Kat Norton is a Microsoft Excel influencer that has over 1 000 000 followers on TikTok and Instagram, where she goes by the username, Miss Excel. She's leveraged that audience by building an online Microsoft Excel training business in June 2020 that is currently earning up to 6 figures in income every day.
Kat does all this as a solo entrepreneur and she uses just her phone and in this interview held by the team at The Verge, Kat shares her story from how she was able to come up as a TikTok influencer, how she got her ideas to monetize her TikTok audience, how she launched the excel training business and the actual figures in terms of revenue which she earns out of it.
I’m going to start this interview by being direct for a little bit because the size of the content 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 6 months to 6 figures. Since then we have been doing 6 — figure months. I actually just had my first 6 — 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% of what I do is passive income course sales now.
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.
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 the videos 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.
That’s so impressive, but it’s also very different from other content creator businesses that we’ve encountered. Now, let’s start at the beginning: how did you become Miss Excel?
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 program for fun right when I started at the company 4 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 between March and June 2020?
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, working on myself: meditation, mindfulness, manifestation. 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.
It was April 2020 at that point when 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. I didn’t create Miss Excel until June, two months later. This wasn’t even a thought in my mind. 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 of me being on TikTok, a 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 girl, but I learn quickly. The spreadsheet products are similar, so I responded, "Sure. I’m in."
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, the social media part.
Within 3 weeks I went viral on a whole other level. I looked at my phone to see that one of my videos hit 3 600 000 million views. I had 100 000 followers on TikTok and 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. I had lots of people in my ear convincing me that my 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 introduced, so within a few weeks on Instagram, I grew to 50 000 followers from a video that went 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, "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.
How did you get to create the course?
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.
At what point did you quit your day job and how did you go about it?
By January 2021, 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. I had a 401k, benefits, health insurance and I was 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.
Tell us about the other Microsoft courses you came up with and what went on afterward.
In April 2021, I started rolling out a second course. I did my first 6-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.
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. 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.
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 the Miss Excel course through the Thinkific platform. 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 to my bank account. All of that is lined up through the platform.
Does Thinkific take a cut of those transactions?
They do. My Stripe payment processor takes a cut as well.
What tool do you use to edit your videos?
This is actually funny. When I first started the business, 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.
How do you catch up with new TikTok and Instagram reels 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 for instance, matching "Drop It Like It’s Hot" to a dropdown menu. 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.
For Instagram, I’ll still use the TikTok music button, because a lot of it is very aligned across the two platforms.
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.
YouTube is the gold standard for monetization and for audience relationships. And for you, you don’t have a YouTube channel. Are you staying out of YouTube entirely? Or, do you have a YouTube plan?
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 is a new little YouTube Shorts thing, so I might look into it. But right now, what I’ve got going has been working so well.
Right now I’m head 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.
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 and seeing where we land in Q1 2022.
Kat’s story is fascinating especially for the fact that she is different from other TikTok content creators. For most content creators, their product is their social following, which they monetize through influencer marketing and PR campaigns. But for Kat, she has her product outside of social media and its marketing can be scaled all over the internet.
The difference is that she is not restricted to only her social profiles because she can run ads to promote her service even on places like Google, unlike other creators who are limited to using only their social profiles to make money.