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My Journey to Five Figure Months and Beyond

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My Journey to 5 Figure Months

I’m trying something a little different this week and share some of my thoughts as I reflect about what’s happened over the last year. I’m a little nervous about sharing this because I’ve never been interested in blog income reports. They made me feel heavy and anxious about my results. So please just take this blog post as a reflection about my journey and an encouragement! If I can do this, you can absolutely do this too! So here’s where my last few months or year has taken me. 

Shift from Corporate

In July 2019, I quit my full-time job in Corporate Training and Development. At the time, I was working as a full-time Instructional Designer, attending an online Master’s Degree program, and oh yea…moving to an entirely new city and renovating our home to sell. All throughout 2019, I had been working on an entirely different business model which I no longer operate. 

You can see my cubicle in my picture. Even though I’m smiling here, it really wasn’t a good fit for me. 

With the impending move and my passion for having an online business, my interests had shifted. It no longer felt right to sit at my desk stuck in a literal cubicle, hoping one day I could actually be a full-time business owner. I wanted to be free and excited to work in my business. I had big FAT imposter syndrome because my dreams seemed bigger than my income.

Business Income: $145.04

Pivot to Freelance

Fast forward to August, 2019. Once I made a strategic change to work full-time on my business, I had to take a big mental shift from “employee” to business owner. At this point, I had already invested in a business coach to help me understand how to create more income through digital marketing. Even still. It felt strange at the time to say, “I’m an online business owner.” I actually felt awkward telling people what I did for a living because I truthfully didn’t feel confident saying what I did. I honestly didn’t know what to call myself. Freelancer? Consultant? Coach? Podcaster? Youtuber? Blogger? It seemed like each phrase had some sort of story behind it, none of which felt like fit me and my personality. 

Business Income: $717.52

Danielle Desir

September 2019. During this month, I felt like I was right on the verge of understanding this whole “online marketing thing.” I started showing up more consistently on social media and blogging more consistently.  I had a few coaching clients and I was making a few hundred dollars, but nothing really substantial. I was just starting my podcast (totally different from the one I run now) and also blogging as much as possible. My spouse and I were very fortunate because we had saved consistently while I was working full time. I had the opportunity to create more income while also having a safety net. I’m incredibly grateful and realize that this comes with a sense of privilege because not everyone has the ability to save funds each month or a partner that can help support them. 

That same month, I attended an event called FinCon in Washington D.C. and I met some of my closest online friends. Many of which I’ve worked with personally and paid to help me run my business! I also invested in a monthly membership with live streaming trainings and a mastermind. To this day, I still am connected with many of the ladies I met! During that time I started to get questions about making online courses. I realized this was something I was interested in helping people develop, especially because of my degree in Instructional Design. I felt like I was on the verge of something exciting and magical.

 Business Income: $238.00

Growing With Freelancing

freelance burnout

During this phase, I started actively seeing income growth with freelancing. Building off of my network as well as identifying freelancing opporunities through Upwork and other platforms, I was able to get enough income to start feeling like I was making progress. Sloooooow progress, but still progress. 

I started recognizing my strengths and leaned into them through my specialty of Instructional Design and Technology while supporting people in their online course creation. 

Things were starting to click into place and I realized that I needed to make a strategic shift. So….I shifted BIG time. I created an entirely new website from scratch with a new domain. I planned on developing a new podcast, new social media handles, and entirely new branding. I knew this was an investment that would pay off and it absolutely did – over time. I was in serious hustle mode! Check out my funny and totally serious face!

During this time, I was developing a mastermind for my other business to see if that might be interesting. I was also workshopping the idea of me creating a course as part of my Instructional Design Master’s Program. I was also trying to keep my dog Layla happy. You can see she’s such a sweetheart sitting on my lap while I tried to figure this stuff out. 

October Business Income: $1,072

November-December Income: $1,977.47

Social Media Marketing

Between January and March, I dedicated myself to really working on my marketing, outreach, and networking. I also focused on my freelancing which at this point had grown to a somewhat more liveable wage. In March, I attended Social Media Marketing World and met some lovely people there. I volunteered and to this day still am connected with amazing people.

January, my spouse and I started talking about potentially moving -YET again so he could explore other career opportunities. You can see why traditional employment was tricky for both he and I. When we were constantly moving, it felt frustrating trying to figure out my employment while also feeling excited about the work I could accomplish. Most weekends we spent commuting between our old house that we were renovating and our new house ( a hefty three hour drive). 

At this point, my Master’s Degree was nearing its final stages and I began to put my ideas together into a course while also freelancing full time. In February, we had finally sold our house. YAY! No more commuting!As you can imagine, I was quite busy, but I was finally nearing replacing my full-time income and was averaging a little over $2,300 a month. I then started sharing that I was creating online courses for others and leaning into my specialty in understanding platforms like Teachable, Thinkific, and email integrations with Mailchimp and Mailerlite. I also started receiving a Top Rated Upwork status based on my high ratings which led me to receive higher visibility with clients.

January – March 2020 Income: $7,088.77

Shift to Agency

This. is me eating a grilled cheese sandwhich in one of my favorite little shop areas in Ontario, Canada. We love traveling and that was a big perk of working from home. Anyhow, I digress. 

In March 2020, things got really busy in my business. At this point, I started slowly moving off of Upwork as a main source of traffic because I was starting to get more website traffic organically and people started to book my services straight from my website. I was spending a ton of nights working until early in the morning or late at night. Things started feeling really heavy. I wasn’t sure if I could sustain all of my services, but I didn’t want to let the quality of my services go down. 

Between April to May 2020, I became even busier. I transitioned away from all of my freelance writing assignments and focused solely on my tech specialty which was course development and curriculum design and email marketing integration. I started to enlist help and hired my first official Virtual Assistant. I finished my Master’s Degree. And oh yea, COVID happened in March… so I was stuck inside. I started to see the value in hiring others. I invested heavily in coaching while I developed my second digital course, this time a much smaller digital product price! I started seeing more recurring revenue in my business and started to actively work to see growth in my small but mighty email list. 

April – May 2020 Business Income – $16,441

Scaling and Beyond

Melody Johnson Online Course Strategist

At the end of May 2020, we were moving – YET AGAIN! We then started a transition to move to an entirely new state. June was an incredibly busy month and my spouse was starting a new position and had to attend training while we both looked for a new place to live with COVID restrictions. 

By June, I started mapping out which people I needed to hire and started with some family. I realized quickly that I needed a better way to process and organize files, receive feedback, and generally have my business run more smoothly. I spoke at the Creatress Summit!

In July 2020, I enrolled in my first group coaching program to help see more growth in my agency and help me make the transition from a solo entrepreneur to a larger team. I started to get parts of my business organized more than I ever had before. My coach and I worked closely on identifying people to hire to help me deliver on services without sacrificing quality and delivery. I wrote about training remote teams here. I started to see things get easier over time once my team was hired and I invested in training them. I shared about my experience with podcast pitch decks as a guest speaker at Podthon

I created my third digital product Profitable Presentation Canva pack, a presentation pack for solo based business owners and dipped my toe into affiliate marketing and started making more passive income sales on a recurring basis. I started doing more coaching and consulting work rather than only customized services. I raised my prices and started creating a standard “package” from which potential clients could review and work with me.

freelance instructional designer

In August 2020, I enrolled in multiple online digital courses, invested heavily in templates, resources, and memberships. I spoke at the JBrand Summit. I then launched my fourth (technically fifth?) digital product Systematic Funnels Workshop, helping people see the steps in which to set up your digital product from start to finish including automating email sequences, creating salespage cart integrations, as well as integrating course curriculum into a course platform. 

At this stage, I’ve now exceeded my monthly corporate income. I’ve handled large scale projects, developed multiple digital products, as well as managed a team of between 5-10 people. I started feeling much better at marketing my digital courses. I started to feel that between courses, coaching, and services I’d finally found a way to have a “good rhythm” in my business. I felt less heavy because I had a team behind me. It felt good to see money in my bank account. 

June – August 2020 Business Income: $24,727.38.

Running 2020 Total: $48,257.04 (not too shabby for a relatively new brand during a Pandemic!)

Lessons Learned

For some of you reading this, the numbers described above might seem out of reach. For many more experienced entrepreneurs, you’ll know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve learned a ton over the last few months / years running an online business. I’m incredibly proud of the small business I’ve grown into an agency.  And from my experience I’d like to share some valuable lessons I’ve learned. 

  • Every time I’ve invested in mentorships and courses (and taken action), I’ve seen an increase in revenue the following month. 
  • I wish I had started making digital products sooner. 
  • I wish I had charged higher rates sooner. 
  • I wish that I had been more selective with the projects I’d taken on and the people I worked with. 
  • I wish I set more firm and clear boundaries on projects sooner. 
  • Everything takes time to build. It’s important to celebrate the small wins and big ones alike. 
  • Community is everything. Having a supportive community of friends to keep you motivated while running an online business is important.
  • Making large amounts of money isn’t important if you aren’t happy. 
  • Family is more important than business. 

As you can see, there are many paths to making money in an online business and none of it comes overnight. Growth happens when you have a combination of tools, resources, time, effort, and support. Oh yes, having a strategy in an online business is incredibly important as well. I believe that you can have a business you feel happy to run. I believe you can feel good about the state of your business. I believe that there’s not a single “way” to make money online. You are completely in charge of what you give to the world. Expect great things to happen for you. Believe that your dreams can become reality. Early in my business I thought earning $500 was signficant. Then, I felt that $1,000 and then $10,000 and $50,000 was a significant amount. Now, my goal is to reach $100,000 and beyond. That’s it for my rant. I hope this inspires you to see that making money online is a process. If you’re open to learning, investing in the knowledge and training, you can achieve BIG, beautiful goals. 

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