When I left my corporate job three years ago and imagined my future career, I planned for years of solo web design work. I figured I’d be working away, all by my lonesome, living mostly paycheck to paycheck (because starving artist, right?), doing nothing but building websites.
But since I left my 9 to 5, things have changed A LOT. I now have two online courses, three books, an employee, and I’m not a starving artist at all. In the past few months I’ve invested lots of money in my business, hired a virtual assistant, written a blog post that talks about making $20k, and made the majority of my income from products, not client design work.
And all of that is weird. SO WEIRD.
Well, despite all the online marketers shelling out products and programs to help me earn six-figures, I did not start out thinking I would write books or even build a business, let along make legit money.
I was a freelancer, not a business owner. Yes, obviously they are one in the same, but it didn’t feel like that at the beginning. I didn’t feel like a small business owner / solopreneur / CEO, I never thought about creating products, and I certainly never considered making more than $30 or $40k/year. If I could work with clients that weren’t jerks, pay my mortgage, and feed myself and my dog, I was stoked.
It wasn’t until I was already knee-deep in creating products and courses that I had the realization of where I had moved in my career and the potential for growth I had created.
[bctt tweet=”I was pretty far into building a business before I noticed I was building a business.”]
I had to take a step back and evaluate what I enjoyed working on, what my audience wanted and needed, and what was the most valuable way to spend my time. I had to learn and create the rules as I went because I didn’t really know what I was building. I figured out how to publish books, write sales pages, not sound like a moron in interviews, deliver online lessons, host live events, manage a community, keep track of and pay taxes on money coming in from multiple directions, automate EVERYTHING.
Once I had a couple of products to promote and got more serious about blogging for my audience, that audience started to grow. And strangely, it started to grow without me actually doing anything.
Weird thing number two – at some point, people start sharing your stuff enough that your business grows on its own.
Once I was in business mode I figured I would be grinding away forever. I thought every 100 subscribers or followers would take as much time and work as the first hundred. But there is a tipping point at which you stop feeling like it’s a constant upward climb. Like someone plucks you off that mountain you’ve been scaling for ages, drops you into a hot air balloon, and you and your business start floating along on your own.
The work becomes less about promotion and blogging and scrambling for clients and more about management, maintenance, and making new stuff.
For me that point was around 2k email subscribers + 2k Twitter followers + 40k pageviews/month. I can now get by posting twice a week and my traffic and sales remain consistent because all ya’ll are out there sharing my stuff. (Which is very much appreciated!)
I think part of the reason all of this stuff snuck up on me was that I only knew people who had 1. a normal corporate job, 2. a freelance / non-traditional job and were always talking about how they were broke, or 3. people online making crazy money that I couldn’t picture myself being at all.
I didn’t know any freelancers taking steps to expand their business outside of client work, so it didn’t occur to me that it was something I could (and should) do.
So the purpose of this post is to tell you two things:
First, try to keep a loose grip on your business plan and let it grow fluidly. Stay mostly focused on the way you want to feel and what your ideal day looks like and let your business expand around that. Don’t think that because you only have one option or one expertise now that it will stay that way forever.
And second, you will be able, at some point, to stop working like a crazy person (or at least slow down if you like) and your business will continue to grow on its own. You will not be stuck in that full speed mentality forever. There is a tipping point and you WILL get there!