight in terms of my interpretation of what's going on in my industry right now. And this could be any industry as going through some major changes, but I've been teaching teenagers for 10 years. I soaked up some of that drama. So I'm seeing all these changes. I'm seeing teachers leaving education and I'm like, "It's a dying industry, it's going away."
Michelle Waters: Part of what prompted me to start reThink Your Lifestyle . But I'm also thinking that maybe be I'm being a little bit too dramatic, there are changes. There are people getting out, but there are still people coming in and they're still going to find themselves in front of a classroom trying to figure out how do I convince my kids to do what they need to do and kind of trying to figure out how to pivot in my business to make sure I'm staying on top of what's going on.
Pat Flynn: That's always an important thing. I remember when I started my architecture business, I was in that and then I kind of automated it to a point where, well, I wasn't even really involved in that space anymore. And things started to just happen because I was focused on Smart Passive Income and all these other things, and that could potentially happen. Is it just you doing all this? You said you had some assistance. Do you have another person on the reThink ELA brand to kind of perhaps be that person to stay at a pulse of what's happening and what's going on?
Michelle Waters: I do have some people in terms of people that are still in the classroom. I just interviewed one of them for my podcast, talking about an issue that we're facing right now. So because I'm plugged in through Oklahoma writing project and through the University of Oklahoma, I still kind of have my finger on the pulse of what's going on in the classroom. And then I'm also a part of several different groups and on Twitter and on Facebook. So I get to see what's happening kind of in real time almost.
Pat Flynn: I just had an idea and this reminds me of my buddy, Michael Stelzner, who runs Social Media Examiner. And he runs Social Media Marketing world every year... I don't remember when he started this, but he just stepped up and was like, "You know what, I just want to know what's happening in this industry? So I'm going to create the social media industry report, and it's going to be something that we come out with every year. I'm going to ask everybody I know to fill out a survey, but it's not just like insert bubble or multiple choice. It's also open ended questions so that I can hear exactly from people in that industry, sort of what are they doing and what's going on."
Pat Flynn: I don't know if there's in particular, person who's created a report a state of you could step up with your brand and create something that everybody then uses that also not only gives you that information, but also could be something that could be very useful in helping expand your brand, because everybody's going to want to know what's going on. And that's data. Data is also very valuable these days there might be other company or other people, or I would imagine that even teachers might be interested in that kind of data. How does that sit with you in terms of like stepping up and like creating a way to gather this data so that you are in the know, but also can provide more value to these teachers in the space and kind of get a pulse of what's going on?
Michelle Waters: What I'm hearing is that, I'm part of several groups. I read several other blogs, other industry news, that's kind of out there, but it's sort of piecemeal. And a lot of it comes from local news stations and national news stations. If I curate all of that, like into one blog post, we'll say maybe each week or a couple times a month or something like that. But curate that, those sources, that information not only curate it, but also kind of analyze it what does this mean?
Pat Flynn: Now you're seen as the expert.
Michelle Waters: In my classroom, how can I handle this? And then publish that it could go out on my blog, which then of course goes to my social media, which goes to my mailing list where 19,000 teachers, that could be something of value that I would offer that I don't think anybody else is really doing. Not from the perspective of specifically English teachers who are trying to rethink what they're doing.
Pat Flynn: Exactly. And I would say even maybe once a year might even be enough to go big on it, or once a quarter, perhaps. I mean, I know that there are, for example, on the micro level, in the Podcasting industry, for example, there's a hot pod news email newsletter, and that comes out like every week, but that's what that company does. And they understand and analyze all the things that are happening and you have all these other things going on, but definitely a blog post or perhaps even a blog post that showcases some summaries. But if they want to get the specific data and the charts and whatnot, if you have that, they can subscribe to your newsletter and get a PDF file in exchange for that. But what an amazing service to be able to step up and do that, but also you're self-serving because you're also trying to understand more about it's going on and what everybody's thinking this in then turn, you might be able to get even more advanced with.
Pat Flynn: Maybe you could send an email to everybody who answered a survey. Maybe the survey comes through. I mean, there's a lot of app lets and apps online that you could use to sort of help manage this survey. And then you can say, "Hey everybody who answered this question this way, let me send all those people an email", because they all seem to be not sure if they're going to stay in this industry and I can serve them with my other brand over here.
Michelle Waters: And I can do that with ConvertKit, tagging people who click on links and—
Pat Flynn: There you go.
Michelle Waters: Zapier and all that combined.
Pat Flynn: I mean, we're brainstorming right now, but I think that could be really neat and also position yourself even more as an authority in this space. And I like this too, because it also helps you serve those who are still in the industry, but also help you introduce people to the other side of this as well. So it's not actually like, you're just kind of leading that behind. Actually you're leaning more into it by, creating something like this and it could be pretty cool, I think. And also very insightful for you perhaps to help stay on pulse of what's going on.
Michelle Waters: Absolutely. And I think too part of that as I'm curating and analyzing, I can also got to go be metacognitive about it and tell the teachers, "Hey, you could do this too. All you need to do is set up your website. This is how you do it. and if this is something you want to do is a side gig. Here's another site I have where I can help you get started with that. And it could just be a side gig, even if you're not ready to necessarily get out of the classroom, it could be something like what I did setting it up on the side. So here's your news, here's your analysis. Here's how this is relevant to you in your classroom. And then here's how you can kind of virtually step out of your classroom and use those virtual learning skills that you have learned over the past two years to create your own platform."
Pat Flynn: I love that. So you have like the data and the hard analytics and such and the things that you can infer from that, which for, especially the right brain people and that's like logic, here's the numbers given to me straight. And I can now kind of make use of that. There's now the other people who are more emotional are more act based on story.
Michelle Waters: Yes. I'm all about the stories.
Pat Flynn: Good, good. So, and the fact that you have a podcast to pull these stories out right. Can be really amazing. So you could take, whether it's people who specifically answer the survey in a specific way, or even just people know already, you could take people who are committed to English and staying in the classroom and unpack the why and what they're trying to do to make it more interesting and more exciting to encourage those people who want to stay there and just uncover that. But you could pull the other story out too, and you could pull out the story of the person who was an English teacher. Who's now removing themselves from that to do and step into something even different. And best case scenario would be somebody that you are in particular already helping to do that, to tell that story from their perspective, it's similar to when all my podcasts, I bring a podcasting student onto the show ,and I don't ask them, "Hey, tell me why Power-Up Podcasting is the most amazing course in the world."
Pat Flynn: I say, "why did you want to start a podcast? What was going through your head? And why did it take so long? Or what were the biggest struggles? What were you worried about?" And of course your teachers would say the same thing. "I didn't know what to do. I was just felt lost. I felt like guy was going to be wasting all this time that I spent putting into English. And now I'm starting something new. It's just so scary." And then of course you go, well, "What's life now, like after that you've built something, what did you build?" And they tell that story. And of course, just naturally through that, they're going to be like, "Oh, and it was your help, Michelle. And it was like, this course that you created or is this," and it's just becomes the most beautiful, organic test of colonial that you could ever ask for, put into a story that not only encourages those who have the same struggles as that person, but it makes them go, "Okay, wait, how did you do that? Oh, it was through Michelle's stuff? Okay, I'm in."
Pat Flynn: So I think that the more that you can lean into that as well. So we have like the data and the analytics to lean into, but also the story to lean into even more. And those examples kind of set the examples for others.
Michelle Waters: Absolutely. And I can see how that would work on both sides because the teacher who stepped out of the classroom can talk, like you said about how that has impacted her, his or her life in terms of de-stressing and being able to, maybe being able to increase their side income, what have you, and what that means. But the teacher that stayed a classroom could also talk about how, they've been able to connect with other teachers, build their, what we call a PLC, a professional learning community. But also when their students see what they're doing, "Hey, my teacher is reading and writing and creating a side income from this. If she can do that, surely I could do that too." So she's actually setting example of using in a very pragmatic way, the skills that she's teaching her students.
Pat Flynn: And I think that the worry would be, "Michelle's just trying to convince all the English teachers to leave the industry." which you're not trying to do that or the other way around. It's like "Hey, you're not even letting us who are tired of this kind of explore other things." No, you are actually playing this very unique role in sort of curator, moderator, mediator, facilitator of just helping a person think through what's going on. And I think that's so unique. It reminds me of a man named Ramit Sethi from Iwillteachyoutoberich.com. He always challenges people to go, you need to define what your version of a rich life is. Like, I can't tell you what it is. I can show you examples. I can tell you both sides of the story, but you're going to have to decide for yourself what makes sense for you.
Pat Flynn: And I'll help you do that. I'm going to share different examples of different ways to go about it. Whether you want to quit your job and become an entrepreneur, or get a raise and get promoted in the current job that you have. There's no wrong answer, but you need to know what you want. I'll help you through that and then go down that path. And I think you could step up Michelle and be like, "you know what? I'm going to help you who's listening to this or watching this understand what is the right path for you. And here's different stories because if you're just stuck here in limbo, you're going to go nowhere. And that's where you're the least healthy. That's when you're most challenged mentally and exhausted." If you can position this as, "Hey, my name is Michelle,.I help you get out of limbo between your"—you know how to say it better than me, but I think you understand what I'm trying to get across?
Michelle Waters: You're doing good. You've got this.
Pat Flynn: Thank you. So how's all this sitting with you? I mean, a lot of this might be new. It might be notes of things you've already thought about, but maybe more detailed now, where are you thinking? And, and what might be your next steps you think?
Michelle Waters: One of the things that you've done for me just now is help clarify the role that I am wanting to kind of created that umbrella of what I'm trying to do. When you said curator, mediator, facilitator, that is what I'm wanting to do. And helping people decide for themselves, and thinking about what you said and what I've been doing, that's what I'm doing with the kids. Or what I have done with the kids is sit down, listen to them: "what's your story? What do you want to do? what do you enjoy doing?" And then helping them see that path and see the value in what I'm doing in the classroom and how that impacts what it is that they're wanting to do. "So you're wanting to be a welder when you grow up. Do you want to get a raise?"
Michelle Waters: "You probably need to be able to make that argument. Do you want to work on a ranch? Do you want to become an architect? Do you want to be a fiber splicer? All of these things, you're still going to need to be able to write and read and basically communicate with others." And so being able to take what I do with the kids and then use that, those same skills and those same techniques with adults and different context, of course, I ask them the questions. They already have the answers and just help them see that, like you just helped me see kind of what hat I'm putting on, so to speak.
Pat Flynn: You're coaching them right through that. And, a good coach doesn't say, "do this." They say, "Well, what excites you the most?" And through questioning, just like you do with your students, you can help teachers realize those answers. And then boom, they're locked into your ecosystem now. And you can take them on the next steps of that ride.
Michelle Waters: Absolutely. So basically help them see the value that they have next steps. I've got a lot of steps going on already, with the podcast, with the blog, I'm looking at creating a, on the reThink your lifestyle side, I'm creating a course called publishing company success. And so if you have a teacher and I've already had several teachers ask me for more information about this, and they're in those Facebook groups where they're asking me about this, but the rules say you can't link to anything. So I'm like, I'm here. I have the answers. I'm not going to give them to you right here. But it's in my profile, but anyway, publishing company success, and that's going to help those teachers, whether they want to get out of the classroom or not, it'll help them start their publishing company online and it'll help them figure out how do they structure the business?
Michelle Waters: How are they going to create their foundation? Which can include their website and what have you, how they're going to get the word out, how they're going to create their products or figure out what their products are. And of course, that's all going to start with who are they and who do they want to serve? And, what do those people need? What problems are they going to solve for people? And what solutions are they going to offer? And so that could work for either side in terms of teachers who are trying to just kind of chart their journey and share their resources with other teachers for a small profit or teachers who are like, "Okay, I'm going to go and sell principal planners online instead."
Pat Flynn: So good, Michelle. I mean, we talked about a lot of things. Sounds like a lot of clarity moving forward with positioning and what you might do from here. So really looking forward to seeing what you do with this. And if you could remind us one more time where people can go to access your material, I'm sure people would appreciate that.
Michelle Waters: If you are an English teacher, who's in the classroom and you're struggling trying to figure out how to understand your students and what they bring to the table and how you can kind of tap into that. Then I have rethinkela.com. And if you're looking to start your own publishing company or just, find a way out of the classroom or a way to just have a side gig, then it's rethinkyourlife.com. So basically if you're trying to rethink either your classroom or your life, I've got you covered.
Pat Flynn: Love it, Michelle. Wonderful job. Thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate you so much.
Michelle Waters: Thank you.
Pat Flynn: And look forward to chatting again soon. I hope.
Michelle Waters: Absolutely. Thank you.
Pat Flynn: All right. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Michelle. Thank you so much for coming on. And I cannot wait to hear how you balance these two things and allow yourself to just be truly who you are meant to be within each of those spaces, which is cool because you're helping English teachers be who they are meant to be as well. So thank you for what you're doing. And again, rethinkela.com. If you are an English teacher and you're looking to keep doubling down on that and on your students, or if you want to reThink your lifestyle, go to rethinkyourlifestyle.com. So Michelle, thank you once again, and thank you for listening all the way through. I mentioned this last week, but I highly recommend you do so please apply to SPI Pro. If you have any sort of online business and you want to get connected with in a safe space.
Pat Flynn: So many other amazing people and SPI Pro is not about more content. There is content in there. You can go in and get challenged. There are opportunities to learn in there, but it is about the connections to others. It's about masterminding. It's about getting some motivation. It's about helping each other out. It is a resource that is unlike anything else right now. And I hope that you apply because it's not just about us trying to see if you are the right fit for it. We want to make sure we're the right fit for you. So head on over to SPI Pro, you can apply before the next enrollment period and get in before the price goes up, because we will be increasing the price point later this year, that is in our business plan.
Pat Flynn: So this is the time, make sure to apply SPIPro.com. All right. Thank you so much. I appreciate you. And I look forward to serving you in the next episode of AskPat. Cheers.
Pat Flynn: Thanks for listening to AskPat at AskPat.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. AskPat is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.