It’s rare that I have a huge announcement to share with you. However, this is one of those rare moments where I need to shout “Stop the presses!” because something incredible that’s happened. And it’s all because of this blog.
Big news: My husband, Jesse, has officially quit his job to join my business full time!
It’s surreal, but it’s true! We took a trip to Holland to celebrate when he finished his last day. May 16th, 2016 was his first real day working with me full time. The support on social media, from family, and friends in the days since we started to share the news has been incredible. (Thank you so much!)
We’ve also had some concerned reactions, as friends asked: “Isn’t that scary??” that made me want to add context, especially if you’re a new reader.
So, is it scary?
When I pause to think about how I’m the sole breadwinner of our family, that is a change that’s a lot to wrap my head around. It’s been emotional, and it will take us time to work through the changes, but it hasn’t been scary. In fact, my husband and I don’t love risk. Especially not the financial risk. The bottom line: if this were a financially scary decision, we wouldn’t be doing it.
I want to share the most important steps I took to build my business to this point, where Jesse could leave his job without it being a financial risk.
Especially because a few years ago I was working non-stop, my income had plateaued, and I couldn’t have imagined this.
Quick context about my business & story:
History & Timeline:
- I own a service-based business, which I started in May 2015.
- I offer 1:1 marketing strategy & business strategy consulting.
- I’m the only one who does the consulting work; there aren’t subcontractors (or anyone else) who meet with my clients.
- I offer results & project based coaching for freelancers and business owners. The goal of most of the work I do is to help clients become more profitable, earn revenue more consistently, and get organized, making their businesses take less effort to run. (Side note: If you need that, check out my consulting page & we can talk about it!)
- I meet with most clients 3 – 7 times to help them accomplish that.
- I work with clients 2 – 3 days per week.
- This is my second business. I owned a boutique web design business, with a business partner for 6+ years (2009 – 2015).
My audience & how I earn my income
- I have no passive income products. (Working on this one!)
- 95% of my clients are American, or from Europe & Australia
- My list is small, at just reached 2000 subscribers.
- I started blogging in 2008 and have a large catalog of posts that help clients find me. I mainly do interviews and webinars to reach new audiences.
- My work is about 40% referrals from past clients and Tara Gentile (who I’m licensed through and am listed on her website). Roughly 60% of my clients found me through my online presence.
- The web design clients from my last business are completely separate from this business. I anticipated there would be some crossover between them when I started, but that wasn’t the case.
About our lives
- We live in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada (i.e. the middle of Canada, above North Dakota)
- The cost of living is very affordable, and it’s an amazing city to live in. We chose to stay here because of the quality of life and how affordable it is.
- We own a spacious home in the heart of the city. Mortgage payments cost less than rent does in our city, which made buying easy.
- My work week is no longer more than 40 hours a week. I am serious as all hell about self-care, down-time and working out.
- I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Bipolar II (very mild, thankfully) so self-care & taking downtime is key to helping me stay energized and able to work.
Whew! I hope that covers everything you were wondering off the top of your head and painted a picture. I’ve also been working without a virtual assistant (VA). I’ve had a VA & other contractors for support since 2009, but I needed time on the ground to create systems before I could train someone on them.
And right when I was ready to contract a new VA, my husband suggested that he help me run my business instead!
So let’s get to the good stuff!
My husband’s career and new role in my business
Jesse and I have been together for 11 years and married for eight years. He’s also been working in business-to-business sales for eight years. His role was managing and selling to large accounts, like the provincial government (as a state government, but in Canada). He was making a good living and has been the breadwinner since the first year I was completely self-employed. Unfortunately, it was also a stressful environment for him, which wore him out over time. It also involved working with another province for a week every month, which became normal but was stressful at times.
Jesse’s new role is the operations manager of my consulting business.
He’s amazing at administrative work, numbers, and organization so he’s going to handle scheduling, bookkeeping (YAS!!), finances and client management, as well as managing onboarding for my private consulting clients. In the future, he’ll help to manage sales, customer service for online courses, and products that are in the works.
The idea is to let me focus on clients, teaching and creating content while he helps keeps everything running smoothly day-to-day. While we sometimes joked that one day, maybe he would be able to quit his job, work for me and take care of our kids when we start a family, but it wasn’t something that we imagine would happen for years.
So let’s get into the details of how this happened. What allowed my business to go from stalled out as a web designer, to thriving as a consultant!
The most important steps I took to build a profitable, stable business that let my husband quit his job!
1. We make it easy to track our family finances.
In my experience, stable finances don’t happen by accident, so being aware of our day-to-day finances has been a priority for us. That said, we’re only human, and if it’s not easy to do we won’t stick with it.
We use You Need A Budget (YNAB) to make tracking our income and spending, and to give each dollar we earn a job. You Need a Budget makes it easy for us to save, stay on budget, and to see our lives would look like without Jesse’s income. Because we track our income through YNAB, with one click we could see what our entire year would have looked like financially without Jesse’s income. Win!
2. I know what my business earns & spends each month.
I know, I know. You probably don’t love numbers. I don’t love managing my finances either. That doesn’t mean I get a free pass to skip it or let it become an end of the year nightmare. To make it easy for me, I use a fantastic little service called FreeAgent (affiliate link) to invoice and automatically import my Paypal, Stripe, and my business credit card that makes it fast and easy!
When you log in you get to see your revenue for the year to date, and how the current month compares to past months overall. It gives me the big picture at a glance, allows me to track project invoices, track my time and costs for freelance projects.
No matter what tool you use to do this, doing monthly reviews and goal setting sessions are crucial to staying in touch with what’s happening in your business. Creating business models with clients, so they can see what their work could add up to every year, is one of my favorite things. Tracking your income and where it’s coming from is a great way to learn more about your business without needing to set foot in a classroom.
3. I found my people – other business owners & bloggers!
After being in a business partnership for 6+ years (my first business), it was a big change to work on my own. I also realized that while I’d been speaking about business a lot with my previous business partner, no matter how great she was, that sincerely limited my perspective.
I started actively seeking out other business owners to become friends with; I formed a mastermind group with women I look up to, went on trips to meet business friends, and started actively reaching out to other local bosses. Crucially, I’ve found people I connect with who are at the same stage in their businesses as I am, or who are ahead of me on their journey.
Having more friends who are going through similar things and who I can trade tips with, ask questions, talk money and vent when things are hard has made a huge difference to me. It gave me community, saved me time and energy and has created some incredible opportunities.
4. I started to ask every client for a testimonial when they had a big or little win.
When I started doing business strategy consulting for business owners & bloggers, I wanted to build my business quickly, and it was stressful! One of the best things that I did was listen for any time clients had a big or a little win. I would take notes on how they’d describe it and then email them to ask for a testimonial – by including a draft testimonial that they could approve or edit to make sure the wording fits them.
Offering a draft testimonial for clients to edit has made it much, much easier for clients to say yes because they don’t have to stress about what choosing their words, and it ensured I had quotes from clients on my sales page that focused on exactly what was most important to new potential clients.
5. I raised my rates and switched to value-based pricing.
I started out charging around $100 per hour. Through the first year of working with clients, I steadily raised my rates on new quotes.
As soon I learned about how many meetings worked best per client, I stopped quoting based on my hourly rate. Instead, I started offering an entire package. The pricing is based on the value of the results we will accomplish together. Pricing like this makes intuitive sense to my clients. I can average a higher per-hour cost because we’re creating great results in a shorter time.
Pricing based on value and outcomes also gives my clients more security. If we don’t meet their goals in the number of meetings in their proposal, we just continue meeting until they’ve accomplished them!
I want to be clear: I structure this carefully, word it carefully and working like this isn’t for the faint of heart. And it means I have to stand behind my work and completely believe in my clients. While it’s not for everyone, knowing that I’m 110% behind them has made a huge impact on how my clients feel about our work together, and they accomplish a lot more.
6. I went from offering very long-term projects to short-term projects.
When I offered website design, typical projects often took between 40 – 60 hours. Yikes! That amount of work meant that I needed to charge a lot to just a few clients per year. My typical project was about $6,000 – $8,000 USD.
Now I meet with clients every other week for one-hour, usually for 3 – 5 hours total and most projects are between $700 – $2000 USD. Having projects that are so much shorter than my web design work means I can work with more clients over the course of the year, which increased my earning potential.
7. I stopped focusing on fixing my weaknesses.
Giving up on your weaknesses might sound counter-intuitive, but I think becoming well rounded is misguided. Instead of struggling to become average at my weaknesses, I’ve been looking for opportunities to double down on my natural strengths so I can create exponentially better results in my business and life. I want to focus on the 20% of my skills that accomplish 80% of my results.
So, I’ve designed a business that makes it easy for me to succeed:
I love to speak with people, so I use phone meetings to make my work effortless.
Long term project management drains me, so I offer short term projects.
Details & timing are my enemies, so I automated the scheduling and booking.
I often run late so I use a conference calling service that calls me so I can’t be late. I love connecting with people one-on-one and helping, so I do free discovery calls with clients before we work together.
So why hasn’t the transition to being my family’s breadwinner been scary?
My business has a foundation that we can rely on. It has a profitable business model that’s easy for me to see what and update. It has systems to track my goals and potential income that makes it reliable and predictable.
One of the things that I’ve learned in the last year is that while what you do is important, it means making a lot of choices. And it’s not just about what actions you take.
What you choose not to do is often just as important, if not more important, than the actions you take.
If you’re still curious about what helped make this growth happen, I’ve made you a cheat sheet of everything I decided not to do while growing my business. I hope that it helps you get an even clearer picture of how I built a stable, profitable business.
What’s one thing you could stop doing that would make it easier for your business grow?