I’ll be answering ten questions you had about my journey to my first 100k USD in business. These questions touch on a variety of topics, from my identity as a coach or entrepreneur to how to deal with having so much to do to the investments I’ve made, and more. Lots of really cool things to discuss today!
Honestly, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my journey to get to 100k. For a full breakdown of how I got to my first 100k, check out Episode 47: 100k – My Honest Thoughts where I go into detail about how the first 100k happened in my business.
Now, let me share with you how I plan to reach my second 100k. I don’t intend to make any significant changes to my strategy. Instagram and podcasting will still be my primary platforms.
However, I will spend more time focusing on my messaging and creating content that represents the long-term impact I want to make.
My focus has shifted from addressing potential questions or hesitations that people have about working with me to how I can lead my audience.
I want to create content that represents the movement we’re making collectively through our unique businesses. I want to emphasize the importance of creating our opportunities and options and why this work is relevant and vital. Moving forward, this will be more prominent in my content and messaging.
As for the podcast, I will start outsourcing the editing and creation of social media graphics to promote the episodes. As a matter of fact, this very episode you’re listening to right now was edited by our new podcast editor, Angel! A big shout out to Angel for doing an amazing job.
If you follow the CherylTheory or Side Hustle Club Podcast Instagram accounts, you’ll start seeing new content created by Angel. Outsourcing certain parts of the business is one of the new things I’m implementing to free up more time.
For Instagram, I may consider doing more collaborations through Instagram Live or creating more Instagram Lives and IGTVs in general. However, this will depend on my own capacity, and we’ll have to see how things go.
Honestly, for my second 100k, I’m more focused on repeating what’s working strategy-wise. I’m not in a rush to scale exponentially right now personally.
My plan for Q4 of 2021 is to focus on doubling down on client results. After we close the launch for cohort 3 of the group program, I do not have any immediate plans to launch another group program.
Instead, I want to take all of my existing clients to the next level by paying close attention to what keeps them stuck, the questions they ask, and what kind of coaching is the most effective in helping them create results in their business. By doing so, I believe I can create much better content and marketing for my business as a whole.
I think I might be entering a slowing down phase in Q4 to speed up, where I will focus on these two things:
(1) leading my people to the next level of their business by being an example of what is possible and
(2) drilling down on my clients’ results and figuring out how to facilitate them better from both a strategy and mindset standpoint.
By doubling down on what works for my business, I can slow down and dive deep into my thought leadership, messaging, and client results, which will ultimately propel my business forward.
I’m excited about these upcoming developments and will keep you all updated.
Yes, I actually gave up on my business at one point. We talked about this on Episode 16: My Biggest Business Regret (Don’t Do This Mistake) and also Episode 47: 100k – My Honest Thoughts.
In August 2019, I took a break from my business for 7 months due to feeling stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, and burnt out.
The key takeaway lesson I learned from that experience was that overworking myself in my business, on top of everything else happening in my 9-5 and personal life, was optional.
It was my choice to take on so many tasks at once in my business. No one said I had to do Instagram stories, posts, lives, collaborations, Facebook lives, groups, email lists, freebies, podcasts, and YouTube all at once. That was all my choice.
Which is why, when I restarted my business seven months later, I knew that I had to simplify things. Because, guess what? There will be times when you feel like you have too much on your plate, and you feel like you can’t manage it all anymore.
But, it’s moments like this when it’s important to take full ownership of the situation and recognize that you always have options. If that means letting go of certain tasks or reducing the frequency of certain tasks, then you have a choice to make.
For example, as much as I want to have a YouTube channel and create consistent content on LinkedIn and Twitter, in addition to my Instagram and podcast, I’m not willing to compromise the quality of my Instagram and podcast content just to supposedly have more reach by being on other platforms. It’s a conscious choice that I’ve made.
Likewise, I had to set boundaries with my non-business work. As a Ph.D. student, it’s easy to overstep my own boundaries because my schedule isn’t necessarily dictated by a 9-5 schedule.
Many people in the academic space are literal workaholics, working at night, on weekends, holidays, and every waking hour of their life. However, that was a conscious choice I had to make, right?
I consciously set boundaries with how much time I allocate to my Ph.D.
For example, how much time was I willing to spend diving into the literature? How much time would I spend writing? How much time would I need for my teaching or research responsibilities?
Essentially, I had to be honest about how much time I am required to work for specific responsibilities where I actually had a time requirement, such as attending courses or doing teaching or research assistant responsibilities.
But for all the remaining tasks where I get to set my schedule, I have to be honest about how much time I am able to allocate to tasks that I have control over, time-wise or schedule-wise.
And, I also have to be firm with myself and not let things like perfectionism delay my progress.
Oftentimes, good enough is good enough, especially when it comes to my content.
Many coaches and entrepreneurs spend an excessive amount of time on their content because they keep telling themselves that it’s not good enough to share yet.
In moments like this, it’s essential to be firm with yourself and remember that you have nothing to lose by posting the content as it is right now. Because the truth is, you can always delete it a month later and replace it with an updated version.
However, the longer you delay posting something, the longer you delay your ability to collect feedback and improve.
It’s like running, you can’t improve your endurance or speed by starting to run, thinking you need to start over, and restarting the run without completing the whole lap.
You can only get stronger or faster by actually running. The same applies to your content.
To sum up my thoughts towards this question, yes, there will always be times when you feel overwhelmed by having too much on your plate both inside and outside your business, and it can make you want to give up.
It’s happened to me before, and I actually did quit. But when I took full responsibility for what I was doing in my business and got honest about my own boundaries and capacity, I was able to streamline my business to-do list and focus on just a few key things to truly master them.
This is why my Instagram and podcast content has been a huge contributor to my business success, and it’s what I help my clients with as well.
We dive deep into a few key strategies, and we help them truly master them so they can have a simple, authentic, and effective business that doesn’t feel like a second full-time job.
What’s different about the version of me who was just starting out and didn’t have clients, versus the version of me who now has a six-figure coaching business. But I don’t think the distinction is as clear-cut as we might think.
Here’s what I mean: when you have no clients, you’re thinking about when your next clients will happen. When you have clients and let’s say you’ve made your first $5K month, you’re still going to think about when your next clients will happen.
The same mind drama and doubts will happen at every single level, especially in relation to making money for your business.
I believe the current version of myself, let’s call her the 100k version, is different from before December 2020 when my business results really skyrocketed.
Since Q4 2020, I have felt like I have nothing to lose. I just want to give my best to this business. There was a period in my business where I didn’t sign any new clients around September, October, and November 2020. I had just started my PhD in September 2020 and was also navigating some other stuff during that time. However, I was okay with not signing any new clients.
All I wanted to do was create content, share my ideas and message with my audience, and add value. If clients wanted to work with me because they felt I could help them, fantastic.
But I stopped feeling like I had to sign clients. If money became a struggle, I could take on another part-time job. I was okay with that.
All I wanted to do was stay committed to creating amazing content, and that’s what I did.
When I stayed committed to that thought and simply focused on creating as much value as possible, I had a 10k month in December and another in January.
As discussed in Episode 47: 100k – My Honest Thoughts, I created essentially 70k in 7 or 8 months.
Even in the present day, I still feel like I have nothing to lose. I feel zero urgency in my business because I know if I am ever strapped for cash, I can always take up another job.
But for this business, I just want to do something of value. That’s why my energy has completely changed since then.
The quality of my content has increased, I was more creative, and I started developing my own unique thought leadership.
For my clients, I focused on coaching them hard and helping them create amazing results.
So yes, I have nothing to lose.
Even if I fail in my business, whatever that means, I am committed to showing up and staying committed.
Even if I don’t sign a new client for the next few months, I will still choose to show up and stay committed.
One identity shift that I worked on was embodying the identity of an entrepreneur.
Until September 2020, I was still calling my business a side hustle, something I do on the side.
When I introduce myself to strangers, I would first say that I’m a PhD student and I might mention that I also have a business on the side. However, I often wouldn’t even mention the business. Essentially, I was playing down my business and considering it subordinate to what I do in my career.
But here’s what I realized:
1) My business is amazing. It has helped so many people, both clients inside my programs and my audience who have found value from my free content.
My business legitimately makes an impact on other people’s lives and has helped change the way people think. That is seriously amazing.
2) I am a legitimate entrepreneur. I’m not just a side hustler. This is not just a cute little business that I do on the side. My work matters. I am not a side hustler. I am an actual entrepreneur.
These two specific realizations were what helped push me to identify myself as a coach and entrepreneur, rather than a PhD student or researcher who also happens to do a little thing on the side.
I am both a researcher, coach, and entrepreneur who creates a massive income and impact through the work that I do.
Here’s the irony: I call myself a side hustle coach, and my podcast is called The Side Hustle Club podcast.
I acknowledge that, and that’s why I had some inner conflict about my messaging. However, I didn’t change my title or the podcast name because these names alone can’t fully embody everything I do in my business.
For example, the difference between a side hustle coach and a business coach isn’t that significant.
If I had to give myself a more accurate title, it might be something like “Hi, I am Cheryl Lau, and I coach fellow entrepreneurs who have their own coaching or service-based business to start signing consistent clients by developing their thought leadership, building a unique content strategy that is authentic to them and builds demand for their offer, and ultimately sign clients for their business in the simplest way possible.”
That is more accurate than the words “side hustle coach” or “business coach” alone.
Likewise, I chose to keep the name “The Side Hustle Club” podcast because I like the name and it’s building brand awareness.
However, since I decided to keep the words “side hustle” in my brand, I’m intentional about emphasizing the importance of embracing your identity as an entrepreneur and coach.
It’s crucial to stop thinking of your business as a cute little side hustle, even if you’re building it alongside your 9-5 job.
To fully embody this message, I’m making it clear that even though I’m a side hustler, my business isn’t a second priority.
I’m paving the way for fellow side hustlers who also want to create a legitimate business that generates a massive income and impact.
We’re not just working on a passion project or something on the side. We’re here to change the world through our business and the value we bring to the table.
I had to let go of the belief that my business was just something on the side or second to my offline career. Instead, I fully embraced and embodied the fact that my business is a standalone career on its own, and that I’m an entrepreneur no matter what my 9-5 is.
I truly believe that I’m a coach and entrepreneur, just as much as I am a PhD student or researcher. Both identities can coexist.
Since starting my business in March 2019, I’ve invested in several coaches. But I’ll only be referencing the mentors who have made the most profound influence on me.
In late 2018 to early 2019, I was first exposed to the world of online coaching from my very first mentor ever, Vanessa Lau. Some of you may know her from her YouTube channel or follow her on Instagram.
Long story short, I found her on Instagram by chance in late 2018, and we connected. She was looking to work with a few beta clients for free, and that’s how we started working together.
During our time together, we built my Instagram and I started a YouTube channel, which doesn’t exist anymore.
Our focus was on building my confidence to share my ideas online, creating content, and building up an online presence and personal brand.
At that time, I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to start a coaching business per se, but what we did together would eventually lead to me starting my business in March 2019, after we had finished our beta program.
I will always credit Vanessa Lau for being a huge influence on how I got into this space in the first place.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, since she officially launched her own business in January 2019, she has become a multiple 7 figure business owner and is well known for her signature program, the Bossgram Academy.
Fast-forward to mid-2020, I worked briefly with a speaking coach, Jam Gamble, because I didn’t feel like my video content, such as Instagram stories, was conveying the energy that I wanted. I struggled to articulate my thoughts and didn’t seem confident on video.
During our few weeks of working together, we focused primarily on eliminating the mental barriers I had towards public speaking, my self-belief, and my fear of judgment. While we did several speaking exercises, 90% of our work was about clearing my mind drama.
Once those issues were resolved, speaking on Instagram stories became natural, and today, when I look back at my Instagram stories, my energy, personality, and intentions shine through.
Because I felt more comfortable speaking to my audience, my words, articulation, and communication skills also improved.
This experience was my first introduction to how our thoughts influence our results. Without addressing my thoughts, working on speaking techniques alone would not have allowed me to speak as confidently as I do today.
Moving on to Q3 or Q4 of 2021, I started working with my coach Dielle Charon. Let me just say, if you find a coach who knows how to coach your unique brain, run with it. Not every coach will be a good fit for you, no matter how fantastic their clients’ results are.
With Dielle, we worked hard on my mindset and required me to let go of old thinking patterns that didn’t serve me in both my life and business. We rarely talked about my business strategy, even though she’s a sales expert and technically a business coach. That’s not what I needed.
Instead, we worked on letting go of limiting beliefs and assumptions that could potentially self-sabotage my business results. Once we addressed my mindset, things started to click and my business results skyrocketed, propelling me to my first 100k in a short period of time.
That’s why I now focus on both strategy and mindset with my clients. From my own business, I could clearly see that strategy alone did not get me very far.
But when I combined strategy with thought work, that’s when reaching 100k became a reality for me, and that is also how I work with my clients.
When I look at my clients who have created the best results during our time together, they were the most open to coaching and the most consistent with their own mindset work and self-coaching.
I firmly believe that I cannot only work on strategy with my clients; their thoughts matter too.
One thing you may have noticed so far is that there wasn’t a lot of strategy involved when I was working with the mentors who have tremendously impacted my business and life.
The same goes for the digital courses I’ve invested in. Specifically, I cannot confidently say that there was a particular course that really helped my business, which is why I will not be recommending any.
The truth is, one of the major lessons I’ve learned throughout building my business to six figures is that a strategy alone rarely made a significant difference in my business.
Honestly, you need minimal strategy to build a coaching business or attract clients to your services.
The core of what you need is super simple and straightforward. For example, you can simply post content on Instagram and sign clients by doing only that.
When I work with my clients, we focus on both strategy and mindset. However, the truth is, minimal strategy is required to build a coaching business or attract clients to your services.
The core of what is needed is super simple and straightforward. For example, simply posting content on Instagram can sign clients.
When working with clients, we decide on a few key things that work best for their unique businesses, and then we repeat those actions over and over again to sign clients consistently. We do not need many different strategies, nor do we need to constantly switch things up.
What I find is that the strategies that helped me create below 5k months to now 10k months are more or less the same.
To summarize the core things that work for my business, they would be:
1) Demonstrating my thought leadership
2) Creating content that resonates with my ideal clients and builds demand for my offer
3) Understanding how to conduct sales calls in a way that allows the right people to understand how working with me can change their business and life
4) Delivering an incredible client experience and helping clients get results
5) Working on my brain
Really, that’s it.
For these 5 core things, I really cannot say that any particular course made a huge difference in helping me refine or master them. Personally, getting coached on my thoughts was way more powerful.
While courses can be valuable, personally, I cannot say that any particular course made a significant difference in helping me refine or master these core things.
For anyone considering investing in a course, I suggest getting clear on the curriculum and whether the information taught is what you need. Additionally, be honest with yourself about whether you’ll implement the information to the fullest extent, as courses require accountability to execute on what you’ve learned.
The same goes for joining a coaching program. Both require taking full ownership of execution and results.
I’ve learned that setting big goals with specific timelines wasn’t effective for me, especially in the early stages of my journey.
The reason being, focusing on big goals from the beginning led me to prioritize making money over serving others.
This approach made my business feel difficult, overwhelming, and stressful in 2019, because I was trying to make the business serve my own interests instead of focusing on serving others.
That’s why in 2020 and even now in 2021, to be honest, I set smaller goals to help develop my belief in my ability to consistently achieve relatively smaller results.
It’s important to note that it’s not because I cannot achieve larger goals, but often our brains simply lack the evidence that it’s possible for us yet. It’s not impossible to achieve a big goal, but our belief may not be there.
So, one thing I did in 2020 when I resumed my business was to focus on simply signing my next client. And when I did, I focused on signing the next client. One client at a time.
I didn’t need to rush to 10k months because that simply wasn’t the right time for me to set such a goal when my belief and identity weren’t backing up that goal.
Once I noticed that I had the confidence to set a specific goal and achieve a certain result repeatedly, I was able to show up differently and avoid spending time spinning out about whether it was possible.
Again, it’s not the goal itself or the sentences I wrote in my planner that made the difference, but rather the meaning I attached to that goal and the beliefs my brain created around it.
This is why you may have noticed that I often say things like, “I don’t plan to do anything differently.” That’s because I am usually keeping my goal the same to continue building my belief.
I want to keep getting better at achieving the same goal, but each time in a much easier and sometimes even faster way.
Ultimately, I wanted to master my ability to achieve one particular goal. I don’t need to hit another big goal just for the sake of showing off on Instagram.
In the first two years of my business, I was super concerned about what people thought of me and my business milestones, especially since I was a “business coach.”.
But here’s what I’ve come to terms with: I don’t need my business milestones to validate me as a coach, entrepreneur, or person. Instead, I’m focused on how to better myself as a coach so I can facilitate better results for my clients.
I’m focused on improving my message and content so I can lead my audience. I’m focused on being a product of my product so I can be a true example of what’s possible for my ideal clients, especially those who want to create a full-time income on part-time hours.
By focusing on mastering one goal first instead of creating a bigger goal every single time, I allowed my brain to stay calm, focused, and committed. This approach also allowed me to enjoy the process.
I would first love to invite you to check out Episodes 16 – My Biggest Business Regret (Don’t Do This Mistake) and Episode 47 – 100k – My Honest Thoughts.
I go into much more detail about some of the challenges I faced in this journey.
And to avoid repeating some of the key points I already shared in those posts, I’ll touch on one particular event that was perhaps the biggest challenge I’ve navigated thus far in my life, but I would not be here today without it.
As you may know, I dropped out of law school a few years ago. Long story short, most people around me were against this decision, especially my parents.
They were absolutely furious and did not understand why I would leave such a great opportunity. They felt that if I did not want to become a lawyer, I should have at least finished the degree first and then pivoted.
But to me, it simply was not worth spending another few years finishing the law degree, when I 100% knew that being a lawyer was not what I wanted.
I could not fathom what possible career path would require me to have this degree. So, I decided to drop out.
Since leaving law school, I’ve tried a number of things which eventually led me to figure out two paths that I absolutely love:
1) Research – I discovered that I had enough interest in this field to pursue a whole PhD, and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.
2) Coaching and business – I started my business somewhat by accident and out of curiosity, and who would have known that it would become a six-figure business?
Ultimately, because of the past few years of my life since leaving law school, I’ve developed three core values that I strongly abide by and believe in. They are:
1) Standing firm in pursuing what you truly believe in and always taking responsibility for your decisions and actions.
2) It’s okay if people don’t support you in the beginning. When you stay committed to your vision and goals, others will eventually acknowledge that you’re serious about this and may even show support later on.
3) Creating an aligned life, career, and business is a choice you have to make. You can continue staying in your comfort zone or choose to step out of the box and do what you really believe in. There’s no right or wrong, just make a decision and move forward.
The reason I chose to share this in response to the question, which was about the struggles I faced during this journey, is that I don’t really look at anything throughout my business journey as a struggle.
Every single “struggle” that I faced taught me something about business or life, and I gained something out of it, no matter how difficult or stressful it might have felt in the moment.
Instead of elaborating on how hard things were, I wanted to share some of the key lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey, especially in business, that shape the way I think and operate.
If it wasn’t for the difficult period in 2018, I wouldn’t have developed this particular set of values that has since played a profound role in my life and my business.
Finally, I don’t really think anything in my business is a struggle. Sure, there were times when I didn’t sign clients. There were comparisons. There was self-doubt. There were also hate comments.
But I always, ALWAYS gained something out of those moments. I always learned something that made me a better entrepreneur and coach for my clients.
There were times where business felt tough. But without them, without learning to navigate through them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
The simple answer to this question is yes. Since 2020, my primary platforms have been Instagram and my podcast. I do not do anything for my business that is in-person, which means I do not promote my business through physical means such as in-person networking events. My business is purely online.
With that, we have answered all ten questions! Thank you to everyone who took the time to ask a question. I can’t wait to do another Q&A episode when we hit another business milestone, as that means we would have learned even more lessons and gained more insights. Maybe I’ll have more mistakes to share with you all at that point too, who knows!
If you’d like to join the fun and stay up to date with what’s going on at Cheryl Theory, follow me on Instagram stories. There’s a lot of fun stuff happening over there, both business-related and completely ridiculous shenanigans!
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