WARNING this is going to be a very long post, so long that I think it might be best to break it up into a series. I went back and forth on how I wanted to structure this post and think a series will be best.
In late 2013 I had quit my federal job and decided to go to nursing school. By December 2014 I was reevaluating that decision with only 3 classes left I was seriously considering quitting nursing school to start my own business.
It sounded crazy because it was. I didn’t have a solid plan but I had a blog and it had been making a little money so I figured if I had time to dedicate to it full time I would be able to make this little blog a launch pad for a full blown business. Keep in mind at the time I had no idea what that business was going to be.
The time was drawing closer and I needed to make a choice. Was I going to enroll in classes for January 2015 or was this going to be the year that that I totally stepped out and JUST DID IT! Well since you are reading this I guess it is clear what I did next.
I left nursing school and haven’t looked back. I know that many people were like why would you quit nursing school but I have other degrees and honestly I didn’t need another one that box has been checked multiple times. I actually told my mom before I told my son. The hardest person for me to tell was my then 7 year old. Like I said I have multiple degrees I have actually been in school his entire life he has never known anything else but mommy studying. So it was hard for me to tell him because I didn’t want him to see me as a quitter or a failure in some way.
Once all of that was out of the way I was ready to set off on this new venture. I was excited and scared all at the same time.
The First Few Months
Those first few months were like a whirlwind. Like I said I didn’t know what my actual business was going to be besides running this blog and doing sponsored post. However the last week of December 2014 I decided to offer a printable I had created and it went viral. The Ultimate Fitness Tracker truly set me on my current path.
After the success of the tracker I branched out into a service based business model offering to create printables for others. This of course got old very quickly. My time was worth far more than I was bringing in and I just didn’t want to trade all my time for money. There had to be a better way. I designed for others up until around June and then I took down my custom design page. I do still take some custom clients but I don’t advertise my services and only take a very select few.
So, what was there to do if I wasn’t going to offer my services. The fitness tracker was still taking off and it hit me that creating printable products might be the next step. I created my first product the It’s A Lifestyle Planner (now replaced with the 2016 Life Planner).
I made a sale in the first hour but things were rocky. I wasn’t bringing in much and was seriously starting to doubt myself and my decision to be my own boss. All the success stories that I was hearing in the different groups on Facebook were starting to do the total opposite of motivate and inspire me. Each new story of seemingly overnight success made me feel like I was doing something wrong and was a complete and total failure.
Now 5 months in and months of sleepless nights I was starting to feel like maybe it was time to throw in the towel and let the dream fizzle out.
The nights were long they all just kind of started to run together. The only reason I knew what day it was, was because I had to take my son to school and soccer practice.
I worked around the clock only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. I do have insomnia so this isn’t totally abnormal. However those 2-3 hours of sleep were not at all restful. I was worried and stressed.
Around March I was seriously starting to wonder if I was going to be able to keep the lights on. In the back of my mind I was starting to cave to the thought of entering back into the workforce just for a quick infusion of cash.
The not knowing what was going to happen next had to be the worst. The printable sales weren’t doing nearly as well as I needed them to be for me to not be working. I was just trying to stay afloat and weather the storm.
I started to think about how I could be more productive in my late nights and what I could do to really get things to pick up more. Traffic was still strong and I was still getting sales but just not as many as I needed to bridge the income gap with my disability (I am a disabled vet).
So one sleepless night after the next I began to work on my ongoing strategy. My nights were filled with creating more products, learning everything that I could about pinterest, listening to podcast and reverse engineering things I had seen other people doing.
Finally I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Those first 5 months of sleepless nights began to pay off. My income was starting to pick up and sales started to become more consistent.
I spent my first month in business trying to figure out what my actual business was. Then the next 4 months trying to make it work. I wasted so much time in the beginning by not having a really clear and detailed plan of action but hindsight is 20/20 .
I didn’t get my act together until around June 2015 (month 6). Instead of spinning my wheels any further I decided to ask my readers what they wanted from me. I could spend the rest of the year guessing what they wanted or I could just go straight to the source. By this time my email list had grown because of that one viral post earlier in the year. So I sent my email list a 5 question survey. Only 50 people did the survey but those 50 people helped me so much!
The results from the survey made things clear. Now I knew exactly what my audience was struggling with and knew exactly the kind of things they wanted from me and this site. My attention could finally be on those things instead of just blindly throwing things out there and hoping someone liked it.
Just 4 months later I sent another survey out to help me refine the products that I was offering. The results from this survey were the reason I revamped my entire site and all of my products. I launched all of the new products on 11/23.
During my trial and error I discovered tools that I loved that have now collectively made my life easier so that I can truly work smarter. You can learn more about those in My First Year In Business | Tools of the Trade post .
What I Created
Here is a breakdown of what I created my first year in business.
One of my main income streams is sponsored content. This ranges from sponsored post to sponsored tweets to instagram posts. This year I took on quite a few sponsored opportunities especially while I was trying to figure things out. My hopes are to really start doing less and less sponsored content as my own personal products began to pick up.
I did 55 sponsored posts (includes twitter, instagram and facebook) in 2015.
I recently introduced physical products but before this my products were all printable. They range from planners, trackers, to notepads. I plan to really add to my product line in the new year. I enjoy doing design and love the feeling of people purchasing things that I created. I want this to be my main income stream in 2016 and beyond.
I created 12 products in 2015.
Although I phased this out I still pop up and do designs every now and then for other bloggers. I loved creating designs for people and then watching them go viral. However my time and how I spend it is so important to me that I had to let go of doing this on a full time basis. I create so many designs and have very little money to show for it. I could have charged more but I still wouldn’t have been able to get my time back no matter the amount of income.
I created 53 custom designs for other bloggers in 2015.
Reflection is one of the most important things that I believe that you can do in business. I try to reflect often on what worked and what didn’t work. My goal is always to work smarter. The more I reflect the more I am able to refine things so that I can get more and more done in less time.
Over this last year I had created a binder for myself to use to reflect on things that worked and didn’t work on my blog and in my business. The ability to look back and pin point things I think has greatly added to my success and my ability to not repeat some of the same mistakes twice. Because there were so many mistakes.