Taking an unconventional route to a conventional business
Kat Norton is a Microsoft Excel influencer. She has over a million followers on TikTok and Instagram, where she goes by the name Miss Excel, and she’s leveraged that into a software training business that is now generating up to six figures of revenue a day. That’s six figures a day. And she’s only been doing this since June 2020.
Kat is a one-woman operation, with no staff or management layer. She uses her iPhone and consumer software to make her videos, and I’ve got to say, she has one of the healthiest relationships with the social platforms of maybe any creator I’ve ever talked to: she thinks of them purely as marketing channels for the video courses she sells elsewhere. That’s a big flip from the traditional creator business model, which is usually aimed at monetizing the platforms directly. Kat’s just not doing that.
But where this conversation really got me was when Kat said she firmly believed in manifestation and energetics, and that she draws a repeated connection between the work she’s done there and the success she’s had as a creator and entrepreneur. Just listen in this conversation how easily and quickly Kat can go back and forth between talking about her core business metrics and strategies and harnessing her energy to connect with viewers across devices and platforms. I have spoken to a lot of creators and a lot of executives on this show; I have never met one like Kat. If you’ve been listening to this show, you might have guessed that I am not the sort of personality type that goes in for energetics and manifestation, but Kat was convincing.
I don’t want to give too much away because it’s all in the interview, but I think you’re really going to like this one.
Okay. Kat Norton. Miss Excel. Here we go.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Kat Norton, you are known as Miss Excel on TikTok and Instagram. You are the creator of something called the Excelerator Course. Welcome to Decoder.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
I am super excited to talk to you. I’m going to start this interview a little backward, because I think the size of the creator business you have built is remarkable. What’s your revenue like? Where are you at per day, per week, per month? I’m looking at some of our notes and they seem like big numbers.
When I first started the business, I scaled it within six months to six figures. Since then we have been doing six-figure months. I actually just had my first six-figure day a few weeks ago, which I was super excited about. It’s been just the most incredible, fun journey building this business.
What is the business? What are you selling?
So I sell Microsoft Excel courses and now all of the other Microsoft products. I have Google Sheets courses as well. I’d say about 95 percent of what I do is passive income course sales now.
That’s all just you — you’re just a one-person creative shop?
Yes. I have a virtual assistant that helps with some of my graphics on Instagram, but pretty much everything else has been a one-woman show over here.
That’s amazing. You are using TikTok and Instagram as a marketing channel, playing your character, Miss Excel. Your actual product is videos you’ve already made that people are buying subscriptions to. How does that work?
The social media channels are my main marketing. It’s mostly organic sales from there. I also host webinars that are usually those bigger, higher traffic days. I created lines of really fun courses. Each one’s around 100 videos. I design each video and infuse it with as much creativity and fun as possible. If you’ve seen my Instagram or my TikTok, you know I have to keep it fun. I also record everything myself so I’m bringing that energy into the videos. I also video edit everything myself too because for me that is half of the art form. For example, I’ll know I need to pop a picture of a hamburger on the screen for three seconds to make my analogies so the audience understands the concept. It’s where I go in with the teacher’s eye there. I create these courses — they’re like my babies. I make them from start to finish and I’m incredibly proud of them. They’ve been doing awesome on the market.
Are you selling them individually at $5 a video or are you selling subscriptions? What’s the model?
I sell it by course, so price points are $297 all the way through a bundle of most of my courses at $997. People buy lifetime access to my courses. I host them on the platform Thinkific.
When you cut it in half, the result also turns into a nice number. That was something I learned from some business coaches — whenever I run a sale, it’s usually $297 typically, but when you cut it in half, it looks nice at $149.
That’s great. I love it. This massive business is just you. That’s so impressive, but it’s also very different from other creator businesses that we’ve heard about on this show, or other creator businesses the average person has encountered. Now, let’s start at the beginning: how did you become Miss Excel?
Wow. What a great question. I’ll take you back to March 2020. At that time, I was working at a global consulting firm called Protiviti. I had been traveling every week before this, doing securitization interviews for banks. I had built out an Excel training course for fun right when I started at the company four and a half years ago. The company totally backed me and had me flying around the US hosting these Excel training sessions because I just genuinely loved to teach Excel. Around March, I stopped traveling and I found myself at my parents’ house in my childhood bed.
What happened in March?
Some nice pandemic stuff going on then. I stopped traveling, essentially, and so I had a lot more time on my hands. I started going deep into inner work, work on myself: meditation, mindfulness, manifestation. As backstory, I was actually incredibly shy and had a lot of anxiety before starting this project. I highly recommend that, before posting yourself dancing on the internet, that you do your fair share of inner work and make sure you’re at a place where you can handle what comes with that. I dove deep into the spiritual work and got myself to this place where I no longer had these limiting beliefs and constructs holding me in place. It was April 2020 at that point — I didn’t create Miss Excel until June, two months later. This wasn’t even a thought in my mind. I didn’t even have a TikTok — I turned to my mother and said, “Mom, I’m going to be rich and famous soon so I need you to prepare your nervous system for that.” She was laughing.
This is very intense.
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She was like, “What? Who are you?” I said, “Just watch.” And then I got this intuition to put Excel on TikTok. I didn’t even have a TikTok app on my phone at the time. I had so much resistance to it because my mental voice was saying, “You’re 27 years old. You cannot make a TikTok.” My gut voice was arguing, “Make the TikTok.” I ended up putting out a few videos, one per day. The fourth video hit 100,000 views. At that point, I hadn’t told anybody what I was doing besides my mother and my boyfriend. It starts getting shown to all these people I know. I’m thinking, “Oh, gosh.”
By the sixth day, the CEO of an IT company reached out. He wrote, basically, “Hey, I love your teaching style. I’m looking to create training videos in G Suite products for students, parents, and teachers.” This is around the time during the pandemic when all the schools were going digital. I’m clearly a Microsoft gal, but I learn quickly. The spreadsheet products are similar, so I responded, “Sure. I’m game.”
I formed an LLC. I ordered a green screen and a ring light and set it up in my childhood bedroom. I moved the furniture out of the way. I started recording videos after work and selling them back to this guy. At this point, it’s day six on TikTok, and I’m already making money. I decided that I’m just going to keep this thing rolling because I’m helping a lot of people — even though I wasn’t really getting paid off the Miss Excel, social media part of the equation. Within three weeks I went viral on a whole other scale. I looked at my phone to see that one of my videos hit 3.6 million views. I had 100,000 followers on TikTok. At that point, I asked myself: now what do I do?
That was still in June of 2020, when all the rumors were circulating that TikTok is going to disappear or be banned — all that noise. I had all these people in my ear convincing me that my whole business was going to vanish, so I decided that I’d better hedge my risk here. I created an Instagram account and only 2,000 people followed me there from TikTok. At that point, I thought, “I guess I have to go viral now on Instagram, too.” This is when Instagram Reels were first coming out, so within a few weeks on Instagram, I grew 50,000 followers from a video going viral.
How did you make the video go viral on Instagram?
I have some techniques. The way I run my business is different from a lot of the strategies you’ll probably see on social media where the advice is typically to use certain hashtags and make the content a certain length in seconds. The people giving that advice are essentially trying to take these concepts and frame them in a way that they can hand off to anyone.
Instead, the way I run and structure my business is through energetics. I get my energy to a place where my presence is truly magnetic and I will get visions of what will go viral. Then I run to my computer and I make those ideas because essentially social media content is straight-up energy transmissions. You’re receiving my energy through the phone.
If I’m showing up on your social media feed with low energy like, [drops enthusiasm] “Oh, hey. Here’s Excel. Blah, blah,” with that low frequency, the video is not going to hit. I do things to get my energy into a place where, one, I get the viral idea, and two, I’m able to execute it in a way that people are drawn to my energy. That’s how I’ve been able to grow it to over a million people now across the platforms.
At that point, I had no courses. I was just creating viral content. My social media profiles started blowing up. Around October 2020, a business coach reached out to me. At the same time, Morning Brew had reached out. The business coach told me that if I was about to be on Morning Brew, I should have a product I’m selling. To that, I thought, “Oh, touché.” I took a couple of weeks off from the day job to whip out my first Excel course, and started selling it on Black Friday of 2020.
Then, by January, only two months later, the course was already making more money per month than my day job. At that point, I had to reassess why I was staying there — 401k, benefits, health insurance — asking myself, “How am I going to leave that?” I had another business coach who told me that I needed to quit and suggested setting a deadline for me to resign. I quit two days later.
Was that the deadline? 48 hours?
Oh, no, the deadline was two weeks, but I got hyped up! I just needed that big sister energy that Ashley Hannawacker provided. She’s incredible. She came in and asked me, basically, “Girl, what are you doing?” I didn’t know. She insisted that I had to quit, and that was one of my best days. Half of my securitization group at my day job knew about my TikTok and didn’t really understand the caliber of what I was doing. The other half had no idea. All day I was on the phone, like, “Hey, Steve, do you know about me on the internet?” It was a wild day.
By April, I started rolling out a second course. I did my first six-figure month. Business Insider had reached out for a feature. The whole Miss Excel project had been just scaling and growing. By June of 2021, I received the Microsoft MVP award. I also began working with Microsoft to learn more about their products so I could help my audience in better ways. The whole experience has been just incredible. It scaled to my first six-figure day a couple of weeks ago. I was super hyped about that.
Are you making six figures every day?
No, not every day.
Once you hit the peaks, there are valleys as well.
Right. I use webinars and I actually have one two hours after this call. I host these different high-energy Excel parties, essentially, where I come in and I teach a ton of free content. If you look at my page, I’m just giving away knowledge because my social media presence is what draws people in. That’s my purpose: to provide as much value to people as possible. That’s why I host these Excel training sessions and offer a deal on my products at the end of the webinar.
Does that strategy convert to income for you?
I have a number of follow-up questions because you are a remarkable person.
Let’s start with the idea you mentioned about having to work on your individual mental constructs before you dance on the internet. I’ve spoken with a lot of people on this show, and you are the first person to ever say anything in that particular Venn diagram. What specifically do you mean by that phrase?
I had a trifecta situation. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Joe Dispenza. He wrote the book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself and is a doctor who really dives into demystifying the mystical. I’m an Excel girl. I’m a Capricorn. I have a very logical brain, so I needed something to explain the woo-woo mystical realm in a way that my conscious mind could understand. That’s really where that book opened it up for me; I was blown away by the law of attraction. At the same time, I did a program by Lacy Phillips called “To Be Magnetic” in which you put yourself into a hypnotic state. Once you’re in that state, you are able to bring your subconscious mind forward through binaural noises and all different things.
You essentially show your subconscious that there was another way during certain triggering memories. You’re able to go in and neutralize the electromagnetic charges associated with those memories. Those memories are no longer taking hold. From age zero to seven, we don’t have critical thinking skills. Everything that happens is incredibly more dramatic to a child. When I was able to go into my subconscious, I neutralized all those memories that were boxing me into making myself smaller, keeping me shy, and preventing me from showing up as my most authentic self.
That’s something I would highly recommend doing, whether it’s meditation, mindfulness — everyone has something that works for them. I also do a lot of Kundalini yoga, which involves mantra, meditation, and activities that get my energy moving. For me, that was a great tip. I know people who have done all different programs: one of my friends did 75 Hard to really get into those different habits and reprogram the subconscious mind.
Before doing these programs, I never wanted any attention directed at me. I wouldn’t even have a birthday party. I was so incredibly shy. Now I’m dancing to dumb TikToks about Excel functions for a living and I love every second of it. I feel so confident. That change really is a testament to the inner work and how anybody can really just take wherever they’re at and go into their subconscious and rework these things. You don’t have to take life at face value. You are a quantum creator. That’s what really helped me drive and grow the business. The growth of the whole project has been a result of inbound leads. Every press opportunity, every sale, every bulk order, every podcast — everything has fallen onto my lap, essentially. Then I take messy action and go after things. It’s really this dance.
In terms of thinking about how to go viral, you mentioned that you put energy into the world and think about how to draw people to you magnetically. That’s a lot of vocabulary. What do you mean by “draw people to you magnetically”?
Think about when you watch a video: some videos make you feel good while others don’t. That’s the most basic way to frame it. I create videos that you are going to learn from; however, you are also going to have a smile on your face. I work on myself and raise my energy to a place where I’m coming across correctly on the platforms to make people happy. People want to watch things that raise their vibration. People want to watch things that make them happy and give them energy and inspire them. That process involves looking internally and then channeling that within me. That way, I can put that feeling into my content so the audience is not only learning, but they’re also having fun. That’s the name of the game.
Do you think of your magnetism as a competitive advantage? There are other Excel influencers — it’s surprising that “Excel social media star” is a burgeoning category, but it definitely is. Are you thinking of your content strategy as a moat? Are you thinking to yourself, “This is me”? How do you think about that in terms of the business you’re running?
I just work on myself and show up authentically every day. I really don’t view anything as competition. We’re all out here helping people. We’re all out here on the same mission. What I do is really just bringing my own authentic spin onto what I’m creating and putting out there.
What was the first piece of feedback where you realized that your strategy was working and that you needed to turn Miss Excel into a webinar business — as opposed to other, more familiar types of social media monetization? It doesn’t seem like you’re doing a lot of brand deals. You’re not selling Excel itself. You’re not doing advertising: I haven’t seen you endorse water bottles or whatever other people do. What are the things that pushed you into this particular revenue model?
I came into all this because I wanted to create the life that I wanted for myself. I wanted freedom: financial freedom and geographic freedom. I wanted just to be able to do what lights me up every day. For me, the passive income model was the fastest way to get to that place. For example, if I’m not launching courses, I work maybe 15 hours a week. I spend a lot of that time in a creative state of flow. Those are usually the days that the most sales will actually come in because I’m in that receiving energy. I wanted to create a life for myself where I can travel. My boyfriend and I right now are digital nomads: every month we fly to a new state. I wanted to live and explore while I’m still young instead of waiting until I retired. This business model is incredibly conducive to that.
What are your costs? Did you buy a fancy camera? You mentioned buying a big ring light earlier.
When I first started the business, I bought a ring light and a green screen. I use my iPhone to film my videos. My overhead, right when I started, was probably around $500 a month and everything else was profit. I hired an advertising company a few months ago, so I’m starting to get into a new presence — a few Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn ads. That has a little bit of overhead a month, but most of what I do is just straight passive income.
You also mentioned that you’re selling Miss Excel through a platform. Is that a contractual relationship? Is the platform self-service? How does that work?
I pay roughly $150 a month to use Thinkific. It’s a platform that hosts all my courses and completely automates the whole monetization process: a client signs up, pays the money, and then that money goes in my bank account. All of that is lined up through the platform.
Does Thinkific take a cut of those transactions?
I believe they do. My Stripe payment processor takes a cut as well.
As you get scale, have you thought about negotiating those prices down, or are you just not at that place yet? Other businesses will see, for example, that they are paying 30 percent of their in-app purchases to Apple on the App Store and decide that they are not getting any value out of that. Are you at that part of the curve?
My Thinkific plan is the growth model, so I’m pretty sure I only pay a few pennies per person. Stripe, I think, takes 3 percent. It’s really nothing dramatic.
These are just dumb, basic questions. Are you paying for Creative Cloud to edit the videos? What software do you use?
This is actually funny. When I first started the business, I worried about how I was going to put an Excel screen over my head, since I had never edited a video in my life. At that point, I was still working 60 hours a week at a day job, so I needed to find the easiest program to learn. I Googled, “What is the easiest video editing software?” WeVideo is what I found. I watched a 40-minute YouTube video tutorial on that program. I’ve used WeVideo to create all my videos and courses ever since. I don’t edit on apps like TikTok or Instagram to avoid their watermarks when I upload videos cross-platform.
So is the desire for your videos to live away from the platform the driving factor for you to use another piece of software?
To me, this is the heart of every creator conversation on Decoder. Most creators have a business that looks like the business the platform wants you to have: most Instagramers have a brand licensing or partnership business, while most YouTubers have an AdSense business. You haven’t limited your business to the form the platforms would like it to take: you’re building Miss Excel independently of the platforms. Was that an accident or was it pre-planned? How did you get to this point?
That was the model I knew. I have a lot of business coach friends making millions of dollars a year with 5,000 followers; they built out these different coaching containers. For me, that was the model I followed: you create some type of course or product and you sell it. I’ve done a couple of ads for supplement companies and things like that, but they don’t make me money. They’re not translating — I just genuinely love the product so I wanted to work with them, but my audience loves Excel and that’s what they’re here for. That’s what sells.
One of the things about Excel and Google Sheets is that the products change. Excel releases new versions often, and Google updates a bit less frequently. A lot of the TikToks I’ve seen are about core Excel functions: pivot tables and changing uppercase to lowercase in names. These are tricks people don’t know about, but then they realize it’s very easy once they learn. That content is very grabby, but as you get deeper into Excel, the interface changes or features are added. Do you worry that you have to chase Microsoft’s roadmap or do you think your content is pretty evergreen?
It’s pretty evergreen. Excel doesn’t change as much as you think. Whenever there are new functions or fun features coming out, I usually get to learn about them early and figure out cool ways to implement them because I work with Microsoft as an MVP. I use that knowledge to drive my content and courses. Everyone gets lifetime access when they purchase my courses and I’m constantly adding in anything new and cool that comes up, so my videos always have the freshest content.
So people get lifetime access for a single one-time payment of $997, correct?
It’s for the bundle. Yes, you get everything.
A lot of other places in this zone — MasterClass, Lynda, and the like — are charging a subscription fee. Why aren’t you doing subscriptions?
Excel’s a little different in terms of learning curve. A customer could pay $10 to $25 a month — then they could take my course in a weekend and be totally done. The subscription model doesn’t work out as well. For me, the secondary feature is the subscription-type feature. A client could learn everything in a weekend, let’s say. That person knocks out my Excel course. They really get it. But then three months later, they go to do a VLOOKUP and need to brush up on what I showed them in the video. That’s why I wanted to have it as an ongoing thing, as that added resource.
I structure my courses in a way where they are organized by individual tool. So if you’re needing to do a VLOOKUP — boom! You can see it right there: 10 minutes, get an example, pop that in. But that system was a secondary feature that would align more with a subscription model. A lot of people just dive in and study the material, so if I had a subscription at a lower cost point, they could just cancel it after they learn it.
Do you think that eventually you might add other pricing models or other ways of monetizing what you’re doing?
Potentially. Right now the price points have been great for the courses — bundling them in different ways. I also do corporate trainings on occasion, so I have higher-ticket items offered and I do bulk discounts for companies as well. That’s another area that I work in.
One of the challenges with platforms in particular is the instability: one app might get shut down, forcing you to use another. The government might break Facebook up into a billion pieces. There’s a lot of that going on with the platforms — for instance, Instagram is turning into a shopping app and the grid is being disfavored in terms of Stories and now Reels. Do you think about those dynamics? As in, “I’ve got to stay present on the apps because they’re my core marketing functions, so now I’ve got to make sure I know what Instagram wants out of me”?
Yes, though I view it from the lens of abundance. My attitude and thought process is basically: if Reels are hot, make some Reels. I look at it as adapting to whatever the platform’s putting out because it’ll allow me to have the greatest reach, versus having an outlook of being forced to do something or else I won’t be present on the apps anymore. I just flow with what’s there. I keep an eye out for trends and things happening, different apps.
Where do you source trends?
Usually I go on TikTok and hit the sounds button, which allows you to see what songs are trending. Then I get myself into a creative flow state. It usually takes me about an hour to really get in there. I listen to the snippets of the different songs and that’s when I get the intuitive hits of, “Boom, that song needs to go with this Excel trick.” Some people ask how I match rap songs to Excel tricks — ”Drop It Like It’s Hot” to a dropdown menu for instance. But that’s really my creative process: I go in and I get into a flowy state. Then when I hear certain lyrics, I’m thinking, “Ooh, there we go!” Then I write them in a note on my phone and batch create them.
What’s your process with Instagram?
Same thing — I’ll still use the TikTok music button, because a lot of it is very aligned across the two platforms. Sometimes TikTok has more music options than Instagram, so that always gets a little dicey, but I create content across the platforms. I started making content for LinkedIn recently. I created a Twitter and have basically no followers, but Microsoft tweeted at me and I realized I need to get on the Twitter game.
Twitter is what poisons your mind in the end.
I’m a Twitter noob.
Just as little Twitter exposure as you can get is what’s going to keep you in that head space, I promise you. When you think about your marketing channels and how successful they’ve been, and now that you’ve hired a firm to do the paid side of the marketing channels, what are you hoping that they will accomplish?
Scaling. I want million-dollar months — that is what I’m aiming for. It’s really now just scaling on different platforms and creating different types of content. My ads are actually Excel tricks so they’re functional. People actually like and comment on my ads. They end up sharing the ad because they learned something from it.
When you think about massive scale, one of the things that comes up with creators on this show a lot is burnout: if you don’t make the next YouTube video, your views are going to drop. If you don’t make the next Instagram story, you’re not relevant anymore and the brand deals might go away. It is a real fear. I’ve heard a lot about creator burnout. Are you at the point where you’re trying to manage burnout or not?
No, because I just don’t view the world that way. I view it through a lens of abundance. The number one thing I do is energy management, and I only call in things into my realm that I can handle. I always feel comfortable saying yes to things: I know if an opportunity is presented to me, that I can handle it. I have a lot of techniques for stress: when I meditate, I come back out 10 minutes later, ready to take over the world. It’s really just managing those things. When I go a week without posting, nothing bad happens — I’ll just go viral the next week and my audience grows by 100,000. I just view it as though there will always be abundance there for me whenever I feel called to create. If I want to take a week off and go sit in the mountains instead, I’ll do that.
What’s fascinating about this is that, for most of the other creators I talk to — their product is their social following. Your product is not. Do you see that the distance between the two is what enables you to have this radically different perspective? The fact that your product is not your social following has enabled other things, so are you focused on making sure that you have a split there?
Absolutely. I just trust in the fact that I know I’m going to keep creating viral content. I had a video for the song “The Assignment” a few weeks ago, and it hit 6.7 million views on both platforms and my Instagram grew by 200,000 people in 10 days. It’s that type of thing where I just trust that I can do that, and boom. That’s a whole huge new customer base. As long as I keep myself happy and I keep myself in this state of abundance, I can keep going inward and getting those intuitive hits of what will go viral. It’s never a scarcity mindset. If I didn’t post today, my life isn’t over. My fans won’t be wondering where I am. I think some of them care about my life, but it’s a utility account. They care about the Excel content.
As long as I have videos blowing through the algorithm and I’m still creating tips and tricks — I actually find that on the days where I don’t post, I gain the most followers. I still have Reels going through the algorithm, and when people unfollow you, it’s typically because you appear on their screen and they remember you exist and they decide to unfollow. If I look at my trends on the days I don’t post, I have Reels being pushed out to people who don’t follow me who are now following me. However, the people who follow me already saw the Reel, so they’re not thinking about me. That’s actually a strategy I have for growth because you get fewer unfollows on the days you don’t post.
I cannot believe I haven’t asked this question already. Do you track these things in Excel?
Actually, they move so quickly that I don’t. I just flow because it really doesn’t implicate what I do. I still go based off my intuition. And if I hear a song, I have a hit, I’m not going to be thinking that on Tuesday I lost 12 followers so I shouldn’t post. I still do me, and that authenticity is what really drives it.
You run your business in Excel though, right? I have to know that you’re not a secret QuickBooks person on the side.
Oh no, no, no, no! I run my business through Excel, yes.
Okay. Just checking. That brings up another opportunity: you can scale into other software, since there is a big market for training overall, but there’s only one of you — you’re literally known as Miss Excel. Sure, Google Sheets comes along for the ride too. Do you want to be known as Miss Outlook?
I have an Outlook course drafting in the next few weeks. I have courses for the entire Microsoft suite going on right now that are percolating. I’m in my creative mode up here in the mountains. I’ve been just recording videos nonstop. I have seasons where I’m in creation mode and then I’m in a flowy mode.
Right now, we are in Q4: going in, creating, building all these courses. I had learned things really quickly and I was also obviously very familiar with Microsoft products, so I really sat with them and just found cool, creative things to do. With Excel, I originally wondered, “Should I be Miss Microsoft instead or something?” but Miss Excel has grown into such a brand — I know people still trust that I know how to use the other Microsoft products and Google Sheets and all that even though I fall under Miss Excel.
Excel is also just such a different program than all the others. Excel has a following. Excel has passion behind it because it’s literally just a way to build models. It’s essentially a freeform app where you can create different models on it, so it has this whole separate following. There’s just so much you can do with it too as compared to the other products. It’s wild. I’m always learning things.
One of the jokes we tell on our other show all the time is, if you look at any business and what people are actually doing, a huge percentage of businesses are just people using Excel. At the end of the day, someone’s got to use Excel. That’s actually the work, and everyone else is just talking about what the person using Excel is doing.
Here’s a big question: earlier this year, I had a guy called Kevin Roose from the New York Times. He had just written a book about automation hitting the white collar workforce, and one of the big pieces of that is something called robotic process automation, which Microsoft actually sells. Robotic process automation is basically really high-end Excel macros that replace floors of accountants and consulting firms. Do you feel that a cliff is coming? Are you worried that the robots are all going to be using Excel in the future, not people who want to see dancing on TikTok?
I think there’s always going to be room for Excel. I think the program will just keep continuing to develop and grow. It’s just going into so many different markets too. The Excel online space is something that’s been growing more robustly. It’s being used in schools with kids. I just started working with Flipgrid, which has 100 million students, parents, and teachers on it. I’m taking my Excel tricks there so people can put them into classrooms and start teaching these different skill sets at a younger age.
I think that it’s always going to be around in some way, shape, or form. There will be people in the spreadsheets and it will just keep moving along. There’s cool things happening too: I was reading about different things with Microsoft Teams that will make that realm more virtual. I think it was called Mesh or something where they were bringing in their own version of metaverse-type things. It’s Microsoft — they’re going to continue to expand and grow and keep the customer base going.
You’ve said a few times that Miss Excel and your social media accounts are a utility, and they are. People love Excel. They want to get better at it. You make it fun. The other side of creatordom is your personality. You obviously have a gigantic personality, but that’s what most creators sell. “Come live in my life. Ride my G-wagon through the streets of LA.” That works for them. Have you thought about selling that part of yourself, about being that kind of influencer?
Definitely down the line I want to really show people how I’m able to make and manage such a healthy relationship with social media, growing a business, being an entrepreneur — all while genuinely waking up happy every day. Part of my master plan is that I just want to blow this business up as big as humanly possible and then turn around and teach people how I did it, and also how I stayed so sane and happy while doing it. My overall purpose on this planet is to light up as many people as I can while I’m here. I want everyone living their authentic purpose — feeling good, showing up, doing what they love. I built a platform for myself through Miss Excel so that eventually I will be able to light some people up, because that’s what I’m here for.
Do you think you can do that without tearing down the wall between the utility you make for people teaching Excel and your life? It seems like your personal life is not on display, which might be why it’s a healthy relationship with social media.
I balance it a little bit. On my Instagram Stories, you’ll see me running around Sedona doing whatever. I get so many DMs from people saying things like, “Whoa, that just rocked my world. How are you doing that?” It’s been more of a behind-the-scenes thing, but eventually maybe I’ll just go viral on my personal page and start teaching these different things and grow that separately. Alternatively, I might integrate it into the Excel page and start coaching through there and helping people grow their businesses through energetics and managing your energy.
So we’ve talked about how you have a healthy and important distance from social platforms. As you think about your relationship with Microsoft, they’re showing you the features — are you worried that you’re maybe reliant on one vendor? Or are you trying to keep a distance from all of them?
No. I absolutely love Microsoft. They have been incredible to me, and I love working with them. It’s such a big company, so I’m always talking to different groups about different things. I also teach the Google products too, but I feel like Microsoft is big enough that those products are used in so many different businesses and that just opens doors in all different areas. If I wanted to do collaborations with different companies and work on their tools with them, then it’s all the same base.
I talk to creators all the time. They all tell me that YouTube is the gold standard for monetization and for audience relationship. You have a Twitter, but you don’t have a YouTube. That’s pretty backwards in terms of what we see typically. Are you staying out of YouTube entirely? Do you have a YouTube plan? What’s going on there?
I think I’m going to start advertising on YouTube, but for me, the course sales make so much more sense. If I was teaching my courses for free on YouTube, no one would pay for them. For me, it just made more sense to continue doing that instead of trying to grow an audience over time and get ad money on YouTube. I’m not saying I’ll never do it. I saw there’s new little YouTube Shorts and things like that, so I might look into it. But right now, what I’ve got going has been working so well.
Right now I’m heads down, creating courses, creating passive income streams. If I ever get to the point where things are quiet and I’m in the mood to do something — never say never. I may dabble.
YouTube is another platform that can eat your brain, so it seems like you’re in a very good head space. The farther away you keep Twitter and YouTube, the better off you are. Do you think about branching out to the whole Microsoft suite — Outlook, Teams, Word, and PowerPoint? Or even other creative suites? I’m sure you could be Miss Photoshop if you went for it.
I love Photoshop.
You are only one person. Have you ever thought about when you might need to add another person?
Yeah. I think it depends on where I want the business to go and how much it’s making passively. Building it into a full business is another whole area of time commitment. Having to be a CEO with all that entails, hiring and training people — I would need to really gauge whether that’s worth my time building it in that direction. What I have right now is 95 percent passive. Trading time for money is something I absolutely don’t want to do. I would need to have that vision and feel so strongly about it and have the right people.
I also learn things incredibly quickly, so sometimes I am able to just pick up different skills. If I don’t know a certain skill, I’ll watch a few videos on it. At that point, I understand it totally and am able to teach it. I would have to gauge whether it’s something I’m interested in learning or whether I’d rather hire someone and do payroll. I’d have to be more interested in it than traveling around, having passive income. I’d have to gauge which lifestyle I want to have at that stage in my life, too.
What do you think the timeline is for a decision like that? I’ll use The Verge as an example: we started with 12 people and management overhead from the very beginning. But as we’ve grown, a lot of us, myself included, had to make decisions where we’re thinking, “If we’re going to have 50 people, most of my time will become management. It’s either that or I’m going to have to let someone else do it, which is worse, so I’m going to choose to be the manager.” There’s another timeline of business growth where you choose to be the individual contributor for the next 10 years and that’s what your life will look like. Alternatively, you can scale it but then you have to do a different kind of work. Maybe that’s the new challenge. Have you thought about that kind of timeline?
Yes. I feel like I want to give it at least another year. The whole project is just scaling so quickly that it’s hard for me to even imagine a timeline, because if you’d have asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought it’d be as big as it is right now. I keep collapsing timelines. All of a sudden I’m 10 steps ahead of where I thought I’d be right now, so it’s tough to tell. I’m going to get these courses out in the next few weeks and then I want to see how big it’s scaling. Really, if I’m ever bored, then I think that’s something I would look into. But right now, Miss Excel has been going so well that I’m just rocking and rolling with it for now.
Do you ever think you have to circle back to the first Excel video you made, thinking maybe, “I wasn’t so good at WeVideo then. The interface has changed. I need to remake it”? Are you thinking about your videos on an update cadence that way?
Eventually I’m going to update certain videos, especially when new different features come out in Excel. But the courses are really cool and fun. Sometimes I go through my own stuff because I want to know what it’s like for the audience, and I’ll think, “Dang, I’m pretty funny today.” I’ll watch my videos and just be sitting there cracking up at myself, having a grand old time. I just made them less than a year ago, so it’s still pretty fresh.
Kat, this conversation has been incredible. What’s next for Miss Excel?
So many things. Honestly, I can’t even tell you what’s next, because everything just keeps flowing with me. Short term: we have the rest of the Microsoft courses launching in the next few weeks. I’m super hyped about that. I’m really just scaling from here — scaling holiday season, Black Friday, doing it up, seeing where we land Q1 2022.
I love it. It’s been incredible talking to you. Thank you for coming on Decoder.
Thank you so much for having me.
Decoder with Nilay Patel