I’ve avoided writing this post for SIX months because I was afraid.
I was afraid of offending someone. Afraid of exposing myself and my weaknesses. Afraid that it would hurt my credibility. Afraid to be too real.
Yet, every time I sat down to write my scheduled blog post, the same post came flooding out onto the computer screen. Every. Single. Time.
Every time I deleted it, logged out of my site and tried to block it from my mind.
Instead of it going out of my mind, though, it lingered and weighed heavy on my spirit.
And it made me bitter.
Earlier this year I crashed and burned. Hard.
My crash was building for about a year, and it is a crash that could have been avoided by listening to my gut. That said, it’s a crash that ended-up being one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. This might be why I’ve felt so conflicted.
Before I get into the details of what went down, I just want to say that I am in NO way transferring blame to anyone other than myself. I’m not attacking anyone, and I’m not putting anyone down. We are all 100% responsible for our own decisions, and I take full responsibility for mine. Here’s what went down…
The winter before last, gearing up to take my business to the next level, I decided I needed to work with a business coach. Having a heavy background in marketing, I felt that I would benefit best from working with someone who had a marketing background as well. Speaking the same language is important to me.
I found someone who was semi-local, who I felt would be able to relate to some of my unique challenges of living in a somewhat remote location, who could potentially introduce me to some of the local industry peeps, and it could be an all-around beneficial arrangement. I introduced myself, and enquired about her services, and she told me that while she focuses on coaching health coaches, she saw me as teaching people, so she considered me a coach, and therefore felt I would be a good fit. It was immediately clear that my business wasn’t a “perfect” match for her program: my business was primarily service-based, while she marketed herself as a coach for health coaches. That should have been my red light moment, but because I had actually been doing some marketing and brand coaching as part of my work with clients, I appreciated the validation, and wasexcited about the possibility of learning more about expanding and moving more into the coaching side of things and away from the dollar for hour service-based work that was already leaving me exhausted.
We met over Skype, and I immediately liked her personality – she was bubbly, friendly and because we both had similar roots, the idea of having someone to relate to on that level seemed refreshing given that most coaches I had encountered were based in the US. I gulped and told myself that the $1000 a month price an investment that would bring real results in my business goals and I would more than make back that money in no time. She reassured me and told me that before I knew it she’d help me easily make enough sales to pay for her program. It was all good.
In only a few weeks in to the program we were digging in to mindset work, and I was feeling awesome! My confidence level was growing, and I was pushing myself out of my shell. I had also begun working on some lucrative projects that I had lined up that winter, and was feeling good all around. I credited her with the confidence and good fortune (even though I had secured the work months before we met… I digress.)
As we got in to the coaching program we started to look at possible ways that I could increase the money I was bringing in for my website services, and I outlined a program that could streamline my design process. This is where things started to slide.
She didn’t really know anything about the design industry, branding, website creation – anything I did, really. So there was a big disconnect. I tried to explain that while the work was easy for me because it’s what I do, it takes time, attention and detail, and I didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of my work to make a fast buck. We decided that a few projects were needed to get this process streamlined and ready to roll out, and she suggested that I offer up a number of the projects at a dramatically reduced rate to get some juicy projects to use as prototypes. In other words, she convinced me to offer my web service that typically costs $5200 and up, for $1000 each. Needless to say, people lined-up for the chance to get a fully custom rebrand & website, and she celebrated that I had just rounded up the $6000 I needed to cover the cost of our 6 month coaching program. See! It TOTALLY paid for itself.
Now I just want to stop here and say that she didn’t put a gun to my head. I was the one who agreed to the idea, and I eagerly dove in and got started on the projects. What happened next was MY responsibility.
To make a long story short, what happened next was me working like a dog for what equated to PENNIES AN HOUR for the next six months with no time to take on any additional work, and nearly going bankrupt.
Our calls began to be a drain on my spirit as I spent the time complaining that I was too busy to do anything to grow my business. I didn’t have the week I needed to commit to writing my branding guide to use with my email opt-in, I didn’t have the time to blog, I didn’t have the time to work on growing my business because I was spending every waking minute working on meeting my timelines on those websites.
Then I got pregnant and it hit me HARD. Suddenly I realized that I had NO safety net in place to get me through any sort of a maternity leave period, and my clients were dragging their feet on the web projects for one reason or another. To say it was a nightmare was an understatement, and I had a meltdown. The calls had begun to change in tone, with me becoming more and more stressed about how my business wasn’t moving ahead, not having energy because of the morning (noon & night) sickness, and when our coaching calls began to turn into sessions where I was the one giving her marketing and brand advice, and the conversations shifted to how she could start bringing me clients who wanted cheap websites in exchange for an affiliate fee, I realized it was a bad situation and I needed to get out. So I terminated the contract.
I felt order samples of cymbalta defeated – like a fool. I had no idea what to do with my business now that I had wasted nearly half a year trying to work out ways to make this web program doable, had NO money coming in, and I still had those websites to finish.
Around the same time that all this was happening I joined a local entrepreneur association, and met a business advisor who had an intimate understanding of the local market, a keen eye for opportunity, and she knew people! We spent hours on the phone talking about my recent coaching experience and how I felt so completely robbed by what I believed was really, really crappy coaching (and not unique in the industry). We talked about business; about marketing, branding, entrepreneurship, online business, what I loved about it, what I hated; what I brought to the table that nobody else could, and she encouraged me focus on those things that made me sparkle. She also introduced me to some local entrepreneurs who needed my expertise. I developed a brand and marketing program that fit their needs, and began working with each of them one-on-one (while I was slogging to move those websites off my plate, and preparing for the inevitable arrival of our son.)
Burning the candle at both ends started to take its toll on me, and in mid-December I had to be rushed to the hospital. I didn’t know if I was going into premature labour or having a heart attack. It turned out to be neither – the stress had finally gotten to me, and I was having an anxiety attack. My doctor sent me home to go on bed rest for the next month and ordered me to stop working so as not to put added stress on myself or the baby. I explained that it was impossible, and unless I got that last website done, I would never be able to rest and focus on my family. It was the hardest thing I had ever done – I was sacrificing my health, and the health of my baby so that I could just finally finish that site and put that stupid business decision behind me.
I did continue with my coaching clients, and those calls began to become the highlight of my week! My clients were seeing measurable results, and their feedback helped me tweek and hone my program to a point where I can argue that it’s one of the best out there. I began to get invited to present at business training events and workshops, and invited to be on podcasts and speaking events, and for the first time in months, I felt confident that we would have an income after the baby came.
The baby was delivered (a week early) two days after we launched the last of the websites, and I felt grateful that he was healthy, and that I could take him home and focus on being his mom.
After taking a few weeks off to enjoy time as a family, I slowly returned to my coaching clients, presentations, and eventually, after a few months, began working on design and web projects and finally started to focus on my own business and where I want to take it. Settling into the new normal was a bit challenging at times, but as the months went by things began to come together in a way that finally felt right. It’s been busy, but it’s been a different kind of busy.
This year I broke the magical six figure mark.
I work with some of the most amazing entrepreneurs you will ever wish to meet. My first kick at launching my brand & marketing program in a modest online format sold out, and has a wait list for when it launches in it’s full format this winter. I’m blessed to have a business that is based on referrals, a reputation for delivering a top-notch product, and for connecting with my clients on a level that is personal, focused, and real…which often means a lot of laughter and personal connection. I’m fortunate to be able to decide who I work with, and I’m confident enough now to say no when I feel I have to.
I still work with websites, but I know the value of my work, and I am very deliberate in ensuring that I take on projects that I’m passionate about, that I know I can deliver the absolute best in terms of quality and attention – because my clients are awesome, and they deserve to have an awesome experience and get an awesome product. I’ve finally developed a way to make my work accessible to everyone who needs it, but it’s done in a way that’s unique to my talents and doesn’t sacrifice the quality and attention to detail that I’m known for.
My business is projected to make multiple six figures in 2017, and I’m working between 25-30 hours a week instead of the 24-7 hamster wheel I was stuck on last year. And I did it by ignoring the magic formulas and not buying into the online business hype that is killing the industry.
This story could have ended so differently, and I’m thankful every day that I didn’t let it.
I like to think that everything happens for a reason. That there are people and events that come in to our lives to teach us something. I’ve chosen to look at last year as a learning opportunity, and that in the end, because of it I arrived exactly where I needed to be.
I think by finally putting this out there, I’m able to release it and move forward in hopes that I will learn from it. Perhaps others will learn from my lesson as well.
If I had a lesson to pass on from this whole mess it would be to listen deeply to your heart. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Liking a person’s personality isn’t enough of a reason to put your business in their hands. It’s deeply important that you click with your coach, but it’s also crucial that they have an understanding of your business, and business fundamentals. That’s why when it comes to my own clients I give them the opportunity to contact any of my current or past clients.
This coach was not the right person for me to work with, but she’s amazing for the right people. I wish her nothing but the best, just as I hope for nothing but the best for myself and my business. And in ways, I thank her for all that happened because of the experience.
I learned a lot of other hard lessons over the past year that I’ll likely write more about soon. I also have a lot of big changes taking place at the beginning of the new year. You’ll want to stick around for both. 😉