It’s a pretty common dream. Start a business, work hard, and someday you’ll get to travel the world.
But what if you started a business so you could travel the world right away? These days, it’s completely doable if you set things up intentionally to become a digital nomad.
That’s what Camille Holden and her husband did when they started their PowerPoint focused business. And it powered them for four years of world travel!
Now, the couple has settled in Bali and are focused on growing the business. Tune in for a great example of how to craft your business to give you the freedom to grow, or go, depending on what your objectives are at the time.
I’m Brian Clark and this is Unemployable — tips and tools for building your perfect business. Thanks for joining us.
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Build a Business That Powers Your Lifestyle
Camille Holden: My name is Camille Holden. I run Nuts & Bolts Speed Training, a PowerPoint training website that teaches busy office professionals how to master PowerPoint. They can leave the office early and make it to happy hour. And I am unemployable.
Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable, the podcast for freelancers and entrepreneurs who value their freedom, creativity, and income way too much to ever accept a regular old job. For the full Unemployable experience, sign up for our email newsletter for tips, tools, and trends that will take your business and lifestyle to the next level. Simply head over to Unemployable.com to join us. That's Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: It's a pretty common dream. Start a business, work hard, and someday you'll get to travel the world. But what if you started a business so you could travel the world right away? These days, it's completely doable if you set things up intentionally to become a digital nomad.
That's what Camille Holden and her husband did when they started their PowerPoint focused business. And it powered them for four years of world travel! Now, the couple has settled in Bali and are focused on growing the business.
Tune in for a great example of how to craft your business to give you the freedom to grow or go, depending on what your objectives are at the time.
I'm Brian Clark and this is Unemployable — tips and tools for building your perfect business. Thanks for joining us.
This episode is brought to you by iThemes hosting for WordPress. iThemes is our host here at Unemployable, and it keeps the site fast and reliable while not breaking the bank. To save even more, simply visit ithemes.com/BC50 to save $50 off your first year. Or head over to unemployable.com/hosting to read our full review to find out about several unique features that iThemes WordPress hosting includes at no charge, and click over to your $50 discount from there.
Now, let’s chat with Camille.
Camille, how are you? It's good to have you on the show.
Camille Holden: Thanks for having me. I'm great.
What Is Your Background?
Brian Clark: Very interesting, as I've been checking out your business and learning a little bit more about you. I thought this would make a great case study plus educational experience for our listeners, since you are a professional storyteller. You teach others how to make the most of PowerPoint. We'll get to that in just a second.
I want to hear a little bit about your background. What led you to the place where you started this particular business?
Camille Holden: Sure. I was actually living in Beijing, in China, on and off for about 8 to 10 years. I had a number of different jobs, I think like a lot of people who studied humanities in college. I didn't really know what I wanted to do and I was trying a whole bunch of different things. A couple of the jobs that I worked in were in PR and also event planning and marketing.
In both of those jobs, it sounds really glamorous — like, “Oh, PR, you're going to meet all these celebrities and you're going to be planning all these cool events and you're going to be wining and dining with all these amazing people.” There might have been one or two of those, but the reality was that I was actually just working in PowerPoint, behind the computer in PowerPoint, day in and day out.
For anyone who knows these industries, it's a lot like investment banking or consulting, in that every single aspect of the job is required to be in PowerPoint. When you're pitching a new client, “Send us the pitch deck” — that's in PowerPoint. When you're proposing a new program that you're going to do with your clients, you've got to send them a deck. When you're giving them a report on how well you did your job, you've got to send it in a deck. Even internally in the company, when you're having internal meetings about projections and forecasts and results, that's all in PowerPoint.
I ended up finding myself just working in PowerPoint all the time. And it didn't take too many late nights — 1:00 AM in the morning sitting behind my desk, I'm one of the few people left in the office banging my head against the computer, wanting to say ungodly things to anyone who works at Microsoft — to start coming up with some techniques and ways to do things better.
So, I ended up becoming really good at PowerPoint in my company and becoming the go-to person people would send their decks to and ask me to rehaul stuff. And I started training other colleagues. That’s sort of how the seed got planted in my mind about this business.
How Did You End Up in Beijing?
Brian Clark: Okay. Before we go forward, I’ve got to ask, how did you end up in Beijing?
Camille Holden: Well, funny story, my parents actually met in China in the late ‘70s. My Mom was from France, my Dad is American. They had both studied Mandarin in university separately and had moved to China to discover the country that they were learning all about, and they met there. So I spent four years of my childhood living in Beijing. And I would go back and forth occasionally every few years or so.
Then when I graduated college, the US job market wasn't great. So I just decided to give it a shot to go back to Beijing. Beijing's a second home to me in a way.
Brian Clark: Fascinating. Yeah, I always tell my kids, “Learn one of two languages: Mandarin or Spanish. If you want to compete going forward, probably Mandarin.”
How Influenced Were You by Other Books?
Brian Clark: Okay, so you get really good at PowerPoint. And PowerPoint is like the butt of a million jokes, in that, not necessarily — I mean, yes, Microsoft — but just because of the bad way in which it's used by generally corporate people. That's kind of the stereotype. And I remember 10 years ago or so, all of a sudden, you started seeing books like Beyond Bullet Points and Presentation Zen, Slide:ology, all of these things just trying to say, “Look, you're telling a story here. Get rid of the boring bullet points and be more creative.”
Those type of books, did they have an influence on you as you were developing your own skills?
Camille Holden: I have to say very little. Sadly, the world of corporate life is not really steeped and not really welcoming of storytelling yet, unless you're at a very, very high level. If you're the CEO, the CFO, you're giving a big annual meeting and you're talking about the future and “All these things we're going to do.” Then their story is much more easily accepted.
But if you're just meeting with your department of 30 people and you've got to tell them what you did and what you're going to do, storytelling unfortunately just doesn't play a role there. So, I was kind of doing a lot of ground work. It was a lot of just, almost like creating documents or as Nancy Duarte calls them, “slideuments” or somebody calls them “slideuments.” Creating basically what could be a document in Word or any number of other software, but that's just created, it happens to be, in PowerPoint.
Brian Clark: Got you. That may explain, because on your site, you don't take the storytelling angle. Of course you do talk about it, but you talk a lot about speed and efficiency and I can see how that would be appealing if you're going after that kind of corporate market.
Camille Holden: Yeah, definitely. I think we're adjusting along the way, but in the beginning, we felt really, really strongly about this. We were almost resentful of anyone telling us, “Just put three words on the slide and make the font size 56 and tell a story,” because it just didn't apply to our daily work. It was like, “Well, great, but I can't do that. I can't talk about financial projections in a story format.”
Maybe we were a little bit close-minded at the time, because we were crunched for time and everything. But we felt very strongly like there needed to be someone out there who was giving advice that was practical.
We almost took the approach of, “We don't care what kind of slides you build. You can build the ugliest slide on the face of the earth, but we will get you to build it three times faster.” The idea being that if you can speed up your time, then you probably have more time to get creative. You have more time to think about how you are going to deliver this talk. You have more time to come up with cooler imagery use and refine your messaging.
I think in the end it's not super sexy to talk about speed versus design and all this storytelling. But I think it really benefits the end user. And then, in a roundabout way, it comes around to also benefit with a design of a presentation overall.
Describe the Business
Brian Clark: Tell us about the business. What exactly does it encompass and what does it do for people?
Camille Holden: Sure. Basically we have a website and a YouTube channel and they're very much intertwined. Both of them provide lots of free tutorials and articles on how to do various things in PowerPoint. We also have a number of courses that we sell through the website. That's our primary business.
We have our flagship course called PowerPoint 3X. And it's the course we created right when we thought we would have nothing else to teach people, and that was five years ago. But that's the main course and it teaches people how to become three times faster at PowerPoint.
There's the main website with a bunch of articles. It's like a blog, but we formatted it a little bit differently. And the YouTube channel and then the student back end area.
Tips for Storytelling with PowerPoint
Brian Clark: From a more entrepreneurial standpoint, for example, the only time I make slides is when I'm doing public speaking or I'm doing a webinar, a course, some sort of presentation where the storytelling aspect actually does become paramount. It's not an internal meeting or a quick deck to get across some information like it might be in a corporate environment.
I've read some stuff that you've written that's really good on storytelling. I thought maybe you could share some of that with the audience, because I think they'll appreciate these kinds of tips to not make horrible PowerPoints.
Camille Holden: I think, honestly, my first tip would be almost to write your entire presentation without PowerPoint first. I think sometimes when you open the software, it's so easy to just start clicking and typing and you get a little bit lost in the wordiness, in the layout and the look and feel. “Am I going to find the right picture?”
I think it's really important to make sure that you have your content really down first. Any kind of format that you like, whether you use Evernote or just a piece of paper or Word, whatever it is that helps you get your ideas down. I think if you can refine your story first before you get into PowerPoint, it's usually quite beneficial.
That's sort of my first tip in a way, and it’s counterintuitive to not use PowerPoint or Keynote, whatever software you're using. But basically, stay away from the slides first to get your content down.
Then the second thing I would think about is: what do you want people to walk away knowing? That's what your entire story needs to be built around. And then of course, there's a bunch of tips and tricks and techniques you can throw in there.
But I think if you have those two things — your story down at first without even opening PowerPoint, and then know exactly the one thing you want your audience to come away knowing or thinking — then you have at least a really good start.
Finding the “Who”
Brian Clark: You talk about looking for people or, and I like this, a character in the data or the information, the boring that you're trying to get across. And I find that fascinating.
I go through a similar exercise when I'm teaching people marketing strategy, that it's all about the “who.” In your case, you're looking for a “who” to be the focus of the presentation. But I'm guessing that “who” also depends on who you're talking to.
Camille Holden: Right, exactly. And that's why a really good presentation is not one size fits all. It's tailored to each situation.
But an example when you're doing your presentation, instead of talking about your company's quarterly earnings, talk about the hard work the employees put in or talk about how many loyal customers you have. It's much more gripping to talk about your employees. You can throw the quarterly earnings in there, but the focus should be about how hard the employees worked and, “Look how much earnings that resulted in,” for example.
Begin With the End in Mind
Brian Clark: Yeah. Another thing that I noticed when you write about storytelling is the old advice, it's actually Aristotle, but it gets attributed to Stephen Covey all the time, because he was the more popular author, I guess.
Camille Holden: It depends when.
Brian Clark: Yeah, exactly. It depends on your time period. “Begin with the end in mind,” and you say, “Set the stage with the undesirable now and where you'd like to get to.” I found that a very effective way of thinking about how to take the audience on a journey. That makes sense.
Camille Holden: Yeah. I mean, we're all typically a story. Hopefully, your story is one that has an exciting future in it. It doesn't have to mean that your situation now is bad necessarily, but it's obviously not where we want to be. And so, it doesn't have to be necessarily undesirable, but if you can describe the current situation. People's minds can jump, can imagine to things pretty quickly.
So, if you could start by explaining where you are now and then where you want to be, people can almost fill that in for you, which is cool, because it gets them involved in the process of figuring out, “Okay, how do we get from this point A to point B?”
Defy Audience Expectations
Brian Clark: Yeah, I like that. Of course, getting them involved also means emotionally involved, of course. That's kind of at the heart of great storytelling. You also advise to mess with the audience a little bit, maybe defy their expectations. What's the purpose there?
Camille Holden: Yeah, I think in a way what I just described with people filling in the blank, it can be an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage. People will check out if they think they know what you're going to say or if they can expect what's going to happen.
If you can throw in a couple of wrenches, a couple of surprises – I've heard of people even throwing in a curse word and then accidentally, “Oh, I'm sorry,” taking it back. There are a number of different ploys that you can use to create some kind of a shock or something unexpected that will keep your audience engaged.
How to Find the Right Metaphor and Analogy
Brian Clark: Yeah, absolutely. Finally, I want to talk about the use of metaphor and analogy, which you recommend obviously. Again, it goes back to who you're talking to. The right analogy for one crowd may not be the right one for another crowd. And I see sometimes speakers stumble. For the longest time, I wouldn't do the same presentation twice. That turned out to be stupid, because it's very difficult.
But you also have to be able to tweak your core presentation on the fly. A lot of times, it's just the little stories you tell to relate maybe the main point or a hard to understand thing. But this is really the essence of journalism, copywriting, presentations, etc.
How do you find, in your experience, the right metaphor that's going to connect with that audience?
Camille Holden: Yeah, I think you alluded to it a little bit when you talked about being a journalist.
I think one of the first things I would do, if I didn't know the audience or the industry, etc. terribly well, I would spend some time researching, reading articles, learning about what kind of work they do and seeing if something comes to mind. I think a big part of that is actually knowing your audience well enough — what age are they, what gender are they? If you're going to throw in a whole bunch of sports metaphors, it might not be very appropriate for a group of new moms.
Brian Clark: Exactly. Guys want to use the sports metaphor and then they are not thinking about who's in the audience. Are they going to appreciate this?
Camille Holden: Honestly, sometimes a metaphor doesn't have to be super creative. I think we have this idea that the metaphor has to be really clever, it has to be an aphorism that everyone knows.
I think even coming up with an almost strange, your own little bizarre metaphor is also okay, because it's relatable. It shows that you're trying to bring it down to something concrete or you can even just use another one. Like saying, “So-and-so is the LeBron James of printing machines,” I don't know. I mean, that's something people can understand. Of course, in sports, that's not for everyone, but you can use other names and other examples of well-known brands and things that are successful or failures to kind of bridge the gap.
The Use of Silence
Brian Clark: Oh yeah, I almost forgot this one. This was something that it took me forever to get comfortable with, and that's the use of silence. Just stopping and pausing and that's okay. I was always afraid that people would think I forgot what I was going to say next. And if you do forget what you're going to say next, a nice pregnant pause may pull it back up for you. But generally, it's more strategic than that, right?
Camille Holden: Yeah, that's a tricky one. I think we have a tendency to want to fill the void, fill in space, and I catch myself doing that all the time. And so, I'm working on it too.
I think a lot of people feel pressure. That's natural to feel pressure to speak, because they're up there and that's what they're expected to do. But sometimes using silence can be very useful. It also helps you find your words, it helps you prevent all the filler words like “ums” and “likes.” So it also helps with your own delivery.
A Business That Serves Your Needs
Brian Clark: Exactly. Okay, I want to shift gears a little bit, because when we initially corresponded, the thing that jumped out at me was that you were very much into the idea of building a business that serves your needs and then just being okay with it. Can you elaborate on that?
Camille Holden: Yeah. My husband and I run this business together and when we first started it, we had what felt like very small ambitions, which was we wanted to leave China and travel the world for two years. And we didn't want to dip into our savings. We didn't know of any jobs that would allow us to rove around the world like that. So we decided to start this business.
The entire goal of the business was simply to fund a sort of basic lifestyle as we traveled the world for two years with relatively minimal costs. We don't own any homes, we don't have any car loans. We’re pretty bare bones. But that was the entire goal of the business.
As the business grew and we grew with it, it became a little bit bigger in the sense that we thought, “Okay, maybe this is something that we can continue doing beyond the traveling.” But the entire goal was just to keep us afloat during our travels.
And that really carried us throughout the beginning stages of our business. Because I'm sure you know, and anyone listening probably knows, when you start something, you get so much advice. So many people want to tell you about how it worked for them or how it worked for their friend or, “Have you considered this?”
It was really helpful to know that this business does not need to become the next Uber, it doesn't need to become a business with an office and 15 employees. It just needs to make a certain threshold of money a month.
That really helped us deal with all the influx of ideas and suggestions and even our own ideas, because it was like, “Does this serve that purpose? Would going and doing lots of live in-person speaking gigs, would that serve our purpose of traveling the world and just making enough to get by traveling the world?” The answer is no.
So, it helped us just culll things out in the beginning, which now in hindsight was really helpful.
Brian Clark: Yeah, that's interesting. It's kind of like my son will do whatever to earn enough money to buy a video game, but unlike that, you have a business that keeps going. It was very intentional. You know what I'm saying?
You're just like, “Well, we want to do this and we need money, so let's do this.” And I see nothing wrong with that. I think it's one of the better reasons compared to some of the almost pathological reasons. I think some people start these hopeful Unicorns – “Mommy didn't love me, so I'm going to make…” I'm serious. Entrepreneurs are messed up a lot of times.
I love that. I didn't realize that it was that directed, I guess. I just went on a six-month trip with my family and that was because of the type of business I had created, but I also had to sell some of it in order to free myself up.
And that's a big theme of the show now, which is I'm glad I did that. But I'm also glad to be back and thinking about “What does this business need to do for my overall goal?” Not just some random business objective.
Camille Holden: I think as our business evolved, so did that goal, obviously.
Then at some point, it was like, “Okay, this is all great, but we need to start looking a bit bigger, because we don't necessarily want to just …” I mean, we were done with traveling after four years. Actually, we extended it to four years. We got done with traveling and we want to start a family and we want to start earning more.
But there's also the entrepreneur in us that's like, “Well, this business could really double or triple. We've got to really figure out how to do this, it’s really exciting.” It has evolved beyond that now, but I think we keep that very much in the back of our minds, trying to stay lean.
One of our big things is being time rich, it’s sort of the ultimate goal for us. So that also informs every decision that we make. It's like, “Okay, is this going to allow us to be flexible, to be able to take two months and go see family and friends or take care of a loved one who is unwell? Or go on a cool expedition with a bunch of other friends who are doing something neat?”
I think for us it's been really helpful to have a very targeted idea of what we want our business to do for us, in addition to obviously what it does for our customers.
Brian Clark: Okay, you're living in Bali, which is wonderful. You're thinking about starting a family, which is the right time to focus on something other than the business as long as it's paying the bills. And yet, I look at your business and the entrepreneur in me is just going, “Oh, you could grow this so many different ways.” You have to balance that out.
Are you in a place where you're kind of what I call “sanely ambitious,” which means, “Okay, we can grow in three ways that won't ruin our lives and will still give us the lifestyle we want.” Is that where you see things going or are you more just tempering yourself?
Camille Holden: That's interesting. I have never been asked that question before. I like the term “sanely ambitious.”
The thing is when you're running a business as two people, it's interesting, particularly as a couple. So Taylor, my husband, is more the visionary type with all the ideas, and I'm more the integrator who is doing a lot of the work behind it. We kind of temper each other. He'll typically have a million ideas and I'm like, “Hold on, we can't implement all of these.” So, it kind of works in a balance in that way.
Yeah, we definitely have high ambitions for this business. We think we can double our revenue within the year. That's really exciting, but still maintaining roughly this lifestyle that we have at the moment. And that's what's really exciting, I guess.
How Will You Expand Your Team?
Brian Clark: Yeah. So, a husband and wife team, possible children on the way, are you looking to maybe bring in freelancers to augment your execution capabilities to put some of those big ideas?
I love that your husband has the big ideas and he's like, “Okay, you go deal with this.” He's got the good job. That's my job.
What's your general plan? I'm asking, because I think people will find this useful. I think a lot of people are viewing things the way you do, and yet they think it's “yes or no,” “on or off.” Like, “You either grow or you don't.” And that's not true.
Camille Holden: Yeah, I think we have slowly but steadily been hiring freelancers and part-time people over the last, I'd say, year or two. Some have worked out better than others. We don't have a great track record of that yet.
That's one of the biggest things that we're working on is: how do we work better with other people? Not because we're not friendly, but mostly because it's just we've been so involved in this. A lot of people who start off, it's not that it's our baby, but it's just we know so much about it that it feels really hard to catch people up, particularly people who can have the same level of expertise in PowerPoint. So that's been a bit tricky for us.
But we're definitely hiring more and more people to take things off of our plate. I think that's been a huge factor in our increased growth over the last, I'd say, six months for sure.
Brian Clark: You have the course. Do you do workshops? Do you do done-for-you services for people? What would you need the freelancers to take over from you? Because that's hard. I get it. Trying to get someone to perform at the level of a founder is incredibly difficult. But then that person comes along and you're like, “Okay, I'm not sharing you with anyone.”
Camille Holden: Yeah. We need people for various tasks that we've done over the years but aren't really great at. Things like helping us out with our SEO, which we've done on our own and grown amazingly organically, somehow miraculously. But we're now at a point where we're like, “Okay, we don't want to do that sort of thing,” so we've hired someone to help us with that.
We've hired a graphic designer person. We have a couple of ghostwriters that we're trying to train up now. One of our biggest things is we get all this organic traffic. Articles and content, as you know, it just takes so much time to create content. We're working with a couple of writers to try to help us write some posts to increase our traffic there, and just help us with just the bottleneck that we can become sometimes with those kinds of tasks.
Those are the main roles that we're currently hiring.
Then one that I foresee us needing very soon is a project manager. Someone who can oversee the two of us and keep us on track and just help manage all the different roles and tasks that need to get done.
Brian Clark: Yeah, that's true. That can help. One of the best things I've done recently is having Jared just tell me what to do. It's easier than thinking for myself.
Camille Holden: Oh my gosh, I know the feeling.
Brian Clark: I mean, show me where to go, when to show up, what to do – hey, I'll do it. No, that's great.
I wish you the best of success with the business, with your family, with your life. It just sounds great. And I appreciate the fact that you're wise enough to realize that you don't have to shoot for the moon to have a successful business. It can still be great. That's what I want people to get out of this — that it's better than having a job by about 10x. But that doesn't mean you want to sacrifice this great life that you just created for yourself.
Camille Holden: Right, exactly. I've met people along the way who seem like they've given up this terrible job, but just created the same job for themselves in their own business. So I hope that anyone listening, if they're doing that, can catch themselves and not become their previous boss.
Where Can We Find You?
Brian Clark: Amen to that. Okay, well tell people where they can find you on the web and also your YouTube channel.
Brian Clark: Camille, thank you so much for being on the show.
Camille Holden: Thank you, Brian. It's been a pleasure.
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