From April 2014: This week I’m celebrating the one-year anniversary (birthday?!) of my business.
(In fact, I’m throwing a party here in Honolulu next weekend – and you’re invited. More about that later.)
I’ve learned a lot – and shared a lot – with you over the course of this year, but knowing you (and I like to think I DO after all this time ;)), I figured you’d appreciate even MORE behind-the-scenes scoop on how things played out over here in year one.
GOOD. Because in this post I’ll give you the full, month-by-month rundown of my first year in business…the milestones, the resistance, the launches – the good, the bad, the crazy – in hopes that my experiences to help you make sense of your own.
I know it’s natural to read posts like this and compare figurative apples to oranges, but that’s not my intention here.
If you think reading about my first year might make you feel bad about where you are in your journey – PLEASE STOP READING.
If, howev, you LIKE to see behind-the-scenes of what other people are doing and find inspiration or encouragement from that, PLEASE KEEP READING.
Disclaimer: My life (and my business) isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but this isn’t an E! True Hollywood Story either. It’s just a bulleted list of happenings that came to mind today. In my dreams I would’ve had time to add photos, screenshots, videos, and the like, but something’s gotta give. Hope you enjoy the Cliff’s Notes ;)
And speaking of notes…
While you read through these, if you think of a specific Q you’d like me to answer about something that happened this year, write it down.
I’ll tell you why at the end :)
Alright. Let’s set the scene for some context…
One year ago today, I received my VERY first PayPal payment – $250 for a 90-minute session to be split over two of my 18-month-old son’s naptimes ;)
I was in BUSINESS, baby.
At the time I was happily working as a park ranger (+ part-time college prof) for what I like to call “paychecks of the heart.” (That’s my nice way of saying they didn’t have commas in them.)
I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, faithfully exploring what could happen if I shared what I knew about communication with entrepreneurs instead of college students + the WWII crowd.
And so the journey began.
I could write a BOOK on the lessons learned from this journey (in fact, I seriously might), but for the purposes of this post, we’ll keep it simple and split the review into two sections: By the Numbers + By the Months.
By the Numbers
What a difference a (CRAZY) year makes.
By the Months
Preparing to launch…
Choose “faith” as my word of the year (since I know my husband will be on the other side of the country for most of it).
Wake up before my guys to have quiet time and zone in with my Jesus Calling devotional.
Start noticing the really kind, encouraging comments coming from friends + fam about my Stories from a Screensaver blog. (See them as divine breadcrumbs.)
Realize it’s a subtle knock on the head, “You’re supposed to SHARE this [knack for communication] with people.”
Explore options. Mom blog? Business blog? Book?
Consider quitting before I even start.
Find entre-inspiration in Michael Hyatt, Copyblogger (copywriting is a word?), Jeff Goins, Natalie MacNeil.
Sign up for an online community o’ fellow entrepreneurs.
Stick up a splash page and opt-in box to start building my list.
Get a vote of “start now” confidence from Natalie MacNeil in the comments of her blog. (“You are absolutely qualified.”)
Start by offering a limited number of free sessions in exchange for feedback via Jenny Shih’s killer testimonials method.
Year one begins…
Fresh out of 24 free sessions, I’m over the MOON to work with my first two paying clients (hi Karen + Connie!).
Send first newsletter to 41 subscribers on April 18.
Start my biz Facebook page on April 24.
Mention my first offer ($199 for an hour-long session + a bonus 30-minute follow-up) on Facebook.
No site yet, so folks have to opt-in to get the details. And they do.
Blown away that 70+ people take me up on my first real offer. (Track everyone in a Google spreadsheet.)
One of those people is Brielle Kotton, who quickly becomes the best friend I’ve never met (in real life). Game-changer.
Get the worst virus of my life. (Learn what an “upper limit problem” is.)
Finish facilitating my last course for University of Phoenix. (Aloha to “bridge job” #1.)
End month 2 with a roster of over 90 clients, 740+ new subscribers, $21k in revenue. Brain = applesauce.
First opportunity to “dust my shoulders off” re: anonymous haters. GREAT lesson to learn early.
Hosting up to 8 to 10 style sessions per week (hard to say no to folks – learning boundaries).
Launch my super-simple first draft of a site on June 7. (Relieved to have all my content in ONE spot.)
My previous weekly emails become my first blog posts.
Send a check to Holden Uganda Foundation to fund a well with 10% of the revenue earned in my second month of business.
Shed some thankful tears.
Hold lots more sessions.
Enjoy a slower pace, with a handful of one-on-ones per week (at $299).
Work with client #100.
Tell myself I’ll start writing my course.
Instead, face serious resistance, name her Ursula, and write about it here.
Completely lose my voice the week after writing a post about finding it (upper limit problem #2).
Hang up my (park ranger) hat after three years at WWII Valor in the Pacific NM (+ the USS Arizona Memorial).
Film a reality* TV show for Discovery Channel with my guys. *winky face
Launch first “real” site (thanks to the digi-magic and super-patience of Suzi Istvan).
Share my first opt-in freebie, The Conversational Copy Cheat Sheet.
Celebrate my first 1,000 subscribers.
Set a Fall rate of $499. (Jaw drops first time someone (happily) pays it. Belief barrier broken like the four-minute mile.)
Slow down the one-on-one queue to allow time for family + travel time.
Write + share my most popular blog post to-date.
Invest in Create Awesome Online Courses to combat the resistance. (Also became an affiliate because I LOVED it.)
Put my feelers out and start building the “Inner Circle” with this blog post. (Then do nothing with it til December.)
Shake off a mystery hater who’s outraged that I used the word “Wanna” in my copy. (Clearly he hadn’t read my first opt-in freebie.)
Travel the world for best friend’s wedding (+ start outlining what would become A Course About Copy on the train through the Czech countryside). Surreal.
Host some more one-on-ones (at $499, still blowing my mind).
Travel with my guys.
Avoid writing yet-to-be-named A Course About Copy at all costs.
Whip up my first video blog (on how running a business is like breastfeeding).
Meet up with some of my fabulous dream clients in Boston.
See what “fall in New England” is really all about.
Invest in my “new brand pants” with stylist, designer, and creative geeenius Sarah Ancalmo.
Realize that to get serious about my course, I’ve got to shut down my one-on-one queue.
Make a last call for 1/1s – totally unattached to the outcome (which generates $15k, my best month of 2013).
Send check for well #2 (our 3rd of the year!) to Holden Uganda Foundation.
Celebrate my son’s birthday, my wedding anniversary, and the life of my sweet Noni all on our fave day, 10/24.
Thoroughly enjoy watching B trick-or-treat as Fix it Felix, Jr’s tiny doppleganger.
More family + travel time.
Life-changing call with success coach Michelle Simmonds (one of my absolute favorite souls on the planet).
Realize 2013 has been swallowed by business – make a conscious effort to enjoy the ride more.
Sense (and acknowledge) that making six figures in my first year is supposed to be part of my story (even though I know that means I’d have to make $45k in the first three months of 2014).
Publicly share that “feeling” in a piece for the December issue of This Girl Means Business Magazine, the largest audience to hear my story at the time.
Panic a little.
Watch our Buying Hawaii episode on national TV with my parents and sisters. Gigglefest.
Host my final one-on-ones.
Form a rock-solid 90-day plan with NiceOps superstar Amber McCue.
Publicly admit that I’m going to launch A Course About Copy in February. (EEK!)
Enjoy the holidays as a (complete!) fam in Texas.
Reluctantly choose “presence” as my word of the year, even though I know it will be the BIGGEST challenge for me while launching a new course AND a new site.
Announce my goal to raise $25,000 to build a school with Pencils of Promise in 2014.
Get annoyed with myself for not getting much of anything done in the first 30…okay 45…days of the 90-day plan.
Adjust and move forward anyway.
Welcome my first five ACAC dream students – before I even have a course outline or sales page to share.
Brave the polar vortex and fly across the country for a whirlwind 48-hour style sesh + editorial-style photoshoot for my new website (with aforementioned creative genius, Sarah Ancalmo).
Outline, record, and share my first-ever free video series in the span of ONE week (recording bits in a super-glam bathroom/closet of the Navy Lodge).
Stay up later than I did in college, get less sleep than I did when my son was a newborn. Not healthy.
Visit my husband + watch my little man enjoy his first SNOW + first movie. (Frozen! How fitting.)
LAUNCH A Course About Copy: The Founding Class to an interest list of about 1,200 folks.
Listen to sermons + encouraging music, say lots of prayers, send up BUCKETS of gratitude to gear up for the final days of the open cart.
Cross the (arbitrary yet psychologically significant) six-figure mark on Valentine’s Day – exactly 10 months and 11 days after my first PayPal transaction.
Realize this is my biggest month ever at just under $42K. (WHAT?!?!?!)
Do exactly five cartwheels.
Kick off the first day of school with 51 super-enthusiastic founding class members from all over the world.
Fall in copy love with them.
Get BUSY creating content specifically suited to their needs (as reported in a founding-class-only pre-assessment).
Learn enough to create a whole NEW course in the process.
Lean on family, friends, and members of my 2014 dream team to meet deadlines + stay reasonably sane.
Survive on prayers, passion, and conservative doses of caffeine.
Finish up the once-in-a-course lifetime live round of A Course About Copy.
Take deep breaths. Regularly.
Finally join the mastermind bandwagon with four SUPERSTAR entrepreneurs who inspire the FIRE out of me.
Hire an attorney, my buddy + ACAC dream student Tamsen Horton, to get serious + set up a (friendly) Ft. Knox.
Donate $6,400 to my Pencils of Promise fundraiser (using 10% of funds from this launch + November + December 2013).
Reconnect with our beautiful home away from (Texas) home, Honolulu.
Celebrate my husband’s homecoming (after several months away for training).
Year two begins…
Feel oddly excited to OWE taxes for the first time. (Pray Uncle Sam uses them wisely.)
Grasp the harsh (but understandable!) reality of gross revenue vs. actual take-home pay.
Watch the tax preparer’s eyeballs to nearly pop out of his dome when I tell him my estimated income for 2014 ;)
Pinch myself, knowing that it’s actually MORE than possible if I keep plugging along + walking in faith.
Enjoy a delightful amount of downtime with my dream guys (even though I’m totally invisible when Daddy’s home).
Wake up before the sun to record lots of interviews with fun + interesting new friends.
Wake up on my first biz b-day to 70+ emails thanks to this post about my $51k (?!) course launch on The Rise to The Top.
Set up my big-girl biz structure.
Finally pay myself after a year of investing back in my biz, giving in five figures, and paying my taxes. (I was a little paranoid.)
Enter back into a bubble of inspiration, optimism, and visualization to gear up for May – the premiere of the brand-new nikkielledgebrown.com and the REAL grand opening of A Course About Copy.
I’m feelin’ ready for the big leagues.
And that brings us to the present, which is an invitation for YOU!
Remember how I told you I was hosting a party, and to write down any Qs you might have about my first year in business?
UPDATE: The party happened LIVE 4/12/14, and it was lovely. Happy to report that year TWO is now full swing!
Share the love
If you liked this year in review, please thank me by sharing it with your friends, fans, and followers.
I appreciate you, friend!
Whether you’re new to my corner of the internet or you’ve been trekking along with me from the start, it’s been an honor and a pleasure sharing this space with you.
And to think….we’re just getting started :)
To surviving the first year + living to tell the story,