Hilary Erickson is an excellent example of how to turn your expertise into a very profitable business.
Using her two decades of experience as a labor and delivery nurse, she created an online prenatal class that has fast become one of the top hospital-based prenatal classes on the internet.
Her passion and commitment to helping pregnant women and families by providing accurate and important information is undoubtedly what drives sales. And in 2021, she earned over $193,000, the bulk of it from her main site, Pulling Curls.
But how important is SEO for Hilary? How does she market her courses and nurture her email list? What advice does she have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Keep reading to find out how she built her websites, courses, podcast, and social media following.
How it All Began
My name is Hilary Erickson, I grew up in Utah and got my Bachelor of Science in nursing from BYU. Even at nursing graduation, I said that my dream job was to write for ER (the wildly popular hospital show of the ’90s).
I knew I loved writing but I also really loved the human body and how it all works, and just felt like being a nurse would be a more stable job.
After becoming a nurse, I worked in pediatrics, geriatrics, and hospice. In 2001, we moved to Santa Clara, CA and I started working in labor and delivery.
Her First Site
In 2005, I started the blog Pulling Curls, inspired by my curly hair and being home with two little boys (one of whom also loved to suck his thumb and twirl his hair). In 2011, we moved to Phoenix for my husband’s work, where I got another job in labor and delivery.
Pinterest started growing in 2014, and I realized it could help promote my blog more so I started ramping that up. In late 2014, I created an online prenatal class, which started out as a book.
In 2015, my husband left a job that he hated and I started using the blogging income to support the family, along with being a nurse.
I started The Pulling Curls Podcast: Pregnancy & Parenting Untangled in 2019, where I help families simplify all facets of life.
After 20 years of labor and delivery nursing, I left in 2020 to work on the websites full time. I started a second site called The Pregnancy Nurse where I could focus entirely on my professional interests as a nurse and really explain the nitty-gritty pregnancy information that expecting parents want to know.
I also started a strictly pregnancy-based TikTok and YouTube account at that time.
Along the way, The Online Prenatal Class for Couples has become one of the top hospital-based prenatal classes on the internet and has been featured in numerous publications and by many providers.
The Inspiration Behind Her Websites
Pulling Curls was kind of an extension of my love of scrapbooking in the 2000s. It was a mom blog that slowly morphed into what it is today. I love writing and sharing tips and tricks with other families.
The Pregnancy Nurse was meant to show my real professional knowledge in the labor and delivery sphere. All of the content is hospital-based, medically informed information for expecting families.
How She Created and Priced Her Courses
I had taught prenatal classes for my hospital, and I loved teaching it and adjusting the curriculum. But the schedule was very inconvenient for my family and for the students, plus I was still working regular shifts as a nurse.
I initially hosted it on my own site using Lifter LMS, but then switched to Teachable.
I am now considering a move to Learn+ this late fall. But there are so many great course platforms out there!
I have gone all over with pricing. Ultimately I priced it for what people paid for an in-person class with me. I think this class is actually better though (with the printables, extra additions, etc.) and it doesn’t require as much “me” so it made the most sense in my mind.
I also offer 3 price points to fit budgets. Ultimately I have a larger goal of making sure families are educated, so I really want to keep it affordable.
I have actually tried it at a lower price point, but it didn’t really sell much differently, so I keep it where it is. I’m still figuring out the pricing on my most expensive tier. For now, I just occasionally run sales for it.
I’ve had about 4,000 people purchase it to date.
Advice for Creating Your Own Course
If you’re thinking of creating a course, my biggest tip is to make sure it’s a topic you love. A topic you want to marry.
You’re going to spend so much time learning the ins and outs of it that you really need to enjoy it. I’m lucky that prenatal education is a huge passion of mine and I really enjoy it.
Also, marketing the course takes way more time than creating the course. You can’t just feel like it’s “done” and you can just sell it. It seems to take a lot of attention and page views to sell it. I wish I loved marketing as much as I love teaching…
I also created 2 other courses for Pulling Curls:
- The Organized Home helps simplify the operations in a busy home,
- and Family Routines helps you organize your family.
I work full-time as a content creator and obtain most of my income from our courses. Those tiny boys that were making me pull my hair out in 2005 are in college now, but the site lives on…. And they still make me want to pull my hair out!
How Much Money Pulling Curls is Making
I think it might be interesting to share the progression of the income.
At first, I made a good amount with sponsored posts and, later affiliate and ad income. However, now the majority is made through courses.
As for the breakdown of income in 2022, ads account for 28%, affiliates for 14%, and courses and books for 58%.
Her Marketing Strategies
My primary marketing strategy is to create helpful content that shows I am an expert, and provide relevant opt-ins within that content to get people on my email list, or directly sell to them within the content. This content is in written, podcast, and video formats.
Another strategy I use is TikTok.
My TikToks are very straight to the point. Each one teaches a principle that people need to know about labor. Much of it is clarifying things other people say on TikTok, but I very rarely dance; most of it is straight speaking to the camera.
I have about 55k followers at the moment.
My advice for anyone wanting to use this medium for marketing is to do what you feel good about. Be consistent and be willing to get some crazy engagement. I have people arguing with me there all the time about labor and pregnancy, but as long as they’re kind, I figure it’s fine.
I will block people if necessary, and I don’t allow foul language or mean rhetoric on there at all.
The more videos, the better. I am currently making about 3 “filmed” videos and then I make a few each day where I answer a question or two.
How She Grows and Maintains Her Email List
My list is steady right around 14,000.
I do cull 2 to 3 times per year and that removes a lot of people. I find the cold subscribers and then put them through a re-engagement campaign.
At least 90% of my newsletter subscribers are sent into an automated campaign that sends them emails for what they are interested in: pregnancy, parenting, organization, finances, travel, etc.
I offer a free course that funnels into each of my 3 courses. It’s probably my best way to get engaged newsletter readers.
In each area, I also have some printables that get some opt-ins as well. I figure having a few different offers gets a diverse newsletter base.
The Importance of SEO
SEO is extremely important for my business; it’s one of the top ways that people find me and my content. I am building up The Pregnancy Nurse to be a top pregnancy site.
Essentially, I’m creating banks of information about specific topics like epidurals, or inductions., i.e. things I’m an expert at and can really share rock-solid information on.
I’m working to find long-tail keywords that I can write articles about, and then I link to all my other articles on similar topics within that article.
As for keyword research, I have used Neil Patels’ Ubersuggest to check for competition, as well as what RankIQ suggests for me and my topics.
Content Creation and Promotion
I rarely consider how long an article should be, I just write for however long I need to get the information out. I don’t really use any optimization tools either, but since I’ve been blogging for so long I’m really good about making an outline and getting it all in there.
To promote my content, I mostly use automated software (I use Missinglttr, which I got as a LTD on AppSumo), which posts it somewhat frequently in the beginning and then spreads it out as the year continues on social media.
This is great for posting on Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Facebook groups. I also pin on Pinterest initially, and try to make another pin a week or so later.
I have traded links with blogger friends. I have tried to get links through the media.
Honestly, none are really that helpful. I’m not really winning in this area, and I don’t know how I’d know if it was making a difference if I wasn’t doing it. I certainly wish I did more, but I did HARO for about a year, doing several articles. Although I often wasn’t linked to and in the end just felt like it ultimately wasn’t worth continuing.
How Much Traffic Each Site Gets
In February 2022, I had 127,771 sessions with 125,254 new users, which comes out to about 4500 sessions per day:
This is my traffic over the last 8 years. You can see that the traffic really varies. Pinterest has not been as profitable in the last year, and I am grateful my long-term SEO game is slowly paying off.
The Pregnancy Nurse is much smaller, at 12,325 sessions and 10,043 users, which is about 440 sessions per day:
Here is a screenshot of its stats from the beginning. The big upticks are likely from viral TikTok videos that send thousands to my site in one day.
Hillary’s Top Tools
By far, the three most useful tools for my business are:
- Xero – Without accounting software, I am screwed. I’m not trained to run a business by schooling. I use it to mark all my accounting and account for all my sales.
- My tech guy – I don’t understand my website, and I could spend hours trying to fix something that takes my tech guy 10 minutes. He also hosts both websites and is so helpful. I host with WPTechs.
- RankIQ – I’ve been using this to beef up some articles and sometimes find articles. It has helped me make more robust articles that readers find more helpful.
Her Biggest Challenge in Growing Her Businesses
My biggest challenge is definitely not getting down on myself. It’s easy to feel like a huge failure since my income is less than it was in 2021, but I believe I am growing something that will ultimately be very important.
I’ve taken a couple of classes from “experts” and when I have called them out that their process isn’t working they’ve lashed out at me. One very publicly, which was difficult. It made me doubt myself and try things that I didn’t think were right (and did prove to be wrong).
Honestly, just being sure of myself has been a real hurdle. As a nurse, I always check with co-workers to be sure I’m doing the right thing. You can’t be sure of things like that in business. Sometimes you just have to believe in yourself, give it a try, and hope for the best.
Her Most Impressive Accomplishments
This would have to be creating a course that has been a leader in the hospital-based prenatal education sector.
I’m really proud of it and the amazing reviews it gets. The thankful families who feel like I provided just what they needed. It’s my favorite.
Well, that and now putting two kids through college entirely with my own income. I would’ve thought that was a pipe dream as a nurse (frankly, it would have been) but with the income from the sites, it’s become a reality.
What She Wishes She Had Known Back Then
I wish I had known that hiring a tech guy or gal isn’t that expensive, just find a good one. I wasted so much time trying to fix small things, I should have just found a good tech person and paid for him or her long ago.
Her Biggest Mistake
I think I made a mistake by listening to other people, and thinking that they were more of an expert than I am. I placed far too much value on them and their knowledge, and not enough on myself.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
Remember: it’s going to take time. Like, a lot of time. Get rich quick schemes end as fast as they begin.
And make sure you really love what you’re talking about. I see so many people burned out of the topic they chose and just hate it.
I’m glad I was able to start a site that’s about “all the things” so I can always find something I’m passionate to write or talk about.