I honestly can’t believe that I’m sitting here writing this post. I think most people would say that they can’t believe it’s already been a year, which was my initial thought. But thinking back to all that’s happened, I’m amazed at everything that’s gone down in this little business through the past year.
When I launched last September, I was afraid to admit that I hoped it would turn into a real business. I offered services but never expected to get hired. I wanted to meet some awesome online friends but didn’t think it would happen. Aaaand here I am.
But the point of this post isn’t for me to sit and tell you about all the feels I’m having right about now. Instead, I want to tell you about things you can learn from my journey. Specifically, I’ll focus on my successes, failures, key investments, and things I would never have expected or planned for. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Note: This section contains a few affiliate link for programs and courses that have truly moved my business forward
There are a lot of things I’ve invested in over the past year. I love my monthly subscriptions to LeadPages, ConvertKit, and 17hats and a couple of my favorite courses have been Kickstart Your List and Pinfinite Growth. But today, I can look back and see that my best investments were the big ones.
Hiring my virtual assistant was a big and scary decision. I hired her 2 months before I quit my full-time job and at the time of hiring her, I didn’t know it was going to happen yet. It felt a bit counter-intuitive to spend money on an assistant when I needed to be saving to take the leap, but I also knew that if I wanted more time to dedicate to income-generating activities, that I needed help.
I initially hired her for 10 hours per month and had her help with editing, scheduling, and publishing my blog posts and newsletters. That saved me a couple of hours each week, which I could then spend working with clients or launching my first course.
If you’re finding yourself strapped for time and spending more time on admin tasks than working with clients, it might be time to get yourself a little help too.
Next are the two coaches I’ve worked with. Now, I didn’t go crazy here. I’ve seen a lot of $5k+ coaching packages flying around, but I saw great results spending less than $1000 the first time and less than $500 the second.
I had a specific set of goals in mind when I went looking for a coach. I wanted someone to help me focus what I was doing on finding clients for specific services. Let me tell you, hiring Kyla to work with me on my business strategy was more than worth it and working with Nevica to help me make a big shift (coming soon) has been incredible.
They’ve both had so many amazing ideas I’d never thought of, and I saw results in the time we were working together, rather than having to put in the work and wait for weeks or even months for the payoff.
Dishing out the money was a little scary, but it was seriously worth it.
If you think you’re ready for a coach, but are worried about making a big investment, key in on where you really want help. Rather than looking for general business or life coaching, find one or two areas of your business you can focus on to get results. That will help you find a specialized coach, maybe even at a smaller price-point.
My website was, by far, my biggest investment in my business and also gave the biggest payoff.
I had my website designed before my business even launched. Yep, I went all-in on a website that was over $2k before I’d even made a penny.
Now, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but for me it was huge. I knew I was entering into a market that needed the services I was offering so I knew that if I buckled down and did the work that I’d see a payoff.
Having a legitimate looking website helped me get off to a strong start. Rather than looking like I’d just started, I looked like I’d been around for quite a while. There were a lot of times where I’d hear someone say something like “Woah, I thought you’d been in business for way longer than that!”
I have to imagine that my professional appearance is what got me those first clients, encouraged Kory to invite me to be a part of the mastermind I’m thankful for every day, and led me to land some amazing collaborations over those first few months.
A website can be a big investment, but just remember that there are options. I wanted my website to be one of a kind that totally reflected my style and target audience. I’d looked around at pre-made themes and low-priced designers, but nothing really stuck out to me.
However, if fully custom isn’t necessary for you, you can still get something amazing at a lower price. For example, the shop I recently launched with a friend, Coded Creative, is focused on providing professional-looking websites for those on a budget. We also have customization packages for those who want to start out with a template and make a few tweaks to make it their own.
A nice website is important, but you can make it work for the amount you’re comfortable spending.
Things I didn’t expect
Even with the crazy amounts of advice online about starting a business, there were still several things that surprised me. Maybe I always thought “oh, that won’t happen to me” or I thought others were bored and making up stories. But whatever it was, these things caught me off-guard – some good, some bad.
The ebb and flow
As I was preparing to leave my job, I was booked for several months in advance and ended up having to turn potential clients away. Because of that, I got a little too confident in my ability to keep that going long-term.
After I quit my job, it seemed like the inquiries just stopped for an entire month. Actually, the month of May had barely any clients. Luckily, in the beginning, I got the final payment from one project and near the end, I got the downpayment for two more, but that month was pretty quiet overall.
I’ve continued seeing this pattern throughout the past few months. There will be nothing for a few weeks and then suddenly there will be more inquiries than I can wrap my head around. To be honest, I haven’t fully figured out how to handle it yet, other than keeping a little extra money in my bank account.
To give you an idea, here’s a graph of my income from January, when I started getting consistent clients, through the end of August. (Note: there are no numbers because I usually feel like people are being braggy and gross when they throw numbers around…I don’t want to be braggy and gross)
You can see from that chart that it’s been kind of a wild ride. No matter how many times it happens, I still expect it to even out.
Something I do in those quieter times is focus more on my own business. Doing things like launching courses, reworking my services, or focusing on extra content have been great in the past.
Importance of online friends
Something I heard about in the beginning stages of my business was online relationships and how they were game-changers in business.
To be honest, I always kind of thought those people were bragging about having a friend or two and trying to look super cool. It wasn’t until Kory invited me into a mastermind that I finally got it.
The ladies in my mastermind are why I am where I am today. Kory is responsible for introducing me to the designers that I teamed up with to be booked out far enough to leave my job.
On top of the extra referrals, these ladies have been there to share my content, spread the word about my products, and give me ideas and advice when the confidence and brain waves aren’t quite flowing the right way.
If you haven’t gotten out there and made friends yet, it’s time. It’s seriously as easy as reaching out to someone you’ve chatted with on Twitter or asking people with similar goals if they want to chat. It’s safe to say that most people won’t turn down extra support and a friend, but you might need to be the one to reach out and make that initial connection.
Reaction of my family
Something I was unsure of was the reaction of my family. I was nervous, but just kind of hoped that everyone would get it and be supportive.
The reaction I got was half-and-half. Some of them, my mom, aunt, and husband specifically, were completely supportive and couldn’t be more excited. They wanted updates every chance they got and were always wondering what they could do to help. If they thought there was a chance of me failing, they never let on because all I ever saw was love and support.
The other half…was a little different. However, I do take responsibility for that. In my last post, I wrote about how one of my biggest mistakes was keeping my business a secret for so long. By the time I actually told people, I was in the process of quitting my job.
To them, it looked like I was making an irresponsible decision and taking a chance that I shouldn’t necessarily be taking. To make matters worse, I was awful at explaining what I did. If they asked, I’d give some short, useless answer like “oh, I make websites.” …okaaayyy?? Honestly, I still think about half of them assume I sit in la la land playing pretend all day with occasional trips to the coffee shop…oh well.
If you take one thing away from today’s post, let it be the encouragement to let your family in on what you’re doing. Give them a good idea about what you do. Show them your website. Explain results you’ve gotten for your clients. And let them be a part of the process.
I want to start off by saying, that I haven’t done anything that I really feel like was a true failure. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and have learned a lot, but in thinking back, these three things could have potentially gone a bit better.
Higher-tier course launch
The big dogs make launching courses look super easy, right? Like, all you have to do is write a couple blog posts, whip up a quick email sequence, and jump on a webinar to be on your way to a $50k launch.
Well when that idea started being more popular, I was all like “Sign me up!”.
Along with my first course launch, I had two higher tiers, both with a live training aspect. I believe one was priced around $500 and the other was closer to $1k.
Yeah, wanna know how that went? Absolute crickets.
I created those two tiers because that’s what I saw others doing. They made it look easy so I thought it would be. The truth is that my audience wasn’t ready for something like that and neither was I.
Self-doubt when business slows down
Remember that ebb and flow we talked about earlier? Even though I know it’s going to happen, it still freaks me the heck out.
Each time it happens I wonder if I’ll be able to pull out of it. I start picturing myself walking back into a corporate office, and I have trouble focusing on the work I do have due to being so afraid of what could happen.
But do you want to know who that helps? Absolutely no one.
I’m doing my best to get better at managing my mindset. I’ve started doing a mindset practice each morning, and my best friend and husband are great at holding me accountable when I’m being too hard on myself.
If you struggle with something similar, I challenge you to find at least one person you can talk to when it’s happening. Someone that will support you, encourage you, and pull you out of the funk you’re in.
Finding that 50% of my audience didn’t know I did WordPress development
I could probably leave this portion blank because enough said, right?
When I sent out my audience survey last month, 50% of respondents said they didn’t know I offered WordPress development services! If that’s not a wake-up call I don’t know what is.
For someone who has had success offering website strategy services, it was hard for me to even wrap my head around. But just like some designers struggle with designing for themselves, I seem to struggle with my own strategy. It’s almost like I assumed people would just click around and figure out what I did, even though that’s the #1 no-no I preach about to my clients. (I’m in the middle of a coaching package with a business strategist to get that all fixed up. ;))
Lesson? Make sure your site is clear. Hire someone or have a friend go through your website to ensure it’s giving off the message you think it is.
Successes are way more fun to talk about than failures, right? Just so I don’t sit here and babble at you at all the fun things I’ve done (including having a LIVING office plant that I haven’t managed to kill yet), I’ll stick with the top 4.
Launching anything is something that terrifies me. Whether it’s a course, community, or even a blog post, launching leaves room for rejection. You can make 0 course sales. You can have a community with only your best friend in it. You can have a post that doesn’t get shared. Those things aren’t fun.
Since that sort of stuff usually freaks me out (like a lot), I’m super proud that I’ve launched several courses, an online community, and even a second business.
And you know what? As scared as I was, none of those things were a total flop!
It’s worth putting yourself out there, doing the work, and creating something that others can benefit from.
Putting my foot down when clients weren’t a good fit
Firing clients is something that you never want to do. #1 it’s bad for relationships, but #2 it means that you put up with a lot of crap and were probably stressed out beyond belief for at least a couple of weeks.
There have been a couple of times where I’ve just dealt with it. My business was growing, I didn’t want to give off any bad vibes, so I dealt with anything unfair or against my contract that was thrown at me.
But recently I’ve started standing up for myself. I do think a couple of less-than-ideal clients are beneficial. I’ve made big updates to my contract and other onboarding materials thanks to lessons I’ve learned. But after a couple, it’s time to really narrow in on the types of people you work with and remember that your business is supposed to be fun!
Leaving my 9-5!
This is, by far, my greatest success. When I started one year ago, I didn’t even let myself think of the idea of leaving my job. I didn’t want to leave room for disappointment. But, after just 6 months, I was walking out the door of my full-time job for the last time.
Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited and terrified as I was during that time. I was pumped to be getting out of a job that I wasn’t happy in, but I was full of doubt and knew I’d miss my crazy co-workers. But in the end, I couldn’t be happier with that decision.