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I graduated from college in the middle of recession. It was extremely difficult to find a job and unbelievably competitive at that time. I went to job fairs and ended up talking with an advertising agency that had an office in a small town in Iowa and an office in LA.
At the time, I had zero desire to stay in Iowa; I was only interested in moving to LA, so I talked to this company and nothing happened. I graduated, ended up moving in with my friends family, and waited and waited to find a job. Then the company called me. I went to their office in Iowa for an interview and got a job offer; but it wasn’t the job offer I wanted in LA, it was a job offer for their office in Iowa, in a small town with less than 10,000 people.
I still have that offer letter. My offer for this position was for $13.25 per hour for 37.5 hours per week (about $25,000 per year), with no paid vacation and no sick leave, but I still took it because it was my first entryway into doing something I was really interested in.
That was in 2010. Fast forward to today, and our business often does $25,000 in revenue each week. So how did I go from making $25,000 a year, $13.25 per hour, even with a college degree, living in a super small town in Iowa, to having the business that I have today? I’ve gone through the evolution of my business in other episodes, but today I’m going to share the things that I have done (that a lot of people don’t do) that have allowed me to get to where I am today:
I did what other people weren’t willing to do
I’ve done things that a lot of people won’t do in order to learn the skills that I needed to get where I am today. I moved to a super small town in Iowa, where I knew no one and was making $13.25 per hour. A lot of my friends thought I was crazy, but I did it because that job was my foot in the door. It was my foot in the door into the industry that I was interested in, and I knew it would help me gain experience. This is no different from when you start a business, right? Getting that experience and learning those skills helps put you in a position for success in the future.
I gave up my salary for two years and went back to school
I’m not saying that you have to go to grad school to be successful, but the skills I learned getting my MBA have been so helpful in building my own business. Going back to grad school not only gave me tangible business skills, but it also taught me how to think through things and think about things that would help me and my business be successful in the long term, even though they might not be the best thing in the short term.
I said no to a lot of job offers
The other thing that I’ve done that has helped me get to where I am today that I don’t think a lot of people would do, is that after graduating from grad school, I actually said no to a lot of job offers. I said no to offers that wouldn’t give me the salary that I wanted, or didn’t see the value that I thought I was worth; and I said no to companies, offers, and positions that I didn’t think would help me grow in the long term. I just had faith that what I needed and what I wanted was going to come.
I invested in my business before I was making a lot of money
The other big thing that I’ve done is invest money in working with coaches and courses way before I was making a lot of money because I saw the potential it had to help me grow my business in the long term. I talk about this a lot, but I think we have to start thinking about investing as something that will help you learn the necessary skills that will help you go further faster. Maybe in the short term it doesn’t seem like the greatest idea because that’s money out of your pocket, but it’s really no different than going to get a college degree: you go to college and pay money to get a piece of paper, but you have no idea what kind of job is going to be on the other side…
But you do it because you know that it’s going to help you (hopefully), get further, faster once you’re done with that degree. Working with a coach or purchasing a course is no different, and the best part is that it’s way cheaper than going to college, and you learn so much more information that you can actually put into action.
We have to stop thinking about investing in courses and coaching as an expense, and really think of it as an investment. The very first coach and program that I ever purchased was $10,000, but working with that coach and going through that program enabled me to get out of my nine to five and build an extremely successful digital course. So again, even though it was money out of my pocket, it helped me significantly grow my business in the long term.
I learned a skill and become an expert in that area
The second thing that helped me go from making $25,000 per year to making $25,000 per week is that I learned a skill and then I became an expert in that area. This is a huge thing that we need to understand, especially as solopreneurs. When I started my little side hustle, I actually started it because I wanted to do Facebook and Instagram ads for small businesses. But all of a sudden, my clients were asking for other things like email, web development, and social media management, so I ended up kind of just being a digital marketer in general.
But the thing is, is you make average money when you’re a generalist. Experts are paid premium prices. If you think about it, an orthodontist makes more money than a family dentist, because they are an expert and they specialize in something. A cardiologist makes more money than a family doctor, because again, they are an expert in an area. Same with lawyers; someone who has a general law practice is not going to make as much money as someone who specializes in something like patent law. Expertise is how you are able to make lots of money.
Once I stopped trying to do all of the things and focused on becoming an expert in that one area, that’s when my business really took off. So if you’re currently serving clients and doing all of the things for them, you are never going to make the money you want because all of those things take a lot of time and you aren’t able to charge a premium price because you aren’t an expert in one area.
This is one of the biggest issues with virtual assistants. Virtual assistants can do so many different things for you, but you’re never going to pay a virtual assistant $100 per hour because they are not an expert in one area. They are a generalist who is going to help you in your business in different ways. Now listen, my very first contractor was a virtual assistant. I’m not knocking virtual assistants, I’m just saying, if you really want to make the money that you want, you have to become an expert in one area. That’s how you charge premium prices.
I took that skill and turned it into a scalable digital product
As a solopreneur service provider, you’re going to get to the point in your business where you are maxed out on time and can’t take on any more clients by yourself. You’re also going to get to a point where increasing your prices just to increase your prices isn’t going to be something you can continue to do because it’s not going to make sense for your clients. When you get to that point, you have two options: you either hire team members and become the person who sells the service and have your team members execute for you, or you build a scalable product.
The problem with hiring lots of team members and building out something like an agency, is that even though your business might be bringing in a lot more revenue, your profit margin declines dramatically. When you’re a solopreneur service provider, your profit margin should be around 80%; that’s the money you’re actually keeping. But when you start building out something like an agency, you’re talking about a profit margin of 20-30%. So even though you might be making “more money,” you, as the owner, are not necessarily making more money because your profit margin is so much lower.
So how I’ve been able to dramatically grow our business without having to create a large agency team is that I took my skill, Facebook and Instagram ads, and I turned it into a scalable product that didn’t require all of my time — my digital course, Advisori Insiders Pro.
If you’re a service provider, there’s always going to be people out there who want to DIY, and there’s always going to be people who just want to hire an expert to do it for them. But then there’s also going to be people who want to learn how to things themselves, or people who aren’t quite ready or in the financial position to hire a service provider. So having your skill turned into a scalable digital product — like a course or membership — allows you to help a lot more people because the content is already there; and it doesn’t matter if 10 people buy it, or 1000 people buy it because it’s already created. It doesn’t require you to be there to help them.
I think one of the biggest things that you have to understand as a solopreneur service provider, is that you are going to tap out in your time, you’re going to tap out in increasing your prices, and if you really want to hit your big goals, you have to learn how to package up your skill and turn it into a scalable product.
I keep learning and investing in my business
I have been in this crazy digital world for years, but I still continue to learn, take classes, listen to podcasts, have conversations with other people in the industry, and invest in courses and coaching. If you want to grow and hit the next level in your business, you have to keep learning and investing.
You can download all the free guides, listen to all the podcasts, and watch all the YouTube videos, but at some point, you have to stop just looking at the free stuff and pay for expertise.
That is really the four big things that have helped me dramatically change my financial situation: I’ve done things that a lot of people won’t do to learn skills that I need in order to get where I want to go. I became an expert in something and that’s how I’ve been able to charge premium prices. I turn my skill my expertise into a scalable digital product. And I keep learning and keep on investing in my business. If you want to learn how to turn your service into a digital product, I have a brand new free guide that shows you the exact steps you need to take in order to do just that. You can download your free copy right here.
Keep these things in mind
There’s one last thing I want to mention — and it has to do with how you feel when other people tell you how much money they make. I think there are two types of people: those who will feel excited and inspired when they hear our business often makes $25,000 per week, and those who get mad. If you’re finding that you’re feeling the latter, I want you to go back and read (or listen to) this episode of the podcast. I think these feelings often come from believing that someone’s financial success is taking money and opportunities away from you; if someone has more money, that means you have less money, right? No! That’s simply not the truth.
I also want to remind you that just because someone tells you they’ve made tens of thousands of dollars this week, this month, or they show you an impressive screenshot of their stripe account, I want you to remember that running a business costs money.
Just like when I was making $25,000 per year, I had to pay taxes, pay for health insurance, and contribute to my retirement. Even though my salary was around $25,000 a year, that’s not what was going into my bank account. That’s the same thing for anyone who is running a business.
I have a lot of expenses in our business; I still have to pay taxes, payroll taxes, and I contribute to my retirement; I have over 10 contractors who help our team on a regular basis; I pay a lot of money in advertising. So just remember when people are throwing big numbers out there, that it’s not 100% profit.
I will say, those expenses are minimal compared to all the awesome things our business is doing, the things we’re going to do in the future, and the things it’s allowed us and me personally to do in life. So just remember that when you see those big numbers, it’s not all going into the business owner’s pocket.
Now with that, I want to say there is so much opportunity out there, and if you’re not where you want to be today, go through those four things that I talked about. You have to do things that other people won’t do in order to get to the place where a lot of people haven’t gotten to; you have to become an expert in an area, not a generalist; you need to turn your skill into a scalable product, and then continue to keep on learning and keep on investing so you can keep growing.
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