Establish Your Online Headquarters (a.k.a. What Spies Can Teach Us About Business)

It's important to set up and understand your online headquarters. Check out these spy lessons for tips on how to do it.

My friend. The world of online business is not so very different from being a spy. So today, my friend Angela Brown and I have some spy lessons for you that we’ll tie into Angela’s areas of expertise, social media and online content, as well as mine, blogging and online content.

The inspiration for this post comes from my extensive experience in spycraft—watching shows and movies such as Alias, Mission Impossible, James Bond, The Blacklist, etc. And what have I learned in all my years of experience?

Spy Lesson #1: Establish a solid headquarters.
Spy Lesson #2: Create and maintain some secure outposts.
Spy Lesson #3: Always have more than one safe house.

And as you can clearly see, this is just like having an online business.

You need an online headquarters for your content.
A place where you can do your coolest, most meaningful stuff.

Then you need some secure outposts.
These are your non-headquarters locations to do cool stuff from.

And then you need some safe houses.
A safe house = surprise coolness that no one but you knows about until you need it.

Today I want to help you figure out where you should set up your headquarters (because it’s not always necessarily a blog), and in an upcoming post, I want to help you discover which outposts might be a good fit, and what the heck you should be keeping at your safe houses.

Intense right? Well you can thank my program Publish Your Thing (PYT) for all this intensity. I’ve been in content creation mode for a while now, and I just had to share this spy analogy and create some worksheets to help. Let’s do it.

Spy/Business Lesson #1: Establish a solid headquarters.

In spycraft, headquarters is the place everyone goes to figure out what’s going on, to get new assignments, to converse with coworkers, and to center themselves. In online business, your headquarters is the place your audience can figure out what’s going on, get new content + products, and possibly even converse with or meet others.

From your headquarters comes your best work, your true brand identity, and paths to your products (whether physical, digital, or service-based).

So which platforms make for great headquarters?
From what I’ve seen and done, I’d suggest that the following are epic platforms to consider:

  • A blog
  • Your email list
  • Instagram
  • YouTube (or other video services)
  • A podcast
  • Periscope (or other live streaming services)
  • Online workshops (webinars, bootcamps, live trainings, etc.)

Since I haven’t podcasted extensively enough (though I’ve loved the experience of the episodes I’ve done), I can’t authentically develop a checklist to help you decide if it’s right for you. But the other platforms listed above definitely feel more like home to me, and I want to explore them further with you.

To me, the important thing is not to let someone tell you exactly which platforms you need to be on without fully researching it yourself.

Oh, and another important thing to acknowledge is that your headquarters may eventually change.

For the first 1.5 years of this brand, the blog was the indisputable headquarters. Then, a shift happened. I didn’t do it on purpose, and honestly didn’t even notice it until it had fully occurred and existed for a few months.

My email list became my headquarters. I develop so much never-before-seen content, so many worksheets, so many #TooReal stories for my emails. It’s honestly the content that I pour the most time into other than my courses. And. P.S. You can sign up for my Ninja Notes at the top of my website.

Even though I don’t plan to fight the fact that my email list has become my headquarters, I do plan to re-energize my blog, because the fact that it was HQ for so long is the only reason I have my email list.

But, enough of story time. It’s time to analyze which of the many headquarters options you want to use in general, and in using them consistently, you’ll be able to figure out what the best HQ for your brand is.

Is blogging right for you?

Is blogging right for you? Does it fit your brand needs and the way you want to serve your audience?
You can download the worksheet above or check out the checklist items below. Blogging may be right for you if:

  • You want to express your views online and limiting it to “traditional” social media alone is not enough.
  • You want to collaborate with other creators who are like-minded and also those who have a different perspective and target audience.
  • You enjoy researching and writing about topics, concepts, products, or people.
  • You like the idea and the challenge of having to promote your own materials.
  • You want to learn how to build your own website. That actually gets traffic.
  • You want a platform to launch your own podcast, or Internet show, or super cool product.
  • Strategy and planning can be (or already are) your thing–you love organizing written materials.
  • Part-time or full-time >> you love the idea of making money from your thoughts.
  • You want to see a measurable impact of what you create online.
  • Creating free resources is something that you want to do for your intended audience. To you, serving is a necessity in life; not just taking.
  • You want your skills, opinions, or experience to be a helpful resource to someone.
  • You have an intense passion about a certain topic that you can see yourself creating multiple types of content for over and over again.
  • You are not afraid of expressing your experiences online—what works and what doesn’t work.
  • You are willing to go through trial and error when it comes to your content–you realize that not every blog post will be perfect and not everything you say will “work” for everyone.
  • You desire a creative space to build an audience and web presence.

Oh, and P.S. If blogging is right for you, I’ve relaunched my most popular course, Zero to Blog, as a revamped and action-packed course called Epic Blog Brew. Registration is only open for a short amount of time, and this class will be intense.

Is an email list right for you?

The answer is probably “yes.” But, let this list guide you:

  • You want an outlet to reach your audience that is extra measurable.
  • You want to create and grow a list of subscribers that you can send targeted content to (based on the interests they express).
  • Unsubscribers don’t bother you. They help you narrow down your ideal audience even further.
  • You want a place to test out new content, products, and ideas.
  • You want to write personal and meaningful notes for people that get delivered straight to their inbox.
  • You want to have different types of content on your audience’s mind and emails seem effective to you because of where they land.
  • You feel emails are a place where you can promote collaborations, videos, social media content, products, and blog posts all in the same moment and that’s what you want + need for your audience.
  • You want to have an exclusive outlet of content just for people who sign up for your email list.
  • You want to be in a channel where your content is easily searchable.
  • You like how email can have whatever purpose you want it to for your audience; it can be actionable, inspiring, or memorable.

Is Instagram right for you?

The answer might be “yes” if:

  • Your business is all about producing beautiful images.  
  • You know you can attract a large audience to your business based on design and imagery.
  • Your business has mostly physical products that will do well on an image-based platform.
  • You love product styling and can thrive on it.  
  • Your target audience is on Instagram more than other platforms.
  • You want to share your passion for photography or some form of visuals on a platform that focuses on it.
  • The value of your work can be seen more in pictures than words. You can create excitement for your brand or cause with images.
  • Your ideal sponsors will notice you on Instagram.
  • Your industry—the people that you follow and want to collaborate with are gathered on Instagram.

And, seriously. There was a point in life that I would have laughed off the notion that Instagram could be an effective brand headquarters . . . but then, brands like Fit Men Cook put in serious time and effort making 15-second recipe videos, taking epic photos, doing amazing giveaways, writing out full captions in both English and Spanish . . . and grew it into a major book, and this crazy epic Kickstarter project that’s raised over $100K so far.

Instagram can be your content headquarters if you're willing to do it epically.

Instagram can be your content headquarters if you're willing to do it epically.

Is YouTube right for you?

The answer is probably yes if one or more of the following fit you:

  • Pre-recorded videos make sense as a way to gather your audience due to the type of content you like to share.
  • You want to create and build a subscription base through a video service where ad revenue is possible.
  • You want to create video tutorials that can reach a wide audience.
  • The type of content you share is easily shown through video. Thus, your main content is both show + tell.
  • You want a place where you can pre-answer questions for your audience.
  • Your business incorporates a lot of instructional content/tutorials.
  • You want to create video ads/campaigns.
  • You want to post collaborative video content.
  • Product demonstrations are your thing and make sense for what you’re trying to show.
  • You want to do product reviews—and the type you want to do are better as videos.
  • You want your video content to be “collectible” and easily accessible on one platform.
  • You enjoy entertaining and/or educating people on video because it’s easier for you to show your personality or get your point across.

Is Periscope right for you?

Judge by the following points:

  • You believe live streaming is the new way to market to your audience.
  • You want your audience to feel like they are in person with you.
  • You want a platform that you can jump on at anytime and have an audience come to you.
  • You like the idea of informally creating content that you can learn from and repackage.
  • Live product demonstrations and/or creating your work live is fun for you.
  • You want to be able to give your audience a break from traditional blogs.
  • Your primary audience loves live video.
  • You work better in the moment.
  • You want to have live Q+As or office hours with your audience.

Are online workshops right for you?

Check out my recent post on the benefits of online workshops and the types of workshops you can host for a good overview on whether or not workshops will be a good fit for you and your brand.

And back to blogging right quick.

If you’re seriously interested in blogging, I want to tell you a quick story. About someone who currently makes a full-time income (mainly through the strength of her blog) with less than 1,000 followers in each of the social platforms she is on. She did it after perfecting her skills and spending a year focused on creating free content on her blog, collaborating, and promoting her blog.

Britt is a designer. A talented one. She is also my best friend and the creative force behind the look of The Independent (a print publication we founded with another friend).

Brittany has never had problems getting design clients, but when she looked at her 2014 in review, she realized she wasn’t getting the right clients. The clients that would let her do the work she loved and charge the prices she needed to. So last year, in 2015, she decided to be serious about blogging.

She used to joke (in a real-life WordPress class that we taught together) that one day she would finally give in to my pushiness about her blogging. I knew in my heart it was an epic fit for her. I talked with her about strategy, promoting on Pinterest, using Instagram and Twitter, plus collaborating and putting herself out there with tons of epic free content.

So what happened? you ask.

I’ll tell you.

Why blogging matters. Like really matters if you're trying to establish a full-time business.

Pretty much, everything worked.

She started creating beautiful pins and getting more and more traffic from Pinterest. She created a free workbook as a goodie for signing up for her email list and started to see multiple signups per day. She saw her pageviews go up by 400%. And even with limited hours to spend each week on her business (she’s a mother and was working at another job for some of this time), she saw her income more than triple. In a year. In a year of focusing on free content through her blog.

I asked her to share with us her own words on how blogging has changed the game for her.

“Blogging has:

  • given me a voice that other entrepreneurs and people I respect will listen to
  • quadrupled my social media following which leads to more looks
  • encouraged my writing to create products outside of blog posts–which has led to money and more followers
  • doubled my email list signups using a lead magnet
  • attracted the type of clients that can actually pay for my services vs. a friend of the family who wants a hookup
  • motivated me to continue to work hard on my business (because I started getting feedback from people that I actually helped with my blog posts and the products that it inspired)”


And as my course (formerly known as Zero to Blog and Blog to Profit, but now rolled into one epic package) called Epic Blog Brew just opened up again for limited enrollments, I wanted to post Brittany’s story (to encourage you) and the checklist at the beginning of this post to help you determine if #NextLevelBlogging and #BloggingWithPurpose are initiatives you want to take on this year.

Please let me know your goals (and if/how I can help with them) in the comments below.

Regina out.

Photo: Rasmus Rasmussen

29 Comments on “Establish Your Online Headquarters (a.k.a. What Spies Can Teach Us About Business)”

  1. Ooh I love this! Partly because it made me think of my days emulating Harriet the spy (right down to the tomato mayo sandwiches) and partly because it’s a great reminder that we don’t need to be EVERYWHERE at once. Gotta find yo’ jam 😉 (or mayo…)

    • Haha, Harriet the spy. Niiiice.
      And you’re so right. It’s super important not to feel the need to be everywhere at one time. Stuff usually doesn’t get done well that way.

      Thank you for checking this post out, Cat.

  2. Just for a moment, can you talk about with giant BlogPress I have on your site right now? First I see a post about Drake lyrics and the next about spies, and you find a fun and creative way to connect those things with a business philosophy? I love it.

    And I love what you said about setting up shop, essentially, with a tangible thing like an email list. That’s definitely mine, because I feel like I’ve been neglecting mine and its been growing super fast! thanks for the awesome post.

    • Lisa, haha, you are so sweet. Thank you.

      Your site looks super helpful by the way. How long have you been growing that brand?

  3. What fun, thinking about spycraft might just be a fun way to get some work done. Love it, turning work to play. Also, I always love your checklist and reminders of what I need to do to accomplish my goals.

    Love you girl, thanks.

  4. Great post Regina!

    I always love reading about how others find success. I’m trying to carve out a path for me to build a successful blog where I can make money. It’s nice to know it can be done, but the road is certainly not easy.

    I have a question for you Regina. I was born and raised in the ghetto. Gun shots at night are common and no one is really believes than can rise higher than the station they’ve been given in life (in my neighborhood). Graduating high school was considered to be the greatest success, and nobody ever expects you to go on college.

    My network consists of people in similar situations – so there are no potential business leads there. With hardly any marketable skills, do you think I can still build a business with a sustainable income?

    • I’m not Regina of course but I just couldn’t scroll past your post and not respond. The short answer is yes, you can build a business with a sustainable income. If 1) You want to too and 2) You’re willing to do the work and 3) You simply refuse to give up. I know this because I’ve done it. I’ve watched my parents do it. And I was able to do it mainly because my parents did it. About these two people who not only gave me life but gave me an incredible life……they were both raised in the projects on food stamps. They both had circles of friends who had never ventured off of of imagined a life outside of the ghetto. They had no one to show them the way, they just had a vision that there must be something else to life than struggling and living in the bottom. Fast forward lots of years, lots of hard work, lots of lost friends and they have a real estate business, and a thriving facility maintenance business. They employee nearly 100 people, they own the homes of their dreams, they travel, they can afford the finer things, they have educated to the graduate level two children. They didn’t just build an empire, they built a legacy. From nothing. Most of their friends still have nothing and they have built an empire and a legacy because they worked their assess off. So, yes my dear sweet hustler. Success is there for the taking for those willing to work unimaginably hard, have faith in power greater than themselves, will not their current circumstances determine their future and who just will not give up. I’m so excited about your empire and the greatness you will wield with your pen. I’m cheering for you.

    • LONG RESPONSE ahead! 🙂

      Raymonda, just seeing your post. So cool of you to be looking for ways to improve your life, in spite of your surroundings. I LOVE the response you got from Amanda. SO cool of her folks to raise themselves up and create new lives for themselves. I’ve been in “learning” mode for WAY TOO LONG, but just haven’t DONE. 🙂 DON’T be like me!

      What I HAVE learned is that you can’t sell meat to vegans, or peanuts to someone allergic. You CAN sell peanuts to peanut lovers. You CAN sell blogging/marketing info to people who want to learn how to blog. You CAN sell cosmetics/health and nutrition/travel clubs via direct sales to people who WANT to learn how to use those items or do those things. Some, or NONE, of your future customers will be in your neighborhood, or among your friends. But your future customers ARE “out there”, here in Internet land. You can’t just say, “BUY MY STUFF”, like a used car salesman (tho, unfortunately, many of those people DO stay in business and we keep seeing their commercials.)

      No marketable skills? TRAIN yourself. Build your online knowledge base. Buy one of Regina’s courses (or the thousands of others), or just read her blog (or others’) OVER and OVER and OVER again. Find YouTube videos that teach online marketing. Google that topic.

      Become a Voracious Reader. Successful people are Readers! If you can’t afford to buy books, get a library card and check them out. Read the major books on Sales and Marketing, Self Improvement. Brand new books, and ones nearly a 100 years old. You should be able to find Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” book, somewhere online, poss for free. He’s from the 1930’s, has many insights still apt today. Most marketers read him not just once, but MANY times. Another good one from the mid 1920’s is “The Richest Man in Babylon”. Can’t remember the author. It should be free somewhere. It’s VERY good info, but written SO “contrived”, it makes you laugh (and cringe!). Ignore his writing style, and concentrate on the info. It’s more of a “how to save money” book, but could be helpful. One on my wish list is “The War of Art”, can’t remember the author, but almost every successful person I follow has read it. It’s fairly recent. Gary Vaynerchuk has at least two books out, and has many videos/podcasts. VERY current, Tolerates NO Excuses, encourages people to BECOME! Language is often unfiltered.

      Once you read one of those books, do a blog post or video on some of the insights you learned from that author. Then do another blog or video the next day, about the next chapter in that book, or what you learned from book # 2. If you’re creating a video, link back to your blog.

      Give up as much TV and Netflix as you can. 🙂 You might have to limit or give up some of your friends/acquaintances, or the “every Friday Night activity”, especially if they, or the activity, are negative to your goals/health. Get up early (ier), read/exercise/read the Bible/meditate. Stay up late working on your blog/figuring out an autoresponder and the emails you want to send to future subscribers. Write a week’s worth of Facebook Fan Page Posts, with links back to your blog, which then includes links to a commissionable item. Don’t just “spam” your link in your post (ad), Facebook will NOT BE HAPPY! (Lots of probably free, certainly paid, courses are available on “How to Be Successful on Facebook” Find one and learn from it!). Learn the cool new things available on Instagram, then YOU teach them on your blog or Videos. Learn how to be “Elegant”, not “Pitchy”.

      ALWAYS PROVIDE VALUE! like, “This cool facebook trick I learned teaches you how to…….and you can do it like this …..[insert video or post]”

      Become “an expert” in Something online, (or offline, if it will transfer).. How to upload videos. Even IF several million people know how to do that already, there are STILL millions more who don’t! How to upload from YOUR brand of phone. How to EDIT those videos, from a phone, or from within YouTube. What problems did YOU have uploading/editing the videos, and how did YOU solve them? Become the go-to gal for how to set up WordPress dot org, Even IF there are already a million free how to’s. You can be one million and one! YOU will have YOUR own voice/opinion/personality that YOU bring to any blog/video you create, and people will find you! You will create an audience of people who come to “Know, Like, and Trust You”—which is a common phrase, but so true.

      What is your current favorite hobby, or what was your favorite class in school? Take those interests and see if you can find a way to market them. EVEN IF!

      I saw a video on Facebook or TV the other day, (maybe 60 Minutes?) of a “supposedly”, “low-income” gentleman, who has worked at a car-park place in some city, for 40 years, making maybe $13.00 an hour. Something very low pay. But he found free (and/or paid?) resources on how to better leverage his money with investments, now he has a net worth in the Millions, yet STILL keeps his low-paying job. He likes his customers there, and it still provides cash flow. 🙂

      Maybe your path won’t be online, but will be offline, like Amanda’s parents. You could learn Real Estate, create a dog walking business, become an Uber driver, etc etc. Maybe you’ll discover an interest that only a college education can fulfill, and you’ll be the person who finds a cure to cancer, or writes the best Novel ever, or you become a ballerina/musician/scientist/educator! The possibilities are Endless!

      Celebrate EACH new skill you learn! Give yourself a “High Five” when you’ve finished the first chapter of a book. REALLY celebrate once you finish it. Create an “Abundance Mentality” inside your head, and be looking for the Abundance available to you in everyday life. A found coin, a fresh picked flower, a cool connection to another blogger online, your time spent serving others at church/soup kitchen/dropping something off at the Goodwill store. Strive MIGHTILY to IGNORE the “naysayers”, the “you can’t”, the “you’re not good enough”, the “you’re from the ‘wrong’ neighborhood”, voices you’ll hear from others, and, from inside your own head. You might not be a “brain surgeon”, “real estate pro”, or “million dollar internet marketer” ……YET! But NEVER say, “You can’t”.

      Blessings, Hope, and Abundance to you. Learn EVERYTHING you possibly can, about Online Marketing, (or brain surgery/dance/novelists of the 18th century, whatever.). Always Be Learning. Whatever you Learn, you can convey to others. At some point, they will start paying you for your knowledge.


  5. I spy with my little eye some fabulous thought provoking and action taking information yet again.

    I become so inspired by your post i have more i want to share here but I’d end up being quite a while.

    I’m thinking it’s probably time for an accountable coach to keep me on track producing the content i want to produce. That needs to be my goal, it doesn’t seem to be working trying to do it on my own.

    I am all about what you share here and reading it the way you describe keeps it in perspective… But I don’t do any of it consistent enough except my mailing list, that was 2015 focus. I love your point regarding mail list that got a huge star.

    But even that needs help with better value. The unsubscribed don’t bother me. I know I can’t be all things to all people nor would I want to. I have enough value flowing that I generally average 10-15 new subscribers a week and 1-3 unsubscribe per mailing.

    Have been rethinking Instagram and this is the first I’ve heard of Periscope. But none of it does me any good if I’m not consistent, I see that.

    I will take the AH HA’s and continue to work differently to move forward.

    Like usual Regina, you give much effective food for thought and are a huge motivator… So are you taking on new one on one clients???

  6. Hey, Regina. This is awesome. It’s really cool how you compared blogging business and being a spy. Makes me want to pretend like I’m a spy while I’m blogging. Ha! Thanks so much for the free worksheet. It’s really helpful and motivating for me because I’ve just recently come back to blogging from a three month hiatus. So I’m trying to start out again and I want to start out big and actually make some money from blogging business. Thanks!

  7. You always share such amazing content, Regina! I love the idea of having a headquarters, and right now, I definitely feel my website is my headquarters. My blogging and newsletter are neck and neck at the moment, so I’m putting time into both. I appreciate all the questions to help us figure out which platforms are right–every blogger DOES NOT need to be on every social media site. And not everyone HAS to blog or blog 5 times a week. Finding what works best for us should be our focus instead of doing what works best for everyone else.

  8. Every time I read your content I am deeply inspired and motivated to just keep trying. I gave up on my blog last year, but I’m back and I am going to #takebloggingbystorm one step at a time of course! Thank you so much for your killer content, not only is it helpful, it is the real information that I am looking on. I think my headquarters is blogging but I’m love intstagram, so I guess we’ll see. Thank you as always your stuff rocks!

  9. Dear Regina, are you serious? Are you the spy you are talking about – spying my thoughts? In a totally different context I started working on a post for people who wonder whether they should start a travel blog – or probably use a different medium. I will SO link back to this post! You basically did half of my work!
    Thank you for the great value you deliver always!

  10. It’s interesting to see all these comments and different lists (reasons). In a way, you have shown me that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, rather it’s more of a one-or-two-size-tailored-to-you solution.

    Try writing that three times real fast with the hyphen included. :p

    Anyways, I do have a plan for Youtube because I am deaf and podcasts are literally a waste of gigabytes for me and other deaf/hoh users.

    When you broke it down into a headquarters with outposts and safehouses, I actually understood what you meant.

    It’s just gonna take time to set each of them up. That’s one lesson I learned from renovating houses. Every single step always takes time. Thanks for organizing my blogging thoughts. Now I can separate my tasks by where they go, to the headquarters, to the outposts, to the safehouses.

    What’s your spy name?

    (Don’t worry, you can imagine killing me after you tell me. I’m ok with that.)

  11. Hey Regina, Another great post. I love your ‘Is periscope Right for Me?’ list. As a life + business coach I keep being told that I need to be on periscope but I’m not great live especially when there is a large audience listening, interacting, and asking questions. Thank you for helping me confirm that I don’t need to be everywhere. 🙂

  12. Oh my gosh I loved this! And that headline is perfection. Thank you so much for sharing this. Ummm. and thanks for introducing me to FitMenCook! Eeek (@Lot801)

  13. What a really great post. It got me really thinking about upping my blog game and newsletter. I know I could really benefit from putting in more time and effort with both of these and this post was a great reminder of that. So thank you so much.

  14. Thanks for sharing this Regina. I was just thinking how Instagram was probably not the best platform for me to showcase my business as it is more “oral interaction” and the engagement shows. I need to start using Periscope more often.

  15. Wow, Regina. Thank you. I have been wondering for some time now if this is something that I truly want and you have given me a clear answer. (Yes to blogging!)

  16. Absolutely LOVE this! It’s rare to find blogs with posts that have this much depth. Thanks for all the hard work you put into your posts!

  17. Again! Yet another piece of explicit content.

    Girl! You’re superb-cool with your fresh idea.


    ~ Rahul

  18. Regina, you seriously have the clearest, most practical blogging business advice I’ve ever read. I got seriously burned out from reading so many different advice blogs and ebooks last summer, and after a several month hiatus your site is the one I specifically remembered to come back to.

    Now that I’m done buttering you up 😉 I have a tendency to jump into doing IT ALL for marketing. All of what you’ve written above sounds spot on, so how do you recommend somebody focus in the early stages? How do you figure out what the most important thing is to start with?

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