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Supporting and Cultivating Large Course Communities with Sarah Masci



Erica Nash 0:02

Today I had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah Masci, founder of Day Rate Mastery, to talk about what it's like running a course with a large community, how to create space where clients feel safe, celebrating all kinds of wins, and cultivating community. Sarah shares some of her insights into running a large program, and learning and pivoting to ensure it's serving clients well. If you're curious to get a peek behind the VIP day course curtain, this is an episode you want to stick around for.


Erica Nash 0:34

Welcome to next level course creator. My name is Erica and this is a podcast about creating premium online programs that participants never want to leave. If you want a program that serves the whole person, satisfies participant needs, and creates brand ambassadors who tell all their friends about how awesome you are, this is for you. Listen in as we go beyond conversion numbers, sold out launches and five figure months to get to the heart of the matter ... taking care of the people who have already said yes. Let's go.




Erica Nash 1:13

Okay, today I am joined by the Queen of VIP days herself, Sarah Masci, Sarah, I am so excited that you're here. I know this episode is going to be so good and so full of really great wisdom. Before we dive in, please tell us a little bit about you, about your program and the work that you do.


Sarah Masci 1:32

Yeah, so I'm super excited to be here. So I am Sarah Masci, I have been in the online space for oh gosh, like 17 years now, I have not always been a VIP day coaching course creator, I actually started out doing a whole bunch of things back in 2005, I ended up as a web branding and web designer for about a decade 2008 to 2018. and found myself in a state of burnout and chronically under charging over delivering, I had a pile of client work on my desk at all times and just kind of felt really burnt out.


Sarah Masci 2:14

And so that's when I accidentally kind of discovered the power of VIP days and how much more productive and more happy I could be when I compressed all of that client work into single days, as opposed to stretching it out over six weeks, you know, eight weeks, six months over. I mean, some clients would last for like a year. But I really just kind of like tapped into the power of what can happen when we chat when we are super efficient. And we're super clear on our boundaries and scope of work. And I was able to really kind of master this VIP day offer for my design business back in 2018 2019. And then I had just other designers coming to me asking me how I was doing it. Because back then it was very rare to find a web designer who would create your website and a day, much less an entire world of service providers who are offering VIP days for all the things.


Sarah Masci 3:14

And so it was in 2018 that I launched my first beta course get blocked by the day. And it was like the most incredible experience running that eight week beta course for I think we had 15 students, and it was just so awesome to be able to teach them how to tap into the power and the magic of VIP days as well and see them experience the wins that I experienced very quickly. And so I've gone on to teach, like 1000s of people since 2019 how to do what I've done.


Erica Nash 3:55

That's amazing. And I I love that it was an accident.


Sarah Masci 3:58

Yeah, it was just like this thing that happened.


Erica Nash 4:01

Yeah, that's so fantastic. And so I know other people are teaching the VIP day model I you know, I know that you're not the only one but I'll be honest, when I hear VIP days, I think of you ... like you are the only one that I think of and so your program is incredibly successful. You said you've helped 1000s of people, how many active students do you currently have?


Sarah Masci 4:24

If we combine like everyone from our lower ticket workshops all the way through our signature course and even our higher end mastermind programs, I would say we're close to around 3000 students right now. Like 3000 paid students actively inside of our VIP day collective right now I am I would say there's probably about 350 or so students and that those are the ones who have taken our signature course and have also graduated from our course, but decided to stay in the community.


Sarah Masci 5:02

So we I would say we've had about 700 students go through our signature course, and so about 50% of them are still in the community, so you have the option to stay after you've been with us, so you get a year and the program, and then you can, you can choose to stay, if you want to stay in community with all the other students.


Erica Nash 5:23

I love that you have that option, because the community is such an important piece of, of a program, you know, like, of course, making connections and, and all of that, and also, you know, just like having the support because being virtual can get so incredibly lonely and isolating. So I love that you have the option that they get to continue, you know, if they choose to do that, and in the community.


Erica Nash 5:46

So that kind of leads me into my next question. You know, as people we have this core need to belong and to be seen and accepted for who we are. And so that's one of the reasons why, you know, the course is such an important aspect to to a program. You know, aside from having the curriculum that teaches us all of these things, we need that support, to be able to implement it and just like go through all of the things that are, you know, our heads do and our hearts do and all of that. So when you have a large community like you do, how do you create space for individual clients and make them feel like they're more than just another number?


Sarah Masci 6:26

Yeah, um, I will say that there are some people in the community who we never really hear from, they're in there, but they don't, they're not active participants. And so I'm always like, Oh, where did this person come from? I didn't know this person was in here, when when they make their first post or whatever. So that's always fun. But there are we have the diehards in the community. We have, we have students who have been with us since day one, July 2019, which was a while ago, right. And so those people, it's kind of like when you start a course. And it starts out small, right? So you really get to know the first cohort 15 people, we I got to know them really, really, really well. And then we ran another cohort, which was 15 More people who I also got to know really, really well.


Sarah Masci 7:18

And that was all in 2019, and then 2020 hit, and that in the course kind of blew up and we enrolled close to 300 people in 2020, about half of who are still in there. And it's just a super vibrant community. Because I think it's because of the nature of the content, what we're teaching is so life changing. And so it truly changes lives for them. And it's really, there's so many breakthroughs in like, you know, oh my gosh, this is amazing. And so everyone's kind of sharing, like, how awesome it feels to make the shift in their business. So it's an exciting, exciting content, so they want to talk about it naturally. So when you have a community full of excited people who they're naturally going to chat and share and talk to each other, and, you know, answer questions and support each other, and it's just like this.


Sarah Masci 8:17

It's a very natural engagement, I think, and I think a lot of it has to do with the nature of the content that we're teaching, being something that is exciting for them. You know, we're not just like teaching you how to make spreadsheets or, you know, any like other like, write copy, or certain certain topics, I feel like are just they are what they are, and people are there to learn that thing and move on. Whereas this is something that's really changing their lives.


Erica Nash 8:47

Yeah, that's, no, that's great. And that's one of the reasons why I do what I do, because I believe education changes lives. And, and it truly does, you know, and you're speaking right to that. So you talked about how in the very beginning, you started with a with really small cohort and and like you said, you know, that does lend to just a lot more vulnerability and a lot more, you know, just relationship building in general. And so it sounds like it started off really small and just kind of, you know, got a little bigger, got a little bigger. And so those original or if you have some of the original people that were there with you, do you find that they kind of carry that energy as the group continues to grow?


Sarah Masci 9:35

Yes, yes. They've kind of like turned into well, not all of them but a handful of them are they bring energy into the group you know, consistently they're not there every day anymore because of course that was like three and a half years ago. A lot of some of them aren't even do it like they've scaled their business way past two VIP days. At this point. Now they're running coaching programs and courses and that that kind of thing. Because of what they were able, you know, the VIP day model gave them that white space and that freedom to, to go on and scale and to even bigger and better things. But they still come back, they still comment, they still give advice.


Sarah Masci 10:15

They're kind of like, my little like, they're like my little sub teachers, because they've already gone through all of it. And they know what our new students are experiencing. And they're there to reassure the new people like that they're on the right track that they're, that they're doing a good job, and they're just very like, encouraging.


Erica Nash 10:36

That sounds fantastic. Like they're ambassadors for you.


Sarah Masci 10:40

Yes, yeah. Yeah.


Erica Nash 10:42

In the beginning, when you had like these really small cohorts, I'm assuming it was just you. Is that correct? So as you as you grew, when did you decide that it was time to bring in support to help you with your growing community?


Sarah Masci 10:59

So when you first started, I did have a VA and she was she was semi active in the community, she would pose to like, you know, the theme posts, kind of like the Monday check in and the Friday wins. So the Friday wins is a huge one. I know you will talk about that. But so she would post those kinds of things in there. But she was also, in addition to being on my team, she was also adopting the VIP day model for her own business. And so she was kind of learning right along with everyone else. But she was a few steps ahead of them, because she'd been working with me for a couple of years and had already experienced the VIP day model through my business. So she was a little ahead. And so she was able to give a little bit of extra support. So that was in the 2019 era, and even the 2020 era. And by the time we got to the end of 2020. That's when I knew I needed to bring in help. And so I brought in a copywriter. And I also brought in another assistant to really help support us inside the community. And in the back end of the business.


Erica Nash 12:15

Awesome. Do you ... are you the only one that coaches and teaches the curriculum?


Sarah Masci 12:20

For the most part, Jackie, who is on my team did one who's been with me since the beginning, she is a tech expert. So that is her VIP day offer is airtable tech systems, all of that. And she's the one that manages all of my person, my business back end stuff. And so that part of the curriculum because setting up your systems, and your tech is a big part of the VIP day model. So when it comes to the tech, she's there as like our secondary coach.


Erica Nash 12:52

Oh, yeah, though that's very cool.


Sarah Masci 12:54

Yeah.


Erica Nash 12:55

So circling back to it. You mentioned the Friday, the Friday posts. So let's talk about the wins and how you celebrate those. So from the testimonials that I've seen, like on your Instagram, it seems as though you know, you've created a comfortable space for your community to be able to share those very freely, and that their that their wins of all types, not necessarily just monetary. So first, how have you cultivated a community that feels safe for students to share those things? Because sometimes I think what happens is that people don't feel like their wins whatever they might be, are good enough to share. Or they're comparing themselves to other people sharing things. So how have you created that space to be safe?


Sarah Masci 13:47

So I think this goes way back to the very beginning when I launched the course, I beta launched in July 2019. Like I said, and I don't know where I learned, I don't know who I learned social proof from, I don't know if it was one of my previous coaches, or if it was something I figured out. But when I was running my own VIP days for my own design clients, and I was ready to start selling more of them. But I didn't have testimonials yet. I had social proof from those clients saying, oh my gosh, this is amazing. You're so fast. I can't believe you did all of this in a day. Like this is awesome, best web design experience I've ever had and I would screenshot those messages that came through in like Facebook Messenger, which is where we were chatting throughout the day. And so I was ready to like launch my VIP day officially to the world. And I needed some testimonials for the for the page on my website. And I was like I'm gonna drop some of these little screenshots in here. And it like converted like crazy.


Sarah Masci 14:58

It just wasn't exactly like these perfect design testimonials. But seeing that real life social proof is what gets people to buy. And so it worked for my VIP days. And then I knew I was I was thinking about launching a course. Because some of my own design friends were asking me about it. And I was like, Well, let me just create a little, a little Zoom video to show them what I'm doing in the backend and kind of show them what my systems look like. This was for a small designer group mastermind group that I was in, in the spring of 2019. And so I created this video for them. And I posted in our Facebook group, and they were like, Oh, my gosh, this is so cool. That's so amazing. I can't believe you did that. And I screenshot all of their little comments, and I whited out their names. And then when i beta launch the course, I put those little screenshots on there, because I didn't have any students yet. But I was like, you know, I shared this was my mastermind, and they loved it. And here's what they had to say. And then we had a 20% conversion on that sales page for that first launch. I was like, okay, something's working here. And then when we had our first students in there, like I said, there was only 15 of them.


Sarah Masci 16:10

But they got the fastest wins I have ever seen. Like, within a week, they're booking their first VIP days, within two weeks, they're having their first VIP days and realizing how awesome it is. And since there was only 15 of us, they were very open to sharing with each other inside the group. So I started to screenshot those. And with each subsequent launch, I would just add a little bit more a little bit more a little bit more until eventually have like hundreds of these screenshots. So I think the bottom line is that it's a practice that I've been doing for a very long time. And when people buy my courses, they've already seen all of those screenshots and those wins. So they know that it's a thing inside of my group, and I think they're, I honestly think that they're so excited to share a win, because they kind of know that it's gonna get screenshotted, and it's gonna get shared. And they want that recognition they want. Like, if I put a screenshot in, like a testimonial screenshot in an email, they'll see it because they're on my email list. And they'll be like, Oh, my gosh, I just saw my name, I'm so glad that you share that or whatever. And so it's just kind of become probably about our culture, I think, to share those wins, and they know that they're gonna get recognized for it.


Erica Nash 17:30

I love that. And I love that you said the word culture, because that's what that's what it's about right is like cultivating this community culture that is, whatever it is that you want it to be and yours sounds really accepting and open and warm and fun and supportive.


Erica Nash 17:47

So if you could sum up the number one way that you cultivate that culture, what would that be?


Sarah Masci 17:56

I think it's really about showing up in there every day. And even when we're not in a busy period. So we have our live launches. Like right now we're wrapping up our 12 week accelerator, and it is busy in the group, everyone's still posting and people are learning people are sharing all of that. But we're gonna go into an evergreen period here, like ... you know, once this 12 week cohort ends in a couple of weeks, we're gonna go into a lull of about two to three months where we're not actively launching, we're just going to have circling people in. And so it's during those times when we don't have all the new energy and the new excitement. But we still show up and we still make it a point of checking in with them. Every Monday, we welcome new students every Wednesday, we have a wins post every Friday. And so keeping that going is important me actually showing up and not handing it over to a community manager who they don't even like recognize her. No, I think that's important. We've also added we've added a few extra like opportunities for us to all come together. So now not only do we have our our coaching calls on Thursdays, but we've also added tech office hours and we've added a weekly co working session. So I actually just had that today. And like seven people showed up for co working and I'm not coaching, right, and we're literally co working but it creates that feeling of like, we're all in this together. Like, you know, and I feel like that creates again, that culture of community and connection, where people feel really good about being a part of it. Yeah.


Erica Nash 19:38

That's, that's so good. And it sounds like you've done an incredible job of of creating this community of people. And as you were talking, I was just kind of, you know, thinking about all of the ways that you are supporting all of these people. And so it kind of circled me back to the beginning of our interview. And so you had said that you were overworked and you were burnt out. And so then you accidentally discovered this VIP day model and you were able to really collapse your time. And I'm assuming the burnout then kind of subsided and you were able to work a little bit more sustainably. So now that you've gone into course creator, and you're now teaching all of these other people, you're no longer doing the VIP day model. How are you ... How do you how do you balance it? And was it difficult to go from that VIP day model into course creator, where your respons..., I don't even know if I want to say responsible, that's not really the right term that I want to use, but for lack of a better term responsible for, you know, the people that are in your program.


Sarah Masci 20:49

Yeah, it was a, it was kind of a slow transition for me. So when I first launched the course, I was still very much doing my own VIP day, client work, you know, one or two days a week, I had VIP days. And then I was creating this course and teaching and all of that, but we didn't have hundreds or 1000s of students at the time. And so it was manageable. I had my one VA with me at the time. And we're really good at creating systems and workflows and automations. And my, my teammate Jackie is amazing at that as well. And so I think that's that's how we got through was by having we have tried to automate and systematize as much as possible. We've gotten really good at building workflows, and funnels, and email automations, like all of that stuff is handled.


Sarah Masci 21:48

But it's still a real, like, the struggle is still real now. So I transitioned out of one on one service work at the end of by the end of 2021, I was officially no longer offering design work. So this this year has been like my first full year, it's just all in on the course and the coaching. And there are periods of time where it's very overwhelming. And I feel like it's nonstop. But there's also months weeks to go by where my schedule is really late. All I have to do is show up on my Thursday calls and show up in the group. Because everything else is done like the course, we the course. It's the same. It's the original course that we created, because it gets people results, right. And so if it's working, don't change it kind of thing. Like we got such great results when we first launched it. And we thought about changing it and rewriting it. And we noticed that people were starting to not get the wins. And so I was like, oh, we need to go back back to the original. So we did. And now we just occasionally add in something new here or there. So it's not like I'm in content creation anymore all the time.


Sarah Masci 23:04

We have so much stuff just already done, because it's a very rinse and repeat kind of thing for launching. And yeah, I mean, I take Monday's off, and Fridays off. And so Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and my work days. And it's really only like, four hours a day that I have to work unless we're in like a busy season for something specific. But yeah, so it keeps it I try to keep it light, we only have to like full time team members like inside the company. And they handle tech operations, all the backend stuff, as well as customer support. And that community like posting things. But other than that, we try to keep it pretty simple and easy and light and it just works.


Erica Nash 23:51

That's great. And even though you're not technically in the VIP date model, it almost sounds like it's running, at least on the normal days. It sounds like it's running on a kind of semi VIP day model.


Sarah Masci 24:03

Yeah, yeah.


Erica Nash 24:04

So I want to ask one last question. If you could go back and chat with course creators, Sarah from a year ago. What advice would you give her today?


Sarah Masci 24:15

Oh, gosh, a year ago, was, let's see, I would tell her to ... So a year ago, I actually made the decision to turn the course into a higher ticket coaching program, thinking that was going to be better for my students. And it was a great, like I did enjoy running it. But I realized that we weren't having the impact that we could have in the course model. Because we can just bring in more students in the course model and help more people. So going back I would have said, make that higher ticket coaching program be the next step.


Sarah Masci 24:59

Don't just cancel out the course. So I basically kind of stopped enrolling in the course. And the only way you could work with me was through the, the higher ticket coaching program. And I, we inadvertently prevented a lot of people from being able to go through the course. And so going back, I would have said, do the course and then do that, make it two separate things, don't get rid of the course.


Erica Nash 25:28

That's such good advice. And, and, you know, thinking about what you were talking about earlier, about how you were seeing that people were getting results from the original curriculum. So like, why change it if it's working. And just, you know, I think it's so hard to, you know, we get in this rhythm of like, change, we need change we need, we think it needs to be better, bigger, better, whatever it needs to be. And so we're like, oh, well, I have to do this, where we see, you know, whatever the rhetoric is on social media at that time, when in reality, if the data says, Don't change it, like we get to, we get to leave it alone, and not create more work for ourselves. So I love that you're like, Nope, this is what we're gonna do.


Sarah Masci 26:11

And, and one other thing about that is when we switched over to like that higher ticket, it meant less people, because it was very high touch, right, very personalized coaching. So we had less people coming in, which meant that our community suddenly got very quiet. And that was a big thing. I was like, what is missing, something feels off. And it's because we had been so used in 2020, and 2021, we were used to bringing in new people every single week. And that doesn't happen in a high ticket coaching program. And so fewer people met fewer conversations and fewer wins and fewer everything. And I was and my one of my core values is connection and so I think it is for a lot of people, but not having that vibrant community for about six months of this year really like affected me.


Sarah Masci 27:11

I couldn't figure out what was wrong. And I was like, it's the fact that that community is so quiet, because there's just less people, there's less newness, there's less excitement, because there's fewer people and so we switch back to the course. And all of a sudden now more and more people are coming in and the vibrancy came back and like all of a sudden spawn again.


Erica Nash 27:31

That is such an interesting side effect that I'm sure nobody foresaw happening.


Sarah Masci 27:37

Yeah.


Erica Nash 27:38

Wow. Well, this was amazing. Thank you so much for telling us a little bit about just your journey with with your programs and all of the things. So if you would, please let listeners know just where they can find you how they can work with you, all of that stuff.


Sarah Masci 27:58

So my website, SarahMasci . com is the best place to go. Everything is on there. We have everything from free, you know, freebies to a low ticket workshop to our signature course. And we even have our new certification program, which we I know we didn't talk about but that is something that's new, and they can check out there as well. But it's all there, SarahMasci . com. And then forward slash programs will be where everything is. And also like if you guys just want to connect with me, I'm always on Instagram. I'm always posting to my stories and sharing content. So feel free to come follow me there @sarahmasci.


Erica Nash 28:40

Amazing. I'm going to include all the links and everything in the show notes. So if you're interested in hanging out with Sarah, and seeing what she's got going on, be sure to check that out. Sarah, thank you so much. This was amazing, just like I knew it would be.


Sarah Masci 28:57

Thank you Erica, this was great.


Erica Nash 29:01

Well, I hope today's episode brought a little clarity and community to your next level course journey. If you enjoyed listening, please consider subscribing and leaving a review. And if you'd like to connect, be sure to find me over on Instagram @ericanashdesign or on my website at EricaNash . com I would love to hear from you.


Erica Nash 29:22

Alright, you guys go forth, educate and change lives. I'll see you next time.


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