The beginning of October marked the one year anniversary of me doing this #girlboss thing full time. I can’t believe how quickly it has gone – it also marks one year since I’ve been living in my own home! (See the pics from our feature in GT Magazine here)
I’ve been blogging for almost three years now but it’s only really been the last 18 months or so that I really knuckled down and did what I had to do to make this work as a job. I’ve had a phenomenal year on so many fronts but it didn’t go without its challenges and tears.
The Biggest Challenges
Made a sharp turn
One year ago, I launched the Happiness Hub, a membership-based program that was essentially a resource hub on how to manage your stress. It was pitched towards entrepreneurial women who had difficulty keeping their shit together behind the scenes. I was, and still am, passionate about equipping you with the tools to manage all that craziness better – but from a marketing perspective, it wasn’t great.
For starters, we’re all stressed! We’re all time poor! The biggest mistake I made with the Hub was that it was way too broad. I realised this very, very quickly and refined my message. Once I nailed it, I went straight to the market – hard.
It was a quick turning point and it cost me a few thousand dollars and clients. I essentially had to re-position myself and it took a solid 4-6 months of consistent hustle to make that transition. I’m definitely not complaining about it now though because it was by far the best thing (and hardest ironically) I did for my business.
Events didn’t turn out as fun as I’d expect.
After a year of building our house, all I wanted to do was FLY. Seriously, the need to get the hell out was strong for me last summer. So I made the intention that 2015 was to be a year of travel – so why not travel around Australia and do some events?
I kicked off with the Find Your Spark event in Byron Bay. It was wet, miserable and ridiculously muggy. I also had trouble selling all my tickets and only managed to get 8 people in when I wanted about 25. It cost me a pretty penny and one hell of a lesson in event planning.
I also hit rock bottom at this time. I was exhausted, doubting my self, doubting my business (I was on the cusp of the sharp turn at this time) and I had some personal heartbreak around then. I did some work with my business/life coach and turned it into a breakthrough but it was definitely a trying time.
I continued with the Find Your Spark tour and ran it again in Melbourne and Sydney to more success. I didn’t make any profit on these events but the lessons I learned and the women I met made it incredibly worthwhile.
In June, I ran Straight Up Social with Zoe Weldon in Melbourne and then in July I ran Own Your Style with Renee Enright. The thing I loved most about these two events was that I was doing it in collaboration. It was fun. And brought about some surprising opportunities (like invitations to speak at General Assembly and Give Where You Live Geelong).
But ultimately, events aren’t for me. I love being at the event and speaking – but the organising? Ah. The worst. The pressure to sell tickets is ridiculous. And hard. Super hard.
I have no plans on doing events in 2016. I’ll happily speak at events someone else organises but that’s about it.
The membership model of the Hub didn’t suit my personality.
I initially wanted to offer nothing but Happiness Hub subscriptions. It was a rather flat business model and one that didn’t work, for one specific reason: I’m notoriously good at jumping from one thing to the next.
I get over things quickly – it’s my personality. The only thing that has ever been consistent in my entire life has been netball – and I don’t even play that now! But truthfully, I simply like change. I like to dive into one thing, learn all I can, then move on.
So by running a membership-based model, I was getting bored. I needed to step away and then come back in, but felt like I couldn’t. And that’s the other thing: I felt like I had to be constantly ‘working’ as in, accessible to my members 24/7. I was putting undue pressure on myself. This was a great lesson for me and definitely one I needed to experience first hand.
I have now redeveloped and upgraded the Hub to be an ecourse (which funnily enough is the Find Your Spark event) that will be ‘live’ three times a year. This will enable me to manage my time better and keep my enthusiasm high for my clients. I now know that if when I manage my energy efficiently, I am providing the best service possible.
Managing my ‘flighty’ personality
I’m introverted, quiet and pretty low-key, but like I said before, equipped with a notoriously bad short attention span. I started off the year jumping around between different products – first the Hub, then the events, then a group coaching program. Focus was my biggest challenge! I tended to give up before I reached my targets – and then wonder why I never got them!
I’ve worked incredibly hard on my focus since March. Incredibly hard. I’ve become diligent with my planning, my marketing, my branding. Everything. And it made a world of difference.
I knew from experience that I thrive best when I’m creating content. I just love it. So when I get in marketing mode, I’ve had to trick myself into seeing it as a new creative process. I was creating content to share! I was creating innovative ways to reach more people! I wasn’t just promoting. It kept me focused and helped me to do more of the one thing I was neglecting most in my business.
I was all over the shop branding wise one year ago. I relaunched under my name and had this bubbly, bright website. It was beautiful and the graphics were amazing – but I was portraying what I wish I was like, not who I really am. When I made ‘The Sharp Turn’, I started to slowly transition my brand towards me. It was very inconsistent for a little while…but I finally got there.
Now, you see my website and social media and see lots of black and white imagery with pops of ‘Toholka Pink’ (a graphic designer in my Facebook group called it that!). It’s a 100% visual reflection of me as a person. It’s feels a lot more authentic, which has made it much easier for me to be consistent (even my flighty-ness can handle it!)
Started offering 1:1 again
I wanted to focus on more group style work and just the Hub membership at the beginning, but after a lengthy chat with my own coach, we decided best to reintroduce 1:1.
Look, I’ll be honest: I was burnt out with trying to get 1:1 clients 18 months ago. I was struggling – mainly because I hadn’t nailed my target market. So I reintroduced it with some healthy skepticism. But it ended up being a great decision, both financially and personally.
I packaged my signature program in June to limited numbers and sold that out in 6 weeks. Then I introduced a strategy day option which sold 5 in 2 weeks. These were the highest priced programs I had ever offered and the best that sold. I don’t believe the pricing had anything to do with the change of result – it was simply me putting together a package that I knew my audience wanted because I had asked them! Just recently I opened up more spaces for my Trailblazer in Demand, with almost all spots taken. I have three spots remaining (go here if you’d like to check it out).
But here’s the best bit: each and every single client in my 1:1 programs have been absolute DREAMBOATS. Seriously. I have had the most AMAZING clients who have been nothing but a pleasure to work with. I had one incredibly challenging client earlier in the year in my group program that I had to end ties with so I was a little nervous about who I was going to attract. I had nothing to fear though.
Valued myself more
I have my own coach (who I worked with until April) to thank for helping me kickstart this. This year has seen a huge shift in how I see and conduct myself. The best examples have been:
- Saying no to someone who wanted to work 1:1 with me for free.
- Only buying clothes that make me feel sexy and good, and are my ‘style’ (thanks Renee!)
- Booking in for a massage and a pamper just because.
- Getting my hair done more often (I never used to go)
- Not feeling guilty about spending a week locked up at home because I needed it.
- Took time off just because.
I have a few goals for 2016 and one of them is to continue this ‘upgrading’. I’m now comfortable being a quiet introvert who’d rather spend time with you over a delicious meal than meet you at a networking event. I’m ok with my messiness (to an extent). But like anyone really, I’m always looking to become a better version of myself.
Focused on list building
I never really paid much attention to list-building. I think I subconsciously knew I wasn’t quite ready to generate a big list because I hadn’t mastered the groundwork but once that was done, it was all about building a list.
First, I launched a Facebook Group – Creating a Thriving Online Business. This has been one of the best things I’ve done for my business! I’m incredibly proud of this group and the culture in there – everyone is supportive, there is no tall poppy syndrome, nothing nasty, just general all round awesome connection. I love popping in there everyday.
From a business perspective, it’s been a great positioning and engagement tool. We’re all hanging out on Facebook anyway so it’s been a really great way to communicate with my audience and share my latest blog posts and programs.
Secondly, I moved on from MailChimp and went to Active Campaign for my list. I wrote about this in this blog post.
I still have a relatively small list compared to other business mentors but I’m not fussed. The quality of my list is the most important element to me and I’m very happy where it’s at. That said, I am focused on building my list in 2016 to reach 100,000. That’s a HUGE stretch goal and it feels a little unreachable but I’m going with it. Because why the hell not!?
*PS – if you’re loving this post already, share it around. I can’t reach that number alone 😉
I became obsessed with my audience.
10-12 months ago I was 100% focused on me. I didn’t mean it but it was the truth. Once I sorted my shit out (and truth be told, it needs to be about you at the very beginning) I became obsessed with my audience. I wanted to know EVERYTHING about them. Everyday I’d ask myself: ‘How can I help them today? What do they need?’ It was a driving force that helped to create better programs, better blogs, better quality content.
It’s even been evident with my clients. I’m constantly looking at ways to help them. I don’t do it to the point of exhaustion or at the sacrifice of anything, I genuinely want to create a great experience for my clients.
A wrap up
I’ve got some big goals for 2016, but they are a lot less chaotic than my previous ones. My two most important intentions for 2016 is to be consistent, and to provide exceptional customer service. These two will underpin absolutely everything I do in 2016.
Writing this post has shown me just how far I’ve come in the last 12 months. I adapt and move very, very quickly. I fail fast. And I truly believe this tendency has enabled me to continue this life as being my own boss. I can afford it – and I have what it takes to take it to another level in 2016.
*Just as I wrote that sentence, Tim walked in and handed me a glass of my favourite red, a Pepper Jack Shiraz. If that doesn’t scream success, then I don’t know what does.
You may have noticed that I don’t mention any money figures or insights into how much I made. I actually don’t like to share this side of things – not because I’m ashamed of the amount I’m making or it would feel like I’m bragging, no nothing like that. I just simply don’t feel the need to share. I see lots of other business coaches do this and kudos to them, but I’m not joining the party. Money and income is important, but there’s more to it than that. I feel by sharing my revenue and all that jazz, I’m putting the money on a pedestal because everyone loses their shit when it comes to money. Money is freakin’ delicious and it feels damn good that I have money in my account – but it’s (about) the same amount of money I had when I was working as an Occupational Therapist. So what’s the difference? The difference is that now I’m earning that money doing something I LOVE. My success is defined by financial freedom and the freedom to create positive change with a flexible lifestyle. It’s also having the burning desire to continue to learn – which I lost when I was working the 9-5 life. I’m a successful woman on my own terms – and it’s this message that I want to convey more than how much I actually earned.
Tell me, how do YOU define success? What does success look like for you? A photo posted by KATE TOHOLKA (@kate_toholka) on
If I could leave you with any witty one-liners and snazzy business tips, it’d be these:
- Hustle, but hustle smart.
- Do the groundwork. Don’t build a business that’s flimsy – if you need help, consider becoming a Trailblazer in Demand.
- Don’t expect to get rich quick. It all takes time – but it’ll be quicker if you follow the above step.
- Stay gritty.
- DON’T. GIVE. UP.
You’ve got this.