Here’s a sneak peek at my interview with Dr. Nicole Rankins on how she grew her successful side hustle and podcast while working full-time as an OBGYN:
Can you share with us a bit about you and what you do?
I’m a practicing OBGYN. This year marks my 15th year in practice. I can’t believe how long I’ve been doing this, and I’ve had the privilege of helping over a thousand babies into this world. I still practice full-time as an OB hospitalist doing 24-hour shifts at a time. In addition to that, I have a side business that’s related to what I do at my day job. I have a popular podcast that I’m so proud of all about pregnancy and birth. I also have an online childbirth education class called The Birth Preparation course.
What got you interested in the OB practice and medicine? How did that evolve into starting your own business?
In college, I majored in mathematics and mechanical engineering. Honestly, I was looking in the mirror one day, thinking about how I didn’t know what I wanted to do and how I really didn’t want to be an engineer. I realized I wanted to practice; I envisioned myself wearing a white coat. I know it might sound bizarre, but that is honestly what planted the seed.
It just started to progress from there. I ended up in medical school; I very clearly knew that I wanted to help women and I wanted to do something that involved my hands. I went between general surgery and an OBGYN, but I liked OBGYN because it provided more options in terms of what I could do.
Initially, I started out thinking I was going to be GYN oncologist — a GYN Doctor who cares for women who have gotten a college of cancers like ovarian, cervical, uterine — but I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum where I realized I loved being in labor and delivery. I used to be in practice in the office for several years, and I thought I was going to eventually go into academic medicine at a medical school and do research, but that wasn’t a good fit for me.
I had a conversation with my chairman and it was recommended that I get fired, which was completely crazy for my type-A high-achieving self. I decided they weren’t going to fire me – I was going to quit. So I found a new job as a hospitalist, which literally just fell into my lap. I was at my own gynecologist appointment and she mentioned there was a position opening up at the hospital for a hospitalist job, and now here I am — I’ve been a hospitalist for seven, almost eight years.
How did you go from OBGYN to a powerhouse businesswoman?
Me being the education junkie that I am, I went back to school and became trained as an integrative health coach. I did my residency training at Duke and did their integrative health coaching certification. At that time, coaching was just really starting to get crazy popular.
Initially, I thought I could do coaching on the side, but as you know, one-on-one work is challenging. As far as the podcast, I knew I wanted to be a source of good evidence-based information that really centers on the pregnant and birthing person and their experience; that’s something that I’m really passionate about. So I started off with a blog but that was hard to keep up on the writing. Suddenly, I realized how much I loved podcasts. I’m a podcast junkie. So I thought I could start my own podcast. It’s actually not that hard; keeping it up is the more challenging part, but starting is not that difficult. So started a podcast to provide more information, and then realized I was pretty good at delivering babies and recognizing that people don’t have good information, so I decided to create my online course.
Did you have any aha moments? What made you realize you were maxing out with your one-on-one services?
For one, marketing can be a little bit tough. I felt like I was talking to everyone but not anyone, so it was too broad. I hadn’t really narrowed my coaching down to anything related to pregnancy and birth, it was more general just didn’t quite resonate with me. I really just had this aha moment where I realized I could combine my expertise in pregnancy and delivery and create this course. There are so many elements of what I learned from health coaching in what I talk about and what I do from a holistic approach of mindset, mental health, your physical environment, and how that all weaves together.
I started my podcast around the same time. I created the course first and launched it. Then the podcast came shortly thereafter. The chorus launched around the end of October 2018 and the podcast launched in January of 2019.
How did you find out about creating a course? What was that process like for you?
It was tough, and it’s been a journey to get to where I am now. I’m in a good position where I have a lot of presence and I’m on track to make six figures just from my side business, but it did not start out that way. It was a journey to get there. I initially found Marie Forleo. She was the first person that somehow popped on my feed. I must have been doing a Google search for something because again, I’m an education junkie that loves learning new things. So I did Marie Forleo’s B School, which helped to provide that foundation. Through that, I learned about Amy Porterfield so I took her Digital Course Academy, to learn how to create my course and do webinars. Then I just got immersed in that sort of online space of listening to other folks’ podcasts. I started my podcast using a free guide from Pat Flynn.
How many people have taken your birth preparation course now?
Almost 1,000. I’m really proud of it, and I’ve worked very hard to keep it affordable. I know that pregnancy is a time when you have to make a lot of other purchases, so the course gives members lifetime access and it’s very affordable. That’s important to me.
How do you juggle your full-time job as an OBGYN and everything involved with your side hustle? What is your best piece of advice?
The number one thing I can say to do is ask for help. For a long time, I did everything myself. I built my website, I set up my email marketing, I did all of those things myself, and that was a lot. It was good because I know how to do everything now, but eventually, I had to hire an assistant.
If I had to give any piece of advice, I would say hire help before you think you need help. It will help you grow your business a lot faster and keep you in your zone of genius more and you can delegate things as needed. It doesn’t have to be a lot of help. It can just be a couple of hours a week and you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish. I have a virtual assistant who was the first person I hired, and then over time, I added a Facebook Ads Manager, online business manager, and a social media assistant. That’s all been really helpful.
I also have a supportive husband and family. That helps as well. My husband takes the girls to school, which he does by choice. He works from home so he takes the girls to school and picks them up every day. He helps to cook and he helps with things around the house.
I don’t have anybody who works for me full time, it’s just as a few people who help part-time, but the important thing is that they are invested in your business, and then the other piece that has helped me get to where I am now is continuous work on my mindset.
How were you able to let go of control a bit, and what has your mindset journey been like?
Despite the fact that I’m very high achieving and a physician, this whole online business thing was new for me, and putting myself out there was hard. I think it actually took me longer to grow as a result. The first year I did my course, I made a couple hundred bucks. The second year, I made a few thousand bucks. The next year, I made close to 100,000.
If people go back and listen to the earlier episodes of my podcast, I would like barely talk about the fact that I had a course. It was just uncomfortable for me to put myself out there like that. I could put out the information, but the selling and the marketing piece was hard. I just had to continue working on it, and realize I just had to do it and the world wasn’t going to fall apart. From there, I just had to gradually do a little bit more.
I also joined a couple of coaching programs. I think coaching helps a lot as well. Right now I’m in a group coaching program and I did a mastermind before. I think being with like-minded people who can push you a little bit is also important. I overcame some imposter syndrome and just repeatedly did things scared. It’s still something that I have to continuously work on.
The other thing that I would say, if you can get into the habit of doing this early, is to pay attention to your numbers. I know this sounds obvious, but sometimes it’s easy to put your head in the sand. Sometimes I interpreted those numbers as a reflection of my worth and value, but they’re not. Numbers are just data. You have to look at them and then you make changes based on the data — that’s it. So know your numbers, know who’s on your email list, know how your webinars are converting, know how your sales are going, know how your pages are doing. All of those things are just data. You look at it and you make changes as needed, they are not a reflection on you.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to scale their expertise, or turn it into a digital course or membership? What are some of the mistakes that you made that you can help others avoid?
This may go against the grain of what a lot of people say or do, but if you have the ability and the luxury and it feels right to you, you can slow it down. It doesn’t have to be an overnight thing. You don’t have to quit your full-time job all of a sudden, you can work on it. Over time, I had the luxury because I was working a full-time job. The bills were still paid, and I could really take the time to build this. Going feet first is just not comfortable for me. Don’t get me wrong, this works well for a lot of people where you pre-sell a course and then write the course, I just could never do that. I need to have it all laid out before I put it out there.
So just listen to yourself, go with what works for you — if going at a slower pace works for you, then that is perfectly, perfectly fine. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to approach an online business, so always check in with yourself about how it feels to you.
On a related note, you have to adapt what other people are advising you to do to your own strengths, your own expertise, and what will work for you. So just be confident and know that even if you don’t have an online business or don’t have the knowledge of what it takes to start an online business, and you’re looking for guidance, be very confident in your abilities. You have to really focus on what works for you.
I would also add, and I often say this when I’ve talked to folks about having an online business, you have to make decisions. Don’t give yourself two days to choose your email service provider for example; pick one and move on. You just need to pick something, use it, and keep going.
If your offer isn’t selling, it’s not because of the software that you’re using. For example, my course is on Teachable, but Kajabi is certainly prettier and fancier. Ultimately, I’ve kept my course on Teachable because it works and it sells a lot. People are happy with it. Even if it’s not the prettiest interface, it works. The content is more important than what it looks like. That is not what is going to grow your business. Go with what works.
Connect with Dr. Rankins
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