I really want to share with you my business journey up to this point. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, and I really hope that by sharing the real behind the scenes of my business journey, it can help you move forward in yours.
Here’s my business journey from zero to 5k-10k months.
Phase 1: November 2018 to February 2019 – “Wow, I didn’t know this was possible.”
I started my business officially on March 6, 2019. This was the day I launched my first paid offer ever, which was my one-on-one business coaching program.
However, I didn’t just launch my business overnight. I actually first became aware of the online coaching space around October 2018.
This was the month where I dropped out of law school, and it was an extremely turbulent time in my life.
This was also the time I connected with my very first business mentor ever.
My first coach’s name is Vanessa Lau, and we’re not related despite having the same last name.
I will also give her a lot of credit for where I am today, because if it wasn’t for meeting Vanessa and working with her during November till around January or February 2019, I wouldn’t have even started my business in the first place.
I stumbled upon Vanessa’s Instagram in October 2018 while I was on the explore page on Instagram.
She shared a couple of posts about taking the leap, going after your dreams and goals, and starting a new chapter of her life. Those captions she wrote really resonated with me because she had recently left her corporate job at the time to pursue content creation and entrepreneurship.
From her captions, I was able to draw parallels with what I was going through at the time, because that was when I was just about to submit my withdrawal letter to law school.
And because her content at the time really, really resonated with me, I decided to send her a direct message (DM) to say thank you.
That’s how we connected.
We talked for a bit and at that time, Vanessa was about to launch her beta program for her one-on-one business coaching program. Because we’d built a relationship and I just dropped out of law school, I was extremely curious about creating something of my own.
She asked if I wanted to be a beta client. I had no idea what I wanted to do, whether it was starting a business or becoming a YouTuber like Vanessa, but I was very inspired by how she showed up online to share her story and message with the world.
Even though I wasn’t clear if I wanted to be a coach or if I wanted to be a content creator or influencer, I knew I wanted to also build a personal brand and to share my story and message with others.
That’s how I became Vanessa’s beta client.
Many of you may be familiar with Vanessa Lau. Since she officially launched her business in January 2019, Vanessa has since then grown her online business to multiple seven figures. As of today, she has over 400k subscribers on Youtube.
More importantly, she is a prime example of what’s possible when you commit to your dreams and hold your ground even when things feel hard.
Between November 2018 to January or February 2019, I worked with Vanessa to explore different ideas I had for content and a potential coaching business.
At that time, I was really interested in being some sort of career coach for undergraduates or fresh grads who want to get a paid research assistant position, because that was something I had been able to do consistently for myself.
I actually worked with two beta clients but ended up realizing, “Okay this really isn’t something I want to create a business on.”.
Other things I did during this time was start a Youtube channel and Instagram, both of which were called Quarter Life Project. Because I was essentially working through my own quarter life project at the time.
I create Youtube and Instagram content about leaving law school, navigating parental and societal expectations, and other thoughts that were circulating in my mind at the time as I was figuring things out.
During these few months, I also realized that I didn’t enjoy creating Youtube videos.
Although, I must say that current day Cheryl is probably a lot more comfortable with creating YouTube content and I’m actually very open to the idea of starting a Youtube channel again if I have the time capacity to do so.
At the time, I did Youtube for about four months before stopping the channel around February.
But the cool thing that stemmed from my Youtube was that a couple of people actually did find me via Youtube. It was so cool to see that my content made a positive impact on someone’s life, because I did get some DMs on Instagram from people telling me that they enjoyed my Youtube videos.
Though I stopped Youtube in February 2019, this was also when I started using Instagram stories for the first time ever! I’m so glad I did because my Instagram stories have since then been a huge success factor for my business.
Even though my beta program with Vanessa ended at this time, it was literally just the beginning of my business journey.
March 6 was when I officially launched my paid program.
A few weeks prior to that, I actually started working with a new beta client for free.
This time, it was for, not exactly business coaching, but I’d say it was more like helping my client build a personal brand strategy so she can grow her audience and potential clients in her new business.
Not gonna lie, but I really wasn’t even sure what I was doing. However, I did my best to support this client in building her brand and she signed on her first paying client!
When that happened, I realized maybe I could help other people show up online confidently to share their work and their message so they can make an income and impact.
Even though I was not exactly certain in whether I wanted to specifically focus on helping entrepreneurs, I knew that the core of what I did is based on my belief that each and every one of us has a story or message that someone out there needs to hear from us.
This could also apply to entrepreneurs and online coaches. So, this was how I decided I’ll become a business coach.
Honestly, these five or so months felt kind of like a blur because I was hustling really hard in my business.
I guess things looked great from the outside because between March to July, I made 22k USD in sales, which is a really great start considering it was literally my first couple of months in business.
I shared more on this phase of my business in Episode 16: My Biggest Business Regret (Don’t Do This Mistake).
Long story short: I was grinding really hard and trying to do many things at once in my business.
This included Instagram stories, Instagram posts, a private Facebook group, weekly Facebook lives, challenges, a weekly podcast, and a weekly email newsletter.
This was definitely way too much for me, considering I was in a 9-5 job AND I was working with clients.
The first thing that I’d like to commend 2019 Cheryl on was actually starting in the first place.
A lot of people don’t even start their businesses because they feel like they have nothing valuable to offer, they are worried what people will think of them, and they don’t feel qualified enough to start a business.
These are all things I had to navigate as well during this phase.
I had my fair share of thought spirals where I felt like I wasn’t cut out to have a business.
I remember feeling like I didn’t have any relevant experience to justify me being a coach.
Looking back, I realized that when you’re first starting out, you’ll probably focus a lot on simply answering questions that your clients have based on your own experiences in the past.
Eventually, after working with more and more clients, you’ll probably pick up the skill of asking really good “coaching questions” and learn how to actually “coach” by facilitating your clients to have their own internal breakthroughs or mindset shifts, which is something a lot of coaches don’t actually do.
That’s totally fine at the beginning of your journey.
And what you’ll probably do to fulfill your end of the contractual obligations is to look back at what you’ve previously done to answer the questions your clients have and use what you already know to reverse engineer a roadmap for your clients in order to move them towards where they want to be.
Knowing that I can rely on what I already know – that was really helpful for me in terms of not feeling like a fraud. Because I know I’ve already been able to do that for myself or help my beta client to do that.
When I was first starting business coaching, I didn’t promise that I could help you sign paying clients even though I had helped my beta client do that.
Instead, my messaging was all about how I can help you build a personal brand and create content so you can grow an engaged and aligned audience, both of which can then be huge contributors to your online business.
I made it clear to my audience that I was specializing in helping with their brand and content strategy.
Of course, after having worked with many, many clients around the world, I’m now also extremely confident in helping my clients sign their own paying clients and do it consistently so they can start hitting their first 5k or 10k months in business, which is something I’ve been able to do in my own business.
Another thing I wish I would have done differently was to first master one skill or thing before adding on another.
This is because I was packing way too many things on my to-do list at a time, week after week.
One thing I did was I challenged myself to do daily Instagram stories for one week. Then, I challenged myself to do another week of Instagram stories.
Creating micro commitments was really helpful for me in terms of developing consistency.
I think this also allowed me to develop a sense of trust in myself, because I was able to trust that I’ll show up for my business.
But I know that before I developed any sort of consistency in my business, I had to trust myself and do things even when it felt scary.
The biggest thing I’ve learned during this phase of my business is to take 100% responsibility for your business results.
How your business is right now, is because of you, not because of a mentor or program or a course you invested in. Your results or lack of results is all because of the thoughts you’ve been thinking and hence the energy you show up in and the actions you take.
I recognized that there was a relationship between whether you commit to your goals and to showing up, and how these things are related to the changes or growth you’ll see in your business.
Specifically, I realized that when others saw me consistently giving value to them, they were more likely to pay attention to what I had to say.
I mean, if you aren’t responsible to yourself and your own business, how can you expect others to pay you to be responsible to them?
After all, your business isn’t like a job because you have no supervisor or boss telling you what to do.
There are no instructions or quarterly objectives or plans.
You need to keep yourself accountable even more than ever in your business.
There were also days where I felt like I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my business because I didn’t have certain information or strategy. Hence I felt like I couldn’t be successful.
I thought I wanted a blueprint because that’s the easy way out.
But guess what? You can’t just pay your way into getting your problems solved and having someone else build your business for you.
You can’t just buy a course or business coach and expect your business to be successful.
The same goes for other areas of your life too.
You can’t just date your dream partner and feel like the best version of yourself. You can’t just buy a designer handbag or watch and feel like the most confident person in the world.
A lot of other things need to happen both internally and externally.
The way I learned this lesson was pretty much because I had invested in a couple of coaching programs and courses during this period of time, and truthfully, none of it made me feel better.
And I couldn’t really say that any of it helped me get better surface level results or grew my business.
I basically learned not to hoard information just because I want to feel like I was doing something right. It actually made me feel worse and I wasn’t even taking action on that information.
Remember: Your business won’t actually grow if you continue to focus on learning more strategies and collecting more information, because it’s not more information you need.
Instead, it’s really a mix of:
1) doing mindset work consistently and being aware of your thoughts and how your thoughts affect your energy and actions
2) having a select few strategies you’ll commit to implementing
3) actually implementing those strategies and not giving up even when the results aren’t really happening… yet.
It wasn’t really until Phase 5 of my business when I really saw massive growth both internally and externally.
Phase 3: August 2019 to February 2020 – “The hiatus”
I went into detail about what happened during this period of time, as well as the lessons I learned in Episode 16: My Biggest Business Regret (Don’t Do This Mistake).
In a nutshell, a series of events both online and offline led me to take a six month break from my business.
Phase 4: March 2020 to August 2020 – “Low confidence”
When I first came back online, I was NOT confident at all. So, actually, for a few weeks, I thought I wanted to create memes and be some sort of influencer account for graduate students.
Eventually, I came around and decided to recommit to my business once and for all.
However, after being off of social media for essentially 6 or so months, I saw that many of my peers from 2019 had moved forward in their own businesses.
Some people who started around the same time as me, they were signing clients consistently and some were making 10k months.
Needless to say, I felt a lot of comparisons and envy, and also even shame and guilt for taking a 6 month hiatus. I actually struggled a lot internally during this phase of my business.
On the surface, things seemed to have started happening for me again, because after I started promoting my program around March or April 2020.
I began signing on clients again and growing my audience (side note: I lost a lot of followers during the break, which is totally understandable).
Most clients during this phase were completely new faces who found me for the first time and enjoyed my content, but a few clients were people who knew me from the beginning of my business.
At this time, what worked really well for me was realizing that the energy in which I say things have to be clear to my audience.
A mentor at this time who helped me recognize that I wasn’t really coming off as someone who is confident in my message or offer was Jam Gamble. Jam is a public speaking coach and has been featured on television and also the extremely well known marketer and course creator Amy Porterfield’s podcast.
I had a couple of 1:1 sessions with Jam, and during this time, I learned to articulate my thoughts and ideas with greater clarity, confidence, and conviction because she helped me see that I was lacking a lot of internal confidence, which kind of translated over to my video content.
By the way, Jam has been on the Side Hustle Club podcast and it’s still the most popular episode to this date!
After my brief 1:1 work with Jam, I showed up in a much more powerful and compelling energy because I really dug deep into why I can deliver results for my clients, why I’m so damn passionate about what I do in my business, and why I’m confident in myself as an online coach.
This inner work really was helpful for me in terms of rebuilding my confidence as a business owner.
Even if you’re pivoting in your business or maybe you took a break like myself, don’t compare your current moment with others.
You have your own unique circumstances and personality and skills and talents and even your own schedule and time capacity.
Your journey is unique to you and no one can have the identical business journey or growth trajectory as you even if they tried.
When I fully accepted this, I saw my own confidence build up again quickly, and I started signing clients consistently again and started to increase my prices again.
Because of my low confidence during this phase, I heavily undercharged for my services. I was extremely hesitant to charge even $1000 for my program, which was about 5 weeks.
This is in huge contrast to my program in 2019, where I was charging $2500 for 3-4 months.
Sadly, my undercharging was doing both a disservice to myself and even the clients I signed at that time.
First, I had several clients literally tell me at the end of the 5 weeks that my price was way too low, and that they would have gladly paid more after seeing the quality of their own results and the quality of client experience I provided.
I was also doing a disservice to a couple of clients because I noticed that their commitment to their business and goals was just not as high compared to clients who invested in a longer term and higher ticket program, like the clients I currently work with.
This was because of
1) my own lack of confidence in myself contributed to me not being the best business coach possible to my clients, and
2) by literally slashing my program into a shorter program and by drastically lowering the price. Even though from past experience, I know that it typically takes me at least 3 months for my clients to start seeing big business results and inner transformations.
My clients during this phase may have been under the impression that because they weren’t seeing results in the 5 weeks we worked together, they got discouraged.
When in fact I should have kept my program at a minimum of 3 months and charged a price that reflects the value of my program, so that clients stay committed for longer to their own goals and are hence more likely to see results in their businesses.
Another key event that happened during this time where I was gearing up to transition from my 9-5 to my full time PhD program in September 2020.
For the two months prior to September, I kept spinning out in my mind about, “OMG there’s no way I can have a business while being a full time graduate student.”.
I was really close to closing down my business once again to supposedly focus on my PhD work and my career.
I wasn’t sure what I’d do about my business even up until the end of August when something happened.
This is something I don’t share openly online, but I think it could shed a bit of light on what kept me going.
Around 2017, I’ve dealt with a series of harassment or I guess you could say cyberbullying from someone I used to know from back in the day.
There have been several instances in the past few years where she threatened to blackmail me and honestly, this was extremely traumatic for me.
I was extremely fearful of pursuing my business even back in 2019 because when I posted my first ever YouTube video in November 2018, this person had left a series of hateful comments on my YouTube video and Instagram and sent me private messages threatening me to close down my social media.
Long story short, I kept pushing forward and I’m really proud of myself for that.
Since 2017, there would be random instances where this person would pop into my life again and harrass me. However, in late August 2020, when this harrassment happened once again, I decided I was going to take my business seriously, more than I ever did. Because I want to prove to myself that I am strong and I can handle petty and spiteful people like this.
Of course, in my mind, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to show up online even more powerfully and confidently than I’ve ever done before. And I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do in my business because I had just spent the past two months worrying about whether I could even manage my time once I started graduate school.
But I surrendered to the fact that I want to strengthen my mindset and resilience, both as an entrepreneur and as a person in general. So, I invested in working with my current coach, Dielle Charon.
And my business has grown exponentially since making this decision to commit to my business and to doing the inner work.
Phase 5: September 2020 to February 2021 – “Things are working”
To start off this phase of my business, I want to plug both Episodes 12: How I Made 10K in Sales in 21 Days and Episode 19: Lessons from Consistent 5k-10k Months in My Business of the Side Hustle Club Podcast because I think these two episodes really encapsulate what happened so far in this phase of my business.
If you haven’t yet listened to that, I highly recommend both of those episodes after this one.
Between late November 2021 to the end of January 2021, I onboarded 9 clients, and I am currently working with them as of this post.
This means my time and energy is currently focused onto these nine individuals and helping them move forward so they start signing clients and making the income and impact they know they can make via their business.
During those three months, I made nearly 23k in sales.
The biggest contributor to my sudden growth in my business is because of the thought work I’ve been doing since working with my coach Dielle, who’s a huge advocate on mindset and being aware of what you’re thinking, especially in relation to your business.
One thought that has helped me is that I now see launching as a growth process.
Even though I’ve only been implementing soft launches in my business as opposed to launches with a cart open cart close deadline, I now believe that I am an entrepreneur who is more committed to my action plans and the goals I set for myself, than I am committed to staying in my comfort zone and giving up simply because things feel hard.
I attempted to do a launch for a group program around September 2020, but that basically flopped. But guess what? Even if you fail, your future clients will value that you were messy and not perfect.
As a business coach, that failed launch is going to serve as a teaching lesson for my clients or audience. I know that I’m showing you all what’s possible even when you fail.
Guess what? Shortly after that launch, I made 23k in sales in less than 3 months!
Now, I believe that as long as you show that you’re a work in progress, people will see that you’re just like them and that you can help them.
Similarly, regardless of what niche you’re in for your coaching business, whatever struggles you’ve been through, that itself makes you the right person to help your ideal clients through just that, because you’ve been through it and you’ve understood the lessons that came from it and what your clients can do to navigate through this as well.
There’s no need to feel embarrassed about your past struggles or failures.
I know it’s easy to feel afraid of people watching you fail and what they think.
However, by doing this, you are paralyzing your progress. This is also a form of failure and people can still judge that. More importantly, you need to fail in order to learn and then succeed.
One thing that my coach Dielle has taught me is to consider whether I am making the most out of my failure.
Am I failing in a way that’s productive and creates long term change and growth in my business or in myself as a person?
If you don’t learn what doesn’t work and don’t try again, then you’ll never move forward and you won’t be able to change your results, especially the results in your business.
Since working on my mindset and thoughts, I’ve come to accept that trying to do things “right” the first time and avoiding failure isn’t productive because you’ll be too scared to do big actions.
You’ll also be indecisive and keep avoiding doing the necessary things.
This means you don’t gain the necessary knowledge and experience to do the “right” thing next time. This will end up costing you time, opportunity, and emotions.
A lot of times, it’s not even a failure.
It’s our thoughts and feelings that make it seem like the end of the business if we supposedly failed. This for many people could mean a flopped launch or not signing paying clients for their business.
Now, the question I ask myself is: How can I deal with the feelings of discomfort and vulnerability? How can I deal with the people say no so that I can start learn how to welcome the people who will say yes? How can I deal with a flopped launch so I can sell out my program?
Growing a business isn’t inherently a very comfortable thing for most of us, because we’re so used to following a set of instructions which will basically give us a standardized set of results.
You go to school and if you get good grades, you’ll supposedly get into a good university and then probably get a good job. That’s what we’re used to.
However, in business, there’s no such checklist for instructions, so you need to do the things you’re terrified of.
You really do need to be willing to be uncomfortable from doing big new things that you’ve never done before.
You need to be okay with the possibility of failure, and be willing to keep showing up and doing the damn thing anyways and learn the lessons associated with this “failure” so you can be closer to your goals.
Your results are inevitable.
It’s either you’ve achieved them or you’re working towards them. For the results you have achieved, it’s your thoughts about them that matters.
One client is still a result. It’s whether you celebrate this one client or see it as a failure because you “only” got one client.
Whatever you’ve achieved so far, it’s closer to the ultimate goal than if you hadn’t achieved this smaller goal yet.
So stop focusing on what you haven’t accomplished yet and celebrate what you have accomplished.
It’s not like you either achieved a goal or you have not achieved it. There’s the in between period when you’re still working towards it, right? You need time to work on your goals.
Just because something didn’t happen in the desired time frame doesn’t make it a failure.
You need to look for the lesson that will move you forward instead of falling into a victim mentality and making this flop mean something about you as an entrepreneur.
Be quick when it comes to learning from what didn’t work and so you can take the next action step ASAP and make sure you do things differently this time. Don’t wallow.
The only wrong decision is not doing anything simply because you feel bad about yourself.
Dwelling and not taking action is the ultimate form of business failure.
Also, remember: It’s fine if you don’t sign clients. As long as who you became afterwards is a better version of you.
Just because your launch isn’t going as planned doesn’t mean no one wants to work with you or that you’re a bad coach.
Let’s say you’re doing a launch or maybe you’re soft launching your coaching program.
The main thing to remember is that clients come from you giving value, and you can create value only when you’re actually using your brain to think about what value to create.
This means if you’re wasting your mental space feeling bad about yourself or spinning out over things in your business, that’s time and energy taken away from creating value for your audience and clients.
Sales comes from giving value. You have to give value before clients sign on.
It’s not that you or your program isn’t valuable. But, people need a lot more value from you for the initial few clients.
People need a lot of extra trust in the beginning, so it’s arguably harder to get your first few clients.
After working on my own thoughts, getting coached by my coach, and spending time coaching myself, I started to appreciate the importance of asking tough questions and having uncomfortable conversations with my clients.
As a coach, my goal is to facilitate my clients’ decision making and understanding their thought processes.
Back when I was in Phase 2 or even Phase 4, it was hard to grasp how to coach at my highest level.
Looking back, I felt more like a teacher or consultant because I was only providing answers for my clients as opposed to digging deep into their thought processes and mindset.
However, Phase 5 was when I started to pay close attention to common themes among the questions my clients asked me and also what were typical challenges that they’re facing, which in turn allowed me to get crystal clear on how I could create new frameworks for my clients to help push them forward in their journey.
I was also working on my own mindset and taking the initiative to coach myself and get coached, I could see these inner transformations reflected in the way I work with my own clients as well.
The best part is that it is so obvious to me that the inner transformations my current clients are experiencing are at a much higher level compared to how I was operating as a coach in the previous phases.
In conclusion: Don’t rush. You need to hone your craft and master your skills so you can get better results for yourself and for others.
Evaluate what worked, what didn’t work. Make an educated next step and do things differently.
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This is how we scale our business to 6 figures while side hustling.
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