How I Started My Business: From Corporate Employee to Six-Figure Business Owner
November marks my two-year anniversary of being a full-time business owner.
In honor of this milestone, I wanted to take some time this week to share my story with you.
But my story isn’t one of overnight success, rags to riches, or four-hour workweeks.
Since I started my business I’ve pivoted, changed my mind, made mistakes, closed down shop, felt lost, and almost gave up.
And despite all of the twists and turns, I’ve managed to build a business that allowed me to quit my corporate job and to have a business that I absolutely love.
My hope in sharing my story is that it will be one that encourages you because it’s real, it's vulnerable, and it's honest.
How I went from a corporate employee to a six-figure business owner and all of the changes and lessons that happened along the way:
My business story:
I started MeganMinns.com in 2013 and I originally offered graphic design, branding, and custom handwriting services.
I started on WordPress and spent 99% of my time just messing with the way my site looked, trying to have the perfect logo, learning how to customize everything, and I barely did an actual work for my business.
When I did get clients, most were friends or referrals from friends. It was really fun to start making money and see that I could offer something that people valued.
At the time, I was working a full-time job in Human Resources. My business was more of a side hustle and passion project than an actual business. I didn't know what would come from it and I never would have guessed I'd end up where I am now.
It was in 2014 when I decided to take things more seriously and form an LLC. As excited as I was to have an "official" business, I began to realize that being a designer was emotionally and mentally challenging for me.
Art is extremely personal and eventually I just couldn't handle how subjective it was. The industry felt competitive and I found myself always comparing my skills and portfolio to others.
It was a really hard time for me in 2014. I just decided to become an LLC and then months later was second guessing everything.
I was still taking on design clients during this time, but I began to explore other ways for me to be creative while not offering individual design services.
At the end of 2014, I launched an Etsy shop where I sold notepads and stationery. It was going really well at first, but then I got a cease and desist letter from another Etsy shop owner who thought one of my items was too similar to theirs. It totally freaked me out. I didn't have the knowledge, confidence, or experience to know how to handle something like this. So after just fulfilling my dream of having a paper store on Etsy, I closed the shop.
So at the end of 2014, I didn't want to have any more design clients and I didn't have an Etsy shop. I had spent countless hours and a lot of money trying to make this work and I just felt worn down and like I wanted to quit.
At the beginning of 2015, I was talking with my mentor about what to do. We were talking about my strengths, my weaknesses, what I was really good at in my full-time job, and what I like to do.
I'll never forget when she asked me if I had ever thought about being a virtual assistant.
I had never realized how perfect my strengths and interests were for this role and she helped me realize that I can dramatically pivot my business and not be ashamed. She gave the boost of confidence and reassurance I needed during that time to keep going.
So I pivoted. I stopped doing design work, I stopped identifying as a designer, and decided to promote myself as a virtual assistant.
Being a virtual assistant played into my strengths and I loved doing it! I specialized in being a technical virtual assistant who could help entrepreneurs with all of the systems and tech that it take to run a business. Specializing really helped me stand out as a newer virtual assistant.
I did barely any marketing. I just was engaging and helping people out in Facebook groups. People would just fill out my form on my website and ask to work with me.
And within just a few months a was booked out. Keep in mind that I was still working a full-time job, so "booked out" for me wasn't 40 hours a week of client work.
It was a busy season of life. I'd wake up, go to work, come home, sit down and do more work, stay up really late, get almost no sleep, and even work on the weekends. I wasn't the healthiest example of a side hustler, but I was loving it and it was a really special season. I was just all in.
That summer I launched my very first program, Squarespace In One Weekend. I was so humbled to have people in enroll in my program and was even more validated that I was heading in the right direction.
By November of 2015, I was able to quit my full-time job.
This was a huge milestone for me that just a year earlier, I never thought would happen. For this dramatic transformation to happen over just 10 or 11 months blows my mind. I think it shows how important it is to be working in your zone of genius and how much it can escalate your business.
Now, I was not the brave take-the-leap-and-it-will-all-work-out type of person. I needed a plan. I had enough clients at the time who wanted to work with me more, that I was able to coordinate a situation where I could have an increase in hours guaranteed to me by my clients when I quit my full-time job.
I also asked myself one key question: "what is the worst case scenario?"
For me, the worst case scenario was that I try this out for six months, and if I hate it, don't like working for myself, miss the corporate job, or am not making money, then I'll go back and get another corporate job. And that helped me see that taking the risk was worth it. Because I was pretty okay with that possible outcome.
I ended 2015 on a high! It is amazing the difference one year can make.
Over the course of 2016, I started to take on a greater responsibility with my clients. I noticed that my clients needed a higher level of support as their business continued to grow.
I knew I could serve them in a deeper way than community management, inbox management, and social media scheduling. So over time, I began functioning as an online business manager and project manager. It happened very gradually and I didn't take a class or have any one teach me how to do it. I just leaned in to my strengths, what I enjoyed working on, and seeing a need that I could help with.
I was still doing the technical work, so even as an online business manager or a project manager, I was still creating funnels, updating websites, building out membership sites, and doing the tech work behind everything.
Around that time, I started creating my own products too. I created several spreadsheets people to help people plan their goals and track their statistics. I also co-created Website In A Box (now called Square Your Site), with one of my clients, Mariah. That was really exciting, and rewarding, and a new challenge. I also began earning affiliate revenue during this time.
To my amazement, my first full-year as self-employed business owner was also when I had my first six-figure year. I was hitting a milestone that I honestly didn't know if I would ever hit.
My phrase for 2017 was "fearless visibility" and it has been such a shift for my business.
After years of being behind the scenes of other businesses, it hasn't always been easy. But I have loved stepping outside of my comfort zone to be more visible and help people outside of my 1:1 clients.
Most of 2017 has also felt like there was this deeper shift in progress. I didn't know what the shift was or what it would look like, but it felt like there was some foundational changes that were brewing.
I started making tiny changes over time to see where things were heading.
One of the first things that I realized was that I needed to change the way I worked with my clients. While I loved helping them as an online business manager, project manager, and technical virtual assistant, it was all-consuming and wasn't going to allow me to step into this greater vision for my own business.
I decided to specialize in project management. By being a project manager for my clients, I would still be able to help them achieve their goals, launch their courses, and manage their team. But it would also allow me to set boundaries for myself and give myself more time to work on my business.
One of the things I did this year that made a huge impact was investing in support. By working with mentors and coaches, I've been able to get a fresh perspective, identify my mission, and strategize for my business at a higher level. I wish I had invested in support sooner!
While this year has been my most successful year yet, it also feels like just the beginning. With the deeper shift happening internally, I can sense that all of these changes and evolutions will really show themselves next year. I'm excited to see what unfolds in 2018!
One of the ways I'm looking to shift is how I work with people. I'm looking to expand beyond project management and work with more businesses in a more transformative way.
If you're interested in learning more about how we can work together, you can apply to work with me here.
Looking back at it all, what are the big takeaways of my entrepreneurial journey so far?
Just get started
Ideas are meaningless if you don't take action on them. I typically have an idea and then sit on it forever before I do anything.
I need all of the information and I procrastinate through research. This is still something I'm continually working on, but I wish I could have told myself back in 2013 or even 2012 when I had the idea to start something, "Just get started."
Get outside of your comfort zone
Getting outside of your comfort zone is essential as a business owner. Running a business is scary, challenging, nerve-wracking, and hard, but it's also so fulfilling, and rewarding, and amazing.
Before I started my business, I wouldn't have considered myself a confident or decisive person. By running a business I, as a person, have evolved and grown. I can make decisions, I can be super confident, and I can get out here and get on camera and talk about my story in a more vulnerable way, which I never would have been able to do before.
Don't worry about having a perfect website or brand
I spent way too much time at the beginning obsessing with the way my website looked. My business has shifted multiple times, and if I had spent thousands of dollars on a custom website when I was a graphic designer, that would have been irrelevant a year later.
It's more important to start helping people, creating content, and bringing in the revenue. You're not a business if you're not making money, you're an expensive hobby.
Let your business (and yourself) evolve
Don't be afraid to change your mind, pivot your business, or evolve.
Even the most successful businesses have to evolve to survive. You can see this in today's society when you look at any big name business that has had to evolve due to companies like Amazon.
As you start your business, you should go ahead and accept that your business will continue to evolve overtime. Never stop growing and changing. Let the evolution happen, don't fight it, and trust yourself.
What's the worst case scenario?
When I'm making a decision, I always ask myself, "What's the worst that could happen?" If I'm okay with the "worst case scenario" then I usually take the risk.
As a service provider, nothing helped grow my business as much as specializing did. Either specialize in what you do or who you help.
By doing this, you'll stand out as an expert much faster and you'll be operating in your zone of genius.
Hire a coach or a mentor
A big lesson that I learned this year is to hire a coach or a mentor. This year I've invested in myself and it has been a game changer. I believe every business owner needs a business mentor, coach, and mastermind.
Not only does having support make running a business feel easier, it also makes things fun and collaborative. Since hiring a coach, I find myself more inspired, more confident, and more excited. I look forward to calls where I can bounce ideas off of my coach and make plans together. It feels like you're steering the ship with a co-captain and you get to learn from their experience and expertise.
I wish I had started investing in coaches or mentors years ago, because I think it would have propelled me to move forward faster.
Join a mastermind and make friends
In addition to needing support in the form of a coach or mentor, I believe that having friends who are also business owners is important. Whether you just form friendships naturally or join a mastermind group, the support you get from these friends will be priceless.
Don't get me wrong, friends in your personal life are important too. But no matter how supportive your friends are, there is a difference when you can talk with someone who understands what you do and the language you speak when talking about business.
It is okay to dream big
It may be scary, but leaning into your bigger purpose and vision is life-changing and really, really exciting. Take the risk, take the step forward, be verbal, be a voice, help people. This is where the magic is.
Everyone's journey is different
There is no one formula for success, and there is no measuring stick for comparison. Do not worry about how long you've been side hustling, or how profitable you are compared to others, or how long you've been in business compared to that other person who just came out of nowhere. Don't worry about that.
Your journey is unique to you and it's that way for a reason. I can look back and see parts of my journey that I wasn't happy with during the time, and see the purpose they served in my business as life.
Don't compare your business and your journey to anyone else's because you are exactly where you're supposed to be and your business is exactly where it's supposed to be. That doesn't mean you can't quickly ramp it up to the next stage, but don't fall into the comparison game. Just embrace your journey and the way it is.