Entrepreneur: Michelle Martello

Biz: Minima Designs

Tilt: Teaching how to ideate and launch an online presence and offerings 

Primary Channel: Newsletter (5K)

Other Channels: Website, blog, Instagram (4.7K), Facebook (2.3K), Pinterest (2.2K), YouTube (700)

Time to First Dollar: 2 months

Rev Streams: Consulting, courses, affiliate marketing

Our Favorite Actionable Advice

  • Use what you have: Her first and second content products were ebooks of the materials she used for her consulting and design clients. 
  • Challenge yourself: Michelle challenged herself to produce her first online course in a week. She did and earned $10K in revenue in the first week.
  • Find your people: Gather with people who can be your sounding board. Find five or six people you can ask for advice or help with something you are struggling with, and they will get back to you quickly and honestly. Find an SEO expert, business expert, and/or people running a business like yours.
  • Make your opportunities: Don’t wait for things to come to you. You have to ask for the opportunity. Ask to be on the podcast or to speak at an event. It doesn’t have to be some formal request, but you have to make the ask. 

The Story of Michelle Martello

A nine-week computer programming and web design class changed Michelle Martello’s career trajectory.

It led the art history major at Miami University in Ohio to design websites for college and campus organizations, earning $15 to $20 an hour (three to four times more than the US minimum wage at the time). It also helped her land a post-graduation internship at the National Park Service in Washington, DC, where she designed museum exhibits for their website.

“You couldn’t have tailored a thing for me better, except it was $10 an hour, and DC is an expensive city. But it was a great opportunity,” she says.

While waiting on her full-time application with the National Park Service (it never materialized), she accepted a position as a software developer for a small development firm that created learning and training products. This fortuitous position afforded Michelle the opportunity to learn instructional and learning design. 

Michelle taught people how to use PowerPoint and Microsoft Office through CD-ROMs. She replicated the interface and did a voiceover teaching the ins and outs. In turn, she learned instructional and learning design and grew those skills.

Selling the house to start a business

About six years later, Michelle’s husband urged her to go out on her own. She sold her home and used the money to start Minima Designs, a digital products and website creation service company. 

She traded services for her first clients – yoga spaces and teachers. Her yoga instructor introduced Michelle to a coach in San Francisco, and Michelle met him on a trip to the city. “I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to network. No one had taught me these things. But he and I connected, and he actually sent me my first six clients,” she says.

Most of her clients continued to come from word-of-mouth referrals, and in 2011, she earned a Webby award for her web design work. 

Seeing the value of digital marketing

In 2011, Michelle took Marie Forleo’s B-School, a six-week online course for entrepreneurs. In the community and during classes, Michelle answered technical questions from other students. Marie noticed and put Michelle in a video on Marie’s YouTube channel.

At the end of the video, Marie told viewers if they needed a website, they should contact Michelle and provided her contact information.

“The day it launched, I had 70 phone calls. This was the moment when I was like, ‘Wow, I get what the internet can do now.’ It finally dawned on me what can happen when you get visibility and promotion by someone with a larger audience,” Michelle says.

Thirteen years later, that video still ranks in the top five traffic referral sources for Michelle’s website.

Michelle also joined Marie’s Mastermind program and became a mentor in 2015. She also contributed to the program’s tech curriculum. 

Becoming a content entrepreneur

On her journey to becoming a content entrepreneur, Michelle started her newsletter, The Nugget, in 2012 as a content marketing tool for her design and consulting services. She used the newsletter platform MailChimp until 2016, when she moved to ConvertKit. By 2022, Michelle committed to sending the newsletter weekly rather than at the inconsistent frequency she had done in the first decade.

She launched her first content product in 2014 – selling a $29 ebook called The Minima Guide To Launching Your Site. It served as a checklist for people about everything they needed to know before launching a website. Much of the content came from the spreadsheets Michelle already used for her clients.

“I can’t tell you the first time you sell something that’s your own, even if it’s literally only $29, you’re like, ‘My god, this is amazing and the best feeling ever. Someone bought something I created!’ You’re over the moon!”

She sent two emails in 30 days to her 500 subscribers and earned $3K. Michelle quickly launched a second ebook, The Minima Guide to Getting Paid Online, for $29. 

Over the next two years, Michelle generated over $50K in revenue from these two digital products. She continues to sell The Minima Guide to Getting Paid Online. The Minima Guide to Launching Your Site is currently being revamped for a relaunch.

Adding more revenue streams

Michelle Martello also teaches in other entrepreneurs’ courses and communities, earning a revenue share of the paid courses and products. She says this model can work well and recommends first doing a small project to test if the partnership is a good fit. 

These partnerships also work well as marketing tools. Michelle reaches new audiences and drives them to her website, where they can purchase her products, courses, and services. Attracting traffic to her site also helps with her affiliate marketing revenue. Michelle recommends tools and services she uses on her website and earns affiliate commissions from visitors who purchase those products.

In 2020, Michelle challenged herself to build and launch a new content product in one week. She looked at her existing content and opted to create a mini-course. She amended three checklists in her resource library and walked through the details in separate instructional videos. Michelle opted for a conversational video style so students could see and hear her and her screen as she talked to create the feel of a one-on-one course. She packaged it up on Kajabi, and the Launch Brain course was born. (You can learn more about how Michelle created the course in a week in this first-hand account.) 

At launch, she charged $99 and offered a discount for 48 hours for her newsletter subscribers. The first weekend, she generated $10K. She has since raised the price to $149.

In December 2023, audience feedback led Michelle to launch her second course, which included a live workshop on the technical aspects of writing, and maintaining an email newsletter. 

SmartMail launched as a master class with 15 tutorials and a live 90-minute workshop that Michelle recorded. She generated $10K, which she jokingly refers to as her sweet spot revenue number for product launches. Now, she sells SmartMail as an on-demand course for $249. 

Michelle explains that her new products and offerings also boost sales for her existing products and services. 

Later this year, Michelle expects to launch new products and partnerships, potentially including a cohort group where participants can bounce ideas off of each other. “Sometimes people just want to chat and get direct feedback. With a group like this, we can provide feedback on what’s right for them right now,” she explains.

Advice for content entrepreneurs

Among her tips for content creators interested in or building content businesses:

  • Don’t obsess over your follower count. Michelle Martello has 5K newsletter subscribers and a small social following. “I am under no illusion that follower count equates to revenue. I would much rather have folks on my list for years and tell me they are saving up to work with me and buy everything I put out there. These are my true fans,” she says.
  • Reward your fans. Michelle gives subscribers an inside look at her process, teasing new products well in advance of the launch and sometimes offering early access or discount pricing.
  • Find a community and be willing to help others. Collaboration with other entrepreneurs or creators in your space has multiple benefits. So will finding a community without an undercurrent of competition or upmanship. Michelle credits The Tilt community and CEX for embodying this feeling and is grateful to have found it. 
  • Leave room for magic. When you are tied down to a rigid schedule or don’t have space in your life, it doesn’t allow for opportunities. Be open to new and unexpected opportunities.

Join Michelle Martello at CEX where she’ll teach you how to create a “non-skeezy” affiliate marketing plan.

About the author

Marc Maxhimer is the director of growth and partnerships at The Tilt. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and mathematics education and a master’s degree in educational administration.  He previously taught middle school for 16 years.  Marc lives in (and loves all things) Cleveland with his wife, two daughters, and dog.