If you listen to the nay-sayers, you might believe that 90% of new businesses fail in the first year. Well, in the online business world, I think failing is a matter of opinion.
When you have little to no overheads you can take your time to get it right, especially if you’re looking to create your dream job, and not just an income.
The trouble is, you would be justified in thinking that anything less than 6-figures in your first year is a big fat failure. Every day we see articles, workshops and Facebook ads declaring how easy it is to make £10k a month.
But it feels like hardly anyone is sharing the REAL numbers. Maybe we’re all suffering from ‘income shame’ in the wake of all those lofty claims. I personally LOVE seeing the behind the scenes, I’m a naturally nosy person by nature, so I thought you’d love to see behind the scenes of my business too.
Let’s start with some background
I first started out in the online business space ‘officially’ in 2014. I’ve been making money online for much longer than that (I worked out the other day that it’s been over a decade!)
I went through several business ideas, either because I made mistakes and found I just couldn’t make that specific idea profitable, or that the work in practice just bored me to tears.
I started out as a life coach, then because a social media strategist, then a virtual assistant, then a launch manager and facebook ads strategist (which I still do on the side) and finally I found my place as a business coach that specialises in helping established business owners scale with systems and sales funnels.
This combined all my favourite things about marketing, brand storytelling and stopping entrepreneurs from working themselves to death!
So this certainly isn’t my first rodeo, but I’m considering it a new business as I had NO reputation as a business coach whatsoever, no email list, and fewer than 500 followers on social media.
I wasn’t intending to write this post at all, but I experienced some really interesting highs and lows this year, and I hope you find it both inspiring and reassuring!
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
Whenever you see anyone’s big results being plastered all over Facebook, think about what the background might be behind that. Did they really go from 0 to $10k in 30 days, or was this actually their 4th business and they had years of trial and error experience behind them. (Spoiler alert – the answer is probably yes!)
The Biggest Challenges
I never felt like I was enough.
I was recently at the Hay House Writer’s Workshop, and the speaker asked the audience how many of us had an active inner critic and struggled with feeling ‘enough’. About 80% of the room put their hands up.
I was taught at home as a child, which meant by the time I reached school I was well ahead of the curriculum. My Mum also did a great job of teaching me that I could achieve anything I set my mind to.
By the time I had entered the workplace however, I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and was really struggling with my health and energy levels. I was a job that was sucking my soul, and took a lot of emotional energy to be there as my boss was a misogynist and a complete bully. It took me a long time to admit I was sick, and nearly a year to recover.
Nobody believed I was really ill and the constant barrage of comments about me ‘needing to put more effort in’ or ‘to just get on with it’ despite me literally doing the best I could, made me feel like I was just inherently not good enough.
I let my internal story be rewritten to say that because I’m sometimes sick, I can never be good enough.
This definitely spills over into my business, especially when it comes to receiving money and making sales. My attitude to selling by default is “you don’t have to… it’s really not that great”, and I have to actively work to unravel it and move past it.
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
You could have all the courses and all the strategy in the world, but if your mindset isn’t there you’re going to really struggle. Watch your thoughts and look for those limiting beliefs so you can work on re-writing them. I have a free tool to help.
I thought I needed money to make money.
There were so many things I wanted to do this year but I kept coming up against the catch 22 ‘you need money to make money’. That’s definitely not true of all situations, I mean, I didn’t even start using Facebook Ads until August, way after my two 10k months.
I believed that if I’d had the budget for Facebook ads I could have done a lot more, a lot earlier and with less hustle involved. This really annoyed me and hindered me because it stopped me from really going after the free ways of marketing my business, as I was so caught up it what I could be doing if I had a £1000/month ads budget.
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
There will be so many things that you could do if you have more money/a team/a better website/that course/program, but you’ll drive yourself crazy if you focus on what you don’t have. Maximize the resources you do have, including the courses and assets you’ve already invested in.
I tried to do too much all at once and burned out.
There were so many things that I wanted to do for my business when I started this year, and I made the mistake of trying to do them all at once.
- I started emailing my mailing list (of 7 people…) every week.
- I started a Facebook Group
- I started running monthly webinars
- I launched something, three months in a row…
- I started pitching for podcast interviews, several each week…
- I started my own podcast.
- I was blogging weekly. Really in depth posts with custom content upgrades and pinnable cover images.
- I was posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest daily
- I started doing daily Facebook Lives in my group and on my Facebook Page
- I started writing a book.
Are you tired yet?
Because I was. This was as well as serving my 1:1 clients, building and running a group coaching program, and a self-study course.
I tried to do way too much, nothing was being done to the standard that I wanted and eventually, I burned, out altogether. I just stopped showing up. I was constantly exhausted and came down with cold after cold, and had migraines multiple times a week.
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
You cannot do it all. I repeat. You CANNOT do it all. Time is a finite resource, and we all have 24hrs a day, even Beyonce. But make no mistake, the reason she gets so much done is that she has a huge team supporting her. If you don’t have a team and yet you’re still trying to do everything, and jump on every shiny marketing strategy that comes your way you’ll be burned out and miserable. That old saying that 80% of the results come from 20% of the work is 100% true.
I barely worked at all between July and October.
I’m sure I’ve learned my lesson from this year about over-reaching myself, but that hasn’t stopped my coming up with a lot of ideas of things I want to create in 2018. I have projects in mind, such as; a magazine, a youtube channel, another business retreat, a book, two new courses and a mastermind.
I keep putting things down to try and simplify, then picking them up again because I just can’t help myself.
This time though, I’m going to focus on one thing at a time. I know for myself that trying to get comfortable and master new marketing techniques and projects all at once is just too much for me, and I can’t really show up for my clients if I do this.
My #1 priority is my clients and making sure they get value out of the work we do together. Some months, I was making good money for a new business, especially as I was still without an email list and now wasn’t building my facebook group or doing regular facebook lives, but I felt like I was seriously letting my clients down.
I know it’s perfectly possible for me to simultaneously hold space for my 1:1 clients, a free facebook community and still deliver great live workshops and newsletters to my email list, but STARTING them all at once, was my big mistake.
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
Be conscious of how much work you can legitimately take on.
A client of mine is a photographer and recently told me that her goal was to book 10 shoots a month. I then asked her how long the editing and retouching took, which is usually another 8hrs. So now we’re up to 20 days of the month.
We figure there’s at least a day each week that she’ll need for admin, basic marketing and keeping on top of invoicing etc. We’re now up to 24 days each month.
We haven’t even factored in weekends, the days traveling to and from shoot locations and time to work on a self-study course that she wants to build.
Get really clear about how much time you actually have, and don’t take on more than you can handle.
The Biggest Wins
I created an amazing support network
I am seriously lucky to have the support network that I do. When I first started out as a life coach, I didn’t have one. My friends thought life coaching was a total scam and weren’t that subtle about telling me so.
I was in my early twenties and I think the misconception that life coaches give life advice set me up for a lot of hidden giggles and incredulous looks.
I ended up losing quite a few friendships, not over my new business directly, but I’m sure it was a contributing factor as I just wasn’t as available anymore.
My boyfriend had no idea what I was doing, or how marketing worked and would tell me to ‘get a client’ by mid-day, as if I was selling cars or something. He was worried about how much I was spending on coaching and courses, and how little I was earning in comparison.
This time around my boyfriend completely got it and was 100% on board, as I’d really sold the vision for how our life could be, and how my business could help us get there. He was also supporting us financially with his salary at the time (he now has his own business too) and we were house sitting or living with family back-to-back, so had no rent or mortgage to pay.
I have so many friends now that I’ve met on this entrepreneurial journey of mine, and having someone to voice-note on Whatsapp has been such a comfort.
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
Do you have friends in your life that really ‘get it’? Reach out to people whose comment make you laugh in Facebook groups and suggest you get together for a virtual coffee over Skype. Join more Facebook Groups and ask if anyone else lives in your area.
I also invested specifically in support this year with a coach and a mastermind.
Our mastermind was peer-led, which means we were put together specifically by the leader, but the weekly calls were our responsibility. We each took it in turns to give an update on what we were working on and set goals for the following week and that added accountability was brilliant.
The coach I hired was a massive stretch for me financially, but it really helped me trim the fat from all my plans and create a clear picture of how my new business was going to be set up. This contributed massively to my feelings of security in this business idea, and not changing my mind every couple of months like last year.
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
For the love of Netflix PLEASE, get yourself some real support. Of course, I recommend hiring a business coach but you should ‘shop around’ and talk to several people to get an idea of what you really need. I offer free calls if you’re wondering where to start. If hiring a coach just isn’t on the cards financially right now, then a paid mastermind might be the way to go. The one I joined was about $70 PER MONTH! So affordable!
I hosted my first business retreat.
This happened on a total whim and I learned A LOT from the whole process. I found this amazing venue and posted about wanting to run a retreat there on Facebook. I had SO much interest that I decided ‘What the heck…’ and launched it.
Within 48hrs I only had one place left and I was ecstatic! I had priced it literally as cheaply as I could to cover expenses as this was the first time I would be delivering the content live to a group, and I was so scared of disappointing people.
After that though, it felt like one disaster after another. People kept dropping out for personal reasons or travel conflicts and I actually ended up re-selling each retreat spot TWICE EACH before ending up with the final group.
Then just a few days before the retreat, someone pulled out just as one of my closest friends was made redundant, so I gifted her the final place. That felt really good to be able to do.
I then went to visit the venue that I’d found on AirBnB and had amazing 5* reviews only to find they had suffered some weather damage and it was a total no-go. It was a lakehouse and the most gorgeous venue, so I was hard-pressed to find a replacement venue the week before that wasn’t more expensive than the specific amount I’d budgeted for. Oh, the STRESS!
Luckily I found a lovely barn conversion, that was more spacious than the lakehouse and we ended up being blessed with the best weather of almost the entire summer.
The retreat itself went really well, and I got some really good feedback afterward, but once again I over-did it by trying to do it all myself. Lesson learned, and next time I’m going to have a retreat assistant to handle the logistics and catering. It was too much for me to be teaching and doing all the setup, but for three days it was manageable.
I’m currently planning another retreat for September of 2018, which is already shaping up to be amazing and is much more targeted so everyone will go away with new strategies implemented and already set up, rather than just ideas to go home with.
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
What big business dreams and goals do you have, but you’ve been putting them off because you don’t think you’re “far along” enough yet, or “ready” yet. Go for it anyway. Find a way of starting small, and just start!
I sold out my first group coaching program.
I’m probably far too happy about this one, but it was something I had really wanted to do for all of 2016 but I wasn’t ready yet. I had a set number of people in my mind and that’s the exact number who signed up. I was honestly so thrilled and delighted!
It was called ‘The Vibrant Entrepreneur’ and was meant to run for 6 weeks but ended up seriously overrunning because I was in the middle of my energy-lul and couldn’t get my shit together.
Part of that was because I pre-sold the program as I wasn’t sure I would fill it (remember, I still have fewer than 50 people on my email list) which meant I ended up building an entire membership site and recording all the training videos on the fly each week. No wonder I was burnt out…
Being able to work with more than one person simultaneously, however, gave me a real taste of what my business could be like if I truly scaled and leveraged my time. It was awesome!
Going forward, I’m repurposing the content into a self-study course, and my next group coaching program is going to be heavier on the coaching and will include access to my self-study courses as an added resource, rather than it being a course-program hybrid which I think overwhelmed people with content. There was just too much for people to implement each week on top of their usual work and commitments.
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
I found my niche, finally!
I went through 4 different business ideas in 2016, but because each one was an evolution on the previous one it felt like I was walking uphill through treacle and not making any progress whatsoever.
As soon as I could say that I work with female entrepreneurs with online service based businesses who have definitely found their thing, but need help scaling so they can seriously uplevel and make a bigger impact – boom! It felt SO right, and it’s a corner of the market that I know intimately and will never tire of because it’s something that I’m mindful of, every single day.
It feels so good to be ‘home’, and now that all my effort is going in one direction, to build one business, I know that 2018 is going to be a year of massive growth and momentum for me. And that’s really exciting.
I made some money!
So I might not have hit that lofty goal of six-figures in my business, but this is significantly more money than I’ve ever made previously in my business.
In 2016, I wasn’t far off, but I had MUCH higher expenses as I invested over £15,000 in education and training.
I still don’t feel like I saw much of it, as I paid down A LOT of debt this year, and did invest in a couple of new training opportunities around launching and PR.
My personal income goal right now is around £78,000 and I know I’m going to knock that out of the park in 2018.
(My personal income goal is the minimum total I need for expenses, personal spending, increased rent for a new place I want to move to, and extra for savings and to reinvest in my own business coach.)
I seriously hustled, and made some big scary leaps of faith!
Before I burned out, my hustle game was STRONG! I was emailing, being active and visible online, hosting webinars and running Facebook Ads. I was being brave and following up with leads.
I launched a retreat and a group coaching program because I was following my intuition, and didn’t spend hours strategizing a launch. That came with its problems, but the boost it gave to my confidence and boldness was truly invaluable.
I truly believe that we need to balance getting out of our comfort zone (to combat our not-enoughness) and listening to our intuition as our inner compass.
When I took a break over the summer, sure it was influenced by my energy and worry, but largely the problem was that something felt out of alignment. Using my income as a form of leverage in my marketing made me feel really inauthentic. It also feels ridiculous because everyone’s business is different, and their profit plan to get to £10k months is going to be massively different.
Anxiety is the physical and mental manifestation of your intuition saying “Hey you’re not in alignment, and something needs to change.” We can use our anxious moments as signposts back to authenticity.
Looking back, I can see the moment that everything dropped off really clearly. If I had continued that momentum over the summer, I don’t doubt for a second that I would have booked another £30,000 worth of coaching work, at least. In May, my plan was to run a second retreat in September and to relaunch the group coaching program in September too. That would have been another £5-10k right there.
Creating that chart was really triggering for me. I was actually really embarrassed to post this because it wasn’t multiple six figures or more. Sure there were two 10k months in there, but it’s hardly big bucks. I was really worried that people would read this post and go ‘well that’s a bit shit’ – because I think we all assume that everyone is raking it in behind the scenes. From doing my market research twice this year, that’s actually total bollocks. Not appreciating what we ARE earning, isn’t a great way to attract more of it into your life. We should be grateful for every single pound or dollar, and be going “THANK YOU! More please!”
Another really interesting insight I had from actually listing out what I earned was that the strategy work I was doing took up a LOT of my time, but it only added up to about £8k over the whole year. Hardly worth it in the end. Next year I’m thinking of scrapping that, to give me more space to focus on my 1:1 work, which is where people get way better results anyway! No brainer…
ACTION STEP FOR YOU
Look back through what you achieved this year really critically. Celebrate what you did create, but look at where you screwed up but then rather than beating yourself up about it, look for what caused it, and then make plans to stop that from happening again. What could you have achieved had you pushed a little bit harder, or focused on what was really working?
What was taking up a lot of your time, but not delivering the same proportion of your income? Ditch it!
Biggest Lesson: Containers Create Freedom
One of the reasons I started my business was so that I had complete freedom over my schedule on a day to day basis. Mainly because of my health, but also for fun reasons, like being able to travel without having to book annual leave 6 months in advance.
But the problem with that was that I often ended up doing work ‘when I felt like it’ or projects would get completed in major sprints rather than steadily over time. This wasn’t good for the health thing, or the productivity thing.
It’s kinda funny how having set working hours was something I longed to give up, but I’ve found that having them has actually given me more freedom. If I don’t set an intention to do focused work for a few hours, I end up casually doing work over 12 hours.
My Plans for December + 2018
We’re not quite at the end of the year yet, and I have a few more plans for December!
Hosting a virtual business hideaway retreat
Something I love doing in the winter is hosting my own little business hideaway retreat. I literally lock myself away for a day, and create an income plan and marketing strategy for the next 6 months.
This year I’m inviting you to join me!
I’ve put together a collection of pretty awesome workshops that cover my entire planning process into a virtual one day retreat.
Upgrade my sales funnels
Behind the scenes I’ve been testing a sales-funnel for Your First Funnel, Done! The free workshop that’s the lead magnet has been getting such AWESOME feedback. The emails in the funnel have fantastic open rates, but the sales emails at the end of the funnel aren’t getting as many clicks as I would like.
So one of my tasks for this month is to re-work the end of the funnel to relaunch in January.
As part of my strategy to side-step overwhelm this year, I’m going to be batching my content quarterly. I’ve set aside two full days at the beginning of each quarter to batch make my content.
I’m actually still deciding if this is going to be video or a podcast, but I’m leaning towards a podcast at this point. I adore podcasts, but I wish there were more 10-15 podcasts where I could get a pep-talk and some new ideas, as I don’t always have 40 minutes free, and I know that if I have it on in the background I won’t really be listening.
After the incredible experience I had in a mastermind this year, I decided that’s something I really want to offer in 2018 as a complement to all the teaching work I do. I think 90% of struggling online business owners need accountability more than anything else.
Wanna be notified when this opens for applications? Sign up for my free virtual business planning retreat on December 2nd, and you’ll get all the details.
I’d love to hear from you!
What’s your biggest takeaway from this article, and what’s one thing you could put into action this week?