Corine Pettit was on the path to traditional success – with two engineering degrees under her belt and a great job in her dream field – when a spontaneous trip to South America changed everything.
Corine is a website designer for online service-based entrepreneurs, agencies, and educators. Her strategic approach and high-converting web designs help her clients move their businesses forward without the hustle.
In this episode, Corine shares a behind-the-scenes look at her journey, including how paying herself a regular salary has revolutionized her business, how she makes time for offline adventures, and why her first client hating her custom-designed website turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Press play for the full interview or keep reading below!
It was the summer of 2015, and Corine was studying for her graduate degree in engineering. She always planned on a traditional career path. “I never had a business bone in my body,” Corine says.
But everything changed when two friends invited her to join them on a trip to South America. It was her first international trip, and she fell in love with traveling.
Corine’s trip lasted only five weeks, but along the way, she met people who had been traveling for six months or longer. “That was an eye-opener for me. It planted the seed.”
For the first time, she realized she might not be limited to the standard two weeks of vacation time.
Back home in the US, Corine finished grad school and started her first job as an engineer. “It was the career I’d chosen and held up as the perfect job.”
But it didn’t take long for her to begin questioning what she’d signed up for. “I started having a hard time with the ten days of vacation a year and having to sit in my chair until 5:00 even if I was done with work at 2:30.”
While Corine worked to give engineering an honest chance, her friends convinced her to help them start a travel blog on the side. Corine was in charge of setting up the website. In the process, she discovered a new skill – and one that people were willing to pay for.
By the end of 2018, just a few years after graduating, Corine left her engineering job to become a web designer.
Like many entrepreneurs, Corine started her business as a side hustle to bridge the gap from full-time employment. “It was terrifying. I thought about it for a long time. The overlap of side hustle before going full-time was probably two years.”
As an analytical-minded engineer, Corine knew it was important to track the numbers in her business, but she didn’t start with a set revenue goal. “It was basically just survival. I needed to make enough to live, and that was the goal.”
So she took on whatever work came her way – saying yes to anything and everything. Being open to different projects not only helped Corine save money, but also learn what type of work she enjoyed doing.
These days, if you visit Corine’s website you’ll find nothing but rave reviews about her stellar client experience – but that wasn’t always the case.
Corine’s first paying client wasn’t happy with her custom website. “I’m a people pleaser to my core, and I just felt sick,” Corine says. She and the client had agreed on a plan for the website, and she couldn’t figure out where she went wrong.
Eventually, Corine was able to pinpoint what the client didn’t like and update the design accordingly, but it was an important lesson to learn.
Looking back on that first job, Corine says, “I didn’t have a good process to help clients hone in on what was wrong or to give constructive feedback.” And as any service provider knows, the comment “I don’t like it” isn’t helpful.
For every project since then, Corine has created a clear process to follow. She always starts with the home page, and then asks for specific feedback before moving on to the other pages. Since making those changes, she’s received nothing but great feedback about how easy and fun her process is.
“It was almost a blessing because now all of our projects follow that process, and it makes it so much more predictable.”
Corine took an incremental approach to pricing, raising her rates as she gained experience with each new project. “Websites are a big project. It’s a large time commitment, you learn so much. To this day, every time I build a website, I learn something new.”
When she was first starting, she charged $600 for a website. But even after working up to $1,500, she realized her prices weren’t sustainable.
“I knew I needed to have confidence in the number I was asking for, in order for people to have confidence in me. The Blueprint Model helped me outline a price that helps me achieve my ‘enough’ number and go beyond survival.”
Although Corine was diligent about tracking her income and expenses, she still struggled with the roller coaster of online business.
“The hard part was that feeling of wanting consistency and predictability. And with my type of work, it’s a little bit ‘feast or famine’ where you can go from an $8,000 project to nothing the next month.”
Corine found that even when she was making a good income for herself, she was still stressed about money.
One change that made a major impact on Corine’s business was opening a separate business bank account.
Before, she’d been operating her business from her personal account, and using whatever was leftover at the end of the month to pay herself. Now Corine lets her business income accumulate in a separate account and draws a regular salary.
Being able to pay herself the same amount every two weeks helps create a sense of comfort and security that she’d been missing.
It’s a great reminder for all online business owners that just because your revenue fluctuates, it doesn’t mean your personal income needs to as well. Drawing a regular salary from your business account can create more consistency and alleviate some of that stress.
As Corine’s business has grown, she’s been able to increase her average project size to take on fewer clients at a higher price point.
Growing up in a small town, Corine used to believe that people who had a lot of money were evil or that having money made you a bad person. Now she knows that money is a tool to amplify the type of person you already are.
“I know a lot of people view wealth as a scary thing, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have more money, it just means you have more opportunities to do good with it.”
In The Blueprint Model, I teach all my students to identify their core motivators. For Corine, that’s time – specifically time off to travel and enjoy nature. The way Corine structures her projects, with set start and end dates, helps her plan when she’ll be able to take time off in between.
“Having that built into my business helps me predict when I’m going to be working less and hiking more, or getting out on the lake more. That gives me the assurance that I’m actually doing the things that I built my business for.”
To make sure she stays in line with those values, Corine uses her Business Stats Tracker to track how many days off she takes per year, the same way an employer would track vacation days. Every year, she sets a goal for how many trips and days off she wants to take.
Corine is a shining example of how to create a business around the life you want to have. What started as a love of travel has evolved into a flourishing design business that fuels both her creativity and her offline adventures.
Corine’s best advice for any online business owner is to do what works for you. “That’s a mantra I live by in life and business. Everybody has opinions on how you should do things but what works for you and what works for me aren’t necessarily the same. You get to make the rules, if you want to do it differently than someone else is doing it, just do it.”
To hear the full story and more about Corine Pettit, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.
Corine Pettit is a Strategic Website Designer for online service-based entrepreneurs, agencies, & educators, who uses her Strategy-First approach to website design to create websites that *actually convert* in an era of “pretty websites” that just collect dust.
With her unique strategic approach, Corine designs websites that not only convert at rates that crush industry standards, but more importantly – that *support & align with* the unique goals of each and every client to help move their business forward *without* requiring more hustle in a world that wants us to do all the things.
When she’s not 5-layers deep in all-the-strategizing, you’ll probably find her in the mountains, on a lake, or planning her next trip to some breathtakingly scenic corner of the world.
September 28, 2023