Before starting my company I was on the traditional path to a career in private equity. I was applying for my MBA and interviewing with private equity firms after leaving my position as a controller for a start-up fashion designer. The stars were aligning and my big finance dream was looking like a reality… until I was informed that I would likely be traveling Monday – Thursday every.single.week to meet with clients around the world.
Like air being deflated from a balloon… I saw my career dreams come crashing down.
This wasn’t the first time (and definitely wouldn’t be the last) that my career dreams were pitted against my family values, but it was the most influential.
It was after that day and that realization, Kyle and I kicked around the idea of starting my own consulting firm.
I’ve been running this business now since 2013 and over the years I’ve seen a huge shift in the creative industry. Those early years felt collaborative, people willing to help each other and share wins/losses/and lessons learned freely. Instagram was actually purely social (imagine that!) and making $6-figures was the ultimate dream.
Then slowly things started to shift…
Instagram became a tool for business marketing so people started curating their feeds. And instead of sharing freely, people started getting paid to share their experience … the “knowledge” industry was born. And with the rise of information products, came the rise of the coveted $7-figure business.
I’m not saying any of these things are inherently bad.. I’m simply pointing out that what used to feel so simple: get great at your craft, price your work correctly, and book clients, now feels much more complicated.
Generate weekly content, become a Youtuber or start a podcast, write blogs, and of course don’t neglect your email list. Show up consistently on social media. Get featured, charge your worth (whatever that means), and do it all while raising babies and getting in an hour on your Peloton.
Do you hear it…. Do more. Make more. Achieve More.
The world’s been whispering the promise that “more is better” for years. But I’m here to call it’s bluff.
Since taking a year off in 2020, having my daughter, and closing down my Instagram account completely— I’ve been receiving a ton of questions asking how do I do it?
“How do you build a business off of social media?
“How do you plan your content calendar?
“How did you transition from service-based to digital courses?
“How do you run your business with a new baby at home?
While I figure most of you are wanting some tips, tricks, systems, and productivity solutions… my answer to these questions may surprise you.
And it’s a mindset that began years before I even dreamed of the company I now own.
When I worked in the finance world I had a mentor tell me, “if you say you don’t want more money, you’re just lying to yourself.” For a long time I operated that way. I shamed myself for not selling more, for not pushing harder, for taking time off. I compared myself when I wasn’t walking across the stage, getting the same awards, hitting the same milestones. Actually, I believed my success wasn’t success at all because it didn’t measure up to someone else’s.
I drank the koolaid, and believed that more was better.
But I think if we’re being honest the six-figure business (and here lately the seven-figure business) everyone keeps talking about maybe just isn’t your dream.
No matter what anyone tries to pitch you (better systems, better software, more outsourcing, or even a passive income product) … “MORE” always has a trade off. It’s often at the cost of what we love (shall I say who we love) the most.
My Business Mindset started to change when I truly asked myself: What does success look like to me?
After years of being pushed by others to “reach my potential” and hit bigger sales goals… I realized, I just did not value the same things they did. I was not willing to give up what mattered to me in order accomplish something I was supposed to care about.
Yes, I had to pay my bills (as we all do) and yes, I wanted to be a great financial advisor to my clients. But, I did not want to sacrifice picnics in the park over lunch or leaving the office at 4:30 to get in an hour at the gym or stop spending more time investing in my current clients just so I could sell to more people. For me, those were the perks of being my own boss … not more money in the bank and beating everyone else to the top.
So, I stopped letting others dictate what “success” should be in my life…and started to define it for myself.
What are your life and business priorities in this season? Where do you want your time and attention to go? What do you value? What kind of person do you want to be?
Right now I have a four month old baby and we don’t yet have outside childcare. I work Tuesdays and Thursdays, during nap times and sometimes (during launch season) after MJ is in bed. That adds up to about 20 hours a week. I want to be a present mom in my non-working hours, and an incredible business woman during working hours. I want to be a friend who remembers birthdays and sends a casserole when life is hard.
I can take on more work and have less time with Madelyn or I can take on less work and have more time with Madelyn.
These values become parameters for my work. As I teach in my signature program, The Blueprint Model, we all have a bank of time. In this season I have set aside 20 hours a week to work, that’s the number of hours that is manageable with my other life priorities. That is my time deposit. When I work, I withdraw hours from my time bank. And when/if my time bank gets overdrawn, that’s when things feel out of balance.
Talk to any of my students and they’ll probably tell you my philosophy of “defining enough” changed their businesses and, for many, their lives.
We live in a more world, and choosing “enough” feels counter-cultural.
For a long time I didn’t know how powerful this idea of “defining enough” really was. In fact, I actually felt ashamed to share my business philosophy, as the concept of “enough” felt like a cop-out for lack of ambition or laziness.
But I now know that “enough” is the place where abundance and contentment meet. It’s that elusive feeling of balance we all so desperately desire; knowing we’ve put what matters most in the right order.
Monthly Personal Salary Need
+ Quarterly bonuses
+ Tax Savings
+ Annual Business Overhead
+ Cost of Goods
= Sales Need “Enough”
For us: (simplified version)
+ $20,000/ per quarter bonus
+ $60,000 taxes
+ $50,000 overhead
+ $40,000 project costs
= $350,000 Sales Need
This is our need, not our goal. Knowing the bare bones minimum gives me peace of mind.
This tells me no matter what I have to generate $350,000 in revenue to hit our minimum sales need. That is “enough”. Knowing this number allows me to pivot if things don’t go exactly as I had hoped or imagined (ahem, 2020), or if I simply need to slow down and get more rest.
Once I calculate my need (ps. I set sales numbers at three levels “need, want, and reach for the stars” a strategy I teach inside The Blueprint Model), I break down that big sales number into bite-sized pieces called a “revenue plan” to make that big number feel more manageable.
Revenue Plan: For $350,000 Sales Need
Totals = $350,000 Sales Need
This covers our family financial need, business need, and project costs.
Years ago I wrote down these words and they’ve been tapped to my computer ever since.
It’s an iteration of this quote by Bob Goff, “be picky who you give the microphone to in your life. Don’t listen to the loudest voice, listen to the truest one.”
I want to be a mom, I want to be a wife, I want to be the keeper of the laundry. And I want to do all of those roles while also running a successful business and being excellent at my craft.
But the truth is: “We can do anything, but not everything” and the sooner we all start acknowledging that fact, the better off we all will be.
While the world is trying to teach me to be more efficient… I focus less on doing more, more efficiently and instead focus on doing less more effectively.
Back in 2017, I walked away from social media for 18 months. At the time Instagram was generating 70% of traffic to my website, but it was no longer a healthy use of my time. I wanted to figure out a more sustainable way to market that was better for my mental health. I spent the next 18 months learning about SEO, blogging, Pinterest, generating organic traffic, and going back to the good ol’ days of word of mouth marketing.
I track my time religiously and knew that to post consistently on Instagram was taking at a minimum 1 hour of my time each day. So instead, I took those 5 hours per week I had previously spent on Instagram (posting, editing, engaging) and started generating ONE really good blog post instead.
That one blog post generated over 16 pieces of marketing content (organic SEO, Pinterest Pins, Email Newsletter, etc.). This content lives longer than the 24-hour lifespan of an Instagram post and generates traffic years after hitting publish. I now call this content creation strategy my “marketing sundae” and teach it to my students inside The Blueprint Model.
I can talk so much more about social media free marketing (which I plan on doing soon) but you can look back at my posts from 2017 if you’d like to hear more about my first social media free experiment.
While others are generating new freebies month after month as a strategy to grow their email list, I built a ¾ million business with less than 10k on my email list and have spent less than 6k total on Facebook ads. ever. I don’t say this to brag, I say this to give an alternative voice to what I feel has become mainstream messaging.
I will never be able to produce as much as others who don’t have kids or those who have a non-working stay at home spouse or full-time child care without sacrificing a family value I hold dear, but what I can do to the best of my ability is sit down and create the absolute best life-changing content with one person in mind… YOU.
When I create anything (whether it’s blog content, a new freebie, my education courses, or 1:1 services), I laser focus on who I’m serving, and spend the time I have serving them to the best of my ability. So while I’d love to put out more content.. I actually wonder if all the noise is producing more education but not more implementation. Quality of quantity is my approach.
While yes, we can absolutely make strategic decisions to make more money without working more hours. I get it, I call this a “profitability audit” and I work with clients and students to analyze the profitability of their offers…
For the most part, MORE $$ REQUIRES MORE TIME.
This can be more of your time, or you can disperse that time across a team.
For me, I’ve chosen to intentionally limit how much we sell (why we now limit how many students can join The Blueprint Model), in order to keep our team small but mighty. I’ve done the big team.. And for me it just wasn’t a great fit. SO, I learned from that experience and figured out how to strategically grow the company while also aligning with my small team goals.
I do that by spending my team budget on contract work. Whether hourly or project based, I hire help on a contract basis so I can work in my zone of genius and pay others to work in their area of expertise. This approach has been wonderful for me.
Every day the world asks me to sacrifice my family values on the hill of success. More content, More courses, More students, More money, More influence.
As I told a mom-friend of mine the other day, many days it feels like I am laying down my ambition, sacrificing what I know I could achieve if I gave more time to my career.
It’s not easy, oh it’s not easy… but it’s essential.
In the end I believe it all comes down to this … the basics. Knowing your numbers, getting great at your craft, and knowing your ideal client so well that what you produce is life-giving/life-changing to the smallest viable audience.
I’ve never followed all the rules because I know I can’t do all those things and still be the wife and mom and friend and sister I desire to be. But there are three things I’ve always focused on getting right: naming my values, knowing my financial need, and knowing how I can serve my audience really well. The basics.
So cheers to you mama, doing squats in the kitchen trying to fit back into those pre-maternity jeans, while holding a baby, and stirring dinner on the stove. Here’s to you naming your values and letting go of comparison. Because I see you doing your best, and take it from the girl who never follows all the rules → if you get the right things right, that’s all that matters!
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July 29, 2021
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Exactly what I needed to read and hear. I’ve been feeling this for a while now. Thank you for writing this!
So glad it resonated with you, Annastasha! -Jana from Team Skidmore
You literally have described my business model exactly and it sounds like you are in my head. Intentionally choosing less so I can be the person in life I want to be outside of work. And it’s so hard sometimes because we know what we are capable of, but SUCH a good read! Really appreciated this
Thanks for this, Elizabeth! It can be hard, but it’s sooooo worth it! -Jana from Team Skidmore
Thank you Shanna! This was a great read. I have felt the “more is better” world for quite some time now and it’s paralyzing. I have a little one as well and I had to take the time to get honest with myself about my values. I realized I couldn’t do it all and be a mindful mom – it’s nice to hear I’m not alone when everyone is saying to do it all! hugs!
The “hustle culture” is everywhere, isn’t it? So glad this resonated with you. There is definitely a different way, and I hope this encouraged you to keep pursuing it! -Jana from Team Skidmore