I grew up in a farming community in rural Iowa where you either farmed or worked on a business that supported agriculture. My graduating class had 31 students, and until I was about 10 years old, there wasn’t even a Walmart within 40 miles.
I went off to college and got a journalism degree. My new husband and I moved into the same farmhouse I grew up in, and we had two kids two-and-a-half years apart.
I never expected to own a business. Becoming an entrepreneur was absolutely not on my radar in the slightest. Yet four years ago, I was (reluctantly) forced out of my comfort zone into something new – digital marketing. Digital marketing led to Facebook ads management, Facebook ads management led to sales copywriting, and today my services are sought out by entrepreneurs and influencers all over the world.
Often, people ask me how I did it. How did I build a business as a sales copywriter from my little farm in the middle of Iowa? How did I get myself out there and start landing high-level clients from all over the world?
Did I have a ton of professional writing experience?
A fancy website?
A huge advertising budget?
What’s my secret?
The Secret is, There is No Secret
I wish it was a more exciting story. Actually, you know what?
No. No I don’t. I DON’T wish it was a more exciting story. Because if it had been – if I had had a past career in writing or a fancy website or a huge advertising budget – then I wouldn’t be able to tell you without a shadow of a doubt that if you can write converting sales copy, you can build a business as a sales copywriter.
Even if you don’t have professional writing experience.
Even if you don’t have a fancy website – or even a website at all.
Even if you don’t have an advertising budget.
The secret is, there is no secret. It all boils down to WORK.
Not very exciting, I know. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are four types of work I did at the beginning of building my business that are the reason for where I am today, and I’ll continue investing in these four areas of work for the future of my business.
And the best part is, these same four areas of work can be used by anyone to grow their business, no matter what kind of business they run or who they serve. In the rest of this article, I’ll break down each of the four areas of work I used to grow a multiple six-figure business and give you some ways you can leverage these areas of work or your business too.
From the time I was a very young child, I have loved reading. My best subject in school was English, and I had a knack for telling a good story. When it was time to go off to college, I decided I wanted to study social work. I know, I know. It didn’t make much sense, and it only took me a couple weeks of classes to figure out that I was in the wrong major.
I love people and I love helping, but social work was just not for me. By the end of the first semester, I knew I needed to change majors … but to what? I didn’t have a back up plan, so I did the only thing I could think of.
I went home for Christmas break with my college course manual in hand, and my mom and I spent a whole afternoon going through the majors and course descriptions one by one. My mom said something to me that day that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
“Choose something you’re good at that you enjoy. If you do what you love, you’ll never feel like it’s just a job.” I ended up graduating with a degree in journalism and mass communication. I put those writing skills to work, and I loved it.
Then four years ago, I found myself needing to start over and create something that could generate a full-time income. This time though, I had a family. I didn’t have time to mess around trying out different things. Although I’d been running a publishing business for the livestock industry, it had been a lot of years since I’d been in the workforce.
I didn’t have much of a resume. I didn’t have any experience building a business. What I DID have though, was the memory of what my mom had said: choose something you’re good at that you enjoy. I knew whatever it was had to involve writing, and the rest I could learn.
I’m a pretty cautious person. I’m not a super big risk-taker. But one thing I’ve always had a firm belief in is my ability to learn, and that’s what I did. I started learning. I read books. I watched videos. I took online courses. I joined online training groups and learned from experts.
I put the time and energy into learning everything I needed to know to serve my clients, and eventually students, at a high level. Truth be told, I never stopped. I continue investing in growing my knowledge and skill sets all the time, and I always will. You will never be sorry for investing time and energy into upleveling your skills.
The start-up phase of a business is intense, and that might be stating it mildly. Landing clients is one thing. Delivering on projects with excellence in those first few months on your own – before you can afford a team and before you have systems and processes fully fleshed out – takes a lot of man hours.
And guess who’s putting in those hours? That’s right – you.
It was no different for me. In the first few months of starting my new business, I worked from the time I woke up to the time I fell asleep with my hands on the keyboard. I worked in the car. I worked in the bleachers at my kids’ sporting events. I worked weekends, holidays, and nights.
I put in the hours to deliver projects with excellence and care. They were really, really long hours, but I knew it wouldn’t be like that forever. That’s not sustainable, and isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to avoid by building our own business? Feeling like a slave to your business feels like you have a job with a really mean boss – a boss that you can’t get away from because that boss is you.
Am I saying you should hustle your face off and work 80 hour weeks forever? Definitely not. The goal was never to work myself to death. Don’t do it. But it does take consistent, physical effort to do the tactical tasks inside your business. It takes physical work, and in the beginning, I worked a lot more than I do now.
Now that my business is well-established, I have the funds to hire a team. I’ve built systems and processes around all my business operations to streamline and simplify things. I have time now to be able to invest in other areas of my business, like coaching and product creation. None of that would be possible if I hadn’t put in the time and energy towards serving my clients well and getting results for them.
When I said I never planned on being an entrepreneur, I meant it. The thought of being responsible for an entire business seemed too difficult, too risky. What did I know about running a business? I’d never even taken an economics class in high school. What if it didn’t work? What if I failed?
That kind of mindset almost cost me the business I have today. I crashed and burned in the first six months of my business. I crossed the line from putting in the sweat equity to build a business to letting it completely take over my life. I was still offering a lot of services I didn’t like and working with the wrong kinds of clients. I convinced myself that I was bombing at the whole thing and that I wasn’t cut out to be an entrepreneur.
And you know what? I was right. As long as I told myself I was failing and no good at building a business, I was living in defeat. Something needed to change, and that something was my MIND. Things didn’t really take off for my business until I started working on my mindset, and my husband was a huge factor in that.
He could tell I was burning out, so he sat me down one day, looked me in the eye and said, “You need to stop. Something isn’t right with what’s going on here. You’re not enjoying it anymore, and this isn’t why we built a business – so you could be miserable. So whatever needs to change, let’s change it. It may be scary. We may even fail along the way, but we’ll figure it out.”
I knew he was right, and in that moment I made a decision. If I was going to have a business, I needed to go back to that advice my mom had given me all those years ago. Right now, my business was sucking the life out of me. The only way I was going to be happy to step into the role of entrepreneur and business owner was if I was providing services I really loved doing and was good at.
I stopped offering every service except copywriting and Facebook ads, and eventually I even stepped away from running ads and went out on my own as a sales copywriter. And that’s when I fell in love with my business. That’s when I fully embraced my role as CEO of it, and today I would be absolutely devastated if I couldn’t do what I do.
Yes, I changed my services. Yes, I stopped working with the wrong types of clients. But before I could even give myself permission to do that, I had to change my thinking. I had to change my perception of who I was and what I was capable of before I could make outward changes to my business..
It still wasn’t easy to make the shift from contractor to entrepreneur. It was scary. I didn’t feel prepared, equipped, or qualified. I really had to work on my mindset and my perception of who I was and what I was capable of. I had to let go of what felt safe and trust that God knew what he was doing when he put me on this path.
Was it worth it? Oh yes. I don’t even recognize that scared, uncertain baby entrepreneur I was in the beginning anymore. I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown in such a short amount of time, and I’ll never stop being thankful to God that our brains are created in a way that makes change possible.
Grow a Network
Whereas the first three types of work all focus internally on your skills, your mindset, and the time and energy you put in, this last type of work is focused outward. The importance of growing a network is something I didn’t purposefully set out to do – at first. I stumbled into it by accident, and when I realized how powerful it was, I determined that it’s something I’m always going to invest in. It just might be the most important (and my favorite) type of work for your business.
You’ve heard all the phrases about your network being your net worth. It’s true. The people you surround yourself with make a huge impact on your business in many ways, including the three previous areas of work we’ve already talked about in this article.
So how did I stumble into a network? I knew my services were going to need to be promoted, so I joined a Facebook group for social media managers so I could learn how to promote my business online. That was my first-ever experience with a group of likeminded people who all had similar goals for their businesses and their lives, and it was so encouraging and fun.
When the group owner opened up a coaching program for more advanced support, I applied and was accepted. I was in it to up my skill sets and my mindset, and that happened. What I didn’t realize when I joined was how impactful surrounding myself with other people like me was going to be.
Not only did I suddenly have a tribe of people cheering me on, I had people I could go to if I had questions or was struggling. That was super important to me, because I didn’t know anyone else like me in my local community.
I should mention that this was a paid coaching program, which was not an easy leap to make when I was first starting out. In fact, it probably seemed crazy from the outside. Why would I pay for a coaching program now, before my business had really taken off? I’m a very cautious, “safe” person. Risk-averse, if you will. This was totally out of character for me.
Yet I had to do something. I didn’t know how to build a business on my own. I remember praying and asking God to show me how to make this work, and in my heart I felt Him say, “Do you trust me?” How do you argue with that? I joined the coaching program, and in the first four months I recouped my investment for the entire year. At the end of the first year, I had 10X’ed my entire investment.
Since that first year, I’ve always invested in coaching and community, and I always will. I’ve always said everything is more fun with friends, and I stand by that, but it’s more than just friendship. It’s support, accountability, and encouragement.
Putting myself in the right places with the right people has absolutely been key to the monetary growth of my business as well. Because of my network, I’m able to connect with people I’d never have met otherwise. One person tells another person about my services, who tells another, and another. Never underestimate the power of referrals. They’re some of the best, most rewarding and fun clients I have. My network is the number one reason I’ve been able to stay fully booked out, month after month, since starting my business without ever running a penny in advertising for my services.
The Secret is Work
And that’s it. My secret is work. I invested in growing my skill sets and mindset, put in the time and effort to deliver excellent service, and built a strong network full of amazing people. Building my business on these four foundations of work has allowed me to create a strong business that has experienced exponential growth in a short amount of time.
The best part is, if it worked for me, it can work for anyone, because ANYONE can do these four types of work.
You can learn new skills.
You can put in the hours and energy to deliver finished projects with excellence.
You can work on your mindset and try different things until you figure out what kind of business you want.
And you can grow a network by putting yourself in the right places with the right people.
More from Christa Nichols
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