3 years since I made The Escape: What I’ve learned

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Today marks exactly three years since the day I walked into my boss’s office and told him I was putting in my two weeks…and that I was too busy to actually give him two weeks so I would be done the following day.

I tend to be a very decisive person. When I want something I go after it at full speed figuring out everything as I go. I felt so stifled and boxed-in at my job I could not wait to leave. And so I didn’t think much about what it would be like day-to-day until after the fact.

I didn’t have a grand plan of building a six-figure business. I didn’t really have a plan at all. I thought I’d be living off of $30 or $40k a year, just getting by, happy to finally be working on projects I actually enjoyed. My plan was: get enough clients and sell enough blog templates to be able to pay my mortgage and not lose my house.

So this year it was actually a surprise to find I’m now making significantly more than my $50k per year corporate salary. I actually stood alone in my kitchen a few weeks ago, having just looked over my spreadsheets for the month, stopping short of making dinner and had one of those tearful ‘holy fuck’ moments over what I had unintentionally accomplished.

It is really a strange feeling to realize I’ve hit that mark of success. I’ve left my job, I’ve grown my business, and I’ve put myself in a better place mentally, creatively, and financially than I’d ever be in working for someone else. And I think a lot of you not only helped contribute to that moment, but can also understand it as well, even if you haven’t made the escape yet. You understand the amount of work that goes in to building something all on your own. The determination and commitment it takes to start a business from nothing. It is the best high there is, betting on yourself.

So now three years into this whole small business, self-employed, solopreneur thing, I want to share some things I’ve learned along the way.

If you’re new here, here’s the entire story of how I made my escape, and my posts from year one and year two.

Value based pricing

One of the things that contributed to the jump in income this year was adjusting my pricing and focusing more on the value my work provides clients instead of how many hours it takes to design and build a website. I have a rough idea of how long it takes, but I haven’t tracked my hours in at least a year.

Reading this ebook really helped to cement this idea for me. Not only does my adjusted pricing help me feel well compensated for my work, but I never find myself counting hours or keeping track of how much I’ve done for a project. My work is now focused on the end goal—whatever it is the client is hoping to accomplish with a site re-design—and it’s my job to help get them there.

Using passive income to pad my business

One of the major issues almost every small business owner, freelancer, and solopreneur faces when leaving a corporate job is, money. Paranoia over continuously having enough clients or customers is the biggest worry and it does not have to be.

I’m so thankful that I figured out early on to pad my business with income from programs and products (any that you all thought they were awesome enough to buy!) Now if I were to have a month without clients (or give myself a month off) there is still money coming in.

And because info products and passive income are such an important part of growing and stabilizing my business, this will be the topic of my upcoming ebook! Yes, next month I’m going to share all the goods on creating passive income so you’ll never have to panic over getting clients again.

Learning marketing and sales strategy

This was one of those important things I didn’t really consider researching before I left my job. Yes, I successfully sold products through my website without much of a plan, but I sold more products when I actually created a sales page and launched a marketing plan. Understanding the proper way to do this has taken (and is still taking) time to learn. This course from Tara Gentile was super helpful in re-working the Babes website and sales emails.

Planning yearly

Now that I have a steady stream of clients and a handful if products I’ve been able to slow down a bit and I’m planning projects and products over a year instead of just starting them whenever an idea pops up. This way I avoid feeling overwhelmed by everything I want to do because it all finds a space in my schedule.

I do still put in a massive number of hours each week, but it’s now because I’m excited and working on multiple projects at once (my own and my clients’) and not because I’m paranoid that if I stop for even a minute my blog traffic and bank account will drain to zero over night. For those of you in the thick of it, that feeling does eventually fade!

Paying quarterly taxes

File under advice I never took, but should have. Eventually tax time will come around and yes, you are going to have to fork over 30 percent of your income (in the US). So, if you make $40,000 this year, you will owe around $12,000 next April (depending on the number of deductions you have). I guarantee you are going to want to throw up a little when that number appears and you haven’t paid anything in advance. So if you still need to get your shit together, June is the end of second quarter and I highly recommend sending the government some money. (quarterly tax forms for individuals, more small biz & self employment forms)

Saying no to things I don’t enjoy

Don’t ever do things out of fear. Ever. Whether it’s the fear that you’ll never land another client (you will), that you won’t be able to pay next month’s bills (you will), that an opportunity like that won’t come around again (it will). If you say yes because you are worried or afraid it will almost always turn into a stressful situation. I generally have a pretty strong immediate yes or no gut reaction to almost everything, but if you’re not getting that, then only say yes if it’s a “Hell Yes!” otherwise just say no. This is to prevent you from working with clients from hell or getting sucked into projects you’re not that excited about.

So if you’re reading this at your desk right now at a job you just don’t love (or maybe eating lunch in your car dreading the thought of going back into work—I did that often) please know that this is possible for you. Yes, it takes a massive amount of work, but putting in the time to create something of your own is worth it. And it won’t always be filled with insane 24/7 stressful non-stop days. If you have an idea of what you want to create, but you’re feeling stuck or scared in making the leap, leave a comment and let’s get you on the right track!

And lastly, thank you to each and every one of you who has left a comment, sent me an email or a tweet, purchased one of my books, blog themes, or a consulting session, joined the Badass Babes, hired me to design your website, watched a webinar, allowed me into your inbox every Monday, shared my posts, projects, or products, or just read my little blog. Without you there is no XO Sarah, so I truly appreciate all the support you’ve sent my way.

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