When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I was running my company, helping raise our two little girls, whom my wife and I had adopted seven months before, and dealing with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I'd been managing since I was 16. Everything felt uncertain. But I was used to persevering in the face of unexpected obstacles.
I'm a business strategist who helps other entrepreneurs grow their online businesses, and much of what I earn comes from courses I create about topics like email marketing and sales. It's now my day job, though it started as a side hustle.
I hit my first six-figure revenue year in 2017. When the pandemic upended everyone's plans in 2020, I was anxious about all the responsibilities on my plate, but I felt confident that I could navigate my business through this time.
Ultimately I realized I had to make adjustments based on my situation — new parenthood while managing my chronic illness — in order to thrive. As it turned out, my business thrived too. Shifting my strategy almost tripled my company's revenue, going from about $170,000 in 2019 to more than $410,000 in 2020.
My company started as something of an accident. Back in 2014, I was struggling with my illness, as well as a day job at a university and a master's program in theology that weren't the right fit. Around this time, a friend of mine had started blogging and I realized that I could make some money from my laptop while I figured things out, and waited for my plan B, a teacher training course, to begin.
I started an online platform for other young people with chronic illnesses. I soon realized that the size of the audience I was reaching wasn't big enough on its own to sustain me financially, so I shifted to virtual assistant work to supplement my income. I found that I really enjoyed helping my clients find the best tools to make their business systems more efficient.
After nine months, I had a choice to make. Instead of going back to school for something that I wasn't as passionate about, I decided to stick with the business I was building. That risk paid off. By 2017, I was generating six figures in annual revenue, and what had been a side hustle was now my full-time job.
Between listening to my body and stopping to recharge when I need to, and attending to the needs of two young kids, I don't keep straight 9-to-5 hours anymore. And I've realized that's OK.
Working in little bursts has become my go-to strategy for juggling my personal life with my business. I like to set up these bursts of intense work fully knowing I have a rest period coming up as a reward afterwards.
Before I might have had multiple projects going at any one time, but now I focus on one main shorter-term project for about 1 to 3 weeks at a time. If I have to shift my attention to another project, I make sure to leave it at such a point that it allows me to still earn passive income from my efforts.
If I am launching a big course, or have a live training session coming up on my calendar, I will carve out the necessary time afterwards to recuperate. I've also come to enjoy working late at night when my house is quiet, my kids are asleep, and I can lose myself in my work.
Video by Courtney Stith
I've changed how I take meetings. Zoom calls became virtually impossible as I had to go into my office with my door shut for extended periods and leave my wife to fend for herself with our two toddlers. So I decided to lean into a tech alternative that was already working for me and my work style.
I'm a fan of the Voxer app because it's essentially a "walkie-talkie" that allows you to communicate via text or voice note. It's a tool that has given me more breathing room during the day and has helped me increase my ability to support my clients, connect with my team, and answer questions from prospective clients.
To give myself enough time to rest and focus on child care, being constantly available during standard business hours wasn't feasible for me anymore. I had to come up with a strategic plan to ensure I was still bringing in the same amount of revenue, even with reducing my hours.
A large part of my business used to be what I call "done-for-you services," where I provided on-call email marketing and tech support to business owners. I had to put that on the backburner. But I still wanted to give my clients the quality of service that they had come to know and expect. So instead, I prioritized projects I could work on at my own pace and release at a specific time.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
I already offered a collection of self-directed courses, as well as more personalized, one-on-one support from me. But I realized that I could help generate the same kind of results for my clients with a more structured group coaching program, based on the individual courses I had already created.
Because this "megacourse" would be more comprehensive, I could charge a higher price. Now, each new client I enroll in this program has the same value as 10 new students of my self-study courses. But it definitely doesn't take 10 times the amount of my time or energy.
Over the course of 2020, I set regular automated emails that would go out to remind the people on my email list about my existing courses and products. In my industry, these are called evergreen funnels.
When a potential client shares their email address with me, they get a free item like a training session, minicourse, some email templates, or a tutorial video. Then I add the email to a funnel that sends them a series of sales emails with a unique deadline to purchase a given course at a discounted price.
When I was promoting my business before, it was primarily about directly selling something, either my services, or courses, or digital products. Now I mix in promoting those freebies, and the people who choose to receive them subsequently get offered a related paid item in a followup email.
Video by Courtney Stith
For example, for every 100 people who sign up for a freebie, I tend to make anywhere between 1 and 10 sales of a course throughout a week. But even if I only make one sale at that time, it still means that I have 100 new subscribers who might want to buy another course or product at a later date.
This system resulted in well over $50,000 in 2020 and continues to bring in a steady stream of new customers.
If I've learned anything over the last year and a half, it is that success isn't one size fits all. I know that being a parent and managing a chronic illness have made me a better entrepreneur.
So right now if you are experiencing something that seems like a setback, my best advice is to do some personal inventory and see how you can use it as an opportunity to create or build something that lets you lead with your strengths.
Elizabeth "Lizzy" Goddard is an online business strategist and educator for entrepreneurs looking to simplify their businesses for maximum success with minimum effort. A self-described email marketing nerd, tech geek, affiliate marketing lover, and mindset magician, she is committed to building an inclusive, intersectional business for her clients, team, and wider community. Lizzy lives outside of Nottingham, UK, with her wife and two young daughters.
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