A few weeks ago I talked about the 12 lessons I learned over the past 6 months, which were my first 6 months in business. Well, today is my first Monday being full-time and I can’t believe it. I’m in awe of how far this little blog, all of you, and a ton of determination have brought me.
Today I want to tell you a little more about my journey from side hustler to solopreneur. From what my plans were when I first started this blog to now, when I’m sitting on my couch typing this post on a weekday morning. At the end I’ll also go over the biggest factors that got me to where I am in a relatively short amount of time.
I didn’t think this would get me anywhere…
When I started, if you’d have asked whether I thought I’d make a full-time living through this online space I’d have laughed at you. I could never do something as cool as that!
I looked around at all the amazing designers, developers, infopreneurs, and lifestyle bloggers thinking I’d never be as awesome as THOSE people. To me this was going to be a fun little hobby. If I made some money you wouldn’t hear me complaining, but I wasn’t convinced that I’d make a penny.
Fast-forward those first few months…
My first few months running this blog were exactly what I expected. I blogged consistently, I was active sharing posts from myself and others on Twitter, and I learned how to conquer Pinterest. I even had a free course that was helping me grow my email list, so I was sending weekly emails to my little group of subscribers.
During that time I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere, but I didn’t give up.
In December, 3 months after launching, I connected with three amazing ladies (Fran, Kory, and Melanie) who were really the start of all the changes that were to come. The little group we formed shared each other’s content, offered support, and gave honest feedback. A couple of us even launched courses together, which led me to start collaborating with others.
That’s when my audience really grew. Webinars and guest posts expanded my reach, putting a lot more eyes on my content and service offerings.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that’s when clients started coming in. I got my first client in December and worked with her on a few projects through January. At the end of January the pace really picked up.
And then my business picked up…
I’m not going to lie to you, things weren’t pretty when more clients started rolling in. I wasn’t anywhere near ready for it, I didn’t have systems in place, and with a full time job I really didn’t have time for it either.
Simple projects that should have only taken a day ended up getting scheduled over a week’s time while I learned to manage the projects, my job, the rest of my blog…and oh yeah, my life.
Eventually I got the hang of it. From December to January my income doubled. From January to February my income 5x-ed.
As if that wasn’t enough, I also launched a course during this time. Because of all the craziness, my blog went a couple weeks without a post, social media went a few days without updates, but it all survived.
I got the hang of things, hired an amazing VA, and made my client process flow much more smoothly by using 17hats (Update I now use and love Dubsado! You can use the code kristarae for 20% off your first month. ).
However, I knew that if I wanted the pace to keep up that it was time to make my move. I’d reached the point where I could keep my business how it was and have absolutely no free time for God, my family, or myself, or I could make a crazy decision. Do I trust myself or go with what society says I should do?
How I decided it was time to go all-in…
Despite how simple you may think this decision should be, it was not easy for me. I’ve never doubted myself more or had a more intense mental battle in my entire life.
Yes, work stressed me out. In November I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and went to a counselor for several months to learn how to deal with it in a healthier way. On top of that, the team of all-men I worked with made my life a little more uncomfortable than it had to be, I was doing work I wasn’t passionate about, and I was at the mercy of corporate big-wigs who could decide that my job was no longer needed at any point in time.
However, I was really close with a lot of the people I worked with. I already miss them like crazy and it’s only been one day. There’s also the factor of a stable (and really good) income. By age 25 I’d already reached what my “dream salary” was in my college years. Leaving that behind was terrifying.
And then there were the people counting on me. My husband, who shouldn’t have to do it all on his own. My parents who’ve always been convinced that I can do anything. My future children who deserve an amazing life. And myself…who likes new clothes and ice cream. 🙂
In the end, with a TON of encouragement from family and friends, I decided it was time to do something.
I came up with what I thought was the perfect plan. If I dropped down to part-time hours at work I’d still have a consistent income, I’d have more time for my business, and I wouldn’t have to worry about letting my co-workers down. I was ready.
A week after I talked to my boss, the request was denied.
Let me tell you, I was crushed. The days following that news were hard for me. I felt like I couldn’t make the full leap and I’d be stuck in my corporate job forever.
Luckily, my husband hates (like really hates) seeing me sad. With his encouragement I sat down and took a hard look at our expenses for the past 3 months. I couldn’t believe how much extra money we were spending on travel, eating out, and random things we didn’t need.
I made a new budget based off of what I saw. This isn’t a budget that leaves us eating ramen every day or anything like that. We just had to come back down to earth and stop spending $1000/month on travel, $800/month on eating out, and ridiculous stuff like that.
I found that in order to quit my job and be safe with our finances that I needed to make $1200 in profit every month from my business, in addition to my husband’s salary.
If you could have seen my face when I figured out that number…I was already making that much!
That is when I knew it was time.
After the decision was made…
If you’ve never made a decision like this before you might expect it to be easy. That you’d make your announcement and feel nothing but excitement and relief.
But for me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Like I said before, I’ve never doubted a decision so much in my entire life. It was kind of a cycle. I’d be super excited one day, doubt myself the next day, and be completely frozen in fear the day after that. Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun. If it weren’t for my mom, husband, and best friend I don’t think it would have happened.
At this point, I hadn’t told my boss yet. I was going to give myself up until 2 weeks before I wanted to be done to tell him, because that’s how it works, right? Two weeks notice?
Well, that’s not how it worked for me. A couple days after I was told “no” about going half-time, my boss asked me if I’d made any decisions. I was totally unprepared.
But that day my desk calendar said “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes”. …How in the world could I ignore that?!
That day it was announced to my team that I would be leaving. Over the next few days I was presented with a few different offers and solutions to get me to stay. As much as I still wanted that safety net, I knew I had to give myself a chance to succeed. If I was going to make this work, now was my time.
Since then, I’ve continued to go through those same cycles. Complete confidence and excitement followed by sleepless nights where I lay awake, 100% sure that I’ll fail.
However, as I sit here writing this post, I know that it will work out. This is what I’m supposed to do.
How I feel today…
I’m writing this post the Friday before you’ll see it, which is my very first day full-time.
I’ll be honest with you, right now I’m not feeling what I expected to. I thought I’d be filled with more excitement and joy than I could handle and that I’d have no regrets looking back.
But the reality is, I miss those big goobers that I worked with, even though I’ve already heard from 3 of them this morning and it’s not even 9am. I think it will take a little time before I can fully enjoy my days without seeing them. It almost feels like a best friend moving away…even though I’m only about 30 minutes away from most of them. Basically I’m being a big baby, but I’m just being honest 🙂
How I made it happen in just 7 months
The way I look at it, there are three major factors that got me to the point where I could leave a good-paying full-time job so quickly. Those factors are my actions, a strong support system, and an awesome website. Let’s break each of those things down a bit.
1. My actions
The biggest factor that made this work was truly sheer determination and discipline.
You aren’t going to see results if you don’t work for them. If you know you need to be writing a blog post, but instead you binge watch a new show on Netflix, it simply isn’t going to work out for you.
Here are just a few things I’ve given up during these insane past few months:
- All TV – At most I’d watch 20-minutes during dinner at night
- Hobbies – Tease all you want, but I could spend all day crocheting, sewing, and reading. My craft supplies have gone untouched since I finished up making Christmas gifts in December.
- Time with my family – This one has been the hardest of all. First, is time with my husband. The biggest chunk of time we spend together each day is an hour at the gym. And even then we’re off doing our own thing. Not to mention, this poor guy has been doing almost all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping since this journey started. (Let’s give him a round of applause, shall we?) And second is the rest of my family. I generally make the 3-hour trip to visit them every 2-3 weeks. However, in the past 3 months I have only seen them 1 time.
Now, I’m not saying that this is what you should do. Maybe there are other ways you can make time for your business other than throwing away all free-time and practically abandoning your family. But this is what I had to do to make it work.
Rather than the normal 10-hours per week someone might be able to spend on a side hustle I was able to spend more like 25-30 hours per week on mine. It made a huge difference.
2. My support system
As important as my determination was throughout this process, it would have gotten me nowhere without the friends and family I had by my side the entire way.
My husband and mom were there to encourage me every time I was feeling down. Rather than getting upset when I couldn’t spend time with them, they lifted me up and encouraged me to keep going. They’ll never know how much their actions mean to me.
The three friends I’ve already mentioned, as well as several others, can take a whole lot of credit for my business’s growth. Through joint webinars, client referrals, sharing my content, and offering their support they’ve helped my business to grow to what it is today. Pretty sure I’d be back making a couple hundred dollars a month if it weren’t for all of the amazing ladies I’ve gotten a chance to work with over the past few months.
3. My website
And last comes my website. This one might seem silly, but it totally has had a huge part to play. Having an awesome website from the very beginning helped me build that trust factor right away.
Rather than being distracted by an ugly low-priced theme, my visitors instantly see that I take my blog and business seriously. For those first few months it also made me look like I’d been around much longer than I actually had, making people more likely to trust me and my content.
Honestly, I haven’t had much time to stop and think about my next steps. For now I’m going to give my mind some space to think and go with the flow. Maybe there will be some big plans in a week or two, but for now I’m just going sit back and enjoy the ride.
Thank you to every single person who has read this little blog, left a comment, sent me an email, followed me on social media, or trusted me to work on your website. I couldn’t do it without every single one of you!
(You can read a 2-month update here!)