Interview: LeaRae Keyes of The Nurse Entrepreneur Network

Interview with LeaRae Keyes, RN, publisher of a membership website designed to help nurse entrepreneurs develop and expand their businesses.

The Nurse Entrepreneur Network exists to help nurses who are or want to be entrepreneurs succeed. Its founder, LeaRae Keyes, has more than 25 years of experience coaching people to make life-style changes, alleviate their caregiving stresses, have more fulfilling lives, explore career alternatives, and achieve their goals.

In this exclusive Mequoda interview, she explains her vision for her membership website and relates some of the lessons she has learned along the way.

MEQUODA By way of background, what did you do before www.Nurse-Entrepreneur-Network.com?

Using a digital recorder and Dragon Naturally Speaking. Since it is easier for me to speak than write, I can use this equipment to dictate my material and have it converted into text. 

—LeaRae Keyes

LRK I have a BSN (Bachelors of Science in Nursing), I am also a certified public health nurse, certified disability management specialist, and certified case manager. In addition to working as a nurse (primarily in home health care) I have also been in sales and marketing for seven years and have owned and operated my own business full time for six years. I also graduated from Coach U. Inc., a coaching school and have attended the Graduate School of Coaching.

I am active in the Minnesota Case Managers Network and I’m the current chairperson for the annual conference committee. I am also involved in the local chapter of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.

MEQUODA What best describes your position with www.Nurse-Entrepreneur-Network.com? Was this website your creation?

LRK I am the Executive Director and founder. My husband, Chuck Lucas, is the webmaster and office manager. The website has been a joint creation of ours. I develop most of the articles and content.

MEQUODA What’s it all about?

LRK The Nurse Entrepreneur Network is a resource site for nurses in business or nurses interested in starting their own business. The site provides ideas on business ideas for nurses, how-to articles, and weekly tips, recorded interviews with successful nurse entrepreneurs and people who have useful information for nurse entrepreneurs. The target market is solopreneurs or small nurse business owners.

Website members are also offered two complimentary coaching sessions to assist them with their business challenges.

I started out offering coaching and found that I really enjoyed coaching nurse entrepreneurs. I started a website for nurse entrepreneurs offering coaching and teleclasses. I then converted this site to a subscription website, which has been a successful business model for me.

My goal has been to create a site that will help nurses jump-start their businesses and avoid making mistakes that will cost them time, money, energy and resources. My dream is for the Nurse Entrepreneur Network to be the “go-to” site for any nurse in business.

MEQUODA How long has your site been active and what is your subscription fee structure?

LRK We started out offering a subscription website in October 2003. The focus of this website was coaching and teleclasses. We changed our focus to offering more written content in the fall of 2004. We needed the features MemberGate offered to help us automate and to help with the ease of providing a site that was focused on content.

Membership is $79 for charter members. There is also an option to join for one month as a trial member at $9, or a three-month member at $27. These later two memberships roll over to a reoccurring credit card billing. Members receive full access to the website including articles, downloads, recorded interviews, discussion forum, news and events, tele-forums and teleclasses.

MEQUODA Now to the technical details. To build your site, what tools did you use, and how long did it take?

LRK It took about one month to build our first site and another couple months to transition to MemberGate. We use MemberGate and One Shopping Cart. We also use Recorded Moments for recording our recorded tele-forums and interviews.

MEQUODA How easy, time-consuming, etc. is the process of adding new content? How many people are involved in preparing and posting editorial content? How often do you add new content?

LRK The process of adding new content is challenging and time-consuming. I want the content to be valuable for the members so I am always searching for new and interesting information and ideas for content. I generally write the articles and Chuck edits and posts the articles. I write a new tip each week, conduct a tele-forum twice monthly, and try to add two new articles to the site each week.

MEQUODA Has your site changed significantly since you launched it?

LRK The biggest change would be the addition of significantly more information. The site is also designed to appeal to a variety of learning styles such as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. There are recorded programs, live tele-forums, articles, and downloadable forms. All areas need to continue to grow as the site grows so resources need to be distributed among these different areas.

MEQUODA What’s the single greatest tool that helps you get your new content out every week?

LRK Using a digital recorder and Dragon Naturally Speaking. Since it is easier for me to speak than to write, I can use this equipment to dictate my material and then have it converted into text. One Shopping cart is also a great resource for scheduling weekly tips to be sent out at a certain time and to “load up” ahead of time so they are set to go. This helps to automate the process.

MEQUODA Marketing and promotion seem to be a great challenge for most subscription website publishers. How have you approached this task, and what kind of results have you experienced?

LRK I add content of value to several nurse entrepreneur-oriented mail servers each week. This helps to get my name out in front of my potential subscribers and helps them to see me as someone who can be a significant resource. Offering free tips has helped to build the mailing list.

We use Google AdWords to attract potential subscribers. We also have an affiliate program. A combination of these methods has resulted in our attracting approximately one new subscriber every other day. It’s been a slow process but we’re gaining momentum.

MEQUODA Do you have any advertising on your site? If so, how do you attract advertisers? Is ad revenue a significant source of your website income?

LRK We do not have any paid advertising on our site.

MEQUODA How do you find new subscribers, or how do they find you? What’s the process like for increasing sales and memberships?

LRK New subscribers find us through search engines, Google AdWords, and links on other sites including affiliate sites.

MEQUODA For Mequoda members who are devising premium content strategies for their online properties, any advice you would offer?

LRK Identify a narrow target market in need of specific information and then provide that information and more. Go deep and narrow rather than broad and general. Develop material which appeals to different learning styles (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic).

MEQUODA What’s your best advice to Mequoda members who are seeking to develop additional revenue streams outside of advertising for their online business?

LRK Develop resources which will generate passive income such as e-courses, e-books, CDs, and workbooks.

MEQUODA What has been your greatest challenge to date, doing business online?

LRK As is the case with most service businesses, the challenge is marketing and promotion. There is also the challenge that subscription websites are still in the early stages. It is a fairly new concept for pay to join a website. However, being an early adopter, it is always a challenge and an opportunity to be on the leading edge of newly developed concepts and technology. It is also exciting to be involved is shaping the model and setting the bar for those who will follow.

We also have the challenge of being in the “sand box” with Google. It seems that a new website needs to be around for a certain amount to time before Google will rank that site. Even though Google comes to the site and spiders the site regularly, our keywords do not rank high yet in the Google ranking.

MEQUODA What tips would you pass on to aspiring publishers who want to start a subscription-based website?

LRK Use a system that is as automated as possible. There is enough work involved in adding content. Put your efforts in adding content.

MEQUODA What’s the best or smartest thing you’ve done? What’s the worst?

LRK The best thing I have done is to follow a proven business model which is to have a subscription website and to add one tip and 2 articles per week.

Part of this was to change from a website with a focus on coaching and teleclasses to a focus on content. I think it is critically important to find a model that has worked successfully and replicate the model in a unique niche.

The worst thing I have done is to try to create a business model based on coaching and teleclasses, which was not a proven business model.

MEQUODA What subscription-based websites do you subscribe to and/or recommend?

LRK I subscribe to Mequoda. There really aren’t any subscription-based websites in the nursing area. I am a member of www.supportfornurses.com. However, this is currently a free membership site.

MEQUODA Which of the above is “doing it right?” (marketing their product, building a subscriber base, providing value, etc.)

LRK Mequoda provides value for the members. In my opinion, this is best done with the articles and the discussion forum.

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