Behind the Scenes of My First Year in Business

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Megan officially took her business full-time 10 months ago!

In today’s update, she shares where it’s been over the last year, what her business looks like today (revenue, revenue projections, and hours she’s working), and her goals and plans for the rest of 2023.

Episode Transcript (click to expand)

Note: This transcript was automatically generated and may include typos.

[00:00:00] Welcome to the Dollar Sprout Podcast, where it’s all about building a business that offers consistent income and flexibility so you can live life on your terms. And now your host, Megan Robinson.

[00:00:18] Megan: Hey there. Welcome back to the Dollar Sprout podcast. This is the final episode of season two, and I’m gonna wrap up this season by giving you a little bit of an update on my business. I think this is the third business update I’ve done. So if you wanna go back and listen to the others, there’s one at the end of Season one and one at the beginning of this season, season two.

[00:00:47] So today I’m gonna share about my business in three parts. I’m gonna share about the past, present, and future of my business. So for the past, I’m just gonna share a short review of what’s happened with my business since January, 2022 through now we’re in, you know, mid May 20, 23. Um, then I’ll share with you the current state of my business, including revenue and revenue projections, what I’m selling and what my day-to-day looks like in my business right now.

[00:01:21] And I’ll wrap up by telling you about the future of my business, including lessons that I’ve learned, um, since taking my business full-time. Many lessons coming from, uh, the. Guests that we’ve had on this podcast, uh, all of our amazing guests have taught me something about business, and I’ll also tell you what my plans are for the rest of the year and what I want to change and do differently in my business.

[00:01:49] So starting with the past. If you don’t already know, I’ve had my business L l C since 2017. I started out with personal finance. Um, I studied personal finance in college, so it really was just a personal finance website or blog, which turned into financial coaching and freelancing. Then in December, 2021, I decided that I wanted, wanted to change my business entirely, so I went from financial coaching to business operations.

[00:02:23] I found a certification program, signed up in January, 2022, and became a certified online business manager. Through the International Association of Online Business Managers, and I got that certification in like May or June of 2022 is when I graduated from that program. At that point, I had zero clients in my business and zero zero revenue mainly because I had always kept my freelance work separate from my L L C.

[00:02:58] So all I ever did under my L L C was financial coaching and my personal finance website revenue. And at that point I had. You know, ended my engagements with all personal finance or financial coaching clients, and I was doing freelance work and I also had a part-time job doing business operations for a small company.

[00:03:22] So in July, 2022, I moved my freelance work and my part-time employer under my L L C. Then I got one more client, which gave me three clients in total and barely enough revenue to take my business full-time. Um, so just a little sidebar there in case you’re wondering, uh, more detail about where those clients came from.

[00:03:49] One of them was Dollar Sprout. That was the one that I was doing project work for in freelance work. Um, I’ve talked about this before, but I met Ben and Jeff, who are the co-founders of Dollar Sprout back in like 2017 or 2018. I found them online, realized that they lived near me and asked them to meet me for coffee.

[00:04:10] That turned into me freelancing for them, which eventually turned into a full-time job, which then turned back into me freelancing for them later on. Then, like I said, the other client was a small business that I was working for part-time, and I just asked them if they would mind moving to a retainer agreement, or, I’m sorry, moving to a, a contractor arrangement through my business.

[00:04:33] Um, Which they were happy to do. And the third client found me through a direct directory that I’m listed in because of the certification program that I had just taken. So that program, once you graduate, you get listed in a directory and business owners just come to that directory looking to find an online business manager, an om and um, you can put your information in there and they can reach out to you.

[00:04:59] So that’s how I found that third client. Uh, in the episode we did an episode with Kelly Jamieson in this season, season two, I think it was episode six, and she talked about how she built a successful online business without a website or social media. And my business really is an example of that as well.

[00:05:22] Um, so far none of my clients have come through social media, so definitely go check out that episode with Keldi. Um, And if part of what’s holding you back from starting a business is that you don’t wanna deal with the tech of setting up a website or you don’t want to have to post on social media, that conversation with Keldi will bust right through the narrative that those are things that you have to do to have a successful business.

[00:05:52] Okay. Back to business updates. That brings us to August. So from August to December, I had one retainer client who was my former part-time employer. And I did one off projects for two different clients. I did several projects for two clients, both of which found me through the directory that I was listed on from my certification program.

[00:06:18] Um, sidebar, just for anyone who doesn’t know or needs a refresher, a retainer client is someone who pays a set amount of money per month, usually for a specific number of hours or very specific deliverables like. Right now, one of my clients pays me the same amount of money every month for 65 hours of my time per month.

[00:06:43] So the project-based work wasn’t very consistent. Um, some months I would make $1,500 from a project, and then other months would be $0. And in December, I think I got paid up front for half of the rate of a project that was scheduled to take three to four months. So that was $2,500 upfront and $2,500 again at the completion of the project.

[00:07:11] On average, I think I was making about 5,000 to $5,500 a month in total revenue. That was enough to cover my salary and payroll taxes and the software that I use, um, mainly QuickBooks for Accounting. I used zao for my CRM and Convert Kit for email marketing and a few other pieces of software, but, I definitely did not have a lot of money left over from month to month.

[00:07:43] I also did some other discovery calls during that period of time, um, from like August through December. I think I did three, all of which found me through the, um, directory that I was listed in, and I ended up not getting any of those roles that I did discovery calls with. And then in October or November of 2022, I signed up for a coaching program.

[00:08:13] Even though I said I wasn’t going to sign up for any more co courses or coaching for the rest of the year, I did and I regret that one so much. It was like, I’m almost embarrassed to say this. It was, it was $10,000 upfront and an additional thousand dollars per month after that. And like I said, I didn’t have a lot of money left over in my business month to month.

[00:08:40] So I paid for it using some of the savings that I had from my freelancing. Um, cuz I just saved up a lot of my freelancing money. And, um, yeah, I, I ended up canceling my membership to that coaching program like four months later. So. Anyway, that pre, that pretty much brings us to 2023. Um, if you wanna hear the details about 2022, I cover a lot of that in the last business update where I gave an update on the seven things I decided to do differently in my business the second time around.

[00:09:15] So switching from financial coaching to business operations, and in the last update, I left off by telling you my two goals for 2023. My first goal was to reach six figures from retainer client work alone, and my second goal was to launch a digital product and get my first 10 sales. So let’s talk about how those goals are going.

[00:09:44] It’s currently May 14th, 2023. We’re a little over a third of the way through the year, about to start week 20 of the year. Um, I said I would update you on my revenue and my revenue projections, what I’m currently selling, and what the day-to-day of my business looks like. So let’s start with what I’m currently selling.

[00:10:08] I’m wrapping up the last of my project work for non retainer clients, and for the time being, I plan to only work with clients on retainer. Um, that means no v i p days, no system setups or anything like that. I’ll just be working with two to three clients, all paying me a set amount per month for a set number of hours or specific deliverables.

[00:10:34] And I do still want to launch a digital product this year, but the reason I am focusing on retainers for now is twofold, right? The first reason is that the financial stability is really nice. Um, having retainer clients provides consistent revenue, and given that I jumped full-time into my business, Probably before it was smart to do so.

[00:11:03] Um, it’s nice to have the consistency and to know that I can pay myself my full salary, which really isn’t that much right now. Um, and that I’m building some savings in the business. And the second reason is that it allows me to get experience in a bunch of different areas of each business that I work with, because depending on the client, I do everything from.

[00:11:26] Working with the CEO to create the business’ vision and goals, managing projects, setting up backend systems in the business, managing the team, hiring, creating documentation, and a lot more. So this experience is good research for me to figure out what kinds of digital products I might be able to create later on.

[00:11:53] In episode eight this season, Whitney Hansen talked about switching her business model to do what’s not scalable. So I definitely took a page from Whitney’s playbook on this one. Um, eventually I would like to have more scalable options and business offerings. And I’ll talk about that in the future part of this episode.

[00:12:17] But for now, I’m taking the less scalable route and just focusing on serving two or three great reti retainer clients and serving them really, really well. Um, so that’s it for what I’m selling now, for the part that I’m sure you’re curious about, which is the numbers. So as of today, I have made almost exactly $40,000 in revenue in my business this year.

[00:12:48] Um, now that’s revenue not profit, so that’s all the money my business has earned before expenses like my salary, software, subscriptions, taxes, all of that. So after expenses, my current profit is about $10,000, and my current retainer revenue is about $9,925 a month. So if I only maintain my current retainer clients for the rest of the year, then I am projected to make about $110,000 in revenue.

[00:13:27] In 2023, and since most of my revenue so far in, in the year has been retainer clients that I think that would end up putting me at like 105,000, uh, in revenue from just retainer clients this year. Now that’s if I continue on the current trajectory that I’m on with my retainer clients. If they don’t drop me for any reason or if I don’t have to drop any of that work for any reason, and again, that’s only revenue, that’s not profit.

[00:14:00] And trust me when I say that it is. Hard earned revenue too. Um, I don’t wanna give off this false impression that it’s been easy for me to get to this point because I do work hard and I work what feels like a lot to me. Um, and yeah, I just, I think that you see so much online about having your own business being like you only work.

[00:14:27] 30 hours a month or whatever, you know, and that is definitely not the case for me. I have a lot of friends, and I’ll get to this in a second, but I have a lot of friends and people that I’ve spoken to that have full-time jobs and definitely work fewer, at least productive hours, quote unquote, which brings me to my day to day, right?

[00:14:51] So, I’m always curious how much people work, whether they have a full-time job or they run their own business. And I ask my friends and people just like random people this all the time. I always ask people, how many hours a day do you think you’re actually productive at work? How many hours a day or how many hours a week do you think you’re really, truly productive?

[00:15:15] And so many of them say like three or four. Maybe five or six hours a day on a really, really productive day. But most people tell me they, they think they’re productive like three to four hours a day, not counting meetings. Right. And it’s different for every job I know that I know. Um, I come from a family of, you know, nurses, police of police officers, um, all kinds of blue collar workers.

[00:15:45] Uh, and I know that like those jobs can often be different. But, um, I don’t think most people who work in an office setting are really productive for even close to eight hours on most days. So the way my retainers are set up right now, I work about 30 hours a week for. My retainer clients, um, plus another five to 10 hours a week for non retainer client projects, which as I said, I am wrapping up with the last of those this month.

[00:16:24] So that’s about six hours a day, and I only log time when I’m actually working. Like if I get up to grab something or get a snack, um, then I turn off my timer. And depending on the industry you’re in, that might not sound like a lot. Like I said, I know that there are plenty of people, gosh, teachers, all kinds of people out there who are overworked and who would probably look at this and be like, huh, that’s laughable.

[00:16:51] You work six hours of productive work a day. Um, and I’m not complaining, right. I’ve been doing coffee chats with people who are interested in becoming OBMs. Um, or, you know, taking the program that I took and when I tell them about my business, a lot of them are like, wow, that sounds amazing. I’d love to work 30 hours a week and have control over my own schedule.

[00:17:16] Um, and that’s totally valid, and I’ll say that to me. My business right now feels very much like a regular, full-time job. Um, only instead of having one boss, I have like two or three bosses because all of my clients are my boss. Um, so I’m still sitting down at my computer for like a minimum of eight hours a day, often closer to like 12 hours a day.

[00:17:45] And on top of the 30 hours I spend working for clients a week, I also have to do, and yeah, that’s roughly 30 hours sometimes, you know, 35 hours or 40 hours doing client work. Um, I also have to do work in my own business, so I do my own bookkeeping and admin work, like sending invoices and contracts. Right now I’m taking a course on marketing and digital product design.

[00:18:13] I’m researching ideas for digital products, so that’s on top of, you know, what I would do for clients. So altogether I end up working like 30 to 40 hours a week for clients most weeks, and then an additional 5, 10, 15 hours a week. Um, For my own business, D depending on the week and depending on what needs to be done that week.

[00:18:40] Right? And that is, all of that is like productive time. Like I said, that is all like using my brain or producing work that’s not just like sitting in my home office scrolling on TikTok, cuz I don’t log those hours. Right? So, I don’t know about you, but I usually can’t sit down and crank out seven to nine hours of work at a time.

[00:19:07] Sometimes I can, but usually not. So my actual day-to-day varies depending on the client and the meetings that I have that day. Some days I have six to seven hours of client meetings in a row, and on those days my workday usually ends around 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM because after that many meetings, my brain is pretty fire, Fri fried, woo, I can’t even talk.

[00:19:30] Um, but on days when I have like. One client meeting in the morning, and that’s it. I’ll usually work off and on throughout the day, so I’m really bad at sticking to a routine. Um, so I might work from like 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM and then take a break from one to three, then work again from three to seven, then take a break, and then work again from nine to 11, right?

[00:19:56] So that’s like 10 hours of productive work over the course of 14 hours in a day. And then other days I might work straight from 8:00 AM to noon and take an hour break and then work from one to 5:00 PM and be done for the day. So I wish I could tell you I had a really great work routine down, but I don’t, it varies so much for me.

[00:20:18] But in terms of hours worked, I would say my business is currently very similar to a regular nine to five job. Um, which again, like I said, is not, that’s not a terrible thing, and I know that there are a lot of people who would love to have a business like that, but that brings me to the future of my business.

[00:20:41] So before I go any further, let me just say that I am grateful for my business and I am so, so grateful. For my clients. All the clients that I’ve worked with in my business so far have really been great. I’ve enjoyed most of the work that I’ve done, um, at, you know, like with anything, they’re always certain tasks that I don’t love to do, but I’ve enjoyed most of the work and all of the clients and I have very much appreciated all of the experience and the new things that I’ve gotten to learn.

[00:21:16] It’s all been amazing and. I feel like the way my business has been going is not sustainable for me long term. I’m finishing up the last of my project work, so things should get a little bit more calm once that’s all done and I can just focus on my retainer clients and I don’t plan on dropping my retainer clients in the near future.

[00:21:45] But now that I know what it feels like for me to be at capacity with clients and how much money I was able to make, you know, being at that capacity. I realize how important it’s going to be for me to create more scalable offerings, whether that’s digital products, service packages that are delivered, you know, the same way to every client, every time, like the IP day or something.

[00:22:10] And a really big reason for that is because I’m currently the only way that my business makes money. My business’s revenue is directly tied to my hours and my ability to show up and to do the work, which there’s nothing inherently wrong with. Like I said, um, I know plenty of people who would love to have a business like that, and I know plenty of OBMs, um, and virtual assistants who have.

[00:22:41] Uh, some of them have been guests on the podcast who have, or have at some point had a similar business model to what I have now, and many people love it because it provides flexibility for them to work, you know, largely on their own schedule from wherever they want and, you know, be able to work their schedule around their family time, around their kids, around whatever.

[00:23:09] And I also love that about my business, and I love that with retainer clients, I have to do virtually no marketing. That is an amazing part of having retainer clients because unless I drop or lose a retainer client, then I don’t have to go out and find new ones. They just pay me the same amount every month and it’s, it’s very consistent.

[00:23:34] It’s very predictable. And from my experience, retainer clients tend to stick around for many months, sometimes years, and I love that about my current business model. It’s fairly flexible, it’s simple and it requires little to no marketing. But what I don’t love is that if I decide to take a week off during the month and I can’t make up.

[00:23:58] That time, like in the, in the rest of the month, if my schedule is just too packed and I can’t, you know, switch things around so that I still get the normal number of hours, then I don’t make as much money. Because typically what I do is I offer a discount on my retainers if they’re hour based and I expect to take off a week or more during the month.

[00:24:20] Right. So what I’m saying is that I would prefer a business model where I can take time off. Like truly unplugged time away with zero work without having to dip into my savings account or worrying about how I’m gonna pay the bills. I started out in this business doing retainer clients and project-based work.

[00:24:46] Now I’m switching to just retainer clients and the next iteration of my business that I’m trying to communicate here is it’s gonna be retainer clients plus some undetermined, scalable offering, like I said, probably a digital product of some sort. That’s still, um, what I have the most ideas for and what I would really like to do.

[00:25:13] So I’m taking inspiration from guests like Casey Ackerman, who started out with retainer clients and then narrowed down on click up with v I P days, of course, and templates. And also Adrian Johnston, who built a wildly profitable business by raising her rates for her clients and scaling with an online course.

[00:25:38] So I’m taking after some of those guests, which by the way, definitely go listen to those episodes if you haven’t already. But unlike retainer work, these types of offerings, courses, templates, v i p days, all require marketing to bring in new leads and customers. And I’ve never been great at marketing and selling.

[00:26:03] So that’s gonna be a big focus for me this year, is learning the skills and the strategy of marketing, but in an ethical way. So part of the reason that I’ve never been great at marketing before is because I’ve always. Just felt like marketing was sleazy. The way that I saw it done online, it, it just felt disingenuous and it felt manipulative.

[00:26:31] So this year I’m learning from Lexi Merri about designing products that people actually need and selling them in a way that’s ethical and doesn’t use the scarcity marketing tactics that we’re all used to seeing online, like fake countdown timers and fake program caps and things like that. Um, Lexi was actually a guest on season one of the podcast.

[00:26:55] She is a launch strategist by a trade, and her episode is about how to launch your first online course in the simplest way possible. So again, go listen to Lexi’s episode if you haven’t already. So in summary, the next iteration of my business is going to be.

[00:27:15] Serving and maintaining my current retainer clients while building and selling my first scalable offering, probably a digital product of some sort. And that’s it for my business update. Um, I’ve been full-time in my business now for 10 months and. Man, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about business and about my industry and really about myself and what I want, and.

[00:27:47] Yeah, I really appreciate you listening. I hope that this was helpful for you in some way today. I know it was a little rambly. I kind of, I appreciate your listening ear because I feel like part of this was just me processing everything that’s happened in my business and, you know, processing through, um, how, where I’ve come from and what’s going on and what I wanna do next.

[00:28:12] So I hope it was also helpful for you in some way and. At the very least, I just, I hope it encourages you to get out there and start the business that you’ve been dreaming of. So yeah.

[00:28:24] I hope you got something out of today’s show. If you’re enjoying the show, don’t forget to follow, subscribe, and leave us a review if you feel so inclined. That would be much appreciated. Thanks so much for being here, and I will see you next time.